Posted in Celebration, Faith, Family, Grief, Thanks

The Gifts of the Darkness

“What gifts?”

A question I have asked myself over and over and over again this week as I settled my mind on “springing ahead,” even the clock speaking of the hope of longer daylight and warmer spirits.

“What gifts came as a result of the darkness of this year of all years?”

I am usually someone who rushes over the grief and wants to spring right to positivity and happy things. I like that. I’m definitely a “spring-forward” girl.

But I am learning that it does NOT work. I can’t just rush to JOY. Nor should I.

So when that question came, I paused. I really paused.

First, I need to speak of the darkness.
Of the soul.
Of the cocoony, wintery, messy, middle-of-the-muck-and-mire-stuff.
Of the death of life as I knew it almost exactly a year ago.
Of all the loss in every facet of society and in my little world.

Losing friends to this monster (youngish ones).
Not having family reunions on both sides.
Isolation and disconnection.
The tearing away of peace of mind.
All the complicated choices to see people safely.
The sheer exhaustion from the stress.
Judgment from everywhere, even my own, about all. the. things.
Lack of motivation.
The constant survival mode feeling.

It’s all been hard. Too hard in many ways. DARK. Really dark.

But my heart (my spring-forward heart) also sees the gifts that can only come as a result of the darkness.

Even the darkness of a horrible-terrible-no-good-very-bad year.

The dark night of our collective souls.

I’ve been watching our rhododendron sleep through the winter, the buds closed tight, hunkering down.

At one point in the coldest and snowiest and darkest of days, the buds were covered with ice and the leaves were droopy and frozen.

I stood there looking at it through my big window, marveling that when the light and the warm and the spring finally comes, each frigid bud will burst forth into all the purple blooms that shout beauty and hope.

The blooms are the gifts of the darkness.

So right back to my question.

“What gifts?”

“What gifts came as a result of the darkness of this year of all years?”

Then another, more clarifying question came as well.

“What gifts do I want to bring with me out of the darkness and into the “spring,” into the light?

To be honest, there are many.

Plenty of rest for this recovering-workaholic.
Moments to stare out the window at my sleeping rhododendron covered in snow.
The freedom from all the soul-killing expectations to be busy, busy, busy.
Deep connections with those most important to me.
White space that grants margin for creativity.
Extra time with the Tender Lover of my soul.
Long walks in every kind of weather and the appreciation of nature that comes with them.

Simple thankfulness for things like paper towels and meals with friends.
Discovery of parts of myself that I hadn’t known before and I now like (a lot).
The narrowing of priorities to what really matters.
Deep empathy from and for others in suffering.

There are more and more and more.

Life-changing “terrible gifts” (as CS Lewis calls them) that have only come as a result of the darkness.

Gifts I will continue to unwrap for the rest of my days.
Gifts I will hold onto like a treasure box only meant for me.

Gifts.

Terrible, beautiful, sacred, horrible, hard, holy, very very good gifts.

The gifts of the darkness.

Have I hated this year?
A resounding YES in many ways.

Do I wish it never happened?
A thousand times NO.

I’m peeking out an my rhododendron on this bright, sunny day.
It’s reaching for the light and its leaves are glorious.
The buds are still closed, not quite as tight, and I can see their faint color through the green.

Soon, the purple will unfurl into all of its goodness.

It won’t be for a few more weeks, but I can feel the gift of incredible beauty as if it is right now.

Posted in Faith, Family, Motherhood, Sabbath

24/1 – The Art of Taking a Sabbath

“With fear strangling me from the inside out, a soft gentle brave Voice kept wooing me to something different, something scary, yet something satiating and life-giving.”

Thank you, Becky Beresford, Author, for publishing my story.

I only have 9 more hours until my 24/1. Can’t wait.

Find out more by clicking HERE.

Posted in Faith, Health, Sabbath

Tired.

This “Esthergizer Bunny” is just a wee bit tired.

Mentally.  Emotionally.  Physically.  Spiritually.

TIRED.

Keeping my anxiety in check with all the counseling tools I’ve been given.

Making sure a germ doesn’t get into this house.

Using every ounce of self-control I have not to just be downright cranky (note:  sometimes, it’s not working…ask anyone who lives with me).

Fighting the weeds in our gardens.

Playing “frogger” with poison ivy on our latest hike, dog in tow (note:  I am always at war with poison ivy).

Pleading for wisdom for all the decisions I need to make in this new normal.

Organizing every inch of our new home.

Questioning God on all the fronts.

Zooming until my eyes and head hurt.

Preparing our rental property for the summer season with every new precaution under the sun.

Watching the fights play out on social media.  Open.  Close.  Mask.  No mask.  Freedom.  Safety.

Listening to the fights go on in my own head.  Open.  Close.  Mask.  No mask.  Freedom.  Safety.

Battling the grief process out with God:  denial, anger, bargaining, depression (note:  acceptance is socially distancing right now and she’s got a mask on, maybe even two or three).

SOOOO…. what’s a TIRED girl to do?

I’ve come up with a little plan for the weekend.

It’s called jumping into a pile of GRACE and REST.

It’s going to be a…

SLEEP-IN

DO A CROSSWORD PUZZLE

HAVE A LONG, SLOW CUP OF TEA

GET TAKEOUT

GIVE MYSELF PERMISSION TO NOT CROSS ANYTHING OFF MY TO-DO LIST

NO NEWS

MAYBE MAKE BANANA BREAD (or not)

TAKE A NAP

PLAY GAMES WITH MY KIDS

DO NOT PULL A WEED

WATCH HULU CUDDLING WITH MY HUBBY

KICK THE SHOULD-MONSTER OUT OF MY HEAD

HAVE A KLONDIKE BAR

…kind of a weekend.

The “Esthergizer Bunny” will be back soon enough.

She’s getting some much-needed SHABBAT SHALOM! 

A peaceful rest.

Posted in Faith, Health, Sabbath, Word of the Year

We All Need Permission for This

Life is noisy. Everywhere. There are televisions in elevators shouting the latest news-worthy crisis. There are horns blaring from impatient people in the cars behind us. There are children throwing tantrums in grocery stores (I had the distinct pleasure of enjoying that with my grandson just this week). And then there is the constant noise inside our own heads.

There’s something about getting away from the hustle and bustle, the noisy world we live in, to a place of respite and refreshment. Maybe it’s the silence that allows our minds to breathe. Maybe it’s slowing down to hear God’s gentle whisper of love and care for us, placing our burdens only meant for His shoulders. Maybe it’s the surrounding simple beauty that soothes our hurried souls and draws us to Beauty Himself. Maybe it’s the intangible peace we receive and feel in our very bodies when we give room and space for quiet.

Constant. Noise. Drains. The. Life. Out. Of. Us.   Jesus invites us to something very different.   He rarely tells us to hurry up.  He often spoke the opposite to his friends when He was living in this “speed-it-up” world.  He knew (for them and for us) that we humans desperately need self-care and replenishment, restoration and renewal, places that GIVE LIFE.

“Come away to a quiet place and rest a while.” (Mark 6:31)

This place of withdrawal is a gift Jesus so longs to give us, not another “should” on our endless list. He wants LIFE for me and for you, for us in our collective humanity, the most full and abundant life that we are designed for. He knows what we need to be WHOLE and WELL. Rest is not selfish, lazy, or impractical. It is truly freeing and life-giving, a present straight from the tender heart of God for us to unwrap.

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Where is this place of restoration for you? Is it a simple walk around the block listening to your favorite music? Is it laying down for a much-needed nap on a Sunday afternoon? Is it sitting alone in your car watching the sunset from your favorite overlook? Is it putting your phone on “do not disturb” mode for a few hours, giving yourself a break from the constant buzzing and dinging?  Whatever it is, do it often and regularly. Make it a part of the rhythm of your day, your week, your month, even your year.  In the hustle and bustle of ordinary life, give yourself permission to retreat, withdraw and rest.

The noisy world will be calling to you soon enough.

From my heart to yours.

P.S.  I am heading horizontal this afternoon.

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For other posts about my journey toward rest, check these out by clicking HERE.

 

 

Posted in Faith, Family, Health, Sabbath

Giving Up Normal (Part 2)

***HERE’S PART TWO OF THE PODCAST I AM A GUEST ON…20 MINS…CHECK IT OUT…HERE’S THE BLURB…DON’T MISS IT***

Do you sense the need to create and maintain a life-giving practice of sabbath but not sure where to start? In part 2 of Giving up the 24/7 Life, Jen continues her conversation with writer, podcaster and leader, Esther Goetz. Esther shares what she has learned on her journey, what her sabbath looks like now, challenges that may come our way and tips to creating your own rhythm of sabbath.

Two life-changing questions to ask yourself:

What do you need today?

What do you want Jesus to do for you?

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN!

Posted in Faith, Health, Sabbath

Giving Up Normal (Part One)

***I’M THE GUEST ON THE “GIVING UP NORMAL” PODCAST…20 MINUTES…DON’T MISS IT***

Are you a workaholic? Are you constantly on the go? Do you have very little space and margin in your life? Do you struggle to stop? You are not alone. Many of us are living 24/7. We live in a constant state of doing and producing and we can feel it as it impacts us physically, emotionally and spiritually. The 24/7 life puts us in a danger zone that can lead to burnout and is not the way God created us to be.

In today’s episodes, Jen talks with writer, podcaster and leader Esther Goetz as she shares her own journey of being forced to stop the 24/7 life and embrace the gift of sabbath by living 24/6.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN!

 

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 Faith, Family, Motherhood, Sabbath

God, Weird Mom Agendas, Fixing Stuff and a Resting Heart

One of my favorite parts of being a mom is when all my children are in the same room, sleeping under the same roof and sitting around the same table. I can see their huge bodies curled up in a ball on the couch, hear their voices singing in the shower, and give them hugs like I never want to let them go. I am with them and my heart is happy. Right now, in this season of momhood, sadness comes knowing it’s temporary and that I stay here and they go there.

It’s true. I am still with them. I cheer for them in their triumphs, am sad for their struggles and pain, and plop my mom heart down next to theirs during the every day stuff of life. I want them to know in the depths of their souls that they are not alone.

But this is also true. I am not with them the way I used to or even want to be. This is the hard part, the letting go part, the budding adult part, the “trusting God” part.

God is with them even more than I could ever be. He’s not limited physically like me. That calms my heart when I can’t be there in bodily mom form. He reaches them in places that I will never be able to touch. He is the only One who can do that. I rest there.

He also doesn’t have weird mom agendas for them like I do. He doesn’t lecture them to “get their act together” like I might. He doesn’t have fear when they don’t like I might. He is just with them. I rest there.

He doesn’t try to fix everything for them like I’ve been known to do (cough cough). He lets them be right where they are, in all their good and bad choices, and sits beside them in all of them, holding them close to His heart. He loves them no matter what.  I rest there.

He believes in them even when they might not believe in themselves. When they can’t see their own goodness and value, He reminds them gently. He is fiercely committed to them for their whole life, actually forever. He isn’t going anywhere. I rest there.

Deuteronomy 31:8
The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

I’m soaking this into my soul today:  God goes before me.  He goes before them.  He’s with me.  He’s with them.  God will never leave me.  He will never leave them.  Take courage, sweet heart of mine.  REST. RIGHT. THERE.

 

Please don’t forget to “LIKE” the post on social media!  I know it means you have to “go back out and click on something,” but it would mean the world to me!!!

Posted in Anxiety, Faith, Health

DO. EVERYTHING. BETTER.

“I love the illusion of being able to do it all, and I’m fascinated with people who seem to do that, who have challenging careers and beautiful homes and vibrant minds and well-tended abs. Throw in polite children and a garden, and I’m coming over for lessons.” (Shauna Niequist)

The vicious mantra of our world is three simple words: DO. EVERYTHING. BETTER.

First, I am supposed to DO. Perform. Accomplish. Behave. “Make it happen.” Push.  “Get ‘er done.”  Move.  Cross-off.

Second, I am supposed to do EVERYTHING. Exercise. Eat healthy. Vote. Brush teeth. Make friends. Manage social media. Keep learning. Stay neat. Be spiritual. Dress appropriately. Make money. Recycle. Manage time. Serve others. Dream big. Sleep.

Third, I am supposed to do everything BETTER. Exercise in the best way for my particular body style and shape. Buy a tracking device for my wrist. Make completely nutritious and delicious meals from scratch and chew more slowly so that digestion happens correctly.  March for and give to my favorite social justice cause without offending anyone. Brush twice AND floss once every day AND go to the dentist twice a year for regular cleanings. Create meaningful and long-lasting relationships with diverse people groups. Keep my social media to a minimum while remaining completely engaged with those in my networks.   Take a class AND possibly teach one myself. Listen to life-changing podcasts. Read a book a week. Have carefully marked and organized spaces for everything I own and put all of it where it’s supposed to go as soon as I am finished with it. Go to church regularly. Read a daily devotional first thing every morning. Pray. Give. Be in a small group. Be like Jesus, for goodness sake. Purchase and wear clothes that are fashionable and reasonable. Change them throughout the day depending the weather and what you are doing and NEVER EVER sleep in them (I have pajamas for that). Get a good-paying job AND make sure to invest in wise places to secure my future. Take out life insurance. Rinse out every bottle and remove all the wrapping before I place it in the bin. Acquire an electric car. NEVER waste time. Check all the boxes off my list every day because I am doing all the right things at the right time and in the right amount of time. Serve the homeless at a soup kitchen and donate all my unused clothes seasonally (make sure I wash them first).   Create space every day for the pursuit of my passions.  Find a vocation that fits my personal purpose.  Guiltily remind myself that it takes 10,000 hours of complete dedication to master a skill. Sleep without interruption for 8 hours every single night. There are no excuses.

STRESS CLOSES IN LIKE A MONSTER, CHOKING THE LIFE OUT OF ME!

DO. EVERYTHING. BETTER.

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

The gentle lilt of Jesus is this:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Come to Me. Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with Me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with ME and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-29 The Message Version)

BIG SIGH FOR MY HEART. I need this today and every day.

Learn the unforced rhythms of grace

 

 

 

**A shout-out to Shauna Niequist who first called out those three words that were shriveling my very soul**
Posted in Faith, Family, Grandparenthood, Health

INTERRUPTED: Lessons From A Toddler

“I AM A LEARNER AND I AM A TEACHER.”  (Sarah Meassick’s Second Grade Classroom Mantra)

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Eating Dinner Out:  INTERRUPTED by one-year-old standing in high chair, demanding loudly to get down and teeter around.

Checking My Phone:  INTERRUPTED by little hands reaching for me with books in tow.

Sleeping Somewhat Peacefully:  INTERRUPTED by cries at 2 am.  Thankfully, hear doors opening and steps of mommy above with calming voice.

Making Breakfast:  INTERRUPTED by loud noise with sudden horrible smell.  Time for a change of all current clothing.  Mommy sleeps soundly.

Costco Shopping:  INTERRUPTED by constant “more,” pointing to bag of snap pea crisps.

Writing Blog Post:  INTERRUPTED by sounds indicating nap time is already over WAY TOO SOON.

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All those feelings of early mothering years flood back to me as I spend two days with my grandson.  Interruptions abound.  I didn’t like them then and I still don’t like them today!  “I can’t get what I want to do done.”  “I have lots of important stuff to take care of.”  “People are counting on a blog post tomorrow. (I know, I have delusions of grandeur.)

My thoughts are suddenly INTERRUPTED!  A new voice stops me right in my tracks and sends me in another direction as I hold my grandson cozy and close upon waking from his nap, the only time he cuddles and snuggles, the extra busy toddler he is.  “I have a lot to learn from this little boy in my arms.”  “He is a very wise teacher.”  “This is probably what really matters.”  “Forget the blog post! (HAHA.  Obviously not.)”

THIS CHILD (Unlike Me At Times):

  1. Expresses what he needs (sometimes loudly).  He doesn’t feel guilty about it.  He is highly comfortable with both negative and positive emotions, never stuffing how he really feels.
  2. Eats healthy and only enough to satisfy.  Oh how I wish!
  3. Loves unabashedly.  He doesn’t hold back showing affection and delight.  He lights up when he sees those he loves and makes it clear he is thrilled to be with them.
  4. Sings and dances freely.  He dances like “everyone is watching.”  In fact, he relishes when others not only watch, but sing and dance along with him.
  5. Rests when he’s tired.  Enough said.  (I don’t know anyone who doesn’t do that … tongue-in-cheek emoji inserted here)   Maybe I will go take a nap now.
  6. Explores new things with ferocity.  “Life is a daring adventure or nothing” (Helen Keller) is the mantra of this boy.
  7. Seeks out those who love him.  This is my favorite.  He isn’t afraid to be really loved and cared for!  If only!

I am finishing up now that it’s thankfully bedtime, having been INTERRUPTED all afternoon and evening since the wake-up-from-nap-time.  Guess what?  It wasn’t so bad after all.  I actually enjoyed it.  No wonder when Jesus was INTERRUPTED by children, He said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”  Where else can I get belly giggles and bear hugs, song-singing and arms reaching?  Sounds a lot like the kingdom of heaven to me!   I’m sure these aren’t the last lessons gleaned from the wisdom of this 24 pound, bundle of love, joy, and life!  Keep INTERRUPTING little one!  You’ve cracked my heart wide open!