When You Don’t Really Slay at Life

I just finished listening to a podcast series celebrating women and it really bothered me. AT the end of every episode, every week: Unrest.

I love the podcast, I love women, I love celebrating women, and I personally celebrate a few of the women being interviewed, so what is my problem?

I’ve been working on the spiritual practice of noticing. Noticing my feelings, noticing my reactions, noticing my thought patterns. Not judging or evaluating, but noticing and asking God and myself: What is that about?

At least in part my problem is that as I listen to all  that these “Girl Bosses” have done with their lives, I can’t celebrate them because I’m busy comparing myself and not measuring up.

These business owners and world changers and over comers were also each introduced as “totally slaying.” Slaying at their jobs, slaying at ministry, slaying at life.

Am I slaying at life??

First: What does “slaying at life” mean anyway? Second: Is this, slaying at life, something I’m even called to?

I’m a hard worker and a grown up woman, and I’m doing the best I can with this life I’ve been given. If I feel like that’s not enough, like I need to be “slaying” at something, is that the voice of my Father?

Ultimately I wonder if my desire to “slay at life”, if my competitive reaction to the interviews I’ve been listening to, comes from my desire for greatness?

Make no mistake: I want to be great.

I’ve always been driven by success. I don’t always want to be the greatest, but I do want to be great. I think this is why fear of failure has bound me so tightly – I need to succeed. I listen to what other women have done, I hear them described as “slaying” and I want to slay at life.

So I turn (again) to what Jesus said about greatness.

 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. 

(Matthew 18:1-3)

Today I think I’ll lay down my desire to slay at life.

I’ll try to surrender my desire to succeed, to win, to be great. And I’ll look to the children in my life and learn Jesus’ definition of greatness.

When I look to children, I see:

Curiosity…

So I’ll foster a sense of wonder, and ask for eyes to see all that I don’t know. I’ll choose to be curious about others, about myself, about this wide, beautiful world we’re living in.

Trust…

So I’ll trust in the goodness of God and look for goodness in the world around me. I’ll try not to demand answers and explanations and understanding before I move forward, before I try, before I live.

Joy in simple things…

So I’ll rejoice in the simple sacraments of : Hands held around a table. Bedtime kisses on sleepy cheeks. Changing seasons. A favorite song.

Today I’ll lay down my desire to slay at life. I’ll  still be a grown up, I’ll expect to work and I’ll be responsible, and I’ll love excellence (because it’s the right thing to do, and also because that’s how I’m made.)

But I’ll also cultivate a childlike spirit, playful and curious and thankful.

I don’t always feel like I am slaying at life. But maybe that’s not the point, anyway.

When You Don't Really Slay at Life

 

Photo in my images is by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

 

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

The Time I Stole from One of My Favorite Writers (Accidentally.)

I’ve been reading Anne Bogel’s blog for a couple of years now and I listen to What Should I Read Next religiously – first thing on Tuesday morning, every Tuesday. Nearly every book I read is one I learned about from MMD or WSIRN. Many of my friends know about Modern Mrs. Darcy now, but for a while there I just called her “my book lady” because I don’t have a lot of local friends who read literary lifestyle blogs.

Well, my book lady published her first book last month, and I was so excited. I knew I would like Anne’s book, and I want to support her work.

But I also knew I pre-ordered a LOT of books this summer, and have spent more on books than I’m supposed to (actual spending too, not just library fines, which is how I usually spend my money on books…)

So as the late September release date of Reading People drew near, I waffled back and forth about whether or not I should buy it. A free link to the audiobook was a pre-order freebie, and since I’m so used to Anne’s voice, that is what I really wanted.

I decided to just wait and use my Audible monthly credit for Reading People, since I preferred to listen anyway.

And then the release date rolled around, it showed up on my Kindle and Matt asked me about the charge in our bank account. What??

OK, so all that waffling in August and September? I’D BOUGHT THE BOOK IN JUNE. Matt – who’d listened to all my decision making rigamarole for literally a MONTH –  rolled his eyes so hard at me. But it was OK, he could cancel the order.

Later that week I was waiting for a meeting and decided to go ahead and get the audio book, so it could be loading in my audible app and I could listen to it over the weekend. I texted Matt first, to make sure he’d canceled the original order.

“Hey Babe! Did you cancel my Reading People order?”

“No, sorry, the charge came through last night, I didn’t realize when the deadline was.”

UGH. Now I had pre-ordered, but missed the pre-order goodies! I was happy to have the Kindle version, but now I was going to have to use one of my Audible credits if I wanted to listen to it (and I was pretty committed to the audiobook at this point, I don’t know why that hadn’t occurred to me in the first place.)

Before clicking through on Audible.com, I decided it was worth at least asking if there was any chance I could still get the pre-order goodies. I get the Modern Mrs. Darcy newsletter, so I just replied to the email, explained the situation (including my husband’s eye roll), and asking if there was any chance I could still get the pre-order bonus.

After my meeting I found the nicest email in my inbox, from Anne Bogel, my book lady herself (or her assistant, but if so her assistant is really good at imitating her written voice and tone.) She said yes and that I wasn’t the only one who had done this.

So I quickly clicked through and started the process of downloading the free audiobook. Yay me! I wondered if I should send her a screen shot of the order from back in June, she hadn’t even asked for proof. My book lady is so nice, y’all.

I started listening on my way home, through the after school carpool run, and back and forth taking my youngest to dance and running errands that evening. T and Matt were at a soccer game, and we decided to meet for dinner after soccer and dance.

Friday night at Old Chicago Pizza can mean quite a crowd, so as we waited for our table I thought I’d download the kindle version of Reading People to my phone, so I could keep reading as I waited (there are 8,000 TVs there so the boys were fully entertained.)

Except I couldn’t find Reading People in my Kindle Library anymore. I mentioned it to Matt, and he said, “Isn’t that the book I cancelled for you?”

WHAT.

When he texted me that no, he hadn’t cancelled it? Y’all, he was talking about something else entirely. Not even a BOOK. Not even something we had ever talked about him cancelling for me.

I practically screamed in the waiting area, “BUT I EMAILED HER AND SHE GAVE ME FREE THINGS FOR BUYING HER BOOK!”

So that’s how I accidentally stole from one of my favorite writers.

**  I am not a thief.  I hopped onto Amazon right that second and bought the Kindle version. Again. I thought about emailing Anne and telling her this story. But I couldn’t bring myself to type out and send “Thanks for the pre-order goodies, turns out I was lying but not really, and I bought it again!!” I have no idea how Amazon’s algorithms work, or if the same person buying and returning a book will mess anything up. I hope not. **

I think Matt might try to ban me from pre-ordering books from now on. (Just like he tries to ban me from the library every time he notices a ridiculous fine pass through our checking account.) Good luck with that, babe.

Reading People by Anne Bogel

Reading People by Anne Bogel is in fact a delightful book, either to read or listen.  I finished listening over that weekend, and I am glad to have the kindle version handy because it is definitely a book I will return to. If ever there were a book worth buying twice…or three times….or whatever I did there, this was it!

 

 

 

 

When You Don’t Have What it Takes {A Devotional on the Feeding of the 5,000}

I’ve been afraid of not having what it takes as long as I can remember.

As a child I was desperately afraid of failure, of trying out for something and not making it, of being told “you’re not good enough.”

In a world where girls tell everyone who their crush is, hoping it will get back to him, I never told anyone who I liked. Because the idea of anyone knowing I liked someone who didn’t like me back felt like the end of the world to me.

In college I finally got brave enough to apply for things I wanted to do, but I never told anyone (so if I didn’t get it, no one would know I wanted it.)

In my twenties I missed (or nearly missed) job opportunities because I waited to be asked. I assumed that my desire to be included was understood by everyone, desperately afraid to communicate what I wanted for fear of not being chosen, being told I wasn’t good enough.

Even to this day I wonder if there are dreams, opportunities, hopes I won’t even admit to myself because of this fear of being told no, or WORSE, trying and failing, finding out once and for all that I don’t have what it takes.

It’s so much easier to stick with sure things, never admit what I want or need, never take on more than I can handle.

Do you relate?

I am helping lead a Bible study this Fall for a precious community of women who are studying the table scenes in the book of Luke, looking at the way Jesus treated and interacted with people. Our study is called “The Radical Hospitality of Jesus”, and I’m learning more every week how much more radical Jesus was than I ever realized.

 

Learning about the radical hospitality of Jesus is stretching my boundaries, stretching my understanding of God, pushing against my ideas about who is in and who is out. The radical hospitality of Jesus is making me uncomfortable.

Sometimes as Christians we can fool ourselves into thinking following Jesus is all rainbows and unicorns, that it will happen naturally, when we do what is most comfortable to us.

But when we look at the life of Christ in Scripture, we see a path we may not even want to follow, and that I certainly don’t feel equipped to follow.

 RADICAL Hospitality.

I see Jesus welcoming outsiders and social outcasts and I am overwhelmed. I can’t even manage to make time for my neighbors.

Jesus crossed political and economic and social boundaries and I can’t even handle following my crazy relatives on Facebook.

I do not actually have what it takes to practice the radical hospitality of Jesus.

Which is not a surprise to God AT ALL. He knows that sometimes the Radical Hospitality of Jesus will require more than we have to give.

Our passage this week is like a breath of fresh air.

Jesus took them away, off by themselves, near the town called Bethsaida. But the crowds got wind of it and followed. Jesus graciously welcomed them and talked to them about the kingdom of God. Those who needed healing, he healed.

As the day declined, the Twelve said, “Dismiss the crowd so they can go to the farms or villages around here and get a room for the night and a bite to eat. We’re out in the middle of nowhere.”

“You feed them,” Jesus said.

They said, “We couldn’t scrape up more than five loaves of bread and a couple of fish—unless, of course, you want us to go to town ourselves and buy food for everybody.” (There were more than five thousand people in the crowd.)

But he went ahead and directed his disciples, “Sit them down in groups of about fifty.” They did what he said, and soon had everyone seated. He took the five loaves and two fish, lifted his face to heaven in prayer, blessed, broke, and gave the bread and fish to the disciples to hand out to the crowd. After the people had all eaten their fill, twelve baskets of leftovers were gathered up. (Luke 9:11-17)

Of the 8 table scenes we’re discussing in our study, this is the only one where Jesus is actually the host. He’s welcoming the crowd, and ultimately He provides for them. But He invited the disciples to participate with Him in welcoming and providing.

Jesus is inviting them into the life of dependence that offers God our human not-enough, offers what we have to God with thanks and prayer, and sees Him bless, break and give.

I believe this miracle, this sign can be a way of life for us as well. A life of dependence on the Father that offers our not-enough and sees Him make it more than enough.

I don’t think God is calling us to live limitless, boundary-less lives. We have to say no, and we have to recognize our humanity. He is God, we are NOT. If I am the answer, then He’s not, and that is a problem.

On the other hand, I tend to look at what God is calling me to through the lens of my own resources.

Forget about big miraculous callings, just simple life and motherhood and being a wife and friend and person in this hurting world is more than my resources can take.

I don’t have the wisdom, I don’t have the energy, I don’t have the patience, I don’t have what it takes to be who God has called me to be in the world. I don’t have what it takes to practice the radical hospitality of Jesus.

 

Which is not a surprise to God AT ALL. He knows that sometimes the Radical Hospitality of Jesus will require more than we have to give.

BUT.

What if I do what the disciples do in this story: What if I offer God my not enough?

My not enough wisdom, my not enough strength, my not enough time, my not enough love?

What if I give Him my fear – fear of what others will think, fear of rejection, fear of failure? What if I give Him my fear of not having what it takes?

What if I offer Jesus just what I have, my own self. What if I offer what I have in prayer, lifting my eyes to Him, and let Him bless and break and give me out.

What if He can take my not enough and make it more than enough?

 

When You Don't Have What It Takes Insta Quote

What I’m Reading Right Now: September Book Review

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Things stay pretty full around here until our college retreat in mid-October, so I’m excited to see that I was able to get 6 books read in September. But because I know some of you think audiobooks don’t count as reading (they totally count.), full disclosure: I listened to 3 of these.

I can’t really pick a favorite non-fiction this month, I LOVED all three, for totally different reasons. I think you should read them all.

Fiction is easier, Garden Spells was a DELIGHT. Like last month, I set aside part of my Saturdays specifically for rest and reading, trying to care for my soul in the midst of this busy time of year. Garden Spells was my book date on one of those Saturdays and I read it in that one day, practically in one sitting.

Read on for more specifics!

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Building Bridges Instead of Walls (Or, How I travel the world every Thursday without leaving town.)

I love to travel.

My whole life I dreamed of traveling. We didn’t have much money, and my single mama saved for years to make Disney World happen for us when I was 13. I was SO EXCITED to be going during Epcot Center’s inaugural year. The World Showcase was my favorite, even though only a few countries were finished back then. I walked through the Disney versions of far away places and dreamed that some day I’d see the real thing.

Headed into college I was sure I’d spend a year or more in the Peace Corps when I finished, but life takes unexpected turns. I was 27 before I went anywhere further than Mexico. My first transatlantic trip was to the London & Paris, and the UK will always have a special place in my heart, having visited friends studying at Cambridge several times over the years.  For 3 years early January meant a work trip to the (beautiful) southern coast of Spain, and I celebrated a delightful Christmas in China. I spent 2 memorable summers teaching English in Uzbekistan, another place where I left part of my heart.

My favorite thing about my pre-marriage and motherhood life was the opportunities it provided to travel, learn other cultures, meet people who are different from me.

Then I got married and became a mom. And moved to Lincoln, NE, which feels like the whitest white bread place on earth sometimes. I felt trapped in the very heartland of the United States, unable to travel, unable to find any outlet for the part of me that feels made to share life with people of other cultures.

There are certainly international students at the University here, and I’ve learned that my white bread city is a major welcome center for refugees (Go Nebraska!) But in those young mom years I never could figure out how to make either of those groups part of my weekly life. I always wanted to, but I never acted on it.

And then, 3 years ago, I found myself sitting with my then-15 year old at the DMV, jumping through the hoops we needed for his driving permit. As he took the written test, I sat in a room with all the waiting people. Is there a place that makes you feel more like a number/less like a person than the DMV? My seat faced directly into the doorway through which the wait-ers were called to jump through whatever hoops they needed to jump. I watched people move from testing location to camera to whomever else they needed to see in order to get what they need.

My eye was caught by a precious older lady, who looked Chinese, and definitely did not have English as her first language. She did not understand what the DMV worker wanted her to do. I’m sure that the DMV is a hard place to work, and maybe this DMV lady was having a rotten day. But her response to the lack of understanding was to repeat herself, several times, growing ever louder, and with an ever more distinct tone of “are you stupid?”

As I sat glued to my chair, memories of my time in China flashed back to me: The welcome I received. The kind politeness of everyone I met, listening as I practiced my 3 super-basic Mandarin phrases. The excitement of every English learner I met, so happy to have a native speaker to talk to.

Something rose up in me. I didn’t have this language for it at the time, but now I recognize it as the desire to build bridges rather than walls.

The desire I felt in that moment to help, to DO SOMETHING, was met 3 days later when my church hosted a community involvement weekend, where they invite various non-profits (faith based and otherwise) to have booths and share information. I walked out of the sanctuary and straight over the the Lincoln Literacy table.

Within a couple of months I had completed training and walked into a room of English Language Learners, well on my way to Thursdays being my favorite day of the week.

I wish I’d kept a running list of the countries represented in my classes. For sure I’ve spent time with people from Myanmar, China, Sudan, Eritrea, India, Ukraine, India, Japan, Korea, Bolivia, El Salvador, Tanzania, Egypt, Afghanistan, and many many friends from Iraq and Kurdistan.

For the first two years I tutored the highest level class, helping them practice reading, writing and speaking. My student friends were refugees, immigrants, wives of men working at the Kowasaki Office here, wives of Graduate Students, Graduate Students themselves. Many of them were far more educated than I am.

In the level 4 class the greatest skill I brought was my ability to talk. We discussed our lives and backgrounds, the weather and the world, we read books, we practiced grammar and we talked politics.

I’ll never forget teaching refugees and immigrants during the divisive 2016 election season, where such terrible things were said about non-Americans, with the focus on borders and walls.

I watched as people from thousands of miles apart, separated by geographical, religious, and gender barriers worked together to understand what their crazy American teacher wanted them to do. I watched them build bridges rather than walls.

I had a front row seat to hard work, determination, and the amount of hard work and determination it takes for someone from the other side of the world to end up here in Lincoln, Nebraska (the narrative that our borders are wide open and it is easy to get into the US is a lie.)

I cried with student friends who had been working hard and hoping endangered family members in their ISIS torn home country would be able to join them here in safety, as their hopes were dashed by ban on travel to the US from Muslim countries.

This year I’m working with beginners, the lowest level. I’m awed by the courage it takes to start life over in a place where you have to have carry a piece of paper with your name and pertinent information because you can’t communicate that yourself. I’m amazed at the sheer audacity of someone who is illiterate in her first language, trying to learn English. I’m in love with the smiles that light up my friends’ faces when they understand.

And from my home right here in the heartland, I am BLESSED. I am made rich. I’m inspired. I’m braver, I want to work harder. This is what I’ve learned from people who look and sound different from me. Though in many ways I’m their teacher, I’m the one who is learning. Though in many ways I’m their host, I’m the one who has been welcomed.

If you’ve been feeling the nudge to build bridges rather than walls, may I gently suggest that you respond, that you step into that, whatever it looks like for you, today? I wish I had done this sooner.

Maybe you’ve felt called to feed the poor. Serve with the homeless. Encourage prisoners. Welcome Refugees. Google what’s available in your area, and jump in. It might be scary, but I bet it will also be good.

If you’re local and interested in  helping English Language Learners, I could not recommend the work that Lincoln Literacy is doing more highly. They will train you, and the commitment is 1-2 hours a week (more if you want.) I tutor a class (8-10) because that was my preference, but they have 1 on 1 tutoring as well. It helps that I have an English Grammar background, and had some idea how to plan lessons. But if you can talk, you can do this. I volunteer in the refugee program, but they also work with folks from the wider international population as well as adults with disabilities who need literacy help. My fellow Lincoln Literacy tutors come from every background you can think of: Stay at home moms, retired folks from many fields, professors, armchair travel dreamers like me.

And if you’re interested in learning more about how we can build bridges instead of walls, there’s a whole chapter on this, including LOTS of practical suggestions, in my friend Osheta’s book, which I talked about last week!

 

Building Bridges Instead of Walls Insta Quote (1)

Photo used in my images is by Ben White on Unsplash

I Will Be Satisfied.

In India this summer, I loved getting to meet people from various religions and learn what they believe and how that faith affects their lives. But I also loved and was greatly impacted by watching and learning from my Indian brothers and sisters, believers in Jesus.

One Sunday evening we had the opportunity to visit a small home-church gathering. This handful of  Indian Christians meet in an apartment in a part of town where very few Christians live, to sing, and pray and study the Bible together each week. It was beautiful.

A young man with a guitar led our singing, interrupting the songs periodically to pray. He thanked the Lord for His presence. For their American guests. For the gift of meeting together. For God’s Word and wisdom and guidance. For His goodness.

As he prayed and sang, this young man would periodically pause and say, Continue reading

I am a Shalom Sista

I’ve been thinking about the concept of peace for a long time.

In my family, peace was the absence of conflict, something you kept by not arguing, not rocking the boat.

In the Christian environment I was born into in college, peace was this magical quality that helped you make decisions. “I had a peace about it.”

Lovely, except that “not rocking the boat” can lead to enabling unhealthiness, and create more relational strain than an honest approach.

And for me, decision making is inherently un-peaceful. I literally have NEVER “had a peace” about a decision before it is made, because I fear making wrong decisions.

Thankfully, at some point in my twenties, I heard one of my favorite Bible teachers explain peace as the product of trust in God and submission to the Prince of Peace. “AHA!” I thought, “Finally, a peace that seems healthy and attainable for me.” And I still think true peace in my spirit comes first and foremost when I am trusting God and surrendered to His goodness, regardless of my circumstances.

But that definition of peace is limited to my own experience – I can trust and surrender to God’s goodness myself, but I can’t force it on others.  And as I continued to study my Bible, particularly the Psalms and New Testament Kingdom theology, I increasingly felt the need for a broader definition. A peace we can live out of, but also into.

I found it when I learned the concept of Shalom. The word translated peace in our English Old Testaments means wellness, completeness, safety, flourishing. 

This is what God is doing in our hearts and in the world, bringing Shalom. And this is what God is inviting us to join Him in: experiencing His shalom and carrying shalom into the world.

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You are Invited.

As a young believer learning to share her God story, I was taught to describe the process of entering relationship with God as “inviting Jesus into my life.”

As a more mature believer teaching Sunday School and VBS, I’ve used the words, “Ask Jesus into your heart.”

Over these years of wanting more of God, asking Him to break out of what I think of Him and show me where my God view doesn’t match up with who He is in the Bible and reality, I’ve moved away from talking about relationship with God in this way.

I’m not sure I have a great suggestion for replacement words, but I have enough of an issue with the concept of inviting Jesus into my life/heart that I won’t use this wording with my own kids.

Because “I invited Jesus into my life” makes it sound like I initiated the relationship. It can fool me into thinking I made the first move. And however you want to describe the beginning of your relationship with Jesus, God went first.

We see this throughout the pages of Scripture: In the beginning, God… (Genesis 1:1)

This is the story for countless Old Testament Hebrews, some God-seekers like Abraham and Job, others running from God like Jonah and Jacob. Their stories begin  “Now the Lord said to Abram…” And “The Word of the Lord came to Jonah…”

It is no different in the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, where fishermen and tax collectors are minding their own business, doing their day jobs, and Jesus walks up and says, “Follow Me.”

I’m studying the story of Levi/Matthew’s calling this week, and I’ve been captivated by the first line:

After that He went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow Me.” Luke 5:27

He noticed a tax collector named Levi…

I spent years of my single life hoping to be noticed, longing to be chosen. I spend many of my hidden days, those family days no one sees, still longing to be noticed, wondering if what I do matters.

What does it mean to you that Jesus notices?

He noticed a tax collector named Levi…and He said to Him, ‘Follow Me.'”

The Message paraphrases “follow Me” as “Come along with Me.” Jesus’ notice is not limited to the Spiritual Elite. His attention is not reserved for those who’ve proven themselves, earned His favor.

Jesus’ invitation to live life with Him is given here to the tax collector. The rejected, the despised, the not-good-enough. The outsider.

What does it mean to you that Jesus’ notice of you is not something to be afraid of? That He’s not going to notice you and then find you not good enough?

Levi responds to Jesus’ invitation with a big YES: He walks away from his dishonest livelihood, his identity and his shame, and goes where Jesus goes.

And then Levi throws a big party for Jesus, and invites all his tax collector friends.

This is what we church people want from new believers, right? This is the perfect success story, something we could show  and celebrate on a Sunday morning video, a sinner who walks away from his sin, and introduces Jesus to all of His friends.

For all our strategies and programs, this process is usually a lot longer. It can take new believers years to turn away from their livelihood, identity and shame. And it can take even longer years before people learn (usually through some sort of “training”) how to share Jesus with their friends.

Maybe times have just changed. Maybe that’s just life, and it takes longer sometimes, and that is fine.

Or maybe it takes longer because we see ourselves as the ones inviting Jesus.

We don’t see Him noticing us. Choosing us. Welcoming us even as He knows our sin and shame. Inviting us into life with Him not in spite of these things, but because of His great love.

What does it mean to you that Jesus invites you, just as He invited Levi?

Does it change how you think of God to realize that He initiated relationship with you, that He always goes first?

He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world… Ephesians 1:4

You Are Invited IG

 

Talking to kids about their bodies and S-E-X: RESOURCES

As a follow up to my post Thursday about talking to our kids about sex and their bodies, today I’m sharing a podcast and 2 great books that have been super helpful in teaching our kids about sex and their bodies.

Resources for Talking to Kids about Sex

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