Tag Archives: inspiration

Prayer for Troubles and Cares

Occasionally I am asked to blog a piece of writing that appeared elsewhere on social media. Thanks to my friend Lynn for honoring me with the request for this post. 

A Prayer for Troubles and Cares.

Your troubles are heavy. You feel burdened and tired of trying.

Father says, “Pray for their troubles.”

So, today I’m praying for your troubles. For any trouble in your life to lift, dissolve, dissipate, fall away, now in the name of Jesus.

Worry, go in the name of Jesus.

Doubt, stress, anxiety, and fear, leave now in the name of Jesus!

Peace come in, peace like a gentle river, flow in and wash these spirits, souls, and bodies with refreshing. Encouragement come in and cast these troubles in a fresh light. No more troubles, now you are trading in troubles for situations where God can work. No more are these things “your troubles” or “problems or issues.” These things are opportunities for God to show off in your life. He says, “Let me carry it.”

Heaviness and oppression, fall away now. His yoke is easy. His burden is light.

There are times when you ask so many questions. You feel plagued by questions. The how, the why, the what to do next. Almost an unstoppable flood of questions, but there are no answers.

These questions are not a mark of responsibility, though they feel like it at times.

I proclaim an end to the plague of pointless questions.

When they start to swirl in your mind, and you become tense, and your heart starts to race, I pray you tell them to STOP in the name of Jesus! And take a deep breath. And see Jesus in front of you, carrying all of it.

I pray for simple strategies from Heaven for you to deal with every little thing. Situations coming into order, God’s perfect order and beauty filling every place in your heart and mind, and tangibly, visibly, in all situations in your life.

And for great, great peace.

Peace that passes understanding as you face whatever the world has thrown at you. Your feet planted on the rock. Your heart in His hands. He is good, all the time, and He has the solutions in safekeeping for the perfect time for His perfect purpose.

I hear Him say, “You have not failed. You are not a failure. Watch me as I take your efforts and multiply them all around you. You don’t see it all now, but one day you will know the fruit of all the seeds you have planted.”

Something bigger than you is happening, and you get to be a part of it. Your troubles are becoming a testimony. One day soon you will testify to God’s goodness in this situation. He will show Himself strong in you as you stand strong in Him.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

***

Cast your cares on Him because He cares for you. 1Peter 5:7

Birthright: Living in the Eureka Moment.

When you have a revelation, the moment is electric.

Like Thomas Edison’s Eureka! 

Like a bolt of lightning in your brain.

And everything changes.

And then. Everyday life meets revelation, and you have to figure out how to live it.

The last few weeks of understanding body as birthright have been that Eureka moment for me. And now, I’m walking it out.

There are so many ways to dishonor birthright. And there is one way to hold on to it.

Reverence.

It’s not a word we think of a lot outside of churches or libraries or funeral homes, but it’s one that has the potential to take us deeper, even in the little things.

I’m seeing more and more the casual way we view ourselves and each other, the way we evaluate fashion choices and fitness as though these things are just another item on a shelf.

But fashion is a whole language. And fitness is so complex.

The clothes someone wears tell a story of the way they see themselves. And fitness depends on many things, not just a person’s level of laziness or determination. And yet, we can be so quick to render judgment on each other without reading deeply.

But viewing ourselves and each other with an attitude of reverence takes us back to a gentler and more careful place. “Her body is her birthright. His body is his birthright. My body is my birthright.” This attitude does not leave a lot of room for harsh judgements or comparisons or competitions. It is a reminder to pray and bless and send out the kind of gentleness we want to receive.

You’ll find below a short piece on birthright. Call it a poem if you want, or just a little bit of a reminder. I’m reading it several times a week to help me stay in this Eureka space, this place of honoring birthright in myself and others. For the guys, just change the last pronoun. I pray it blesses you and helps you hold on to your birthright, to honor it and revere it for yourself and for others. I recommend reading it out loud. With attitude. And maybe some theme music. Feel free to print it out if it speaks to you and tape it to a mirror or a cabinet door or drop it in your purse, etc.

Much love, many blessings, and much honor to your birthright. (Part One and Part Two of this series can be found by following the links. One. Two.)

***

Birthright

My spirit, redeemed and breathing fire–this is my birthright.
My spirit, flourishing like a star-shower, it is my birthright.
My spirit, celebrated and cherished by me. This is my birthright.

My soul, whole and unblemished. This is my birthright.
My soul, delighting in the wonder
of each step
of each precious day,
like a child.
Yes, laughing at my own jokes,
Yes, enjoying my own company,
Yes, unselfconscious, light and unburdened.
YES.
This is my birthright.
My soul, celebrated and cherished by me,
Yes, liking myself.
This is my birthright.

My body, healed and made new. This is my birthright.
My body, called beautiful, His favorite shape, enjoyed without apology or abuse.
YES. THIS IS MY BIRTHRIGHT.
My body, celebrated and cherished by me,
tenderly cared for and spoken to,
I said tenderly cared for and spoken to,
yes, loving myself looking in the mirror saying,
PRAISE THE LORD! DANG, I LIVE GOOD! DANG, I LOOK GOOD! DANG, I FEEL GOOD!
THIS is my birthright.

For He looked at me and smiled and said,

“Oh, this one, yes, this one. She is so, so, so good.”

The Secret Weapon Against Stage Fright for Any Platform

Performance pressure. It can shut us down in a hot minute.

I have always loved people, but I used to get very nervous at parties or gatherings where I didn’t know all the guests.

I asked God to help me with this. “Lord, help me not feel crazy. Help me not feel terrified. How do I talk to people and really communicate? Help me connect in a healthy way that is not show-offy or guarded. What’s the healthy, Godly place in the middle?”

And He said, “Go in to serve.”

And I saw myself at a wedding I would soon be attending, straightening napkins and dishes at a serving table. I said, “But Lord, they have hired people to do that. Won’t that be weird?”

He said, “There is never enough help at an event like that. Go in to serve, and you will be appreciated by everyone who sees you, from the mother of the bride to the caterer they hired.”

It was an “aha” moment for me.

Serving to please God takes the pressure off of performing. It is your secret weapon against stage fright or performance pressure of any kind.

I did go to that wedding, and I did serve a little bit, but not much because I got too busy having fun. We talked and danced and laughed all night.

But going in with the *attitude of a servant* relieved me of wondering what was going to be expected of me.

Serving to please God takes the pressure off of performing.

 

There is never enough help. There is never too much love or consideration being shown. Serving means we don’t have to engage in arguments. We don’t have to win. We don’t have to be top dog. We don’t have to strive to be noticed, or perfect, or worry if we hit the mark, or say the wrong thing.

If He says ‘say it,” then say it. If He says “do it”,  then do it. Showing up to serve means we don’t have to fear criticism, or judgement, or competition.

No matter what your platform is, from the big screen or the stage, to taking care of toddlers or just living in your community, showing up to serve relieves expectation and pressure.

Servants don’t worry about what others think, they just do what they were called to the platform to do.

Showing up to serve means we don’t have to fear criticism, or judgement, or competition.

 

I knew what God expected of me at that wedding, and that was enough. It freed me. I wasn’t going to have to be brilliant in conversation or an expert on wedding etiquette, I just had to watch for trash on the ground or someone needing help with their plate or napkins that needed straightening.

I could do that.

Since then, any time I feel nervous or inadequate, or even bored or uninspired, I say to myself, “Go in to serve.” Could be parties or events, but also when I’m asked to speak to a group or when I’m writing.

When I approach writing with the pressure of creating a masterpiece, I want to quit before I ever get started.

Other times–I feel completely out of ideas, like I have nothing to say at all.

But when I ask God to show me how to write as a servant, how to let the words reach out in love and minister to the hearts of those who need His touch, the message becomes simplified and so much more clear.

All the questions of performance boil down to one in the heart of a servant: Am I loving well for His sake?

Am I loving well for His sake?

 

It’s a brilliant tactic that Jesus teaches us as our Servant King.

Service done well, with excellence and awareness and humility and care, is so rare in this world, that when someone serves, truly lowers themselves to serve another person and do it with grace, it gets noticed. It gets favor. It gets promoted.

Servants.

Going in to serve.

So much simpler this way.

***

I pray God guides your head, heart, and hands as you serve. I pray He reminds you of the beautiful freedom of being a servant.

Serve one another humbly in love. Gal5:13b 

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. Cor3:13

 

Prepared for that Moment: Interview with Sue Cato

At eighty-three, cancer-survivor Sue Cato is the one of the oldest active real estate brokers in the United States.

She has been in business for forty years, and she is one of the most fabulous women I know. She is a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother to many. She can bake a pie with one hand while closing a million dollar deal on the phone in the other. Her nails are always perfect, and her fashion sense, forever on point.

I adore her. I look up to her in myriad ways. It is my honor to introduce her to you.

Enjoy our conversation that follows in this short interview, filled with a lifetime’s worth of experience and advice on faith, ethics, business, finances, and the power of prayer.

LADY:  Forty years is a long time to do the same thing! How did you know you wanted to work in real estate? How does a person decide on a lifelong career?

SUE:  I stayed home with the kids for twenty-five years. But, one thing led to another–I planned events for friends, church, the kids’ school, the United Way, and the local college. Running a household as a purchasing agent, managing money.

Nothing I did was wasted. The good Lord was preparing me for my future.

The bank president needed commercial properties sold. A friend at church thought I would be good at it and suggested I go to work for the bank.

Everything I had done until then prepared me for that moment.

The good Lord was preparing me for my future.

 

LADY:  What do you recommend as a key to success in life?

SUE:  Pray.

Praying to do right is hard. I did everything above board. Even when you see something that if you ignored it you could make twenty thousand more dollars, you can never let money be your guiding light.

One thing, early on–I realized that the big boys in the corporations would try to eat me alive. I went into business for myself so they wouldn’t know what I was doing.

Work ethic.

Work hard.

I’ve never earned a penny I didn’t work for. Nobody’s ever given me a thing in my job.

Work ethic is part of who I am. I’ve always had a desire to be a winner. And where I could work hard, I did.

Never let money be your guiding light.

 

LADY:  What keeps you going?

SUE:  When I got sick (with cancer) I didn’t know what was going to happen.

I prayed a lot. I continued to study the hospitality industry. Stay current.

If you have food to eat, if you have a roof over your head, even if it’s someone who’s feeding you a meal or will take you in, then you aren’t poor–you’re inconvenienced.

 

LADY: How do you handle challenges in the workplace?

SUE:  I had a client that had a horrible tragedy, and the sale fell through.

You send flowers.

You suck it up and go on.

Because what can you do?  What can you say?  You don’t waste a penny. You may have to borrow money to eat, but you pray, and you tell yourself this too shall pass.

And you keep going.

I’ve made mistakes in my career. I assumed I would make a sale, and I’d be committed to something else before having the money.

Know your abilities before you commit yourself to responsibility.

If you have financial trouble, pray to God to show you priorities.

If you have food to eat, if you have a roof over your head, even if it’s someone who’s feeding you a meal or will take you in, then you aren’t poor–you’re inconvenienced.

Keep going.

 

LADY:  What does courage look like for you? 

SUE:  Courage is faith in action, believing that Jesus is the son of God and that He came for my redemption. Knowing that I have Jesus gives me a reason to get up in the morning, a reason to care about others, a reason to tolerate.

Knowing that the sparrows and the lilies of the field, He cares for them so well–and He still loves them less than He loves me? He will care for me. And if the whole world falls down, I can still be joyful because Jesus loves me.

When I face challenges, the times when I let Him live through me, those are the times that I am forced to get out of the center of the universe and just let God be God.

Courage is faith in action.

Just let God be God.

***

Thanks again, Queen Sue!

Nothing was wasted. The Good Lord was preparing me for my future…Everything I had done until then prepared me for that moment.  ~Sue Cato

Pray. Work hard. Keep going. Let God be God. ~Sue Cato 

Four Energy Seasons: Which One Are YOU In?

We all know that the earth has seasons of weather and growth.

But have you ever noticed that your life has seasons too? Not just in the way that time passes, but in the way your energy comes and goes.

Spring, summer, fall, winter. Energy ups and downs.

I read something from Kris Vallotton recently that alludes to this idea, and it got me thinking about my own season, and how hard it can be to give myself permission to be truly present in each one, especially when it requires rest.

In our culture, Westerners, particularly Americans, seem almost addicted to the creativity and busyness of springtime.

Something new! Something fresh! Something different!

Taglines for ads are always “the latest new thing!” Fast food and processed food companies seem to be in a weekly race to the “best” new eating concept. “Best” being a relative term…

Root beer breakfast tarts. Unicorn rainbow coffee. Cheese puffs stuffed with macaroni.

It is possible to innovate too far.

With the exception of unicorn anything, maybe they should just stick to the original flavors. Plain old mac and cheese is a classic. Biscuits and gravy are fine just the way they are. Don’t need root beer on my biscuits.

biscuit-472410_640

Springtime is lovely. Innovation is fun. New things are exciting. Plowing  stale earth and dropping in fresh seeds is good. It’s a beautiful time of year. But it doesn’t make sense to have springtime all the time.

To Everything There is a Season

Plowing through.

How many times have I heard myself say those words? “Got to plow through today! So much to do, so little time! Working hard, keeping busy, plowing through!”

plow-1534517_640

Sometimes that attitude is condemned by people who interpret “plowing through” as striving. In springtime, however, plowing is right on schedule.

But you can’t plow all the time.

If you plow and plant, and then keep plowing and planting over the same field in summer, the seed won’t  have time to grow, and you will ruin what you planted earlier. If you plow a harvest too soon in the fall, you may get some of the crop, but not nearly the abundance you could have had if you waited for the season to come to its fullness. If you try to plow in winter when the ground is hard and ready for rest, you could break your plow and wear yourself out as you fight the elements. Frozen ground won’t welcome a seed.

Knowing your season is key.

In springtime, we plow, and plant, and plan for what is coming after all this sowing.

But it’s a temporary time, until next year at least.

After spring comes summer, a time of tending diligently to what has been planted. Time to weed, and water, and fertilize, and watch over the hard work of the planting. Summer is hard work in the heat, and it is less about dreaming and startups, and more about maintaining and guarding the hard work of spring.

Summer is about follow-through.

straw-hat-2120656_640

And fall is the harvest! Everyone wants to hear the words, “Your harvest is coming!” But your harvest comes after seasons of spring and summer.  Harvest-time still takes work, but it’s the work of celebrating dreams manifesting from the spring.

grapes-690230_640

And then comes winter.

Winter is about rest. After the hard year of plowing, planting, tending, and harvesting, the rhythm of the year makes room for rest. There is still work that has to be done in winter, and seeds still doing mysterious things under ground, but it is more about keeping the home fires burning and enjoying the nourishment that came from your garden. Eating well, resting, and getting things ready for the next planting season.

And as my friend Alice Briggs says, “In winter is when the roots grow deep, wide, and strong to support all that new growth come spring!”

winter-20234_1280

As often as I hear myself say, “I’m plowing through!” I also hear myself say, “I’m hiding. I’m hibernating.”

Understand Your Season

In the Kris Vallotton blog post I mentioned above, he says, “It’s so important that we understand what season we’re in, or we will judge ourselves against the work that others are producing in very different seasons than ourselves.”

You can’t compare your winter to someone else’s spring. Their resting time will come, and so will your harvest and your new thing. If you get out of order because of someone else’s season, you could miss the benefit of God’s timing for your life.

relaxing-1979674_640

I have a tendency to think my personal seasons should match the natural ones. Sometimes they do, but that is not always the case.

I also put pressure on myself to be in perfect balance all the time, plow in the morning, tend in the afternoon, hibernate at night.

But no other natural system works like that. I want to stay in balance and guard my Sabbath days during the week as much as possible. But there is a rhythm to life, to our years as well as our weeks. I’m learning to accept that, and to pay attention to my words as my spirit tells  me what I need.

I have to listen to myself, my body, the words coming out of my mouth, feelings of fullness or depletion, to help me recognize my personal energy season.

netherlands-97830_640

Honoring our seasons with career, dreams, family, health, and all aspects of life can be make the difference in how successful we are over time.

Spring is glorious, beautiful fun. Winter sometimes can feel like a drag, especially if you are addicted to productivity.  But even the best marathon runners and athletes schedule recovery months after big events. They know that scheduling recovery cycles will allow their bodies to achieve peak performance.

Rest makes room for a different kind of productivity. Most growth in children occurs while they sleep, and nearly all centenarians will credit sleep as at least part of their secret to a long life. The most healing in our bodies occurs while we sleep, and pregnant women need more sleep than others overall.

Miracles may begin in energy, but to grow, they also require peace and quiet and rest.

baby-215299_640

Part of being in any season is enjoying it while it lasts and fitting your activity to the season, while also planning for the next one. A favorite winter pastime of gardeners is browsing through seed catalogs, thinking about how they’ll use their energy when the spring season comes back around again.

And knowing that all the seasons will come back around, that each one is temporary, can help us enjoy and make the best use of every one as they pass.

Spring is about plowing, preparing the ground, and planting. Summer is about follow-through, even on the scorching hot days. Fall is about harvest. And winter is about rest.

No season will last forever. Learning to appreciate each one will help us maximize the time we’ve been given.

***

What season are you in right now? How can you honor your season and prepare for the next one? Knowing that this time is temporary, whether of working hard or of resting well, how can you make the most of the time God is giving you right now?

Father, we thank You for seasons. Thank You that You are the God of the Seed. And the Tending. And of the Harvest. And the God of Rest.

Give us discernment to see the season we are in and to walk in its rhythm.

I pray no condemnation for the time spent in plowing or in rest as we fit our plans to the time. I pray for the best possible use of time in our current season. Our culture is good at working hard. I pray we learn how to work smart. And I pray we learn how to truly rest, both in weekly Sabbaths and in our winter seasons.

Resting in You, Father. Trusting all things to come together in Your perfect time.

In Jesus.

Amen

Just Do Today

The last few weeks have been complicated.

On Easter Sunday, I had a freak accident on my bike that seriously damaged the tendons in my knee. The pain has been intense, but more than just the body, injury messes with your mind. Serious pain is a head game.

And even though I’m improving, last week hit me hard.

I sat in my bed and cried.

I know that “why” is not always the most productive question, but I couldn’t help but wonder, “Why did this happen?”

“God. Why did this happen?”

 

I’ve had accidents and injuries before, but in almost all those other incidents, I could see something I did that caused them. Not that I “deserved” what happened, but I could see a line of logic, things I could have done in advance to prevent the mistake.

This time, I couldn’t see what I could have done differently with the information I had that day. I might go back now and make a different choice here or there. Hindsight may be 20/20, but foresight is not.

So I prayed and said, “I know that why is not the best question, Lord, but I can’t help but wonder.”

I waited and listened, wondering if He would throw me a bone, some little word that would help me make sense of all the time and energy I spend lugging this leg around every day, a leg that worked perfectly fine just a few weeks ago.

I heard nothing. So, like all men and women of faith and wisdom, I prayed the same prayer, but louder. In case God needed me to speak up.

“I said, I know that WHY isn’t the best question…”

And I waited.

And I heard this.

“Just do today.”

That was all.

Just do today.

I sighed and sat a minute.

And then I said to myself, “Just do today.”

“Just do today.”

 

It did nothing to help me make sense of the accident, but in reality, it did do something to help me make sense of the present and how to go forward in the future.

I had let myself be overwhelmed by questions. Why did this happen? Where is my miracle? What could I have done differently? Was I out of order or out of God’s will in some way? What should I do now? Do I need a second opinion? Why won’t the physical therapist call me back? What’s going to happen next?

And on and on.

I was asking so many questions, I was not making any room in my mind for peace.

And sometimes, it doesn’t matter how many questions we ask, even  if they are the right ones.

We hear in part, we see in part, through a glass darkly.

He didn’t tell me why.

Sometimes it doesn’t matter how many questions we ask, even if they are the right ones. 

 

He didn’t tell me the answers about physical therapy or what is going to happen next.

He told me what.

He told me what to do, right now.

Just do today.

Just do what you can in this moment. Just do what will make the most difference, right this second.

And it helped me.

It gave me a clean slate. It erased all the questions and replaced them with a simple mission.

It made me realize, there was one thing  I could do. I have a great doctor at home I could email. Then he would have a heads up for when I get there, and he could tell me what I can do in the meantime.

Right then, I emailed him.

I immediately felt better, lighter.

Action gets us out of our heads. One sure way to make progress is movement. If you only ask questions but never move, you never know what is possible.

If you take a few steps, you might even realize you walked the wrong direction, but then you know which way to go next.

If you only ask questions but never move, you never know what is possible.

 

It’s simple inertia. Questions that serve no purpose weigh down our minds and leave no room for peace. Overthinking and underacting make a recipe for depression. Movement creates energy.

I pray for clarity for you, for movement, and a freedom from the pointless “whys.” For forward inertia toward the new thing God has for you in this season.

Just do today.

***

What questions are you asking that are pointless and weighing you down? What  “why” question do you need to let go so you can just do today? 

What does “just do today” look like for you right now? What can you do about your circumstance, right now, to move in any direction toward a solution? 

Isaiah 43:18-19 Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up, do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

Don’t Go Crazy, Go Wild! Three Tips for Writers Stuck in a First Draft

Normally this blog is not writing specific, but I am a writer. 🙂 And I believe that everyone has a story to share, a life’s message! I may include tips for writers in this blog from time to time, as well as other areas where I find things that work for me, travel, parenting, home school, etc. “Fearless” is a lifestyle.

Are you writing a story you love, but suddenly hit a wall?

Are you asking yourself if this thing is any good, if it’s worth your time, if you should just trash it and start over?

Before you do anything crazy (i.e.: delete a year’s worth of writing!) , here are a few tips if you get stuck. For non-fiction, these tips can be modified to fit your piece. (Additional suggestions for non-fiction writers can be found at the bottom of this post.)

Three Tips for Writers Stuck in a First Draft

1) Know your message.

What is your message in this piece?

It doesn’t have to be deep, although it can be. It could be “the infinite personal grace of God,” in a book like The Shack, or it could be “sometimes a girl just needs to go to the beach.”

Both have merit, and both have their place. What is the message you want to send? What are you willing to spend time with for however long it takes to write your book?

Knowing the message will help you create a piece with a cohesive theme.

2) Know your endgame.

What happens?

If you are running into trouble, this is a good time to revisit your outline. If you don’t have one, that’s ok! It might be a good time to make one. And it doesn’t have to look like a traditional outline!

Roman numerals are optional, but it does help to sketch out a few things.

Creatively writing characters and events will take you so far, but at some point you need to know the endgame. Yes, darnit, we have to know the ending first.

If you are having trouble in the middle, try plotting through from where you are in just a few sentences. Try different scenarios, and see what you like best.

If outlining trips you up, try writing the last page to your book. If you were the reader, how would you want this book to end?

3) Go wild, and just write the darn thing already!

Remember to have fun with this–and no deleting until you write a complete first version!

You need a finished first draft. Don’t worry about getting it all perfect the first time through. Think of your draft, not like words carved in stone, but like clay that you will work into a clearer sculpture over time.

If your characters are confused about what to do next, what do you wish you could be doing right this second? Take the day off? Take a nap? Quit your job?Ask for a promotion? Lunch with friends?

Whatever you are longing to do right now, write it. The events will have life because they are alive in you. If it doesn’t fit later, it can be edited to something that does, and you may end up with an essay you can use somewhere else.

If that isn’t enough–send those characters to do something wild! Shave their heads! Join the circus! Steal a car!

With this tactic, always err on the side of the extreme. It will free you up creatively, and it will stand out as either brilliant or absurd when you come back through in edits. If absurd, you could change “join the circus” to “buy a food truck.” All the characters can follow accordingly.

Have FUN! Remember Stephen King’s quote, “Write with the door closed, edit with the door open.”

Anything can happen for now–it’s a first draft!

Go wild!

***

For nonfiction writers, take these same tips and apply them as fits your piece.

Know your message. Know your endgame:  Rather than a fictional ending, what one line of wisdom do you want your reader to remember when they have read your book?

Have fun, and just write! Instead of sending fictional characters on a make-believe journey, what stories can you share to exemplify your message? They don’t have to be “wild,” but they need to make a strong impact to underline your points.

You can move on and polish later. For now, just get words on the page! All the best as you finish that first draft!

Happy Mother’s Day: The Year of the Women.

I did not want kids.

I did not want a husband.

I wanted a doctorate. I wanted to wear silk suits. I wanted to teach English and write books and hide away in a mysterious house with a cat and read during rainstorms.

By myself.

And then, somehow, I married the sweetest man, and we had the sweetest little girl. And she clung to me like wind to a vine, and I could not leave her.

baby-1106703_640-2

My husband and I lived in old houses that we could afford on a young man’s salary. Houses that we made into homes, houses where we saw architecture, and real wood, and potential. Houses where I sewed curtains, and peeled stickers off the walls, and painted cheap paneling a bright and glossy white. Houses where my husband fixed all the broken things, drains and drawers and door locks.

We planted gardens in those places, patches of tall sunflowers that camouflaged the piles of trash in the train yard behind us, onions and tomatoes and peppers that made us feel rich when the harvest came in.

sunflower-1127174_640

Houses that we were sometimes mocked for choosing. “You guys are better than this,” we heard.

Those houses are beautiful places in my memory, places where we brought tiny babies home wrapped in soft blankets, where we entertained lifelong friends, where we learned the real stuff of marriage, self-sacrifice and forgiveness. And incidentally, places where we lived below our means instead of beyond. Where we saved money that launched us into home ownership later on, when those same mockers were still renting the same houses on the same dusty streets.

Coffeehouse drinks were a treat. I did not buy kids’ meals when we met at fast food places for playdates. Eating out was a quarterly event. I got my hair cut short and then let it grow for months to skip haircuts. I did not buy designer clothes unless I found them at Goodwill. I pinched my pennies so hard they squealed. And it was challenging. And so rewarding. And I did not feel sorry for myself. I felt like Laura Ingalls Wilder and her Ma, homesteading on the plains, building something for the future.

old-barn-1978385_640-2

I did not feel sorry for myself, partly because I was determined not to, but also because of the community of women where I lived.

I raised my young family in a small town in Kansas. I saw women there, educated and socially aware, choosing to stay home with their families.

I say “choosing,” because it was a conscious sacrifice for most of us. I could have gone back to school while my baby was small, but she did not do well away from me. My youngest is not the same; she would have been ok. But my older kids, they needed me in a different way, and I felt it. I surrendered status, cash, respect, and those silk suits for them.

And so did many women I know, for their children.

We cut coupons. We did our own nails. We groomed our own dogs. We cut our kids’ hair, sometimes with greater success than others, but there’s always a hat. We went to yard sales, and we held our own sales every season to earn a little extra cash.

garage-sale-sign-2261502_640

My kids needed me more than they needed another activity or another plastic toy. And though it hurt my pride, they needed me more than I needed to be known as Dr. Professor. They needed me more than I needed a new car or clothes.

This is not a manifesto of the stay-at-home mom, by the way. It just happens to be my story. I know women who work outside the home and do it well, whose lives are balanced, and their children are great, happy, well-mannered, and well-adjusted.

It is, however, an acknowledgement that both are needed. No woman should be dismissed. All women in all callings are needed.

I’m glad I have women doctors and not just men to choose from for a breast exam. I like going to boutiques and having my hair cut and eating in restaurants where women run it all; I like their style. I’m glad there are women working in the stores where I buy my food and my dishes and furniture; I appreciate their opinions and their conversation.

women-1263870_640

The marketplace was just not the life that God had for me.

And I saw how much women are needed in all arenas as I stayed home and watched the world go by.

My house was always the “kid house” because I wanted it to be, and also because I was often the only adult home in the neighborhood. We had after-school snacks for whoever showed up. I thanked God for coupons and for my friend who taught me to clip them like a boss, and I stocked up on crackers and cereal, 20 cents a box.

food-2202343_640

One time we lived next door to a little boy, about six or seven, whose situation was not the best. The police were there every other night, and his big brother trained fighting dogs in their yard.

He came over almost every day. I saw that his coat was so dirty from wiping his nose on it that the sleeve had become like a small glacier, hard and flat and stiff. He let me wash it for him while he played with my daughter. When he took it off, I saw little round sores on his wrists. I asked if they were cigarette burns. He said yes. I was scared that his family would know I was the one who called, but I contacted SRS. They sent someone to his house. He got a case worker. Things got better after that, he told me later. The man who had burned him didn’t come around as much.

boy-986991_640

Our porch was always full of kids. Sometimes they stole from me or did sexy dances in our yard or walked up and down the street in bikinis. I scolded them like they were my own kids. My house, my food, my kids, my rules. You gonna get it if you eat snacks at Momma’s house.

No matter how I got on to them, they never stopped coming back.

He who disciplines a child loves that child.

And a child somehow knows it.

We had mani-pedi parties for anyone who wanted their nails done for the first day of school. I had video game parties for any teenager home alone in the summer. I helped with homework. I took them for ice cream. I bought kids’ Bibles and told them about Jesus And, in certain circles, I am still famous for my milkshakes. When word hits the street that Mom’s blender is running, my kitchen is full of kids waiting to put in their order.

chocolate-smoothie-1058191_640

These kids have broken my furniture, raided my freezer, and dropped glasses full of ice cream in my kitchen. They have mocked me on the way out the door after sitting in my house for hours, and I call out after them, “HELLO, I CAN HEAR YOU.” And those same kids come back the next day to get a break from their silent houses.

This winter, we had the chance to take a little boy sledding with us. His parents both work and don’t live together. I don’t know their story, and I know they are doing a good job with their son. But after a day of sledding, snowball fights, forts, and hot chocolate, he said, “This was the best day of my life.” I don’t know why, but it still makes me cry.

IMG_2426

I don’t ask all women to do what I’m doing. I just want all women to be appreciated. Every woman in the neighborhood doesn’t have to stay home. Just a couple is enough to keep an eye on things.

Women, we need you, everywhere you are. Moms, you make a difference, everywhere you are.

Thanks for doing what you do. Thank you for all the invisible work that gets done because you sacrifice yourself.

Thank you to the doctors and lawyers who study and work late into the night, because you care about humanity, and then get up early with your own kids. Thank you to the women who clean other women’s houses and check me out at the grocery store with smiles on your faces, even though I know your backs are tired and your feet hurt. And thank you to the brilliant women who decide to stay in houses and guard the home front.

women-1209678_640

None of your work is wasted. There is need of your touch in every area.

A year or so ago, I heard this phrase in prayer, “The Year of the Women.”

At first I thought it was limited to 2016 in some way, but a few days ago, I was praying over it again. “Lord. I thought when you said, ‘The Year of the Women,’ it was that one year, but You keep bringing it up.”

And I heard this in reply, “When I say something, I do not undo it. I build on it.”

I was reminded of the many references to time in the Bible, the seeming relativity of days and years in certain scriptures.

time-1817725_640

In 2016, I sensed a season of women being heightened, not some emergence that would be highlighted and then fall away. Looking back, it makes sense. Women would not surge forth and then do nothing with their growth and new sense of purpose and confidence. Women continue to be set free.

At the time, I wrote several posts about it, and the first couple were simple and empowering. Things like “God is raising you up! He is strengthening you, women! You have a voice–use it!”

I kept getting more and more insight.

And then I saw the most beautiful part. This movement of women looks different within the church than the movement of women in the world. I kept hearing this phrase, “Going up together.” I kept hearing, “You women will go up, but you will go up together. And because of this your families will be covered. No one falls through the cracks in my kingdom.”

I saw many women standing in circles, linking arms like fishnets. And I saw all the many responsibilities that women have and are so often dismissed.

But these responsibilities make up the fabric of our society.

Things like caring for children, for homes, for older relatives, looking out for neighbors, creating safe places in communities and neighborhoods, just by being present. Often volunteer organizations are run by women, as well as Bible study groups, after school clubs, playgroups for toddlers, and support groups for a million other things.

team-386673_1280

As these women stood in these circles, with arms locked, they were catching each other’s responsibilities. I saw children and elderly people in wheelchairs, floating down, and the women caught them, together. I saw these women making meals for each other, I saw them cleaning house for each other. And in this way, they were able to go up, together, with no child staying home alone, no family going without meals, no woman having to miss an appointment or meeting because she had to sit with granddad.

The women covered each other.

They carried each other.

We don’t always bend easily to the solutions God shows us. They nick at the flesh. Community has a way of doing that. You have to deal with actual flawed messy people to have it.

mountains-1003729_640

But God just loves it. He loves throwing us all together and seeing how we overcome and grow and irritate and infuriate and learn to appreciate each other.

That is my prayer this Mother’s Day. That you know how valuable you are. Your very own calling. And you can look at your sister and know how valuable she is without feeling diminished in any way. That you can celebrate each other’s gifts, because her gifts help you accomplish your dream, and your gifts help her accomplish her dream.

Because.

You sisters, you need each other.

And you go up, together.

***

Happy Mother’s Day.

Thank you for all you do.

Love in Action: The Great Baldini

Last week, I met a magician.

He and his wife sat across the room from us at breakfast in the hotel where my family and I are staying.

He approached our table and held out his hand to my daughter and showed her a penny.

“Do you know how much this is worth?”

My daughter smiled and ducked her head. She watched him, chin down, eyes big under her bangs.

He said, “In 1920, you could buy a piece of gum or a spool of thread with this penny.  Do you know what it’s worth today?” He waved his hand, and it disappeared. “Nothing,” he said. We laughed.

“They still make pennies today, but they are worth much less!” He waved his hand again, and a doll-sized penny appeared. My daughter gasped, and he gave her the tiny coin.

“I got a million of these tricks,” he said. “I’m the Great Baldini!” He rubbed his bald head, and his wife rolled her eyes.

“It’s great,” I said ” Please! Go ahead! I’ve been stuck in bed for a week! This is awesome. Give us all you’ve got.”

He put a ball in my hand and then made another one appear. Then somehow ended up with three, then two. It was the ultimate shell game. “Now how many do you think I have?”

“Um, three?” We had no idea.

He opened his hand. No ball, just a little plastic nun.

“NONE!” he said.

Ba dum bum. So funny.

And such a refreshing gift after a difficult week.

Some people know how to be generous with themselves.

I have been taken lately with the idea of “love in action.” That, as Heidi Baker says, love looks like something.

It’s not a simple feeling. And, for Christians, it’s not really an option. It’s a lifestyle.

Mr. and Mrs. The Great Baldini went on their way, and I sat thinking about what it takes to put on an impromptu magic show for strangers at a hotel breakfast.

Love in Action:  Practice, Planning, Perception, Pluck.

 

It takes practice. Perfecting an approach at home, trying out tricks on friends and family before taking them on the road.

It takes planning. The Great Baldini carries his pennies and props with him. He’s ready when opportunity appears.

It takes perception. He saw me sitting with my crutches. I obviously was injured and not going anywhere fast.

And it takes just a little bit of pluck, or boldness. We could have rejected him, but we would have missed out if he hadn’t risked reaching out to us.

I’m so glad he took the chance. I was in pain and fighting all the emotions that come with injury. It was a delight to be seen and served and entertained with such kindness.

It breathed life into my day. My daughters were sitting with me, fetching and carrying, worried about mom. His show took their minds off all of it for a minute. We enjoyed the laugh and the light-hearted interaction.

Thank you, The Great Baldini. We needed that. You are a blessing. May your life continue on with a flourish, and may you always have a rabbit in your hat.

***

Love in action. Practice, planning, perception, pluck. 

Little children, let us not love in word only, but in actions and in truth. 1John3:18

The Day I Wrecked My Bike, or, Paul Revere’s Ride.

I love the US.

I love American history. I love our flag. The Fourth of July, Mom, and apple pie. Love it all.

On Easter Sunday, we celebrated the weekend with a bike ride from Lexington, Massachusetts, where the first shots of the American Revolutionary war were fired, to Boston, Massachusetts, and then back again to Lexington.

Yes.

On Easter.

We are rebels.

Appropriate, I think.

IMG_2078
The Battle Green in front of the Old Meeting House in Lexington, where the first shots of the Revolutionary war were fired on April 19, 1775.

 

When we parked our cars in Lexington, I picked up a few leaflets announcing Patriot’s Day activities. I was thrilled to find that a reenactment of Paul Revere’s ride into Lexington would be held in town that very night.

I get more excited about a Paul Revere reenactment than any band live in concert that I can think of.

I am a patriot and a rebel.

And a nerd.

I announced to my family that we would be staying in Lexington after our bike ride until 11:30 pm to witness this exciting event. Much moaning and groaning commenced, but I was not deterred.

“Hush,” I said. “We are staying, Paul Revere is going to be here, and you are going to love it.”

More groans.

The bike path in Lexington is an award winning Rail- to-Trails path. If you are a biker and ever visit there, it’s a great ride. Only about 12 miles to Boston through beautiful communities.

street-2080787_640

Along the way, it occurred to me that our return would mirror Paul Revere’s famous ride from Boston to Lexington.

I prayed for our country as I rode. That the original godly plan for our nation would be realized. The Land of the Free. Home of the Brave. Justice. Liberty. The pursuit of happiness.

It was our first real ride of the year. A high sun and a cool breeze. People everywhere with spring fever smiles, and a city planning to celebrate its patriots.

We rode through Arlington and on to the Charles River across from the Harvard campus in Cambridge. We stopped to rest by the water. Boston was just a few stoplights around the corner.

When we jumped back on our bikes, I started praying again. Angels for our country. Freedom and peace.

My kids swerved left in front of me, and as the last one cleared my view, I saw the cause of their changing course. A man was running toward us with no sign of turning. And I was riding straight for him, a pedestrian game of chicken.

I made a decision in a split second. I pulled my bike on to the pavement from the soft shoulder to avoid hitting the runner. When I did, the front tire caught on the edge and then went full-on serpentine. The path was full of people, and I didn’t want to hit them either. I thought I could brake the bike, and it seemed to be working, so I put my foot down.

mountain-bike-841850_640

Never do that.

When I planted my foot, the bike was going too fast for me to stop. I saw the bike swing forward and then swerve left in front of me–with my right leg still on it. It twisted my whole body forward around my left leg, and I felt more deep pops in my knee than I could count. The bike threw me back, and I landed on my hip and then bounced over onto my shoulder. I was in so much pain, I think I left my body for one flashing second.

If the runner stopped to see if I was ok, it was in that second. As far as I know, he ran on.

But Good Samaritans are alive and well. The runner did not stop, but he was only one who passed me by. So many people took time to help me.

IMG_2926
The banks of the Charles River, across the street from Harvard in Cambridge, just a few minutes before the accident.

 

I prayed before I hit the ground that I would not have a serious injury.

But I confess that, as I went down,  actually two thoughts went through my mind: One, an arrow prayer, “Oh! God! No injury!” And, two, this gem, “Dangit!  I’m not going to get to see Paul Revere!”

Priorities, people.

A few minutes later, I tried to stand on that knee, and it buckled under me. The ambulance came soon after, and my rescuers lifted me onto the stretcher.

Delirious with pain and adrenaline, “I like your moons,”  I said, pointing to the lunar phase tattoos on the arms of the shaved bald beautiful girl that buckled me into the stretcher straps.

“Why would I want to spend the day with Paul Revere when I can spend the day with you guys? First responders, my heroes!” I said to the guy that rode with me as I patted his knee and prayed for his safety. He smiled at me, only slightly patronizing, looking as young as my daughter.

ambulance-1005433_640

Six hours and nine X-rays later, I left the ER with an extension knee cast and a pair of crutches.

My kids pushed my wheelchair out the front door as my husband pulled the van around to pick me up. All day, I had been watching the clock creep toward evening. Eight o’clock, nine o’clock, now almost ten. I was holding out hope that we would be in Lexington  for Paul Revere’s ride and that, since I was injured, my family would do whatever I wanted.

I was not wasting this incident, I can promise you that.

When we got in the van, I said, “I really wanted to see Paul Revere.” Sigh.

Silence.

I said again, “I just so really wanted to see Paul Revere.” Sigh. Sigh.

Silence.

I waited a minute.

Then, “Well, so sad. I guess I won’t get to see Paul Revere.”

 

IMG_2331
Paul Revere’s house. Boston, Massachusetts.

 

My husband’s turn to sigh. He said, “I think it’s crazy, but you are the one who got hurt. You can decide if you feel like waiting until ELEVEN THIRTY at night and then driving home.”

Yes.

I felt like it.

I felt like I had been run over, but I felt good enough to wait for Paul Revere.

We got to Lexington to pick up our cars. My husband stopped by the pharmacy, and I waited and watched the clock. I became aware of fatigue, along with a little nagging sense that this might not be my best idea ever. But I wanted to see Paul Revere. So, so bad.

 

automobile-1867503_640

 

I wanted to live in a moment of pure passion. To put myself in the place of flawed men of the past and catch the vision they had for our future.

Yes.

It is worth it to me to stay up late and hobble to a restored historical site. To stand on the same ground where blood was shed for my freedom, for our country’s freedom. To catch a little glimpse of what it really meant and what it really means now to be a Patriot, someone who believes in freedom enough to be willing to die for it.

I wanted to stand there for one moment among the minutemen and peer through the shadows at history. I wanted the strength and the courage and the fierce honor to fly through the air and hit me with the force of centuries.

 

IMG_2336
One if by land, two if by sea. The belfry tower of the Old North Church where the lanterns hung to tell Paul Revere of the British approach.

 

Paul Revere was also interrupted on his ride to Lexington, a part of his story that we rarely hear. He was captured by the British in between Concord and Lexington, and I’m sure, for a moment, that he wondered if he would be able to complete his mission. John Hancock and Samuel Adams were waiting for information in Lexington so that they could determine their next move.

The British soldiers weren’t sure what to do with Paul Revere. Apparently they decided he was harmless and took him back with them to Lexington. After a short detainment they let him go, presumably with orders to stop being so rebellious.

Unbeknownst to them, they delivered him to his exact destination.

 

IMG_2076
The house where Revere met Hancock and Adams in Lexington.

 

After his release, he rode straight to the Hancock house to warn John and Sam that the British were in town with warrants for their arrests. He helped them escape just a few hours before the troops marched into Lexington and the first shots of the war were fired.

My family thought we could drive in closer to the house, so I would only have to hobble a few feet. But the streets were blocked, and the guardians of the event were not impressed with my injury. We would have to “pahk in the pahking lot” and walk the quarter mile with everyone else.

We tried to access the house from every possible angle. My family looked earnest in their desire to humor me, and also earnestly exhausted. And the more we drove, the more fatigued I felt. My head hurt. My leg hurt.

“Ok,” I said, “You’re right. I know. We tried. We should go home.”

Back to the parking lot we went for our other car and left the city, my husband in his truck and me driving my van like a tin man, stiff legged and far away from the wheel.

As we drove away, I thought I might cry. I had missed my chance. I might not ever come this way on Patriot’s Day again. I had ridden from Boston to Lexington, raising up a prayer of freedom for our country, a prayer of all that was intended for this nation from the beginning.  And I wanted to end it with the breathless sight of Paul Revere leaping off of his horse, interrupted but unstoppable.

We pulled to the last stoplight on our way out of town, minutes before the great event. I was fighting back tears, and then, out of nowhere in the dark, there he was.

Striding down the street in his long blue coat and tricorn hat, manly ponytail bouncing and dramatic.

I’m sure he saw me. And I’m pretty sure we nodded to each other, a dignified patriotic salute.

***

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. Jn15:13

Through all our history, to the last,

in the hour of darkness and peril and need,

the people will waken and listen to hear

the hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,

and the midnight message of Paul Revere.  

~ Longfellow

Written on Patriot’s Day, 2017.