Sunday, July 28, 2013

prudence, the push and a proposal



most people wait until it's "safe" to tell you they’re pregnant.

i was never one of them.

i was teaching high school english when i became pregnant with our firstborn. and i'm pretty sure i told my students about our impending bundle of joy possibly only hours after filling in my husband.

this was probably lacking ... er ... um ... prudence?

i can't help it. i'm just a spill-the-beans kind of gal. i've let you in on this non-secret before: jody mcnatt can do her bit of over-sharing with the best of them -- if you're a regular reader, you know this.

and last week, for some reason, thought it a good idea to let all of facebook know that i'd be attending a writer/speaker conference and submitting a book proposal.

clearly, prudence is not my middle name.

i realize not everyone has this same issue. while at the conference, i talked with a woman who i am pretty sure from our conversation, hadn't even told her own husband she was turning in a proposal and meeting with publishers.

and you want to know why?

A). because she is prudent.

B). because, if it didn't go well...NO ONE HAD TO KNOW.

no one gets hurt.

there’d be no skin peeling off this prudent woman’s back.

so maybe i can be a tad bit idealistic on occasion (eye-roll), but still, i really don't think everything always goes well. in fact, when i over-shared about my appointments, i wasn't tooting my own horn or trying to set some high expectation. i actually confessed i was rather worried about throwing up on the publisher's shoes. (i didn't, by the way).

i am fine letting y'all know that i was nervous and unsure and REALLY SCARED. but still, i suppose i could have kept it all hushed up and buttoned up and shut up and safe. i could have. but i didn't. i shared -- girl, you know i did!

but i want you to know something else: in that sharing, i was vulnerable - yes. but also in that sharing, i was blessed - yes!

when i landed in charlotte and had to wait at baggage claim, i did what every other person waiting was doing: i checked my phone.(is there anyone in an airport these days not on their phone? -- another post for another day). anyway, opening up facebook i saw the amount of “likes” and comments, and oh, friends, it moved me. reading through the words, my eyes welled up, threatening to ruin my carefully applied, going-to-a-conference-make-up and my carefully chosen, going-to-a-conference-blouse. it was uplifting to read through the encouragement. i could almost hear some of you cheering from your homes across the states. one friend, even mentioned she was standing up on a chair cheering. (gina mccarn, you kill me)!

i'm not particularly needy in the affirmation department (at least i like to tell myself this), but who doesn't like to be cheered? we all do! each one of us needs to have some peeps in our corner. right? and each one of us needs to be affirmed -- needy or not, it feels like a warm hug in the hallways of life where we are too busy or too far to pass one another often.

and that's how i felt sitting near the baggage carousel sniveling into the crook of my elbow. i felt like i had a few people in my corner and i felt hugged. loved.

and then immediately after that warm, fuzzy feeling, i felt something else all together different:

dread.

i felt the slow creep of possible high expectation and i felt exposed. vulnerable. naked. (well, i was still wearing my carefully chosen conference blouse, but you get it).

because that's the reason people keep things to themselves. they don't want the pressure of someone else's expectations or enthusiasm. they don't want to feel exposed. they don't want to fail on a bar set too high or too public. it's just flat out easier to fail privately, wouldn't you agree?

i get it.

and this weekend as my publisher appointments loomed closer, i REALLY began to get it.

i’m curious, where do you fall on that line between buttoned up and all spilled out? are you a runner from risk or are you a walker on the line of potential public humiliation.

it’s important to know.

because some of us might need to be reigned in on occasion and other’s might need to be pushed.

in last week’s post -- the push -- i wrote about how good it is for us to push out from the safe place of our comfort. and i want to continue this piece and connect back to last week's writing. think of it as the push - part two. 

i realize it’s getting a bit long (give me some grace, i’m fresh from a writer’s conference, y’all). but because this is a blog, you have options: you can continue reading; save it for another day; or, you can take a break, refill your coffee, throw in another load of laundry, and check on your kids. i suppose you could also stop altogether -- but don’t do that, i’m about to tell you what happened in my publisher appointments.

anyway, in my she-wants-to-write-a-book-brain, i’ve even given this second half of my post it’s own special name or chapter.

okay, forget your options, i’m going to highly recommend you at least go get a coke.

back now? great, here we go...

 "the push - part two"

a few days ago, i wrote about pushing ourselves a little bit and pushing toward what God wants to give us.  (the push).

that thing. that desire. that seed.

not out of a lack of contentment, but out of a calling.

this weekend, i was pushed a little -- okay, truthfully, i was pushed a lot. i was pushed to attend, pushed to come alone, pushed to take part in some unbelievable sessions and hear some incredible and (ouch!) convicting words. mostly, i was pushed to consider just what God might be trying to tell me.

i mean, don't get me wrong, no one actually pushed me. the push came from within, but make no mistake, a push is a push.

and as inspiring as everything has been, there were a few times when i kind of wanted to push it away, to push it all back. it’s a little scary when you find yourself at the intersection of inspiration and conviction.

i'm not ready for this God. i'm not ready for this kind of push. not yet. not now. Lord, let me just stick my nose around the corner and look a little. but don't ask me to turn. don't make me cross the street and show myself fully. let me just take it all in from a distance.

that sounded good.

that sounded safe.

but it wasn't like that. not with the women of proverbs 31. oh no! one foot inside the hotel door, and baby, i was in! there were no corners to turn and nothing to hide behind...it was wide open space and i was right there in the press of 700 women ... exposed.

but it didn't just begin there.

weeks before the conference God pushed me to work on a proposal i wasn't at all sure i could write. for months now i've been pushing down the ideas and trying to hide from the process. but i couldn't ignore the shove -- especially when rick offered to take the kids away for a week. and so i started to put words to paper. i pushed the keys of my computer and i pushed my creativity to the limit. i even had to push back my bedtime and, on occasion, push away some of the good things in our home.

and somehow i got here with a kinda-grown-up-girl book proposal, a good dose of nerves and, of course, a little bit of a dream.

it's been an amazing few days sitting under the teaching of lysa teurkeurstmichael hyatt and many others. worth all the pushing and all the planning and even all the late night plodding of words. though it pushed me to my limit, it was the perfect place for me to land.

i met with some publishers yesterday. i have to tell you though, it wasn't easy. at one point i wanted to just run back up to my room and push the door closed behind me. i wanted to hide out.

(if you didn’t go get that original coke i suggested 1000 words earlier, now might be another good opportunity).

in my first meeting, i eased myself into the hot seat and tore into my pitch, all the while smoothly pushing my proposal across the table to the serious woman on the other side. she glanced through it nodding and humphing and listening -- two eyes on my proposal and maybe one ear on my pitch. then she looked up and began to push it back across the table toward me. "uh-uh," i thought, and as i continued to construct my case for things like "felt need" and "strong platform," i pushed it back across to her. we continued our little pushing war in the midst of discussing my slightly "esoteric title" and the proposal's "comparable analysis." though fair and kind, i felt her pushing back on my ideas, pushing back on me. "you're a strong writer,” she said, “that's clear. but i'm not sure this proposal is ready for book form just yet." she presented me with some valid suggestions and some excellent insight and she began to rise and push back from the table.

but i have to tell you, as she was politely declining my word-baby, a part of me was tallying up the copious amount of hours i'd already forked over to this project. i wanted to tell her about my husband taking the kids away for a week and how i had been waking at 4 in the morning and how some nights we ate cereal for dinner. it costs a lot for a mother of five to find a few minutes to write. what she was suggesting in "building my audience" and "strengthening my storyline" felt like a shove to my gut. it pushed right against the grain of my spirit. i wanted to push my chair back and cry, "no wait. please hear my heart...see my work...read my words. there might be something here. can't we go a little further? can't we push a little deeper into the proposal?"

but, she pushed it back to me again. and i knew at this point, she wasn't going to take my proposal regardless of my persistence or pushing.

we wrapped up our session and publisher appointment one had come to a not so satisfactory close.

i had a short break in between appointments and made a beeline for my room. pushing a few tears away in the buzz of my hurry. i felt like everyone waiting outside in the hallway had their eyes on me, on my humiliation.

it's like sometimes in the push, isn't it?

we push and we push and we push, but someone pushes it all right back at us. it's not an easy place to be. i felt completely defeated. immediately, i could hear satan's slippery seduction of self-doubt begin, "you're not cut out for this." and,"who do you think you are, anyway?"

in the very first session of the weekend, one of the speakers, sharon glasgow, talked to us about those words that the devil would be working hard to whisper into us. i mean she just flat out told us, “he’s gonna show up girls. if you put yourself out there wanting to proclaim Christ, he’s going to come calling.”

and come calling he did. he was right there waiting to pounce when i walked out the door from that first appointment. and he stalked me all the way back to my room hovering over my shoulder and continuing to taunt, "maybe, jody mcnatt, maybe this just isn't for you..."

the speaker had not only warned us in that first session, but she had also equipped us. "get thee behind me satan!” she had us practice out loud. and it came in handy.  i literally had to stand in my hotel room and yell, “get thee behind me satan!” (don’t you sort of wish you could have been a fly on the wall). but, as funny as that sounds, in all seriousness, i really did have to push the devil down and push closer in to Jesus.

i knew it would be the only way.

rejection is hard.

and this was (and is) only the beginning.

i powdered my nose, pulled myself together and pushed myself back out the door. slamming satan’s slivery self in the heavy hotel door i hoped. i had a few more appointments. the push was going to get easier, i had not only tasted my first rejection, but i had given the evil one a swift kick in his can.

the good news is i did get a lot of great feedback. the other publishers had some positive comments about my writing, my story and the strength of my voice. that was really cool. tell me more. tell me more. oh pullleeeaase tell me more. 

but, guess what? the second person pushed it back across the table, too.

get thee behind me satan!

well, i have no intention to give you a play by play of every publisher moment, (is that cheering i hear?) but here’s the wrap up: by the time the day was over, i had two publishers reject it and two publishers agree to accept and consider it further. i guess that's not all that bad. no one stood up on a chair and clapped for me. and no one took one look and asked where i’d been all these years, but the experience taught me, the experience pushed me.

and the silver lining: i didn’t throw up on anyone’s shoes.

hard things are like that.  they push. and i guess what i learned a little bit better this weekend?  we have a choice in the push. are they going to push us down or push us forward?

are we going to hold our God-given ground and say, get thee behind me satan or are we going to push the door closed and collapse?

one thing i kept hearing this weekend was how important it is that we not tie our identity to our insecurities. think about that. in fact, maybe write it in your journal. if i had decided to anchor myself to my book proposal, i would have sank right down with it. i put a lot of myself into that proposal last month, but it is not me and it will not define me, but be a defining moment for me. there’s a difference, sweet friends.

i don't really think those publishers who rejected my proposal are exactly agents of the devil. really i don't. as hard as rejection is, we have to remember God uses it to call us to something else.

Christ came and... "He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain." (isaiah 53:3). Jesus knows what rejection feels like. He came to earth with the best proposal ever written ... ever told ... ever pushed across any table.

and His proposal took Him to the cross.

as hard as it was and as much as He wanted his Father to take it from Him, He allowed Himself to be nailed down and pushed up onto a hill called golgotha.

at any moment He could have pushed the entire menacing world into the pit of hell, but, instead, He pushed closer to His Father and He pushed for us out of love.

i guess that quickly puts my piddly little book proposal in perspective, doesn't it?

but the fantastic thing is, because of what Christ did on that cross, even the piddly things we do, even the baby steps of faith we take, are covered in the same powerful push of His love. He cares about them because He cares about us.

and when we have those little doubts that we aren’t enough or we’re not so great, remember the push of His love on the cross and remember the words, “get thee behind me satan!”

oh, and if i caused any confusion with my opening sentence, i'm sorry. we're absolutely not pregnant!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

the push (a letter to myself).



most mothers don’t encourage their children to push -- but, i do.

i tell my kids all the time to push themselves: to push themselves in their studies; to push themselves out on the field or court; to push themselves in helping around the house; i've even had to tell them to push down on the gas pedal (ever pull out into traffic with a teen learning to drive? -- heaven help us all!) mostly, though, i encourage my crew to push themselves out of their comfort zones.

i tell them that. but what about me?

what do i tell me about my nice little comfort zone?

it’s easy for us mamas who are always talking and forever teaching, and even cheering our kiddos on, to forget this message is meant just as much for us.

for us: for those of us wearing jeans with peanut butter smudges across the backside. for those of us 17 weeks overdue for a highlight. for those of us who break nails scraping rice krispies from bowls and old gum from inside the dryer. for those of us who, while standing in line at target, realize we’re wearing two different shoes (yes, it’s happened), for those of us who are at target because our pre-schooler forgot to put on her panties (yes, that’s happened too -- but not on the same day, thankfully. Lord have mercy.

but we women, we need to push a little too.

and, girls, i’m not talking about the vacuum cleaner!

i’m not even talking about pushing it on the power walk or pushing young ones in strollers or toddlers on swings.

i’m writing today about the place deep inside each one of us where we know there’s this little seed ready to get going, ready to grow.

but if you’re at all like me (and i know a lot of you are!) it’s easy to forget about that seed. it’s easy to leave it alone. it’s easy even to pretend it doesn’t exist.

seed? what seed?

instead of pushing ourselves, it’s easier to push that seed back in the soil of our busyness or our burned-out-kind-of-days. it’s just easier somedays to bury it deep inside our mama-blah brain.

i know. i do it. guilty hand raised here in minnesota, ladies! i am a woman who can often look the other way when a dream or a thought or an idea comes waltzing along.

“i’m busssyyyy,” i whine.

“i’m tiiireed,” i whimper.

because let’s face it, when the seed is given a glance; when it’s watered and fed, it can all of a sudden become this big, gangly, out-of-control kind of thing. we have no place for something so large to be looming up inside us. there’s no room for anything extra. we’ve got our plates full and our hands fuller, and for a lot of us, the last thing we want is one more bless-ed thing to take care of. and in case He forgot, i remind Him: good gracious, Lord, i'm raising five children right now, don't you know? don't you see me running like a woman with her hair all on fire?

we don't have time to be called. and if we find a few minutes in the evening, we are flat out of energy.

i know. i’ve been there too. i’ve wasted some good time at night on the couch with reality television droning on the screen and a bag of doritos waning in my lap. i’ve even tried to convince myself that i’ve earned it. and maybe i have on occasion, but not all the time. not often. nope, sorry, you can't convince me of that one. it's about the push.

now, i’m going to stop right here for a moment and make sure we are still all on the same page. just in case one of you has wandered a bit ...  (we women, we are prone to wander)!

hear me girls: I AM IN NO WAY undermining or belittling or bemoaning motherhood. from the time i was two it was all i wanted to do ... to be ... to become. and it still is. after five kids, i can honestly say, it’s been my favorite season, my biggest blessing, my sweetest place. i flat out adore the wild-riot of it. and there’s not a day that goes by where i don’t give thanks for the chance to be home right now with my brood...even when they wipe their peanut butter on my backside or use my pricey salon shampoo for a science experiment. (yep, uh-huh, happened).

but...

i still think we’ve got some other good stuff inside of us. i don’t think the-great-mommy-hood has to trump all other places of productivity. it is an amazing part of God's plan, but it is not our only purpose. i know some of you handle careers and run companies and chair incredible events and lead 14 different bible studies ... and some of you do it eating all organically and wearing snazzy high heels. and maybe i’m not writing to you ... or maybe i am. maybe it’s your career or your calling that’s taken the place of the real dream ... stepped over that seed ... ignored the idea. maybe for you it’s not about doing one thing more, but about doing one thing less. i don’t know. either way, i am always in awe of women who juggle jobs and juice cups and just about everything. simply in awe.

so what am i suggesting?

i’m not entirely sure ...
oooh, i wince as i type that. face scrunched, teeth clenched, head bowed and shoulders up tight at my ears. i can feel your disappointment seeping out of my laptop even now as i pound out those words. i know you want an answer. i know you'd like a really helpful "how to." come on jody lynn, can't you please come up with something better than that?

but  here’s the deal girl: i’m not entirely sure what your seed is or how it’s best to be fed. i don’t want to pretend that i know your stuff. your stuff is your stuff. my stuff is my stuff.

but here’s what i do know:

YOU’VE GOT A SEED!

each one of you has a unique gift and talent from God. he’s called you to something special. he may have called you to children and, believe me, that is both a gift and a talent, and it takes a whole lot of special. Amen? but maybe in the middle of all that, there’s also something else that’s waiting to be watered. waiting to be dug up and carefully considered.

i’m not telling you how. i’m just encouraging you to dig around a little... and consider.

hear me again girls, this post isn't about pressure. it's about the push to keep digging for God's holy purpose. He will use us right where we are. i am only submitting to you today, that God wants to use you -- all of you.

i’m giving you (and mostly me) the same lecture i give my kids: YOU CAN DO IT. you have something special. go ahead and push yourself. push through the pain. push through the problems. push through the places of maybe too much comfort ... and climb closer to Him.

“press on toward the goal for the prize 
of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
~ philippians 3:14

a little note:
i wrote this post on the plane this morning while flying to the She Speaks conference in charlotte. i'm here now and just wrapped up day one. it's been fantastic so far. 
so, guess what analogy the kick-off speaker (sharon glasgow) used in the opening session earlier today (after i wrote this post on the plane)?  pushing the gas pedal down and beginning to go! 

perhaps more on that tomorrow!  God has such a sense of timing...and humor!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

july 16th: coincidence or Christ?

i was going to let the day pass without pointing out that it's special.

but that's hard.

(okay, it's hard for me).

because special days are special days. and i can't help but think, they are worth mentioning. at least a little. at least to someone.

but, i'm a bit of an over-sharer lately...so i'm trying to be careful. for heaven's sake, i just shared my breakfast choice on facebook this morning. if that's not over-sharing...i don't know what is. don't worry about me though. i have 5 kids to keep me in line and mostly, yes mam, to keep me humble.

(by the way, breakfast: a jimmy dean breakfast sandwich, washed down with a coke). horrible, i know...but super yummy.

anyway, it's july 16th...

and our bella woke this morning in silky blue pjs with bright pink flowers. when she padded down to the porch and curled up on my lap, like she does most mornings, she smelled of sunshine left over from last night's bath.

she ate raisin bran and apple slices for breakfast (much healthier than her mother, miss jimmy dean breakfast sandwich).

she watched cartoons.

she played with her dolls.

i painted her toenails pink.

she had swim lessons with her pal, emme.

and right now, as i type, she's coloring a picture and munching on goldfish crackers. she's wearing a dress covered with butterflies and her nose is sun-kissed.

if you had stopped by our house today, what bella would have probably told you is, "my stwa-berry bush gave me two, whole stwa-berries!"

it's july 16th and life is awfully sweet.

but i am having a hard time just letting this day go by without telling someone why it's especially sweet, why it's really good.

 you see, it's one of the special bella days.

it's one of the days that we celebrate. even kind of quietly.

i whole-heartedly believe God is at work every day. he doesn't take a break on mondays or fridays or holidays. he's always behind the scene orchestrating and ordaining our lives. each and every day.

but on july 16th i have to think God was especially inspired.

because...

on july 16th, 5 years ago, bella was found in a stairwell. it was her finding day. attached to bella was a letter from her biological parents who clearly said they loved her, but couldn't care for her medical needs and were leaving her in the hope that someone "with loving arms" would help her.

on july 16th, 4 years ago, our family wrote a letter to friends asking them to pray for a little girl in china whom we had fallen in love with and had plans to pursue. we, like her biological parents, also humbly asked for help knowing we couldn't do this on our own either.

and...

on july 16th, 3 years ago, rick and i boarded a plane in atlanta and headed for china to meet our new daughter.

we didn't orchestrate any of that. not even the plane ticket -- that was set by china approving us for adoption and the adoption agency determining our flight time and day.  i'll never forget the feeling when i connected all those dots a couple of years ago.  i wrote about it then, but felt today, like i just had to tell y'all again.

because it doesn't just speak to the awesomeness of bella's adoption.  it speaks to the awesomeness of our God. it speaks to his incredibly perfect plan.

why is it sometimes easier to believe in coincidences than it is to believe in Christ?

maybe that's why i'm writing today. you guys know bella's story.  y'all think it's pretty cool. i don't have to convince you of that. but maybe today, you need a reminder of how good God is and how grand are his plans. even when we can't see just how he's working.  he is. oh, he is.  and friend, if you're ever tempted to doubt your creator's concern for the details of your life...

think about bella.  and think about july 16th.

it wasn't a coincidence.

it was Christ.

"and we know that in all things God works for the 
good of those who love him,
 who have been called according to his purpose." 
 ~ romans 8:28



Saturday, July 13, 2013

what did you expect?

“But here's the point: at times you may feel the hard things you're doing can't make a difference-- just like a solitary finger snap seems so quiet and one raindrop seems so insignificant. But when you have an entire generation snapping their fingers, when you have an entire generation being faithful in their spheres with their own gifts and opportunities...
Without any cue, the audience starts snapping their fingers, then patting their legs, then clapping, then stomping...
...and the single raindrops become a flood.” 
 Alex Harris


last week my three teenagers were in atlanta attending goldrush -- a youth conference our old church, perimeter, puts on for one week each summer -- and have been doing so for as long as i can remember. it's big. it's huge. some years drawing close to a 1000 kids from all over.

the thing which makes goldrush unique in the world of teen retreats is that it is a conference for teens, run by teens. they start planning an entire year in advance. don't get me wrong, the youth staff at the church works around the clock on this event and, of course, there are some parents who volunteer. but the essence of this conference is about putting teens up front -- up on stage speaking, teaching, sharing, performing and leading worship. teens are in charge of organizing and running the missions projects during the day and they are leading the small groups, prayer time and activities throughout the week. they spend months creating the theme, artwork, skits and even the t-shirts. during the conference, teens are setting up and cleaning up (yes, i just wrote teens are cleaning up!) and really what they are doing is rising up.

that's what happens in this hot july week in georgia -- teens rise up.

i bet there are a lot of people out there who hear that expression and grow immediately nervous. teens rising up -- oh heavens to betsy, no! everyone save yourself and run for the hills! right? i've heard what our culture has to say about the youth of today and most of it isn't all that encouraging. in fact, most of it makes my stomach hurt to hear.

maybe it's because i was a high school teacher and coach. maybe it's because i have always had some involvement with youth. maybe it's because i am currently a mom of 3 teens with 2 more heading in that direction. maybe it's because i loath phrases like "teens will be teens" or "boys will be boys."  but i'm not surprised at what these kids can accomplish. i'm not at all astounded by what happens when passionate teens call on the powerful name of Jesus.

i am not surprised, but i am blown away each year when i see how God uses these high school students in such a mighty and amazing way.

it's humbling.

it's encouraging.

let me tell you, it's something to see.

another cool thing about this week is that they let the old people come on in and hang out a bit. even though this is 100% about teens, parents are able to attend the evening sessions and hear the talk and take part in the worship. the over-forty crowd sits in the back and pretends to be invisible. they watch the students pour into "the hanger" (perimeter's teen place of worship). they wait for their own teen-child to come over and say hey, but wouldn't think of seeking them out in the midst of the hundreds. i've gone for years. i've gone and been moved well beyond the point of tears. to sit and listen to 17 and 18 year olds share their struggles and God's grace...to watch a band of teen musicians lead powerful and brilliant worship...and to watch hundreds of students with their hands and voices raised to God --- it really is something to see. some people might find all that noise and all those flashing lights and all those wild teen bodies jammed into one room kind of scary -- but i can't help but see it as a slice of heaven. teens praising Jesus. teens pouring out their hearts to Him. teens surrendering their young lives to God. i wish i could be hanging out with God at that moment to see His smile.

   when young people choose to bring God glory, it has to be especially sweet for our Lord.


why do we sit in our astonishment over what happens when kids rebel against the culture which excuses them and labels them with ridiculously low expectations?  i hear all the negative stuff said about this time period of adolescence and that's what i find most astonishing. i'm amazed to hear how little our society expects from its teens. i've heard enough talk about teenagers being teenagers to last me a lifetime. it's heartbreaking really. when i was teaching high school years ago, i even heard fellow teachers make negative comments about teens. i remember hearing one teacher nastily say to all of us at the lunch table, "well, what do you expect? -- they're teenagers." how sad to set up our youth for failure before they've even begun.

it's not a chicken-or-egg-kind-of-thing, folks. and it starts early. if we hold the bar high for our toddlers ...and keep holding it high for our teens...they will meet the standard. not perfectly. not always. but they will. why are we so quick to assume they can't handle something just because they are young? what better time to learn! as parents we might avoid conflict in our homes if we expect a little less, but conflict is one of the main ingredients needed to grow godly kids.  we forget that, don't we? iron sharpens iron. gritty sand polishes the pearl. fire refines the gold. why are we so afraid to set the bar high in our homes? why are we timid to expect much from our children, toddler or teen?

i'm not writing about making our kids perform higher,  i'm writing about making our kids passionate about reaching higher. wider. deeper.

our family got to be involved with goldrush even before we had anyone close to being a teen. because i had friends in high places (friends with high schoolers, acutallly) i got recruited many years ago to be a mission's driver for the week. i was told the only thing i had to do was show up and drive.  i wasn't responsible for anything else.  the teens would handle the project 100%. i kind of remember thinking, "yeah, right."  i had visions of myself having to organize small children and babysit tall teenagers. but that wasn't the case. those teens really were in charge. they did do everything. they even had a plan and supplies! the only thing i contributed was my vehicle and my driving ability. they had everything else under control.

one of the cool things about being involved back then was that i was able to bring along my young children. i can remember emily, tyler, sarah and even connor hanging out with these teens and ministering to children from the apartment complexes we visited. my kids played with the kids who came and something special took place. many of these children came from sad situations: broken homes or no one home. that was hard. it was hard to watch 2 and 3 year olds under the care of 4 and 5 year olds come to the playground with not an adult in sight. sometimes we'd set up in a pathetic park area and sometimes in filthy parking lots, but the kids would come. they'd come in droves. they'd come in groups. they'd come alone. they'd come with their neglect and their need. they'd come looking hungry for love. and i remember that first year watching these teenagers engage with the children. i'd watch as the little ones would crawl up on their laps or hold onto their hands. i'd watch the sidewalk chalk and the bubbles and the face paint and the sharing of Jesus in these dusty parking lots or decrepit playgrounds and i'd watch teenagers care about needy kids. i'd watch young ladies and young men rise up. talk about being blown away!

we weren't always in safe places or in clean places on these projects. i had to remind my kids a few times not to pick up broken glass and to be careful of the rusty screws on the old playground equipment. i remember one year when connor was just a little dude and i watched him from across the playground pick up an old coke bottle and put his lips to it. that might have caused some mothers to faint dead on the spot. i didn't faint, but i did remove the coke bottle quickly from the hands of my little guy. yuck! i'm sure someone might have suggested it wasn't the best thing for me to take my young kids to. maybe i should have left them at home in their suburban back yard eating popsicles and playing safely in shiny sprinkler with a nice sitter.  but i never once regretted this decision to involve my children -- not even when i watched connor put his lips on an old coke bottle!

this week, emily, tyler and sarah were serving and taking part in goldrush as teens.  i stayed home in minnesota. even though we live out of state, their attending this year was non-negotiable. they haven't missed a year from the time they turned teen. emily has been one of the mission project leaders for the past two years. she's been sending me pictures this week as she has been with the boys and girls clubs in atlanta each day. they'll be flying back to minnesota tomorrow and i can't wait to have them home and i can't wait to hear their stories.
can you find emily?  


i know we want a good life for our kids. we want them to be clean and orderly and safe and secure. we want them get good grades and go to good colleges. we want them to have nice friends and nice things. i get it. i'm right there in the thick of that desire, too.  i'm always battling the fact that my kids have too much...that their lives are too privileged. it's a crazy place to be. we're thankful for the blessings, but we also need the struggle. we need the fire to refine us. we need the grit to polish us. we need to put down our nice things and take up the hard stuff now and then. and i'm not talking about writing a check (though that is awesome too)! i'm talking about writing the stories and hurts of others all over our own lives. i'm talking about choosing to see something not so pretty and choosing to do something not so easy.

when we do everything in our power to make their lives soft and cushy and comfortable, how can we expect kids to have soft hearts for Jesus? when life is so, so sweet, how in the world will they see their bitter sin and need for Him? i worry about this.

as we raise our children we do our best to protect them from too much pain, but do we ever stop to think about protecting them from too much privilege?

don't ever be afraid to let your children do a little more than you think they can. they can! i'm all for safety and you know i'm in no way encouraging reckless parenting, but let your kids get dirty. let them dig into something different. let them see the needs of others and teach them how to meet these needs.

Jesus hung out with the least and the lost. the perfect Son of God was the ultimate example of rubbing elbows with things dangerous, dirty and desolate. he got his feet dusty. his hands messy. his clothing torn. He went home with the tax collector, ate dinner with the leper and had his feet washed with the tears of a harlot. Jesus wasn't afraid to love what the world had deemed unloveable...unworthy...unwanted.

oh. dear. Lord. i. am. preaching. to. myself!

why is this so difficult for us to understand? if we live in an over-privileged place, than we better realize we have a really hard job ahead of us. because how do we show our children who have everything their need for Jesus who is everything? if you get a chance, in fact,  go read the story about the rich young ruler (matthew 19).

if, as parents, all we do is provide and provide and provide where does our providing end and God's true provision begin?

these are hard things.

i'm not going to lie, this is a really hard thing for my husband and me. we've made the mistake of over-providing at least 1000 times already.

this past spring my 9th grade discipleship group of girls started reading the book do hard things by teen author's alex and brett harris. the harris twins' book "shares the revolutionary message ...desiring to give readers a tangible glimpse of what is possible for teens who actively resist cultural lies that limit their potential."  when they wrote this book at age 18, they had a vision to challenge the youth of today with doing hard things.  if you are heading into the teen arena anytime soon, i'd encourage you to read this book. teens, read to be inspired. adults, read to be reminded. our kids can do hard things. and we, as parents, need to be incredibly careful not to take these opportunities from them when we expect too little and provide too much.

sometimes the hard thing in our parenting is letting our kids do the hard things in their lives.

disclaimer:  before closing, i should probably admit that attending goldrush was not a hard thing for my kids this year.  they were going back to be with their very dearest friends. i have a feeling they would've gone back and dug ditches or chopped wood or feasted on worms just to be able to spend time with this group. i don't want to send any mixed messages in my words today.  serving can be hard...but serving can also be incredibly sweet.  and it was sweet for my kids this week.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

a few photos from our time spent on GOLDRUSH mission projects over the years!





sarah being a trooper and allowing the kids to draw on her!


one of the mission's leaders sharing about God's love

em and a friend!

that's my tyler!







connor, a little older, and safely drinking clean water! no coke bottles to be found that day at the playground!

Friday, July 5, 2013

minnesota mother of 5 left alone for 6 days!

i fear if i write this post i'm going to lose a few readers. maybe even a few friends. but regardless of where the chips (or readers or even friends) may fall, i'm feeling the need to come clean about my past week.  since it potentially could be picked up by the 11 o'clock news tonight, i thought i should just tell you myself.  i've heard it's better that way.

in fact, you might want to sit down for this.

ready?  okay, here it is:

I'VE BEEN HOME ALONE SINCE LAST SATURDAY.

completely and absolutely alone for six days straight...in my own home alone...like, no husband and no children hiding anywhere alone. (trust me, i looked, just to be sure).  just me and the two dogs...oh, and the cat.  i always forget the cat.  

i know. 

i'm sorry. 

i can hear some of you shrieking from a thousand miles away at this very moment.

this just isn't right.  it just isn't fair.  no mother of five should have six days to herself.  

so, to that i say, i'm dreadfully sorry.

except really, i'm not. 

i'm not sorry at all.  actually, i'm rather delirious.

now, i realize that sounds a bit strange.  i don't want even one of you to think for even one minute i don't love my family to pieces.  because, you know I DO!  -- every last one of them...even the boy with the smelly feet and the girl who shoves dirty dishes underneath her bed.  i love them all.  in fact, i love them wildly.

but, when a woman's husband offers to take the children on a road trip cross country...no matter what level of love or fondness she has for her brood, this woman replies, "well, that would be nice....i suppose i could get a few things done...i'm sure i'll be able to fill my time somehow."  

NO! the woman, or at least this woman, says OH MY GOODNESS.  YES. YES. YES. TAKE THEM.  TAKE THEM ALL AWAY. HOLY COW. REALLY? DO YOU MEAN IT? DO YOU REALLY MEAN IT? YOU'RE NOT KIDDING ARE YOU? YOU CAN'T KID ABOUT THESE KINDS OF THINGS!

okay, let's go back to that love thing.  i realize after that last comment i had better capitalize the following declaration:

 I REALLY DO LOVE AND ADORE MY FAMILY.

but, as a mother of five i have to tell you, the idea of a few days "off" was highly appealing. (that's called an understatement). i mean you have to realize if i didn't dig this mama thing, i surely would have stopped earlier on with our collection of kids.  you get that, right? i don't need to spend my precious (alone time) convincing you, do i?

i've said it before and i'll say it again, i wouldn't trade my job for all the tea in china.  but, i will happily send off my kiddos with their dad on an adventure when the opportunity somehow (supernaturally?) arises.

rick left with the five in tow last saturday morning.  they headed to his parents' house in south carolina for a few days. my super hero husband drove 23 hours straight and arrived at his parent's door step early on sunday.  (if you are a little geography challenged and unsure on how far a road trip this really is...check the map...i want to make sure my husband gets full credit...about 2,800 miles worth of credit). they spent a few days with their grandparents at the beach and then headed over to georgia to drop off the older three for a teen conference at our old church in atlanta. he's leaving the older ones in atlanta for the week and rick and the littlest two will pull back into our driveway sometime late tonight. i am pretty certain bella and connor are currently on their 38th car movie today.  oh well. you do what you have to do. (i'm certainly not going to complain).

i have been getting little texts and messages and pictures from my kids all week.  it was a long haul from minnesota to the deep south, but so very worth it.  worth it for the kids to spend time with their grandparents and worth it to connect with old friends.  yesterday when they arrived in atlanta, i swear i could hear the whooping and hollering from here on my back porch in minnesota.  it has been an incredible thing for them to reunite.  honestly, i got all teary-eyed the hour i knew they had arrived in the arms of their buddies.  i wasn't there to see it all, but i didn't need to be to imagine the scene.  i know, quite well, how much my kids have missed their friends.

this week alone, however, wasn't just a random thing.  it wasn't a go shopping, get your nails done and read a book in the sun kind of week.  the main reason rick gave me this time (and i do say "gave" because it was most definitely a "gift")was to allow me to write and prepare for a conference i'll be attending at the end of the month.  i have the opportunity to attend the incredible proverbs 31 She Speaks conference in charlotte, north carolina.  and can i just say I AM SO EXCITED!

this is an incredibly popular and powerful conference for writers and speakers. i had planned to go three summers ago, but it just wasn't possible with our adoption of bella.  i was sure i'd go the next summer, but then, well, you know, that cancer thing happened.  and last summer, guess what we were doing the very weekend of the conference...yep, moving across country.

so, you can probably understand my excitement.  this year, i have my registration in place and my plane ticket already purchased.  and friends,  I AM GOING.

while i'm there, i'll  not only be attending workshops and seminars, but will also have the chance to meet with a couple of publishers and pitch my book ideas.  yes, i have a couple of book ideas.  i am not going to go into any detail, because it literally petrifies me to speak about it publicly, but because of this week spent alone, i am hoping to have 2 different book proposals ready to pitch.

nothing may come of it, so let's just leave that all alone for the time being.  as confident a gal as i may sometimes appear, i am scared to death of this process. i'll probably throw up six times when i get there.  but i have to do it.  by God's grace and with rick's gift of some time alone, i am hoping to be ready.  i can tell you, i have worked my tail off this week.  i won't say a whole lot more on this subject because it's just so ridiculously emotional for me.  but i'm incredibly thankful for the chance.

anyway enough of the drama queen ramblings, this time alone has been really wild. i've never been alone for this long. since getting married 23 years ago and having children 17 years ago, i have never had this amount of uninterrupted life. an hour or two, here and there, or maybe a short weekend alone, but it's an incredibly rare occurrence.  seriously, think about it, how many mother's of 5 do you know who get a week off?  it's right up there with blue elephants, pink kangaroos and kids with clean rooms. so don't think i didn't treasure this opportunity and take complete advantage of it. i haven't been this focused since...well, since i have no idea...i guess i've never been this focused.  i've hardly done anything more than sit on my screened in porch and write. i wrote and i wrote and i wrote. taking a break only to water flowers or walk the dogs.  that's honestly been it.  and after 6 days of this, i am feeling a little burnt out (i won't mention that to my husband when he arrives home after 20+ hours of driving -- i'm smart that way).  but i am a little tired of my own voice and my own words and i'm quite ready to rejoin the land of the living.  i am certainly ready to see my family.

one morning, i did take a break for a few minutes and experiment with a new hairstyle.  (i have absolutely no idea why, but i did).  i then took a picture or "selfie" (as my kids would say) and i sent the "selfie" to my girls.  we then all immediately decided i had been left alone entirely too long.  (i probably shouldn't be telling you this).44 year old women do not take selfies and send them to their daughters.  i promise you, i have nipped that right in the bud.

but this living alone experiment has been quite interesting.  almost surreal.  there's not a scrap of laundry to be found anywhere in the house.  the counters aren't sticky and  the floors have been clean since monday -- an all time record. i left my favorite chocolate sitting out on my desk on wednesday and miraculously it was still there on thursday.  the television hasn't been turned on once and there are just two tiny bags of trash in the big toter outside.  i have used the same coffee cup and spoon all week because you can do that you live alone.  it's easy,  i just rinse them off and put them right out for the next morning. this was a new concept for me. there aren't any doors slamming or kids screaming or odd things beeping.  the dog occasionally barks and the birds occasionally sing. but that's about it.  i hadn't realized how many birds we have singing in our yard almost all of the time.  it just hasn't been quiet enough for me to hear them.

but this week i have heard.  and it's been truly delightful.

as kind as this week has been, i'm really, really happy to have some of my family returning tomorrow.  i have missed all of them.  tomorrow morning i will hear the sound of bella's tiny feet on the stairs as she comes to find me. and just the thought of that makes me kind of giddy tonight.  i can't wait to squeeze my 10 year old tightly and hear all about his week.  and oh, that husband, i sure will be glad to see his handsome face. though, i'll probably let him sleep in a little.

i think it has been an incredible gift this summer week alone, but i also am certain, more than ever, that when God created adam and said, "it is not good for man to be alone," He meant just that.  it's really good for a little while -- like this week -- but we are designed to be relational, we are designed to be together and this little bit of time solo has reminded me of that more than ever.

this probably won't happen again for another decade, so i wanted to capture the moment in a blog post.  this isn't about bragging this is about recording an important part of history.  well, my own personal history and headline:  minnesota mother of five, left alone for a week!

women, i sincerely wish you all some extra time to yourself, some stolen moments, some hidden hours. it is healthy. men, i wish you the courage to give your woman a little time off as well.  i realize we all come from different circumstances and scenarios, so i apologize if i'm making some assumptions here.  i realize also, some of you reading may be alone and not by your choice.  please know that my intention in writing this piece isn't to cause sadness.  i've thought about that this week too.  i've only enjoyed my alone time because i knew all along my family, by God's grace, would return.  but several times i thought about what if i really was always this alone. that is a different thing altogether. and in no way do i mean to take that for granted or poke it for fun.

so my writing tonight is simply to celebrate the gift of time and space and quiet and calm and simple breathing....to celebrate a husband who would lovingly offer these things to his wife.  it may not be good for man or woman to be completely alone....but it's good sometimes...
and it has been very good in this week of mid summer.

here are a few pictures from what a week alone might look like...(but i'm so not posting the new hairstyle "selfie")!

this is how we spent our mornings and afternoons AND evenings...

when you have over 250 pounds of dog at your feet, i guess you're not really alone.

 though i've always been fond of this guy, i'm ready for a little time away from him.  
why i am actually writing another blog post tonight, i'm not sure.  pure junkie, i guess.

 my morning coffee!

 and an evening glass of wine!