Five Minute Friday: tomorrow

We arrived home yesterday from a great several days’ getaway/conference in Orlando at The Gospel Coalition. More on that in a future post. Too much to process for now! Let’s say that returning home has been equal parts wonderful (twin 4-year-olds’ enthusiastic welcomes are the best!) and rough (where are the tropical breezes and the deep conversations?). Parenting is not for the faint of heart … I might have said that once or twice before?

I come here to Five Minute Friday, sliding in before midnight … to write in my favorite of regular blog activities. Five minutes of free writing on a given topic, hosted by Kate Motaung.

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photo from macstuff.net

photo from macstuff.net

Tomorrow.

Cue the theme song from Annie here. No, really, let’s talk about tomorrow. Tomorrow is when I will not be plagued by the sin and shame of parenting struggles. Tomorrow I will get organized, and work out, and write more, and be more loving. It is the holding place for all of my attempts at self-improvement and hoped-for answered prayers. 

No wonder tomorrow can feel so uncertain. Yet it is also hope-filled.

I lost it tonight when she kept crying uncontrollably, insisting on her way when I kept telling her she could not have it. I was patient and calm for about all of one minute, and then I unleashed my anger in a tirade of frustrated words. A parent at her wit’s end. A parent who feels out of control, as out of control as her daughter does. She was tired, up way past her bedtime; and I was tired of parenting (as was my husband). I just wanted her in bed and out of the way. And yikes, that sounds awful. That is (and was) raw emotion.

But I stepped away for a minute. Prayed, took a deep breath, and came back to her forgiving arms. We cuddled in close and I heard her whisper “‘give you” in response to my request for forgiveness. And I whispered to her about the promise of mercies that are new tomorrow. Strength for obedience that we both need. Grace to forgive that we’ll both need, too. And freedom not to be tied to today’s failures. 

Only in that hope can I face any of life’s tomorrows.

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Five Minute Friday: relief

My favorite of Friday activities: Five Minute Friday, hosted by Kate Motaung. Five minutes of writing on an assigned prompt each Friday – a lovely community of writers across the world gathering to reflect and encourage each other this day.

For this week: “relief.”

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It feels like water on a hot summer day; like sleep after another weary day when you’re running, running, running without resting; like the comfort of a hug from a friend or a shared laugh with one who’s known you for decades. Relief is hard to come  by in our desert-weary world. There is brokenness everywhere, and my heart is covered in scars. So is yours.

We need relief. A break. A time-out. A respite.

We have it. Freedom to rest from what plagues our hearts most deeply – questions of am I enough? Does my life matter? Will this suffering ever end? Yes, yes, and yes. You are more than enough. You have dignity and mission and purpose perhaps beyond what you can understand. Suffering is always terminal. The cancer that’s terminal? Well, it doesn’t have the end of the story. There is Life beyond Death. We have One who went before us, who walked the hard, long road of suffering without relief. So that we would never have to. 

photo from theguardian.com

photo from theguardian.com – from Haiti relief efforts in 2010

There is no better hope. No better relief. It’s the motivation for us who have so much to share with those who have so little. It’s what keeps me listening when it feels my heart may break with your sorrow. It’s what sends you into the war-torn places of homes and countries, risking harm as you offer the relief that your presence brings. 

Relief. It’s certain. Let’s offer it to one another.

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Five Minute Friday: “real”

Our week in review: celebrated St. Patrick’s Day (and our 9-year engagement anniversary) by eating Lucky Charms (my daughters’ choice), wearing green, listening to Irish music; continued in the sometimes-overwhelming rhythm of our normal lives as a pastor-counselor/writer duo trying to manage our home and nurture our 4-year-old twins’ hearts and faith; laughed a little at the antics of our daughters along the way; rejoiced at God’s provision of a home for my in-laws to buy (they’ve been renting since moving here in the fall – and this home is just *perfect* for them!); saw depths of sin and depths of grace in my own heart as I love and counsel others through the same.

And then here – to Five Minute Friday. Aaahh. A resting place, of sorts. Writing on an assigned topic for five minutes, unedited. Here I go –

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The Velveteen RabbitReal is so hard to become, isn’t it? Just ask the Velveteen Rabbit, or Eustace from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader who had to undergo a painful extraction of his dragon-like skin in order to discover who he was.

Real is paraded as what we are all going for these days – “real food” “authentic/real relationships” “real hope for troubled times” “reality TV shows (that are anything BUT real …)”.

But to be real? Well, it takes courage. It is hard to show up as I really am, without knowing how you will receive me. It can be excruciating to be the first one vulnerable in a group. Or to be exposed for my failings in front of anyone else. But empathy and connection and love cannot happen unless I risk becoming real.* Being vulnerable – showing up as I am unmasked by disguises or pretenses or what I think you want me to be. Oh, to be real! It will open up doors of belonging (and it has in my life), and it will also open up long-standing wounds. 

I’ve experienced both in my journey to become real. To show up because I know I am already loved, forgiven, accepted, delighted in, validated, dignified. To show up to others in the middle of my weaknesses because I am trusting that God’s grace is made strong here … in these very fissures of my cracked clay jar that let in (and out) the Light of hidden glory. 

photo credit: heuning.co.za

photo credit: heuning.co.za

*I am indebted to two courageous women who have shown me through their writings how to be real like this, and whose ideas I am paraphrasing and personalizing here: Brené Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly and Glennon Melton’s Carry On, Warrior and blog at momastery.com.

Five Minute Friday: “gather”

Week in a summary: Had a lovely, soul-refreshing visit with Kimberly and Erick; then got hit with laryngitis; had hard-but-good conversations with two close friends (after laryngitis was over, of course …) which reminded me that working through conflict actually strengthens and deepens true friendships; and now we are looking forward to a visit from my Mom this weekend (in response to the SOS text I sent her on Monday – saying “we can’t do this anymore. Help needed from Gigi, please?!”). Oh, yes, and right in the middle of this week, I was privileged to hear the rich teaching of Ruth 2 that God provides generously and specifically for his people (and for the “outsider” – Ruth). Thank you, Sara, for teaching us this week.

And now, this Friday morning, I come to Five Minute Friday – a 5-minute unedited writing exercise – a familiar writing anchor as the weeks roll by.

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One day we will all gather there together. From every tribe, tongue, and nation, says Revelation. We will gather at the throne room of our glorious King, and we will worship. We will be in full-soul delight, no more sin or crying or sadness or tears or injustice or frustration or brokenness or wounding. Nothing but worship. Loving and being loved perfectly. Aahh, how beautiful that Day will be!

photo from 6degreesms.wordpress.com

photo from 6degreesms.wordpress.com

But we will have to be gathered there. Which implies a scattering beforehand, and that is certainly true of our lives right now. We are scattered physically, emotionally, spiritually. We are individuals who are broken into a thousand pieces of ourselves, and we are trying to be made whole again. And we, the Church, are scattered into a thousand corners of this globe – as God sees fit – in an attempt to gather in, to bring in, those who are not yet here. We are scattered from brothers and sisters who are being persecuted today. Beheaded, hunted for their faith. And they belong to us, and we to them. (But we forget – let us gather our thoughts to be present with them through at least our prayers today.) We are scattered from our brothers and sisters who are impoverished while we complain that we can’t afford the latest in home and fashion style. We are scattered from each other in our churches by our busy lives and busy schedules and self-centered hearts. 

We have One who even now is gathering us together. He is healing the fragmented pieces of our hearts and our souls and our churches and The Church/Kingdom. Let us look to Him for Lenten repentance, and let us beg Him to continue to gather us together, until the day when we will celebrate face-to-face.gather

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Five Minute Friday: “visit”

See yesterday’s post for a summary of our days (weeks) lately. I am going to dive right into today’s Five Minute Friday writing exercise (five minutes, unedited, free-flowing thoughts, hosted by Kate Motaung here).

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mugs 2

photo credit: jaunted.com

I cannot wait to see her familiar smile tomorrow, and that of her radiant husband whose joy and passion for life and God matches her own. They will drive from South Carolina to come visit us, and it will be a much-needed refreshment for us snow-weary ones. She and I go way back, all the way to high school when we were both timid teenagers in youth group together. Her visit will be like revisiting all of the years since then. Years that have had their share of joys and sorrows in equal measure. 

Like the week we visited Ireland together. We were out of college then, in our mid-20s and quite brave (naive?). We flew into Dublin, took a train across the country to the Ring of Kerry, and then began searching for a B&B to stay at for the evening. The next day we hitchhiked (and wow – it could have been disastrous) and collected many more moments that we laugh at ruefully now.

Another time we will be sure to recount is when I wanted to visit her, but family demands kept me here – on this side of the Atlantic – missing out on joining the joy of her marriage to Erick. God brought her on an adventure across the ocean into missions in Africa, and God brought love to her in the person of Erick. Whom we finally met during his first visit to the U.S. over Christmas break. The two hours we had then were too short. And I imagine the same will be true for the two days we’ll spend together.

But I’ll take it. Any visit is a reminder of the good times we’ve had in the past, and it builds hope for future visits we will share together.

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Five Minute Friday: “open”

Each Friday that I come to this space, I think I start much the same way. Something along the lines of, “Well … it’s been QUITE the week.” Today is no exception. Day 5 of snow days (=no school days, #desperateMomsUnite), and I’ve once again witnessed the limits to my impatience as I’ve lost it many times with my 4-year-old twin daughters. Who surely would also speak of a week that’s felt long, hard, and boring. With occasional glimpses of happiness as we played in the snow and drank hot chocolate. I am praying that the snow-play and hot-chocolate memories would override the rest. And if not, well, that’s what savings is for – college or therapy, their choice. !

I love this introduction to “Five Minute Friday” by its lovely hostess, Kate Motaung:

Welcome to another round of Five Minute Friday, where bloggers from all corners of the internet gather to feverishly tap out five minutes of free writing on a given prompt each week.

If you don’t know what we’re all about, click here for more info!

So here goes – “open”:

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To close in on myself after pain or sinful anger is easier than staying open. It feels safe to curl inward, to isolate, to lock myself in the proverbial ivory tower. I am safer here. And so are they. They won’t be hurt by my rudeness, my angry words I regret moments after they fly from my mouth. Closure feels better for everyone.

photo credit: lauravuphoto.com

photo credit: lauravuphoto.com

But open is how I’m created to live, and open is the only pathway to love. Open to others, and them to me. Open like the vast expanse of sea meeting sky horizon. Open like a field of Texas bluebonnets in springtime. Open like the sunny sky above the clouds always there when you take a plane above the grey skies. Open like my daughters who say, “I forgive you, Mommy,” and then ask me to come play with them in the next moment.

We need to be open to one another. I need you to be open to me so that I know I’m not the only one struggling amidst motherhood and writing and counseling and home-keeping and marriage. You need me to be open so that you can love me with empathy, and so that you can speak gospel words of grace and truth into my heart and story.

To close inward? Well, it’s the path to depression (anger turned inward), and to isolation, and to despair, and to bitterness. It lets my mind and thoughts be unchecked. And while that may be appealing, it is never best or good in the long-run.

God’s grace is that he opens our inward-turned souls, opens them to the beauty and light of redemption. And to the community of the redeemed.

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Five Minute Friday: “keep”

How does one follow such a month of such important, heavy, deep posts about one of the greatest injustices in our world (human trafficking)? That question has paralyzed me this week. That, and the fact that I haven’t had my usual writing time due to sick children for the better part of the last few weeks. I say this often, but it bears repeating – motherhood is *not* for the faint of heart. You have to be both scheduled and flexible (planning what you think will be best for each day/willing to flex with the needs as they arise each moment); gentle and firm; compassionate and consistent when it comes to limits/boundaries/discipline; taking the long view for your child while knowing in the short-term what you need to make it to the long view (i.e. – a half-hour of TV when you can’t take your 4-year-old twins’ whining anymore; or a night out with your husband even when your children beg you not to leave; or a Saturday morning coffee-date with a good friend who can listen and laugh about the antics and struggles of motherhood with you).

I have missed this (blogging) space this week. And it is good to be here again, joining the Five Minute Friday writing community who does just that – they keep me writing most Fridays! Five minutes of free-writing on a given topic. Certainly worth giving it a try: head over to Kate’s site to link up here.

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photo from homedit.com

photo from homedit.com

I’ve taken the rather ambitious and predictable January task of purging our home of unneeded clutter and things and toys and random-stuff-that-you-haven’t-used-since-you-got-it-as-a-wedding-gift-8-years-ago. Over and over again, I have been evaluating what is worth keeping, and what should be tossed, given away, or stored for the future. My list of what’s worthy to keep includes these qualities:

  • Quiet toys (i.e. – no loud sounds or flashing lights, if I can help it)
  • Staying power – timeless quality to it
  • I like it. You may laugh, but I realized that the first step for me in clearing the clutter is realizing how many things I’ve kept in our house because I felt like I should, or I’ve had it since third grade/etc. Silly, really. So I’m giving myself permission to get rid of what I don’t like in our home. Down with the thousands of mismatched picture frames and only-used-once appliances, and throw pillows I’ve held onto since college.
  • It serves a purpose now.

What if I likewise evaluated my life and my heart like this? If I looked to nurture qualities of my soul worth keeping, and sought God’s expulsive mercy and grace to be rid of what’s not? How would that change the way I spend my time? How I talk to my children and my husband? The way I engage in my church and my neighborhood? What would and would not be on my schedule?

Questions worth pondering. I would love to hear your answers as you have them.

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Five Minute “Friday”: share

It’s been a good week. Dare I say, even one of the *best* weeks of my life because of thrilling news: Crossway accepted my book proposal! I have been dreaming of writing a book since I was a girl who loved to get lost in the worlds (and words) of Anne of Green Gables, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Nancy Drew. It’s been a dream I have been afraid of naming, much less pursuing, until the last few years as my writing/blogging grew and so did my courage. But in June at The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference, God opened doors that led to a contact with one of Crossway’s acquisitions editors. He patiently walked me through the process of creating a book proposal over the last 5 months, and then he delivered the happy news of its acceptance on Thursday afternoon! Now my real work begins of *writing* the book … but I’ve never been more ready in my life. And you, dear readers, are a large part of my growing courage to venture so greatly. So thank you for your support, and for reading, and for your comments, and for your cheerleading all along the way. I am excited to have *you* on this journey with me!

Ok – now on to Five Minute Friday and today’s word: “share.”

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2015/01/img_7822.jpg

She offers her homemade gift with eager hands and a shy smile. It’s a picture of me with her and her twin sister – “to help you feel better, Mommy!” [I’ve been sick in bed with strep since Thursday.] It is easy for her to share this – but ask her to share her favorite toy with her twin? How dare I suggest such a thing!

And isn’t that how it is for me, too? I am eager to share on my terms, in my way, with what I’m willing to give. When God asks me to share past the point of comfortable, well, now, I am not sure I am so excited about this whole concept. I can think of many reasons to hoard my resources. I feel entitled to “my” rights and “my” time and “my” things. But God is patient. He gently unfurls my clenched fist, reminds me that all that I have is a gift from him. He assures me that I can never out-give his ability to provide for me, his ability to generously restore any “loss” on my part. Even if it’s not a material restoration – it will be better. Treasures in heaven. And the joy that comes with giving beyond what duty requires.

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Five Minute Friday is an online writing community who writes for five minutes on a given topic every Friday – unedited, simply for the joy of writing. Hosted by Kate Motaung here.

 

Five Minute Friday: send

I woke up excited to remember that today is Friday. Not only because it means the beginning of our weekend [since my husband is a pastor, he takes a day off to replace Sunday – and for him, it’s Friday], and the end of what’s felt like an unusually intense week, but also because it’s Five Minute Friday. Five minutes of writing unedited, prompted by a word and link-up hosted by Kate Motaung. It’s fun to simply write for five minutes without thinking too much about it, and it’s wonderful to read what others have written across the blog-world on the same topic.

So … here goes: “SEND”

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envelopeI remember when the only mail I opened was what came in a carefully addressed envelope, sometimes decorated with stickers, and always carefully written by virtue of the fact that it was a letter. Kristin wrote me after we met during my first campus visit of Wheaton College, and she answered my questions about college life as well as encouraged me in my high-school faith. She had artistic print and a beautiful way of addressing each envelope that made me feel like I was opening a personal work of art. (Which I was – it was created just for me.)

When my next-door best friend neighbor, Kristen Warnke, moved away when I was in third grade, we kept up correspondence via letters back and forth for years. She told me about her family vacation to Alaska – that it wasn’t all cold and icy as everyone imagined. Her addressed changed many times over the 10 years we wrote to one another because of her dad’s job. Mine changed once. But we always found each other. We were able to see each other in person perhaps once over all of that time … but the relationship stayed close because of the pen-and-ink bond between us.

I can’t help but think with nostalgia on those days, and wonder if in our electronic click-and-send culture of communicating via screens, we have lost something of great importance almost impossible to recover.

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five minute “Friday”: adore

photo from shutterstock.com

photo from shutterstock.com

“O come let us adore Him …” rings the Christmas carol from the most unlikely places. Radio, department stores, Target. Everywhere I go, there are invitations to adore the newborn King.

But how do you adore when your heart is broken in two by grief? When you’ve lost your mom from a heart attack, when your missing friend still hasn’t been discovered, when you worry about an upcoming biopsy? How do you adore in the middle of heart-rending grief? When this is the first Christmas without your mom and your sister? Or your son or your brother or your father?

How can I adore when I’m caught up in all the tasks of the season? The parties, and the gift-buying, and the Christmas-cookie-making, and the making-sure-no-one-is-left-off-the-list?

Jesus. He invites me to adore him, and then he does the miraculous. He comes near so that I can. He interrupts my over-scheduled insanity with a bout of illness, and I’m forced to practice the white space I’ve been proclaiming. He comforts my friends in the middle of their deep grief. He leaves perfection to come to a quiet, dark, hay-filled manger – born amidst poverty. Our newborn King. He brings Christmas in a way none of us would ever have planned. And to think of this? There is no option but to adore him.

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Writing for five minutes on a given prompt, unedited. A favorite link-up with a fabulous community of writers, hosted by Kate Motaung here.