Friday, February 12, 2016

Clear the Stage

I’m clearing the stage and signing off of Facebook for a bit.

This in no way requires some grand announcement to the public arena, but since I post so frequently I thought I would share my heart before checking out. 

Ever since Nora was born, social media has become this beautiful medium to keep in touch with family members, reconnect with old friends, encourage other moms, and share small moment blessings.  I feel like any sort of fishbowl setting, in this case Facebook, has it’s pros and cons and for two years I’ve been riding out the pros.  The friends that I’ve made, inspiration gained, and then some, have benefited my life in so many ways.  

But right now I need a bit of retreat.  Like a snowed in cabin all tucked away in the woods.  For whatever it’s worth, I’d like to go backwards a bit to where my life was quieter.  Where I had to work harder at keeping in touch.  Where I would be challenged to be more intentional in a snail mail sort of way.  To journey through motherhood for a season relying solely on the affirmation and assurance of the Lord instead of the watching world.  

I want to put to test my own heart.  What is it really made up of?  What’s left after I take away the outside approval, the constant stimulation of other people’s lives, and the time spent maintaining those two things?  If I’m still the exact same person, then awesome.  But if there is anyway that this has slowly “impaired the tenderness of my conscience”, I want to know.

Whatever weakens reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, increases the authority of your body over your mind, takes away your relish for spiritual things, THAT to you is sin no matter how innocent it is in itself.” - Susanna Wesley

So I’m taking a retreat.  Drawing a SMALLER circle.  Going deeper with those I already have a close relationship with.  If you want to keep talking, let’s make it richer and hash out life in an email (levans@syischina.com), or let’s chat on Skype (laurenevans09)/facetime, or send me your address and I’ll snail mail you a picture of the girlies with a pen pal message (my address is: Shenyang International School, 160 Quan Yun San Road, Hunnan New District, Shenyang, Liaoning 110167, CHINA).

I’ll leave you with the lyrics of a song I keep coming back to over and over again.  Jeremy Needham’s song “Clear the Stage” couldn’t speak to my heart more. Maybe it can help speak to your heart too, since this is the season of Lent.  Find your own personal way to “sit at home alone and wait for God to whisper” to you.  The focus is not about fasting, but instead "shoving back all your wishes and hopes for the day that rush at you like wild animals..listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.  And so on, all day.  Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind." (C.S. Lewis)

Be blessed friends, and I’ll see you in a bit!


Tell your friends that this is where the party ends, 
until you’re broken for your sins you can’t be social. 
 Then seek the Lord and wait for what he has in store, 
and know that great is your reward so just be hopeful.  

Cause you can sing all you want to
and still get it wrong.
Cause worship is more than a song.

Take a break from all the plans that you have made
and sit at home alone and wait for God to whisper.
Beg him please to open up his mouth and speak
and pray for real upon your knees until they blister.

Shine a light on all the corners of your life
until the pride and lust and lies are in the open.
Then read the word and put to test the things you’ve heard
Until your heart and soul are stirred and rocked and broken.

We must not worship something that’s not even worth it.
Clear the stage.  Make some space for the one who deserves it.

Anything I put before my God is an idol.
Anything I want with all my heart is an idol.
Anything I can’t stop thinking of is an idol.
Anything that I give all my love is an idol.


Saturday, November 28, 2015

Selah's Story

Nearing the 6 month mark of pregnancy with my second baby girl, I remember my heart feeling out of sync and losing connection.  I was busy taking care of my toddler and was grieving the fact that I didn’t have time to just sit and ponder life with this second little one. How am I ALREADY this huge?  I only have one trimester left!  Where has the time gone?!  I barely have had a moment to prepare my mind for this new life!

I held my swollen belly and took a deep breath.  Sometimes all it takes is the simple awareness that you don’t like where you’re headed and you can stop and go in the other direction right then and there.  


I remember pleading with the Lord for a new story, a new journey.   Something that brought Him glory in remembering His goodness with my first child, but expectant of how He would surely move again.

So I just kind of sat there flipping through the Psalms, and I landed on 143:5-6.

"I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all that you have done;
I ponder the work of your hands.
I stretch out my hands to you;
my soul thirsts for you like a parched land."
                                                                             Selah

It was as if my very heart was written on paper.  
And then that word at the end.  Selah  (pronounced: Say-luh).

I remember being told that in Hebrew it means to "pause and reflect" and was used in the Psalms as a way to stop and think on the verses before it.  A steady rhythm of pausing and reflecting on His goodness.  Is this not exactly what I trained my heart to do when pregnant with Nora, and then journeyed through for the first two years of motherhood?  

This word, Selah, looked so much more beautiful in the context of my searching.  In that very moment, it became her name.  And then "Joy" became an almost immediate second thought, for those who truly "pause and reflect" on His goodness are given the gift of His joy.
  
With Nora, I had been encouraged to find scripture that could carry me through pregnancy (and labor/delivery, postpartum, and motherhood) to remind me that God was my refuge and strength.  In this expectant time for Him to make Selah's journey different, I began looking through all of the Psalms for wherever else I could find the word Selah.  To my surprise, almost all of the verses that ended with the command to "pause and reflect" were talking about God as a refuge, shield, fortress, and strong tower.  This was no coincidence, and I savored this sweet treasure for what it was.  

“I REMEMBER the days of old; I MEDITATE on all that you have done; I PONDER the work of your hands.  I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah” (Ps. 143:5-6)

“But you, O Lord, are a SHIELD ABOUT ME, my glory, and the LIFTER OF MY HEAD. Selah” (Ps. 3:3)

“Lift up your heads, O gates!  And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the king of glory may come in.  Who is this King of glory?  The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle. Selah” (Ps. 24:7-8)

“God is our REFUGE and STRENGTH, a very PRESENT HELP in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, thought the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah” (Ps. 46:1-3)

“God is IN THE MIDST of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. Selah” (Ps. 46:5)

“Be still and know that I am God.  I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!  The Lord of hosts is WITH US; the God of Jacob is OUR FORTRESS. Selah” (Ps. 46:10-11)

“Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I CALL TO YOU WHEN MY HEART IS FAINT.  Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for you have been my REFUGE, a strong tower against the enemy.  Let me dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the SHELTER OF YOUR WINGS. Selah” (Ps. 61:1-4)

“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.  He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I WILL NOT BE SHAKEN…Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah” (Ps. 62:5-6, 8)

“COME AND SEE what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man.  Selah” (Ps. 66:5)

“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to SHINE UPON US. Selah” (Ps. 67:1)

“Blessed be the Lord who daily bears us up; God is OUR SALVATION. Selah” (Ps. 68:19)

“I will REMEMBER the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.  I will PONDER all your work, and MEDITATE on your mighty deeds.  Your way, O God, is holy.  What god is great like our God? Selah” (Ps. 77:11-13)

“How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!  MY SOUL LONGS, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. Selah” (Ps. 84:1-2)

“Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise!  Blessed are those whose STRENGTH IS IN YOU…they go from STRENGTH TO STRENGTH; each one appears before God in Zion. Selah” (Ps. 84:4-5, 7)

_______________________________________________________________

It's been 2 months now since Selah's birth.  If I had been mulling over my thoughts regarding her birth story on an actual notepad, there would be a heaping pile of crumpled papers thrown on the floor.  Either my brain was mush, I was rabbit trailing, or I reread it and wanted to throw up from it being ridiculously cliche.  I love sharing my heart with other people, but had to hunker down and redefine who my real audience was.  I was writing this for me.  I was writing this for the purpose of looking back and claiming my story for HIS STORY. 

“…that my glory may sing YOUR praise and not be silent.” (Psalm 30:12)

I think the main writer’s block came from the fact that merely writing the facts just didn’t cut it (baby wearing while bouncing on a ball didn’t make for great focus either).  As a believer, the beauty of any blessing is to bring Him praise.   To draw us to Him.  To position our hearts toward His goodness.  There’s usually a theme to seasons of life that flow in and out of the next, and I was hard pressed to figure out what connected my pregnancy, labor/delivery, postpartum, and motherhood. 

I’m kind of laughing writing this because I know in my heart that God never promises clarity for anything.  He doesn’t owe it to us.  The sheer fact that I’m acting like I “finally arrived” at some grand realization is comical.  Yet while I may never fully grasp the gift in these seasons, I’ll share a bit of what He let me unwrap.

I went back to the verse that started the whole journey: 

"I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all that you have done;
I ponder the work of your hands.
I stretch out my hands to you;
my soul thirsts for you like a parched land."
                                                                             Selah

I remember.
I meditate.
I ponder.

In it’s simplicity, the act of REMEMBERING saved my very soul.  It’s no wonder God practically drilled it’s significance into the Israelites over and over.  

Keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen…” (Deut. 4:9)
Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the Lord your God…” (Deut. 4:23)
“…then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt…”(Deut. 6:10)
“…you shall not be afraid of them but you shall remember what the Lord your God did…” (Deut. 7:17)
“…and you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you…” (Deut. 8:2)

When we make the conscious decision to take care and keep our souls diligently fixed on Christ, we get to enjoy our story as His story.  It’s easier to let what happens happen, for we can ultimately trust that it’s all for His glory and our good.

PREGNANCY
Remembering invites Him in and sets all things right.

Many times in life I sit wishing that I had known something years prior or at least wished I could go back and have a do-over.  Do-over at my attitude, my ignorance, or passion.  Yet in all that wishing, I am humbly grateful that He did fix my feet in the right direction before the birth of my first child.  

Little Nora Grace 

I had been inspired to invite Him in to every moment.  The sleepless pregnancy moments.  The rushing to the hospital moments.  The writhing in contraction pain moments.  The can’t walk cause you’re recovering moments.  The awake all night with a screaming child moments.  ALL of it.  

That was my only prayer, and He honored it.  I think it is the most confident prayer anyone can pray.  How could He not honor the wishes of someone ultimately wanting His glory proclaimed, His presence to surround them, and His peace to fill their heart?  Isn’t that what He is always wanting to accomplish through us?  

Like I mentioned before, sometimes all it takes is the simple awareness that you don’t like where you’re headed and you can stop and go in the other direction right then and there.  Pregnancy is the perfect preparation season to find a Rock to cling to before all the real waves start crashing.  


LABOR AND DELIVERY
Remembering casts out all fear.

When you’re pregnant with your first child, you can harbor a lot of anxiety in the unknown about the delivery day.  When will I know when to go to the hospital?  What will the pain feel like? Will my husband pass out when watching me in this much pain?

But then when you’re pregnant with your second child, you harbor anxiety in all the known things about that day. I hope it doesn’t take 24 hours to get this baby out like it did with my firstborn.  I hope it doesn’t take 45 minutes to push like last time.  Oh boy, I am beginning to remember this feeling….yikes.

While sometimes remembering can cause fear, remembering who God says He is casts out all fear.  It’s all about finding the right thing to focus on.  

Yet before I go any further, let’s just hammer out a few things…  

I’m not a super human. 
If you really knew me, you’d know that I’m actually a super chicken with pain and am the furthest thing from characterizing a “focused” person with a disciplined mental state.  So let’s just get that straight.  I promise I’m relatable to those with exaggerated wounds and ADD tendencies.

I’m not a super Christian. 
No such thing.  All of us are held together by an undeserved and unearned grace. I just acknowledge the glaring reality of what my life would look like without Him and it terrifies me.  Period.

I don’t judge you. 
I believe Christ can be honored and glorified in EVERY kind of birth story.  C-section, epidural, at home, in the water, in the car on the way, whatever.  Each one is unique and can honor Christ by making His glory known.  One is not better than the other, just different.  If I were to focus more on my method than on how Christ carried me through, I’d be missing the point altogether and would be depriving myself of building unity among other women.

Selah’s labor and delivery was pretty close to textbook expectations and characterized a swift moving blur.  The most I can remember of it was actually the aftermath where I lay there, baby in arms, going “It’s over?!  I can’t believe she’s here!”  I’ve documented a super condensed version (below) for those interested, but I’ll go into more detail about those concentrating hours between 1:30 and 4:15am.

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 22nd:
11:00am - 39 week appointment and had the doctor strip my membranes.  
4:00pm - Massive dance party with Nora to get things moving (“Shake it off”, “Move it, Move it”, “Happy Song”)
8:00pm - Finalized my playlist for the delivery room

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 23rd:
6:00am - lost my mucus plug in the shower
8:00 - canceled plans due to horrible sciatic pain (probably from yesterday’s dance party)
12:00pm - contractions (lasting about 20 seconds but not painful or regular)
5:00 - contractions (now painful but still irregular)
7:00 - put Nora to bed and bounced on the exercise ball
8:00 - contractions (painful and about 10-15 minutes apart)
9:00 - “went to bed”
10:00 - water broke (doctor suggested we all go and sleep at the hospital)
10:30 - babysitter was already at our house to watch Nora through the night and we were on our way (no traffic, no gawkers, no nothing!)
11:00 - checked in but only 1 cm dilated 
11:30 - contractions strengthening, but hearing predictions that I will “be a while”

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 24th:
1:00am - wheeled up to the delivery room at 3cm and 3 minutes apart!
1:15 - plugged in my iPhone to their speakers and got the music going
1:30 - plunged into that glorious warm tub

…worship music…
…focus…
…hands squeezing…
…deep breathing…

REPEAT.

4:10am - I began pushing
4:15 - Selah Joy was here!

Little Selah Joy

Did you blink?  If you did, you might have missed her arrival all together!  At least one of the nurses did since she thought she’d have PLENTY of time to go and take a nap.  Nope.  She missed it.

A lot of my labor and delivery story (for both girls) could pretty much be summed up into the picture of Peter walking on the water.  Every second he was staring straight at Jesus, he was walking calmly above the powers of the raging ocean below him.  Yet when looked down and took notice, even for a second, he began sinking.  

Yes…I realize the irony in the water analogy.

The beauty in choosing to invite Jesus into your every moment is that He honors your choice to seek Him by meeting you in your method.  For me, my method this time around was a playlist.  That’s what I prepared, that’s what I had, so that’s where He was.  Every time those monster waves of contractions arrived, I’d squeeze my eyes and focus on what was playing at the time.  
I may have been swaying my head and humming like a crazy person, but it kept me above the waves.  It cast out my fear.

You know in the movies when there is a particularly intense scene, they omit the dialogue and sound of the moment and only have you hearing music while still watching what is going on?  This labor felt like that.  The music was so beautifully loud that the intensity of the situation was almost in the background scene (but of course, not really).  It was oddly surreal and empowering.  

It was pretty much 2 1/2 hours of this:

CONTRACTION…

"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 - Francessca Battistelli)

ANOTHER ONE…

"I need you
I love you
I want you
No one else can make me new

I will wait for only you, 
no one else can pull me through
no one else will break the silence.”
(I need you, I love you, I want you - Tenth Avenue North)

AND ANOTHER ONE…


"As I wait, heart of God
Satisfy and sustain
As I hear, voice of God
Lead me on, be my guide
Be my guide

Above and below me
Before and behind me
In every eye that sees me
Christ be all around me

As I go, Hand of God
My defense, by my side
And as I rest, breath of God
Fall upon, bring me peace
Bring me peace”
(Christ Be All Around Me - All Sons & Daughters)

OH BOY…

"I know that You are for me
I know that You are for me
I know that You will never
Forsake me in my weakness

And I know that You have come now
Even if to write upon my heart
To remind me who You are”
(You Are For Me - Kari Jobe)



HERE IT COMES…

"These things unseen
Won't cripple me
I place my hope in You

This deep desire
This longing hour
I'm falling into You”
(The Longing - All Sons & Daughters)

OUCH…

"When I think I'm going under, part the waters, Lord
When I feel the waves around me, calm the sea
When I cry for help, oh, hear me
Lord and hold out Your hand
Touch my life
Still the raging storm in me”
(Part the Waters/I Need Thee - Selah)

HERE IT COMES AGAIN…

"In the quiet I hear your voice
Soothing my heart bringing peace and joy
In the midst of the unknown
In the hard times and the good

The one thing I desire is to seek your face
To gaze upon your splendor and behold your rhythms of grace
Oh help me trust in you
As you’ve told me to do”
(Be Still - Allyson Chase)

OH SWEET JESUS…

"Our deliverer, You are Savior
In Your presence we find our strength
Over everything, our redemption
God with us
You are God with us”
(God With Us - All Sons & Daughters)

AAAHHHHH…..

"My grace, My grace
My grace is sufficient
My grace is sufficient”
(My Grace is Sufficient - Shane & Shane)

I CAN’T…EVEN…

“I need You
Oh how I need You
Oh how I need You
Oh how I need You”
(Oh How I Need You - All Sons & Daughters)

HELP…

"You never change, You are the God you say you are;
When I'm afraid, you come and still my beating heart
You stay the same, when hope is just a distant thought
You take my pain and you lead me to the cross.”
(What Love is This - Kari Jobe)


And then even before the playlist hit it’s last song, that little beauty arrived.  She was crying with newborn breath and I was crying from the sheer miracle of it all.  First off, I just pushed a BABY from my body and I’m still alive to tell about it. But more than that, this mama was not overcome with anxiety in the process.

If you were one of my siblings, you would resonate with the second thing.  They always used to joke when we were younger, “Ha…just wait until you have kids.  You are SO not going to deal with that pain without freaking out.”  Okay, maybe it was just my brother.  But still.  This is a legit supernatural miracle.

RECOVERY
Remembering brings Him glory.

Those first days in the hospital with your newborn are some of the sweetest moments.  The weight of the world and it’s responsibilities are paused for a bit, and you are forced to sit still and just savor this beautiful bubble in time.  While nurses and visitors may be coming in and out, there are still plenty of hours in those days to just sit and think.  


I’m glad I actually used that hospital time to do just that - SIT and THINK.  Now, those two words hardly ever go together.  When I have time to sit, I can’t think.  But when I have a lot on my mind, I can’t sit. 

I remember those hospital days with my firstborn.  My labor and delivery experience was much more intense, but I really didn’t want to use my recovery time as a way to sit and simmer in the drama of it all.  If I had prepared to invite Christ in during my pregnancy, looked to Him throughout labor and delivery, why would I now start acting like I did everything in my own strength?  Or why would I now start acting like it was the worst day of my life and I will never have kids again?  

Recovery can be just the thing that shakes you into remembering the victories He has already accomplished through you.  

I heard a friend once say that if God is a huge part of your story and you are retelling it to a friend, don’t take Him out of the details.  Don’t find a creative way to omit certain parts for fear of looking too spiritual or weird. Surrender being put into a box and labeled for the sake of giving Him the credit where credit is due.  People will always make opinions about you whether or not you tell your story completely true, so you might as well.


POSTPARTUM
Remembering brings hope.

As I mentioned before, pregnancy is the perfect preparation season to find a Rock to cling to before all the real waves start crashing.  

When my parents left and Dave went back to work were when those real waves started crashing for me.  Not only was I trying to figure out this whole “mom of two” thing, but Selah turned a corner in her demeanor and became a very…well…high maintenance baby.  Let’s just put it that way.  I felt like a new mom all over again and was flat out drowning.  I realized quickly that trying to put on a facade was going to kill me and so I enjoyed the sweet surrender of being honest with my community.  That alone kept my head above the water and I just focused on doing the next thing. 


Thankfully it takes almost no effort to stick headphones in your ears, press play, and hold out your surrendered hands.  That playlist that I had prepared for labor, God used as the rock I would set my feet upon to help me in those dark days.  Through it, He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to Him. (Ps. 40:2b-3)  

Preparing your heart to focus on Christ will never be a wasted effort.  Sometimes you don’t end up using your stockpiled “preparation” in the moment you had initially planned for.  That was kind of like all those verses I found during my pregnancy.  I thought I’d use it for labor and delivery, but instead they ended up being just about the only truth I got my eyes on during the first weeks.  It was accessible and easy to bounce on a ball with.


In hindsight, much of those dark days consisted of me wrestling with myself.  I didn’t want to give up my former mothering habits, or my former idea of how a newborn should act.  This baby was different, had different needs, and I needed to get over it.  At around the 8 week marker, I still hadn’t really arrived anywhere yet, but I at least hopped on the train that was going somewhere.

MOTHER OF TWO
Remembering humbles you.

There’s nothing like marriage to humble you and reveal how prideful you are.  And then there’s nothing like your first child to reveal how selfish you are.  And then there’s nothing like your second child to reveal yet another layer of your pride and selfishness.  

I’ve heard it said before that parents can easily give themselves too much credit and/or too much blame.  So when my second child was NOTHING like my first and felt like a slap in the face at times, I needed to remember that:

I can’t credit myself for a calm baby, and I can’t blame myself for a fussy one.  

I can’t credit myself for a child that sleeps through the night at such a young age, and I can’t blame myself for one that chooses to be up all night. 

I can’t credit myself for a baby who can play by themselves, and I can’t blame myself for a baby that screams outside of my arms.

He created them just the way they are, and I need to stop thinking that their personalities revolve around me.  It’s actually quite freeing when I finally get with the program.  May I forever remember not to use my children as a way to build my personal ego or tear down my confidence. 


So even though the purpose of this post was for personal documentation, I am sharing this for all of you who have journeyed with me through these seasons.  If you made it this far in reading this ridiculously long post, you were most likely one of those beautiful people that encouraged me along the way.  Love to you all!

While my life right now doesn't lend itself the best attention span or time for blogging, I'm thankful for outlets like Instagram that help me capture and document my heart in mere minutes.  Minutes are about all I have these days ;).

Saturday, February 7, 2015

My little Ferdinand


I absolutely adore this picture.  If I had the ability to, I'd paint a mural of it in my daughter's room right above her books. Until I can mooch off the talent of someone else, a framed picture will have to do.  

You see, this picture is more than just an illustration from the classic children's book The Story of Ferdinand.  This picture is the very epitome of my child's personality.   

Let's take a look at the accompanying text:

"All the other little bulls he lived with would run and jump and butt their heads together, but not Ferdinand.  He liked to sit just quietly and smell the flowers."

Nora was born in a huge baby boom on our team with about three other toddlers and then more infants to come.  Yet now at almost 17 months, she has watched every single one of them get up and take their first steps leaving her behind. All the other little toddlers she plays with like to run and zoom and waddle their way around, but not Nora.  She like to sit just quietly and pat her baby doll and read her books.   

"Sometimes his mother, who was a cow, would worry about him.  She was afraid he would be lonesome all by himself.  'Why don't you run and play with other little bulls and skip and butt your head?' she would say.  But Ferdinand would shake his head. 'I like it better here where I can sit quietly and smell the flowers.'"

I will be completely honest when I say that after her first birthday, it was difficult to not be consumed with thoughts about her walking progress.  It's not that I was afraid she would never learn how to eventually walk, but was eager for her to run around and play like her other little friends.  Both Dave and I would say "Stand up, Nora.  You can do it!  You're a big girl!  Let's see you walk!"  But no matter how encouraging and enthusiastic our words, she would shake her head and crawl back to her books.  I think the most difficult parts were when she would take strides and actually walk by herself.  Five, then 10, then 18 steps!  The next day and following weeks she would want nothing to do with it.   We were so confused at how she wouldn't want to continue with the freedom to get around and explore! If she could speak full sentences, I'm sure she would also say "I like it better here where I can sit quietly and read my books."

"His mother saw that he was not lonesome, and because she was an understanding mother, even though she was a cow, she let him just sit there and be happy."

I long to be this mother.  If I was really an understanding mother, I would see that she is not developmentally struggling, she will walk when she's ready, and I have nothing to be concerned about.  It's one thing to say "Oh I know, she will walk when she's ready" and it's another to actually believe that in your heart and just let them sit there and be happy.

Here's to a sigh of relief to letting our kids just BE.  Even if that means they are completely opposite and wreaking havoc on your house at this very minute.  In that case, just let them run around crazy and be happy.




Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Collection of Thoughts: Hospitality

Sometimes there are seasons with little to no original thought. 

It's not a writer's block per say, or even the fear of being inferior to the words of someone else who said it better.  


It's a season where the shared introspection of friends leaves your mind so quietly entertained, that you'd rather just sit and enjoy the words of others.  There's a time to share and a time to listen.  


Well I've been listening for a while...reflecting on the reflections of other people.  So I thought I would bless you with a little 2015 gift - a collection of others processing their thoughts.  This talented writing bunch are my sisters in Christ even though only one of them is someone I have actually chatted over coffee with.  The others I've only interacted with through their blogs/books, but you get the idea...we're all technically friends in the grand scheme of things.


2014 began with a vow to learn how to WAIT.  But I guess it's fair to say it really only lasted until around June when I started reading books on keeping a home and all my consuming thoughts were averted to another word entirely:



Hospitality

I wrestled with this word for months to try and figure it out for what it means in Christ and not in Pinterest.  Challenging concept nowadays, but the more I read and learned, the more I realized how much depth there was to this word.  The point is to highlight the thoughts of my friends, so please click on the links to read their insight.  Enjoy!

1. Decorating is not the enemy, but perfection might be. 


My journey began with the freeing words of truth from The Nesting Place.  My soul needed this encouragement and each chapter inspired me to take bold risks.  Not only that, but it liberated me to continue switching up my throw pillows and exchanging frames on my gallery wall with wild abandon.  My joy was bringing Him glory, so who cares if people with different passions didn't understand it?  I highlighted like crazy, passed the book on to a few people, and even reread it twice.  When you find joy in decorating, there is freedom to use places like Pinterest as a launch pad of inspiration and not intimidation.


"It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful" - The Nester




2. Intentional living makes room for genuine hospitality.

Then it shifted to the words of Tsh Oxenrider in Organized Simplicity as she encouraged her readers to seek out simplicity as if it were your dying breath.  Clutter, busy schedules, and happenstance routine can take away from how your family desires to live.  I doodled so many quotes from this book and still refer to it as a way to focus on living holistically within the purpose of our family. Highly recommended.


"Our life is frittered away by detail...Simplify, simplify." - Henry David Thoreau





3. Your home should REFLECT and DISTRIBUTE the love of Christ.


So then on the topic of finding the purpose for your family, I came across this gem.  One of the most truth-filled convicting quotes I have read on the blog-o-sphere (yes, that's apparently a term) is this: 



"The primary purpose of a home is to reflect and distribute the love of Christ.  Anything that usurps that is idolatrous." - Ann Voskamp


Amen.  Thankful for these bold words to help awaken my heart.


 

4.  Be hospitable to yourself and let others be that for you as well.


The day that I happened to read this blog (also the author of "The Nesting Place"), I was so exhausted from exerting my energies with hosting some sort of event.  I love, crave, and find so much fulfillment in parties and gatherings, but need to remember to REST properly afterward.  I think we all need to remember this truth to be hospitable and let ourselves just....oh I don't know...stare at a blank wall for 30 minutes (true story).  Let your home love on you.  


"If my home isn't a place for me to rest, be, learn, hide and grow, then it will never be that place for others, no matter how passionate I am about it." - The Nester

And sometimes we need to allow other people (not just TV show actors) to be hospitable to us.  Sometimes this can look like your sister coming half-way around the world to visit when it actually just turns into nursing your family back to health for a week.  Sometimes it means having a helper in your house so you can have the four hands you always wanted.  Whatever it is, there is freedom in being able to accept hospitality when you have nothing to offer in return.  When we let others love on us, it allows them to extend the hands and feet of Christ.  Hospitality is meant to come full circle, so why not let others experience the joy of blessing us?


"Today, I want to invite you to share those stories you've tucked away, fearful they'll expose your desperate need for help in the foreign place where you live." - M'Lynn Taylor





5. We need to stop making excuses.



Now I am completely guilty of this.  When I was teaching I pretty much made excuses for the entire four years of why I was too busy to have people over.  Whether it's because we don't know how to cook, or our house is too small, or we don't have time, we will find a reason to not be hospitable to others.  My dear friend M'Lynn couldn't have put her thoughts more clear to encourage us to move beyond our excuses and see that hospitality needs to be taken out of the typical mold.   For if "generosity breeds hospitality, then hospitality breeds community."  And if community is Christ's desire, that should ultimately be ours as well.

"Sure enough, before I know it, next week, next month or next year is upon me and I haven't deepened my relationship with anyone because I'm just not paying that much attention." - M'Lynn Taylor



6. It begins in the heart so we can be a people of audacious invitation.

Hospitality is something that begins in the heart.  It it the ability to invite and have an openness to those around  you as you extend love, no matter the circumstances.  I myself had to break out of my mold that "hospitality" just looks like having people over for dinner.  It is the ability for my heart to welcome others to the love of Christ even when I'm not gathered around a table, or even in my home at all.


 "It's not only hosting dinner parties on special occasions with people we know, but embracing a posture of the heart to welcome even - and especially - those we don't." - SRT  




 7.  Your besties are awesome, but being hospitable like Jesus sometimes has a different guest list.

I am not the type that is a fan of awkward situations and long blank pauses.  I'm getting better at it, but mainly because I'm realizing that loving like Jesus brings in all sorts of people and personalities.  This blog opened my eyes to seek out the people that can't/won't give anything in return, or maybe even drive me a little crazy.  Let's face it, we are all probably that person to someone ;). 


"Let's model the Great Inviter, match our intentions with His, and swing wide open the doors of our hearts and homes to those who are like us and those who aren't.  This is the way of the Kingdom.  This is hospitality."  - Raechel Myers






Is there anything you have read lately on the topic of hospitality that you'd like to add to the collection?  Let's continue spurring one another on in love and truth!