Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Phone Set To Do Not Disturb

The alarm dings at 5:30 a.m. in our house. It is quiet. I don’t have to rush out the door to an office. The kids are sleeping. No one is pulling on me yet. I am able to think about the day, listen to God, exercise, throw in laundry or take a shower uninterrupted.

The kids slowly come running in or dragging blankets down the stairs and the day has begun but, I still have control. The day is only about my family so far. Breakfast, books, coffee, switching that aforementioned load of laundry. I don’t mind my family’s noise, the mess (usually), the needs, the wants. But, when my phone starts ringing and beeping; when there are messages to return; outside people’s expectations to meet; appointments to get to on time I start to feel the stress rising. My kids all of suddenly are now in the way. This is the opposite of how I want to see them.

It is not the demands on my family within the walls of my house that I can’t handle (well, on good days). It is the outside requirements that usually end up being too much for what I am realizing is a very small plate.

When I started having kids I was unaware that life needed to change. When they were babies it didn’t have to change much. We needed to be home for naptime and bedtime but other things I just brought baby along and did what needed or wanted to be done. That changed with toddlers and kids. They scream and yell, throw fits, they refuse to listen, they test boundaries, they demand independence which needs to be taught and triples the amount of time it used to take you to do anything. They also want to play with you, talk to you, and help you. They want and need more of your attention and not just your time.

A friend posed the question to me, “What if you had one week left to live, what would you change about your days?” My immediate response was, “I would turn off my cell phone.”

I long for quiet days, I love the stillness of morning and the silence of night but it is because I know that before 7 a.m. and after 8 p.m. no one is going to call me, text me or come knocking on my door. I love community, I want to be part of people’s lives and have vulnerable friendships full of honesty. But, I have to begin with being honest about how much I can take on.

Three kids, a house, a marriage, and a dog are probably my limit the majority of days. I want to be able to handle more. I want to be everything to everyone and so I try and try, day after day; and I fail and fail week after week!

Recently, I discovered the “Do Not Disturb” setting on my phone (well, honestly? My husband showed it to me). I set it so that only my husband’s calls and texts will make my phone beep. With this setting I feel more engaged while playing playdough, reading books or doing the dishes. Rest time in our house is my work and catch up time and I am easily distracted by every noise and flashing light on my phone. With a click of a button that can go away. I still have to exert self-control and not pick my phone up every ten minutes but it is a little easier when I don’t hear it or see it.

I am trying to be aware of what stresses me out and why. I am trying to make clear choices about saying “no” and saying “yes”. I am working at being honest about how much I can do in a day. It takes effort to be present with three kids vying for my attention. I am trying to teach them to be patient and wait on me to finish a task or a conversation but I am so easily distracted and going in too many directions to remember to come back to them when they are waiting on me.

I found that stress came when I always felt I could be interrupted and so I never completed a task or conversation.  Creating “Do Not Disturb” times allows my kids to have all my attention or the dishes to get done more quickly because I am focused. Now, when I know my phone will be quiet I feel ready for my kids to disturb everything and I am able to prioritize their needs, our house and my time to give to others. A simple setting on my phone has brought me immense peace in being able to ignore it for periods of time during the day without the want to completely disengage from everyone for a week.

**This Post originally was published on

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Undeserved Abundant Love

God provides in abundance: do we believe that? We read about it as the Israelites wander the dessert, as David ran for his life, and in the miracles Jesus performed on earth. And yet, we still think we have to earn His help; that we have to be good enough or worthy enough for….

The truth is, His love doesn’t have to be earned! It was never meant to be. It was given as a gift, it pours out of Him not because He chooses for it to but because it is who He is. He desires our good, He has come after us, we are His and there is no other way He can respond except in love.

But, in our understanding of love we have confusing definitions. It is so many things. It is not often that we receive undeserved love and when we do we question if it is real. This love that is given to us freely, forgiveness that is offered, grace that is bestowed is a glimpse of what God has given us in abundance. So, we should expect His provision, protection, and love.

We should expect abundance from a Father who sent Jesus to earth. He is not a minimalist God. I cry out for big things from Him and then slowly over the days that follow my prayers shrink. My requests become steeped in logic. I hear the whispers tell me that what I am asking for is too good, my ideas are impossible, life isn’t a movie made on a studio lot. But, isn’t God a God of miracles? Exodus 15:11 says “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in wondrous deeds, doing wonders?”

When prayers are answered, I often find that I am shocked. I didn’t expect it. As if I assumed He forgot I was asking or worst of all didn’t care. These thoughts and beliefs creep in consistently building hedges around the truth so we forget it. When we are asking God for things desired or needed He hears it and He cares.  

But, we need to not see that He cares after the gift and the answer has been received. We need to trust that He is unwaivering before we have been answered. He doesn’t give up like I do and He has more in store than I dreamed to pray for. I cried for years over schools and community and the city I didn’t want to live in. I cried for God to change it and take me home to where I was raised. The picture was beautiful to me (it still is). When He provided and answered my prayers it was not the details I wanted but it met the deep longing desires of my heart that I wasn’t fully aware of. He gave a gift that was bigger than my prayers.

We pray too circumstantially. We pray for what we think will fix our problem instead of for the problem. I kept praying God would move us to a city that I thought had everything instead of praying for my heart’s desire which was to feel known and cared for and have common purpose with the people I lived with. Truthfully, I am not sure I ever sat still and understood what I really needed or wanted.

Jennie Allen, in her book Nothing to Prove says, "We want miracles in our lives. But we want them our way, on our time, in our strength and for our glory." This strikes a chord with me. Why did I want those specific circumstances I was praying for? They were impossible for me to make happen, I knew God could do it. But, do I believe He can give me my heart’s desire to be known in a new place? Our prayers reveal a lot of the fears that control our lives. But what if we went back to the Bible and let it’s truth fight a lot of the lies we believe?

I think if we did we would find a God who is to be trusted, who is good and who, fully knowing us, truly can provide in abundance for what feels impossible to us!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Love: Action and Reaction

Jealousy. That is the emotion I experience when I see pictures of my friend at Hamilton because her husband whisked her away on a surprise long weekend, when my 10-year anniversary is having pizza out of the box standing in my parent’s kitchen and not a romantic second honeymoon like my cousin’s, when my coworker gets a beautiful diamond added to her necklace as a “push present” each time she has another child. Jealousy is my reaction.

Those women seem to be loved with an obvious effort, a showering of love that is an outward expression of a daily feeling and choice. Why do I not celebrate their gifts with them? Why does jealousy creep in and convince me my husband loves me less than theirs? Why do I cheapen my husband’s love with disappointment because it looks less glamorous?

We all desire to be loved, to be cherished, wanted, desired for who we are and not who we pretend to be to outsiders. This longing isn’t wrong because it points to something greater than ourselves. It points to the One who loved us first.

So often my desire for specific affection dictates my reaction to love given. 

It feels easy for me to love someone with words and time because that is what I want. However, I rarely think of gifts to give or cards to send. I do not often imagine ways I can reorganize our house so my husband feels heard. I NEVER define cooking dinner for my family as loving them (although it is a great act of nurturing to do so three meals a day). Likewise, when people love me I don’t see their actions as amorous if I have expectations and a narrow definition of love. My loving actions do not come very often if I expect to only love as a reaction.

My marriage does not benefit when I define love in such short terms. How sad to have a man love me deeply but reject his gifts because they might not be sparkling, far away or written by hand. How heart-breaking to see his helping with the kids as duty only and not a sacrifice of his time and energy to be my teammate. How unloved must my husband feel when I wait to react to his initiatives and don't take any steps towards him first.

I can think of many gifts my husband has given that were complete, jaw dropping surprises. If I thought on one way my husband has loved me consistently since dating it would be with the element of surprise. He is a master at it! Do you know what surprises tell me? That he put in effort, that he thought and schemed about how to achieve it, that he paid close attention to my needs, wants and whereabouts. Should what the surprise is matter more than the act of planning and caring? It often does! This is where I have to remind myself of what is true and needed and wanted.

Jealousy convinces me the gifts are objects. It whispers that love has to fit into a certain sized package, that it needs to look like someone else’s. But, when we only give and desire narrow love we only feel a shallow amount of it. Love dares to be bold, vulnerable, silly, wild, exciting, life-giving, and sacrificial. Love is something we give our life to because we were loved in all our mess and we know others need to be also. It is a choice we make. Love is not a feeling on it’s own. The feeling is produced by someone else’s action. The emotion of love is a reaction to a choice someone else made to love us first!

The diamond on my left hand is a beautiful reminder, trips were fun adventures but love is the sacrifices, the planning time, the giving of oneself to another over and over again when it hurts or isn’t easy. The gifts are just tokens meant to say what our heart deeply longs to hear. Love is a vast display of emotion that dares us to give our life away.

When I question my jealous reaction to my friend’s gifts there is an awakening to my heart. I begin to explore when I have felt such lavish adoration from my husband. Is it still romance to find that he did all the dishes? Is his offer to take over the grocery shopping heard as support instead of him fixing my failings? When I can’t stop talking during the football game and he pauses it do I interpret him as annoyed or making a choice to listen to me? Isn’t that love too? 

I think it is. I think the actions and the reactions can be consistent ways to show love and feel loved.

Love is daily. It has to be courageous and sacrificial. It is what gets the dishes done and the lunches packed and the bed made. It is why he sits in the kitchen with me while I cook or reads to the kids while I finish the dishes. It is also finding a new bottle of perfume wrapped on my dresser, a family day at the zoo with pizza so I don’t have to cook or a new dress he picked out. It is all those gifts but, if I only had the presents and the surprises I would still question if the love was real?

We can't be so blind as to boil love down to something black and white. To say we only feel loved in one or two ways. We can't always be the partner reacting either. We have to take the vulnerable step towards our spouse, our friend or our family and act!

Jealousy creeps in when my expectations are big and my definitions are small. But, if I look closely at my husband's actions, his words, his attitude I experience those big grandiose reactions. Jealousy wins the battle when it convinces me that I should only be reacting. Love tells me otherwise. Love tells me to choose, to give and to act! 

Phone Set To Do Not Disturb

The alarm dings at 5:30 a.m. in our house. It is quiet. I don’t have to rush out the door to an office. The kids are sleeping. No one...