All posts by Only Hsuman

I'm wife to a fabulous husband Ryan, mom of three sweeties, Ella Kate, Joseph and Davis, worship leader at Reynolda Church, and follower of Jesus. Shine on.

First Day Feels.

The main thing I need to say is this: Man, we got here fast.

My second little minion started kindergarten today. He was quiet and reserved at drop-off, but didn’t cling to me or shed any tears. My second grader, true to form, flounced off into her class with a quick hug and kiss from me, and nary a backward glance. What a darling, she is, to not need a single thing from me anymore… right?

Parents often talk about how time flies, and you shouldn’t blink, and you’ll miss whatever that frustrating thing is. And truth be told, I have a four-year-old who still sometimes poops his pants and NO, KAREN, I WILL NOT MISS THAT. But I really do get it.

So when today at pick-up, I had been anxiously awaiting the news from my 5 and 7 year olds, thinking that like normal they’d be bursting with news and stories and “Oh, Mom, this was hilarious!” and my daughter was full of that. But my son seemed shell-shocked, saying he had been at school for, like, an hour (the longest imaginable time), and had gotten lost and separated from his class at dismissal, and dissolved into tears. I was in no way prepared for that. So I did what any unselfish and loving mother would do: cried right along with him, in front of all the other parents picking up their darling ones, including two of my friends (parents of my kids’ friends, too) who hugged and rubbed backs (his and mine) and checked in on us later. What would I have done if he was my oldest, that was our first day of kindergarten, and we didn’t know anyone?

So to all my mamas out there, the ones who had an amazing first day, and the ones who pried sad kiddos off their legs just to get out of the classroom this morning, be friends. Be friends with each other. Everyone needed a hug today, whether it be for congratulatory purposes (YES AND AMEN) or for the tears you are or aren’t willing to shed until your head hits your pillow tonight. I’ve got hugs to go around, and encouragement for either situation. Mamas, we are doing this together. Let’s share the love.

How do you hear from God?

This piece appeared first on Everyday Exiles. The words are my own.

How do you hear from God? For me, the answer changes frequently; it seems every time I hear, it’s a little different. Sometimes, I need confirmation from another person that I didn’t just make something up in my head. I don’t get a burning bush or a pillar of fire, or any other kind of fire, and I also wouldn’t say I hear the thundering, or even slightly audible, voice of God… so how am I supposed to know it’s really Him?

There are many examples in the Scriptures to support the fact that we can (and should, and will!) hear God speak, but sometimes, I wonder if the “wonder” (yes, that was on purpose) is lost on us, because we aren’t used to listening. Is it somehow, some way, our fault that we don’t hear from Him? Is the crux of the issue that He isn’t speaking, or that we aren’t listening?

It’s easy to get the thought into our heads that God only speaks to those who are “worthy” – whatever that means – or those who are following Him more closely, doing His will more completely, or building His kingdom with bigger bricks than we are. We let the idea that He’d have anything to say to little ol’ us pass by completely, instead of remembering that He loves us, too. He wants to impart His knowledge and love to us, too. His ways are higher than ours, and far past our understanding, and so it does make a little bit of sense that we can’t comprehend why He’d stoop down and speak directly to us, but let us not think that this is some excuse to not listen.

When we desire to hear God speak, I believe we will. But we have to keep listening, keep talking to Him, keep searching for the ways we might hear from Him, because He’s the most creative Being there’s even been. That means whatever box we put Him in, or way we expect Him to communicate probably isn’t the only one He’ll use. 2 Timothy 3:16 says that Scripture is God-breathed. HE SAID IT. TO US. Hebrews 4:12 reminds us that His word is living and active! That means it brings the very words of God straight to us. Need to hear Him speak? Open your Bible and dig in. I believe God speaks to us through the Holy Spirit and through the Holy Spirit in other believers. As John 14:26 tells us, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” What clearer confirmation of hearing from God do we need? That sentence (spoken by Jesus, by the way) wasn’t just meant for a select few. The Father sent the Helper to ALL OF US who believe, not just those of us who are better at doing things right.

So what I encourage you to do is this: listen. Be expectant. Ask Him to speak. Tune your heart to His. Be still, and listen. You may be surprised how much you hear.

Spiritual Disciplines

This piece first appeared on Everyday Exiles. The words are my own.

Discipline. It’s a word that can carry a lot of weight, and even have a negative connotation. What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word discipline? Perhaps punishment you received as a child? Or consequences you have set in place for your own children? Or maybe the “stick-to-it” mentality you need to complete a training plan or stay on track with your diet. While discipline can mean a lot of structure, rules, and staying power, it can also bring much freedom in your life.

You may have heard the platitudes “God is more interested in your character than your comfort.” and “God calls you out of your comfort zone.” Whether you believe they’re true or not, like all adages, they come from nuggets of truth. Like Jonah, Job, Nehemiah, and others, God has called countless people out of their comfortable lives to do things they didn’t want to do. He laid out plans for crazy things, like ark-building, sea-parting, and son-sacrificing, and asked for radical obedience. But if it weren’t for the discipline of all those fellows – whether it was their first response to the call, or their last – the fantastic plans God had in mind wouldn’t have come to pass in such a spectacular way.

Spiritual disciplines were created and ordained by God not to punish us or to restrict us, but to bring us freedom. Hebrews 12 tells us this: …but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. God has our best interest in mind when He instructs us to pray, study the Word, serve others, practice solitude, fast, give to the local church, submit to His will (obey), simplify, celebrate, confess our sins, give and receive guidance, and worship Him at each and every opportunity. That list of twelve may seem daunting, but think how many you may already have the routine of doing. Corporately, we can worship, celebrate, confess, and guide. These things happen in communities, and sometimes look different than we think. Confession can take the form of apology. Guidance can be as formal as counseling or as informal as asking a friend for advice. Individually, the other eight disciplines are integral for growth in relationship with the Lord and ability to hear and obey His will. Psalm 94 encourages us with this: Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O Lord, and whom you teach out of your law. The word “law” here is the Bible, God’s Word, the divine and holy text God gave us to learn from… it isn’t a legislation that sets us up to fail and be punished. Discipline and law are not one and the same; Romans 6:14 reminds us: For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. Law is not what governs us; the only thing that shall lord over us is Christ himself! Submitting to the very Kingship of Christ is how we are free to live without fear, free from condemnation, and free from the bondage of our sin! The disciplines that help us grow closer to the likeness of Christ are what set us free to receive the Spirit of God and all the fruits He has to offer. So if the son sets you free, you are free indeed! (John 8:36)

Savoring Ordinary Time

This piece originally appeared on Everyday Exiles

In the midst of our celebrating Thanksgiving with family and friends, buying Christmas gifts while they’re on sale, and decorating our houses for the season ahead, we get caught up in a lot of days in a row that feel “extra”. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t take a long few weeks to celebrate the birth of Jesus, or that we shouldn’t let ourselves get swept up in the celebrations that the end of the calendar year can bring. What I am saying, or rather, asking, is that when New Year’s has come and gone, will we be satisfied with what’s left? What even is left? Our ordinary.

In Emily P. Freeman’s lovely book Simply Tuesday, she invites the reader to find a way to look at the ordinary and even mundane moments so that we may appreciate their smallness. Smallness, she says, is often where we grow closer to Christ. We don’t particularly like the smallness, the ordinary, or the (gasp!) boring, but we do need a nudge to look for God in whatever is right in front of us, however unsightly or messy it may be.

As we navigate the busy and glorious season of Advent, our hearts are naturally more attuned to the Kingdom-looking parts of our lives. You know, the familial relationships that are healthy, the beauty in icicles and snowflakes, and the snuggles as our children are drifting off to sleep, cozied up beside us. But the challenge comes here in January, when the lights and tinsel have been packed away, the sugary dreams have worn off, the “New Year” has been properly celebrated, and we’ve lost a few pieces to most of our gifts that were so carefully chosen, wrapped, and placed under the tree. What happens when all the magic is gone? Do we just attempt to fabricate it?

To be honest, I don’t think the magic goes anywhere. It just looks a little different. In “ordinary time” – which by the way, is an actual part of the church’s liturgical year when the numerous celebrations aren’t happening – magic might be a little more difficult to find, but it isn’t gone. Sometimes, it takes actually resting, looking, and waiting. Hang on to this glimpse of forever we got, while things were beautiful and kindnesses were more frequent. Hold on to the feeling of love and warmth you got in a room full of your people.  Don’t forget that those things aren’t created by the Christmas season – they’re created by hearts full of joy, given to us by a Creator who loves us. He gifts us the ability to see with His eyes the beauty of wonder and truth, to hear with His ears the exciting sounds of creation, to love with His heart those He has placed in our paths. We only need to be willing to receive those gifts and use them in our own ordinary time.

For the Love of Books

This piece originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

One of my (very loose and mostly ideal but certainly not practical) goals of 2018 was to read more.

Yeah, I told you it was loose.

Anyway, I certainly accomplished it, and I’m proud to say that this week, I finished my 52nd book of the year. I know you people who have had reading goals every year and accomplished some sort of list of genres, authors, and new releases have certainly still beaten me, but for my life stage and loosey-goosey approach, I’m happy. My parameters were every bit as loose as the goal itself; almost anything counted. A mix of fiction and nonfiction, a mix of classics and modern YA lit. Some books took me more than a month to chip away at, one page and one day at a time. Other books I finished in a single day, and didn’t discount them for that. I read a poetry collection, and counted it. I counted two of the chapter books that I read aloud to my daughter. I also counted my advent devotional and a few books I read simply because I was interviewing their authors.

All this is to say that I learned a few things during my year of simply reading more. First of all, I learned that I like it better than watching TV. I don’t have anything against TV – in fact, I have several TV shows I love and have watched every episode of a hundred times. But when, at the end of the day, I need quiet moments of relaxation, I turn to books more happily. I also learned that while novels go very quickly for me, nonfiction is more than worth chipping away at. I used to hate reading nonfiction, but this year I have enjoyed more than a few spiritual memoirs, Scripture-based, and Christian lifestyle-type books (What even is the genre for all that, by the way?) and even a narrative nonfiction book that restored my belief in learning history past high school. I’m kidding, a little, but still.

I know a lot of people who would read, but “don’t have time” or they “can’t find anything they like past a few chapters in”. But to you guys, I’d encourage you to stick it out. Stick it out, try to build in the time, stretch your literary vocabulary, and explore a new kind of book you don’t usually read. If you haven’t yet found something you love, try the library instead of a bookstore until you find what you like, (It’s free, y’all. No-brainer.) even if it takes a little while.

What else did I learn? Well, I continue to learn that I’m no good at saying “No” to a book that looks even remotely interesting. A used book sale has my whole heart, and whatever cash I happen to have on me. I like libraries, but usually struggle with returning the books on time. I love my Kindle for the portability, but there’s nothing like turning pages. Reading in front of my kids makes them want to read, too. I’ll never stop buying books. I’ll never stop trading books with friends. I’ll never stop taking books to our neighbors’ little free library. I’ll never give away books that I loved – which results in a truly puzzling storage issue in my home. But most of all, I learned that I still really and truly love to read. I love it. I LOVE IT and I don’t care who knows it.

Authors I Love Right Now – Kate Morton and Kristin Hannah

So, y’all know I love reading. I’m not a picky reader, usually, widely spanning genres, years, fiction and nonfiction… I just love books. That being said, I have a few authors I’ve read a lot of – Kate Morton being one. She is one of my absolute favorites, and I think there’s only one of her books I haven’t read. I enjoy her historical fiction so much, as well as the contemporary story lines of her others. She is, in my opinion, a masterful plot creator, weaving storylines, connecting dots at the perfect moments, giving little bits you can figure out on your own, but never giving quite everything away, so that there are still a few surprising turns – you know, so you keep reading! She adds a perfect dose of mystery, so that her narrative isn’t predictable. I always plow right through her books quickly, partially because I become immersed in her stories, and partially because I cannot think of reading anything else until I find out what is really going on. I can’t put her books down!

Now that I’ve sung the praises of my beloved Kate Morton, I’ll move on to a new favorite: Kristin Hannah. She does for me something a little different than Kate Morton, although off the cuff, you might say they are similar writers. While Kate is a wonderful storyteller, Kristin Hannah also refreshes you with her unrivaled character development and incredible setting displays. She can take you right to the heart of why she chose a certain place or time, drop you right into that exact moment, and make you feel like you actually are her main character. It’s incredible to read her environmental descriptions (I mean, have you even read The Great Alone yet?!), and I can’t imagine how much research goes into making sure things are accurate and thoroughly described. Her descriptions of character relationships are so believable; you feel like you grew up in the climate of the community she describes. I truly love her style.

While I have read all but one of Kate Morton’s books (I’m coming for you, The Clockmaker’s Daughter!I have only read The Great Alone and The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. If you have read either of these ladies’ works, do you agree with me? Have you found that to be true to Kristin Hannah’s backlist? Do you also love their unique styles? This is great literature, friends. Go and read their books! I have several if you’re local and want to borrow mine!

Enjoy it.

This piece originally appeared on Everyday Exiles

It seems to me that each year, we get more and more hasty. We’re rushing through Christmas to get to Valentine’s Day… then rushing through to the 4th of July. Next thing you know, it’s Halloween, and on November 1st, we see Christmas decorations everywhere. Seriously… What’s the rush?

We’ve lost the art of enjoying the moment. Maybe not all of us, and maybe not all the time. But when we rush from big thing, to big thing, to wondering why there isn’t a next big thing, we’ve lost the ability to appreciate the right now. What’s the right now? Well, it looks like this…

Sunrises. Sunsets. Afternoon sun shining through a canopy of leaves. Full moonlight on dewy grass. Golden leaves on the sidewalk just before they turn brown. Spaghetti sauce all over your toddler’s face. A nicely-wrapped gift on your birthday. A perfectly-plated pasta and a glass of wine. A cupcake. Dirt under your fingernails from gardening. The smell of fresh flowers, brought to you by a friend. An unexpected kind note in the mail, amidst the mundane pile of bills and junk.

In the world of Instagram, we think we have to make everything special that happens into a “thing”. We need to take a photo and post about it (yes, me too!), maybe tag someone who was there. But are we actually enjoying the “thing” itself? Are we slowing down, smelling those flowers, sipping the wine, savoring that last bite, and hugging the friend? Why does this matter, you ask?

It matters because we are created for only a few years on this earth. Yes, our treasure is in heaven, and that’s what we look forward to – but we were put here first. On purpose. For a reason. We are here to live fully, love justice, do mercy, and walk humbly with God… and with our human companions as well. We were put here to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation, the comfortable silence with loved ones, and the sweetly unorganized chaos of our children. So slow down. Take a long look at that ordinary beauty around you. Don’t rush out of that coffee date, even if you still have some errands to run. Savor the conversation, the last bite, the first sip, and the dropping of the sun behind those trees. Don’t pick up your phone and take a picture – enjoy it.