if i’m not blogging you should pray for my husband

We did this weird thing about a month ago. We got rid of our internet.

We were bluffing at first. I had read about how you just say, “No, I really don’t want one million channels thank you, and no I won’t pay that much just for your slowest internet, and we’ll cancel if you really charge us how much?!?

And they said oh, okay. And all of the sudden, we didn’t have the internet.

Now, of course anyone who follows me on Instagram knows that we still have limited access to the internet via our smartphones, which is nice and probably necessary.

Anyway, the no internet thing means that blogging has to be a little bit more intentional (and that we have to check Arrested Development DVDs out from the library). And with a baby who has decided she hates sleeping again and a house that just will not stay clean for. the. love. I haven’t really been writing at all, privately or publicly, and I am like a starving person.

I don’t like living like a starving person. That sentence in my little bio, about not missing the fullness of my life because of the business of my life? It’s not a cutesy phrase that I found on Pinterest or something that I thought sounded nice. It’s the real, serious, honest and true truth.

We were recently talking with our care group about what it means to be at peace, living in God’s rest, even while our lives are busy. For me, writing is one way I abide in Jesus and in the truth. It helps me make my home in all the goodness and peace and quiet no matter what the practical details of my life actually look like. Writing helps me to see my circumstances rightly as a means of beholding the Lord of all creation and glorifying him.

My last month or so has been spent trying to make a home in my circumstances. Kind of like staring at smudges on a windowpane rather than looking through the window to see what’s on the other side. Writing helps me to look, it puts me in a place where I can really see. And, for me, a life without writing is sad. And exhausting. And hard. I’m just really, really not good at it.

And that’s why, friends, I’m still here. I’m going to keep pressing on and continue to follow through this year. Because I have to. Because just as I learn with my successes: from organizing a 9 week blog series, to getting some kind of food on the table for dinner, to simply making sure my kids don’t eat all manner of the ground up food that carpets our floor; I also learn by my failing: from completely neglecting to abide in Christ, to losing my patience with my children, to being a really difficult person to live with.

As I look back on the last month, and I think of all of it together, the failures and the triumphs, I find that I’m really learning (slowly, so slowly) the same thing in all of it: that Jesus is sufficient, supreme, King. The only home for my heart and the only hope for my family.
Back in the dark days, we changed churches. It was a difficult decision, but it had kind of been a long time coming. One of our first Sundays at the new church, after months of feeling alienated from God, broken, and tired, we sang this song. When the chorus began, I wept. This song still brings me to tears on the regular.

Hallelujah, all I have is Christ.

Hallelujah, Jesus is my life.

At that time, our lives felt so empty. And now our lives feel so full. And the truth is still the same:

All we have is Christ.

Jesus is our life.

Hallelujah.

Fourth Sunday of Lent

I recently read this book that changed my life.  Seriously. I’ve had those moments where I read a book and I thought “I want this to change my life.” This was not like that. I read this book quick. It was like water to my thirsty soul. And even though I didn’t read it slowly, I felt it make me slower.

And it was a few days after I read it, while I was sitting on the floor looking at my husband over our wobbly coffee table that I said, “I think this book changed my life.” And I felt an excited grin creep across my face. I love the way Jesus is always making us new.

I don’t think it was this book alone. I think this book was the last read in a long line of reads that actually started to make changes in my actual diaper-changing, laundry-folding, pastor-wifing life.  And at the same time, I think it’s the first read in a long line of new reads that will change my heart and my life in other ways. I love the way Jesus is always making us new.

There have been so many times in the last two weeks where I’ve found myself sitting and thinking and I realize that my mind isn’t working like it used to. And it’s shocking and unfamiliar, but my friends, I’ve been rejoicing about it the way that I rejoice when morning sickness reminds me I am pregnant.  When the hard and the unfamiliar and the difficult remind me that new life is coming. I love the way Jesus is always making us new.

Friends, can I tell you something? I started seeing Him. All over the place. Jesus giving himself to me. Over and over again. When I’m tired and I’m feeling empty and I can’t fight for words anymore and he turns what I have into prayer.  When that bell chime sounds on my phone and there’s an email that stops me right there in my tracks because someone understands.  When my daughter spills so much milk that it starts dripping down the table onto the floor, making a noise so loud that she says “it’s starting to raaaain.” When that same toddler presses her cheek to my chest so I inhale the scent of roses (ROSES? I haven’t washed her hair in 3 days!) and wraps her arms around me and pats my back, just when I’m feeling like no one sees me. 

Over and over again. Jesus is there. In my living room. On my creaky porch. Giving himself to me. Inviting me. Making me new. 

And in that book. In one little chapter, one little sentence, she mentions this prayer that monks pray twice in their day to help them see God in it.  To help them see God a little better tomorrow. To help them choose to put themselves in the way of God’s grace. It’s called The Daily Examen. And it has five parts.  And this week I’m going to try praying it every night before I go to bed. Not because I think I have to, or because I think it will make me a better Christian. Not because I want a new experience or am looking for another thing to add to my to-do list. I’m doing this because I’m hungry to see more of Jesus, and I think it will help me learn how. Because I’ve said before how I don’t want to miss out on the fullness of my life because of the business of my life.

I love the way Jesus is always making us new.

With Child: A Guest Post Series.

The response was overwhelming. Granted, it took a few days. They are all mothers, after all. Each one has a lot on her plate. Those first few days were full of sweaty-handed waiting and continuous phone-checking that would rival any junior-high girl with a serious crush. After more than a year of praying and thinking and dreaming, I was waiting. Waiting to see if anyone’s heart had ever felt the same way mine did. All I had done for months was hope & pray, and once I hit that red send button, there was little I could do but hope & pray some more.

And then the ‘yeses’ started trickling in. Filling up my inbox day by day until there was a yes for every email I sent out.  From women I have shared countless cups of coffee with to women I know almost entirely by the words they write online.  “Yes,” each one wrote, “I will share my story.”

It has been a long time in the making- the gathering of these momma hearts. In different and deep ways, the stories these women are living flood my heart with grace, tug me closer to Jesus, make me a better mom, a better friend, a better wife.

It’s no secret that just a simple Google search will return an overwhelming amount of articles, videos, and websites that might lead us to believe being a momma is actually about the kind of diapers we use, or about how we feed our babies or clothe our babies or birth our babies, or about how many hours we spend at home or at work. I’m beginning to believe that I’m not the only one who forgets that motherhood is mainly about Jesus. How he makes us more like him. How he makes our children more like him. How he makes his name famous. How he accomplishes his mission in the world.  How he allows our families to participate.

WithChild

Over the next ten weeks, you are invited to join us as we tell a different story about Motherhood, as we look for Jesus, specifically in the journeys we take into motherhood.  Each of these sweet women are going to share different stories of the ways that the Lord has used the journey into motherhood to make them more like him, to illuminate the gospel, and to glorify himself. I am so excited to introduce these women to you and to share their stories with you. We are excited to see what the Lord will do with these stories. Each of the next ten Tuesdays, will you join us with a cup of coffee and discover the Jesus in our stories?

too much, not enough

“Alarm. Alarm. It is 7:25 am.” Oh is THAT what my phone’s voice sounds like? Apparently Eliana has somehow permanently changed my phone so that it talks to me now. Like I might be sitting in my Bible study and it might say something like, “YOU have a TEXT MESsage from…” I roll out of bed and pad down the hall to the bathroom. And I feel…tired? sad? upset? I can’t put my finger on it, so I try to push it out of my mind. That’s when the words start swirling around in my head. Ones that were spoken to me weeks ago, but are just as fresh as if they were spoken yesterday. Words my heart knows well. They aren’t pretty words. They’re ugly. And they don’t paint a pretty picture. On good days, I know that the picture they paint looks nothing like me. But on days like today…

I squint at my reflection in the mirror. My lips are chapped. There’s that pimple on my chin. My bangs are too long. I need a haircut. It’s true, I think. I am a mess. Not just my personality, but the way I look, too. I bend down and shove my hair dryer back into a dark corner of the cabinet and shut the door a little harder than usual, wishing that I could shove those thoughts in there, too.  I hastily start raking a comb and straightener through my bedhead.

For as long as I can remember I’ve struggled with being too much and not enough all at the same time. Too tall. Too loud. Too intimidating. Too enthusiastic. Too intense. Too emotional. Not relaxed enough. Not outgoing enough. Not happy enough. Not flexible enough. Not intelligent enough. Not spiritual enough. Not organized enough.

I don’t know where this stuff came from. Probably a combo of my own pride and perfectionism and the horrible belief I caught as a teenager that if I do the best, God will love me best.  I’m not really thinking about that now, though. It’s repeating in my head like a chant. too much. not enough. too much, not enough. 

My two year old comes into the bathroom, “Hi Momma. You seen my letters?” I nod, motioning to the box where her foam bath letters are and muster up a smile. At least she has no idea what a mess her momma is, I think.

I fumble my way through the rest of the morning routine. Stuffing breakfast into my mouth while I try to feed Phoebe, absentmindedly handing pieces to the little girl who said, “Momma, you share that scone with me?” We finally make it to the car, and Ellie starts singing along to T-Swift. Normally, I’m in love (who isn’t), but I just can’t with her today. I rifle through pile of CD’s, one eye on the road, and a neon green disc falls into my lap. I swap “1989” for “Not a F Up?” and tearfully beg the protesting toddler to “give momma some grace today, please.”

“Not a F Up?” is, perhaps surprisingly, a collection of songs, most of them about Jesus, designed by my best friend to remind me that I am not, in fact, an F-up, even on my worst days. We made these CDs for one another right after college, when we kind of thought swearing made us cooler Christians, and we were just generally angry about… most things, really. It’s got a bunch of songs by Caedmon’s Call and other bands that you tell people you like so that they know you’re a Christian, but like a cool Christian. So, basically, what I’m saying is we rebelled by writing “F” (literally, because we wouldn’t actually write the whole word) on burned CD’s full of songs about Jesus in an effort to sort out all the feelings we were having. Oh, man I am awesome. Clearly.

I laugh and make a mental note to ask her if I’m remembering things right when I hear the familiar opening guitar strums of one of my favorite tracks on the CD and turn it up.

“And maybe all that I’ve to do
Was done a long time ago.”

Ugh. I honestly can’t cry right now. It’s just not conducive to driving.

“Because there was life before my life,
Was provision before my need,
Was redemption before my sin.
For the sake of the world, I thank the Lord
That the truth’s not contingent on me.”*

Despite my best efforts, a tear slips down my face. And those words that have been swirling in my head? For a moment, they’re quiet. And my heart is quiet. Where condemnation has been spoken, peace is spoken.

And it’s not because I quit thinking about those ugly words long enough that I forget. It’s not because I got distracted by a good episode of TV or because I am now paying attention to keeping my girls from peril. It’s not because I thought up enough nice things about myself to even out the scale.

It’s because of Jesus. It’s because the Truth spoken over my life isn’t “you’ll show them.” Or “once you’ve been walking with the Lord long enough, you’ll figure it out.” The Truth is Jesus. Here before me. Strong before my weakness. Redeeming me before my sin. It’s because when I am weak, then I am strong.

I sigh and look out the window as the song continues. The peace in my heart is refreshing. But it’s not permanent. Later on in the day, I will raise my voice with my daughter. not patient enough. I will forget to start making dinner until 6pm. not organized enough. Tomorrow, I will find that I’m holding a grudge against someone while trying forgive. not spiritual enough.  I will be frantic about my to-do list. not flexible enough. 

I don’t know how long those words are going to swirl around in my head. I’m pretty sure this isn’t the last time I’ll hear them. But for now I take a deep breath and anchor my heart in the Truth, whispering this Psalm to the chapped-lipped, tired momma who looks back at me from the mirror.

“But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared…

Hope in the Lord!

For with the Lord there is steadfast love,

and with him is plentiful redemption.” 

*I hope someone enjoys the vintage Derek Webb in this awesome 90’s video as much as I did. YouTube is the greatest.

chart and compass come from thee…

I take the stairs up to our apartment two at a time, trying to shake the cold off and keep from annoying our downstairs neighbors at the same time. I shut the door behind me and the first few notes of that song come greet me like an old friend.

“Jesus, Savior Pilot me…” 

Words I first heard during college, in a little church I fondly remember. How the carpet and the chairs were deep red, reminiscent of the eucharist; how familiar words of blessing would be passed every Sunday morning: The peace of Christ be with you… And also with you; how it was in that place that I learned how to look for and to listen to Jesus in the rhythms of my life.

How very different my life is now than it was when I excitedly made the pilgrimage every Sunday to a place where knowing Jesus wasn’t just something we talked about, but something we practiced. My husband is sitting on the couch with my daughter and they are listening to those same words, that same song.  Her sister is, for now, asleep in her bed. I sink onto the mustardy velour of our vintage couch and my head finds his shoulder. And it might as well be made of kleenex for all the times his shirt has caught my tears. This time is no different. They’re pooling, puddling right there on his shoulder and I’m starting to resemble a raccoon.

“As a mother stills her child

You can hush the oceans wild

Boisterous waves obey thy will

When you say to them, ‘Be still.’

Wondrous Sovereign of the seas, 

Jesus, Savior Pilot me.”

Those old and comforting words, much older than my experience with them. Still the same as ever they were. An imperfect but helpful picture of the way our Jesus is. These words carry with them memories of frenzied prayers and anxious nights and the peace that comes from trusting. Tonight, their meaning expands for me.  For tonight I have rocked and cuddled, nursed and carried a child in an effort to still her. Patiently, tenderly, holding her close to me so that she knows she is safe, inviting her to give up the struggle and rest. Her eyes open, search, find my face and close again immediately, a serene smile briefly graces her sweet face. She knows me. She knows the safety and comfort of my love, my arms. And I am so imperfect, so frequently impatient and distracted. And yet, he is so constant.

He doesn’t struggle to calm the storms, and his arms aren’t too short to save. He doesn’t mean for me to attempt to navigate hard and ugly and exhausting circumstances on my own. He offers, he expects, to direct me, to carry me, to pilot me. He invites me to surrender. To give up the struggle and lean into the comfort, the peace found in submission.

Oh how very different my life is now. How very much the same my Jesus is. How much older I feel. How much more deeply I feel my need for him.

“Chart and compass come from thee,

Wondrous Sovereign of the Seas,

May I hear you say to me…

Jesus, Savior Pilot me.”