Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Thank You for Grace {...I am I pulled this from the archives...}

{Trying to rest and get better.  So.  A little long, but hopefully worth your time, this is a dip into the archives - it was one of the posts from my 31 Days Project}  

Your middle is as ordained a season in your life as your beginning was, and as ordained as the day of your end.  God births your beginnings, and He sets the time of your completions.  But He sings over your middle!

"The Lord thy God in your middle is mighty;  He will save, He will rejoice over you with joy;  He will rest in His love, He will joy over you with singing!"  (Zephaniah 3:17)

How can He do that?  How can He sing over our middle?  Has He looked at your middle lately?  Has He noticed mine?  (It's a hot, hot mess...)

Here's how:  He is confident in His great love for you.  He rests in it.

It reminds me of my teacup poodle Rambo.  Bear with me, I promise this will make sense, maybe.

I've heard some incredible Bible teachers and preachers in my short time on this planet. I've heard them use majestic metaphor and substantive simile. I love the depth that has been illustrated for me, time and again, by solid thinkers in The Faith - some are well-known, some, like my own husband, little-known.

Try as I may, my mind won't work majestically. I sigh and I try, and therein lies the problem.

When I tune into my life as it really is, in all its quotidian acedia (oh, do look the words up - they are delicious to say, but bitter to live) the revelation of grace can come honestly. Like the revelations to be found in puppies and cookies.

It is no secret that I adore my puppy. He is a teacup poodle named Rambo, and he is aptly named.

In fact, my puppy sometimes acts appallingly, and I still smile. I delight in this little dog no matter what.

A few years ago, I examined this anomaly. You see, I was known, back then,  to be ever-working to improve myself, and therefore took unbridled delight in almost nothing. But I took disturbing delight in my poodle...everyone found it disturbing, because his misbehavior had almost no affect on me whatsoever.

I decided this was because I had no fear for this animal's future. God bless all those who believe that puppies have eternal souls: I do not. Therefore, no amount of spoiling on my part will send Rambo's soul to the Lake of Fire. This dog is "eternally secure".

In a sense, his future is fully known to me: he will live in the lap of luxury and love, and one day die. That will be that (and yes, I will grieve terribly). Nothing in terms of Rambo's ultimate eternal destiny is up in the air. He can't misbehave his way into Canine Judgement. He can't bite hard enough to hurt a toddler.

I am utterly free to delight in my dog.

When I stop to consider these majestic metaphors, I realize: the Lord delights in me! He knows the plans He has for me. He has forever settled my ultimate destiny. (Yes, only because I have trusted Him for my righteousness!)

No amount of "misbehavior" on my part can shake Him from His great love for me, in Christ Jesus. Far from being antinomianism, (and unlike Rambo) this kind of good news actually makes me want to heel - to follow close by my Owner's side forever.

Poodles and antinomianism and eternal security aside (after all, a mind can only take so much splendor) I also sometimes wonder why baking cookies for grown-up kids isn't so much fun anymore.

Used to be, a batch of cookies was a day-maker. Making a couple of sheets of home made chocolate chip cookies had the potential to bring inner healing to four children who, on some days, were fraught with naughtiness and discord.

Ah, but now they are All Grown Up. They are adults, all of them, with jobs and net spendable income. Two of them are married, with babies of their own.  They can buy these treats for themselves, anytime they want. They can work for them.  Cookies from mom don't mean what they used to.  Now, they are just a nice gesture.

As it is with the free Gift of Grace. It is precisely when we think we have matured our way "past" it, that the gift begins to lose its luster. The fun is taken right out of living in it. The truth that used to make our day and heal our hurts, now is something we can earn for ourselves. And we "get blessed" for our efforts.

Well.  Whatever we can earn for ourselves must be pretty common and obtainable. Thus, when God offers grace to us, His grace is reduced (in our minds) to merely The Nice Gesture.

A Nice Gesture is entirely unable to change us. 

Hear me - hear me well! Don't rob God (and yourself) of the delight and fragrance that should characterize piping hot, fresh-from-the-heart-of-God, sweet grace. You will never be able to work for it, you cannot obtain it on your own, all ideas of any righteousness of your own are a dangerous illusion.

This is where the metaphor breaks down, as it isn't a dangerous illusion at all for my children to buy their own cookies. See why I sigh? My metaphors aren't majestic enough.

Oh well. It is what it is. Puppies and cookies and grace.

"LORD, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me..."     ~Psalm 131:1

Sunday, January 18, 2015

3 Keys To Creating a Crazy-Good Day {...they aren't what you might expect...}

Three Keys To Creating A Fun, Crazy-Good Day

I've been studying God-kissed days for many years. You know...those golden days, when you end up satisfied to the core. I'm convinced there are three very simple keys - each one unlocks a large room, full of more grace yet to be explored.

1. Do something for someone, and in no way tell anyone. No hints, no alluding, nothing. Ever. Never, ever. This builds a largeness of soul that nothing can imitate. You can't fake this sort of lifestyle. The more you drop hints about what you do with someone or for someone else, the more I know you are unaccustomed to doing such things.

I realize we live in the age of social media - and I totally understand that seeing women like Ann Voskamp go to a poor South American country and share Christ with the children there is so inspiring.  I'm glad she shares her stories, past and future,  and her pictures... I am not speaking to those of us who have been given a platform of whatever size, and are indeed called to live out loud and share a little bit about what we are up to.

But there needs to be a hundred deeds done in secret, for every one deed that is shared with the hope of inspiring someone else.  By all means, share.  I'm not against it.  To be a well-rounded woman, though, be sure that 95% of the best parts of your life are yours to savor and yours alone - and that most of it never finds the light of day in social media.  I post to social media every single day - I am a small business owner - and a small creative business owner, at that!  I would be terribly unwise not to share what I am about in that way.  Every.  Single.  Day.  (side note:  you young women who want to start your own creative business...where are you?  Heads up!  You have to talk about your business in a way that is authentic and inspiring!)

So yeah.  For a creative business owner, it isn't ego, it is business.

But I give you my word...what you see in my social media outlets?  That little snap-shot of my day or my work?  It took two minutes...I do it as I go along.  There are hundreds of thousands of my minutes and moments no one knows a thing about.

I like it that way.

2. Do something you do not like doing. Seems counter-intuitive, but I promise, this is huge in creating a fun, crazy-good day. Science even proves it!  See, you get this awesome shot of dopamine to the brain - a feel-good chemical - dopamine is released every single time you tackle something you don't want to do, and you do it anyway.  This one action will give you such confidence, and relieve a great deal of petty stress.

Now for number three.  The last key.  You are expecting something at least a little profound...after all, this is the last of only three keys. You want me to tell you "create something every day"...or "pray"...or anything but what I am about to say:

3.  Dress the part.

Every day. least most days.

Come on, look cute! What you wear is about the only thing in life you have any control over, so work it, girlfriend!

That's it. Dress well and appropriately, and with personality. There is an art to dressing after age forty. The simpler the look, the fresher and better and more well-put-together you appear - and the more wonderful you look the more wonderful you feel. I do get asked for here are a few:

No mom jeans, wear more skirts, mix "high" and "low", tailored and bohemian.  For the most part, dress your age, but add one "young" an awesome boot.   Lose the black as much as possible, unless you are French.  Add one unexpected element - a fabric flower pin, or unusual belt buckle, or a cute shoe.  And always, always remember that matching is for amateurs.

And for the best tips ever on dressing yourself on a Goodwill budget, join the FREE class "Becoming | The Unfolding of You", and see Shannan Martin's videos in week 2.  

Three keys. Go have the best day, ever!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Tending The Fires {...random thoughts, on the eve of our trip to SC to see our son graduate from Marine boot camp...}

I can remember when my love for Tim had that breathless, almost heartsick quality. 

(And this is not a lead-in to a guilt trip about spiritual "first love for God", I promise!  Seriously, almost everyone thinks that's where I am going, when I touch on this subject, just because I'm a preacher's wife.) 

I'm thinking purely of old fashioned romance...boy meets know.

Certain moments with him would overwhelm my heart, because it was all so very, very good! Tears would inevitably spring to my eyes, unbidden; sometimes I'd hide them, other times I would let them slightly spill. Sweetness. Being with him was sweet.

No one pretends that marriage should, or even could, maintain that heightened mountaintop experience, day in and day out, for twenty...thirty...fifty years. I recently read, and hoo boy, is it true, that romance is the ideal, marriage the real.

Our marriage has been really, really real. You won't weather twins, then two more, church planting, bivocational ministry, then full time ministry, financial lack, home schooling,  a home renovation, betrayal, grandchildren, prodigal sons, and lots of 12 hour workdays (for both of us) and not end up with a marriage as real as nicely worn oak floors. 

I love my old wood floors. They are nicked and scuffed, and as hospitable and low maintenance as their owners....go on, drop your keys, wear your shoes, put a dent in this wood..see if we so much as blink an eye.

That's also a great description of a healthy marriage. By now, we don't sweat the small stuff, and's all small stuff.

Then, there are those moments that catch us by surprise. Those moments that teach us that being married means so much more than just "not being divorced". Like an old song, familiar and well loved, like a bonfire that burns, then ebbs, then burns again, like a fine wine...need I go on? Our eyes meet, and though it sounds sappy, the sparks fly...

....then our middle-aged lives, with their middle-aged stress, and middle aged time constraints, middle aged perspectives, middle-aged spread, and middle-aged responsibilities.....middle age itself melts away, in the moment, and I am breathless and teary-eyed once again. 

It happens, now and then. 

And simple songs, serindipitously played on a kitchen radio are a vastly underrated aphrodisiac.

Hey have you ever tried,
Really reaching out for the other side?
I may be climbing on rainbows
But, baby here goes.

Dreams they're for those who sleep,
Life is for us to keep,
And if youre wond'ring
What this song is leading to

I want to make it with you.
I really think that we can make it girl....