Posted in Celebration

Redeeming Mardi Gras

Images of Mardi Gras swirl in my head.

Debauchery.  Excess.  Lewdness.  Abandon.  Sensuality.  Revelry.  Beads.  Licentiousness.  Drunkenness.  The pursuit of pleasure at all costs.

I’m not sure about you, but I have a super complicated relationship with pleasure.

At times, I overestimate its value and seek it with abandon at any cost to my own demise, still unsatisfied and longing for more, kind of like what will be happening today in New Orleans.

In other moments, I squelch it, deeming it unnecessary, and certainly not “Christian” and even harmful to my wellbeing.   I swing from feasting to fasting, just trying to figure it out this complex partnership, never quite landing anywhere.

I need pleasure.  You need it.   It’s really good for me, especially when it’s in its designed space, as my kind and faithful servant and not my harsh and self-seeking master.  It’s a straight-up gift from God to remind me of His goodness.

When I think about it, I’ve been given five senses to experience joy and delight for just this very reason, the immense freedom to enjoy the goodness of God.  It’s no wonder the Psalmist says,

“Taste and see that the Lord is good.”

  • I taste delectable flavors (potato chips and milk for me…I know…super strange), savoring each sip or bite.
  • I hear sounds that excite and both calm my soul and levels unreached in other ways (my favorite is the garage door closing when my budding adult is home after a night being out).
  • Through the sense of touch, I know comfort and bliss (warm sunshine on my face after a long winter), and also experience love and intimacy with the people I love (a long hug with my hubby).
  • My sight allows me to capture the untarnished beauty of the world (butterflies fluttering in my garden brings me personal joy).
  • My sense of smell gives me a completely unique experience of the life around me (lilacs in May and peonies in June for this New Jersey girl), especially and uniquely mine, a true gift in a world of billions of people.

I am reminded I am one-of-a-kind and God does some things just for me!  How amazing is that?!?

Today, take a minute to think about what brings you pleasure.  You may have just forgotten because of all the overwhelming “duties” on your plate.  What is your favorite thing to taste, see, touch, hear and smell?

Hopefully carve out just a few moments on this Mardi Gras to experience even one, savoring it as you do, bringing your senses to life and reminding you that “Yes.  God’s creation is good” and He’s gifted it to you to declare to your heart His unending goodness and unfailing love!

TRULY ENJOY.

From My Heart to Yours

Posted in Anxiety, Faith, Family, Friendship, Grief

Fear Keeps Me…

Fear keeps me from loving deeply.

Fear of rejection.
Fear of losing myself.
Fear of embarrassment.
Fear of pain.
Fear of not being enough.
Fear of abandonment.
Fear of grief.
Fear of failure.
Fear of being swallowed up.
Fear of loss.

If I love deeply, every last one of those fears might come true. Many of them already have.

But, it’s a risk I am trying very hard to take every single day, no matter how afraid I am, because…

If I love deeply, I will also find ALL of these along the way:

Grace.
Life.
Kindness.
Intimacy.
Acceptance.
Tenderness.
Joy.
Goodness.
Empathy.
Peace.
Belonging.
Mercy.
Trust.
Healing.
And ultimately, LOVE.

Fear may win a few skirmishes here and there on the battlefield of my heart, but deep LOVE will win the war. That’s a guarantee from LOVE HIMSELF.

Posted in Childhood, Faith, Family, Motherhood

Remember Our Fridge?

Dear Kids,

Remember our fridge? Not what was on the inside (as yummy as that was), but what was on the outside. I loved displaying all your works of art, your photos, a good grade, all the things you were proud of. It was like our own little shrine to your awesomeness.

When we took things down, you would have a little freak out. Sometimes, I would sneak things into recycling or the garbage when you weren’t looking. Yes, I was THAT mom.

Other things stayed up there for a super long time just because it made both our hearts do a little dance when we passed by. You felt important and loved and knew how proud I was of you.

You know what? I’m a little sentimental and gushy because we aren’t putting things on fridges anymore.  But I don’t need that dang fridge to tell you I am proud of what you accomplish, the things you create AND especially the person you are. That hasn’t changed and it never will. That little shrine moved from the big fridge door to the inside of my heart (no garbage or recycling needed)!

You know what else? Which just blows my mind!?!? God’s “fridge” is even bigger than mine. He loves you (AND ME) more than I ever can or will. You (AND ME) infinitely matter to Him. You (AND ME) are intensely valuable to Him. He is extremely proud of all the hard work you (AND I) have done and more importantly, the person that you (AND I) are. He’s filled with joy over you (AND ME).

If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it.
If He had a wallet, your photo would be in it.
He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning.
He can live anywhere in the universe and He chose your heart.
Face it. He’s crazy about you.
(Max Lucado)

Soak these words in! Let them settle deep down inside, where you can reach for them over and over any moment you need them! You are SO loved!

From my heart to yours,
Mom

P.S.  You out there reading this…guess what???…all this applies to YOU too!  I hope it puts a skip in your step for your day!!

*Picture from iVillage*

Posted in Celebration, Childhood, Faith, Third Culture Kid

“You Better Watch Out” God

“Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.”
“That is because you are older, little one,” answered he.
“Not because you are?”
“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”
(Prince Caspian, Chapter 10)

I lay on my bunk bed at boarding school in Ethiopia. I am just nine years old. My bunkmate stirs below me. I wind my musical Raggedy Ann doll over and over, hoping to get some sleep. Sleep does not come.

I rehash the day. Thoughts swirl: “I did a bunch of wrong things. Maybe that’s why I can’t sleep. I should confess my sins. Hey God, I’m sorry for all the bad things I did today. I hope you can forgive me.”

Still no rest for my eyes and tired body.  I go into a bit of a panic. “Maybe I didn’t mean it for real when I prayed the magic prayer asking God into my heart. If I did mean it, I would not be so naughty.”

I whisper the same thing for the umpteenth time, “Please come into my heart. I really mean it this time. I will be better tomorrow.” Still nothing. I lay there wide-awake.

My mind happily drifts to earlier in the evening, my dorm mother reading us another chapter in the story of Narnia. The image of Aslan, a loving lion who makes everything good and right in a strange land, and seems to adore children and even play with them, floods my mind. “I love Aslan. I wish God was like Aslan. Why can’t He be?”

As I finally drift off to sleep, resting in the comfort of the lion who loves children, I have a flicker of hope: “Maybe He is.”

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For decades, Santa has flooded the Christmas season. A jolly man with a jolly heart. A man who rewards good behavior with toys and naughty behavior with “a lump of coal.” My friend “prayed to Santa” all year and confessed her sins, much like I did to God as a young girl.

It makes a lot of sense. “He (Santa) sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake. YOU BETTER WATCH OUT! Santa Claus is coming to town.”

Sounds eerily similar to a song from those little girl boarding school days: “Be careful little eyes what you see, for the Father up above is looking down below, so be careful little eyes what you see.” YOU BETTER WATCH OUT.

Recently, Santa’s Elf (on the Shelf) has stepped in to “help Santa.” This Elf is dispatched from the North Pole at the start of Advent. He or she enters homes to keep a watchful eye on the children, ensuring good behavior during the rough parenting patch when kids are over-sugared and over-excited for Christmas. His or her “job” is to make sure they belong on Santa’s “nice” list. YOU BETTER WATCH OUT!

Santa. God. Elf on the Shelf. YOU BETTER WATCH OUT!

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Fast forward 30+ years. I’m a mom of four littles who loves celebrating Santa (in fact, my seven-year old just opened her letter from the North Pole). We don’t have an Elf on the Shelf (only because he/she is not invented yet). But me, this “desperate-to-please-God” young mom, believes wholeheartedly in a this YOU BETTER WATCH OUT God.

I’m stuck in my grown-up mom body as the little nine-year old girl on her bunk bed. God is no different than Santa or Elf on a Shelf. He’s up there watching my every good and bad behavior, ready to reward or “smite” me for each one, his main goal to get me to behave, to be good for goodness sake.

You yelled at your kids today. BAD!

You taught Sunday School. GOOD!

You told that white lie to your best friend! BAD!

You helped your twelve-year-old with their homework. GOOD!

You forgot to pray! BAD!

My relationship with this Santa/Elf on a Shelf/God is a little topsy-turvy. I’m filled with and act from the stranglehold of fear and guilt. Am I good enough today? Is God happy with me?

I hide or at least try to. Why wouldn’t I? I avoid Him. Who wouldn’t? I struggle to feel close, spending all my energy keeping my external, visible behavior under control, hoping it’s enough, trying to avoid that proverbial “lump of coal,” God’s utter disapproval of me. UGH!

My internal craving for love and belonging is completely sacrificed on the external “behavior management” altar. YOU BETTER WATCH OUT!

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In the middle of all of this, the stories of Narnia reenter my life and I have a reunion with Aslan.  I find three-hour-long radio theater dramatic renditions (absolutely a must-buy if you have kids) of these tales that I loved as a child. I kill two birds with one stone: share this amazing lion with my own children and at the same time, keep them quiet on long car rides (keeping it real people).

As I reconnect with Aslan, I find again that he is wise, playful, generous, kind, mysterious, terrifying, magnificent, beautiful and unconditionally loving all at once. He is the one I long for and need so desperately, my grownup heart still fragile from the many years of trying to keep myself in line.

That hopeful thought I had as a child flickers again in the darkness of my soul.

God is not like Santa.

God is not like the Elf on the Shelf.

God is not ultimately concerned with “behavior management.”

God is like Aslan.

God is wise. God is playful. God is generous. God is kind. God is mysterious. God is terrifying. God is magnificent. God is beautiful. God unconditionally loves and He unconditionally loves me.  Period. End of story.

No more YOU BETTER WATCH OUT!

My soul settles slowly (I’m talking years of retraining my brain) into a place of love and belonging. Yes, God sees me. He really sees me. He sees that little girl in the bunkbed, fearful, yet hopeful. He sees the young mom who longs to be known fully, and loved completely. He still sees me, the real real me. But instead of “setting me straight,” His beautiful, tender, kind heart sets me free!

My flicker so long ago, “Maybe He is,” burns brightly as a fire of hope that shouts, “YES. YES HE IS.”

****************************************

P.S. I have told people that, as a child, I loved Aslan more than I loved Jesus. I found out that a concerned mother once wrote C. S. Lewis on behalf of her son, Laurence, who, having read The Chronicles of Narnia, became concerned that he loved Aslan more than Jesus.

In his response, Lewis offered this relief: “Laurence can’t really love Aslan more than Jesus, even if he feels that’s what he is doing. For the things he loves Aslan for doing or saying are simply the things Jesus really did and said. So that when Laurence thinks he is loving Aslan, he is really loving Jesus: and perhaps loving Him more than he ever did before.”

 

***ONE MORE NOTE:  If you liked reading this, please go back out and “like” it on social media.  Means the world to me!***

Posted in Celebration, Faith, Family, Motherhood, Thanks

Be on the Lookout

I have four children. There are many days it’s been hard to be their mom. It’s been a lot of work. But there are times when I catch myself sitting back and asking God why I was so blessed to have them in my life, to get to be their mom. In those moments, my heart almost feels like it’s going to burst with thankfulness. This mom journey has been beyond my wildest dreams, far harder, but also far better than what I even believed could be true.

God tends to do that in our lives. He has surprises for us that are beyond our imagination: something in nature that just boggles the mind, a kind word from a stranger exactly when you need it, a random text from your child that they love you, a job promotion that you did not dare to hope for, and so on. He always has something up His sleeve.

He is much bigger, kinder, more generous, stronger, more loving, and smarter than we can even begin to wrap our brains around. He extravagantly loves us as if there is only one of us. No matter what we face or what we need (you might be in the middle of something that seems beyond fixing and desperately hopeless), soak this in:

God’s limitless, tireless, unbounded, lavish power that transcends our three-dimensional world is able to provide and work far beyond what our limited selves can envision.

This God can do anything and everything. This is not “pie-in-the-sky,” magical thinking. It’s a hard fact. Don’t be afraid to dream big and ask big, but be prepared for even bigger, above-and-beyond bigger.

Be on the lookout today for all that He has for you. Be prepared for more than you can even think up. It will change your life. It has changed mine! There is great hope!

From my heart to yours.

Posted in Faith, Family, Motherhood

My World Changed Forever

My world changed forever the first time I laid my eyes on my child. More importantly, my heart changed forever the first time I laid my eyes on them. From the moment I saw them, I knew something that I would never be able to “un-know,” the anchoring feeling and experience of unconditional love.

It’s a love that’s hard to explain with words. It’s a love that doesn’t lessen even if I am hurt, angry, sad, weary, panicked, exhausted, confused, frustrated, afraid or despairing. Nothing is able to fully quench it.

It’s a love that doesn’t increase just because I’m grateful, happy, rested, proud, peaceful, hopeful, confident, content, or optimistic. It’s a love that dwells in the secret, sacred space of my heart that’s reserved just for this one person, my child.

The experience of this inescapable kind of love for my now mostly grownups gives me a powerful, albeit limited glimpse into God’s unconditional love for me.

Nothing is able to make God’s love expand or diminish in any way. It’s steady and enduring, permanent and unfailing. This continuing peek into God’s heart for me (and thankfully for them) has the power to radically change me in only all the best ways. It’s a mighty force that brings life and healing the way nothing else can. For me and for them.

“May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love.  May you have the power to grasp how WIDE, how LONG, how HIGH and how DEEP His love really is.  May you experience the love of Christ, which far surpasses mere knowledge.  It will fill you with the richest experience of God’s presence in your life, completely filled and flooded with God Himself.”  (Ephesians 3:17-19)

From My Heart to Yours

P.S.  The pic above is one of my favorite ever!!

 

Posted in Faith, Family, Marriage, Motherhood

I Looked In the Mirror

I looked in the mirror and what did I see,

I saw an older woman looking at me.

Not a young mom who hasn’t had sleep,

But a grateful heart whose love runs deep.

Not a girlish grin that laughs at today,

But a strong soul who still longs to play.

Not a budding wife still in a hiding place,

But a life-long partner who lends a safe space.

Not a stubborn spirit who’s boxed up her God.

But a settled self no longer a fraud.

Not a sprite face with delicate lines,

But warm eyes with a smile that’s mine.

I looked in the mirror and what did I see.

I saw a tender warrior looking at me.

 

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Posted in Faith, Sabbath

Oh the Deep Deep Love of Jesus

I am overwhelmed by the deep deep love of Jesus this morning.

It’s the kind of overwhelmed where tears have reached my eyes and I cannot prevent them from leaking out.

It’s the kind of overwhelmed where these salty drops running down my cheeks are a very GOOD thing.

I share this two-minute song this morning.  Soak in the love of Jesus.  Rest right there.  There’s nothing better in the world to do.

From my heart to yours,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vUhwyjdk8A

Posted in Family, Motherhood

TEN MOM QUESTIONS I AM DEFINITELY ASKING GOD WHEN I SEE HIM 🤣

I have a little beef with the Creator of the Universe (even though I secretly know He’s smarter than me)!  27 1/2 years of  “why?” “huh?”  “why not?”  swirling around in my parental cerebrum.  It feels good to finally get it out on “paper.”  Don’t stress.  It’s all in good fun!

 

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ADD YOUR OWN!  You’ve got something swirling around!

 

 

Posted in Celebration, Clean Water, Faith, Family, Homeless, Marriage, Thanks

Happy Birthday Allen!

“The work an unknown good man has done is like a vein of water flowing hidden underground, secretly making the ground green.”  (Thomas Carlyle)

Allen.  A word that comes off my lips probably twenty times a day.  A word that sometimes is surrounded by love and other times by frustration.  A word like no other in my life.  A word that encompasses kindness unlike I’ve known before, integrity that quietly makes a profound statement, humility that lifts others up and spirituality that is deep and genuine.

I’ve struck gold in the landscape of life.  This man, who I’ve known for almost 30 years just keeps getting better and better.  He’s the best gift I’ve ever been given.  And he gave me four more gifts in our incredible children, as qualities I see growing in them reflect who their dad is.

Allen embodies the spirit of “being kind over being right” (and thank God for that, because I like being right just a little too much).  I watch it play out in quiet moments with close friends and strangers alike.  He is considerate to both immediate family and the homeless that wander the streets of New York City.  Co-workers who spend every day with him and the poor who don’t have access to clean water benefit from his heart of benevolence.   His gracious spirit permeates his times with his partners in ministry and the engaged couples we minister to together.  As you can see, his kindness is genuine, often and without boundaries.

Integrity is the suit of armor Allen puts on every single day.  He does “the right thing even when no one is watching.”  I would know.  I live with the guy.  He doesn’t cheat on his taxes, on his expense sheet at work, or me.  He is the same person in the morning at work, in a board meeting at our church, on a weekend with the guys, and our family at home.  I trust him completely and utterly.  What a gift!

I struggle with thinking I’m better than everyone else (#notabigsurprise).  I know.  I’m working on it.  And one of the reasons I’m working on it is because of this man named Allen who shows genuine humility.  I want to be seen and heard.  He wants others to be seen and heard, including me.  He’s the biggest reason why I started this blog.  He wants my voice out there.  He actually, deep-down-inside, believes that others are valuable and takes the role of a servant much of the time even though he is a highly successful business man with mad skills.  You can find him washing the dishes, folding the laundry, performing menial, unseen tasks no one else wants to do and never expecting the notice and applause of others.  I am so blessed!

My favorite thing about Allen, and probably why he’s all those other things, is that he is deeply spiritual.  His inner life matters more to him than his outward persona.  He seeks God with ferocity.  He spends time in prayerful solitude in all kinds of places (the woods, his favorite chair in our family room, the airport as he’s waiting for a flight).  He seeks wise counsel with me as we work to have a better marriage and partnership for this journey.  He has a group of male friends called the Muckmeisters who meet every other week to encourage and be encouraged along their inner journeys.  We share our lives with a group of couples where Allen is vulnerable and open with his struggles and successes.   He voraciously reads anything he can get his hands on (at our local library because he is an accountant and keeps our money under control) that will help him on his path to becoming spiritually and emotionally whole.  He is the real deal!!

Allen is not perfect by any means.  No one is.  That’s what makes this post even more precious to me!  I spend a lot of time thinking about and dwelling on all the things he is not, the ways I wish he was different.  But today, on his 57th birthday, I am shouting for all to hear the things that HE IS, the parts of him that are his truest self.

To my boys:  you have a great father.  I don’t want you to be him.  I want you to be yourselves.  I want you to see, by Dad’s example, that you can be your truest, best selves in all that God made you to be.  You are already great men and a lot of the reason you are is because of the amazing dad that you have.

To my girls:  you have a great father.  He has been more than enough for you and shown you what a good man is. Sarah, you have chosen wisely and have two good men (one big and one little) yourself.  How blessed they both are to have you as their wife and mom.  Rachel, you are still to choose.  I know you will choose well.  Dad will be a blubbering mess when he walks you down the aisle!

To Allen today: you are amazing!  You are to be celebrated!   I am so grateful to share my life with you!  Keep doing what you are doing! Don’t change who you are (even though at times I’m shouting otherwise)! You make the world, and especially mine, a better place just because you are in it! I see you!  I salute you! Happy Birthday! I hope we have 57 more of them together!!! And even that won’t be long enough!!