Stepping out of the way (blog hop with the Creative Jayne)

Hey guys, today I’m linking up with Kayla over at The Creative Jayne for her Encouragement Community blog hop. Kayla and I got to spend a day together letting our kids play while we talked about her ideas for starting a mama’s group in our church, and I was so thankful to get to know her better. Her heart is wide open and she’s funny, sweet, and has an amazing eye for design. Please take a few minutes to poke around her beautiful blog, check out the other two lovely writers in the hop here and here, and explore Kayla’s recommended vendors. Then head back here to hear what I learned from *gulp* speaking in front of a group of teenagers this week.

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The room was mostly dark, save for the stage lanterns and a string of blue lights slung across the front. I stood on the corner of the front steps, microphone in hand. The group of high school kids I was speaking to were all on their knees, bending over a giant roll of brown butcher-type paper rolled out across the floor, scrawling down things they were thankful for.

Just moments before, they had been huddled, arms out, everyone finding a shoulder to reach out to. They gathered around one boy in the middle – a boy who came up to me during one of the opening songs and whispered a story that broke my heart. A boy who asked if we could pray for him as a group.

Later in the evening, I looked back and saw every body standing, singing, their voices wide with emotion. For the sake of the world, burn like a fire in me.

And me? I had been preoccupied/worried for days. Reading. Writing down verses. Staring at my computer screen. Not because I was afraid to get up in front of high schoolers to talk about prayer. Not because I dislike public speaking. Not even because I couldn’t figure out anything to wear except a flannel shirt, which has become some sort of uniform for me.

Honestly, I just didn’t want the students to think a praise and worship night was weird.

Here’s the great part of being a mom to children under five. THEY DON’T THINK I’M WEIRD. They don’t judge. They accept me as I am. The greasy hair, the tired eyes, the clothes I may or may not have worn yesterday… none of it matters to them. (And for these things, all mothers of young children say amen.)

But I know they will get older, and inevitably, it’s not going to be cool that mom can talk like a monster with her belly. That beautiful innocence. Gone.

So I want to believe I was maybe a teensy bit justified being worried about standing in front of high schoolers, talking about PRAYER and GOD and singing quiet songs in a dark room.

Except that I shouldn’t have been. The kids I spoke to that night were incredible. They listened. They reached. They cared for another and, according to what I was reading in their scribbles and pictures of gratitude, they cared A LOT about the world around them.

Who was I to *almost* get in the way of something they needed to learn and experience because I was too worried about what they would think? What would have happened if I allowed myself to worry too much about their opinions.

I know it’s cliche to say it, but I had to step out of the way. I had to quit worrying what the students were going to think about a prayer and worship night.

I had just had to talk honestly about the things my heart knew about prayer – how it’s easy and beautiful and real and raw, and how God wouldn’t have it any other way. How communication between our heart and His needs no filter, no formula.

What more can we do in our day to day lives if we take the fear of what others might think about us out of the equation, and simply love them for all they are worth? How would that change the way you interact with the people in your life and around it?

Let’s be a community willing to speak from the realness of our hearts and the blue and broken honesty of our lives.

What 50 Shades of Grey Teaches my Daughters About Love

Dear friends,

Yesterday, I spent the day scrolling through my social media feeds, overwhelmed with the amount of things being shared about 50 Shades of Grey. There is constant buzz about the movie, and it seems the world is both intrigued and unsettled by its existence.

EllisI hesitate to add my voice for a few reasons. One, I don’t want you to think I’m judging you if you’ve read the book or plan to see the movie. Why? Because, friend, I care about you. You’re here in this community of people, and your thoughts, feelings, and opinions matter to me. Which leads me to number two. I care about you. I care about me. I care about my daughters, and the world outside our door that I must raise them in.

But any time we care about something, it becomes infinitely hard to talk objectively, and talk well about it.

If you’re looking for a review on the details of the movie, or specific examples from the book, I’m sorry. I’ve got nothing. I haven’t read the book. I don’t plan to see the movie. That means this post will be short, and to the point.

There is one thing that concerns me most with the widespread popularity of 50 Shades of Grey, and it’s this: mainstream sexual violence is now acceptable.

You can sit on the bus, in the break room, or on the exercise bike and read about a man whipping a woman for his own pleasure without thinking twice. You can grab dinner with the girls, and then head to the movies to watch sexually explicit acts next to someone’s daughter, or someone else’s son.

It’s acceptable because it’s popular.

But if this type of sexual violence is popular now, what will be left by the time my daughters become women and start looking for a man to build a life with? Should I teach them that it’ll be okay for their future husbands to throw them against the headboard on their wedding night? That it’s normal to submit to being beaten with an object during intimacy?

Moving the societal norm in this direction is frightening. Popularizing sexual violence in mass media means that this generation of watchers will come away with a new idea of what might be okay in the bedroom. If Hollywood sets the standard of what’s desirable, and X million viewers walk away thinking that Christian Grey is a pretty great guy, I firmly believe that our children are in danger of losing sight of what love actually looks, feels, and acts like.

For the record, here’s a really great list of things that love IS:

Love is patient. (No masking tape necessary.)

Love is kind. (Whips – no thanks.)

It does not envy (or leave bruises), it does not boast (or bite), it is not proud (domination has no place.)

It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. (It’s the opposite of Christian Grey.)

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. (No locked pleasure rooms necessary.)

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 

This is the kind of love I want my daughters to find. This is the kind of love I want you and me, in our relationships, to be wrapped up and around with.

Tomorrow is Valentine’s day. I’m not going to tell you what to do, or how to do it. I’m simply going to ask you to compare what love looks like in 50 Shades of Grey with what love looks like from the list above (taken from 1 Corinthians 13), and decide which type you’d rather celebrate.

Redeeming this common life

Our wood burning ceramic stove stopped working last week. 24/7 constant burning since November caused a good buildup in the chimney, and one morning, after building a fire, I found my eyes burning with back-drafted smoke.

We have an alternate heat source, so it’s not like we’re walking around in parkas. But it’s been cooler in our normally semi-tropic home. I tell myself this is good for my anger – that cool air has long been a refuge for finding calm, like a smoker retreating to the deck while a family argument overheats the house.

But really, the broken stove is just life. Like so many things overused or late, tired or worn, eventually we all have a moment where we choke.

Confession: I have been angry this week.

I have muttered under my breath about my daughter’s unwillingness to potty train. I bit my lip twice in one meal, ala Jim in The Office Season 9, and allowed it to strangle my morning. I have stomped, yelled, sighed in frustration. Snow has yet again covered our hopes for life outside, and it all feels so sloppy.

Heavy.

I have pray/begged for help, only halfheartedly remembering to think about Jesus carrying the weight of my wrongs up Golgotha.

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Yesterday, Ellis decided it would be a good day to snap all my chalk sticks in half during art time. So I made it a chance to update my chalkboard, two inch chalk sticks notwithstanding.

IMG_20140320_165351_511It wasn’t hard to pick something – this quote had been cornering me all week.

“By honoring this common life, nurturing it, carrying it steadily in mind, we might renew our households and neighborhoods and cities, and in so doing, might redeem ourselves from the bleakness of private lives spent in frenzied pursuit of sensation and wealth.”

It’s a beautiful quote by Scott Russell Sanders, but strangely enough, what struck me most was how common can mean different things.

I know what Sanders was getting at was common, as in what we share. But I couldn’t help thinking about it the other way. Common as in ordinary.

Life at home with little ones is fraught with ordinary. It’s about repetition and routine. It’s cheerios for breakfast twice a week, and copious amounts of yogurt.

This Lent season, it’s me praying while I nurse in the blue black dawn of the morning. It’s pushing down anger with something heavy enough to sit in its place. But I’m still having a hard time finding an elephant big enough for every job.

My anger is common. But I want to take it out of the ordinary equation.

I want to carry its battle steadily in mind in order to find spiritual renewal. Renewal for those within my house, and those outside of it.  Renewal for my actions, renewal for my mind.

Attacking my common, ordinary anger will redeem my ability to live a common, shared life. And suddenly, it’s clear. This too is a version of the cross – dying to self, living in community with a great cloud of witnesses.

This is Jesus making a way.