February 8, 2017
“Is it still winter?” my little guy asked. While the answer was, “Yes,” the confusion swirling around the question was understandable. After all, the sun was beaming down, raising the temperature to almost 70, enabling him to run around outside in a t-shirt and sandals with no socks. And his day in kindergarten had certainly encountered the month of February on the calendar. Didn’t feel like February. Didn’t feel like winter. Yet it was.
Not long ago, he was donning snow boots and gloves. We had enough snow to sled, build a snowman, and gobble up some snow cream.
The leaves of this bush were weighed down with the white stuff.
Now here it stands looking like a spring queen. A case of seasonal identity crisis.
Recently in a ladies’ Bible study, attendees were asked to write down what season of life we were in. Now that is a good question.
“Young married?” No, we’ve almost reached 18 years and we’re both starting to gray.
“Young family?” Tough one. I have a kindergartener but will also have a teenager within a few days.
Okay, cross “young” anything off the list.
“Retired?” Mentally, at times. In reality, way off.
So I settled on somewhere in the middle. A kind of in-between season.
In fact, I’ve known for several months that I’m in a bit of a resting season. Busy? Yes. I’m a taxi driver, top grocery purchaser, chief washing machine operator, and head chef among other things. Even though it often doesn’t outwardly look or feel restful, that’s where I am right now.
So often our lives are defined by the season we’re in. For many, the stage of family determines our season. Pregnancy and empty nesters and every phase in between keep us stretched. Career status, whether starting a new one or exiting an old one, can shape us. Our roles in ministry ebb and flow through the years. There are times when we seem to be involved in each opportunity that arises and other times when we aren’t as committed.
Then there are those stages we want to wish away. When the baby doesn’t sleep through the night. Or when there’s too much month at the end of the paycheck. Or when every line on our planners are taken.
But there are seasons when major family, career, or ministry changes aren’t present. Life has settled into a rhythm, an in-between season.
Are you in this season? At times, it may feel like wasted time. It’s not. You may wonder if you’re accomplishing anything during a down time. Here are three strategies to keep in mind…and keep you motivated while you rest.
Soak up the Word
While reading God’s Word is essential for any phase of life, there are seasons when we have more actual time to sit, read, and study. Often it’s during these times that we are nourished from the exhaustion of a previous stage or reenergized for what lies ahead. Time in the Word is never wasted time. Delve into personal study, beginning each day with a prayer for a hunger for God’s Word. Get involved in group Bible studies as well. Personal connections made during corporate study often grow some of the deepest roots. ("All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Be Reflective and Thankful
Quiet time gives fresh opportunities to reflect on where we’ve been, experiences that have grown us, and an overall spirit of thanksgiving. I’ve discovered more than a few times recently when my eyes have welled with tears as I’ve watched my boys. This restful season has allowed me to be more reflective on the blessings I already have. I’m not consumed with hurrying to the next step; I’m thankful to be in the present moment. Count your blessings. Thank God for His goodness. ("Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever." Psalm 118: 1)
So often we spend our lives waiting for the next thing or striving to get to another step. A season of rest is a time to do exactly the opposite. It’s not neglecting goals or falling out of all activity, but stopping and finding satisfaction in the moment. Take advantage of some down time to rest in the contentment found in Jesus. ("A heart at peace gives life to the body..." Proverbs 14:30)
Seasons come and go. One of rest isn’t likely to hang around for long. Make an effort to enjoy while it lasts. Rest in knowing that while life may seem dormant for a while, another season will soon be in bloom.
December 17, 2016
It’s not that I haven’t been working on it. The tree’s up. Plenty of presents are bought. Christmas books have been read to the kids. Must be something about standing in the middle of a big box store less than two weeks away from Christmas that just made me feel as if I hadn’t done a thing.
It was supposed to be a quick trip in for a bottle of face wash, several boxes of cereal, and a few things for supper. It turned into a giant reminder of all I hadn’t done to get ready for Christmas. The stocking stuffers, wrapping paper, cute little baking supplies. Cue the mental list of what needed to be checked off my to-do list.
I slung my bags into the back of the minivan with a brief ba-hum-bug. Running low on time, money, energy, and apparently a good attitude, what did I have to offer to this last stretch of the holiday season? I hadn’t even baked one cookie I reminded myself.
Rewind a few weeks ago when I was asking myself that same question….what do I have to offer?
It was during the time our church family put on a Christmas drive-thru. We staged ourselves in different scenes to relay the gospel message to those who attended. They needed a boy Jesus to fill out the cast, so when our six year old took the role, his too-old parents got to tag along as Mary and Joseph. We loved it. It was an awesome way to get in the Christmas spirit and spend time with church friends and our own family.
Drivers and passengers heard about Jesus’ birth, life, and death as they listened to a recorded message. Those of us who were in the scenes basically had one job. To remain quiet and still, somewhat frozen in place.
But, do you want to know one of the best parts of the gig? The quiet. Quiet in 45 minute increments. Do that several times for a few nights and this mama found herself some quiet time. Time to think.
I wish I had a running transcript of my thoughts that weekend.
It began reverently enough. “Lord, use us. Reach these people with Your truth.”
In fact, prayer dominated my thoughts. Prayers of thanks and ones for discernment. Even prayers for the boy beside me to quickly rid himself of the wiggles.
Somewhere that ran off the rails. I mean at some point with all of that time to think a girl’s gotta mentally renovate her kitchen and contemplate some of life’s other major questions, “Should we paint the living room the color gray of the wise man’s vest?”
Staring at the wise men bearing their gifts for several hours leads to questions about them.
“I wonder if the person who bought that box he’s bearing used a 40% off coupon at Hobby Lobby?” It did look like an ancient relic, but I’ve been to Hobby Lobby enough to have spotted some there.
Eventually, my thoughts made their way back to ones with more significance.
“What did Mary and Joseph do with those gifts?”
“How did they feel as mom and dad when they received that royal visit?”
Those gifts, those offerings. My mind lingered on them for quite a while.
I imagined myself in the place of the wise men. Just plain old me, standing there. Surely, my box wouldn’t contain the same kind of gift. No gold or precious spice.
Most days I’m just a mom pushing my shopping cart containing store-brand Cinnamon Toast Crunch and boil-in-the-bag rice.
What do I really have to offer?
My answer landed closer to the little drummer boy’s presentation of a song rather than the extravagant gifts of the Magi. My hands seem to be empty of anything worthy to offer the King of Kings.
Or maybe not. Maybe they’re actually full of what I need to give to Him. I’m often weighed down holding what belongs in His hands. Expectations for the future. Hopes for my kids. My time. Boy, what a grip I struggle to maintain on my sacred time.
Perhaps those things we hold most precious could be our offerings of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Our treasures entrusted to Him. Emptying our hands to lay them at His feet. Then we could get back to the still, the quiet of the season…after we bake the cookies and wrap the presents.
Whether you’re running on empty or feel that your hands can’t hold another ounce, give it to Jesus this Christmas. He replaces our emptiness with His love and bears our burdens with His mercy.
November 7, 2016
Oh, this election. We are tired. We are weary. We are in need of miracles or the rapture.
And I know we’re out of time, but maybe just what we need is another candidate. Someone to boldly step away from the laundry and come into the limelight, leggings, ponytail, and all. Because at times like these, we need someone with nerves of steel, a strong back, and a solid resume.
We need a mom.
Think about it. Yes, moms are moms. But we’re so much more.
We are nurses armed with Star Wars Band-Aids.
We are teachers with reading skills and homemade multiplication cards.
We are short order line cooks whipping up PB&Js, nuggets, and homemade chocolate chip cookies without blinking an eye.
We are shoulders to cry on and ears to listen. We make more decisions daily after school than many do in a month.
Not that I’m asking to run…I’d actually run from the job, but take a look at some of my qualifications. I’m sure you are or know a mom whose resume would resemble mine.
I remember writing in a high school journal that I wanted to be the first female NFL referee. I even practiced the signals for holding and false starts. I am fulfilling my dreams. Every day, multiple times a day, I put my referee skills into practice. Time out for touching your brother for the skillioneth time today. Go to your room penalty for your bad attitude. Immediate confiscation of electronics for daring to roll your eyes at me.
Tell me that wouldn’t come in handy in dealing with some DC disagreements.
At this point, I’ve pulled off 27 birthday parties for my boys and a few events as room mom. Along with my First Man, I’ve baked enough cupcakes to feed a small state, created decorations from toilet paper tubes, and stuffed a mountain of treat bags. I’ve labeled Sprite as Yoda Soda and chocolate dipped pretzels as light sabers. All this with color-coordinating balloons in tow.
Hello, state dinners? Got you covered.
Whether it’s using buy one get one coupons or locating deals at local consignment shops, I can stretch a dollar. My humble budget has been pushed and pulled and I stay within my means. My sister-in-law, another mom, got three meals from a $3 package of chicken last week.
I have full confidence that a group of mamas could wipe out some national debt.
Legos. Enough said.
Any building, airport, infrastructure? Small-scale models are prepared.
The list isn't exhaustive. Counselor, seamstress, top negotiator, and others need to be added. But I have some reading logs, permission slips, and other important documents to sign.
Anyway, the deadline has passed for this go-around. Even a glowing resume can't turn back the clock. But come 2020, we’ll be looking for you Moms.
September 22, 2016
I titled my last post "Summer Wrap Up: Part 1" in high hopes of having a few more posts about lessons I learned over the summer. That post was all about being careful when assigning names to things, especially ourselves, because names stick. I’m going to go back and read it again because apparently I kinda didn’t learn my lesson. Because you see, when you type up a blog post and hit that publish button, the title (or name) is stuck. And when something is named “Part 1” there needs to be a “Part 2.” Except in my case, parts 2 and 3 were only in my head, not yet on the computer. And before I knew it, time had passed and I was left staring at the calendar labeled with the words, “First Day of Autumn.” And the summer wrap ups, well, weren’t wrapped up.
So here goes a brief and hurried wrap up of summer (on the first day of fall.)
Lesson number two focused on a fact that has been real to me for some time: Life’s simple things are often the sweetest.
We paid a quick visit to the farmer’s market on most summer Saturday mornings. At one stand, I picked up a recipe card for grilled peaches. So easy and so delicious.
Try it sometime. Cut peaches in half and remove pit. Drizzle each half with honey and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Grill for about three minutes on each side.
Simple and sweet.
My final lesson wasn’t simple and it wasn’t sweet. It was downright stressful.
On the drive home from a week-long vacation, it hit me. I had left my tablet….the one with all of my writing and blog info in the vacation cabin. Of course, I realized this three hours into the drive home. Too far to go back and retrieve it. I spent several hours on the phone with housekeeping, management, and FedEx. Beyond stressful.
It wasn’t so much the tablet itself, it was the writing. That was something that I couldn’t replace. But the kicker was really that we are checkers.
You know what I mean? We check hotels, cabins, wherever we stay overnight to ensure we don’t leave anything. We check the drawers and closets. We check under the beds and on top of the fridge. We’ve even taught our kids to be checkers. And we missed it. We all did.
We had hidden the tablet under a nightstand. I don’t know why exactly. But that’s where we hid it and that’s where we left it. Hidden treasure.
Let me skip ahead. I got the tablet back. Several weeks later. Plenty of worrying involved. Sent to the wrong post office. But I got it back.
But the line that kept coming to mind was “Don’t hide your treasure.”
I’m not advocating leaving your doors unlocked or being all rebellious and disobeying those parking garage signs telling you to remove valuables from sight.
I’m talking about real treasure. The stuff that matters. Time well spent. Loving others. Serving the Lord.
Those things get so easily hidden. Tucked down under the nightstands while we put a light and emphasis on the temporal and fleeting events and pressures of the day. What gifts and talents have we stuck in the crevices of our schedules so we can check off another to-do list of busyness? How many relationships die out while we struggle to keep up with the Joneses?
I have a lot of checking to do. My time. My attitude. My heart. I don’t want to miss the treasures.
"But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven..." Matthew 6:20
September 12, 2016
It doesn’t matter if the calendar agrees or the thermometer obliges, when you have to wake your kids up at a time that begins with a six, summer is over.
When they leave the house with organized backpacks and filled lunchboxes by seven in the morning, the deal is sealed. Kiss the summer goodbye.
Several weeks into a great start to another school year, I’m still not ready. Not ready to embrace the early mornings, the schedule, or the busyness of it all.
I know. I was the one who was begging to stay put where we were last school year and not even move into summer. (Maybe change isn’t my favorite.) But we did summer. A low-key, relaxing summer with minimal accomplishments.
Through some overly simplistic summer stories, lessons emerged.
First, the cat. Maddie Lou, short for Madelyn Lucille, showed up in early summer. We took it for shots and have now bought more than one bag of cat food, so we officially have a pet. The first few weeks of June were filled with talk about “Maddie this, Maddie that.”
A little discovery changed the conversation about our girl cat to our boy cat who all of a sudden needed a new name.
We tried. We really did. But calling him Spike or Max didn’t work.
Maddie had already stuck.
Names do that. They stick. (Raise your hand if you’re still called by a family nickname from 30 years ago. See?)
After much deliberation and effort, Maddie became Matty (short for Matthias).
So the cat issue got resolved. But it got me thinking. What names do we give ourselves that stick? Ones that don’t exactly fit.
Messy? Clumsy? Out of shape? The one who can’t get it together? Unattractive? Underachiever? Outcast? Hopeless? Forgotten? Shamed?
That is not your name.
And no, I’m not talking about some sort of let’s build our self-esteem, positive reinforcement chatter. I’m talking about who we are, not the things we do or don’t do.
There are times when last night’s dinner dishes fill the sink and dust covers most surfaces of my house. Messy? Yes. Am I currently excited about my lack of exercise and my love of ice cream? (Have y’all tried some of those new Blue Bell flavors? Seriously.) No, I’m not. Do I beat myself up about the mere minutes I’ve opened my Bible recently? Yes.
Call it what you may, but those personality traits, character flaws, times of struggle….they are real. But they are not who I am. They are not who you are. Let’s not attach a label to our flaws and declare them to be our names.
Try another name. Forgiven. Redeemed. Worthy. Child of the King.
“But now, this is what the LORD says – He who created you, Jacob, He who formed you, Israel: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.’" Isaiah 43:1-2
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of the darkness into His wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9
Check back soon for Summer Wrap Up: Part 2!