Leap-aversery

Nine years ago last month, my husband, Mark, and I took a leap of faith. Shortly before, I’d taken the jump from a job I adored into the arms of stay-at-home parenting. And now that our firstborn was 10 months old, we took an even bigger leap to say farewell to his paycheck and the luxury of a company health-care plan for the dream of working from home and being his own boss.


We made the decision with caution. We had saved up enough to give the dream a go for six months. If we didn’t see signs of encouragement after those six months, he’d scour the job-search engines and circulate his resume again. Thankfully, when six months rolled around, he had done well enough that we took a deep breath and said we’d give it a go for another six. We’ve continued to set mini-goals and re-evaluation check-points along the way, but so far God has continued to give us the green light on the dream. And though there have been some very dramatic downs and ups, God has blessed our leap and our faith and that is how we find ourselves nine years on the other side of the chasm of the unknown.

Up until the time Mark turned in his resignation, he had been dutiful and productive in his work, but not happy. He was earning a living, but not loving the life it gave him. I knew him well enough to see that and to encourage him to give what looked like a risky venture to the outside world a go. While not everyone gets the joy of loving his or her job, I knew that if it was at all possible, I wanted Mark to spend his 9 to 5 doing something that would bring him deep satisfaction, just as my work as a writer had given me.

I often joke that my husband got the left brain and I got the right and together we make a whole brain. But in all seriousness, it hasn’t always been easy for me to understand what exactly it is about numbers and spreadsheets and studying a company’s quarterly earnings that makes him love working as a long-term investor for a living. But I have always respected the way God made him enough to see what makes him come alive and cheer him toward the godly use of those gifts.

The point of this post isn’t to pat ourselves on the back. Certainly, every provision we have received has been a gift from God’s hand, a mercy, and not a right or guarantee. God could have let those dreams fail and still been a good and faithful Father. But I bother sharing our leap-aversary at all because I think there is a goodness in taking a risk in faith and for the right reasons. My husband longed to be a part of the daily life of our family. He longed to use his gifts at that intersection of God’s glory and his deep gladness. And God blessed the dive.

Maybe God has been nudging you in some area to take a risk, to splatter some paint on a blank canvas, to speak into a void, or open yourself up to the pain of possible rejection. Have you stopped to listen? Have you stopped to dream? Risk is at the heart of the Christian life. Love risks. Faith risks. Faith can risk because faith has a faithful Father, willing to catch us even if everything falls apart.

So let me encourage you to slow down a minute. Ask the questions. “Where, God, are you calling me to take a holy risk?” And ask him to help you have the faith and the confidence in his character to sow your seeds of faith generously (2 Cor. 9:6). May I leave you with the words of one of my favorite poets, Rainier Marie Rilke:

“God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.
These are the words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like flame
and make big shadows I can move in.”

Who knows? Maybe a year from now, you can write and tell me that you are celebrating your leap-aversary.

Note to Self: A Letter to Myself on the Hard Days of This Motherhood Journey

Note to self

Dear Me,

You will look back on days like today and laugh. Repeat: you will one day be able to see the humor (or at least the irony) in the hysterical three-year old tantrum over none other than spilled milk or over the too-good-to-be-true quiet (the kind where you find the toddler happily playing in a puddle that is not water and not mud). It may not help now, but relax and know that these days happen. They happen to every mother.

Please also know that though doing the hard work of being firm with these little ones and disciplining them makes you feel thoroughly rotten sometimes—like wicked-step-mother-to-Cinderella rotten—in reality, drawing boundaries for them and standing by those boundaries is the very thing that makes you a good mother. So don’t give up; don’t give in; and don’t doubt that in due season the hard work of tough love will pay off.

Now, let’s talk about that little voice of doubt. You know, the one that pipes up and says, “Did I do the right thing there, or was that a prime example of a parenting fail?” Guess what? You may never know. There’s no play-by-play rule book to follow for this parenting gig. Don’t worry because you doubt yourself. Worry if you ever stop doubting yourself because then you may be too proud or bull-headed to consider you may be the one in the wrong. Don’t be afraid to ask forgiveness when you mess up. And don’t worry that you don’t know all the answers. No mother ever has. We’re all figuring it out as we go.

So now, take a deep breath. Count to ten or a hundred (or whatever it takes). And when bed-time (blessed bed-time) comes, take a break: a bath, a book, a breather, a nap, a good laugh—you know what makes you feel like you again. Remember that the hard days are often the days where you and your little ones are learning the most. Stretching precedes growth.

When you’ve been able to give yourself a break, give yourself grace. Be gracious to your frazzled, worn-out mommy-self. You’ve been pulled in a hundred ways and if you did nothing else today, you loved them. You loved them from their kissable cheeks down to their dirty little toes. You loved them through soiled diapers and eyebrows smeared in yogurt. You loved them through the fussing, the whining, and the crankiness as well as in all their better moments. You showed your love in firmness and in tenderness. You were love to them and that is one of the best pictures of God you will ever give them.

So give yourself grace, mama. A hard day? Yes, but a good one. A well-fought, well-loved day. You were mama to them today, and that is what they needed most.

Fireworks

We’ve been on the road for almost three weeks, traversing Ohio, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia. And since the laundry pile looks like Everest, I’m digging up a little piece I wrote last September when I was just thinking of getting the blog off the ground. Hope you enjoy.

fireworks

Aglow in Wonder

“Boom!” I let my fingers fall toward his face again in a pretend sprinkle of light. Baby boy erupts in cackles and giggles. He pleads, “Fireworks again, Mama! Again!” It’s been over two month since my two year-old saw his first fireworks display, and yet he still begs for this nightly bedtime reenactment.

My hands go up in the air again above his crib, above that sweet face upturned in pure delight. “Boom!” I say with as much gusto as a tired mama can muster, letting the pretend light of my falling fingers cascade on his face again. More squeals and glee. I could do this all night–his face, his laughter: he is the dazzling display I could watch over and over again.

What father or mother does not delight in the joy of his or her child? Jesus put it this way: “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:9-11).

God loves to lavish His good gifts on us. He loves to see us light up as we see the redbud tree ablaze in autumn or a Lenten Rose blooming in defiance of winter. He loves to delight us in the crackle and smoke of a fire or the warmth and strength of a hand clasped round our own. Surely these and so many like them are God’s good gifts for us to enjoy. So much goodness He lavishes upon us. But it all dims in comparison to the very best gift He has to give—the most lavish of all His gifts–His Son. What a radiant light! To contemplate the glory of Christ, the glory of salvation; He dazzles the senses. He lifts our gaze in awe. He illuminates everything around Him.

One Fourth of July, a few years before I was married, I had a small moment of revelation. Sitting under that black canvas of sky, watching beauty splash and stream in vivid hues of cobalt, red, and violet, it suddenly dawned on me to think of the whole scene from a different perspective. On one night a year, millions of faces turn upward: the young, the old, the cynical, the hopeful, the jaded, the weary. For a brief moment, all eyes sparkle with anticipation, faces brim with childlike joy, and small gasps, oohs, and ahs punctuate the silence of held breath. The heavens must certainly have the more glorious display at that moment; the glorious display of both light and the light reflected in our changed countenances; what a sight it must be.

But what does this ephemeral, brief blip in time, whisper? What will change us—not our countenances, but our souls? Not for a moment, but for eternity?

Do you see it? The fireworks even angels bend low to see: the glory of God revealed in salvation (1 Peter 1:12).

Glory is a difficult word to understand. Though we can’t fully understand what God’s glory is, in Scripture it is often revealed to us in part through displays of light. Moses came down from the mountain after meeting with God, his face beaming with radiant light. It was so bright that the Israelites had to put a veil over Moses’ face. The glory of the Lord preceded the Israelites in the wilderness wanderings in a pillar of light. When the disciples saw Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, he radiated with a brightness like nothing they had ever seen before. And the apostle Paul tells us in Second Corinthians, “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (3:18).

The purity, intensity and brightness of light somehow serve as an illustration of the glory of God. And what does this glory do? It transforms everything around it. And the most stunning of all transformations is salvation. Light splashes across the blackness of a human soul, not just for a moment illuminating it, but for eternity transforming it.

I’m taken back again to my son’s face. Each night he remembers the splendor of light. And as humble as our nightly re-enactment might be, it changes his countenance. He lights up in the light.

What a simple lesson I take from him! Remember. Be delighted. Shine.

Our faces aglow are the Father’s delight.

Love’s Forgetfulness

Wave foam on the shore.
One late fall night a few weeks into my sophomore year of college, I was already in bed when I heard something hit the glass of my dorm-window. I was just about to roll over and ignore it when I heard it a second and then a third time, followed by my name. I threw on my robe, flung open the window, and tried to piece together the puzzle of what I saw below: a young man with guitar stood with eyes and face upturned. When he saw me he smiled, tossed the pebble in is hand to the ground and began to strum his guitar softly and sing. Slowly, it dawned on me that he was serenading me. And almost just as slowly I realized who that young man in the shadows was: a friend that I hadn’t seen in over a year, who had driven an hour from a nearby university just to sweep me off my feet that night.

It’s a funny thing about love. It makes us unafraid to be seen as foolish. It makes us bold. And perhaps most important of all, it makes us utterly forgetful of ourselves and wholly mindful of another.

I think true worship has a lot of striking parallels. There’s a forgetfulness of self in true worship. When our eyes turn on the beloved, we forget that there is anyone or anything else around that matters. We are caught up in Him, unaware of all the things which usually invade our minds.

I love catching glimpses of this kind of forgetfulness in the stories the Gospel writers have preserved for us. There are James and John who forget their nets and follow Jesus (Mt. 4:21-22). There’s Peter who forgets to be afraid and steps out on the water (Mt. 14: 22-33). There’s Mary who lets everything else fade, including her impatient sister, to sit in worship and learning at the feet of Jesus (Lk. 10:38-42). There’s Zacchaeus who forgets his pride and climbs up a tree to catch a glimpse of this Savior (Lk. 19:1-10). There’s the sinful woman who forgets decorum and washes the Savior’s feet with her tears and dries them with her hair (Lk. 7:36-50). These are all moments of worship—moments where everything fades but Jesus. It is His voice, His face, and His words that these followers crave and that makes everything else seem comparably dim.

So here’s my question for you: When was the last time you found yourself so caught up in the wonder and worship of Jesus that you truly forgot yourself? You forgot you had a schedule to keep, you forgot that tears mess up your mascara, you forgot that you were afraid of speaking in front of people, you forgot that you were saving that money for a long-awaited vacation, or you forgot that the homeless person asking for help smelled of urine and garbage.

If Jesus hasn’t made you forgetful lately, maybe it’s time to get re-acquainted with him. Be still and watch Him as He raises a little girl to life with a simple command (Mk. 5:41), as He calms the storm with a word (Mk. 4:39), or leaves a crowd of angry onlookers tossing their stones to the ground unwilling to be the first to judge (Jn. 8:9-10). Lose yourself in the wonder of His authority, His compassion, His wisdom, His strength and His meekness.

Or maybe it’s time to take a fresh look at how Jesus’ love for you made Him forget glory and take the form of frail human flesh. Look again at how He forgets His rights and stoops to wash the feet of His followers (Jn. 13:5). Follow Him on the road to Golgotha, the road where love for the Father and love of you, made Him forget the pain, forget the humiliation, forget the betrayal, forget the scorn and focus only the joy set before Him: the joy of glorifying His father by rescuing you.

Let love of Him make you bold and foolish and forgetful. Because the truth of the matter is: you are at your best when you forget yourself and see only Him.

Q) Is there a particular miracle or moment in Jesus’ ministry that draws you in and compels you to worship Him? Turn to that passage and spend some time getting lost in worship.

Pray on these things:
• That you would make time to simply worship at the feet of Jesus.
• That your love for Him would grow and produce boldness and selflessness.

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