Wednesday, April 29, 2009

All We Need is Love

Page 165 struck me like a lightening bolt. I read it over and over. I practically memorized it. I scribbled it down, panic-stricken that the words were a mirage, soon to disappear as quickly as I saw them:
The Rabbi {Jesus} implores, "Don't you understand that discipleship is not about being right or being perfect or being efficient? It's all about the way you live with each other." In every encounter we either give life or we drain it. There is no neutral exchange. We enhance human dignity, or we diminish it. The success or failure of a given day is measured by the quality of our interest and compassion toward those around us. We define ourselves by our response to human need. (emphasis mine)
I kept reading it. And the more I read it, the faster and louder my heart raced. A feeling of sobering conviction washed over me. It was as if I had unlocked the mystery of the universe...or at least of my own little world.

The book is Abba's Child by Brennan Manning. It's had a profound impact on my life. Lily told me recently, You need to read that book again. I'm glad I listened.

This book brings truth and perspective to the Voices and the Got Nothin' days. Those days that are all too frequent around here.

Manning's words inspired a revolution in my mind and soul.

What if love could be the motivating force behind every task, every human exchange?

What if I began to measure the success or failure of each day differently?

And I do, by the way, measure the success or failure of each and every day. Productivity. Efficiency. Tasks. Projects. My success meter is so much about works it makes me physically ill. And because I'm so easily distracted by fun and creative pursuits...and naps, I typically don't finish each day well by my own standards.

What if a successful day is one in which I've loved well?

I've learned, painfully, that I don't. Love well, that is. I forget. I offend. I neglect. I withdraw. I speak harshly. I serve begrudgingly.

And I've struggled to reconcile how I can love others so fiercely within yet that same loves fails to manifest itself in word and deed. I still don't have an answer. I just know that I'm sick of it being that way.

What if love could be the underlying current beneath all the mundane tasks each day holds?

Laundry as love:

Yes, you hate laundry. But see it as love. Clothe your precious ones in clean garments. You don't want them to have even a moment of anxiety over a drawer that holds no clean underpants.

Repetitive service as love.

Yes, the van is running and you're already late...but run back in and fill their water bottles. Again. They're hot and thirsty. Remember that they are forgetful and still-learning children. Don't beat them up with harsh words and a scornful glare.

Planning ahead as love.

Yes, you could get a few more things done but start earlier than you usually do. Don't make yourself vulnerable to yelling at children who have no sense of urgency.

Bedtime routine as love.

Yes, you're tired...but so are they. They're also hungry and dirty and you're the one they look to. The one who offers them food. The one who gently washes them clean and has warm jammies set out for them.

Days managed poorly as love.

True, you haven't loved well today. You've been selfish and harsh. And bafflingly inefficient. You've chased mindless distractions. But it's okay. Tomorrow's a new day. You are Abba's beloved child. Quit beating yourself mercilessly. There was one already beaten on your behalf. Walk in beautiful freedom, unending love, and limitless grace.

Countless what-if's played on in my head all day long. I realized that every conversation, every word, every bit of labor and seeming drudgery...could be different.

How I measured each day...could be different.

It could all be taken captive by love.

Not the sort of fleeting love conjured up by guilt and willpower and I'm-gonna-do-better-ness. That sort of love lasts about an hour, if I'm lucky.

I need to humbly and eagerly receive a love bigger than myself, gobbling it up like a ravenous beggar.

I need to know I'm loved well before I can love others well.

I'm praying for this be filled up with it every day, for my Abba Father to pour it into me so that it gushes into every nook and cranny of my life.


A new creation.

One taken captive by love.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Red Door

I haven't done much sprucing up around here lately. My bedroom re-do sucked all decorating juice right out of me. Last week, however, I was cruising the neighborhood with my kiddos and having a pity party about my no-curb-appeal house. Because I'm a deep thinker and all.

We bought our little house new. New has it perks...and its quirks. One such quirk is low-end builder landscaping. Translation: a few blah bushes in a row in front of the house. The end. 

Some of you weekend warriors out there would view such a blank canvas as a blessing. But my husband and I are landscaping challenged. And energy challenged. And landscaping budget challenged. Not to mention that our property is about an acre in size with trees only lining the back of our property. 

I've been trying to spruce things up in some of my "free" time but all I've accomplished is a bunch of weeding and the planting of some free bulbs from generous friends and family. 

Upon seeing various neighbors planting vegetable gardens, trees, and flowers galore, I gave up. I can't compete. I am limited by time, money, and expertise.

So I said to my neighbors, "I'll see your gardens and foliage and raise you a red door."

That's right. I took that can of red paint I purchased two years ago for my front door and I went to work while Cupcake slept. Four coats of red paint and many flying insects in my house later, I had added a bit of curb appeal. This bit of sprucing will hardly land me on the cover of Southern Living but it's a free and easy start.



{Aluminum foil on hardware is easier than tape.}

{Painting my gold wreath hanger red makes it blend in with the door.}

Sunday, April 19, 2009


I don't get out much. 

But Cupcake recently weaned and I've had a couple of opportunities to get out of town without a child growing in, suctioned to, or clinging against my body. 

Last weekend The Man and I enjoyed our first night away, just the two of us, in nearly 3 years. It was heaven, a wonderful 24-hour slice of heaven. 

We love the sweeties and we know how blessed we are to have them, but I truly underestimated the necessary "connecting" that does not happen when we are living real life, day in and day out. The connecting that is hardly possible when scared children are sleeping in your bed or suctioned to your body. The connecting that is not possible without "Can somebody come wipe me?" interrupting our cherished adult conversations. 

We felt SO rejuvenated in our relationship with one another, resembling giggly, ridiculous newlyweds for days afterward. Sigh.

Only a week later, I got to take a trip to Cherokee Cove in the Tennessee mountains with two other moms for a scrap-booking getaway (which cost just a little over $100, food and all!) We joined other women (who also don't get out much) and experienced pure bliss. Our weekend went something like this: Talk, laugh, coffee, scrapbook, eat, coffee, talk, laugh, ooh and ahh over photos, scrapbook, eat, laugh, talk, coffee...

You get the picture. 

I am a lapsed scrap-booker. Once able to leap over stacks of completed albums in a single bound, I am now many, many years behind. I am waiting to morph into Scrapzilla. Scrapzilla's super-powers make 40,000 photos on one's hard drive reappear into completed albums. 

I have not morphed yet. I did resolve, however, to take all the supplies to start Cupcake's baby album. And guess what? It's nearly done. It's simple and lovely and written in. Amazing what you can do with 48 hours, much caffeine, great tunes, and a host of chatty women let out of their homes for the weekend. 

And in case you don't hate me enough, I ate the most delicious food EVER. We had our own chef. He would call us for each meal when it was ready and describe each dish in detail, using words like demi-glaze, fresh, organic, and homemade. I ate things like salmon and asparagus and cabbage rolls and chocolate dessert deliciousness. 

And while some of you may eat things like this on a regular basis, my lunch du jour typically consists of cold mac n' cheese chiseled off my kids' plates. Having a happy chef cook the meal of my dreams every few hours nearly put me in a food coma. Honestly, I'm surprised to have anything to show for my weekend besides a few extra pounds and a great deal of bloating. 

To top it off, the mama's I traveled with (and who invited me) are awesome. I've known B as an acquaintance for 6+ years. I've known the other B for only a few months. We all ended up in the same Bible study small group this semester and I love them both...especially after a weekend of eating, laughing, crying, story-sharing, and an inordinate amount of potty humor. Because we're classy like that.

I also enjoyed the company of other wonderful women and heard bits of their stories. I love peoples' stories. I was chatting it up with one of the women and after making a series of connections, we discovered that she's read my blog. We don't even live in the same state. How's that for crazy?

So what's the moral of the post?

You've got to get out. 

I feel refreshed, energized, equipped, and connected. I got a little bit of myself back. And I realize that I have greatly underestimated the power of getting out. 

I've even felt guilty for feeling the need to get out. I mean, frontier women in the 1800's never got to go on scrapbook weekends or get to spend a night at the frontier Marriott with their hard-working frontier husband. 

But the fact is, I'm not a frontier women born into frontier culture and equipped in frontier ways. I am a twenty-first century woman with twenty-first century kids and twenty-first century stresses. 

I learned that getting out is good for the soul and quite possibly a necessity for non-frontier types like myself.

Do you get out much?


A HUGE thank you to The Man, who selflessly braved a weekend alone with our children and lived to tell about it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


For as long as I can remember, I've heard voices. The voices of anyone. And everyone. Friends. Mentors. Authors. Teachers. Family Members. I'm an equal-opportunity listener. The voices' owners likely have no idea that I hear them. They never intended to inflict guilt or expectations upon me. I do that on my own.

It's a curse. And while I know that everyone, to one extent or another, entertains voices, I've wondered lately if my condition is more serious.

The voices and I have cohabitated for so long now, I didn't realize they were a problem until the last year or two. As I left various roles and opted for a simpler life, the voices became more noticeable. They were louder, sometimes so loud that I could hear nothing else. At times they virtually screamed, rendering me useless.

I love this simpler life, one focused solely on family and domesticity. But without my former roles and the occasional accolades which accompanied them, I began to feel small and insignificant. Like the layers of an onion gradually peeled away, I sat exposed and raw. 

God, in His sovereignty, knew that it was time we do battle with the voices, some of whom I've toted around since childhood. And while the voices have always been with me, the mouths and messages have always been tailored to fit my season of life. I guess I have designer-voices like that. Couture actually. Custom-made just for me. 

As I've mentioned before, I've been home full-time for two years. Like many of you, I'm forced to do things every day that I'm not good at. Things I don't want to do. Repetitive tasks that no one sees. 

And as I task (or fail to task), I hear "this season's" voices. The voices of all those books I've read on mothering and home-managing and being a woman of God. The voices of older, wiser women who were much better at balancing, at organizing, at preparedness. Or of younger, energetic women who are better at doing life than I am. Voices who only wanted to help and encourage. But instead, they pummeled me again and again with the reality that I am not doing all that I should be doing. Voices who remind me of how inconsistent and undisciplined and haphazard I am. 

And I, in response, am no longer encouraged or eager or inspired. I am guilty and weary and less-than. Because I've tried, through sheer inspiration and willpower, to do what those many, many, countless voices have told me to do or be. And I have failed virtually every time.

I love the book, Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller. Toward the end of the book, Miller reflects on a session he had with a counselor. He too was tormented by voices and self-condemnation. His counselor told him that he was "letting other people name him, letting others decide his value." That his value needed to come from God. And God just wanted him to "receive his love and to love himself too."

Miller goes on:
And what she {the counselor} was saying was true. I knew it was true. I could feel that it was true. But it also felt wrong. I mean, it felt like it was an arrogant thing to do, to love myself, to receive love. I knew that all the kicking myself around, all the hating myself, was not coming from God, that those voices were not God whispering in my ear, but it felt like I had to listen to them; it felt like I had to believe the voices were telling me the truth...

...'I know God loves me.' And I did know, I just didn't believe. I had heard it before, but hearing that stuff didn't silence the voices...I needed to believe it was true. I needed something to tell the voices when they started chanting at me.
(emphasis mine)

For Miller, he took this problem, that had never seemed like a spiritual problem, and he began to pray about it. And in time, God turned his knowing into believing.

And that's where I want to be. At the point of believing. To be a girl who is finally free to receive love and to actually love herself

And I haven't arrived at that place. I'm in that crazy netherworld somewhere between knowledge and belief. Some days I'm closer to freedom than bondage. But on any given day, I return to my familiar shackles and the accompanying chanting.

I know that someday I will hear one Voice and only one. And that my own voice will no longer chant condemnation and guilt, but will instead sing in beautiful harmony with its Maker... 

But I am not there yet.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Bauble Board

I love baubles.

I am nothing without my big hoop earrings or a giant beaded necklace. Or three. But baubles can become burdensome. Despite my best efforts to keep them nicely arranged in a drawer, the necklaces always ended up in a giant ball. 

Maybe the baubles were bored...and the drawer was they tried to mate. I don't know. But after spending 17 hours untangling the wad o' necklaces, I knew there had to be a better way.

Behold the Bauble Board

I'm sure I'm not the first person to think of this. But I've recently had several people comment on the Bauble Board. Friends who were over and saw it and thought it was fab.

And I'm thinking there are many bauble-loving ladies out there who would love to untangle their wad o' necklaces once and for all.

Here's the tutorial:
Round up a bulletin board. Get some clear push pins. Hang the baubles. Hang the board. Enjoy eternal bliss.


I've been on the hunt for a giant thrift store frame I can insert the Bauble Board into. I'm thinking that would look very chic and artsy.

You could also cover a bulletin board in fabric. That would be lovely.


As for my earrings, I use ice-cube trays...except for the giant hoops. Ice cubes the size of my hoops do not exist...unless you are an iced-tea drinking godzilla. 

And lest you think I am the queen of all things clever and organized, think again. 

Cupcake loves my earring drawer. He thinks the baubles look good enough to eat...or at least to throw in the toilet (along with the
ribbons and shoes.) 

And because I'm a slacker and have not child-proofed these drawers (or trained my baby to stay out of them), this is what it's come to: a haphazard array of trays and bauble clutter. And cotton balls. Now it takes me 17 hours to find a pair of earrings. Shameful.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Tales from the Tired

Tired. Weary. Nothing to give. No energy to even get out of this chair and do what's on "the list." I'll be lucky if this post is even intelligible. 

I'm at that place again. Of having nothing. Of needing desperately to receive something

A holy whisper. A very real knowing that He is there. I'm desperate. I'll take anything...

But only if I can just sit and rest and receive. Because I'm tired (did I mention that?)

Children are a blessing. They are also exhausting. 

I am inspired by their energy, their curiosity, their laughter, their creativity. I am drained by their busyness, their questions, their noise, and their mess.

And while I've heard moms talk about how children and home-managing suck the spiritual life out of you (I've even read books about it), only now do I really and truly get it. I live it, more now than ever.

Only now do I get that there is virtually nothing left to give anyone else. Friends. Family. My precious and hard-working husband. God.

What I have left for Him is pathetic. Prayers tossed up in desperation...or out of obligation. Inconsistent and interrupted time in the Word. Random questions asked in the silent recesses of my troubled mind when I can't go to sleep.

He gets the leftovers. And the skepticism. And of course I feel guilty about that. 

I'm thankful that every day is not like this one. 

I do experience days of energy, renewal, and offering. Days that are bursting with His presence. Days of undeniable Truth. Days when my coffers are overflowing with good things to give. 

And I'm struck by the messed-up-ness of how I feel worthy and legitimate and lovely during days of generosity. And how I feel guilty and inadequate and less-than on the days of nothing.

I'm glad He sees me the same every day. And while I'm not to the place of living and thinking in light of that truth, I can grasp just enough of it to plunk it out on my keyboard. I can say it is true and I pray that my mind and soul will follow suit. 

Thinking the truth. Living the truth. That is Freedom. And that is where I want to be. And I am so not there yet...

But I am on my way, one teeny step at a time.

Today I need to receive, even though there is nothing to give. To anyone.

And before I could even finish my post, this promise came to me. A "holy whisper" if you will:

Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.

I guess God reads my blog...and He came through for me.


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