Monday, November 24, 2014

How to Slow Your Roll This Thanksgiving

"When I set my life to the rhythm of rush, I just quite honestly don't like who I am."
Lysa TerKeurst, The Best Yes

Think about when you are the most short-tempered, snappy, critical, or down-hearted.  For me, it's almost always when I am in a rush.  When I am trying to accomplish something within a period of time, and time feels like it is mocking me as it runs away.  When I've spent way too long trying to produce or complete or perfect and everything feels like an interruption.

As Thanksgiving charges us this week, and Christmas trails not far behind, I challenge us all (myself most included) to take a closer look at the way we navigate these holidays.  Too often, my rhythm is set to rush as we hurry to start the turkey, hurry to sit at the table, and hurry to clean up, so that we can hurry to bed at the end of an exhausting day.

Today, I have two days to pack for five people with a mountain of dirty laundry and three children under the age of four to work with.  I have Black Friday to plan, sales to map out, and a Christmas list to finish.  Blog post due, book cram shouting, a Sunday service plan begging for attention.

Not to mention, who will keep the dog while we are away, I should have had those bills in the mail last week, and I feel guilty about bringing nothing to my mother's table for the feast.

With all of the To-Do's snatching at my apron strings and ringing in my brain, I snap when a small little voice asks to be pushed on the swing.  I roll my eyes when he asks to paint at the kitchen table that I just finished cleaning.  I react with little to no grace when a major spill sets me back 20 minutes from my plan.

"She is a child," the Father whispers.

And then their tears break my heart.

So, how do I slow my roll during these busy holidays so that I don't miss out on the joy and the gratitude?  How do I soak in intention and purpose?  Here are a few things I'm going to try this year:

1.  Grace

When you overcook the turkey or forget the rolls entirely.  When you are the only seated guest who contributed nothing to the meal at all.  When your children don't have adorable matching outfits with turkeys and pilgrims and monograms.  Give yourself grace instead of wallowing in self-deprecation.

When they fight throughout the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade so that you can't hear all of the Broadway hits.  When their spills and lost socks and refusals to get buckled up cause you to be late to the big dinner.  When they complain about your cooking (or worse, your mother-in-law's).  Give them grace instead of harsh tones and threats.  Should we withhold what we are so freely given?

2.  Leave Room

I understand just as well as anyone that this can be a tall order.  Those "Leave it to Beaver" days when you're all set to go with time to spare and everyone is packed and prepared with a smile on their face are rare.  I get it.  If it were that easy, you would make every day so.

But this year, give special effort to leave yourself a little extra time in the day.  Lay out some outfits the night before, get up just a touch earlier if you can, or delegate a few more jobs to the hubs.  Whatever it takes to allow yourself to stop and smell the turkey every once in a while.

It is the minutes that make up the day and when you leave yourself space to tie a shoe with a smile or give praise for a handprint turkey, you leave space for the Father to love on His children.  You make room for His presence to fill the room instead of the traditional tension.

3.  Stop and Soak

Deep breaths are hard to come by on busy days.  Who has time for breathing?  This year, I will force myself to stop and soak it in.  I believe five minutes is all it takes.

You've heard it said that sometimes it is hard to see the forrest because of all the trees.  In a jam-packed room of family and friends and rush, it is more valuable than time to step back and count your blessings.  Sneak out to the porch and peek in the window at the abundance of life going on inside.  Give silent thanks if your grandmother is still alive and making her famous gravy.  Gobble up the picture of your father sneaking a piece of pie for your toddler.

These are things you might miss when you are set to the rhythm of rush.  Five minutes out of twelve or more hours is all that it could take to stir a sense of gratitude and proper perspective in your heart.  Five minutes could make all the difference for your day.

Happy Thanksgiving Y'all.  From the Laydens to you. :)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Face to Face With 17-Year-Old Me

If I had the opportunity to meet with the 17-year-old version of me, I think I would invite her to a coffee shop and shock her when I sip my caramel macchiato.  She hates coffee.  This is what I would say...

Hey, you.  Yep, this is what you look like when you're twenty-nine.  Sure, you don't weigh 95 pounds anymore, but I think the little extra suits you.

Let me hit you right off the bat and say, things don't really turn out the way you plan.  Life has this way of producing a beautiful disaster that you become oh-so-grateful for.  It's an adventure, so just try to go with it.

Love isn't what you think it is today.  Don't tighten your lips together like that.  I know your rolling your eyes on the inside.  I'm not saying you're too young to know what love is.  I'm just saying that at twenty-nine, you are still building upon your definition of love.  The bible is clear on what love is, but tragedy and pain and surprise and fullness all begin to define the curves and edges of love for you.  It moves from head-knowledge to heart-knowledge.

Take him for example.  Yes, the one you plan to marry after college.  Twelve years later, it's still up for debate about whether or not love truly lives in that relationship.  There is devotion, for sure.  You're the most loyal girlfriend in high school.  I see how you've taken care of him when he's been sick.  I see how you've put him first.  You've been through some heavy things together.  But it doesn't equate love.

Even after five years of marriage and three kids following in your footsteps, you're still learning what love is.  Yep, brace yourself for that.

You know how Nana always tells you that you have the Holy Spirit living inside of you?  It is the most incredible gift you will probably ever be given other than salvation.  It flourishes into something indescribable.  Start feeding it now!  Discernment and wisdom are priceless pieces of armor that you will bear for the war ahead.

Don't get so attached to this town.  It's not the ends of the earth.

Don't be so anxious about your major.  Without spoiling the surprise, let's just say God works it all out. The path twists and turns and sometimes falls right out from under you.  But the important thing is that you are following Him with every careful step.  You will not fall into a career that you will hate every day for the rest of your life.  Things are much more interesting than that.

Once again, it's all an adventure.  Your relationship with your heavenly Father will become the most precious relationship you have.  It will feed you in ways that you have not yet dreamed of.  The intimacy between you and Him will be incomparable.  Chase it, dear one.  Pursue it with all of your resources.  Don't let any guy, job, family member, bill, friend, or insecurity hold you back from the most valuable love you will ever experience in your life here on earth or after.

And for heaven's sake, get rid of those shoes.

See you again when we're thirty-nine.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Happy Blog-iversary Loves!

Happy Blog-iversary to you and me!

Four years ago this week, I decided to put my love of words to work for the Kingdom of God.  I sat down and wrote a blog post called Giving Up My Apple Jacks.  It was born out of my realization that Christ had died so that I didn't have to be a control freak or a people pleaser.

Ever since then, I have been using this space to share with others what God is doing in my life.  And let me tell you, sister, He has done quite a bit in the last four years.

I've learned so much about marriage and motherhood that it strikes me with amazement that I'm still so new to this whole thing.  My oldest child is only four years old.  I've only been married for five.  It's hard to believe that we could potentially have 50 or 60 more years on this earth of learning.  Or maybe God has crammed an awful lot into the last four years because we actually won't be here that long.

Either way, it's been a crazy ride so far.

Lord, what do you want your daughters to know?  How do you want them to grow or be encouraged?

This is the prayer that stays on my heart for you, dear friend.  God has always been faithful to answer it.  He gives me a burden for you.  Every update I notice on social media, every blog post you make of your own, I ache for you to live magnetic lives that just ooze the love of God in a life-changing way.

I want to rejoice with you when your babies are born.  I want to wrap my arms around you when you sob with cold depression.  I so desperately want to do life with you.

These are my precious, precious daughters.  Speak to them and help them walk with me.  Love them.

And I do.

This is what I want you to know today.  You are so deeply loved.

This blog is for you, my love.  This quiet little corner has been born because God has called me to love you and be whatever it is He needs me to be for you in this season.  How awesome is that?

So whether this is your first visit here, or you find yourself here often, just know that you are loved and held in prayer.

Four years later, here we are.  I hope for 40 more.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

WHEN God Gives You More Than You Can Handle

Has anyone ever said to you...

God won't give you more than you can handle.

I've been told that a thousand times, and I've offered it a few times myself.  One of my favorite songs even declares:

I won't give you more, more than you can take.
I might let you bend, but I won't let you break.

But you know what I've personally experienced?  God does give us more than we can handle.

You see, when people have offered me that encouragement in the past, it has never wrapped me in comfort the way I suppose it was designed to.

When I was overwhelmed with the news of pregnancy just a few weeks after my honeymoon, someone said to me...God won't give you more than you can handle.

When my father had a stroke and I spent my weekends caring for a newborn and an adult patient, someone said to me...God won't give you more than you can handle.

When I was overwhelmed, yet again, with the news that I was pregnant with twins, someone said to me...God won't give you more than you can handle.

When my daughter was born with a hole in her heart and was in and out of the hospital, someone said to me...God won't give you more than you can handle.

When I found myself married for three years with three babies under the age of three, someone said to me...God won't give you more than you can handle.

When my husband told me he wasn't in love with me anymore, someone whispered to me...God won't give you more than you can handle.

I found no comfort in that place.  I found no strength in that statement.  Guilt took the place of encouragement.  I should be braver.  I should be stronger.  I felt a vague sense of dread creep in with the thought that I wasn't who these people thought I was.

So I came to the conclusion that God does give us more than we can handle.  Because truthfully, apart from Him, I can do nothing.  Grace under pressure, patience, strength, and discernment are all natural characteristics of God, not me.

The truth is that God gives us more than we can handle, because it gives Him the opportunity to shine.  He steps in and fills the gaps.  He more than makes up for my lacking.  His strength is made perfect in our weaknesses, right (2 Corinthians 12:8-10)?

I never would have made it through any of life's major trials on my own strength.  I probably would have committed suicide long ago.  If we are being honest.

I have truly soaked up my most recent study of Gideon because I think the story of Gideon illustrates this point so perfectly.  Gideon was nothing but timid, fearful, and insecure when the angel of the Lord came to him.  He had no strengths or attributes that specially positioned him for success.

And God dwindled his resources even further after calling him to become a leader!  Defeating the Midianites was more than Gideon could possibly handle...alone.

I believe God gives us more than we can handle, and that brings me more comfort than anything else.  It brings me comfort to know that there is one so much higher than I that can assure that I make it through any trial or storm.  And He is for me.  Never against me or indifferent.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Why This Cosmo Culture Makes Me Want To Vomit: A Plea For My Children's Purity

"Mom, look at that!" my four year old whispered in the check-out line at Wal-Mart.  I was devastated as my eyes followed his pointing finger to a scantily-clad Emily Ratajkowski on the November cover of Cosmopolitan magazine.  There wasn't much left to the imagination.  

A string of questions followed and the middle-aged man in front of us chuckled as he commented on how full my hands must be.  I, on the other hand, found myself heartbroken as I waited to pay for my groceries.

How do I explain that it's not okay to put your body on display like that when it appears to be so normal in every check-out line?  Will that image be burned on my preschoolers eyes as he falls asleep tonight?  I just thanked God that he can't read yet... 

And what about my girls?  How old will they be when they start comparing their bodies to the photoshopped and airbrushed bodies they see on the racks?  Will they mistakingly find themselves seriously lacking in who they were meant to be (or who they were meant to be like)?

I'm so sick of this culture.  We are so intentional about the kinds of music we listen to on the radio, the kinds of channels we watch on TV, and the kinds of people we let influence our kids. 

But now I have to defend my child's innocence while simply buying groceries for my family?  I wanted to rip the cover off, ball it up, and eat it.

I thought about it so hard on the 35 minute drive back home, that I scarcely remembered the journey.

When I mentioned my heartbreak to the other women in my small group bible study, several of them confessed to being "magazine-turners."

"When I go through a check-out line full of boobs and tongues, I just start turning them all around so the covers are covered."  We all laughed, but it begs the question, "What are we to do?"

How will I protect my children's purity in a culture that screams sex so loudly?  I'm not one to shelter or value the "bubble" that some parents keep their kids in.  But I do want my kids to grow up with an intense respect for their bodies and others' bodies.  I do believe that they are at ages in which their minds are still being molded to the lens of the world they live in.  And I don't want them to be worldly-minded.  I want them to be kingdom-minded kids.

How do you raise your children to be kingdom-minded kids?  Are there any other magazine-turners out there?

Lord, give me grace to parent these little blank canvases.  Show me how to raise kingdom-minded kids who respect and cherish purity.  Protect their little hearts, Lord.  Fill in the gaps where I can't, Father.  I know that as parents, we set the tone for our homes.  Show me how to be the kind of mother who sets a tone of clean, respectful purity.  Not self-righteous, prude-ish behavior, but a magnetic bodily perspective based on your truth, Father.