Enough

Monday: It’s late. Sleep whispers to me, beckoning me to head to bed, the place I’ve been wishing for most of the day. And yet words rattle around inside my head, keeping me up. Sleep isn’t shouting yet, so perhaps I should put pen to paper and try to make sense of the jumble of the day.

It was a long day, but a good day. I exercised though not as well as the others in boot camp. I kept moving. I keep trying. That’s the important part.

Then off I went to my Bible Study/book club where God keeps beckoning me to places of vulnerability with women I admire. Today we wrestled with wounds on our hearts and how they affect our perceptions of ourselves. Women carry around our wounds. They affect the filter through which we judge ourselves. My group is reading the book, “Captivating” together. It’s a good book. Our group has been together long enough we can share our scars without shame. Today we shared and a thoughtful attitude followed me into the rest of the day.

Today I was blessed, again, by a church family who wants to care for this widow. They sent an exterminator to take care of whatever was clawing inside my walls. Deer mice, it turns out. Common to this area, he said. The fix was easy. The cost would have meant a huge strain for me. And yet again, God’s people cared for us. I am humbled by this.

The day continued with tasks most moms deal with—school pick-ups and errands, dinner prep and homework, listening and snuggling and trying to help kids finish their responsibilities. I helped Lucy make cornbread muffins for dinner—a bright spot in my evening drudgery.

I hid from much on my to-do list today. I know that. I accomplished quite a bit but my house isn’t clean enough nor the laundry finished enough. All the “should haves” mock me as I try to shut my mind off for the night. I reach for Emily Freeman’s book A Million Little Ways and find solace in some of her encouragement to take time to explore wonder. I’m pretty sure catching up on my TiVo is not what she’s suggesting.

Maybe that’s why my mind is racing. I need to create my art tonight, my writing. I need to ignore the things that went undone; things telling me I didn’t do enough today. Telling me I am not enough.

Today I wrestled with deep things. I conquered mice (or at least found a guy to conquer them for me). And I took care of four kids, each needing something different from me. Perhaps today didn’t contain enough time for wonder. And that is OK.

Or maybe I need to realize I experienced wonder today. It was in the pushing past my hatred of exercise to do it anyway and take care of myself. It was in vulnerable conversations with women I care about. It was in helping a six-year-old proudly make corn muffins.

Wednesday: I set aside the morning to write. I have five whole hours until children burst back into my home after school. It’s early release Wednesday. But I remember this blog, started the other night and I take time for a different kind of wonder. I take time to read my Bible and watch the swirling snow fall outside. I marvel at beauty; that God is painting the world in white, a stark contrast to deep green pines and grey mourning doves huddled for warmth outside my window.

Today God is beckoning me to hone my craft, to polish my gifts, and to find words to place on a page. Today he is stilling the voices of doubt that whisper that I am not a big enough blogger, don’t have a big enough following, don’t have what it takes. He is stilling the voices of doubt that tell me I am not enough and reminding me to trust. Just do what he has called me to do and he will care for the rest.

So today I encourage you to silence the voices telling you that you are not enough. You are enough because God created you. You are enough because Jesus loves you. You are enough when you surrender what’s in your hands to the God who creates abundance out of lack, who creates wonder out of the ordinary, who creates new beginnings out of broken endings.

Take time today to embrace the wonder in your universe—whether it’s helping a child learn a new task, enjoying the beauty around you, or embracing the gifts you were given. Today, perhaps, that is enough.

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The Beauty of Art

Art. Poetry. Music. Dance. Film. Food done well. Literature.

Art is something essential to the human soul. There is something about a moving piece of music or a beautiful painting that resonates in the deepest parts of who we are. We can get lost in an amazing book or swept away with a beautiful movie so easily. Even if we are not artsy-types we still appreciate it in varying forms.

This weekend I enjoyed watching my daughter be moved by a piece of art in Hobby Lobby. It spoke to her. She stood, enraptured by the painting of a fall road with a scripture that gave her comfort. “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 47:10. For fifteen minutes she stood, transfixed, contemplating if she wanted to spend every last cent she had saved to buy this framed painting. It was on sale. But $40 is a lot of money when you are 12.

IMG_1767I didn’t know which way to encourage her, to be honest. It would take every cent she had. But if it was art that would inspire her, bring beauty to her room, and make her smile, wasn’t that a worthwhile way to spend her babysitting money? However, it didn’t match any colors she desires to paint her room. It didn’t match anything, really. But did that matter?

Lately I’ve been dealing with the concept of art thanks to an amazing book—A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You were Made to Live by Emily P. Freeman. This book has been refreshing inspiration, breathing life into my dream of becoming a writer.

IMG_1684From the very start this book captivated me. One of the points she makes is so eloquent. She talks about Ephesians 2:10: “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” That verse spoke to me at my conference last summer. God has plans for me—amazing works he already knows about. But then Emily kindly goes on to give us a language lesson:

These English words used in this text—masterpiece, sometimes translated workmanship—these are translations of the original word used in the letter to the church at Ephesus, the Greek word poiema. Our English word poem comes from this same Greek word. (A Million Little Ways, page 25)

We are a poem written by The Great Artist. What an amazing image. Whenever I hear it translated workmanship, it feels like something functional, something solid like a chair or a house. There is artistic freedom in thinking of myself as a poem. There is unique beauty in that word. Yes, houses and chairs can be beautiful too. But a poem is beauty without needing to be functional. It is beautiful because it is.

I’ve had a hard week, an emotional week. God has spoken with such gentleness into my heart about the kind of writer I should be. He’s spoken to me about being careful with my words and the stories I choose to tell. There has been correction and guidance and redirection as he’s continued to write the poetry of me.

Seeing my daughter captivated by a piece of art today made my heart calm from the turmoil of the week. God is captivated by us. Sometimes he needs to redirect the art that we are living. He needs to paint over the mistakes we make or erase a line or two of the poem to make room for rewrites. But when we submit to his direction, the art becomes more complete each day.

What kind of art has God called you to create? If you aren’t sure, let me recommend Emily’s amazing book. Whether it is the art of baking or raising amazing kids, the art of making numbers move like a symphony across a spreadsheet or the art of painting a sunset, God has created us in his image. And God is an artist.

True Religion in Action

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27

This verse has never been as alive to me as it has been since my husband died. To be honest, I’d forgotten it was even in there until my sweet cousin, Sarah, reminded me of it the week he died. She wanted to offer assurances that I was going to be ok. My kids where going to be provided for because God had instructed his people to take care of me.

I wept and then watched in amazement as the people of God did just that. People across denominational lines moved to help us in ways that still bring me to tears. I received blessing like the widow’s oil in 2 Kings 4:1-7 that just kept flowing. God performed a miracle to provide for that widowed mom and he keeps moving to provide for me, again and again.

One of my coworkers summed it up when he said, “I love to see it when God’s people get it right.”

Today I am reminded of this verse as I can’t seem to stop crying tears of gratitude. My kitchen sink broke last night. A seal at the base of the faucet snapped in half and popped out. Water sprays sideways when you turn it on. No leak is threatening to flood my house so I was thankful for that. But you need water in a kitchen.

I texted a pic to a handyman friend and he said the whole thing needed to be replaced. Sigh. There goes the money I had set aside for the kids’ clothes this week, I thought.

In the morning I posted on Facebook a call to see if any handy friends had time to install a new one for me. I’d looked up how to do it myself on YouTube. Nope. That’s not going to happen. I was hit again with how handy Kraig had been and grief made doing it myself seem impossible. No one replied and I thought of how busy my friend’s husbands are with their own home repair lists. I decided after my morning meetings I’d start calling handymen to get a quote.

Halfway through my meeting with the high school guidance counselor, my sweet friend and pastor’s wife, Katy, texted me. “Would it work for two guys to come fix the faucet at 4 p.m. today? They’ll bring a faucet.” Tears clouded my vision and I had to fight to return my focus to the meeting. I shared with the counselor why I was distracted and she teared up too. She said, “That’s amazing!” Jesus was glorified in her office today.

I love my church. Fountain Springs Community Church in Rapid City, South Dakota is growing by leaps and bounds, I believe, because they have determined in their core to show people who Jesus is—with words AND deeds. When Pastor David mentioned in a sermon last fall that this verse from James had convicted his heart, I sat up straighter. When he said he was adding a line item to the budget to help widows in need so this ministry would be part of who we are as a church, I cried.

To those who are Fountain Springers who regularly give to support the work of this amazing ministry, thank you! You helped our church be Jesus today to this widow and her four kids. You provided for this by your faithful tithes and offerings. You may not be one of the great guys coming to do the work, but you are partners in the ministry being done in my little house here in town.

I hadn’t even thought to call the church and ask. But God knew to make sure my post on Facebook caught Katy’s attention.

So today at 4:00 I will have everything ready for two great guys to come be the hands and feet of Jesus to this widow. Today I will again thank God for his provision when I didn’t even think to ask. And today I will encourage others to reach out to the widow and the orphan in practical, tangible ways because you often have no idea what a huge blessing you can be.

Guess It’s Time to Run

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us….” 

Hebrews 12:1 NIV

I hate running. Seriously I have never been so happy as when a doctor told me I wasn’t allowed to run or jog at all. I have bad knees. I do other forms of exercise but running has never been something I enjoy. However this week I’ve gained a new appreciation for this verse.

As January dawned this year, I struggled with a bleak outlook. That’s why I haven’t posted a blog in so long—I wasn’t sure I had any words worth sharing. Before me stretched 12 empty months with no huge plans or goals to fill them. Last year January represented stepping into a new year as a widowed mom. It represented surviving. But I survived the First Year of Grief. No, I did better than that. By the amazing provision of God I thrived.

But now what? That question seemed to mock me. So I did something wise—I told my Heavenly Father just how empty I was feeling. I gave Him the coming year and asked for His direction. And then I waited.

God did not send divine direction all at once. There was no audible voice or angel in my room telling me THIS was what God had planned for me this year. I think He saves those kinds of directions for rare moments. Instead, He started to show me my cloud of witnesses.

I used to think this verse only referred to the saints who had gone before us, cheering us on from heaven. But over the past few weeks, I have seen encouragement from amazing women of faith cheering me on through Facebook and the internet.

I have been following amazing authors such as Christine Caine, Lysa Terkeurst, Jen Hatmaker, Emily Freeman, and Kathi Lipp. Over the past weeks some of the encouragement they’ve posted has seemed to shine a spotlight onto my “what’s next.” These women of faith have posted things that God has used to prompt my heart to keep moving forward, one step at a time, towards what He directed me to do last year—write. Write for His glory, using the talents and experiences He has given me.

Through these women I have been reminded that God gifts and God guides. He uses those with willing hearts more than those with talented abilities. I have been encouraged to hone my craft and submit my steps to Him. I was reminded that He will open doors I could never dream of when I have taken the time to submit to His will. My cloud of witnesses was cheering me on and pointing me back to the truths I knew deep in my soul. God has a plan for me, for all of us, which is more breathtaking than anything we could ask or even imagine!breathtaking meme

So I took a leap of faith and contacted one of those authors I respect and enjoy. I asked if she’d be willing to read my book and possibly endorse it. She said yes. I was shocked. Oh me of little faith. This propelled me to get back to working on the thing I felt God directing me to so many months ago.

Then God sent me one of my new friends willing to read what I’ve got so far and give me honest feedback. Amanda loves nonfiction writing and would be a good person to view what I’ve got from the outside. She’s only known me for about a year.

And then I took another leap of faith. I contacted a book agent I’d casually met in the hall at last year’s She Speaks. I asked if she’d be willing to read my proposal and consider representing me. This weekend I got her reply. She said yes. She said she was swamped with work right now but if I contacted her mid-March, she’d let me know if she’d caught up enough to have time. I wept. That was perfect timing to get Amanda’s feedback and to polish my proposal that isn’t quite perfect yet.

God has a plan for each of us. I have shared that with others time and again. Sometimes I can forget this truth applies to me too. Let me encourage you today that God has plans for you! He will direct your steps so that you can run the race He has set out for you.

He’s not showing me the whole picture of what He has planned for me but the next steps. That’s all I really need. I guess I’d better get on those running shoes and get back to my race.