Everyday Holy: Creating a Sacramental Family

I hadn’t been a mother for very long before realizing that waking up before my children is a necessity for my mental health. I am a morning person, and I don’t function well without a bit of silence (and coffee) before facing the needs and demands of parenthood and life.

So nearly every week day my alarm goes off and I roll out of bed, stumble into my clothes, wander to the kitchen to pour a warm cup of wake-me-up,  and fall into the chair in my bedroom for a little silence, solitude, and time with Jesus and His Word. This is my preferred start to the day, and (when I don’t let myself get distracted by my dumb phone) it is a delight. But it is not the most delightful part of my morning.

The most delightful part of my morning begins over the next 30 minutes or so as the rest of the house wakes up.

Our youngest son is the only other early riser in the family. When our border collie camps out in the hallway, I know M is starting to move around. Before long I have a sleepy-eyed, pajama clad visitor. His preferred start to the day is a few minutes on my lap, and at almost 9 he will outgrow morning cuddles soon, so I soak them up while they last.

Soon my sweet husband drags himself out of bed and wakes up our sleepyhead middle child. T rises at the crack of dawn on weekends, but has to be pried out of bed when school is on the schedule. Eventually he too makes his way to my chair, seemingly unable to face the daunting task of getting dressed without a hug and kiss from his mama.

At some point in the morning, Matt wanders by in various stages of getting ready, kisses me, and tells me he loves me. An affectionate spouse is a gift I never tire of receiving.

Our youngest is eating breakfast by now, having let the dog out to do his morning business. When Dudley comes back inside, he (hilariously) also comes darting into the bedroom, sitting insistently at my feet until I tell him good morning too. He won’t leave until I’ve petted him, and most of the time he jumps up into my lap for a doggie-breath scented hug.

As my quiet morning draws to and end and the clock reminds me that it’s time to finish getting ready for my day, our oldest son comes in to say goodbye. As my alarm goes off every morning, I hear his blaring through the vents from the basement, attempting to wake the only other family member who has to be up early. This giant blond bearded man is about to graduate and fly our nest, but he never leaves without coming in and kissing his mother goodbye.


One of my co-workers has been studying and thinking about the idea of sacraments, and he won’t shut up about it (I’m not complaining, I love it!) A Sacrament is “a visible sign of an inward grace”. In the church the sacraments are the intentional, physical ceremonies we do to remind ourselves of God’s love and presence, like communion and baptism.

A good morning kiss, quiet words and loving embraces, these are such small things. But when we repeat them every day, they create an environment of affection and appreciation. A good morning kiss, quiet words and loving embraces, these are such small things. But when we repeat them every day, these small things can become holy, sacramental.

Nearly accidentally, we created a family culture of waking up to say I love you and hear it back.

I realized today that is what I want from my morning times: A quiet moment to crawl into my heavenly Father’s lap, hear “I love you” and say it back.

His love makes every day holy.

O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness, That we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. (Psalm 90:14)

 

 

 

Photo in images by Ember + Ivory on Unsplash

 

Advertisements

3 Tips for Parenting Middle Schoolers

T Baby Pic11 Years ago this month I woke up on a chilly Monday wondering, like so many overdue women before me, if I’d be pregnant forever.

8 hours later I was having an unexpected (unwanted but necessary) C-Section. Please do notice that even in the crazy surprise of that day, I managed to get my bright lipstick on.

I blinked, and that tiny baby – my first to birth but second of 3 to mother – sauntered into my house this week and handed over an invitation to his middle school registration/info night. The NERVE of these children, to keep growing up on us!

I thought the second time around would be easier, but with 7 years between my oldest and middle, I’m responding with similar light-headedness and the need to repeat, “CALM, the thing to do is BE CALM.”

In the service of holding tight to CALM, I decided to think back to what I learned the first time we face Middle School, remembering the conversations I had with other moms, and the things I journaled back then.

I know I’m not the only parent reminding herself to breathe over this particular milestone. When I asked Facebook for advice for sending a kid to Middle school, the responses were everything from warnings about more homework and the need for organization (likely to be a a bigger problem this time around than it was for my type A firstborn) to “I am absolutely terrified.”

For those of us freaking out about sending our babies to middle school next year, here are the Top 3 Lessons we learned from surviving Middle School the first time around (with high hopes for surviving it two more times!) Continue reading

Fear Not: The Fear of the Lord is the Beginning of Wisdom

I feel God calling me right now, to something new or different. I don’t want to be melodramatic, so let me be clear: I don’t know how new, or how different, and I suspect that the new or different isn’t what I expect. I also don’t think He’s calling me to something bigger. I’m guessing it is something smaller, actually.

But I do feel like He’s calling me.

That sounds pretty romantic, but the truth is that I am scared to death. I trust God, but I don’t like change, and my life already has plenty of change coming, thankyouverymuch. I’m scared.

Afraid of mis-hearing God, of making wrong decisions.

Afraid of disappointment.

Afraid of failure. (Really, really afraid of failure.)

I’m afraid.

I decided a long time ago not to make decisions based on fear, but I’ve found that fear leads me in super sneaky ways.

So I’m going back to my roots, Bible study wise, and I’m doing a Word study. I’m going to look at every place the Bible says any version of the phrase “fear not” or “do not be afraid.” I think I’ve read somewhere that “fear not” is the most repeated command in the Bible, so I’m guessing this will take a while.

I probably won’t write about every single verse I find, but I tend to learn more when I  communicate what I’m learning. So I’m inviting you to join me on this journey. Most Tuesdays you’ll find some “fear not” thoughts here, as I work out this truth in my life. I’d love to hear what you’re afraid of, and the areas where you need to hear God’s invitation to “fear not.”

I’ll probably study in chronological order because that makes the most sense to me (Hi, I’m Renee. I like to go in order.) But my verse of the year is from the middle of the story, and it’s another return to my roots (as this is something of a life verse for me.) Continue reading

A Letter to My Future Self

In one of the last books I read in 2017 the author,  knowing she’d be traveling the world with her family, journaled a note to herself:

I question our sanity by our third day here. I’m enamored of the earth’s diversity of climates and cultures, and I want a drink of all of it. But China is a struggle for me, with its Communist worldview a battering ram against my overzealous democratic autonomy. I knew this about China before we landed here, so a few weeks before we left I journaled a note to my future self, as a hammer to break the glass in case of an emergency (the emergency being, of course, questioning our sanity and considering a trip to a coffee shop to grab some Wi-Fi and book a return flight home):

You’re in China, which is hard. But you can do hard things. You won’t be here long. This month is the foundation for the year. Lean in to the struggles; give thanks for the easy times. Hard doesn’t mean wrong. You’re on the right path. (Tsh Oxenreider)

This note keeps coming to mind as we move deeper into 2018. I’m not going globe-trotting with my family (I WISH!), but for the first time in many years I’m entering this one knowing for sure there will be hard things, because this year is bringing CHANGE (not my favorite.)

I want to be present and thankful, and I don’t want to let fear of future change steal my joy today. So from the peace and stability of January 2018, from a life that has stayed relatively the same from year to year for a while now, from a heart that naturally overflows with gratitude (rather than having to fight for it), here’s a letter to my future self.

Dear Future Renee,

From this frigid early January day, I don’t know how you’re responding to change and difficulty: With faith and grace, or struggling to trust God. Holding on tight to the things you know are true, or if giving in to fear.  I don’t know what hard things you’re facing, whether they are the ones I expect now, or others that have come as a surprise.

But I do know:

Whatever giants you are facing, God is bigger. He is with you, and His goodness is bigger than you know. You are loved and known, not forgotten and invisible.

As things shift and change, I hope you remember:

God never changes, and He will not change His mind about you.

Your stability does not come from your plans, or your ability to manage things so that everyone in the world is comfortable and safe and happy.

Your value is not from being needed by others, or from everything staying the same. Change is natural.

And your hope is not in people or organizations or homes or paychecks or roles. God’s goodness is not limited by your failures or other people’s response to you.

The great story of your faith, the story you see in the Bible and in nature is that life comes from death. You can embrace everything that feels like death right now, and release the things that are changing, the chapters that are ending, the seasons that are over. Let everything fall to the ground like seeds, and trust the God who makes the flowers grow, God who spoke everything you see into being.

Is this hard? Yes. But you can do hard things. Don’t try to do them by yourself, and don’t pretend to be stronger than you are. Say a prayer, go for a walk, choose gratitude, take a nap, call a friend. Hard doesn’t mean you’re on the wrong path.

Let these changes bind you to the God who calls you by name, the Father whose arms are always open to you, whose Word has been your treasure and whose Spirit has been your breath. He will not fail you.

He will not fail you.

A Letter to my Future Self

Are you facing change or other hard things in the coming year? What would you say to your future self?

 

How to Carry Christmas Spirit Into the New Year

Some years I am still in the mood for Christmas carols well into January, and others I’m ready to pack up the holiday festivity and jump into a clean new year moments after the last gifts are opened. This year, as the candles were lit and the words to “Silent Night” filled my family’s Christmas Eve, I realized how badly I need “the dawn of redeeming grace” with me as we head into 2018.

In that moment, words from the Christmas story came to mind, words I’d been reading and thinking about over the course of Advent. Specifically, three verbs. Continue reading

What I’m Reading Right Now: November Book Reviews

In addition to my regular responsibilities, I  worked around the clock this month to get my advent devotional ready to go, and thought I hadn’t finished any books at all.  But look: I finished 6 great books! Well, I finished 4 great books and one I didn’t love as much as I expected, and I’ll finish one today or tomorrow but can’t wait to tell you about it.

November Book Reviews

This month I’m listing my books according to my enjoyment/recommendation level (from greatest to least!) If you’ve read any of these, I’d love to hear what you think.

Continue reading

Waiting on God: A 4 Week Advent Devotional (PDF NOW AVAILABLE!)

Reposting this to let you know that the Waiting on God: A 4 Week Advent Devotional is now available for sale on PDF!  (scroll down, or click the link in the menu) If you’re interested in getting it daily, for free, in your email, that link is below as well!
I learned a long time ago that I need to set aside time in December to sit still. To be quiet. To make space for my soul, to reserve some of my attention for prayer, journaling, God’s Word.

My celebration of Jesus on December 25th is so much richer and more meaningful when I make room, daily, to turn my eyes to Jesus throughout the month of December.

Would you like to join me in observing Advent this year? I  invite you to clear some space in your December to listen, to be quiet, to turn your eyes to Jesus.

Traditionally, the Christian Church has observed Advent in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Advent is a time of waiting. Waiting for the celebration of the birth of Christ. Remembering the years humanity spent waiting for the Messiah King. Reminding ourselves that we wait still, for Jesus to fulfill His Kingdom and redeem and restore this earth and His people.

With that in mind, I’ve written an Advent study exploring different aspects of Waiting On God.

“Waiting on God: A 4 Week Advent Devotional” will walk us through the weeks leading up to Christmas, inviting us to sit with Jesus, to welcome Him into our Christmas preparations, allowing us to make space to listen to Him and respond.

If you’d like to join me, you have two choices

BUY THE EBOOK

Waiting on God Cover 1.2

If you’d like the entire devotional, either to print or to read on Kindle or iBooks, you can purchase it for $5 by clicking the button below. I think it looks FANTASTIC on Kindle (if you saw my facebook live, you know how excited I am about this), plus I love the idea of being able to read and process without being on my email or phone.


Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

** Important! After you click through and pay, you’ll be taken to a receipt page. From there, you need to click on the RETURN TO SELLER link, which will take you to a page where you can download the PDF.

RECEIVE VIA EMAIL FOR FREE

From Monday 11/27 through Monday 12/25, you’ll receive an email with that day’s devotional. Each will include a scripture to meditate on, my devotional thoughts, and journaling prompts to lead you deeper into your own experience of waiting on God through the advent season.

Sign up here to receive Waiting on God: An Advent Devotional for free.

I have loved putting this together for you – I hope you’ll join me!

Download Waiting On God: A 4 Week Advent Study

Surprised by Jesus

I spent the last 5 days with 124 amazing students, in the beautiful Rocky Mountains, talking about meeting God in ordinary and surprising ways. I got to lead a meditation on one of my favorite Bible stories…about a woman who went looking for Jesus but was still surprised by Him.

But as He went, the crowds were pressing against Him. And a woman who had a hemorrhage for twelve years, and could not be healed by anyone, came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped. (Luke 8:43-44)

In her culture, this woman would have been unclean, untouchable. I imagine she was lonely, and I am sure she dealt with shame.  In Mark’s account of this interaction, he adds the detail: “she had endured much at the hands of many physicians, and had spent all that she had and was not helped at all, but rather had grown worse…”

Lonely, ashamed, exhausted. Helpless and hopeless, she goes looking for Jesus.

And a woman who had a hemorrhage for twelve years, and could not be healed by anyone, came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped.

Matthew’s account tells us she thought to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be healed.” Helpless and hopeless, she goes looking for Jesus, hoping, expecting to be healed.

By Jewish law her uncleanness made her untouchable, but still she entered this pressing crowd (I picture it like leaving a Husker game where you’re pressed together like slowing moving sardines. By pressing in with the crowd, she made them all ceremonially unclean, something they surely would have resented.

This was a brave act, but she was desperate.

Where is the surprise in our story? She went into the crowd expecting that if she could just get near enough to Jesus she would be healed and she was. No surprise. Yet.

And Jesus said, “Who is the one who touched Me?” And while they were all denying it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing in on You.” (Luke 8:45)

Peter basically says, “Dude, everyone is touching you!”

But Jesus said, “Someone did touch Me, for I was aware that power had gone out of Me.”

When the woman saw that she had not escaped notice, she came trembling and fell down before Him, and declared in the presence of all the people the reason why she had touched Him, and how she had been immediately healed. (Luke 8:46-47)

This bleeding woman expected to touch Jesus and be healed.

But she WASN’T expecting to be noticed by Him.

She wasn’t expecting a personal encounter.

This woman wanted what Jesus had for her. But she wasn’t expecting Jesus to see her. She wasn’t expecting to be noticed.

She wasn’t expecting to have to tell her story. And she tells it publicly, in front all those people she made unclean. What is it about Jesus that made her brave enough to do that?

I don’t know for sure, but I do know what He said to her:

And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” (Luke 8:48)

 

Can you put yourself in this woman’s place? Picture yourself, wading into a crowd of people around Jesus.

This woman had a hemorrhage, a 12 year health problem that had exhausted all of her resources. A great shame. Think of your own greatest shame. Your greatest need for healing. What do you want from Jesus?

Are you brave enough to push into the crowd around Jesus? Do you believe that He has what you need?

What do you need from Jesus? Picture yourself reaching out to touch Him, asking, needing, wanting.

Are you surprised that He sees you?

And friend, He DOES see you. You have not escaped His notice.

Picture Him, seeing you. Searching all the crowd for yours.

Are you afraid?

The woman was afraid, she came forward, trembling. I think she was terrified. She came trembling and fell down before Him.

Picture the expression on Jesus’ face as He looked down on her. What do you think she found in His eyes? Judgement? Condemnation? Disgust?

Or mercy? Kindness? Love.

To the woman’s great surprise, He called her daughter. DAUGHTER.

Picture yourself, trembling and terrified, bringing your shame, your hurt, your need before Jesus.

What do you see in His eyes, as He sees you? What does He say to you?

Can you hear Him calling you daughter? Son?

Jesus sees you. He calls you son, He calls you daughter.

Are you surprised?

Surprised by Jesus: A Devotional Meditation on Luke 8:43-48

 

Photo in my images by John Price on Unsplash

A Beginner’s Guide to the Enneagram (Tips for Getting Started)

I’ve been nerding out over the Enneagram for about 3 years now.

I love personality and personality typing tools, so when the word “enneagram” showed up in several different areas of my life within a few weeks (a book, a blog post, a podcast…) I was *shocked* to learn that there was a personality framework that I wasn’t familiar with. I looked it up and I was HOOKED.

I took a test, I listened to podcasts, I read books, I talked with friends. I began to dig into issues that have plagued me for as long as I can remember, name things I’d much rather ignore, deal with parts of me I pretend aren’t under the surface. It hasn’t been fun, but it has been GOOD. Like therapy, good.

Over the past year, I’ve been excited to see the Enneagram blow up as more and more people discover it, many of them joining me in finding it gross and terrible and quite helpful to their personal and spiritual growth.

Each time the Enneagram shows up on Facebook (through a new app, a new podcast, Jen Hatmaker posting about it) I get a slew of questions and see quite a bit of misunderstanding.

Are you new to the Enneagram? Would you like to know a little more before you jump in? Have you taken a test, but don’t understand what the big deal is?

Click through for a quick summary of what I’ve learned about the Enneagram, and  5 tips for Enneagram beginners.  Continue reading

What’s Making Me Happy Right Now

When the news is bad and life is hard, I try to look for things that bring me joy.

Right now I’m finding joy in finally fall-ish weather, boys who are not too old to want hugs and kisses from their Mama first and last thing, and a husband who makes me belly laugh.

None of those are things I can share with you, so here are some pop culture-y things that are making me happy at the moment, things you can check out and bring some joy to yourself. Continue reading