Mothering is hard, but not hopeless

One time, while scrolling through Facebook, I saw the sweetest picture of a mother and her high school son all suited up for his big football game. The mother’s caption gushed with goodness because her son was growing oh-so-big, now surpassing his mother in height. As I read her enduring post, the endnote caught me a bit off guard as she declared a word of encouragement to young mothers everywhere by saying, “hang in there, this parenting thing definitely gets easier.”

I wish I could agree that it gets easier. Sure, some things get easier, but in my experience there is an exchange for a different sorta hard. The truth is that mothering is hard, through all the seasons. The journey to young adulthood is complicated. Equally, the path to re-learning how to parent a young adult can be discombobulating. There is no Forever Field Guide to Successful Parenting. What works for you, may not work for me; what works for child A may not work for child B; what is easy for you might be hell for me.

While mothering may be hard, it is not hopeless.

We are all mothers. We are all nurturing, holding, loving, taking care of, or giving birth to something. The reality is that there simply isn’t a one size fits all manual for mothering our hope.

I’m enjoying this sweetly written book by Winn Collier. In one scene the main character stumbles upon a baby bluebird that has tumbled out of the nest too soon. The character goes on to say,

“Eventually, I walked on. I don’t know the fledglings fate, but I do know that mama blue did all she could manage. She couldn’t return her chick to safety. She could only circle near, watch with care, and offer the best she had to give, no matter how meager. So she stayed close and hoped favor would bend their way. I think this is how it is for most of us who love someone or carry concern for this world. We will never be able to right all wrongs or heal every wound. We cannot keep harm from those dearest to us. To love is to do our best and then hope, to have faith. Often, love means simply circling and staying near -trusting that this will somehow prove enough.”

This is the hope I’m talking about. Our mothering can carry us so far, but ultimately there will always be circumstances that fall out of our hands. The dream goes a different direction. The picture takes on a different shape. The life-form we love is still becoming. Our hope? Stay near. Keep circling. Swallow the pill of trust and let it bring life to your bones.

A Lesson in Smallness {Audio Story}

This Story of Hope has been recorded for your listening merriment. Click & Enjoy. Or read the story below.

 

It’s back to school time and you know what that means…those joyous math assignments have returned. And not just for the kids. This past week I had an assignment too; it involved compiling numbers and stats and submitting reports. When I finished I looked down upon my desk at a bunch of skinny numbers; trim and stubborn. The sum total was oh-so-small. Laughable. The crying laughable kind. I felt discouragement prick my arm and a vile of self-worth extracted.

Discouragement and numbers like two clasped swinging hands. Numbers: They become the result, the measure of success, or the value of something. Bigger is better. It’s what culture tells us (Rule: waist and weight reverse the order). And we believe it because numbers don’t lie.

When you’re taller you can ride the ride.

When you’re older you can drink the drink.

When your smarter…prettier… healthier…

There is a basis for all things.

All this measuring and counting and mathematics: I am not a fan. It’s Back to School time and that means I’m relearning a few things too.

So, that day, the number crunching one; I finished my project, sent off the reports, and picked my sunken self up to hurry off to my son’s first football game. As I jumped out of the car I nearly crushed a sprouted mushroom under my foot. It made me stop and smile. Of all things; a small mushroom. I began walking across the open football field and the sunshine warmed my face. Suddenly, I felt this very small voice seem to whisper small is the new big. What a thought, huh?

I made my way and huddled near the team of parents who were cheering their kids on from the sidelines. Midway through the game one of the mothers began lamenting to me about…you guessed it…her son’s size. “He’s so small…” she said. And I could tell, mother-to-mother, there was a little worry in her voice. But do you know what happened next? That small boy got the ball and he ran and he ran and he ran that ball straight into the end zone. Yep, that small boy put some big points on the board.

True story.

May I encourage your thoughts today towards embracing the measure of staying small.

Smallness gives us space. Freedom to think, breathe, learn, and grow. Too big? It gets a little crowded. And quite honestly big is hefty load. That’s my story of hope for today.

Small is the new big.



From Jerry Lewis to My Own Front Yard

As a child, Labor Day weekend marked summer’s end. It was well-defined by sun streaked hair, copper toned skin, a new pair of jeans and an overstocked backpack bursting with the scent of Crayola. But one other pivotal event always marked the season’s end; The Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon.

Year after year, I’d settle in and watch as American’s rallied together to help those inflicted with Muscular Dystrophy. The story-based fundraiser captured real time adversity from the mouth’s of children and families living with MD. One year, while sitting on the living room couch, a story squeezed my heart so tight I remember crying elephant sized tears. I determined right then and there to do something. I was 11 years old. So, I went to my parents and told them my idea. Together, we organized a festival in my own front yard to raise money for the Jerry Lewis telethon and MDA.

Mom drove me to the local Coca-Cola plant, bank President’s and company CEO’s to pitch the idea. Donation after donation rolled in and the following summer we held a festival complete with games like ring toss, mini golf, and a cupcake walk. There were food concessions and face painting and pony rides too.

We raised more than $217!

And I was convinced Jerry Lewis himself might show up to invite us onto the show. Ha! Well, that never happened, but we made headlines in the Hutch Leader and my heart was so very happy.

Fast forward 20 some years and I find myself serving on a team, helping to organize a community festival raising money for livestock animals to be distributed via the humanitarian organization World Vision. I’d long forgotten about my front yard festival at 11 years old, until my mom dug out this newspaper clipping. I marveled at the similarity. I marveled at the thread of compassion stretching through the years, connecting me once again to a good work.

God prepares good works for us in advance. 

Many times we miss seeing the orchestration. Adulting has a certain way of blurring the vision. Work becomes small and mundane and merely meaningless. We stop to catch a breath and whisper curious words about our purpose and who can really know?

But I’m feeling inspired today to encourage you to look no further than your own front yard. The place where you played as a child and frolicked in the grass and kicked the can into the night. All those memories, light years away. Perhaps, the thread of passion in our earliest years holds a secret passage. An awesome revelation to be found. Purpose: can it be found in the 11 year old you? What do you see? Who have you become? And where will it take you?

Though my Livestock Music Festival season has come to a close God is still working this compassionate desire for good. Today I’m advocating for a small village in Sierra Leone, West Africa through the Lulu Tree.

So, thank you Jerry Lewis for inspiring a young girl with a big heart. I promise to take what you’ve given me and pass it on. May we all take heart and do a similar small, good thing.

Unequipped for the Trail Ahead

This is our last week at the ranch. We were fortunate to break away for a day trip to Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Ever been? Ahhhhmazing. I did some research prior to the excursion and found a well traversed, glorious looking hike called Hanging Lake that we could all partake in. It was only 1 mile. Easy enough. Says the girl who once ran a marathon and once climbed Pikes Peak.

So we get the parking lot of the trail head and because I’m so confident in our swift abilities we bring nothing with us. No water. No sunscreen. No hat. Just all of our free loving selves. But no worries I’ve got my Garmin on.

Except…oops, I forgot to charge the battery.

A short jaunt brings us to the trail head. A Boomer looking couple sits slouched over on a large boulder and we ask if this is the right way. They concur. As we proceed towards the immediate incline the gentleman quips about our shoes suggesting the Crocs we’re wearing may cause some problems up ahead.

“Children,” I advised,  “pull the sling around your heel.” One child listened. The other ignored his mother’s sage.

But soon we would all be seeking wisdom. And a lick of water. I’ll let a few pictures speak for themselves.

So we’re nearing the famous lake. It’s been a rough go. Steep elevation. Jagged rocks. Slippery rocks. Fallen timber. Switch back after switch back. One child’s hand slipped into a patch of itch weed so there’s that. And everyone just wants to get there already. Did I mention we didn’t bring water?

Finally. We reach the summit. Isn’t this glorious? The lake which has literally dropped out of the mountain is fed by these streaming water falls. The crystal blue water sparkles under the afternoon sun. For a moment it feels like I’m in the Caribbean. And for a moment we all forget about the cotton in our mouths. Soon enough we make our decent and back to the truck where water awaits to replenish our very lives.

I’m looking at my reflection in truck window and I can’t help but laugh. I’m completely unequipped. The jeans. The Crocs. The fashion sunglasses. The useless Garmin. And again, no water. I’m thinking this will make a great blog post about being equipped for the journey, making sure we use all the resources we’ve been given.

Then I read this morning’s devotional by Oswald Chambers.

“It is not a matter of our equipment, but a matter of our poverty; not of what we bring with us, but of what God puts into us; not a matter of natural virtues, of strength of character, of knowledge, or of experience – all of that is of no avail in this concern. The only thing of value is being taken into the compelling purpose of God and being made His friend. God’s friendship is with people who know their poverty.”

So may this be an encouragement to you, as it was to me. It’s okay to be unequipped. It’s okay to not have the ability. It’s okay to be unsure of what lies ahead. It’s okay to fall. It’s okay to fail. Our thirst produced poverty digs a deeper well. And in my weakness I should boast that my friendship with God prevails in moments just like these.

So keep climbing, friends. It’s okay to be unequipped.

 

One Way to Freedom

You guys, I just need to brag about God for a minute. He is seriously a wonder worker. And I just can’t believe that, when I’ve got my eyes peeled and heart wide, I get to witness the richness of His love. Everyday, if I’m aware.

So, a few days ago I posted a video update from Colorado (our summer home). If you haven’t watched it yet, you should. In the video I share a recent ranch story about a campfire friend, her vulnerable confession, and the Spirit’s prompting (later on) to share a copy of a prayer with her.

Since she left the ranch, she’s been on my heart in a big way. Specifically on the day I shared the video story. Then, just hours after I posted the video, I received an email from her. She wanted to say thanks for the prayer. She’s read it every single day. Note: she told me she’s not really the praying type. Yeah, ok. This is cool.

I emailed her back, thanking her for thanking me…(it’s a Minnesota Nice thing, I suppose) and then told her that I’d love to share my story with her sometime, that it was a long one, but in a nut shell, for years and years I tried to make all the changes in my life (with regards to drinking) on my own power, believing I had enough self control to be who I knew I really was deep inside. I just couldn’t do it on my own, at least for very long. But in perfect timing God delivered me and gave me the freedom I was longing for.

And then she called me. She wants to come back to the ranch, to her happy place, and she wants to talk with me. So, my heart is leaping with joy because I can see (what perhaps she cannot in this moment) that God has her in His sights. I mean, His eyes are always on us. Perhaps, what I mean is that God is now in her sights.

My not-the-praying-type campfire friend said, “I’ve read the prayer everyday…”

That’s the difference, right there.

If we want a transformed life. Fully. Wholly. Completely. It begins by giving our attention, devotion, thoughts to God. Our own power isn’t enough. It cannot sustain. It cannot break strong holds. And it simply cannot control the outcome.

But God can sustain. Jesus breaks the bonds that hold us back. And our greatest liberation with most surely come when allow ourselves to “be” in His presence, turning our head, and bowing our heart.

“The eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him…” -2 Chronicles 16:9

A heart shift catches the attention of our God running to and fro over the whole earth. Shift your perspective. Watch and see. Focus on the One Way and blessed, mark my words, Freedom will come.

Hey God, Wow!

One morning, a few weeks before we left Minnesota, during my quiet time with God I randomly had a picture in my mind of Jesus washing the disciples feet. Hmm, I thought out loud, “God, I don’t think I really understand what it means to wash peoples feet…show me what it means.”

Upon our arrival to the ranch in Colorado we found the property to be in disarray; the laundry room tore apart with no working washer, unclean cabins for who knows how long, stagnant construction projects and so on. On top that, working for a harsh, broken man with a lifestyle that hurts my heart has become the greatest challenge to me. But then, one morning shortly after we got here, I had some quiet time with the Lord and felt him whisper to me in my frustration, “Rachel, this is what it means to wash someone’s feet.” Oh. So, it’s servant work.

Since then I have read several accounts of John 13 when Jesus washes the feet of the disciples. I’ve read multiple translations, picking up bits of commentary online, talking about it with my Aaron and friends – desperately seeking God’s wisdom for me in this season, through this Word.

“Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his robe, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” -John 13:3-5

But the time here at the ranch, thus far has been more challenging than I imagined. It’s caused very ugly things in me to come out. Frustration. Sadness. Anger. Irritability. I’ve been fighting to hold onto Christ in me, but fleshly feelings have overwhelmed me. I find myself continually asking the Lord why we are even here. Even though I know deep down that God called us here, I’ve been severely resisting the temptation to flee like Jonah.

Until the other night.

Aaron took the kids fishing so I could prepare all the breakfast items for our 25 guests, the Park family, here at the ranch to celebrate Mr. Park’s 80th birthday. For hours, as I worked in the kitchen with the windows open I listened to all of their voices gathered together around tables, sharing a meal and telling stories. The thing that began to slowly overwhelm me was the sound of their laughter. Continual laughter and joy wafting through the screen window – and suddenly I had a thought…is this what Heaven will be like? Gathering around tables to share a lingering meal, sipping on wine, telling stories, singing songs and absolutely delighting in each others company as if the celebration of life may never end. Magical. It made me smile. I needed this. To be uplifted by their joy – especially because of my mood lately.

“He came to Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” -John 13:6-7

As I passed through the kitchen, carrying a box of eggs to the cooler, a guest from the party poked his head around the doorframe, asking if I might have a minute to talk. “Sure, come on in.” I said with a smile, though my weary spirit sighed a little. His name was Colin. He said, “I hope you don’t find this awkward but…” he stammered, ”I believe God gave me a message for you today. It was while I was taking a shower.” I raised my eyebrows, hinging on every word stumbling from his lips. I told him that I love the Lord very much and I certainly did not think he was awkward. And I watched his shoulders relax a little.

“Oh good. Well…” he paused, “the Lord wants me to tell you that the work you are doing out here, this summer, at the ranch, is all about Training. You’re being trained for what comes next.” Then Colin looked down at my feet. “Also, there’s something about your feet. The Lord kept showing me your feet…” He shook his head, unsure, and then asked, “Are you wanting to be a missionary or something?”

My mouth was wide open. My eyes burning with tears. This man, a total stranger, had no idea the things God was already speaking to me about these feet. Gah! I shared everything with him. Soon Aaron returned and Colin repeated everything he said to me, he even spoke some very interesting things into Aaron too. When he finally left for the evening I felt an enormous lifting of my spirit through this man’s prophetic word.

“I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater then the one who sent him.” -John 13:16

I still don’t have a clear vision or even total understanding for the purposes God has, but that will come. I’m sure of it. For now, I’m so thankful God has reminded me (again) that I’m exactly where he wants me to be.

i love her.

Once I met a man on a flight from Minneapolis to Washington D.C. who shared three unforgettable words with me. He never spoke them, actually, but they’ve captivated me even still.

I remember driving to the airport that morning while the sky was still black, sipping from my mug of coffee, still black. In the midst of quiet and calm I felt God whisper in my spirit to take notice for the person I was assigned to sit next to was assigned indeed.

I boarded the plane and took my seat, exchanging a curious smile with the man next to me. I was paying attention. As the plane departed we started a conversation, discovering we had a lot of similarities, including our age. He loved his family, his eyes smiled when he spoke about his wife, his passion for playing music was high and he was a devoted follower of Jesus. For the entire flight, we talked, leaving little margin for silence.

But there was one moment, mid-way through the flight, where I happened to glance down at his forearm: slightly turned, sleeve pushed up, the palm of his hand exposed. I saw three words, I hadn’t noticed before, permanently scripted in simple ink so bold.

I love her.

I think my mouth dropped. Because those three words, tattooed to his body, told me more about the depth of his character, than anything spoken ever could. Sure, he said loving things about his beloved and I ventured he pretty much loved her, but this…it felt like another level.

 

This was a pure statement.

This was his platform.

This was permanent.

I know there was a story. His story. But those three words said more than a mouthful ever could.

Unspoken expressions emboss the purest statement of who we are and what we stand for. May the notion give you pause. Today everyone is talking, saying something. The world is loudly screaming that we must LOVE out loud. The chatter is a great and mighty force. Yet, I’m convinced there is movement in the breeze, a language buried deep in our flesh that will speak out through unconventional platforms…if we so choose. We’re told that if we stay silent, for such a time as this…then we’re not taking a stand. But what if silence isn’t what we once thought? What if silence and spoken words are not two opposing parallels? What if quiet can play its part too?

What if proclaiming our views, our thoughts, and our ideas to make the world great again might be as simple as doing it differently. Finding a unique platform. And doing the silent work that causes heads to cock because it’s so gloriously silent, and so wonderfully profound, and so mysteriously filled with love.

What if today we stay still, palm up, skin exposed, and simply let the words we’ve got tattooed on our body, heart and soul showcase love on a new level? Make a statement without saying a word. It might be the purest platform around.
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The Secret to Satisfying Your 2017 Life Goals [with God]

I received a new pair of running shoes for Christmas. Not the cheapos– the certifiable kind from an authentic running store for athletes. Game on, 2017! The truth is I’ve been running for years. I’ve trained and ran races, mostly with ease, until last year. My last race was less than desirable. And I had a hunch it was time to consider good, quality shoes to accommodate my stAGE of life.

The gym is crazy cakes these days. Open treadmill’s are few and far between. I get it though. It’s a new year and everyone’s got the resolve to make a change, do things different…probably due to that stAGE of life thing. I’m with ya. Gonna try some new running goals, change it up a bit.

It’s no secret I’m also running this fierce race of life with a different set of achievement in mind. We can talk running races on dirt and pavement and mills all day long, but really, truth is, my heart and mind and soul are running for a way different prize. And it’s all about intimacy with God. My life’s race is really about cultivating a deeper, stronger relationship with God.

This is my goal. The prize is contentment.

I think a few of you want this too. A real certifiable relationship with God. And you’d like to start running the fierce race of life equipped with the quality of God by your side. Hear my heart and understand that I AM NOT TALKING ABOUT BEING A RELIGIOUS PERSON [a common misconception when the world sees someone crazy cakes about the things of God] — the notion that we “do” all the right things; be kind, love a little, go to church because of a duty to follow these so called rules. But that is NOT what I’m talking about. I’m talking about igniting your personal desire to know God more. This is about finding food that will satisfy every single one of your resolutions – a daily nourishment for our soul that only God can provide. Something I believe can only be found by devoting ourselves to a secret life with God. It’s about forming a habit each day to live worshipfully before God, reading the stories contained in the Word, and praying fervently.

This is the secret to a satisfying 2017. A good goal, in my opinion, to running a good race. A different race.

And don’t think the world won’t notice. The transformation comes…in time. If you want to go out and change the world, you’ve got to devote yourself to the inner life, first. How can we expect to export life giving resources if there’s no import?

Don’t know where to start? The book Secrets of the Secret Place by Bob Sorge paired with the Bible (I read from the New International Version and The Message version) and a little quiet time is my recommendation. Sorge’s devotional book has 52 chapters (one per week) and is a great guide to get you going. You can get a copy here. 

Game on, 2017!

When Joy Feels Like You Nailed It, Again!

Have you ever attempted one of those Pinterest prized creations? You just saw the most awesome creation, it looks super easy, your confidence soars to great heights, you tackle the task…and then there’s a moment (perhaps a blackout) when you suddenly realize that your great elaborate plan of Pinterest perfection has completely failed. You don’t know how you got here but your huddled in the corner covered in flour, burned from the glue gun or bandaging a wound.

 

 

Nailed it, again!

I’m convinced Joy is a lot like a Pinterest prized creation. We can see it, oh yes, in all it’s prize and glory. But whenever we set out to make it our own something usually goes terribly wrong, another failed attempt.

Before we head for the lofty hills of attaining Joy, once again, let us consider a few of these truths:

The truth about Joy is that it’s a gift from God. It was already created (whew, pressures off) and yeah, it’s pretty much already perfect. While this Joy gift in all its 100% perfection remains in Heaven, we can still receive it here on earth because the Father gives good gifts to his children. Namely, Jesus, the reason for the season. A gift to us. He came and died and rose again so that because of our connection (belief) in Him and all things eternal we too can have full access to Pinterest parade of Joy.

But first we need to receive it and say thanks for the gift of Joy. Think of it as being placed on your tongue like a piece of dark chocolate, let it coat your insides and satisfy your belly.

Now I know what your thinking. Ha. That’s real nice. I get it. Yeah, I’ll receive it but the second I turn around, bam! The irritating circumstance or the pain of loss or the fear of what’s ahead…none of that has changed. How can I keep the Joy in my heart when it constantly feels like its being ripped away from me?

Here’s the thing: the tension of fully receiving Joy is a beneath the soil understanding that it’s possible to have both (joy and sorrow) at the same time. It’s possible because the Bible tells us so. He (Jesus, the Joy giver) was a man of many sorrows, familiar with suffering, but because of the Joy set before him he endured the cross.

“Joy is a function of gratitude, and gratitude is a function of perspective. You only begin to change your life when you begin to change the way you see it.” -Ann Voskamp

See the gift. Receive it and say thanks. Breathe, believe and live.

5 Great Books to Boost Your Spiritual Energy This Christmas

Waiting is hard, especially when we are in a hurry. It feels like we’re always scrambling, especially during the Christmas season. We often feel more depleted, tired and totally worn out.

But it doesn’t have to be that way!

I’ve discovered that one of the greatest resources of replenishment is a few moments of quiet each day. A hard habit to form, indeed, but once you’ve pushed through the threshold of resistance…the rewards are spectacular, full of life renewed.

So, do yourself a favor this Christmas and give yourself the gift of quiet time, space to remember and dwell on God’s goodness to YOU. Reflecting, thanking and laying low are wholesome ingredients. Some of the best gifts are worth fighting for, doncha’ know!

This Advent, as you prepare to give yourself the gift of solitude, consider one of these 5 great books to help you boost your spiritual energy.

 

5-great-books

I’ve listed them for your personal preview. Click on the links below to preview and order the book that best suits you. Blessings & peace this holiday season. xo

1.) Come, Lord Jesus: The Weight of Waiting by Kris Camely

2.) A Moment of Christmas: Devotions for Time-strapped Moms by Anna Rendell

3.) The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas by Ann Voskamp

4.) 25 Days of Christmas: A Devotional for Incredibly Busy People by Ray Hollenbach

5.) 10 Days of Christmas: A Baker’s Advent Devotional by Rachel Britz