Mother’s Day

Today is Mother’s Day. A day that is beautiful and meaningful to many, but also a day that resurrects hopes unfulfilled and unthinkable loss. It is a day that looks different for us all. For just a minute though I want us all to close our eyes and imagine God as our Mother. I know that seems weird to some because we are used to calling God our Father, and he is, but He is also our mother. You see, God is so much more than a man, God is all things – He is love. He is the I AM. He is strength and power and gentleness and nurturing and love. So today join me. Close your eyes. Uncross your legs. Lay your hands in your lap palm up if you feel comfortable and welcome God into this space. 

I have a place where God speaks to me. Not in loud voices, but in quiet whispers of hope. Silent washes of peace and understanding. Still moments filled with understanding that I am whole and seen and wonderfully made. Sometimes there are voices of booming joy and confidence in this life that I am living but mostly it is a small calm, a gentle peak into the canvas of my life that shows me that all will be made right. Even when all feels rough and my brain is scattered with the “to-dos” that never end. Even when all I want to do is sleep and hide from the responsibilities of today. Even when all I want is to be numb from the reality of war and pain and suffering. Even when I am drowning in the fears of never being enough to all those around me. Even in the exhaustion of remembering all of the things for all of my people and carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. Even still, She finds me – mother God – just waiting to gather me up yet again. She finds me in my chair. My pink chair in the corner with my warm fuzzy blanket. She lets me lean my head on her shoulders and just be. That being is all that she requires. That is enough for her to see me and know me. Then she fills me with the promise of peace, a peace that passes understanding, a peace that will guard my heart and my mind. So today I sit. Before any of the accomplishing of today can be done, first I must sit. Not even to say eloquent words of supplication and thanksgiving, but simply to sit. Anne Lamott says that there are 2 great prayers, “Help me. Help me. Help me.” And “Thank you. Thank you. Thank.”May we find you here Dear Lord. When sorrows like sea billows roll and when silver white winters burst into spring – may we find you here. It’s never too late. It’s never been too long. We dont have to wait until we have become or wait until we have finished. We cant wait until we have time. We must sit at the table. We must find the stillness. We find it in the passing moment of quiet before we close our eyes and the moment after we turn off the alarm. We find it in the grocery store line and in the elevator music when we are on hold. We find it in the in between. But we have to look for it. We have to see it. We have to let our minds find the stillness and simply be there. When my mind wanders as it will, I just breath the word wandering and simply move past it. There is no shame in this space. Only being. Here we find Him. Here he finds us. Hello dear one, oh how you are loved. Oh how I love that you are mine – perfectly imperfect. No expectations or demands. I see your hurt and your pain. I see your beauty and dreams. Just as you are. So come. Come to the table. Come to the cross. Let yourself be found. Again and again. 

Choose Creativity

I have always been an “I do it myself” kind of girl (Lucy comes by it honestly). My parents tell stories of 3 year old me, declaring that I could do everything myself. I’m proud of my independence and gift of speaking my truth. However, on the flip side, I’m also a highly sensitive person that gets so anxious about pleasing others. I replay conversations with friends and strangers for days wondering if I misspoke or said something wrong. I hate disappointing people, especially my people. This dichotomy of emotions tugs at my heart and often leaves me in panic mode trying to figure out which side will win. Will I be strong and brave today, or weak and anxious? On my bad days, in order to fight against this feeling of panic, I try to control everything. I try to control what my kids wear, and eat, and say. If they look all pretty and perfect, then maybe I wont be anxious. I try to control the interactions I have throughout the day by attempting to be the perfect friend, wife, mother, daughter. I even try to blame my anxiety on my people – If I can do it all just right, then nobody can be displeased with me, they will say all the “right” things, and I can be both brave and overcome my anxiety. If everyone around me is happy because I made them that way, all will be well. 

Turns out this is not a good strategy for life. 

It’s actually really hard and exhausting trying to control everyone else’s emotions. Who knew? 

In the church world, I have been taught that I just need to “give it all to God.” “Let go of all of my worries and just let God take over.” And while I understand the sentiment here, I dont necessarily agree. My kids have this excellent Children’s book Ruby Has a Worry. In it, Ruby finds out that the only way to make her worry smaller is to share it and talk about it with others. I truly believe that sharing and speaking our worries to God is a beautiful start. We should lay them at the feet of Jesus. I believe that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. As an anxious person this is a wonderful declaration. But does laying my burdens down, mean that I then turn and run? God is a good Father/Mother and good parents listen to their children as they pour out their worries and fears. Good parents listen, encourage, and walk with you through them. They don’t, however, take the wheel and try to fix everything and control their children’s lives, right?  I believe that the answer is not in the laying of the burdens, but in what we do once we have laid them down. I don’t follow a God that treats me as a pawn or a puppet. I follow a creator, an artist, that asks me to come paint alongside them. We create together. Thats the beauty of who God is. He isn’t an ATM or a driveby wishing well. He is an artist that wants to paint a beautiful picture, a beautiful life with us. Emmanuel is God with us, not God in place of us.

Amos 4:13 – 

“He is here. 

The one who forms the mountains,

creates the wind,

and reveals his thoughts to [humankind],

the one who makes the dawn into darkness

and strides on the heights of the earth.

The Lord, the God of Angle Armies, is his name.”

He is with us. The God that created the wind is a present God that wants to carve and sculpt with me . The God who formed the mountains is still waiting to write a beautiful story with ME. The God who makes the dawn into darkness and that darkness back into light, He wants to shape and create a life with me. The art that our creator inspires is not just paintings and manuscripts. He wants to create a life worth living, a life full of wonder and magic and joy.

The hard part is that we wont be able to see the beauty or hear him whisper alongside us unless we let go of the control. But remember, don’t let go just so that He can control everything. He is here with us, not to control us or to control our world. But he is here waiting for us to stop listening to what the world wants of us and to start creating. He is a creator. God is an artist. I am convinced that the opposite of control is not apathy. The opposite of controlling everything around me is not that I just don’t care anymore. The opposite of control is creativity. I have to let the creator of the universe,  reveal himself to me. That is impossible if I am constantly trying to do everything and be everywhere and please everyone. I am missing the creativity. I am missing the beauty. 

To find that beauty, in order to actually be creative, I have to make space for that. Just as God spoke the world into being out of nothing, creativity can only come from nothing. I have to make space to listen. To see what God is up to and to join him in that. It is not my job to be everything to everyone or even to produce the most perfect and beautiful art. I just need to listen to where God is and join in. That is where art begins.

I want to create a beautiful life. Not a controlled one. It wont be a perfect life. It may still be full of hardship and heartbreak, but it will be beautiful.

Easter

Today on Easter after reflecting on a full season of Lent – a season of waiting and remembering and expecting the Glory of the Lord. After a season of wondering and not knowing. A season of doubt and questioning. Lent ends with not just an immediate day full of joy but that long season is followed by instead a day like Good Friday – full of pain and grief and confusion. Easter Sunday becomes fuller and richer when viewed in full and not just as a stand alone holiday. If you only look at Easter Sunday on it’s own, it is a wonderful day to celebrate – “Jesus has risen!” It’s unbelievable news. Jesus is Lord and Savior and full of Glory and holds the victory. Death has been defeated. Kids are full of excitement with treats and egg hunts and beautiful pastel colors. Easter is a season of things being born as spring comes to life. The tomb is empty. Jesus is the King. 

And today is all of those wonderful, beautiful things. But the waiting and the pain and grief still happened and they don’t just disappear. 

As I read the different Gospels this morning accounting that scene of Easter morning, they all say that the empty tomb was met with both fear and joy. In Mark it says Mary Magdelene and Mary the Mother of Jesus ran from the tomb because trembling and astonishment overwhelmed them. They were overwhelmed by two very different and deep emotions. There is space this morning for all of the emotions. Sometimes it takes joy and redemption a little while to sink in and even so let us never forget the pain of the cross. The joy of the empty tomb has to sit alongside the pain. It doesnt replace it. This both/and is how Jesus calls us to live. That space in between – it is filled with hope. Hopeful expectation that even though death is real, Jesus is more powerful than death. In order to really feel the depth of that promise, we must look death in the eyes. In order to fully experience the beauty of redemption, we must remember that there are things that need to be redeemed. In order to embrace the empty tomb, we must also fully grasp that the tomb exists. 

And at the same time, If all you have felt in a while is the excruciating pain of failure, rejection, imperfection, anxiety, or death. If those feelings and states of being have consumed and overwhelmed you, let today be a reminder that even though those feelings are seen and real, even thought the tomb exists, we also need to make room for astonishment. Remember that redemption is also just as real and true. His mercies are new every morning. I have started waking up each morning by writing at least one thing that I am thankful for. Some mornings that is easy and I can fill up a page. Other days when I’m tired and full of fear and anxiety, it forces me to step outside of that fear into the love and truth that brought Jesus out of the tomb. 

Gentle hope says all of that pain and grief and death will be remembered. But thats not the end. Let hope creep into that space today and just maybe let it burst forth. Dont let the fear of pain keep you from experiencing the wonder and excitement of a Savior that promises redemption. And at the same time dont get so consumed by the passionate glory that you forget the cross. Today brings them all together. Today love is shown to be real and victorious in death and in life. 

Good Friday

Today marks “Good Friday” on the liturgical calendar. It is known as the day that Jesus died on the cross. My kids refer to it as Jesus’ sacrifice. He bore the sins of everyone. He was tortured and died a brutal and humiliating and lonely death. The thing I appreciate about Good Friday beyond the fact that the curtain was torn. Beyond the fact that today opens up an avenue of prayer and presence to the Father. Beyond the fact that today had to happen so that the resurrection could begin. Beyond the fact that Jesus was without sin and chose to die so that we may live. To me the reason I have been drawn to Good Friday is that for today, we get to sit in lament. Lament is a beautiful spiritual practice. This weekend, we should remember that Sunday is coming and Jesus will be raised from the dead and redemption will win. We should celebrate and shout Hallelujah, but I urge you to wait. Let yourself sit in the anguish of Good Friday. Let yourself see the pain, feel the discomfort, listen to the despair. So many of us are hurting right now. So many of us have experienced death. For many that does look like physical death of someone you love or a diagnosis making death feel all too close. But I’m not just talking about physical death. Death or a season of deep hurt and pain often feels like the death of a life that was meant to be. Death of a plan or dream or relationship. Death can be a dream or a hope that has been left unfulfilled. And in this death, in this season of grief and sadness and anger and doubt. Today, you get to be seen. Today you sit. Let yourself lament. Let yourself cry as Jesus did on the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” And don’t rush to the end. Don’t rush your loved ones or neighbors and even those that you dont understand through grief. Sit and cry today. Mourn the loss. Mourn the pain. Mourn the injustice. Let today be a reminder. Yes, it is a reminder that death comes before life. It is a reminder that Sunday is coming and that redemption WILL win. But mostly today is a reminder that anger and doubt in the midst of death and pain is normal and good. Let yourself feel these things. Today sit at the feet of Jesus and cry out alongside Him. “My God My God, WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?” Where are you? Are you listening?” Today is a reminder that we are seen in the death. We are not alone in the pain. Lament is beautiful thing. Let your body feel lament today. Let us not rush through Friday and miss sitting at the feet of Jesus today. 

Thoughts on Mourning and Being Grateful

Over the last few weeks I have talked to friends that have cancelled their weddings. I have mourned with friends as they have lost a loved one without getting to fully mourn or even to celebrate the life of their loved one with others. I have talked to seniors in high school that aren’t getting the closure and ending that they imagined. I have talked to family members and friends that are missing big life events like babies being born, college or grad school graduations, family trips, the ending to a great school year, or simply just missing community. 

Right now there are so many unknowns and it’s ok to mourn that this season does not look like you imagined it would look. As I have listened and processed with others in this season, I have noticed that so often we are sitting in this tension between the excitement of really big events and at the same time feeling sad and disappointed. Regularly I catch myself feeling so angry and frustrated and yet so content and thankful in the exact same breath. The dichotomy of emotions, excited/disappointed or angry/content, it can be exhausting. Trying to balance it all and process it all at the same time is challenging, but it’s also necessary. The most difficult part is when we let ourselves feel shame as we wrestle with the tension.

While obviously very different than a global pandemic, I have been remembering and channeling many emotions that I felt during my pregnancy and giving birth. 

Since I was a little girl, I had dreams of enjoying pregnancy and that the day I gave birth would be a magical day. I imagined the announcement and the gender reveal. I imagined getting to breastfeed and all of the cuddles that the newborn stage would bring. In reality, pregnancy and the triplets’ birth was not at all how I had pictured it. I of course am so grateful that I have my 3 blessings but pregnancy was painful and TERRIFYING. I literally thought one or all of them would die everyday. And then they were born, and I laid in a room alone for 2 hours wondering if they were alive. They were rushed to the NICU, 2/3 not breathing. And then I couldn’t hold them for a couple days and they were in the hospital for 5 weeks. We couldn’t really have visitors in the hospital and there was a lot of fear and unknown. 

I had to give myself permission to mourn not having a “normal” birthing experience. I cried each night as I set in an empty nursery at home pumping milk into a machine for 5 weeks while my babies set in a hospital room without me. I mourned not having a “normal” pregnancy and that I had to go to see a doctor almost every week while pregnant. I was scared every time. I mourned that I never got to surprise Derek with a positive pregnancy test. I mourned not ever getting that sweet calm newborn stage at home with one tiny human. I mourned that I won’t ever have any more kids.

It’s ok to mourn that this season is different than most peoples’ “normal” engagement. And that probably your wedding won’t be “normal” either. It’s ok to mourn that you missed prom and graduation and countless other rights of passage. It’s ok to mourn that this trip that you had planned for years or months is not not going to happen. It’s ok to mourn that your child doesn’t get to finish out the year with the teacher that was so good for them. It is ok to mourn that your child doesn’t get a birthday party, or that you don’t get a birthday party. It’s ok to mourn that you miss your friends and church. It’s ok to mourn that you were just starting to find a healthy rhythm to life when all of this hit, and now you are back to being full of anxiety and feel alone. Let go of the guilt. Let yourself feel the feelings. The only way to get through your emotions is to get through them. (I have been listening to a lot of Brene Brown these days – if that speaks to you, go listen to her podcast. Find language and peace with your emotions.) Another thing they said on her podcast was that there is no room for comparison of grief. The worst loss is your own. We need to let go of the guilt that comes with knowing that someone else’s pain is always “worse” than our own. I’m going to say it again. Let go of the shame. Let yourself mourn.

But as you mourn, remind yourself of the truth and goodness and wonder that is around you right now too. It is both/and. There are both things to mourn AND things to celebrate. Sometimes in order to find the other side to this coin, we have to simply be still and listen. We also, just have to give ourselves permission to feel all of the feelings. Just like I would go through all that mess and pain every day 100 times over to have my 3 amazing healthy kids. It’s ok to lean into both of those truths. I mourned a “normal” pregnancy and birth story but at the same time celebrated that I get to watch 3 adorable and wild humans form a bond with each other and with me that few people will understand. I gained community and support beyond what I could dream because I could not survive on my own. I rejoice every day knowing that I get to be a mom to 3 of the sweetest and coolest kids I have ever met. I can be both thankful and completely content, but also angry and disappointed at the same time. Take time today to both allow yourself to mourn AND to be thankful. Life was meant to be lived leaning into both. 

Quarantine Day7

Yesterday I let myself be sad. The first 6 days of Quarantine,  I went so hard and wanted to be super positive and do all of the things and do them well – teach every class, be present for the kids, take care of my high school kids, have a strong positive presence on social media, be a light of joy in a hard time, be a good wife and support my incredible husband who worked with a team to get our school of 1600 students and 150 teachers online in 1 day, take care of myself, don’t have anxiety, focus on today, feed the kids, teach them how to pee in the potty, make this a fun and memorable time for them…the list goes on. Yesterday I took a break from all of it. I didn’t take a single picture. I did lots of cuddles on the couch watching Frozen 2 and several other shows. I cried. I let myself be really sad because I miss people and unknowns make me really anxious. I yelled at my husband and then made up with my husband. I texted friends to help me. I asked for advice. I went for a run but didn’t worry that I had to walk some. I cried some more. I wished that I was an introvert but then realized that this whole thing is just as hard on introverts (well introverts with small kids) because they never actually get to be alone either. Yesterday I let myself feel all the emotions.

This morning, I feel better. I feel less tired. I feel less alone. This morning I still feel a little anxious but I know that I have several friends just a text or marco polo or zoom away. I know that physical activity has to be a part of my daily routine during this season. I am thankful that I have been through panic attacks and see the warning signs and am aware that this season of isolation is a breading ground for poor mental health. Yesterday, I felt shame for feeling anxious. If you are struggling, you are not alone. You are loved. You are strong. Talk to someone. Anyone. Be vulnerable. Go outside. Stay active. And write. The emotions aren’t the problem. The problem is the shame. Life is not meant to be lived only with rose colored glasses. We are allowed, I am allowed, you are allowed to be sad and to be afraid of all of the unknowns. But we have to remember that this is not how the story ends. Anxiety doesn’t get to win. In a way there is unity in the fact that we are all in this season together. It may look different for everyone but everyone has a Both/And. Life in general is both full of things to be grateful for and things that bring pain. Embrace both. This season enhances both. It enhances the awareness of the people surrounding me and the fact that our health care system is full of servants. It enhances my appreciation for my job. It enhances my need and love for rest and long walks outside. But it also enhances my anxiety and fear in a very real way. It enhances how hard life with 3 three olds can often be. It enhances my need for people. It’s ok that it is both. We need to lean into both at the same time. See the beauty along with the brokenness. “For when I am weak, then He is strong.” 

Dropping the Pacifier

We have been through many transitions in these almost 3 years of triplet parenthood. Some easier than others. The move from our room to their nursery wasn’t too bad. The move from rock-n-plays to their cribs was a little harder. The transition out of swaddles was a scary one. Switching from formula to milk and from bottles to sippy cups all turned out better than I had imagined. Starting pre-school was fairly smooth. Learning to eat baby food and then solid food was a mess but fun.

Learning to crawl and walk with all 3 was exhausting but exciting. Helping SLO learn to talk without comparing them or making them feel behind or different was a challenge but communication with them has been so incredibly helpful and makes for really cute stories. We tried the whole potty training thing, but well we still have a ways to go. I’m sure there will be a post on that in the future, but it’s still a work in progress – a messy work in progress. I cannot even think yet about transitioning from cribs to toddler beds with all 3 in the same room (#cribsforlife). Another transition, one that I had been fearing was…the dropping of the beloved pacifier.

Now Lucy girl never took to a paci. She shunned it and clung to a little, soft, lovie that she refers to as “Pink.” Thankfully it is the color pink, so she makes up for her lack of originality with accuracy – although she does have a blue one that she calls “two” but it is much inferior to “Pink” and not at all the point of this post haha…My boys, on the other hand, loved their pacifiers. Our pediatrician warned us at their 2 year well-check that we might need to start weening them off of the paci, but I was in no rush for that to happen. Having good and quiet sleepers is how I survive life with 3 toddlers, and the thought of taking away the one thing that helped them get to sleep and stay asleep…well it was terrifying. I couldn’t imagine the havoc that cold turkey would cause to my very active and loud boys, so I took a different approach. I went for the long con. I slowly started taking away the pacifier. 

Step ONE: Pacifiers stay at the house. This one we did fairly early on. I would keep a couple in the diaper bag for emergencies but encouraged school and the church nursery to only use them for emergencies.

Step TWO: Pacifiers stay in their bed. They could use them at nap or bedtime but that is it. We stayed at this step for several months. They were always excited for bed and nap because that meant that they could have a hit of the paci. They surprisingly didn’t fight this as much as I thought. I had to be VERY consistent with it though. I did not allow any exceptions. They each had about 3 in their bed so that they could find one at all times while sleeping. Sleep again is crucial for our sanity. Mostly I just watched their cues. I noticed that once they gained more language and vocabulary I was able to teach them other coping skills for being frustrated and scared. Honestly Daniel Tiger helped some with this too. He is so good at teaching them how to cope with emotions in a healthy way. We do a lot of deep breathing. I encourage them to take breaks when they start feeling fussy or agitated and make it a fun thing. They get to sit on the guest bed with pillows and books and even a flashlight to take a break away from the others. Then they come back ready to play again.

Sidenote: All that to say, if a pacifier helps your child feel safe and secure – I am not at all trying to convince you that should change. I am all for pacifiers and all for calm and emotionally secure toddlers. We all do what we think is best for our kids at the time. It’s so hard to know! I just thought I would try to see if I could convince them to find other ways besides the pacifier to calm down, and for the most part it worked.

Step THREE: We slowly started reducing the number of pacifiers in their beds. At one point I think that both O & S each had 5. But we reduced it to 3 in each bed. Then after a couple weeks, we reduced down to 2. Then after a couple weeks we reduced to just 1. We stayed there for a little while, and I didn’t even talk about where the others were disappearing to. I was sneaky.

Step FOUR: We slowly and intentionally started encouraging both boys to find a stuffed animal or blanket that they wanted to sleep with and encouraged that as a form of security so that they would not see the pacifier as their only form of security at nighttime. For Oliver it became a little puppy stuffed animal (which he named “Puppy”). For Shepherd it was a blanket that my mom made out of one of their old sleep sacs that he loved and a stuffed Pokemon Bulbasaur (“Car-Car” and “Bulba). Again, they are very original in their naming skills. Oh and Shepherd also had a Cocker Spaniel beanie baby that he called “Lion.” So that one is kind of original. 

Step FIVE: Taking away that final pacifier from their crib was a little harder. I couldn’t just sneak it away. First we focused on taking it away at nighttime but kept it at naptime. At night, it’s not as big of a deal if they take a while to fall asleep. I knew it was time when the boys started chewing on the pacifiers. I would wake up to find shredded pieces of the pacifier nub in their crib. A lot of people cut off the nub and say it broke, but my boys started doing that themselves. I randomly made a deal. I had no idea if it would work, but it DID! I told them that big boys fall asleep by reading books. I told them that if they wanted to be a big boy they could trade in their pacifier for a book! They could sleep with the book and read it as they fell asleep in bed. I hyped it up big time. Oliver right away was pumped and picked a book (not paper pages and nothing that could be ripped up easily), and surprisingly he did super well with it!! Shepherd took a little while longer, but that was ok with me. Every night and every day at nap for about a month I would ask, “Do you want to be a big boy and read to fall asleep??” And for a while Shepherd would say “No, I want paci.” BUT he would see that Oliver got to read cool books. When Shepherd chose pacifier, he did not get anything else in his bed. He had to choose. Eventually they picked book and never looked back. Shepherd probably lasted 2-3 weeks longer than Oliver at nighttime and then he slept with his pacifier at nap time for even several weeks after that. Eventually though they were just ready.

Again, this worked for us, but it may not work for you and that’s ok. We all just find the right thing and right way for you, your family, and your kids! I thought it might be helpful to share our story of dropping the pacifier.

Don’t Take Yourself so Seriously

Last month I took my 2nd annual silent retreat. Last year I realized that I needed (not necessarily wanted) a day alone – 24 hours – to not text or help or insta or talk to anyone but me and God. It’s often hard for me to figure out my own needs and feelings because I spend so much of my emotional energy taking care of others and thinking about their needs. So, in an effort to listen to the Spirit and take a minute – or 24 hours – to see what God was trying to tell me, and let myself (with a nudge from Derek) take a day off.

Derek and I work hard to give each other days off throughout the year, but this one is different. My silent retreat is a very intentional time to pray through a vision of where I am and what I want for my near future. I listen to God best on a trail. I need trees and a map and comfortable hiking clothes. I need to get tired and breathe deeply. I feel most connected to God when in nature.

I also got to stay at a hotel. My tendency is to check instagram, facebook, check in on my people, binge watch my current TV show, call someone I haven’t talked to in a while, or at least watch a good hallmark movie. It takes a lot of intentionality for me to not do these things for 24 hours. I have to give myself permission to play. Permission to not get anything accomplished. Permission to let expectations, even my own expectations go. I have to waste a little time away from technology and spend several hours just being still or walking around. It was painful to not reach for my phone and fill empty minutes scrolling through social media. It hurts a little bit. Honestly, I didn’t sleep very well either. It is hard for me to be really still. Detoxing is never easy. 

I was aching for my feet to hit the trail, but in the hours before my hike, I felt God giving me permission to waste time and relax and just open myself up to what he wanted me to hear. Each time I would hear a message I would stop briefly, write it down, and continue to walk and process what that means for me and for my life. The holidays are such a busy time, and I have gone back to this list several times to remind myself the truth that exists even (and especially) in the middle of high expectations, travel, to-do lists a mile long, taking kids from one thing to the next, decorating, and trying to squeeze perfection into every second of each day. 

With that in mind, this is the message that God put on my heart:

Don’t take yourself so seriously.

Waste a little more.

Play a little more.

It’s ok to forget things.

It’s ok to let some things go.

Make a mess.

Get dirty.

Spill things.

Get lost.

Go the wrong way.

Take a nap.

Roll the windows down.

Listen more.

Talk less.

Don’t be in a rush.

Let people go in front of me.

It’s ok to be wrong.

Let other people make mistakes too.

Give lots of Grace.

Be kind even if it means letting someone else win.

Take the longer route.

Take time to look people in the eyes.

Give away more.

Live simply.

Simply love.

Take time to enjoy this life that you are working so hard to build.

I sat in the middle of the leaves for a while on the trail and looked for a verse that would help me go a little deeper into what the Spirit was placing on my heart. I have read this verse so many times. We have prayed this verse over our kids since before they were born. Reading it in The Message though made it come to life in a completely new way.

“But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what GOD is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don’t take yourself too seriously— take God seriously.” Micah 6:8 MSG

Learning to let more things go and that grace is way more important than perfection has freed me so much these last couple weeks to remember that God is God and I am not. As the holidays continue to just get busier and full of chaos, let this be a reminder to you too. It’s not about getting it all done correctly, or even getting it all done. Advent is a season of sitting and waiting and remembering. I pray that we all find some space for stillness in this Holiday season and that above all we accept the Grace that the birth of Jesus brings us.

When I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I find myself in a season that is a breeding ground for shame. Just being an adult is hard enough in this world of social media and high standards. Then when you add in parenting, marriage, family, friends, ministry, missions, and all of the other hundreds of little things that I’m supposed to do on a daily basis like feed the tiny humans and make sure everyone has clean clothes…well let’s just say I can never get it all done. I hate that I can never get it all done. I feel shame about the fact that I can’t get it all done. I am also ashamed that I have anxiety, crippling anxiety, about all of these things. I feel shame that I am not enough, and I feel shame in the way I deal with not being enough. That is where I began the year and my meditation time with this verse. 

“My grace is sufficient for you.”

If this is true, then I cannot live in shame any longer. If the grace of Jesus is really enough for me, then I have to let go of how many mistakes I made today. If His grace is really sufficient, I have to quit beating myself up about letting my kids watch tv or eat hot dogs or go to daycare or whatever other mom guilt is thrown my way. I have to let go of the fact that I missed opportunities to fix or help or speak truth. I have to let go of the fact that I could have loved better, could have spoken better, could have acted better, could have been braver, or stronger, or wiser. I have to let go of the fact that I am not a perfect friend or mentor or daughter or sister. I have to let go of the fact that I could have said something different, had more patience, been a better mom. I have to let go of the fact that I cannot do it all. I have to let go of the fact that I still get anxious. I have to let go of the fact that I made mistakes, will keep making mistakes, and will probably hurt someone’s feelings or disappoint them. In shaming myself, I am saying that His grace is not enough for me. In covering myself with self-hatred thoughts and words, I am saying that I am above the grace of Jesus. By drowning myself in shame, I am saying, your death, it doesn’t cover me. It doesn’t count for me. Is that what I want? NO! 

So LET IT GO! Let the shame go. Let His grace be sufficient. 

“For my power is made perfect in weakness.”

When I admit and embrace that I am not enough…I mean really embrace and accept that I cannot, will not, and should not be perfect…When I let myself find freedom in the grace of Jesus and fully live knowing that I am imperfect…When I breathe in and out with the knowledge that I am broken in weakness…Then and only then, will the power of Christ be made perfect. As long as I keep trying to be strong all on my own, Christ’s power will have no room in me. There is no place for the Spirit to fill me if I keep pretending like I can do it all on my own. If I keep trying to be everything to everybody, then I will just keep ending the day in a ball on the floor full of anxiety and brokenness. BUT if I can embrace my imperfections and allow myself the freedom to be forgiven and accepted with all of my faults and weakness and shortcomings – not just sometimes but each moment – then the power really comes. Then the power of Jesus, the power of the Spirit, it is perfected in me.

The Bible is full of stories of God using a broken person, group, or place that the world defines as weak, in order to bring power into the world. That is not by accident. God has proven over and over that He is most powerful when us humans step back, accept that we are weak and allow Him to really show off. It is possible for God’s power to be shown in me no matter what, but it is only perfected when I admit and embrace that I can never be enough on my own. 

Now this does not give us license to sin or make excuses for immoral behavior. Christ was able to admit his weakness, let the power of God fill him, and still remain sinless. Sin and weakness are not synonyms. 

“Therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”

So, I must then take it a step further. Not only should I just be weak and accept it, I need to boast about it. I need to shout that I am a screw up. I make mistakes. I need to own it. I need to quit pretending that I have it all together or even that I should have it all together. I need to own this hot mess that I am. Instead of getting embarrassed by my inadequacies,  I need to let go of these crippling expectations and allow Christ to dwell in me. Again, this does not mean that I get a pass to sin but instead that I now can focus on progress over perfection. I have to admit, out loud, that I do not have it all together. Quit the pretending. For him to really fill me with the Spirit, I need to acknowledge without fear that I am struggling on my own and in need of help. This whole life, adulting, parenting thing…It’s all hard. Only when I embrace my weakness, embrace my anxiety, embrace my imperfection, then the power, the spirit of Christ will dwell in me. It will come in, grow roots and start living inside of me. When that power lives inside of me, it starts to seep out into everything I do. But I have to remain humble in knowing that I alone am weak, and that is ok.

“Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I don’t have to be happy that bad things are happening. I’m still allowed to have bad days. I’m allowed to get angry and be frustrated. I’m allowed to beg for another way, just like Jesus did in the garden before dying on the cross. This verse is not saying that God makes the bad things happen for you to be filled with power. It is saying that even though you will go through all kinds of hardships, you can be content knowing that Jesus is hurting with you. This world is broken. It is fallen. Jesus is not going to take away all the distress from your life. I truly believe that a good father shouldn’t and can’t move every difficulty out of the way for His children. But a good father does sit and listen and stroke our hair and cry with us in the insults and pain. He walks with us, gives us wisdom, gives us strength, and gives us POWER! He doesn’t need the bad things in order to give us power. He does however use the weakness, insults, distress, persecution, and difficulties to redeem the brokenness inside of us and bring forth power. He redeems it by filling us in those moments of weakness. He fills us with His spirit so that we are overflowing with the strength and power of Christ. He surrounds us with the church, the body, and our community to strengthen us and help us put one foot in front of the other, one day at a time. We can be content and at peace with our weaknesses because Christ is enough. We don’t have to be enough. Life is full of BOTH hardship and life-giving moments. It is full of both insults and encouragement. It is full of both distress and laughter. It is full of both people that tear you down and powerful community that can fill you up. It is full of both difficulties and wonder. I am both weak and strong at the same time. That is the way life is meant to be lived. For when I am weak, then I am strong. Again, I don’t have to rejoice in the fact that the bad is happening BUT you can rejoice that in that moment or season of darkness, in this roller coaster of life, God IS YOUR STRENGTH! Christ is POWER. 

Christ died to wash away our sin and guilt and shame, but he was also RISEN from the grave to show and fill us with POWER. Even in our darkest days, know that Sunday is coming. May we walk in that power today. 

Leaving and Letting Go

Derek and I decided long before we had kids that missions and service and ministry would be a part of our lives. We actually decided that even before we met each other. We both feel called to work with teenagers. We fell in love because as teachers, we were both the last ones on our hallway each day with students in our room, and we would encourage each other and learn from each other as we just naturally started our ministries. Then, once we got married it just made that ministry even greater. Getting to go on mission trips together and pour into teenagers and people around the world as a team has just always been a life giving calling for us both. 

Now that we not only have a child, but THREE children at once, I feared that this special part of us might have to be put on hold or change for a while. And in a lot of ways it has changed. I stay at home with our 3 kids instead of teaching. Students and former students come over to our house now to play with our kids instead of me having lunch or breakfast with them. In addition, we now get the privilege of pouring into 3 small humans together as a team and as ministry. I recognize that our family alone is a huge and wonderful and life giving ministry. BUT I still feel called to go. I love that even though so many pieces of our ministry look different right now, so far we have been able to be leaders on mission trips the last 2 years while raising our triplets. Both my parents and my in-laws have been champs and are willing to watch our kids while we follow this call on our hearts to go. 

That said. I’m really terrified this year. Last year when we went to China, I was so exhausted from taking care of 3 newborns. I hadn’t been out of the house much and the trip just felt so freeing. I felt like I got to remember who I was and how to slow down again. That trip began a journey of self-discovery in me. It reminded me to not get lost in this craziness of motherhood but to listen to the Spirit. It began a season of healing for me. Plus I just loved pouring into the high schoolers on our trip. We were going to a place that is so close to my heart. Shepherd’s Field feels like another home. I felt so confident leaving for that trip, and then coming back I had this image of the kids running to me and jumping in my arms…

Well, for one thing the kids weren’t really running yet, but when we got back, it was hard. Lucy and Oliver were fine and honestly ignored us when we walked up the stairs for the first time after being gone for 10 days. They just kept playing. Shepherd on the other hand was ticked. He was mad that we had left him and wouldn’t let me touch him or hold him or talk to him. He was back to normal by that evening and even more so by the next morning, but it was still hard.

Now here we are several months later, and we are leaving for Honduras tomorrow. I really feel like the Spirit was at work the way this trip just happened to have an open spot the exact year that we aren’t able to go to China. While Derek and I were praying about how we could still be involved together in missions this year, this trip was instantly on our hearts. Derek has been on this trip around 10 times and he has always wanted us to go together. I know that this is where God is calling me. I know that I will find purpose and that God can and will use me if I let him. I know that this group of high school students is fantastic, and I can’t wait to get to know them better. 

But I’m scared. This time, I’m really really scared. My kids spent several days in the hospital just 3 months ago. It’s still winter, so there is a chance that they could get sick again and have to go back while we are gone. More than that, I’m afraid to leave Shepherd. I know that Lucy and Oliver will barely miss me (haha), but my sensitive Shepherd will be mad again. I’m afraid that it will mess him up. I’m afraid that he will be so mad at me that it will forever change our relationship. I’m afraid that he won’t love me the same. Last year he couldn’t talk. This year, he can tell me how mad he is that I was gone.

The truth is, those things might happen. They probably won’t, but they might. They might get sick. Shepherd might be mad at me for days or weeks this time. It might make his anxiety worse. He might cry for me everyday that I am gone. But that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t go. 

If I don’t go, then God will still do amazing things on that trip. He doesn’t need me to make that trip great. I’m not going because I am this wonderful Christian and the best mentor and the only one that can pour into those high schoolers. That’s not it at all. I am not invaluable. But I do feel called to go. 

I’m going because I need my kids to know that even though they have forever changed my life and my ministry, my life is bigger than just the 3 of them. My ministry is bigger than the 3 of them. I feel guilty typing that. I feel scared typing that. But I want to raise kids that become adults that depend on Jesus and have coping skills to bravely take on the world. AND I am the best me when I have purpose outside of just them. I am a better version of myself when I am both loving them and others. I need both and that’s ok.

My theme for the year continues to be BOTH/AND. I am both a mom and a minister to teenagers. God has called me to both. And so even though I am scared…I will go.