What to do when School Starts

As I write this it’s almost Labor day, and I’ve been thinking a lot about you Moms with kids of every age starting back to school – thinking about transitions and All Of The Feelings.

It’s the end of August and I’m “up north”.  This is my view.

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Don’t hate me, but I can breathe deep and enjoy this lake air (and the mocha John just brought me, thank you very much) without being interrupted by an 8 year old who wants to play UNO. or a 12 year old who wants me to take them on a jet-ski, or a toddler who can’t find his Thomas the Tank pez dispenser (and all the drama that comes with).

I love this season of life and the freedom it gives me, don’t get me wrong.  But this – this time of transition from Summer to Fall is also a time of grieving for me.  I miss the back-to-school shopping and the exciting beginning of all of the THINGS for the new year.  I miss “bouquets of newly-sharpened pencils”, the season of hands-on parenting with all the family traditions and night time prayers and snuggled up in jammies story reading.  I miss our first day of school chicken pot pie dinner, and I miss the annual measuring of our girls.

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Moms I know you.  I’ve been you.  Most of you are a little schizophrenic at this point.  You tackled summer with gusto, doing the strawberry picking and the zoo visits and fishing pole baiting memory-making, but you’re just so over summer now.  You’re ready to take a break from your role as Camp Director of all the Fun Outings in the Universe.

You’re thrilled about taking the FIRST DAY pictures, making the special FIRST DAY breakfast, and walking the kids to the bus stop.

But then??  Then, you’re all about running inside, collapsing back against the door of your house and exhaling with a “Praise Jesus I’ve made it through another summer without inflicting bodily harm on my kids (bless their hearts)!”  There may even be a little Hallelujah-Chorus-humming going on (don’t deny it).

That’s good!  You’re doing great.  You really are.  And you should celebrate!

I get it.  I’ve been there.  But can I make a little suggestion?  A tweak to your celebration?

Sometime today when the kids are out the door to pre-school or high school or college, (or their job because the empty nest may be a myth), take a minute in the stillness after the “get ‘em out the door storm” and look around you.  Even walk through your quiet house. Look for signs of growth in your kids and in your family.  And thank God.  

Maybe it’s a picture of one of your kids learning to horseback ride on a family vacation, or the first chapter book your grade-schooler read this summer, or a Scripture verse you memorized.  Take time to mark the moment.

In our hurry up culture we may FB post it or Instagram or Tweet a moment, but I wonder how often we truly sit in an experience with thanksgiving.

You’ve been faithful to show up and nurture your tribe of yahoos all summer and they’ve grown.  So have you.

God has been faithful to show up and equip you and grow the whole lot of you.

Well done!

“He who began a good work in you (and your kids) will be faithful to complete it” through every season.

So maybe a little “Yay God!” party at the dinner table?  Perhaps ask each person to share a way that they feel they’ve grown this summer.

Are your kids back in school?  How are you feeling during this season?  What do you do to mark the transition?

 

Praying Aloud and Letters from Camp

I love Ellen Degeneres’ quote: “August is like the Sunday of summer.”  I agree!  I’m going to be traveling the next couple of weeks and taking a little Sabbath so I’ll be re-posting some favorite thoughts from the past. Let’s just call it “Throw Back End-of-August.”  Ok, maybe we won’t call it that because it’s super awkward.  Let me know if you can think of a different title. This post was from August of 2012.

Some (most??) people dread praying aloud as much as they dread getting on a scale the day after Thanksgiving.

When it comes time for closing prayer in your small group do you hyper-ventilate?  Suddenly decide you need to go to the bathroom?  Get a case of laryngitis?

Me?  Like it or not, I’ve been doing it for a long time.  Occupational hazard.

So I’ve gotten at least fairly ok at the “lifting ups” and the “if it’s your wills” and Bibley words like “grace and mercy”.

My out loud prayers are kind of like business letters all proper and punctuated, politically correct and polite.

But my real prayers?  They sound more like David’s prayers of desperation than Mary’s Magnificat.

My “real” prayers sound like:

“Helpmehelpmehelpme!  Oh, look!  There’s a bird!”

Or like a letter from a kid at camp home to his parents:

But here’s what I’m thinking.  As a parent, any communication from my kids is golden.  I don’t care what they say, I just want them talking to me.

And as a parent, I know they’re kids.  They’re not going to talk like me or think like me, or always remember their manners.

Yeah, I want them to know me, to trust me, to obey me, to ask my opinion, but they’re kids, and if they’re talking to me that’s a start!

What do your “real” prayers sound like?  What do you really want to say to God?

Three Important Truths about Encouragement

Good Morning!  Hope you had a refreshing weekend soaking up God’s goodness.  This is what greeted me this morning as I started to write.

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Now don’t you wish you lived in Minnesota (or woke up earlier :))? 

Since it’s summer and we have lots of new readers to the blog, (and, let’s be honest…I’m ready for a writing break), I thought I’d share a post from a couple of years ago.  Hope it’s helpful to you. Share your thoughts in the comments!

Last weekend John and I preached together on the topic of Encouragement from the book of Acts.

AARRGGHH!  When we do this he is exceedingly kind and because I’m a planner and he’s a “fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants” guy which freaks me out, he lets me study and write the sermon and then he just naturally does his thing, which is always authentic and conversational and makes everything better.

Anyway, I’ve always thought about encouragement as a good thing, a nice thing…

But as I studied it in the book of Acts I began to see it as a crucial tool that God uses to combat Satan in a spiritual battle that is continually raging.  I fear that sounds all hokey/pokey intense and mystical, but think about it…

Satan’s goal is to get us to believe the lies that

we don’t matter,

that God is powerless,

and that we’re all alone.

When we encourage, we remind others of God’s truth – that they do matter, it’s gonna be ok, and they’re not alone.

You can listen, or get more resources here, but what I’ve been thinking about is three things we didn’t say.

1.  Discouragement is personal. Not only does Satan lie to discourage, but he is also crafty liar.  He tailors his whispers to each of us uniquely.  His attacks usually center around our identity.  So if we’re tempted to find our worth in being married, he’ll whisper “You’re not lovable.  You’re not attractive to anyone.”  If we’re tempted to find our worth in accomplishment he may whisper “You’re only a mom, or a secretary, or a barista, or a whatever…  You’re not making a difference.  You’re not good enough.”

Be aware.

2.  Encouragement is personal. The most powerful encouragement is very specific.  When someone says, “Nice sermon.” I tend to discount it as just polite small talk.  It’s like the difference between “You’re terrific!” and “You have a gift of hospitality that helps people experience the welcoming heart of God.  Thank you.”

Be specific.

3.  Timing is personal.  Never underestimate the power of encouragement used in a timely way by God.  Years ago I “randomly” felt prompted to write a guy in another part of the country who had been a mentor in leadership training for me in college.  I hadn’t had contact with him in 20 years.  I wrote of the impact his modeling had made in my life, specifically how his investment had made a kingdom difference.  Little did I know that this was a divinely timed prompting from the Holy Spirit.

I received a response from him saying “Your note came at the absolute lowest point in my life.  I had lost perspective.  I was in despair, convinced that my ministry hadn’t made any difference, that I had sacrificed for years with no fruit.  Your note was the reminder from God that I needed.”  Wow.  Blew me away!

Be responsive to promptings.

In what situations are you likely to be discouraged?  What has been most encouraging to you?

The With-God Life

I recorded this conversation in 2002 when Maggie, like Alexander, had had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week.

Me, trying to comfort Maggie: Remember sweetie, the Bible says, “The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and saves those crushed in spirit.”

Maggie: Mom, I’ve just had a bad week, I haven’t been trampled by a horse!

Me: Ok, got it.  Ratchet back the hyper-spiritualizing.

Recently I’ve circled back to Psalm 34 where that verse is found.  It’s a “praise-the-Lord-even-if-I’m-dying” Psalm, because God is present.  It’s a good reminder Psalm.  God has used it in my life in some of the lowest times (can you tell from all the scribbling and times I’ve dated it?)photo-149

But on other days I love it that we also have the “crap-life-sucks-and-never-will-get-better-so-let’s-kick-ass” Psalms.

Psalm 35, for example Continue reading

Finding Your Own Walk

In the summertime I feel like a thirsty person at the end of a long run, standing in front of a gushing fire hydrant, mouth open wide to receive big gulps of sparkling, cold water as fast as I can.  In Minnesota summer is short, so we have to drink quickly!  It’s the DELIGHTFUL season of barefoot and bike rides, corn-on-the-cob and birdsong, pink sunrises and living large outdoors. All of the time.

A friend went strawberry picking and made shortcake for our small group.  Another divided his Hosta to share with me (my yard bunny thanks him :( ).  I got fresh vegetables at the Farmer’s Market Saturday.  Today I’ll celebrate a friend’s birthday lunch outside on the lake.  A baby robin, Roberto, rescued from our window well, has become like a member of our family.

Summer, you are so good.

This past week I had the added gift of getting away to a retreat home in Virginia – tucked in between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Alleghany mountains.  It is a place that has been built with love and prayer and attention to every detail.IMG_7524

I wanted to share some excerpts from a poem, written by our host, Anne Grizzle, in hopes that you might find your own walk with God this summer and “join in the applause”. Continue reading

Three Ways to Fight

My husband John has been in the leadership boxing ring with a maddening challenge for the past couple years.

I’m on the sidelines, literally jumping up and down, shadow-boxing in our kitchen and yelling “Go to the mattresses!” when he reports the latest crazy atrocities at the end of a day.Unknown

I’m a DO-er!!  I want to take out an Uzzi and FIX this now!  Ok, as a Jesus-follower that might not be the best plan, but for the love of justice!!!

Trying to ratchet back the passion and put on the mantel of patience John seems to wear so easily, I’ve been reflecting on the different responses to THE ROCK AND A HARD PLACE LEADERSHIP CHALLENGES I see in Scripture.  Here are three I’ve come up with: Continue reading

Birthdays, Feeling the Awesomeness, and a Spiritual Practice

A little re-post from a couple years ago…Have a happy Monday and remember you’re awesome! (even without a hat)

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Here’s an email one of our daughters sent to friends recently, asking them to save October 15th.  Why that day?   Here’s what she wrote:

“Because it’s magical.  Because it’s the day of my birth!  And I demand that you all celebrate with me.  I don’t have an exact plan yet, but you can assume that it will involve you all, celebratory beverages, and you all telling me how glad you are that I was born.

I love it!  Now of course she was writing that tongue in cheek.  She’s not at all arrogant, but unlike most of us, she does have a pretty healthy self-image. 

I, on the other hand, am more like the rest of the world, and deal with insecurity in varying degrees depending on how many cookies I’ve eaten, a song I heard on the radio, and the barometric pressure that day.

I love Mark Batterson’s thought: “Our focus determines our reality.”

Am I focusing on ME and how I stack up compared to everyone else?  Or am I focusing on GOD and the truth that I am a beloved child of His and He delights in me? Continue reading

Holding My Breath

It’s summertime, which for me conjures up memories of being at the “Lake House” with my cousins, perpetually in a wet swim suit, rarely out of the lake.  One of the many games we would play was “who-can-hold-their-breath-longest-without-dying”.

Ok, it wasn’t a real active game, but you know…simple pleasures.  And nobody actually died so our parents considered it a win.

Sometimes, as adults, without even thinking about it, we play life like the  “who-can-hold-their-breath-longest-without-dying” game.

When I started running, I became much more aware of the importance of rhythm and rest, and basics. Like breathing.  And not holding our breath til we, you know, pass out.

This is not about Sabbath, but Selah. Selah is a term used mostly in the Psalms and a few times in Habbakuk that is a bit of a mystery.  Scholars aren’t positive what it means, but they think it means “rest” or “pause”.

Mark Batterson says, like in music, if Sabbath is a full rest, maybe Selah is a sixteenth rest.  A chance to catch your breath.

Or maybe Selah is the life jacket that helps us pop up above the water of everyday stress.

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If, as Eugene Peterson says, Sabbath is a day of “shutting down and shutting up.” maybe Selah moments are those in your day where you stop to think about breathing.  Reorient, and remember that you’re not in control, but you know the One who is. Continue reading

6 Things I’m Learning About Handling Criticism

In our relationship John and I often say that the emotional trajectory of my typical day looks like this:roller-coaster-ftr

And John’s emotional trajectory looks like this:IMG_0532

So when a young woman I mentor asked if she could come over and talk to us about how John has navigated the crises and criticism of leadership with a “non-anxious presence” and how I have achieved the victory of not, you know…killing, any of those critics, we said, “of course!”

John’s temperament just naturally sets him up better for criticism, but he also has a lot of wisdom to share and I have a lot to learn.  Our conversation made me reflect on some of the lessons I’ve learned  I am trying to learn about dealing with criticism.

Here are a few: Continue reading

3 Insights from my Reader Survey and Why it Might Matter to You

Two and a half years ago I prayed about God’s direction for a new season, and He used the story of Elijah and the widow to prompt me to use my “flour and oil” – my tiny bit that He would make enough.

Specifically, this blog.  I said, “Ok, I’ll try to show up with my flour and oil if You’ll show up with Your Spirit.”  It is no holy-moley exaggeration to say that it’s been a stretching experience of dependence on Him for weekly words.  Any value here is Him graciously using me.  Last week, for the first time I did a survey to see how you feel it’s going.

People in “real” jobs get a pay check and a yearly review.  Students get grades and diplomas.   We all grow by evaluating – setting goals and checking to see where we’re hitting the mark and where we need to recalibrate.  Other than praying and trusting God, discerning progress and value on a blog is hard.

I know surveys can be a pain, so I want to say a HUGE “Thank you!” to the many readers who took the time to give feedback!  I sooooo appreciate it!!  It was informative and encouraging!  Often I write and post and it feels like my words are flying out into a vast cosmic void.  This survey assured me that there are actual PEOPLE reading and being encouraged by these posts God graciously gives me.  It was so great getting to KNOW you a little bit through your responses!

Three things I learned from the survey: Continue reading