The Parable of the Exploding Ketchup.

Hey all, I’m really excited to be guest posting at The Mudroom today. The Mudroom is a lovely blog collective that focuses on making room for people in the midst of the mess. My kind of place, think I’ll hang out there more often.

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We pulled out of the zoo and immediately they started asking for more.

Can we go out for Ice cream?!”  “Can we go out for dinner?!”   Oh please Mom! Oh please!”

We’d just spent hours traipsing around the zoo, petting the wallabies, climbing the wooden train and tracking down the tigers.

We weren’t there for me. I mean we were, but you know . . . not really.

As our sticky, crumb-infested mini van pulled out of the parking lot, my husband looked at me . . . “I’m not going to tell them ‘no’ about dinner. What do you think?”

I have a meal plan in place at home, but whatever you want, baby.”

Let’s flip a coin, Mom! Heads is dinner at home and tails is a restaurant!”

It was a very expensive tails.

We decided on a local brewery, because we live in Grand Rapids, beer city USA, and any restaurant that lasts either is a brewery or supports local beer culture.

We walked in and I scanned the trendy dining room, full of local art and hipster beards. I sighed with reassurance when I spotted the stack of high chairs in the corner.

High chairs, okay, we’re allowed to be here . . . I reassured myself. There is nothing like taking kids out to eat to remind you of just where you are in life.

We sat down and ordered drinks and melt-in-your-mouth fried pickles. While our kids wiggled and spilled, I leaned over to my husband and whispered; “It’s like we’re the PSA for why not to have kids . . . or at least not to take them out to fun restaurants . . . everyone must wonder why we dared emerge from our hot dog cave.”

Then my daughter leaned over and said: “Actually . . . I bet they’re all thinking “Wow . . . they have three awesome kids. They are soooo lucky.”

And I was put. In. My. Place.

Head on over to The Mudroom to finish it on up! 

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Hard Just Happens

Free-Download-Natural-Scenery-Picture-The-Tough-Tree-in-Stand-It-Shall-Survive-the-Hard-Winter

We are in a hard season. Normally I’d blog about what’s going on, about what’s hard and what’s helping but if I’m honest I just can’t do it much right now.

This song works well for this post, Hard Times, Eastmountainsouth.

I can’t let everyone in this time, I can’t talk about all the details online and I can’t even post pictures of how our house is coming along. I just can’t fling open the doors right now to show you our hard, beautiful, painful question-laden mess.

This season calls for small circles of sharing and slow, intentional healing.

It’s a season of prayer, wondering, hoping, doubting, trusting and seeing each minute as a chance to start again, believe again, try again.

But writing, writing helps.

Oh and don’t worry, no one is dying, Nickel baby is growing healthy and strong, the bills are paid, even if only just.

Some seasons in life are hard. This is true in the lives of everyone you know. Now, it might be that everyone you know is private about their hard seasons. This seems to be the case more often than not.

Some share it only in small circles because they can only trust a few with the nitty gritty of it all.

Some don’t share at all and burry it deadly deep within, shouldering it unnecessarily alone.

And then there’s over-sharing, in line at the grocery store and on social media, that’s somewhere in the mix too but it’s always hard to know where the shifty, mythical line between vulnerability and over-sharing lies.

But hard seasons, they come. They come no matter how well we plan.

And you know what? I’m finding that they come more than you’d like and that they stay longer than you’d hoped.

A friend texts and says: “Hey! How is it going?”

And you want to say something like: “Better!” but you can’t. Because it’s a lie, and you’re done with that lying game.

You want so desperately to give a good report, to chime in and reassure them that you’re fine but the truth is, you need them to know that really you’re on your ass both literally and figuratively in that moment.

The cloud cover lingers and you wake up some days wondering if you’re broken or to blame.

If only you’d read this book instead of Netflix binging, gone to that counselor, gone running more often, not eaten that, said this thing over the other one, spent less, saved more, developed that habit, gotten up earlier…

Because good people don’t have lingering hard seasons, right?

Wrong. Everyone has hard seasons. It’s not just you.

And again, hard seasons come more often than we’d like … and they stay longer.

Hard is part of the cycle of life, birth, death, joy, struggle, rest… these changes compose the stuff of our earth-treading lives.

You look around and it seems like everyone is doing better than you are, they seem to be killing it, loving it, soaking it all in and earning success that seems miles out of your reach.

Their lives are filled will achievement and glory. They are the embodiment of all those well intentioned quotes you keep meaning to hang on your wall.

It’s not you.

Yes, ultimately you’re the one who has to claw your way out.

But this will be so much easier given these two truths:

1) Hard happens to everyone and often times it lingers.
2) You can’t “good enough” to keep it from happening, no one can.

Marriage is hard, jobs are fickle, kids call for your every resource and the world is broken-beautiful.

You can’t good-enough it away.
You can’t prepare efficiently enough to prevent hard seasons from settling in.

And when they do, you can’t always to-do list them away immediately.

Hard happens.

It’s not just you.

Yes there are things to be done, piles of earth to move from here to there to get back to place of greater peace.

But that earth moves easier with a friend and that shovel is a little lighter without all the shame attached to it.

Hard happens. We’re doing hard right now. Maybe you are too. You’re not alone.

There is a time for every season, but they change.

They change.
This isn’t a forever thing. I know it feels like it today, but it isn’t. It won’t stay.

So pick up your shovel, or stare at it for another hour if you need to.

phone a friend,
say a prayer,
listen to a song,
read a poem.

What are you going to do with your one wild and precious life?
Mary Oliver, The Summer Day.

Hard happens. To me, to you.

The winds of change and the God of peace has not forgotten me, or you, or the sparrow for that matter.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

If you like this, there’s more to come. Use the box below to have new posts from this blog delivered to your inbox.

Enter your email address:Delivered by FeedBurnerAnd when share with your friends, well that makes me pretty happy. 

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God Quilts with Mother Love

soul blossoms amy butler quiltI’ve seen a lot of great posts on Mother’s Day circulating the internet this week. Many advocate legitimate reasons why this holiday does more harm than good.

I understand these perspectives and in many ways I agree with them..

Often, Mother’s day hurts more than it helps, and those of us who have lost mothers or who never had one in the first place understand that with sharp clarity. We go into this holiday feeling like the outcasts, the ones with no one to celebrate, no one to celebrate us.

Anne Lammott said it best (have a I gushed about her enough lately? Get used to it.)

“But my main gripe about Mother’s Day is that it feels incomplete and imprecise. The main thing that ever helped mothers was other people mothering them; a chain of mothering that keeps the whole shebang afloat.”

There are so many people who kept me afloat after my Mom died and while she going through her long process of disappearing into depression. Continue reading

How a motorcycle picture made me cry because the church nailed it.

Today I want to talk about those moments where church felt like The Church, like everything it was supposed to be and nothing it wasn’t.

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It was every mother’s worst nightmare.

Okay not their WORST nightmare but still, it was a nightmare.

My children and I arrived for church on time, got our bagels and coffee and headed to their children’s church rooms only to discover that children’s church was on a holiday that Sunday.

And I hadn’t a crayon or matchbox car or board book on my person.
And I was meeting friends for “big church.”
And I wanted to sit down and cry because without children’s church it’s very hard for me to meet up with God in big church.

Yet we carried on and made our way to the usual row of plastic chairs while I gave my kids a pep talk: “Okay guys, we can do this! It’s good to be still and AFTER the singing you can take turns with my iPhone and coloring on this bulletin with a golf pencil. I understand that you’re sad about your church being closed, me too, but we’re in this together, okay?”

Okay. Here goes nothing. I can do this… No I can’t let’s just go home… no… teachable moment! teachable moment! 

We sang, the teaching started and my kids took turns playing Angry Birds and scribbling with the golf pencil.

My dear friend Alyssa shared pens with Noelle and allowed her to kiss her as many times as she wanted, which with Noelle is always at least a couple dozen. She’s a kisser, should this worry me? 

They got noisy any time it was “their turn” to surrender the iPhone.

They fidgeted and switched positions

Then suddenly I looked over at the chair my son was sitting on and realized he was holding a drawing of a jeep.

What the what?

I looked around and soon I’d figured it out, the gentleman sitting in the row behind us, a father of older boys, was drawing pictures. For my kids. He looked up from his next creation and shrugged with a smile.

As I gave him my “You sir are a saint” look his wife passed Caedmon a colorful pen he could use to color in the jeep.

A few moments passed when I realized that Caedmon now had a drawing of a motorcycle AND a jeep. I turned around with another grateful look while the lady behind me mouthed “been there” and smiled.

I was able to focus on the sermon for a while and before long I looked over and saw Noelle holding a drawing of a horse. And these were good drawings people, like art quality sketches.

At this point I cried happy tears from some place deep, some place that identified with what Christ wanted his church to be for each other and the world.

As my friend helped Noelle with her Pony and Caedmon zoomed his motorcycle paper it hit me.

This is church, This is how it’s supposed to be. It’s never really been about the music or the bulletins or the teaching style… that’s all good but THIS IS CHURCH! 

This is two or three gathered in his name and actively making that name known to each other.

It’s not a crowd of people rolling their eyes at the woman with the noisy preschoolers. It’s drawing motorcycles and receiving kisses and above all else fostering the idea that we really are in this together.

And don’t we all need those moments where the church nails it to keep going? To keep showing up?

I don’t always have to be on the receiving end of things, I don’t believe in being a church consumer, I just need to regularly break down in tears over the obvious love of Jesus coming to life around me.

I do. I need to cry about it.

Or else I will forget what we’re really doing and get lost in church budgets and ministry plans and mission statements.

Then I’ll get cynical. And when I’m cynical I’m not compassionate and when I’m not compassionate I can’t hear what the Spirit needs me to be doing.

Then I start thinking about only myself and rationalizing a whole bunch of selfish things and throwing out a whole slew of judgements at those around me.

I need the healing of tears, weekly if not daily.

My prayer for us this this week is that we are all brought to tears because the love of Jesus showed up, because the Church nails it.

Not the buildings, Not the committees, The people. The Church.

I pray that every person who reads this plays a part in warming up our cold, gray world with a love that says “here I want to lift you up and I’m willing to give up something up to get us there, because you matter, your life, your struggles are not annoying me… in fact I want to share them.”

I’m willing to draw a motorcycle so that you can get a bit more sermon in your ears.
I’m willing to give up some fun money so you have money for gas and food.
I’m willing to give up time so your marriage has a fighting chance.
I’m willing to get there late so you don’t have to spend another second stuck in a snowbank.

Because you matter and if I’m thriving and you’re struggling then I’m doing it all wrong.

So as we plant a church, I’m setting a goal to cry more, to stay tender, to bear witness to more moments when we the Church… nail it.

Had the (big c) church brought you to joyful tears lately?
If you’re still cynical is there a ray of hope? 

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How to stay sane while parenting solo & drinking your coffee in the bathroom.

It’s Saturday morning and I’m laying in bed, it’s difficult to say what woke me up, maybe it was the sprinklers or (more likely) the cat, but either way I’m awake and I’m not going back to sleep.

Then the lightbulb in my brain bursts into brilliance, I could get up and be ALONE.

Alone people.  In my house.  With my couch and coffee and maybe my computer.  I could write out a prayer, one to get me through the weekend without Kel… again.

I glance at the clock, the green digital numbers indicate that it’s 6:15.  Not too shabby, I’m up alone AND I got 8 hours of sleep.  

So I sneak to the kitchen, start the kettle for the coffee and then I hear it.  The sound of  little, sock covered feet heading my direction. I let out an automatic “CRAP!!!!(probably the wrong thing to do) before I fumble out a fake, cheerful: “Good morning buddy!”

He immediately starts in with his endless list of whispered demands:
“Hi mom, I want coffee, I have to go pee pee, Can I have a snack? I want my robe, it’s cold, I want to watch Mater’s Tall Tales, what are you doing mom?”

ten minutes later….

“NO MOM THAT IS NOT HOW I WANTED MY RICE CAKE!  NOT THAT PLATE, I SPREAD THE JELLY!  I WANT TO OPEN THE MICROWAVE AND PUT THE LID ON!  AHHHHHH!!!!!!”

At this point, I seriously consider a melt dow of my own. The day has only just begun and already I feel burnt out.  In an hour or so Kel will get up, pack a bag, and head out of town.

I’ve made no kid friendly plans for the day, I’m on the verge of tears and starting at a blank canvas of a weekend.

crabby Noers

Me too baby girl. Me too.

I don’t feel like being a solo parent, I don’t feel like entertaining two preschoolers, I don’t want to make their food and reff their fights and “help them” pick up their toys.

I don’t wanna. I don’t wanna. I don’t wanna.  But that doesn’t matter in the slightest.

This “I don’t wanna” feeling happens to me every weekend now. When people at work say: “hey it’s the weekend!” I give them the hairy, stinky eyeball.

I used to love the weekends, but now? Loathing, dread and yuck. Continue reading

Just Drop (Hey, At Least it’s Not Jr High Gym Class)

You know the phrase: “I’m at the end of my rope?

We’ve all used it and we’ve certainly all been there.  For me it conjures up images of Jr. High gym class, my classmates gathered around the bottom of a fat cluster of burlap fiber as I climbed upward with stinging hands.

I hated gym class, for me it was an hour designed to point out all the things I’m bad at, followed by a soul-sucking public shower with girls who didn’t like me with my clothes on thank you very much.

If anything ever sent me to “the end of my rope” it was the misery of that Junior High torture.

When we use this turn of phrase with each other we’re insinuating that there’s more rope than we can climb, or that there’s no more rope and we’re barely hanging on.  We’re out of energy to climb upward or we’re about to let go of the rope because there isn’t anymore.

Either way what we really mean to say is that life’s giving us more than we can handle and the climbing can’t go on much longer.

Sometimes this is because of a central and all consuming heartache.  Other times, there isn’t one central issue but the cumulation of little, constant struggles are what’s got us running out of rope.

Both of these seasons can be formative and completely awful.  We climb and we fight until one day we wake up and realize that the waves are still coming and we’re plumb out of resolve.

This is when we typically use the “end of my rope” phrase.  It’s because the idea of another day of climbing seems beyond us.  It seems as though it would be easier to drop than to spend another day hanging on or trying to add strands to our rapidly fraying lifeline.

Rope Continue reading

A God Light Expert.

It was the end of the evening, after dinner but not quite bedtime, when I heard my four year old Noelle call to me from down the hall.

“Mom!  Come here, I have to show you something! It’s a surprise in your bedroom, you’ll love it so much!”

Outwardly I said: “Alright sweet girl, I’m coming!”

Inwardly I thought: “I wonder what mess she’s made this time.”

She was waiting for me on the khaki carpeted floor at the entrance to our bedroom, just sitting there grinning.

“Look Mom, it’s light.” she said with reverent awe.

And then I saw it, a beam of light that had made it’s way through the faux wood blinds of our bedroom and into the hallway, translucent-gold as the the dust of daily life passed through it.

My breath caught, this was not was I was expecting to be hauled down the hallway to see. Kitty games, forts, book towers… yup, expectable.  This golden stream of light?  It struck me as perfection.

I plopped down next to her and told her that it was light coming through the window, a focused beam of light shining on our floor.

“It reminds me of God.”  I told her, “the way his light streams into our lives and makes things beautiful and bright.”

 “So God is light?  That’s God?”  She asked me.

“Yes, and no” I told her. “That reminds me of God, the way his light always finds the cracks and comes into our lives.”

And that’s when she really popped my heart open: “Yeah, I know mom.  I’m a God-light Expert.”

God-light

I’m not sure what a God-light expert is guys, all I know for certain is that I want to be one.

An expert in seeing God-light in the unexpected places
In believing in it’s transformative power
An expert in being it, bringing it and letting it flow through me in all sorts of unlikely ways.

I’m sick of walking by the God light in all it’s many forms because I’m too occupied with busywork and worry.

I want to be stopped by the God light
I want to bring it where I’m going
I want the mini blinds of my heart to open wide to let in more than just cracks of it.

I want to swim in it, or at least realize that I already am swimming in it… and always have been.

I want see my children as the experts in God-Light and I, the novice as the they daily delight in the little bits of daily light.

I want my grown-up cynicism to crack like a breakfast egg and all the good stuff to run out and nourish another day of life on earth.

I want to be a God-Light expert too.  Don’t you?

How do your kids teach you about God-Light?  Where are you seeing it these days?

Love in The Lean Days.

You just pulled the loaded-down Saturn out of our driveway and pointed it North. North to your first weekend at your new, out of town, pastoring gig.  But it’s not a gig, it’s a call, we both believe this to be true, but right now it’s a tough call which is taking you out of town every weekend.

This is a different side of ministry, where you do it because you love it, because you’re called to it…  but also because you need to buy milk, eggs and bananas.

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You’re camping in a dome tent for the weekend, and likely every weekend for the rest of the summer.  We laugh that it’s because you need to dust off your Eagle Scout skills but we both know it’s because it’s cheapest and allows us to retain a bigger chunk of your housing allowance.

I smiled at you from someplace deep last night as I watched you pack a the car, wash off the camping gear and pack a cooler with hot dogs and eggs.

These are the lean days baby, where we’re running on fumes and thankful for the simplest, smallest pleasures.

photo The sweetness of a on-sale watermelon.
The simplicity of a family walk after dinner
The joy of our kids as they ride the penny horse at the grocery store

It’s not easy, sometimes it’s awful, but there is sweetness to be found in the lean days, they’re fraught with simplicity and I think we needed the return to simple and sweet.

Something beautiful is born when we meet eyes across our sticky old dining-room table, running on just enough sleep to be kind and just enough money to keep our kids in peanut butter and apples.

That look speaks volumes, doesn’t it?

it’s one part “we’re going make it”
one part “this small, simple life is what really matters”
and another small part “I’m a little freaked out right now.”

Through it all I’m amazed at you, the man I get to share my life with, the one sleeping in the little tent up north while I sprawl out alone in our king bed after puttering around the house after the kids fall asleep in a daze because my evening buddy is up north in a tent.

I love that we’re make it work people, I love what we’re learning in the lean days and I love the future I see before us.

When we’ll look back and smile about how intense it was when we moved across the country with two kids and a lot of question marks.

We’ll tell stories to our kids about how you preached on the weekends and got ready in a tent.

We’ll remember how God provided and how deeply we relied on him in this season and then we’ll whisper thankful prayers for all the simple love and gratitude we learned in the lean days.

Have you been through a lean season?  As tough as it was/is, what good gifts did you find there?

(Jesus in my Eyeballs) or Be Thou My Vision

Irish_tattoo_269 Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart,
Naught be all else to me, save that thou art
Thou my best thought by day and by night,
Waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

Lately, the Hymn “Be Thou My Vision” has been an essential part of my morning prayers. Specifically the Ginny Owens version, her voice is haunting and slows the busy rhythm of my frantic morning thoughts.

This song has always been more than just tradition to me, because with it I ask God into my extremely human senses. I invite him into my eyeballs and eardrums, the very lenses with which I process life. Continue reading

Overcome (to the point of the Happy, Ugly Cry)

Sunday morning I woke up in an awful state.  My chest was tight with anxiety, my mind swimming with unanswered questions.  I could hardly think beyond our budget and calendar.

The weight of it threatened to crush our prospects of having a peaceful or enjoyable Sunday.

Thankfully, God led Kel and I to pray about it all, which isn’t always our usual.  Sometimes I rant and rave with worry until I get put in time out.  And through this, God worked a small miracle and redeemed our Sunday.

We made it to church with only one song left in the worship set, and it was then that these lyrics hit my ears.

775882_28643193 There’s nothing worth more, that will ever come close
nothing can compare, You’re our living hope
Your Presence Lord

I’ve tasted and seen, of the sweetest of Loves
Where my heart becomes free, and my shame is undone
In Your Presence Lord

Holy Spirit You are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your Glory God is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your Presence Lord

Holy Spirit, Jesus Culture, check it out here and then go to iTunes and download it.

Somehow these words hit me with such strength that teared up and grabbed my notebook, sat down and scribbled away.

When I stood back up, I had a new prayer on my lips, so much bigger and better than just: “God make sense of our budget” or “God give us direction for the future.”  I’ll still be saying those prayers, but I’ll be praying this one louder:

I want to be overcome this week, seriously and totally overcome by God’s gifts and fingerprints on my life.  I want to be moved to tears, I want to ugly cry my mascara off for the joy of what I’ve been given. Continue reading