Five Minute Friday: “same”

It’s ironic that this week’s writing prompt is “same” after a week that’s been anything but same. My daughters turned 5-years-old on Tuesday and also began pre-K for the year. Our family has a whole new schedule now since they’re attending five days a week. I feel like I can breathe again and get to a few projects I’ve been putting off all summer, like purging KonMari style.

For today, I write. Join us?

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At the beginning of motherhood, it was the repetitive nature of “same” that squelched my soul. Feed, pump, sleep, repeat. Every day felt like the movie “Groundhog Day,” which is exactly the same day on repeat. As much as we all appreciate same, we count on each day to be distinguished in some way. Not for all of them to run together. Even the most rigid of us don’t really want “same” day-in and day-out.

We want the newborns to grow up and begin talking, walking, and eating independently. We want our spouses to change in the areas that bug us. I want to get rid of bad habits that have been the same for far too long.

And yet same can also be an anchor. There are things in life we count on to be the same, and if they are shaken, so are we.

photo credit: theatlantic.com

photo credit: theatlantic.com

Fourteen years ago to this day, 9/11 interrupted the “same” monotony we were dwelling in as Americans and told us life would never be the same. And not only for those immediately impacted by the twin towers’ fall, but all of us all over America. Somehow the illusion of safety under which we lived shattered. At least for our generation who had not known the devastation of either World War.

In a world where so much is shaken, we need “the same.” But change is inevitable, both in seasons and in relationships. How can we adapt to the shifting tides without being overwhelmed by them?

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A poem I wrote in 2007 upon reflection on 9/11 –

“remembering 9/11”

Before:
innocence,
naivety,
impenetrable defense,
children playing happily in the streets,
businessmen going about their routines,
the Big Apple buzzing with activity
Unaware

Until
the unthinkable occurred
we were attacked by terrorists
Here.
Not “over there”
the towers fell
our proud self-confidence with them

After:
suspicion,
paranoia,
the fear of attack,
danger lurks on every corner
wives grieve, children fear
that today he might disappear
terror enters the American dream
National security?
Now exposed as a myth
(or a political ideal).

Five Minute Friday: “yes”

Diving right into Five Minute Friday today with this week’s prompt of “yes.” Read more about Five Minute Friday at Kate Motaung’s blog, who hosts this weekly gathering/writing.

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Every yes entails a thousand “no’s.” So I want to make my yes count. Saying no and drawing boundaries gets a lot of press these days, yet I wonder if that’s because we don’t rightly know how to say yes?

Yes to healthy.

Yes to good.

Yes to valuable.

Yes to our gifts and talents and small, specific callings.

Yes to those we profess to love the most.

Yes to what our souls need instead of what our worlds demand of us.

Yes to love.

Yes to grace.

Yes to embracing what’s true and life-giving.

Yes to the path of life.

Yes to the One who said “yes” to me through agonized cries on a hill called Golgotha.

Yes to resurrection life because of God’s “yes and Amen” in Christ.

Yes to freedom.

Yes to getting messy for good causes.

Yes to engaging social injustice of our day.

Yes to quiet and rest.

Yes to slow and calm.

Yes to an unplanned day or hour or week.

Yes to good books and life-refreshing friends.

What’s your yes?

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Five Minute Friday: alone

Wow. What a week it’s been! We celebrated 9 years of marriage by buying bikes together and then hitting the boardwalk for an evening ride. My gift to my husband was the turned in manuscript of my first book that I’ve been working on since January. It’s now in the hands of Crossway for further revisions and edits (release date of June 2016). We are preparing for school’s start in less than two weeks, which is also the day that the twins turn 5. Lots going on, for sure, so I have been more absent from blogging than usual.

Five Minute Friday brings me back. It’s easy to jump back in, and so here I go. Today’s word prompt: alone.

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image from space2live.net

image from space2live.net

I used to hate it – the feeling of being by myself, of being alone. I did anything to avoid it. Lots of people all the time. Dating for constant companionship. Ministry involvement. Alone felt terrifying because I wasn’t sure who I was, or that I wanted to know who I was. Alone felt lost.

Now I crave alone time. Likely a function of being surrounded by little people, which I have been for the better part of five years now. But it’s also reflective of a comfort with who I am, with who God has made me and who God is making me to be. Alone is a chance to let the thoughts and opinions of others quiet down. Alone is when I write. Alone frees me to bring the bare emotions of my soul to Jesus, and to let him sort them out from there. Alone strengthens my heart to be with people; it fills me with something to offer other than an empty craving for their approval. 

Alone is good, in moderation. I can over-desire alone and isolate myself, forgetting the beauty of connection in community. But at its best – alone enriches me and makes me properly appreciate relationships.

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Five Minute Friday: try

I love Five Minute Friday – have I said that lately? I’ve accepted the fact that between revising the manuscript for my first book (releasing spring 2016 by Crossway on the topic of finding healing and freedom from shame), and being at home 24/7 with my 4-year-olds during the summer, “Five Minute Friday” posts are the extent of my summer blogging schedule.

Here’s this week’s prompt: “try.”

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photo from kokoamag.com

photo from kokoamag.com

Try feels like a law. Try harder … to be better, to run faster, to exercise more, to eat healthy, to parent calmly, to love fully, to be compassionate, to fight against injustice.

“Try” is a taskmaster, telling me that better is always up ahead, and that I haven’t ever quite made it. It’s like a finish line of a marathon continually being moved ahead a few miles, just when you round the corner and get a glimpse of it.

“Try” tends to be the staple of the church, the way we seek holiness and love.

But “try” doesn’t get you anywhere but discouraged.

Maybe that’s the silver lining of “try.” When I try harder to be better, to love, to embrace, to live according to who I know I am called to be – I forget that it’s not about my effort. It never has been. I can’t save myself. And I cannot make myself holy.

Jesus rescued me from “try” at the cross. Galatians 2:20-21 says that “if righteousness could be gained through the law, then Christ died for nothing.” It hit home for me the summer of grace between my sophomore and junior year of college. And I have to return to this beautiful, soul-liberating truth of grace that saves and grace that sustains and GRACE that will bring me home.

Try doesn’t cut it. Grace frees me from “try” and transforms “try” into “trust.” Trust that God did it ALL at the cross, and rest from “try” – trust that it has been finished, and that “the life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

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Five Minute “Friday”: TEN (things a mom needs for summer survival)

Every week it’s fun to join in with the Five Minute Friday writing community – 5 minutes unedited on a prompt given by Kate Motaung. Our rhythm is so off that I legitimately thought today was Friday until realizing that tomorrow is Sunday, making today Saturday. So another post-Friday FMF post, with a connection to summer.

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TEN {things a mom needs for summer survival}

1. A plan – For me, it’s notes jotted into a small journal with a rough outline for each week, including things like which movies are playing for $1 and which crafts I might attempt.

2. Ice cream. Enough said, right? We’ve tried to even make a homemade version.

3. A summer bucket list. See photo. It’s a reminder of the fun things we want to fit into this space. IMG_8875

4. Regular trips to the pool. We’re members of the Y. Everyone gets sunshine and exercise and a change of pace.

5. Play dates – they need time to see their friends, too, as they’re missing the school-year routine.

6. Ladies’ nights out – Such a proponent of this, but especially for summers when it can feel more isolating than usual.

7. Mom-cation – See above. Last week, I took a 48-hour solo trip to Philadelphia and NYC to see U2 live in concert at Madison Square Garden. Incredible show. Absolutely worth it.

8. Good books

9. Soul-food – And by this, I don’t just mean watermelon and baked beans. I mean food for your soul. A friend and I are studying Isaiah with this excellent study by Kathleen Nielson.

10. A countdown calendar – As a way of remembering that yes, these days and weeks will pass, and it will be helter-skelter fall again and then winter when you’ll miss the warmth and unscheduled days.

Five Minute “Friday”: free

Wow – another week has flown by, with less blogging than I hoped for but more summer moments like I’ve wished for. Catching fireflies, homemade ice cream, pool-splashing, etc. So I return to Five Minute Friday (or Saturday) which has become a writing anchor for me – a non-negotiable in a week where writing too easily slips me by. Join me? Hosted by Kate Motaung, it’s an encouraging writing community where we write for five minutes unedited each Friday.

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freeFree is like flying, soaring like an eagle high in the sky. Or a child running through a field of wildflowers laughing. No care or thought of how she’s viewed. Simply free to enjoy what gives her delight in that moment. Free takes practice, ironically enough.

We the redeemed must practice our freedom from sin and shame. Too, too easily they take hold of us, try to weigh us down and keep us limited. But we are freed. Free to live according to a new power – not of the law, sin, and death, but of life and hope through the Spirit. Free to love as we have been loved. Free to try new things way outside of our comfort zone, and free to fail – because our identity is not dependent on perfect performance. We are freed from all that wants to bind us: expectations, laws and demands to perform, pressure to produce, conditional love that says “do this to be loved,” other people’s opinions, our own past, what happened yesterday, our fears for tomorrow.

Free. Practice freedom, not to become free but because you already are free. What would that mean? What would you do? What wouldn’t you do? I would write and write and write without editing or worrying whether it sounded ok. I would take hold of the promise that I’m forgiven for how I interacted with my family yesterday, and I could engage them today with love instead of withdrawing in shame. I wouldn’t obsess over whether my clothes hid the extra pounds I dislike. I would take a few risks and say yes to more adventures. What about you?

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Five Minute Friday: hope

Even when I don’t find time to write in between Fridays, it is good to know FMF always awaits me at the end of each week. Five Minute Friday (FMF) is a community of bloggers writing for 5 minutes unedited on a given topic. Learn more from Kate Motaung here.

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photo from 801seminaryplace.wordpress.com

photo from 801seminaryplace.wordpress.com

It comes like the first ray of light at break of day, defying the darkness that has reigned and declaring that there will again be morning and evening. 

Hope hovers over darkness and tragedy and despair. Waiting. Waiting to be noticed. Waiting to reveal itself at the proper time. Hope is what gives freedom to grieve and mourn and cry. It is hope that says I can grieve the losses woven into my story and I won’t be undone. Hope gives me strength to enter into the tragedy when I don’t have words and I feel paralyzed. But because of hope – I take a deep breath, and we step out of the car and we embrace the husband who has just lost his wife and daughter in a tragic way. Hope became his chorus as we wept together. Him saying – “we are resurrection people – we are resurrection people.”

It is much more than a thing with feathers that alights and drifts and is barely noticed (sorry, Miss Dickinson, I must beg to differ with you). It is weighty like an anchor teaching us to hold on despite all evidence to the contrary. 

Light will dawn again.

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Five Minute Friday: favorite

We are finding our summer rhythm, which looks like weekly visits to the pool, the ocean, and/or the children’s fountain play area in our local botanical garden mixed in with lots of popsicles, the $1 summer movies, and some play dates with friends. Having a plan has made such the difference for me/us. I do promise a post soon devoted to all things summer.

For today, it’s Five Minute Friday time and today’s prompt of “favorite.”

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The horizon of ocean meeting sky – an image of infinity and feeling lost in this vastness.

berriesStrawberries red and ripe, and blueberries fresh picked at the peak of summer.

Late night heart-to-heart chats with family and friends.

Lightning bugs at twilight.

Smiles and cuddles from my curly-haired and straight-haired twins.

Blue mountain ranges stretching into forever.

The last light of day disappearing and lighting up the sky in its wake.

A day with no agenda.

A day full of enjoyable plans.

Road trips (without kids).

Bubbly prosecco.

Morning coffee with hazelnut creamer.

Steak grilled to melt-in-your-mouth perfection (yes, there *is* such a thing).

Connection and creativity and grace and light and beauty and joy …

These are a few of my favorite things. What are yours?

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Five Minute Friday: fear

Our first week of summer has officially begun – defined for us as the time between preschool’s end mid-June and pre-K beginning in early September. And we are trying to find our new rhythm, with stops and starts along the way. More to come in a future post. For now, though, I return to Five Minute Friday – five minutes of free writing on a given topic every Friday. Hosted by Kate Motaung.

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fear

photo from: findingthegracewithin.com

Fear: the four-letter word that leaves us trembling. It can feel like a vague, nagging sense of dread playing in the background of our days like an unwanted soundtrack. It can pierce through our souls and bodies, leaving panic and a racing heart in its wake. It can be warranted – like what I felt the day I saw planes take down twin skyscrapers in New York City. That became an image for a generation of a world that was no longer as safe as we thought it was. An image for our fear to rest upon. Fear can be seemingly inexplicable, too. This is the “free-floating” variety, that can rest upon anything in its path.

If we let it, fear shrinks our worlds. Fear leaves people isolated in their homes for decades. It keeps us from engaging those different from us. The irony is that the more we listen to fear, the bigger it becomes.

The only way to be free of fear is to act against it. To go to church when you’re newly aware of a headline proving there is truly no *safe* place in this world. To board a plane to a dangerous area of the world to defend what’s good and true – to keep evil from winning. To take a pen in hand and write the most honest thoughts of your heart. To admit our fears together – this begins to be the pathway out of fear. Shall we?

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Five Minute Friday: “follow”

I join with the Five Minute Friday community of writers in this weekly five-minute writing exercise. This week is the word “follow.”

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followTo be followed is an honor. Each time I see a new “follower” on my blog or Facebook page or Twitter, I get excited. Yet the following of social media connections is a far cry from the original following Jesus discussed. He said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Not only does it sound odd to be invited to be a “fisher of men” but “follow” can feel vapid. I am fine with following Jesus social-media style, meaning that I check in with him when I feel interested in knowing how he’s doing and see if there’s anything particularly new or interesting he’d like to share with me. Following is very much on my terms, and the pace is leisurely.

Yet when Jesus asked his disciples to follow him, he was asking them to leave behind their former way of life entirely and join with him in his nomadic travels on a journey that would end with the horror of the cross and the surprise of resurrection. He was inviting them to yoke themselves to him, to be his 24/7 disciples who would eat every meal with him and learn at his feet daily. This is quite different than when I have a “follower” on Twitter. More often than not, it’s not someone I know or even am likely to meet. They are “following” me when they don’t know much about me – nothing more than what I’m revealing in small intermittent and infrequent bits, limited to 21 characters. And the same is true when I choose to “follow” them back.

To truly follow Jesus requires more commitment. It requires nothing less than all of me, heart, mind, and soul.

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