Category Archives: Everyday Exiles

Let’s Memorize More Scripture.

Recently, I’ve been trying to memorize more Scripture. I know, 31 years old is probably pretty late to that game right? I grew up in the church, and I’ve always known a few verses, but hey, I didn’t do Bible Drill like some other people I know. I’ve never been very good at memorizing anything at all, but I’ve been trying. And guess what? It’s been working. Think you can’t do it? Keep reading.

There are many places in the Bible that suggest we learn His Word, hide it in our hearts (Ps. 119:11), let it dwell in us richly (Col. 3:16), and meditate on it day and night (Josh. 1:8). I don’t know about you, but I can’t meditate on something day and night unless it’s already in my head. I mean, my Bible’s a little too heavy to have in my hand all day.

I actually started memorizing Scripture because I’d read an article by a woman who’d been having trouble sleeping. Her insomnia was awful, and so she took to memorizing Psalms when she couldn’t sleep. She started one at a time, and when she couldn’t sleep, she’d recite the Psalm. At the time that I happened upon the article, I was having some of the same issues. Okay, God. I see You leading me toward this. SO, I began memorizing a Psalm. Which one did I start with? The one I already knew best, obviously. Psalm 23.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want….

You know at least some of this one, I’m sure. So that was my starting place. I began reading it daily, taking it apart, piece by piece. There are many songs about it, which unfortunately (and surprisingly) made it more difficult to learn. The songs don’t usually go word for word, ya know? But I began to meditate on it, day, and mostly at night. I also began to use an app called Verses, suggested to me by one of the pastors at my church. It’s a free, user-friendly app specifically for memorizing more Scripture. (Disclaimer: it comes with the KJV as the default translation, and you have to pay for the other translations. Sorry.) There are several different methods (I like to call them levels.) to go through as you learn a verse or a passage, and there’s even an option to start with one verse, and keep adding to it. It’s an extremely helpful tool, simple to use, and a good place to start if you’re new to memorizing Scripture.

I also took to copying the more difficult verses (read: ones I was stuck on) down in my journal, reciting them out loud, and listening to my Bible app read them aloud to me. If that’s not meditating on it day and night, I don’t know what is. But as I learned it more and more of Psalm 23, I began to say it to myself when I couldn’t sleep. Eventually I took to going through the entire Psalm when I lay awake in the night, and it quieted my buzzing brain to do so. I found it calming, and the more I used it to lull me back to sleep, the more I couldn’t remember even getting to the last verse of the Psalm, because I’d fallen back to sleep.

I’m not saying that memorizing Scripture is so boring that you’ll fall asleep.

What I’m saying is it can change you. Psalm 23 is all about the Lord leading us into stillness with His comforting presence, and providing for our every need. What I needed was sleep, and He was providing it, even as I spoke those words over myself. Isn’t that beautiful?

When He asks us to let His Word dwell in us richly, that’s what He means! His Word is living and active, and it is possible to let it transform us through the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). That is GOOD NEWS! We don’t have to conform to the patterns of this world – Praise Jesus! – because He has better things ahead for us than what this world has become.

God Loves Celebrations

This piece originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

I’ve been privileged to take part in a great many celebrations. From weddings and anniversaries, baptisms and birthday parties, to dedications of babies and even memorial services, I have been a part of countless celebrations. Honoring relationships, accomplishments, and simply life itself, it is a beautiful thing to celebrate our blessings, the people we love, and just being together. I believe that God gave us the gift of celebration on purpose, that He is pleased when we join together in fellowship and celebration. It is part of the life abundant that He came to give us!

Perhaps the piece of scripture that’s most obviously a celebration is Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son. We know the whole story well, but here’s the best part: “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. Bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” (Luke 15:22-24)

We aren’t always celebrating the return of a beloved person back into our lives, and we aren’t always killing fatted calves to do so. But if this parable, a picture of God’s love for His wandering children, is full of uninhibited celebration and holding nothing back from the son who was lost and then found, then it is fitting we should celebrate, pull out the stops, and show our love by sharing joy in this way!

Along with the countless other feasts, convocation days, and dedications mentioned throughout Scripture, the most incredible example of God-honoring celebration is found, as you might expect, at the birth of Jesus. There were no invitations sent, or caterers booked. There wasn’t a cake or 10-piece band. There was, however, a gorgeous star put up in the sky for just such an occasion, as well as a singing multitude of the heavenly host, and the proudest parents there have ever been.

This picture of the first-ever Jesus-worshipers is still my favorite image. Surprised, unkempt shepherds, used to hanging out in the fields with their sheep. New parents, knowing they had just experienced something special, but not really knowing the full extent. Angels (Full stop. Can you imagine angels at your next baby dedication?) coming out in hordes to announce the birth of Jesus, singing the first songs of praise, and filling the skies with the glory of the Lord. If that doesn’t seem like a picture of a father celebrating his son, you might need to look again. Jesus had been sent by a Father who was celebrating not only him, but the rest of His sons and daughters who would be saved by this Son of Righteousness. A truly happy Father, who was seeing His redemptive plan begin.

3 Ways to Create Space for Your Family

This article originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

I listened to a podcast the other day where the guest was asked how she fostered such closeness within her family unit. I absolutely loved her answer, and pray for what she said to be true about my family. She said that all the did was create space for her family. She created space for them to get to know each other on a deeper level, for fellowship, for fun, and even for having hard conversations. It’s only one thing to do, but it’s huge. How do we do it?

One way for a family to create space for conversations and fun all together is to break bread together. In my home, our mealtimes are sacred as often as we can make them so. Yes, breakfast tends to be rushed (or finished on the way to school) some days, but on Saturdays, we can enjoy a slower (and bigger!) breakfast together. Lunch might just be with the preschoolers, but we can sit down at the table together most days. Dinners happen on the go once a week, and with friends at our table with us sometimes, but the rest of the time, dinner is a special time for all five of us to get to know each other by talking about our individual days, how we feel, what’s going on the next day, or just silly stuff. For us, eating in front of the TV or in shifts isn’t a nice as being together without distractions. Creating the space for fellowship around the table can make a big difference.

Another place to try building some space is into the bedtime routine. Of course, sometimes it’s impossible. But if you’re able to create even a few minutes of unhurried, one-on-one time with your child, you never know what they’ll open up to you about. Bedtime is one of the first things that gets rushed through at our house some evenings, but my husband and I love to spend a few minutes laying with each kid, asking how I can pray for them, and hearing what’s on their minds. My oldest is in kindergarten this year, and she often has things she wants to talk about during those minutes.

Lastly, I try to protect our unscheduled family time. My husband and I both work sporadic hours for our jobs, and so we don’t have a specific time of day, or day of the week, that’s always protected. Therefore, when we can squeeze in a family trip to the park, a trip out of town for the weekend, or just a night at home snuggling and watching a movie, we do it. We love to have friends over, so much of our time at home is spent hosting – which we truly enjoy! But when we’re home in the evenings without an agenda, it’s nice to get extra snuggles and more dance parties, art projects, or games in together.

Creating space in your home for building relationships within your family unit is important. Having conversations about their friendships, hard situations, and relying on Jesus can help them be healthier and more balanced kids and teens. And, the closeness you foster early in your children’s lives is likely to continue throughout their lives! There’s just no downside to spending intentional time together with the people you love most.

Teach Community

This post originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.  

Recently, I’ve realized that a theme has been cropping up to much of my reading, my podcast-listening, and my conversations. I must be in a certain sort of place in my life where God has started to push me in a specific direction, but I may have been too daft to notice it.

My husband and I made a decision when we started thinking about having kids (I know, this is related, I promise). We decided that we wouldn’t stop our social life just because I was pregnant, or simply because we had added a member to our family. For us, that meant  going out to events or dinner or drinks with friends. But what it really meant for us was continuing to have people over to our house. We’ve always had friends over for dinner several times a week, inviting new friends, bringing together old friends, and hosting our families in our home. It helps that my husband is a great cook (can I get an “amen”?!), but we have always loved the fact that our home is a place where people can gather, and we didn’t want that to stop when we suddenly had another (tiny) person that needed to be planned around.

Which brings me to the point of connecting these two thoughts. We’ve always had the desire to have lots of people and lots of good conversation in our home. And recently I’ve listened to two podcasts (unrelated, and not necessarily on this topic) that touched on gathering people into your home, inviting them to be a part of your life and it’s a running theme in two of the books I’ve been reading. Gathering and community-building has also been a theme in the church plant that I’m a part of, and a new job I just took at a local non-profit.

See? I told you I was probably daft to not get it until now.

I’m noticing that even more than usual, I am called to build community. Relationships. Connections. Yes, it looks different in each area of my life, but the goal is the same. Make meaningful connections. Help build relationships. Create a space for community to happen. On top of those things, I have a desire for people to feel welcome and wanted. I want them to feel like they are a part of something bigger.

Because at the end of the day, we are. We are a part of something bigger. We are an integral part, each of us, of the tapestry that God is weaving throughout humanity. We are lost souls, left to wander, if we don’t know about His loving pursuit of us. He has a great destiny for our lives, and all we have to do is come into His family and follow Jesus.

Jesus was the ultimate community builder. He gathered people from far and wide and welcomed them. Even people who had no business being near him, right? People who were usually shunned were welcomed at his table, into his life and his ministry. And as a mother, what more important thing could I let my children witness as they grow up? I want them to know intrinsically how important community is, to see it firsthand. My hope is that they will see the theme of community woven throughout their lives as well, and will, in turn, welcome people to their homes and pour into their own communities. It’s a part of what we’re called to do.

You don’t need to be perfect.

This post originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

What is your calling? Do you know what the Lord is calling you, nudging you, leading you to do? Or is it someone He’d like you to be, perhaps? Becoming acquainted with the Lord’s call on your life is a messy process, and sometimes it doesn’t yield fruit exactly like we think it will.

God gives us gifts, passions, talents, skills, and desires, and for good reason. Each of those things (and a lot more, too) make us into who we are in Him. He has allowed us to be good at the things we’re good at. He has given us passions and desires so that we may be kingdom-builders and world-changers in our own way. That cliche about how “God doesn’t called the equipped, He equips the called” may actually be as true as it is annoying.

As a perfectionist, I have a disadvantage when I’m asked to do something. If I say “yes” to something, I become obsessed with it. I must do the best job I can do, because I’m afraid of failure. That being said, I don’t say yes to very many things, because if I know ahead of time that I don’t have the energy, time, or skills to do the job extremely well, I’ll just say “no” instead. Even if I can do part of it, or do it well enough, or learn a lot through the process, I don’t want those things… I want perfection or nothing. I want to go 100%, or I won’t start.

But something I’ve had to learn is that not being able to achieve that perfection is okay. Sometimes, what I need more than a perfect product is a perfect process. Or even a messy process to which I’ve given my 100%. My “all” doesn’t always come out perfectly in the end… but God is a miracle worker and can bring it the rest of the way if I let Him.

Did you hear that?

God is the miracle worker. He just needs willing bodies that He has called “able” to do what He is calling us to do.

So when you hear Him calling you towards something that you aren’t sure if you can do, trust Him. If you feel nudged toward a new project, of trying something you’ve never tried before, or an undertaking you aren’t sure you can handle, ask Him to help you do it. You only need to be willing to give Him what you have. He’s got the rest. On a podcast I listened to this morning, the guest referenced something a friend had told her: You just need to take care of the two fishes and five loaves. He will feed the five thousand.

It’s okay to not have everything you need to finish what you’ve been called to start. It’s okay if you can’t see the end to know what’s coming, or if you don’t even make it that far. It’s okay if you only have time to do part of it, or if doing it on top of a hundred other responsibilities means that it takes you a really long time. I might be stepping out on a limb, but I don’t think perfectionism is what He calls us to achieve. There is grace for you to follow where you think He’s leading you, even if there’s a part of you that thinks (or the devil is sneaking in the feeling) that you’re “half-assing” it.

God usually doesn’t call us to do things that are easy, or done in a short period of time. He frequently calls us to make a decision for a life-long process of learning, doing, teaching, or searching. He calls us to something higher than we would plan for ourselves, though in following His will, there is fulfillment we would never dream possible. If you feel like He is leading you somewhere, changing your plan, pushing you to go the extra mile, then follow Him. I encourage you to pray through it, seek wise counsel, and go out on that limb. That limb is where you may just find the excitement, fulfillment, and contentment you’ve been searching for.

My little people aren’t to blame. 

This post originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

I’ve written again and again about losing my patience. Again and again, people comment… “Me too,” they say. “I know what you mean.” and “It gets easier.” are other common responses. I get texts, private messages, and comments right on my blog or my Facebook page telling me what I already know is true: “Every parent loses their patience sometimes. Kids can be totally frustrating. You aren’t to blame.”

Well, my little people aren’t to blame, either.

What is our culture’s obsession with blame? We need someone to be in the wrong in every unfavorable situation. Our president or the government is to blame. My boss is to blame. Our spouses, our parents, our kids. Well, what about the recent hurricanes? Who is to blame for that? No one. We’d love to pin down who caused all the destruction, who could be held responsible for the damage done, the property lost, or the money that will be spent on rebuilding instead of vacations and Christmas presents.

So when I get upset, annoyed, frustrated, or just plain angry, my little people aren’t to blame. I might need reminding of this fact, but they simply aren’t to blame for their tendencies toward mess-making, misunderstandings, or sleep-deprived moodiness. My little ones aren’t to blame for the fact that scrambled eggs aren’t their favorite breakfast, or that they have to wear pants today, or even the fact that they can’t survive off of fruit snacks.

But you know what, I do agree that I’m not to blame either.

You see, the kids and I, we are human. We are broken. We are prone to mistakes and sins. The only thing that can redeem us of those things is the grace of God. It’s by the grace of God we love each other through and in spite of messes (literal and figurative) and it is by His grace we can sometimes rise above the little things that often get under our skin. It’s by the grace of God that I even have these perfect little people in my life, and I wouldn’t dare say that my frustration outweighs the daily joy they bring to my life.

Growing Pains

This post originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

The past couple of weeks have been a little tough on my family. We’re facing some growing pains of a particular kind. Our schedules have all changed, due to having our two younger children at one (pre)school, and our eldest child at elementary school. Our toddler is potty-training and teething. Our family is an integral part of a church launch, which is taking much of our emotional and spiritual efforts, if not those in the physical sense. Our jobs are more demanding, somehow, in addition to these other things, and I would be remiss if I didn’t admit we’re suffering a little for it all.

Thankfully, these growing pains are all for good reason. They’re happening because we’re involved in sowing seeds, we are in the business of nurturing life, and we are experiencing a fine harvest. And yes, those things can all be happening at the same time.

Life is full of seasons, but within a family, there can be sowing and reaping simultaneously. We are sowing seeds of learning and a love for education in our daughter as she begins kindergarten. My husband and I are sowing as well into our professional lives, putting in extra hours, collaborating with our colleagues, and making more plans. We are nurturing our toddler as his body grows and changes. We are experiencing a beautiful harvest with our church family as we expand our congregation and launch a new campus, welcoming a new community to become a part of the Lord’s work as a part of our century-old church.

Growing pains are a sign that you are living life fully and well. You cannot experience growing pains by remaining stagnant, lying dormant, or settling. Sitting and waiting on something to happen to you isn’t the way to grow. Of course, there are seasons for rest, but we were created to be workers, to toil the land, and to rule over and take care of the earth. That’s literally the reason God created Adam (Genesis 1:28, 2:15) and it’s in our very design! Toiling as builders, as growers, as shepherds, as healers, as parents… these things are in our DNA, and they’re what our Creator divined for us. Great things that happen are almost always preceded by work – whether we worked for it, or God has done the work for us.