Sunday, July 24, 2016

Letting Grace Into Your Summertime

Oh my goodness, Summer! I love summertime. Fresh berries. Pools with the smell of suntan lotion. Lazy breakfasts. Evening little league games and catching fireflies at dusk.

Just as much as I love all of the above, I also need to accept the all that comes along with my summer time loves -- overtired children, sunburns, bug bites and sibling squabbles. Oh, the sibling squabbles...the struggle is VERY REAL around here!

I was going to write about our recent summer vacation to the beautiful mountains in Utah. Scratch that. Then I was going to write about the good fruit the spirit produces and how we need to take captive our thoughts so we can grow that great fruit...yada, yada, yada.

Those ideas are all great jumping off points for future blog posts but the truth is I’m too tired to write it all. My thoughts run around in a loop of ideas and run-ons but since summer is happening all around me, the time and energy to write everything down is few and far between.

All I really know is this: summer time brings lots of highs and lots of lows--and it's perfectly okay to live with both. 

I read this quote recently--on vacation, no less, which is exactly when I needed to read it:

"I fall into the trap of just wanting people to behave instead of loving them right where they are." 

(This is by Sophie Hudson, by the way, in her new book, Giddy Up, Eunice. She and her book, her blog and her podcast are hilarious.)

Ummm, that would be me. I work hard at getting everyone to behave correctly, to not whine, be grateful, cheer up, it will all be okay, and please, use your fork--not your fingers, that I forget that it's not all about outward behavior.

Yes, good manners are a good intention but sometimes it's okay to have all the feels, to melt down and give in to that cookie because it really will make everything better.

I'm not advocating lax parenting and giving in to all our feelings. Not at all. I am just saying that I need to work on acknowledging the feelings and giving grace and love to the feeler of said feelings.

So, for example, if everyone feels a bit tired because of an early morning flight, a time change and adjusting to dry-mountain air, it's perfectly okay to feel a bit cranky. I'm just saying if that did happen. Which it did. Very much so.

I don't know about you but I need the reminder that I don't need to fix them or the situation right away. Or, jump on anyone with admonitions or lectures. My reactions don't make the best lectures           anyway.

Sometimes you just have to ride the wave of crankiness, allow it to happen. Then wait for grace to take its place. Our best moments of growth, spiritual or character-building, happen when grace was allowed room to grow. And when grace is allowed room, love is always right behind. 

This summer, I'm learning grace comes in many different forms. It takes the shape of humor or a joke to make the situation feel lighter. It comes as hugs and hand-holding when someone is not acting very huggable. It comes as a tissue to wipe away tears as we make up silly stories to get our mind off our troubles.

The shape of grace I like the most is time. Time to allow the spirit to work, allowing feelings to rest and the real reasons to unfold. Because aren't feelings just the outward sign of something deep within anyway?

And the best way to deal with the feelings that run down deep is to allow time for the spirit to work. The spirit is the only one who knows and understands those feelings most intimately. A lot better than we do.

Later we can work on manners and kindness and forgiveness and all sorts of traits we want to see grow. But if grace and love don't happen first, somehow, everything else just ends up as a lecture. And lectures are a rocky soil that don't grow the fruit we're looking for. 

Trust me, I've learned this firsthand. I'm still learning it.

So, let's let summer happen. The good, the ugly and all the feelings in between. Let's remember that good outward behaviors aren't the only goal. And, most importantly, let's allow room for grace and love to happen.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Summer Thankfulness

Summer is fun and long and beautiful and weary for a mom. When needed, pack a lunch and meet friends at the park, stay for hours and take silly pictures.

In so many years from now, you'll look back on those pictures and marvel at how fast the time has gone, how grown the kids are and how you wish scooters at the park were all you needed to make a day great.

So thankful for good friends, fun park and scooters. What are you thankful for this summer? Comment below...I'd love to know!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Why We Need Sunday Mornings

So, I slept in a bit too late last Sunday morning. I'll spare you the number of times I hit my snooze button but let's say it was more than just two or three times. 

While hurrying to get myself ready, two out of my three darlings got into an argument of which I tried to referee but really all I did was lecture. 

Then I yelled all over the house for everyone to eat! Change! Brush your teeth or hair or whatever needs to be brushed! Let's go!

Basically, I rushed myself and everyone out the door and out to church. A pretty cranky way to start the day.

I sat in my Sunday School class that day wishing I had gotten up earlier and wishing I hadn't rushed everyone. When I get in this kind of funk---rehashing how I could have done things different and wondering why we even do this Sunday morning business week after week (when sometimes I just want to sleep in!!) -- it dawned on me:

All the things that happened this morning are not why we don't need to go to church on Sunday mornings, it's exactly why we do need to go.

         ~ We do need to go because we get cranky with each other. 

         ~ We do need to go because we love our sleep sometimes more than we love our church.

          ~ We do need to go because we rush and we rush and we rush.

Sunday mornings won't get better if we all decide to stay home. Sunday mornings won't be better if we all sleep in. And Sunday mornings won't be better if we all head to the Dunkin Donuts instead of a church building.

It might seem that way in the middle of the stress but my soul (and the little bit of wisdom I've gained over the years) tells me otherwise.

I may not always know what we need in this family. But I do know the one thing we need and it's found on Sunday mornings.

          ~ We do need to go because we find the support and love of our family there.

          ~ We do need to go because we can never stop learning enough about the Word and our God.

         ~ We do need to go because we need rest from our rushing. And only our Savior can provide          true rest from the rushing.

If you struggle with heading off to church on Sunday mornings, believing the lie that it would be easier to stay home instead, re-think it. Remind yourself of all the reasons you do need Sunday mornings. Your week ahead will thank you.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A Week Without Prayer Makes Us Crabs

Spring break is over and the kids and I are back in school, on the home-stretch to summer vacation. Yes! The break was nice and the rest well needed but during break, the kids and I became what we like to call 'snappy crabs'--our definition for being crabby and grumpy.

And guess who was the biggest snappy crab? Me, of course! I could sense it over break but couldn't seem to get any of us, especially me, out of our funk.

You know what was lacking over break?

~ Looking back it is easy to pinpoint--we were lacking prayer. ~

Those pinchers were out snapping because of one thing---no continual prayer. I didn't wake up and start my day with my usual routine of prayer for my kids. I didn't spend time at night with them in prayer or reading the Bible. Our dinners weren't always together so there weren't mealtime prayers. Yikes! We were out of zone and it showed!

I could blame the crabbiness on plenty of other things--late bedtimes, too much TV, not enough coffee. Those are all valid reasons in my book but I know in my heart the real reason was not enough prayer.

Prayer works. Spend a few days without it and you'll find your step is out of sync. Next thing you know your husband's on your last nerve, you're picking out all his faults and he's barely in the door from work. Those pinchers are out snapping now!

I know how hard it is to develop a prayer routine. And how much harder it is to maintain it. I feel your pain if you're stumbling around trying to fit in prayer among the millions of others things you do every day.

I don't have a magic prayer devotional that will change your prayer life in five easy steps. Or the next best book or study guide or website. I won't even go on and on about journaling your prayers or waking up just five minutes earlier every day--haven't we all heard it before, tried it before?

We all stumble with our prayer life. It happens. So when it does, start looking back. Start reflecting.

~ Become a noticer of your life and the lives of those whom you love. ~

How can the needs of those around you ignite you back into praying again? What do they need that only your prayers can answer? Has anything changed with you or them? Could the changes, the change in attitude, the change in behavior, the lack of love be because there's a lack of prayer?

Don't become hard on yourself and start feeling guilty. Just start noticing, start seeing with your heart what God is telling you needs prayers...maybe it' s your family, your job, your friend, your attitude. Get back on your knees and lift up those prayers. Then watch for the change. Keep an eye out for it. It will happen, I guarantee it.

I put away my pinchers the other day and replaced them with folded hands. My heart is softening again towards my family. I heard giggles coming from my daughters' shared bedroom and let me tell you, that's definitely a miracle! Just last week I thought we might need to pull out the tape and split the room in half just to gain some sanity and now we're laughing.

~ Prayer is necessary. ~

I need it. My family and friends need me to do it for them.  I'm betting you and your loved ones need it too. So get started. No delays, no excuses. And once you start, sit back and prepare to be amazed.

This post is also featured on Getting Real Ministries! Head on over!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Another Year Older

The family and I headed to a Wolves' hockey game a few weekends back. Free tickets, why not? It should be a fun family time I thought. That was before the spilled drink (a full one I just took out a loan to pay for), a pre game fireworks show so loud I had to take my sound sensitive child out of the arena because of fright and, of course, multiple on ice hockey fights that I just can't watch (sorry hockey fans but I just don't get it!).

In my head, I'm thinking this is a failed night, a zero on the family fun-o-meter. I turned to look at my eldest sitting next to me and she's smiling big, chattering away about this and that, nothing which has to do with hockey. She's the child I will always remember saying in her tiny preschool voice, "Mom, I just love being out and about with my family." That after a lame trip to Target to pick up extra diapers for her younger siblings. I must have bought her an icee or something. She just loves being out with her family, no matter what we're doing. Happiness to her soul right there.

Fast forward a few weeks and this precious girl is turning ten. How can that be? My heart flutters faster with thoughts of her growing up and out. When all I really want to do is keep her out and about with me, with us, her family. And I wonder, did I spend enough time with her today, her birthday? Or was I too concerned about cleaning up all the sprinkles rolling around on the counter after she lavished them all over her homemade birthday cake? Have I made sure she will knows we love being out and about with her as much as she loves being out with us?

This parenting gig is not for the weak at heart, especially around birthdays. On the outside we celebrate them growing bigger. We smile big for the camera and for the birthday kid. But on the the inside, there's an entirely different roller coaster going on. I don't want to stop the ride. Just would like it to slow down a bit. 

I guess my heart needs the reminder of birthdays, the reminder that time is moving fast but it slows down a bit when we're out and about with each other, doing our family thing, spilled drinks and all. I'm learning to savor our time together a bit more and a bit better each year. 

Growing older is part of the plan and I love watching the growth, savoring the tiny moments together that add up to memories. Let's continue to be together with the ones we love, doing the thing that makes them feel loved, enjoying each moment of it. 

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Greatest Love Note

I'm over the moon excited to be featured on (in)courage today sharing a story inspired by my sweet daughter and her even sweeter note to me. Here's a little sneak peak:

My kids and I love writing little notes to each other. We write on post-its, scraps of paper, even the backs of church bulletins, any paper we can find, just to give each other a little love and a smile. 

It's not uncommon to find these notes hidden in lunch boxes or under bedroom pillows for added surprise. We just love a good love note!

Our notes are nothing fancy. They simply state 'I love you' or 'You are awesome' accompanied by quick drawings or silly stickers. 

These notes always give us a smile in the moment but recently, the words in a note I received from my eight year old daughter lasted longer than a moment. They went straight to my heart and claimed a place in my soul. The note said: I love you for how you are. I love you because you are you.

Head on over to (in)courage to read the rest of the story. While you're there, sign up to receive free daily encouragement from the writers of (in)courage, right in your inbox! Just sign up here:

(In)courage is one of my favorite places on the web. I know you'll enjoy it too!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Braver Than Our Excuses

These words keep running through my head...we must be braver than our excuses. I wrote it just a few months ago when I first started this blog. 

I had every excuse in the book to not start a blog---it's really not for me, I'm not creative enough, there's just no time, there's too much laundry to do (isn't there always?), maybe when the kids get older....

On and on and on. Isn't that how excuses go? They could just keep going on so far and so long, we just start to believe them. How can they not be true?

Do you ever see that thing you really want to do? That thing you know you could do? But, you know it will take a whole lot of work? A whole lot of thought? A whole lot of time? Yep, that one.

That's the one where we need to be braver than our excuses. We need to tell those excuses to move out of the way. There's no room for them. We have a job to do. We have a dream to chase. We have a goal to reach. 

The road may be murky, foggy at best. Our vision may be clear one moment and blurry the next. But let's move forward into our future with courage. Let's move forward with confidence. 

Let's be braver than our excuses. 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Coming to God in Prayer

I love writing for Getting Real Ministries. I wrote this post about prayer for the GRM blog. Enjoy and please hop over to Getting Real Ministries if you get a chance...I think you'll like what you see!

I was on the phone with a friend. She was asking me to pray for a family member who was seriously ill. Throughout the conversation, she began to reveal some insecurities over her prayers--one of them being the idea that my prayers would be heard by God much better than her prayers. In other words, my prayers for her relative would turn God's ears to her request more than her prayers because I was, in her eyes, the more 'spiritual one'.

Of course, I would pray, I assured her, but I had to let her know--her prayers were no less important and no less heard by God than my prayers. In fact, He wants her to come to Him, to seek Him out and pray to Him. I did what I hoped was my best to assure her of this. Eventually, the conversation went on to other topics and soon ended.

What hasn't ended for me is the idea many of us mistakenly believe--some people's prayers are better and somehow more spiritual than others, so therefore, God listens to those prayers more than He listens to others. Can I just tell you right now, that thought is wrong and please, if you are believing it, even if just a small part of you still hangs on to that lie, please let it go.

The prayers of your pastor, priest, Bible study leader or your 'super spiritual' friend are not better just because their words seem to flow with eloquence and yours seem to fumble along. Or because they seem to know more about the Bible. Or they seem to never mess up and you just know they always have their quiet time with God instead of hitting the snooze button five times each morning.

Don't stay away from entering into prayer because you think you or your prayers are not good enough. Can I tell you a little secret---I fumble through my prayers often. I start, stop and start them again and again. They are often a jumbled mess of requests and pleas and often they aren't even words as much as they are emotions and tears.

But God is so good.

"You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:13

God is full of such grace and mercy. When you seek him with all your heart, you will find him and He will hear you.

He wants you to come to Him in prayer. He wants to hear all your requests. Your perfectly phrased ones and your cries for help. Your hope-filled ones and the ones you doubt will even reach His ears or make a difference. He wants your prayers because He wants you.

"Oh my people, trust in Him at all times. Pour out your heart to Him, for God is our refuge." (Psalm 62:8 NLT)

Come with boldness. Start your prayers with the belief and trust that God hears you. He wants to hear you and He wants to become a shelter for you and all your prayers. Nowhere does He say only certain people can pour our their hearts and others can't. There are no lower-class citizens in the Kingdom of God. All are invited to come and pour out their hearts to God.

My friends, please come before God in prayer. Rest assured He delights in hearing all your prayers.

Just come.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

It's Time to Enjoy the Watching

I took my son to basketball practice the other night. I needed to get out of the house so I didn't give my husband the chance to offer his services. I just declared I would take him to practice and then we left, leaving at home a sick child, one well child and my husband to be the caretaker. 

I'm so glad I went. I love watching him play basketball. He might be little and double dribble a whole lot but there's something about watching him develop into his personhood that does my heart good.

It was tempting to get other things done while he practiced. I brought my grocery list and, I admit, some cookbooks with--thought I'd get in some menu planning. But for the most part, I resisted the urge to plan ahead. 

Instead, I watched my son shoot some hoops and saw how his form was getting much better. I saw his coach give him high fives and offer advice. I watched my son listen and obey his coach (good boy) then in the next moment, pretend he was in a light saber duel with an imaginary storm trooper (well, waiting in line can be boring--at least he has a good imagination!).

I saw a lot of who he is and who he is becoming and I am so glad I didn't miss it because of some grocery list. Now, I am all about making the most of my time and I do not have any shame in using my kid's basketball practice to get things done.

But I know it is also just as important to sit and watch. Just watch. Nothing else. It's so important to let your heart grow more in love with your kids as they do their thing. Growing closer to each other can happen just by being there.

It's our job to watch them. Not helicopter style watching, more like noticing. It's important to notice them. It's important to let them know you saw them. Let them know you noticed what they did and how you enjoyed the time spent on the sidelines.

We all know time goes by fast and they'll be grown soon. But let's watch for more than that. Let's watch so we can fall in love, so we can show our love a little more.

Enjoy the watching, friends!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

For Just The Afternoon

Yesterday I was home with a sick kiddo. Whenever I am home with a sick kid, I feel this need to clean and disinfect the entire house. From top to bottom. Every germ I want to be gone.

But this need to clean does not leave me room to be a good caregiver. Since I have learned this about myself, I made myself a list.

Moments are so much easier to make time for when I break my day down into parts and focus on the priorities of just that slice of time. Then I  actually accomplish what I set out to accomplish! As for today's main focus--extra snuggle time with my daughter. I knew my compulsion to clean could overshadow my snuggles so I had to make the list and I had to put it in writing.

Not only did we get in snuggle time, we managed the bubble bath, the extra chapters of Charlotte's Web and I got some laundry put away. Miracle!

The afternoon felt manageable. It felt calm. It felt right. My time was spent right and my most important priority was cared for.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Each morning I stand at my kitchen window, coffee cup in hand, looking out at this view. This picture is a blurry but please notice the cross. It is in the upstairs window of my neighbor's house. They haven't taken down all their Christmas decorations--thank goodness I'm not the only one---and this cross has been part of their decorations all season long.

Everyone else up and down the street has taken their decorations down by now. Trees are sitting by the curb waiting to be trash and twinkle lights are packed away for next year.

But this cross is still there.

This cross is still shining brightly.

This cross serves as my morning reminder--when the decorations and the fancy have been stripped away, the cross still stands.

I keep my gaze outside a little bit longer in the morning now. I don't rush into the to-do's and have-to's quite as fast because I have a cross to notice. I have a cross to linger with and a cross to set my day straight.

May we linger with the cross a little bit longer today. Let it keep your day straight and let it shine on your path a little bit brighter today.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Ringing in a Small New Years

I don't hold high expectations for New Year's Eve. It's never been my favorite holiday so it has never mattered much what I did. Frozen pizza and bed at nine? Sounds good! A party with family and friends? Perfect. This is the one holiday where it doesn't really matter to me what goes down.

That's one reason this New Year's Eve turned out so special.  The other reason is we changed it up this year. Instead of starting off the new year doing something for ourselves, my family and I decided to start it off by doing something for someone else.

We headed over to our local Feed My Starving Children. If you have never heard of or ever volunteered at this fabulous non-profit, please go. You won't be sorry. You will spend two hours packing food for children around the world who need the nutrition and love you send over. It's simple. It's fun. It makes a difference. And, you get to wear these stylish hair nets!

It was the simplicity that was so inviting, the smallness of it all. We didn't do much--just scoop the food, bag it, box it and send it off. Our part felt small but we knew it wasn't. 

Nothing done in small ways for the least of these is ever really small.

The time together was refreshing. It showed us that ending a year and starting a new one with service is the best way to go. 

It showed us that you don't have to go big all the time to make a difference. You can do small things. You can do small things all year and it doesn't make your service any less important or meaningful. 

It also showed us that after working hard and staring at all that food, we are one hungry family! We headed off to our favorite stir-fry place.

And rang in the new year. In a small way. Together.

© Katie Landers
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