Category Archives: Everyday Exiles

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.

The Vine and the Branches

This post originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

My family has traveled a lot this summer. We also have a large vegetable garden. Those two things didn’t go together terribly well. While we had some friendly neighbors come water in exchange for picking whatever they wanted while we were gone, we still had a few of our plants die, or stop producing earlier than they should have. We also acquired some serious weeds… and I mean REALLY enormous and gnarly ones.

The worst, perhaps, was a vine. Now, I don’t know much about most weeds, but I do recognize most of the common ones I see in our garden. Obviously we try to get them out before they’re huge, but this vine escaped my clippers for long enough to be quite entwined with our okra plants and was starting on the kale. It seemed to all originate from one spot, but it had spread across the ground, and climbed up every single okra plant, of which there are eight, and they’re all taller than me. You can imagine my disdain for this vine once I finally got around to pulling it up and out of the garden bed.

As I hacked away at this stubborn vine, snipping here, pulling there, rescuing my plants from the surprisingly strong vine that had almost consumed them, I kept remembering Jesus’s words from John 15: I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, it is he that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (ESV) Jesus had likened himself to the vine, and the Father to the vinedresser. He likens us to branches, knowing that we may not do anything on our own, if detached from the vine. But stemming from Jesus, being nurtured by his love, his encouragement, and even his admonishment, we are to bear much fruit. In fact, no fruit can be borne if we aren’t being filled by the Holy Spirit.

The more I thought about this strong vine, I noticed the way it had almost lovingly curled itself around each plant, not too tight, but swirling its way up the stalks, around each leaf, splitting off in different directions to leap across to the next plant, and the next. There were also little white flowers sprouting from a few parts of the vine that had been there the longest. This gently flowering vine had made its home, nestled in the garden bed with the good soil I had prepared and tended and watered. The more I noticed the vine’s intricacies, the more I almost began to admire it. You know, if it hadn’t been smothering my beloved (and thankfully resilient) okra.

This strong vine began to serve as an example of how when we allow ourselves to be rooted in something as powerful and good as Jesus, we can be the branches, sent out into the world, lovingly coming alongside others, blossoming and bearing fruit. We can accept and share the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5), those gifts that Jesus has offered, knowing fully that apart from him, we really can do nothing.

Here’s to shedding some tears.

This post also appeared on Everyday Exiles.

I’m a mom of three. I’m a wife. I’m a friend, sister, daughter, writer, singer, colleague, and foodie. Which of those things says I should cry a lot?

Apparently all of them.

Recently, I’ve found that I cry at almost everything. Things my friends say. Books I read. Podcasts I’m listening to (I’m looking at you, Annie F. Downs!). Songs I sing, or hear on the radio. Literally every time I crack open my Bible. It’s a lot. Am I too emotional about some stuff? Maybe. Am I going through something difficult? I don’t know. Probably. Aren’t we all?

Recently, my boys (ages 3.5 and 2) got their first “official” haircuts. They went to see my dad’s barber, in my hometown, as my parents’ house was literally going under contract that afternoon. It was a lot – an emotional day. There were some tears involved, and rightly so. My 11-year-old self was looking around, appreciating the house I’d grown up in for the first time. My 15-year-old self was remembering sleepovers and cramming for exams and late night ice cream sundaes. My 20-year-old self was wondering why I came home from college for the summer, because it was a little boring comparatively, but actually loving the slowness. My 31-year-old self (at present) was wishing my kids would grow up vacationing to that pool and huge front yard forever, and wishing that we had been able to come “home” a little more often.

You see? Tears flowing, even now, weeks later.

Call it hormones. Call it motherhood. Call it “too soft”. But I’m a crier now, more than I ever was. But I know that it just means that Jesus is softening my heart to some things that I haven’t been softened to before… Relationships with incredible women in my life. Shoes that are quite big that it’s my job to fill. My headstrong daughter with ideas all her own, my sensitive middle child with a need for a schedule and some sugar, and my baby, who I equally want to rush into independence and coddle forever. I am torn, in limbo between the already and the not yet, unsure of how to proceed. And then I sit and cry.

I’m not ashamed. I’m really not. I joke about it a lot – and you can call that my coping mechanism. But I really don’t feel bad about the tears I shed. Because it means that I care, I feel deeply, and I love big. I’m okay with those things, because it means I got those traits from Jesus. He cared. He felt deeply. He loved big. And if, in me, it manifests as tears, I’ll take it.

Looking for My Patience

This post originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

I’m a parent; of course I lose my patience sometimes. It’s just what we do when things go awry, or when the day’s been too long, or when we’re pushed and stretched to the point of breaking. I’m not saying it’s the right thing to do, or that it is built into our systems as humans, but I don’t know a parent who has never lost their patience.

But I find that I have stretches of time where I lose my patience more than I keep it. I could blame it on hormones. I could blame it on low sleep. I could find a hundred other excuses for not keeping my cool, but what it all comes down to for me is relying on the Lord for my strength and patience, instead of relying only on myself. What do I mean?

I mean that  I can’t do it on my own. My striving, my best efforts, my standards for myself… none of those things can hold up without some divine intervention. I know that I need to ask my heavenly Father for patience before I need it, not during or after. I have to make the prayer for patience my mantra, and I have to keep reminding myself that my own patience isn’t sufficient unless it’s supplemented with His patience. I know I can’t be the best mom without His help.

While I don’t always find time for those long, elaborate, journaled prayers each day that I loved to write before my life was full of parenting, I need prayer even more than I did then. I find that I’m more conversational in my prayer times, coming and going through prayer throughout the whole day, praying for and with my kids, praying for help in a moment of weakness, for healing booboos, for bedtime to come quickly, and for more patience.

Who knows best how to parent more than God does? He is the perfect Father, the One whom our parent-child relationships should be modeled after. We can be frustrating children, I am sure. Reading the Bible can show us example after example of children who disobeyed, and made terrible choices. But God is full of patience, full of grace, and full of love for us at our most insolent of times. So when I am an imperfect parent, I try (even if it seems too late) to draw support from the perfect Parent, a Father who loves me – and my children – with all the patience we can imagine.