Tuesday, April 29, 2014

10 signs mama's 'bout to lose it

Every mama knows when a baby's about to go postal. He adopts a certain certain far-off gaze, he fusses but no pacifier will be able to soothe him, or he screams with a shrill-like ferver declaring that a bottle and a lullaby will it suffice.

Likewise, we can read between the lines of a hyper toddler's antics. The stomping feet and the crashing toys, prove that this child needs a nap, ASAP.

And it doesn't take long for a good mama to know that an angry big kid whose brain no longer seems to wield rational control of her mouth or hands, or who sits in sullen silence, refusing to talk, needs some help.

But that same awesome mama can let her own sanity be pushed a schmidgen too far. She will endure the emotional onslaught for an hour too long if she doesn't keep herself in check. And then, when Supermom turns into Hulk-mom, and her anger gets larger than life, she will regret every move she makes in the haze of I've-had-enough-this-ends-now. It may look a little like this:


We must self-regulate better. Here are 10 signs mama's about to lose it. If you've checked off even four on this list, it's probably time to put the babies in the car and drive to Sonic for happy hour, then tour your favorite neighborhoods with some mellow music lulling your kids to sleep. If you've hit seven or eight, call Grandma, your best friend, or turn on Frozen and lie down on the sofa and try to Let it Go.

10. You haven't showered in three days or more. Yes, Ma Ingalls only bathed once a week. However, we live in a highly developed nation and we no longer have to carry our bath water up from the creek. Skip one day if you like, and, if you invest in a good dry shampoo, skip a second day. But until soap manufacturers come up with a good "dry shower gel", three days without some self-care will take its toll on you.

9. You smile and eek out, "Sure, sweetie," through clenched teeth when a child asks for one.more.everloving.snack. The thing is, they don't only ask for snacks. They ask for toys. They ask you to read them 237 books. They ask to go to Disneyworld tomorrow. They as you to wipe their bottom. They ask you to wash their favorite cup (again). They ask to watch a movie. They ask to have a playdate. They ask... if they can ask you something. Let's just make a grammatic decree and uninvent the question mark, mmmkay?

8. The sight of spilled goldfish on your bed causes a volatile writhing within your soul. You have told them 17,000 times not to eat in you room. Plus, (in a feat of great productiveness and strength) you already changed the sheets this morning. Now either you have to sleep in crumbs, or get the dirty sheets washed an dried and reinstalled before bedtime. But first you will have to finish the other two loads that are already in the washer and dryer, and use every bit of willpower not to shout, "NO! FOOD! IN! MOMMY'S! BED!"

7. When planning a family dinner out, you can only remember the names of restaurants that have playgrounds. You used to know which restaurants were popular for the delicious food they offered, their beautiful view, or their gorgeous interior. Now you only know which ones have "Kids Eat Free" days, or where the waitstaff are able to get the food to the table before the baby decides a high chair is a torture device. Your soul needs a good meal and a view of the lake before Chick Fil A becomes your second dining room.

6. Sarcastic answers pop out in response to your children before you can stop them, and your one great solace is that the kids don't know what you mean by, "I don't know, really, what the fox says. Maybe, 'Leave Mommy alone?" The irony of this one is that the children who never normally remember what you say, will repeat these sarcastic comments to any and every available adult in the future.

5. You have eaten all your lunches and breakfasts this week standing at the kitchen sink or hunkered over the stove. Because crumbs. Because dishes. Because the minute you sit down, someone will spill something or need something or ask you something. So you much on your fancy PBJ or left-over mac and cheese from a distance because it's always something.

4. Your clean clothing options include tank tops with spit-up stains on them or your wedding gown. And since you can't bear the thought of wearing that stained tank top to Target, you seriously consider donning formal attire to stock up on diapers and some new tank tops (which you will need to wear to Chick Fil A tonight because your sheets are still in the washer.)

3. When you walk by your bed, it beckons like a paradise lost. It looks fluffy and welcoming, serene and peaceful, and it has been too long since you rested on that beautiful pillow and wrapped yourself in that gorgeous comforter. The fan is spinning above it and you salivate at the sight of this place, awaiting your weary self.  

2. "Jesus Take the Wheel" plays on Pandora radio and you sit down in the kitchen and cry. Because you really need Jesus to take the wheel, or maybe the whole car, so you can go back to bed.

1. Your husband cancels his afternoon appointments and comes home because you texted him about the "Jesus Take the Wheel" incident. This is your moment. Swallow your pride and run to the bed, or the bookstore, or to get a pedicure. Supermom is a myth; she lives only in your imagination. You live here, in the real world, where people can only endure a certain measure of exhaustion. You, dear Mama, have hit your limit. It's time to make sure Mama is going to be okay after all....

Monday, April 28, 2014

when the story of Job makes a child happy

Boy 3 likes to flip his bible open randomly and read whatever he opens to. Yesterday, he played this "Bible Roladex" game and ended up in Job 38. After he read the chapter, he looked up at me from the other side of the sofa with a pensive face.

"Mom, I seriously love Job 38."

You just never know what children will think of the bible.

"Really? What did you like about it?" I asked, trying not to smile. When you don't know how to respond to your child, ask for more information.

"I like how God says, 'Where were you?' all the time. How He tells Job he doesn't have the right to question Him."

Again, I say, you just never know what children will think of the bible.

So we talked about suffering, about this ancient story that proves society changes, but people really are still like this, searching for reasons, giving short-sighted advice, and shaking their fists at God when the pain is too hard to bear.

God is always asking the same question. The gospel, now realized through Jesus, eternally offers the same option to God's people. From heaven it breaks forth:

"Are you willing to suffer in this way so that you can know Me more?"

When the suffering is great, it is tempting to run from this question. But if the courage can be found to submit to suffering for the sake of knowing Jesus, true peace and transformation become possible.

When you're ten years old, and the greatest suffering you have experienced is a hefty chore list on a gorgeous Saturday, I suppose this seems acceptable. But I know many who have suffered greatly, and when they have stepped onto the bitter road with open hearts, seeking Jesus, they have been a sign and a wonder to all who know them.

These gospel people are those who don't cry out against God, but call out for God.

They don't ask for justice, they plead for mercy.

They don't seek after comfort, they stand and are set free.

And on that great day, when Christ's reign comes and they stand before the judgement seat of Christ, they will not stand alone. The One they have followed through the suffering, the great Light they have clung to in the storms, the true Love for whom they have chosen to be broken and poured out into the world, He will stand with them, covering them with His righteousness, and call them His own.

That is why we can love Job 38. Boy 1 is right. It's fabulous.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

why your marriage needs to survive the early years of parenthood

If I close my eyes and think about whispy baby heads and smooth baby cheeks, somewhere in the deep memory of my heart, my mind catches light mists of the apricot baby oil I lovingly slathered on four different babies once upon a time.

Off in the Neverland of my soul, their little feet scurry across the hardwood floors of a house we don't live in anymore, where their belly laughs rang loudly as Mr. Fantastic caught boys who leaped to him from the stairs again and again.

When my big kids look at me and grin I see a shadow of their happy baby faces when we played "This Little Piggy".

There are books like The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Make Way for Ducklings that aren't meant to be the least bit sad to read. Yet if I open their covers and look at their pictures, the seat beside me suddenly seems empty. Melancholy love runs strong and thick from those pages. 

Oh, yes, of course the days are easier now. Children who can pour cereal and play a rousing game of dominoes are pure joy and brimming with fun. They (reluctantly) do chores, and they (sometimes) have good manners. We take long walks through the neighborhood on late summer nights, and no one cries in a stroller because they need a diaper change. We're clearly winning in life at long last.

As difficult as it is to explain in words, I carry a deep longing for babies that I can't really hold again. This journey through parenthood involves a grand sacrifice of love, and there are some days its weight is heavier than others. 

I share that burden with only one other human being: my husband.

I don't know what I would do if there wasn't someone else who remembered how Boy 1 crawled like a worm, or the way Boy 3 walked exactly like Curious George. Who else can understand the magical sound that was Boy 2 saying "tis-miss tee" instead of "Christmas Tree"? And what other human can hold my hand and know that the baby Lady needs to always be the baby to me?

It was hard for Mr. Fantastic and I to get along when sleep was a luxury that four children under five didn't allow us.

In my worst moments I resented being left at home to change dozens of diapers and try to tame fussy tempers when he traveled for work.

In his worst moments he resented that he had to come home to a chaotic toddler war zone and an angry mama when all he wanted was an hour to decompress from the stress of work.

Yes, we fought about those things. But eventually, mercy for one another won the battles. Who else knew how hard it all had been? We needed each other too much to stay angry. So we laid down our selfish feelings and fought on the same team. We fought for our own love while we poured out our lives for our kids.

Now that the little tinies are becoming the great-big kids, we are finding that we still have great need of each other. Because we sacrificed together, and no one outside of this marriage can understand what we endured in those early years of parenthood.

Now we face the mountain of parenting adolescents ahead of us. We ready ourselves for the next grand adventure with the weapons we have honed these past ten years: undying hope, unifying love, and hard-won patience. I have no doubt we will come out more in love on the other side, with tender hearts full of memories of prayerful nights, awkward tin grins, and unsteady, emotional teenagers.

In the end, the love remains and mingles itself with the memories. This arduous road we walk weaves our souls together, and we are each other's best reward. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Book Club: Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker: Week 2 {pgs. 47-72}

As I read this section of the book, about living a life that esteems the weak, the poor, and the lower place of serving, so many thoughts swirled through my head. Mostly, it made me ridiculously happy.

I absolutely love Jesus, in all his odd glory. I love the way He rips down the rat race of human greed and ego. I want to kiss His feet for setting us free from the need to achieve and impress the world. I could dance a jig when I consider the beauty of living for more than my comfort, security, and fame. Self-promotion is exhausting and Jesus' brand of peace is the best thing ever.

It is for freedom that Christ set us free, and any freedom derived from sacrifice looks pretty strange in our modern world. Sometimes it looks like filling your calendar with acts of service instead of lunch with your girlfriends, spending your money to go on mission trips instead of upgrading your computer, or spending an hour praying instead of sleeping in.

Always, freedom in God's Kingdom looks like running to the cross because we are in dire need of a Savior. I am beginning to be truly thankful for the weaknesses and struggles in my own life, because my pain prioritizes my needfulness, and I can't help but run to the gospel.

My prayer and my hope is that God will redefine us, stretch us out over a hurting world, and rebuild us so we can build His kingdom and take the gospel to the ends of the earth. That we would be a different kind of people, strange in our ways of living and giving, odd in how we pour out mercy to underserving souls because we know we are among the least deserving ourselves, and completely revolutionary in how we parent our children, talk to our spouses, and view the world with a "what can I do to love more" mindset.

Here is the discussion guide for this sections. I hope God speaks to you as you read through it. Happy Wednesday. :)

Next week we will discuss pages 75-102. Until then, happy reading!

Interrupted: Week 2 {pgs. 47-72}

general summary:
This section of the book focuses on following Jesus to the lower place, serving, living broken and poured out for the sake of the gospel. Hatmaker tears down the notion that increasing power and wealth are fulfilling, pointing to the emptiness of such pursuits and the emptiness that comes with moving one more rung up a ladder that seems to have no end. Jesus calls us to live differently than the world, and cramming our Christian lives into the box that the world marks as “success” will never really get us far in His Kingdom.

Excerpts to discuss/ Discussion questions:

“The Trouble With Bananas”
{from p. 49} “Thus began a period of reorienting my mind in the redemptive mission of Christ. I was convinced of the need to change my mind, but what came next was actually changing my mind, and I didn’t envy GOd that task.”

First, let’s just all talk about how hilarious the banana story is on page 48. (I nearly died laughing.) Have you ever had a ‘banana that broke the camel’s back’ experience, in which GOd changed your mind about something? Or is He doing something like that in your life right now?

“Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks”
{from p. 51} “The part that grieved me most was the word different. Because, sure, parts of my life were different from your average Westerner, but not really….. .I realized I was completely normal.. But my Savior was the most unnormal guy ever. And it was His unnormal ideas that made everything new. Truly, Jesus never fit in. He was never the cool guy. He was always wrecking everyone’s life. I’m positive the disciples sat on pins and needles when Jesus talked to a crowd, worried what crazy thing He might say next. (Pretty talk: ‘I am the bread of life.’ Minutes later: ‘Unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink of his blood, you have no life in you.’ Dang it!)”

Have you ever considered this concept of living differently before? What do you think about it? In what ways is your life different because of the gospel? Are there any areas that you feel GOd is pointing at, asking you to change?

“Desiring, Doing, Remembering”
{p. 54} “COmmunion is more than a memory, more than a reverent moment when we recall Jesus’ heroic sacrifice. Remembrance means honoring Jesus’ mercy mission with tangible, physical action since it was a tangible, physical sacrifice. In other words, ‘Constantly make this real.’.... Become broken and poured out for hopeless people. Become a living offering, denying yourself for the salvation and restoration of humanity. Obedience to Jesus’ command is more than looking backward; it’s a present and continuous replication of His sacrifice. We don’t simply remember the meal, we become the meal..”

“Becoming a Low Life”
{pg 60} When Jesus told us to ‘take the lowest place’ (luke 14:10). it was more than a strategy for social justice. It was even more than wooing us to the bottom for communion, since that is where He is always found. The path of descent becomes our own liberation. We are freed from the exhausting stance of defense. We are no longer compelled to be right and are thus relieved from the idols of greed, control, and status. The pressure to protect the house of cards is alleviated when we take the lowest place.”

In what ways are you making your life a living offering for Christ? How have you seen God use you to build His Kingdom by sacrificial service and love? What’s hard about this kind of life? Are there particular challenges that you fave/ have faced when you live like this? How has God used the low place to set you free?

“Get Off Your High Horse”
{p. 67-68} “If the Kingdom of God belongs to the poor, the bottom-dwellers, then rich American Christians are going to have the hardest time finding it. The whole filthy engine is designed to benefit the top, and that is our zip code…. The needy world isn’t interested in GOd because He might secure their promotion or deliver an offer on their house in a wilting market. By the millions, they are running to the cross because the love of a redeeming Savior is too intoxicating to resist….. The rest of the world struggles with hunger and sickness, but we have to conquer the diseases of greed and ego, which are notoriously harder to cure.”

Have you sought cures for the problems that naturally seem to follow those of us living comfortable, wealthy lives? How do we battle greed and ego? How do you handle the things in your life that could send you running to the cross, because you need the love of a Savior so desperately? Do you resent your struggles, or distract yourself from them, or do you embrace them as a gift that makes you worthy of receiving the gospel of grace?

{p. 71} “Jesus redefined the nature of greatness, which has always rung hollow for the least and last. He took the connotation away from power and possessions and bestowed it on the humility of a servant. The more you defer? the more you are to be broken and poured out? The more you choose servant over benefactor? The greater you are. So be it in my life, and so be it in the church. May intentional servanthood be the basis of all mission, all benevolence, all evangelism, all sacrifice.”

Where is God calling you to intentional servanthood? What would God’s church look like if all His people sought to live this way? Where are you called to do ‘small things with great love’ as Mother Teresa said?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

8 things I do to bother my husband

In the world of a real marriage, it must be admitted that although we love each other like crazy, we sort of make each other crazy sometimes, too. It's actually even a little bit fun. After all, our quirks and minuscule inconsistencies are part of that certain "je ne sais quoi" that gives life a little extra "spicy sizzle".

Truly, if I always played the part of the perfectly pleasing wife, it would be really boring around here. Mr. Fantastic loves me with an everlasting love. He is wonderful, and I love him with great big starry adoring eyes. But occasionally he is fun to bother a little bit. Just a tad. A smidgen. When I succeed at the bothering, he probably imagines how fun it would be to bounce me through some football uprights. Or not. I don't know, because he doesn't really say.

Truth be told, he does the same to me. For instance, he rips bags open in the middle like a cave man, when they clearly have a resealable end. He has also been known to pilfer thirty-eight or so of our coffee cups to the office, one at a time, and return them all at the same time in a cardboard box. It's like coffee cup Christmas/Happy Extra Load of Dishes Day when they are returned. I roll my eyes, we both laugh it off, and then I wonder how much time will pass before I am this bothersome to him. Because it's bound to happen eventually.

Bothering is a sign of true love, people. You can't take marriage too seriously all the time or you'll go crazy. And that would be truly bothersome, don't you think?

Here are 8 things I do to bother my husband:

8. Borrowing his keys and then handing him my purse when he asks for them back. It starts with me saying, "Oh, you need your keys? Here, babe, they're somewhere in my purse." He stares at me frozen, then grunts a little because looking for anything in my purse is like trying to find a rock in the Grand Canyon. But I know he likes a challenge in his day. It's like playing that claw game at the arcade, and he always finds them in the end. He wins!

7. Not "getting" sports. I was a college athlete, so it surprised Mr. Fantastic when I told him I didn't actually care how the college football championship teams are chosen. I think it may have shocked him when I gently suggested that his undying loyalty to the Dallas Cowboys and the Texas Rangers was (perhaps) a recipe for disappointment. I continue to stun him with my fair-weather-fan-status regarding all UCLA athletics. While I can't name a single player on any of their teams, I'm super happy when they win, and I barely notice when they lose. Usually, when he tells me about his teams, I try to just smile and nod if he smiles, or scowl and shake my head if he scowls. Then I text him UCLA's winning scores with lots of emoticons, because it's fun to bother him.

6. Only buying kid-oriented cereal. I don't know how this happens, but it does. And it proves a man can go to work, earn a decent paycheck, and still only have Berry Berry Kix, Organic Peanut Butter Puffs, and Puffins to choose from at 7am. Poor guy. I actually feel a little bad that this is such a common problem in our house. But it does make me a hero when I roll in from the grocery with his favorites later that day. So, maybe it's kind of strategic!

5. Singing the wrong song lyrics. Mr. Fantastic is a music person. He plays multiple instruments. He also has the best memory of any person I have ever met. He once memorized the entire book of Colossians just for fun. I am neither musical nor memorize-Colossians-smart, and he often catches me singing the wrong song lyrics with brazen confidence. I think he thought it was cute for a few years, but now it's just unfathomable to him. He doesn't understand the mental laziness that causes a person to botch the words to the Official Frozen Anthem of 2014. I don't know, "the storm never bothered me anyway" works just as well as "the cold never bothered me anyway", doesn't it???

4. Cook squash for dinner. Mr. Fantastic eats a wide array of foods, but there are some things he would rather I didn't put in the rotation. Squash is on that list. When I cook it, the kids gag and he squirms but eats it anyways because that's fatherhood. However, I really like squash, and our vegetable delivery service brings it regularly, so, bon appetit, baby! (Besides, there's a box of Berry Berry Kix in the pantry that he can eat later.)

3. Give him directions that sound more like a description of the city. Where is our daughter's ballet studio? Do you know where Phil's Ice House is- not the one that is right over here, but the older one that is down on that street that goes past Bartlett's? The studio is just down from there, towards Hey Cupcake, but not all the way to the area that feels like you're getting close to the UT campus. It's next to a shoe store. Look for the shoe store sign- it's kind of blue...I think. What? That's not good directions? Yes, it is. Just ask all my friends, they'll totally understand.

2. Park my car so close to his in the driveway that he has to climb in through the passenger side. In all honesty, I don't do this on purpose. It's what happens when you live in Los Angeles for years, parking on the street day after day at UCLA. I got really good at fitting a car into a tight spot. (Not that our driveway is a tight spot, but whatever.) Maybe I'm just lousy at parking. After all, I did once back into his car in our own driveway- but I blame temporary insanity brought on by pregnancy hormones for that one. So, that might technically be his fault.

1. Steal the covers. Apparently, I do it all. the. time. While snoozing away, I grab and roll, creating a heavenly cocoon-like comforter heaven around myself. Then he wakes up freezing cold and can't get me to budge. (Have I mentioned I am his favorite person in the whole wide world? The man is a saint for loving a comforter bandit.) I'm thinking since we have a few more years before the hot flashes kick in, I should probably just get him an extra comforter. Or not. Maybe he likes to give me the covers- because, seriously, sainthood.

Monday, April 21, 2014

5 tactics to lessen the impact of media on your family

It's a beautiful Sunday afternoon. I am in the house washing dishes. I just kissed my husband and oldest son goodbye as they headed to the baseball field. My younger three children are in the front yard, squirting each other with the hose and squealing with joy.

Basically, it feels a lot like 1984 in our house today, except we eat balsamic reduction on our food and the kids are slathered with sunscreen.

We work hard to keep it like this.

The more we read and learn about the effects of too much tv and the addictive nature of social media and video games, the more we shove it out of our lives with passionate commitment.

Media consumption is one of the battlegrounds where our choices build the values and structure of our family. We are choosing things like books and play-doh, card games and domino tournaments, sprinklers and foosball in the garage, and the wonderful art of actual conversation in the car and at restaurant tables.

The results of these choices are simple: intentional time focused on each other makes us all happier and more whole as people.

My daughter told me all about the mean girl at the YMCA while we drove to Starbucks the other day. Five year olds navigate complex relational worlds, and they need help sorting out solutions.

Just yesterday I found out exactly how my son feels about girls on the drive to church. I won't tell you what he said, but I'll sum up my reaction in one word: Shocking.

Yes, my kids would like to play more Minecraft.

Sure, they wish they all had their own iPhones.

Absolutely, if I put Frozen and the Lego Movie on repeat in the playroom the house would be cleaner, I would be more productive, and life would be easier.

But the thing is, life wouldn't be better.

I refuse to let my goal be having an easier life. I want a good life, rich with muddy footprints, lessons in cleaning up after you're finished with something, and the sharing of deep thoughts that only come from exposure to books and ideas beyond our home, our era, and our own experiences.

So we tell our kids that video games are for special occasions and occasional indulgences. And then we engage in life with them.

In our house, cell phones are in the same category as cars and dating and kissing and miniskirts and mascara: for much later in life when you're not a kid any longer.

We are crazy and weird, I know this. But you know what? We are also a happy, tight-knit crew.

Here are a few of the strategies we use to lessen of the tug of the digital age on our lives:

1. Go off the grid for the day. Some days I leave the my phone at home and the kids and I hit the library, the park, or the grocery store. It is a glorious life in vibrant technicolor out there with no one to interact with except the four little people I love most in life.

2. Delete all games on all of our phones. No one asks to play games that don't exist. We sit and read or talk or actually exercise our patience at doctor's offices, car washes, and restaurants.

3. Make it our goal to keep the tv off. When I begin to consider a movie as a savior from the chaos, I check myself. What other options are there? How else could we solve the problem? I never regret choosing another tactic.

4. Keep an open dialogue. I tell my kids about the research connecting depression in kids to video games. We talk about my own struggle to ignore texts and notifications throughout the day. I'm open about why I leave my phone far away where it won't disturb us. What is happening here in our home is infinitely better and more important than what is happening in cyberspace. If my children ever feel otherwise, the line of communication is open for them to tell me so.

5. Clear media boundaries. My kids get 30 minutes of media time on Saturdays. They choose how they use that time. They can watch tv or play on the iPad. Recently we have faced the issue of other kids with gaming devices at baseball games and church. My kids will sit and watch other people play for hours. I asked them about it, and they said it wasn't really fun, but they couldn't help it. When I told them that screen time would count as their own, they amazingly found the willpower to go and play with their other friends instead. Our kids are stronger than we think. Sometimes they just need a little nudge in the right direction.

What about you? How does your family minimize screens and engage?

Friday, April 18, 2014

what's so good about friday

A couple thousand years ago, Jesus hung on a cross and died. It was all action up until then. Palm branches, shouts of Hosanna, washing of feet, deep lessons about serving and loving, cruel kisses, violent attacks, big-time officials, final decrees, weeping, lashing, pain, earthquakes, darkness, and torment.

And then...nothing.

After all that fanfare and drama, there was just a dead man hanging there on a cross.

That's when someone had to find somewhere to put him. The horror subsided and the mourning had to begin. The Sabbath had to be obeyed and life had to go on.

Everyone had to look at a tomb and admit the obvious: Jesus was dead.

They knew nothing of His coming resurrection. The wind didn't whisper the secret that God knew. The rocks didn't cry out that hope lived still and the final victory was assured.

Hearts had to let go of how it was "supposed to be", wrestle with "if only we had done something differently", and embrace the mourning of a friend, a hope, and a future that had all died together up there on that cross.

But God knew Sunday was coming.

God always knows Sunday is coming. He sees our sorrow and He wipes our tears and He rests in knowing that His plan will not be thwarted. Not by lies. Not by man's sin. Not by poorly executed plans. Not by death. Nothing can stop God's love.

God is always asking us to rest as well. We are to rest in knowing Him, to love as He loved, and to trust it's all going to be okay.

Go ahead, mourn what ails us all. Face the saddest truths head-on. Lift up your head and wail for the lost, the broken, the sick, and the poor. Raise an outcry for justice here on earth, fight for the underdog, open your home to the orphan, and give your last loaf to the hungry.

What's good about Friday? That God reigns on high and that we are still here to do His will.

We know how the story goes, and we need to show the world that Sunday always comes in the end. 

Bring Sunday to someone today, and make Friday good. That's what life is really about....

Thursday, April 17, 2014

celebrating passover and remembering true joy

Last night I flitted about in the grocery store, buying supplies to make our Seder dinner. I searched out bitter herbs, unleavened bread, an egg, some sweet apples and raisins, and grape juice. I stood at the meat counter and requested a lamb shank bone.

"No bones, but I can sell you the whole shank," the man informed me.

"Great. I'll take it," I casually replied.

He wrapped up the meat, printed out the price, and handed it to me. I reached out my hand and suddenly it all seemed absurd.

This is too easy. A pound of meat felt too light to be symbolic of my Lord. Five dollars for a Passover lamb seems a shoddy price to pay to for a Redeemer. My time spent preparing a plate of symbolic food for our friends and family is a piddly investment in light of His eternal love for us.

And yet, maybe that's the point.

Maybe I need to remember that my life is light and easily given compared to all that Jesus has sacrificed for me. And maybe the fact that He was willing to die for someone so small means I am loved more than I recognize most days

I left the meat counter and walked through the bakery. I absent-mindedly snatched up a box of chocolate cookies because I wanted to eat chocolate cookies after shopping. I literally smiled as I placed them in my basket.

My heart is easily distracted, obviously. What are cookies compared to eternal love? The words "wretched flesh" seem harsh, but that's what I'm dealing with here. I can make myself happy, but only God can give me joy.

Joy- true joy comes from a proper view of ourselves. 

The curse of death passes over the children of God. We are the of those who are spared from eternal darkness. We are the redeemed, the purified, the whole, the loved, the treasured, the saved. And we deserve don't deserve any of it.

The harder scriptures prove the humble truth and help us find real joy:

"We, too, writhe in agony, but nothing comes of our suffering.
We have not given salvation to the earth,  nor brought life into the world.
But those who die in the Lord will live; their bodies will rise again!
Those who sleep in the earth will rise up and sing for joy!
For your life-giving light will fall like dew on your people in the place of the dead!"
Isaiah 26:18-20

"We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." 
-Romans 6:4

"Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." 
-1 Corinthians 5:6-8

"God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed." 
-2 Thessalonians 1:6-10

“Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven,  whose sins are put out of sight.
Yes, what joy for those  whose record the Lord has cleared of sin.”
Romans 4:7-9

Tonight we will joyfully remember, the body broken for us, the blood of the final Passover lamb that was spilled to wash us clean, the nail-pierced hands that hold us securely. We are loved, our names are written in heaven, and His joy makes us complete.
Hosanna in the Highest. May our joy-filled lives bring glory to the Lamb who takes away our sins....

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

burnt toast book club: Interrupted: Week 1 {pgs. 13-43}

This is our first week discussing the book Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker. My community group discussed this face to face last night and it was fantastic. Below is the discussion guide we used, so you can take part in the discussion yourself. We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

For me, Jen's story brought back an old memory. I had my own conversation with God about poverty and my love for Him about eight years ago while sitting in my living room reading my Bible, praying.

I had been studying friendship in the Bible, and the thought suddenly struck me that I wasn't a very good friend to God.

Yes, Jesus defined friendship with him as obedience, and I felt I was holding up that end of the bargain pretty well, all things considered. But the truth was that I was happy to think God considered me His friend, caring about me, valuing me relationally, and laughing at my quirks. But I didn't really reciprocate in that way. It was all a little too much about me: how much he loved me, what he wanted me to do, what the Bible said about my life, my destiny, my marriage, etc.

I felt more like a fan of God than a friend of God, and I was annoyed with myself.

I prayed that day and asked God what was on his mind that day. I told him I wanted to be His friend, to pray for the things He cared about, to care with Him.

After a few minutes of quietness, I saw in my mind the earth, and all the poor nations were lit up, glowing in the light of God's concern. He told me to pray for the hungry. And I did.

That was the day I found out how low in the grand scheme of life some of my concerns truly lie. God doesn't care as much about the backed up sink in my house as He does about the millions of starving children in the world. They simply aren't of equal concern to a just and loving God, and they shouldn't be. I have what Mr. Fantastic likes to call "rich people problems", and although God lovingly listens to my prayers and mercifully acts on my behalf, he aches for His those who suffer in poverty.

It's so easy to get distracted by our to-do lists, busy calendars, and pressing problems here in wealthy America, and to forget that we who are free, fed, and comfortable are in the minority.

And if I want to be His friend, I have to ache for them too. In order to ache for them, I need to remember what's important to God.

I am excited to read on, to remind myself about God's deep love of mercy and justice, and His call to take part in setting His people free. Because more than anything, I want to be a good friend to Him.

***For next week: read pages 47-72***

burnt toast book club: Interrupted: Week 1 {pgs. 13-43}

general summary:
Jen Hatmaker walks us through her realization that God wanted more from her than life lived in a faithful incubated church world. She found she was unfulfilled by chasing the American dream of personal prosperity, even though that dream includes a great love for God. Hatmaker presents statistics that reveal the real problem of poverty in the world, as well as scriptures that prove God’s great desire for His people to love justice and mercy for the poor and oppressed.

Excerpts to discuss/ Discussion questions:

“Holy Passion meets Remedial Shepherd”
{from p. 25} “...the verse read, “Jen, do you truly love me more than anything?’ I don’t know how to explain Jesus’ presence- more intense and terrifying and gentle at the exact same time…. Seriously? Do I really love You? Are You serious, Jesus? To be honest, I felt a little insulted, kind of injured. Only because I really love Jesus.”

{from p. 27} “I saw my exact reflection in Peter: devoted but selfish, committed but misguided. And that is not going to be enough. It won’t suffice to claim good intentions…. Not with God screaming, begging, pleading, urging us to love mercy and justice, to feed the poor and the orphaned, to care for the last and least in nearly every book of the Bible.”

Have you ever felt insulted by God? If so, are you willing to share about it? How do you make space in our lives for God to press hard on our lives like this? What do we risk if we don’t let God do this in our lives?

“James, Jesus, Amos, and Them”
{p. 30} “for all myself-proclaimed love of God’s Word, what I really loved were the parts that worked for me. For my good. For my blessing.”

How do you generally feel about God’s Word? After you encounter difficult to understand or difficult to live passages, what do you do? 

What are some biblical themes/ teachings that are hard for you right now? How have you been changed by challenging teachings from the Bible? (ie. dying to self, forgiveness, loving your enemies, turning away from sin, discipline, grace)

“Warning: The Problems Are Bad”
On pages 32-34, Hatmaker lists some stats re: poverty and America’s wealth. What were your initial reactions to this global perspective of wealth? Were any of these surprising for you? Will this information change anything for you? If so, what?

“Giving the Good Stats Some Play”
{p. 40} “Alone we can affect a few. Together, we can change the world.”

Do you sponsor a child, go on mission trips, buy products that elevate the poor, or give to any organizations working to alleviate the problem of poverty? Is there a cause that you feel called to support, or an issue that you’d like to take part in championing? 

Feel free to link up to any great causes in the comments. Here are a few that are dear to my own heart:
Ordinary Hero: orphan care and adoption grants
All Girls Allowed: sponsorship of poor mothers and baby girls in China
Casa Vallado: A foster care home/ orphanage in Mexico

***For next week: read pages 47-72***

Monday, April 14, 2014

warrior boys, wounds, and women

Last Friday night, I was tucking Boy 3 in and he sat up in bed.

"Look at my back, Mom. I have, like, six cuts on it from the playground."

On Saturday, Boy 2 faced a great, fearsome commitment, and was torn between two decisions.

"Do you really want to do this?" I asked him.

"Yes," he told me.

"Then I know you can make it happen."

And he did.

Yesterday in the car, Boy 1 stuck his hand I my face.

"Look at my finger, Mom. It's all cut up. I have no idea how it happened."

These boys don't want band aids or pity. They aren't awaiting a trophy or a good word of wisdom from me.

Just see the wounds, Mom. See what is difficult, what hurts, my scars, and believe in me.

I am learning so much from these warrior boys.

I am learning what I can and can't do for them, what they do and don't need from me.

I stand beside the fertile ground of future manhood, and I see the seeds of our relationship growing into their future understanding of what a woman who loves them should and shouldn't be.

She shouldn't baby their wounds.

She shouldn't coddle their fears.

She shouldn't stop their attempts to climb a little higher than seems safe.

She should look at their wounds and be awestruck at their courage.

She should believe in them when they strike out and let them wink at her when they cross home plate.

She should let a few tears fall, and wait for their brave hearts to rally a bit before she tells them she wants to see them try again.

She should see their failures, affirm their talents, and glory in their victories.

These boys of ours will be men someday, and they will want to be giant-slayers, mighty men of valor, and brilliant world-changers. They will need to marry women who believe they are all that and more.

Because that is who God has made all our boys to be. But they will settle for less if we don't see who they really are and believe in who they're becoming.

Look. See. Believe. Cheer. Cultivate greatness.

God is raising up a generation of warriors, may His grace be upon us to mother them well.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

first time ever: a burnt toast book club

Last week I posted a photo on instagram of the book my women's group is about to start, and I had loads of people comment about it.

Apparently, a gajillion of my friends have been dying to read this bookI began to invite all of them to my women's group- even if they didn't live in Austin, which seems to be a bit of a barrier. (I'm trying really hard not to be offended by everyone's lack of commitment to weekly plane commutes to Austin.)

Then I realized, we can all read it together right here on my blog. After all, we're grown-ups, and we get to do what we want (sort of- except for avoiding unpleasant responsibility.)

There is nothing more fun than our book discussions on Tuesday nights. It gets us all reading, thinking, and eventually growing (straight-up glory stuff, for realz yo). I highly recommend it. It's super fun, too.

Also, Mr. Fantastic read through the beginning of the book last week and he loved it. It's not a girly book, so any guys who want to join us, I promise you won't be sorry. So. Good.

Here's how it will work:

Every week on Wednesday, I will post a brief summary of the section we have read, highlighting some of my favorite excerpts. I will also share the discussion questions that my face-to-face women's group hashed out the night before,. The comment section will be open and you can share your favorite/least favorite parts, deep thoughts, and so forth.

So, if you're interested in reading Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker, a book about the gospel revolutionizing your way of life in new ways, click on the image below and and order yourself a copy. Read it while you nurse the baby, sit in the pick-up line, spin your legs on the elliptical, or sit in your backyard watching dogs and kids play in the sprinklers.

Next Wednesday, we will chat up pages 13-43. I can't wait!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

ten perfect gifts to buy your wife for mother's day

Mother's Day is coming. With Easter being so late this year, it will be here before we know it.

As a pastor's family, since Sunday is a major workday, this is one of the holidays that we celebrate a little differently than the usual American traditions of breakfast in bed, going to church as a family, and then a leisurely brunch that costs way too much.

About a decade ago, my husband learned not to wait until the last minute and leave a card on my seat at church with a Starbucks card in it, then wink and smile at me during worship. I didn't appreciate that so much.

Thankfully, he's done great ever since. (Way to go, babe!)

Mr. Fantastic has to get a little more creative since he leaves before I wake up on Sundays and works all day. Sometimes we celebrate on Saturday. Sometimes Monday. No matter what I always choose our lunch plans after church. This year I predict I will want to go home and eat Chinese take-out and chocolate cupcakes in my sweatpants, while watching the Mary Poppins with my kids. I'm classy like that.

For sure, though, I get a gift and a lot of love. And really, it is the thought that counts (as in, think of a great gift that shows a lot of love).

Because I think every mom deserves a fabulous gift on May 11, I did some of the thinking for all of you in the market for a great gift. I don't get any kick-backs or points if you buy any of this. It's a complete act of goodwill. Here are some possible pretties for you to bestow on the woman who loves your kids (and probably you) more than they deserve:

10. The Forget Me Not Necklace. It's from noonday, so you can really impress her when you tell her that her new favorite necklace also helped elevate women in the world.

9. A Fancy Hammock. A hammock like this is fit for a queen. Throw in a good book and your wife will think she's in heaven.

8.  "Mais Oui" print Let's be clear: you can NEVER go wrong with French words written in gold and black.

7. Peonies. These are special flowers. So special. They only bloom for a couple of months in the year, and they are amazing. They're also expensive when you buy them online, so check at Trader Joe's or the local florist for a deal, or mix them with tulips, which are cheaper.

6.Ikabag. Pretty sure this looks like the best bag ever.

5. Nothing Bundt Cakes. Did you know you can have these delivered? Cake. Cake. Cake. Cake. Yum.

4. i heart my boys necklace. I can't think of a better gift for a boy mom.

3. Mr. Right and Mrs. Always Right pillows. Because, really, you know she is.

2. Donate to a good cause, like Ordinary Hero. If your wife isn't a "things" person, blow her away by donating to help mamas and babies in Africa this Mother's Day. Slip a note in a sweet card and put it on a tray with an almond croissant, a cup of coffee, and a flower from the garden. She'll love it, and you.

1. An entire day off. Call in Grandma, take the kids out all by yourself as SuperDad, or hire a babysitter. Let her do whatever she wants. Hand her a wad of cash and set her free, schedule the day with her favorite things and print out the itinerary, ask her best friend to take her out, or take her to every place she adores yourself. Bookstores, shopping, pedicure, haircut, lunch with a friend, romantic day at the lake with you, hit the gym, take a walk, lie in bed. She will never forget this gift.