What my daughter’s 3 year old birthday taught me

Last month our daughter Reese turned three. We decided that we would take advantage of her being young enough to think that hanging out with only her family for an entire day was still cool. We thought we would take the opportunity to capitalize on family time, experience, and try to keep it fairly low key yet fun.

The day started off at a donut shop and ended at the place with the yummiest pizza and best prizes.. that’s right, the one and only, Chuck E. Cheese. Actually in all honesty (they did not pay me to say this), I was pleasantly surprised by the prices and even the pizza. I guess when you go into a place expecting to pay hundreds of dollars to win a tootsie pop and eat melted cheese on a piece of cardboard, it can really only go up from there. So there is my first lesson: the lower you set your expectations the higher chance they have of being exceeded. But seriously, as pleasantly surprised as we were and as enjoyable as the day was, there was this moment that stopped me on the inside, in the midst of the chaos. With the smell of cheese pizza filling our nostrils, the sound of ski balls crashing and motorcycles racing, the bright lights flashing and the presents around the table crowding us in, I kept hearing my daughter essentially say “is it time for the next thing yet?”

I couldn’t really blame her. Sensory overload was in full affect for us all. But that’s when the somewhat lighthearted yet striking thought occurred to me, “well this kind of flies in the face of what we try to teach her every other day of life.” Places like Chuck E. Cheese make it hard to practice things like slowing down, enjoying, and appreciating. I’m not here to bash Chuck E. Cheese, or Disney Land, or Christmas Day. However, it did open my eyes in a fresh way to the cycle that celebrations and vacations can be. It’s often something like the hype, the high, the crash, and the confusion.

So how do we bridge this gap between a day filled with confetti and the inevitable normalcy of the next day? How do we teach our kids, and our own selves, to grapple with all of life’s “day afters.”  How can we expect our kids to not aggressively rip through their presents and quickly move onto the next when we’ve set up the entire day to say it’s all about you? How can we expect them to not be met with disappointment and confusion when they wake up the very next day to hear the opposite message of stop whining, life isn’t all about you? 

To be clear, I don’t regret what we did that day. I wouldn’t change a single thing about where we went or what we did. It was a really fun and memorable day. In fact, Reese has continued to talk about how her birthday was “her favorite one yet!” Especially because she got to meet “the real Chuck. E Cheese!” Which is obviously saying a lot considering her long and experienced life. But of course, like most things in life, this is not really about Chuck E. Cheese. It’s about how we help our kids process the days of  all-you-can-eat-cake and the days of all-you-must-eat-veggies.

So here are 5 lessons I want to store up and take with me to the next birthday:

  1. Tell them what you want them to know

    This may seem like a silly point to make but I think sometimes we forget the simple power behind actually vocalizing things. At least I do. Words mean nothing without actions. But words build a foundation of understanding underneath the actions. So in the years to come, my hope is that after we bombard our kids’ room with a beautiful rendition of the birthday song, we take the time to actually tell them what Lewis birthday’s mean to us . We want to help them navigate the excitingly out-of-ordinary day ahead of them by simply talking to them about it. While this doesn’t buy any melt down free guarantees, it reiterates the values and expectations that are the same even on the mundanely ordinary days.

  2. Remind them thankfulness is a part of the day

    One of Reese’s crash-symptoms was that she was “unable” to talk to her family on the phone at the end of the day. The ones who had taken time to wish her a happy birthday and many who sent her gifts. I get that she was mostly just an exhausted kid after a fun day. And let’s be honest, even as adults, trying to find adequate ways on special days to say thank you can feel daunting and tiring. So as a take away, instead of trying to force thank-yous, we want to carve out time for them. Hopefully this creates the space for gratefulness to become more genuine and thought-out on their own. And also for giving thanks to become as much an expected part of this whole birthday gig as cake is. This might mean calling a few people to thank before bed. It might mean Face Timing the next day. Or it might mean sending a thank you note a few days later. Whatever it may look like, we hope that carving out time to say “thank you” is a reminder that ultimately it is people that make special days, so special.

  3. Explain who it’s about and who it’s for

    I think it’s good to say “this day is about you!” And then to take it a step further and say “and you are made up of a lot of other people!” Just like the day itself took a lot of other people to make it what it was, our kids’ lives take a lot of other people to make them who they are. So it’s a non-exclusive mix of being about them and for others, too. Then we can strive to help them see this as a happy thing and not a dutiful thing; “isn’t it fun that the people who love you all get to enjoy celebrating you together? Let’s think about the best ways we can make it special for them too!

  4. Define deserve

    A super easy leap (or maybe baby step) to make is thinking that the more we are given things, the more we deserve them.  I think the human heart takes what we have been given and subtly makes it into something we ourselves got. “Given” implies a free gift and “got” implies an earned reward. Suddenly the parties and presents and pizza become a birthday right. When our kids think their rights are being withheld they become upset. And when they think their rights are being applied, well, they become indifferent. After all, it was something they deserved.

  5. Emphasize worth

    I think there is an important difference in the message “you are deserving” and “you are valuable.” True value doesn’t incite entitlement but beckons honor. Birthdays are a unique opportunity to shower our kids in honor and affirmation and encouragement. This could look like everyone in the family taking a turn to say one thing they love about the birthday boy or girl. It could also look like all thanking God during prayer time for one specific thing He is doing in that person. Or having friends write down a word that has marked their life over the past year and giving it to them to keep. Whatever creative and meaningful ways praise their person-hood.

    Whether it’s a surprise slumber party or small family dinner the goal is to say to our kids that we delight in celebrating them simply because they are delightful. And that is what we hope our kids remember… even more than getting to meet “the real Chuck E. Cheese!”

 

4 years, 9 lessons

1. The nature of giving gifts

It seems that true gifts in marriage are often far less grandeur than we imagine them to be yet far more meaningful than we give them credit for. One of those unexpected gifts that we have discovered (especially as parents) is the gift of letting the other person leave in peace. It’s an act of sacrificial love to hold down the fort and say “Go! Work. Enjoy. Rest. With no guilt. We’re good here.” Being given the gift of leaving well enhances the gift of returning well. It’s good to study which ordinary gifts mean the most to our spouse, and then practice giving them when and how we can.

2. Keep asking the questions

Real life is a lot of doing the same things over and over again. I think marriage is too. And one of those things we’ve discovered is asking the same ol questions: how was your day? How are you? What do you think about this? These sort of every day questions have a way of continuing to say “I still care. And I care about your whole being (heart, mind, interests, concerns, etc)”

3. Remind them you need them

Even after 4 years, maybe especially after 4 years, there’s something so powerful about knowing you are still needed. To know you are needed means there is a special place that you fill. It means you bring something unique to the table that they often lack and are bettered by. But the best part of all is knowing that you’re not just needed for what you give, but solely who you are. The significance of receiving “I need you” beats the awkwardness of being the one to say it.

4. Remind yourself you don’t need them

Something I’m glad I was told is that even in light of all of the very best things we desire for our spouses to be, in the truest of senses, we don’t need them to be those things. It’s really good to want a loving and gentle and thoughtful and fill in your own blank, spouse. But if our spouses fail us in those ways, we do not have to come undone. For the believer, our deepest needs have been truly and fully met in Jesus. We do not have to lose the essence of who we are when our deepest human needs are not being met by another person. We are still whole.

5. Joke away your annoyances

A while back I heard this idea of lightheartedly picking on our spouse as a way to actually guard against seeds of resentment being subtly planted against them. The person who shared this (on a podcast) used the example of nicknaming her husband “Ogre.” This was due to his apparent inability not to clunk around loudly in the morning while the rest of the family sleeps. Of course this doesn’t mean there is not a place for confronting our spouses in the areas of needed growth. But, other times we need to just laugh a little and decide to nickname them. Because after all, no one can be mad at Shrek in the kitchen just doing his normal ogre thing.

6. Give them space to try and fail

Is it really possible for someone to “fail” at going grocery shopping, loading a dishwasher, or mowing a lawn? Probably not. But, to the other person who would have never purchased that item even though “it was an amazing deal”, it can sure feel like the one who did, failed. Or at the very least it can feel like they did it “wrong.” It’s clunky and hard and hilarious to merge a life with someone else. And not only live life with them, but in some senses let them live parts of it for you. Yet this past year especially we have seen how important of an aspect it is to give the other person space and trust to do certain things their own way, even if it’s very far from our own (obviously most sensible) way.

7. Keep first things first

I think this can be applied in a much broader sense, but as is the nature of these anniversary blogs, I mean it in a very every-day sort of way. One helpful way we’ve been told to think about this is “product vs procedure.” If the final product is a painted room, was it really worth it if the whole time we painted the room we gave each other the silent treatment? When we keep first things first we value unity, listening, respect, enjoyment, growth, etc as much as we do the destination itself. The result is much more satisfying when the relationship is not lost along the way to get there.

8. Like them, too

In my less-fond-of-Kyle moments, I’ve been known to quote the movie How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (definitely our most quoted movie in marriage)I love you Binky, but I don’t have to like you!” And the truth is, we don’t always like our spouse.. especially when they kill our love ferns. But in all seriousness, it’s really sweet to be reminded that we’re not only loved but also liked. Recently Kyle commented on a random Nat-ism, “I’ve always liked that about you!” My response was both “oh, I really do that, don’t I?” And “Aw, you like that about me?” Then we keep doing those things.

9. Knowing and being known

Kyle and I continue to grow in the knowledge of just how exposing and humbling being known is. Yet also just how comforting and freeing it is. Tim Keller sums up this idea in a beautiful way:

“To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”

This knowing and being known doesn’t just happen in the context marriage. But, marriage gives us a unique taste of what it’s like to be both known and loved by the Creator of the universe. And in marriage too, this is something to continuously behold and to be held by.

Giving thanks

I think sometimes when we share our “list of things we are thankful for” it can seem, or even be, more braggadocious than grateful. But this year I’m seeking to remember that nothing I have has not been given to me. It is a gift; which in and of itself makes boasting nonsensical. So I wanted to take the time to hone in on 10 specific and simple gifts I am particularly thankful for over this past year:

1. Friends who love our kids well

I never knew just how much it would mean to my mama heart to see our people (of all kinds) loving our kids. And man do they ever. They sing, read, play, laugh, and dance with them. They meet me in parking lots to help us get inside when Kyle is gone. They babysit and thank us for the time they got with our kids. They squat down to toddler level. They treat our kids as little people with little hearts. And it’s truly on the top of my list this year for greatest gifts (although this list is in no particular order of significance).

2. Blue scrubs

I’m thankful for every evening that I see those blue scrubs come through the door. For the fact that they stay on until bedtime most nights (both because they’re comfy and because the guy wearing them is too busy soaking in every last minute before his kids go to bed). Those blue scrubs signify a job that not only provides outwardly but also fulfills inwardly. A job that has broadened and toughened and softened Kyle (and me in different ways as well).

3. Bath time

I’m thankful for cute lil dimpled buns. For the shamelessness of nakey children. For a toddler who enjoys starting the bath water and for a baby who comes fast crawling down the hall to join in. For seeing my own kids do something I used to do with my siblings. For distinct markers of childhood like bubbles and rubber duckies and Alfalfa-styled hair and being wrapped in a big towel. And for that post bath skin smell.

4. Our house

This past summer marked a year in our first house. This house has given us space (literally) to try new things. It’s given us opportunities to physically dig out the old, to plant the new, to cultivate, to change, to keep, to maintain, and to grow. And it’s done the same in the hearts of the people who live inside the home.

5. Blooming relationships

Even though in some ways it’s taken over 5 years since having moved to Louisville to reach this place, we are starting to see and appreciate the sweet bud of deep rooted friendships. Part of me has spent the better of the year begrudging how long relationships can take to build. How wonky they can feel. How wheel-spinningish they can seem at times. But as this year winds down I’m particularly thankful that relationships really are a mess worth making.

6. The Jesus story book Bible

Little did my Granny know that when she got this book for Reese it would also serve as such a gift to Kyle and me. I love hearing the stories from it being read from Reese’s room most nights. I love when Kyle says to me “have you read this one yet?” I love how it is solid and simple. And mostly, how each and every time I read it I’m reminded afresh of the greater story of the Bible and how it all so beautifully and brilliantly points to Jesus.

7. Podcasts

This year when I was asked in a little Get To Know You game, “what is a new revelation you can’t stop talking about?” …It was this. In true Natalie fashion, I joined the podcast party in my own good time. But I’m here and I’m all in. For me podcasts have done the often neglected hard work of good self talk and filled my own mind for me with things that have distracted it, stretched it, deepened it, broadened it, solidified it, etc. It has settled my brain and also stirred it.

8. My Yeti

I still can’t get over the fact that thanks to my Yeti I can reach over and grab fresh cold water in the middle of the night (because there’s nothing much worse than lukewarm water for midnight parchings) or that I can fill it with a large sized ice coffee and drink half of it one day and the rest of it the next morning. I also love looking at the state stickers on the outside of my bottle and being reminded of the road-trip of a lifetime that we were able to take this past summer.

9. Saturday morning prayer

For the past few months I’ve had the pleasure of getting together once a week with a few women before the sun rises to pause in petition and praise. These mornings I usually wake up sluggish and fuzzy brained and walk away deeply energized and renewed. This time, and these women, have helped me to better understand what it means to pray God’s Word. To better know His heart and to also pour mine out to Him. It’s been one of the most tangible ways to recognize the new morning mercies that I’m waking up into that very day.

10. Fresh air

It’s so easy to go from one thing to the next. To be too busy or too bored. To be cooped up or spread thin. But I’ve found the simple pick-me-up of internally slowing down and breathing deep in the midst of the mundane minutes or the moments of madness. I’m thankful for the deep breaths of fresh air (metaphorically but also literally) that remind me how good it is to be alive.

When your life isn’t what you thought

I have come to find that sometimes the hardest time to write about something can be when we’re smack dab in the middle of it. Often it feels safer to be a few steps ahead of something before sitting down to write about it. But God doesn’t just meet us in the aftermath. In the solutions. In the recoveries. He meets us right where we are at: in the thick and tangled up mess. In the processing. In the wrestling. He doesn’t always provide a boat for us to ride above the waters. Instead, He may keep us inside the turning currents but give us goggles to see some treasures while we’re there. And the best part of all is that He doesn’t just throw us the googles, He jumps into the waters with us.

Now don’t let me mislead you, there are no storms of suffering surrounding me like they may be you. But there is a different kind of storm and it is going on inside of me. Side note, one embarrassing thing about writing in the midst of something is that our perspective is usually skewed. Everything looks and feels much bigger than reality. So we tend to be a bit dramatic. But, I digress. In my own little self-sized internal storm these big intimidating waves taunt me, “WHO ARE YOU EVEN? AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR LIFE?” Yeah self… who are you?

3 years after the real life version of “getting a gift I did not desire” (ie having my daughter) I have come to further realize that my struggles were more than the initial news of an unexpected gift. I was aware of this, but as always, there is more going on inside of us than what is on the surface. The surface-level is an expression of what is below it. Often it takes some digging and unveiling. So here I am, 3 years later. And on this side of it, I can tell you two things. I can unashamedly proclaim that I love my kids in a way that has totally exploded my heart and life. I can also, more ashamedly, confess that I don’t always love being a mom. More seriously, I can still deeply resent it. Big deal, right? Who doesn’t feel that way from time to time. But what I didn’t realize at the time was that motherhood wasn’t, and still isn’t, just a threat to my own plans and timelines. It was a threat to my very own self-made identity.

So, maybe you’re reading this and you’re in a totally different place in life than me. Maybe you find yourself being depended on in ways you never expected. Maybe you’re dependent on someone else in ways you never imagined or wished for. Maybe you’re sitting at that same desk or pulling up to that same apartment or looking down at that same bare finger, all for years longer than expected. Maybe your life has been uprooted and replanted in a brand new place surrounded by brand new people. Maybe that degree, or job, or trip, is being put on hold. Maybe you are experiencing the excruciating pain of longing or loss. Or maybe it’s (whatever your it is) here and you weren’t expecting it to come when and how it did.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

It wasn’t supposed to feel like this.

Who am I?

Wherever you find yourself in life, I hope my raw, flawed, zoomed in, goggle-sort-of-view of these things I’m learning brings some grace and understanding and truth to you.

“You aren’t alone”

As I have shared some of my personal wrestling with my own identity and worth, I have been met with empathy and a real sense of comradery. That’s a sweet gift you can receive and give to someone, y’all. It can be one of the most comforting things. But I would be less than honest if I didn’t say it can also be sobering. It’s comforting because we see that we aren’t left to deal with things on our own. It’s comforting because we aren’t strange for being the only one to go through something. But it’s sobering because we don’t get to throw ourselves an ongoing pity party. Because we don’t get to wear a badge for being the only one to struggle a certain way. You are one in a million, but you are also one of a million. So do yourself a humbling and helpful favor, and give people permission to tell you they have been there, or are there, too.

Stripped identities can be scary and sacred ground

The very things I was unknowingly clutching onto to form my identity did not only feel imposed upon by motherhood, they felt at odds with it. Where I wanted to be free spirited, I felt motherhood told me I must be restricted. Where I wanted to be adventurous, I thought motherhood meant I must be rigid. The list goes on. It felt like some painful sort of self death would have to happen in order for another life to be born in me. I deeply resented this death of self. But what I often fail to realize is that this sort of self death will be both beautifully true and foolishly false for the rest of my life. It is a constant and necessary losing of self and finding of self all at once.

When we realize our identities- be they a title, role, ability, relationship, desire, dream or so much more- are in some form being taken from us, it’s really terrifying. When the thing that we have let label us and define us for so long is somehow no longer a part of us, it can feel kind of like being exposed and having nothing to hide behind. It’s uncomfortable and scary. But don’t miss this, it’s also sacred and soft ground here. It’s an opportunity to be rebuilt, remade, and redefined. Or maybe just reminded of who we already are that we may have forgotten about.

Identify identity

The dictionary definition of identity is: “the fact of being who or what a person or thing is.” And while there could be many ways to define it biblically, I think Christian identity can be summed up in this verse found in Corinthians, “whoever is in Christ is a new creation, the old has passed and the new has come.” Identity is a buzz word in many Christian circles. And while it may not be a specific word used outside of these circles, the idea of identity is a big deal to us all. I think this new world of self branding and self promotion through social media reveals our intrinsic identity-chase.

Now the tricky part I’ve found in this whole identifying our truest self thing is that identity is both fundamental and functional. Fundamentally, I believe myself to be a human being created in the image of God who has been recreated in Christ. But functionally I currently find myself flailing around in a perceived state of crises, instead of resting securely in the one who’s undeserved and totally willing self death birthed my new life. I find my identity-naked self being exposed, instead of hiding behind the rock of ages. So how do we bridge the fundamental to the functional? We preach the gospel to our very own heart and mind and soul. Until the day we die. The gospel wasn’t just a thing of the past, it is the very essence of who we are now and it is to permeate into all we think and do and say and are, today.

Breaking borders

There is a subtle yet major difference between contentment and settling. Settling says “this” is all I am, can be, or going to be. Settling suppresses God given passions and gifts and desires and dreams. Settling usually plants seeds of bitterness and self pity. Contentment gladly embraces what God has seen fit to give to us in His own good time. Contentment is not afraid to strive while also being deeply settled. Contentment usually breeds thankfulness and joy. We are whole beings who are capable of functioning in more ways than we often give ourselves credit for. We often sell ourselves short in claiming only our primary occupation as who we are. We let this thoroughly define us. Instead, carve into your calendar an enjoyable hobby, make space for that creative outlet, pursue your passions, and explore what makes you feel like, you.

Being you, right where you’re at

The potential danger in pursuing what may feel a little out of our borders is that in turn we might miss what is right in front of us. This has hit me like a ton of bricks in my discontentment lately. No, I’m not only a mom, but yes I am a mom. So instead of seeing my passions and personality and gifts and goals as something I must put into some sort of outside source, I should seek to channel these things into motherhood. If you’re creative, bring creativity into your work place. If you’re merciful, show mercy to your children. If you’re driven, be diligent in your studies. Bring your adventure and structure and knowledge and compassion and your craftsmanship into the very spheres you are already in, if you believe you are supposed to be there. It would be a shame if in the constant chase for something more, we waste what has already been given to us.

Bringing it (to your own) home

I’ve heard it said that good desires make bad masters. As do good callings make bad identities. So how do we know when our misplaced identity has turned into idolatry? How do we know where our true identity lies? I think one helpful gauge is by recognizing the way we respond when something is taken from us or given to us. Does the loss lead us to normal disappointment or to total despair? Does the gain lead us to a healthy sort of happiness or an awaited sense of wholeness? Does it have the power to make us or break us?

I will not soon forget the wise counselor who looked into my misty eyes and kindly urged me not to think that shifting my identity into motherhood is my new ticket to fulfillment. Instead, they said, being a Christian is your identity. It is at the center. Everything else for the rest of your life is just an avenue off of it.

So friend, our heavy ladened souls searching for worth and value can find rest in who we currently are and always will be, in Jesus. It’s settled and secure. No matter where we go or what we do or who we become, we are in Him. And it’s all from Him and for Him and to Him, forevermore.

Unapologetically you: learning how to say sorry for the right things

You look at the clock and before you can even fully register what time it is, there is a knock at the door. They’re here….On time. How rude. The house is not in the condition you hoped it would be but you have no choice other than to open the door and let them in. Into the mess that is your house that reflects the mess that is your life. Before they can hardly step in the door some of the first words out of your mouth are “sorry the house is such a mess….”

Sorry.

That small word then clears the air. It’s been acknowledged by you and brushed off by them. Moving on now. Cool.

But there is something I’ve been realizing in real life scenarios like this: there is a vital difference between the sentiment of “sorry” and of “I’m sorry.” Maybe you should be sorry the house is a mess. But, maybe you’re saying it for all the wrong reasons.

“Sorry” says please excuse and “I’m sorry” says please forgive. “Sorry” says don’t judge me and “I’m sorry” says I’m examining myself. “Sorry” says I’m afraid to offend you and “I’m sorry” says I’m afraid that I have hurt you. “Sorry” says I’m apologizing for what happened and “I’m sorry” says I’m apologizing for my personal part in it.

For me at least, “sorry” often comes from a place of insecurity or even more deeply, pride. Whereas “I’m sorry” often comes from a place of stability or even more deeply, humility.

I think there is this sense, especially among females, that we need to apologize for the very things that expose that we are not perfect.

So friend,

Stop apologizing for your unwashed hair, your kids being loud, and your dishes being dirty.

Stop apologizing for crying hard or laughing loud or dreaming big.

Stop apologizing for not knowing all the answers.

You don’t have to validate yourself for being a hot mess and you also don’t have dismiss yourself for being put together sometimes.

You don’t have to explain yourself to every single person, every single time.

You don’t have to rationalize why you formula feed, or put your kids in daycare, or don’t buy them all (or any) organic food.

You don’t have to say you are sorry for every opinion you have and choice you make.

You don’t need forgiveness for what makes you different.

As a general rule, you don’t have to apologize to other people for things that don’t actually effect them. That do not harm them or hurt them or really even pertain to them.

Eat the cake.

Take a break.

Let your kids play in the dirt.

Show up without makeup on.

Sit quietly.

Sing loudly.

Be passionate.

Feel deeply.

Ask for help.

…unapologetically.

But also, in a raw and repentant way, apologize. The real kind. The kind that says, “I’m sorry.” Those two words can be so hard to utter. So embarrassing. So unnatural. But so necessary.

When we blame or belittle
manipulate or mock
gossip or gripe
neglect or nag
abuse or accuse

When we point out the speck in someone else’s eye and miss the plank in ours.

When we are quick to speak and slow to listen.

When we go back on our word.

When we lash out in rage and when we grasp in selfishness.

When we slander our coworker or church member or classmate.

When we disrespect and disregard our spouse.

And yes, even when we lose it with our kids.

We can sheepishly come back, boldly look them in the eye, and even if our voices shake, we can proclaim the powerful words, “I am sorry.” True relationships happen here. Not in shallow sorry’s spoken from the mouth but with sincere I’m sorry’s that are spoken from the heart.

I’m sorry bridges gaps. It springs forth restoration and peace and humility. It exposes our humanity. It levels the playing field. It reminds us we are, in fact, in need.

I have heard this phrase before and I think it sums up, for Christians, this whole idea well: be your in-Christ self.

Self meaning you in all your idiosyncrasies and quirks. Your enneagram 9ness. Your type Aish tendencies. Your expressive and extroverted self. You don’t have to fully rid yourself of what makes you uniquely awkward and awesome.

In Christ meaning the new you who has been set free from sin and who is still daily dying to it. Your saved and sanctified self. The one that is being molded to look more and more like Jesus.

You can bravely be both unapologetically and repentantly, you.

Treasuring time and setting traditions

If you know me you know how much I genuinely love every season of the year. Like, when someone says “okay but say you had to choose a place to live in that only has one season” nope nope nope. Not playing your game. I choose every season. More accurately, I kind of choose the changing of seasons. Sorry. I’m a Total game ruiner with this one.

Seriously though, I love seeing a backpack-swallowed kid get on the bus for the first day of school just as much as I love seeing kids who have gained a year’s worth of knowledge jump off the bus and run towards the first day of summer break. I love the first snow fall and the last snow melt. I love the smell of the first spring rain and the fresh feel in the air that means autumn is upon us.

So as the days of tan lines, sunglasses, and lake hair come to a close I start anticipating the days of scarves, crunchy leaves, and salted caramel lattes. I enjoy the spontaneity of summer yet crave the formality of the fall.

To me, the coming of fall means a new pace. It motivates me to connect the underlying things: our family values and the home-culture we hope to create to the practical things: our day to day life which includes our own set of work schedules, priorities, and preferences. The coming of the fall season gives new opportunity to practically and creatively carve into our lives what we hope marks our family and not just our calendar. From annual traditions, to weekly celebrations, to daily disciplines.

It could be family oriented, like pizza night (I lived with a family in Africa who made pizza every Friday night, did a fun story time around the table, and watched a movie together) or devotions when you wake up and books before you go to bed. Or it could be individual based, like playing ultimate frisbee once a week or plopping down every night after the kids go to sleep and gulping that long-awaited- frosted-over glass of milk. I think staples in life give us simple joys to look forward to and create special memories to look back on.

Some of these routines and responsibilities have already begun to play out in every day things like chore charts and check lists, craft time and chill time, daddy’s days off and doctors appointments. And then there is the (extra) fun stuff. The traditions and celebrations and simple joys.

So— as Fall 2018 approaches, I wanted to share a few things we have started to/plan to include into our weekly lives:

Tuesday- TUTU Tuesday!

Reese is a long standing member of the tutu craze club. It got to the point where she was begging to wear one every.single.day. There was no real reason to say no except for “we don’t just get to wear tutus every day of life.” So, we chose a special day for it! And boy does she look forward to it, every single week. And I must admit, it’s a lot more fun for me this way too.

This is also now a day that we specifically talk about/think about/pray for Reese’s cousin and her family all throughout the day. Tuesday’s are her hospital day.

Wednesday- World Wednesday!

This is one I’m hoping to dig a lot deeper into and get a lot more creative with. The idea is to teach the kids about about rest of the world— other counties, cultures, and colors. To educate on differences and celebrate diversity.

Practically this may look like going to a park or grocery store that is in a different part of town. Or spending the whole day learning about people with differing disabilities. Or making and eating food from a different country. Or learning about and praying for missionaries.

Christian Resource: “Gods Very God Idea” -Trillia Newbell

Kids YouTube: “PK Words From Around the World” and “Baby Language Song ASL”

Friday— fun Friday!

The goal is to do something FUN every Friday. Maybe going to a park or play place or something special that goes along with that season (eg pool in summer). Then Friday nights are designated family nights. This could be anything from building a fort, to game night, to a movie, to making calzones together.

Sunday- r e s t & r e s e t

…So there you have it. A sampling of small and simple Lewis traditions.

The fun thing about traditions are that they are yours. You can create them, morph them, dispose of them, and sometimes they happen into being all on their own.

For more: 10 family-fun-hacks that I’ve most likely either stolen or just heard of–

  1. Breakfast for dinner night
  2. Picking a primary family hobby and investing time/resources here
  3. Picking a life skill to hone in on with a child for chunks at a time
  4. Clean up house day
  5. Visit parent at work day
  6. Holiday traditions: sibling sleepover on Christmas Eve, annual hay ride at pumpkin patch, new outfits on Easter
  7. After school tea time
  8. Serve somebody else day: visit nursing home, cook someone a meal, send a card
  9. Jammie day
  10. Celebration dinners: starting something new or completing something old; major and minor mile stones

Sally Clarkson

The ministry of showing up

“75% of life is just showing up.”

Most of us have heard this quote or quotes like it. Which is slightly unfortunate because it means it’s become cliche. And I’ve heard it said that the secrets of life are hidden in cliches, but we ignore them because we’ve heard them so much. But, I have been discovering the wisdom behind sayings like this.

Showing up is “half the battle” (or more, I’d argue). Showing up to class, to work, to coffee dates, to meetings, to play dates, to planned events… the list goes on and on.

The idea of “showing up” clearly applies to so many aspects of life. But I wanted to share this for Christians in the context of the church. What I am going to share is two-fold. First, the more obvious and more talked about aspect- what it does for our own soul.

I have come to believe deep in the recesses of my heart that church is vital for a Christian. Not in a check list/religious sort of way but in a uniquely life-giving and God glorifying kind of way.

Christ calls the church his bride. His bride! Brides are beautiful and beloved. Now I know many people have found the church to be the farthest thing from reflecting beauty and beloved-ness. But, I have seen throughout my life that when church is done right (not perfectly, but rightly) it is indeed glorious and radiant and like nothing else on earth.

In keeping with the metaphor, in a healthy marriage, the closest we really get to someone else without actually being with them is being with their spouse. Likewise, I believe the closest we get to God this side of heaven is being with, and a part of, His bride. He has set up his church in a unique way that allows us to know Him, know ourselves, and know others in a way that nothing else can quite produce. The biblical church is more than gathering together once a week. But it’s not less than. We are strengthened and matured and convicted and encouraged in ways we could not be without meeting together.

For all of this and so much more I have become convinced that we must not underestimate the power of our presence. But here is the other, often missed, side: showing up isn’t just for our own hearts it is for the hearts of others too.

A while ago we had a friend over and we were all talking about what it’s been like for us transitioning to having two kids. I told him that one really challenging thing for me was getting to church with both the kids on the Sundays that my husband, Kyle, was working. I was explaining how some of those first Sunday mornings without Kyle felt nearly impossible. And in-fact, the first couple ones where our baby was old enough to go, I literally did not make it out the door.

In a really kind way he shared how encouraging it was to see people show up during difficult or inconvenient times. He named one person in particular who he has specifically taken note of. She has come, even with three kids climbing all over her or tagging along behind her.

She was there.

And he noticed.

He was spurred on to take his own commitment to the church more seriously.

Caveat: I did not write this to heap guilt or burdens onto you. For me personally, this resonated deep in my heart in a way that has not only challenged me but comforted me and even freed me. My aim is for it to do the same for some of you.

You are welcome: your frazzled- half put together- I need coffee- self. From the baggage of the past, the sufferings of the season, right up to the chaos of the morning.

When you look over and see that woman who is grappling with scary news from the doctor. That couple who is longing for a child. That man who lost his job. When you see someone standing silently, with the kind of sadness that makes it too hard to sing, with their hands lifted high letting their brothers and sisters sing for them.

The shaky hands and tear filled eyes of a courageous person who chose to show up speaks a powerful message. Ultimately they shout the worthiness of our God and the value of his people meeting together.

I know being a part of a church is much more than just showing up. That’s for another blog. I know that sometimes we need permission not to show up. There is a time for that. I know some of you have showed up time and time again and have never felt noticed or known. That’s a different story. And I’m really sorry.

But for those in messy yet striving, sometimes awkward yet faithful, flawed yet genuine churches- let’s fight together to show up. To not forsake meeting together. Let’s be a people who do not grow weary of showing up. Time and time again.

That, in and of itself, is a ministry we can all sign up for and serve in.