The words that changed my life this month

IMG_3776January is my least favorite month. Followed by February. And March.

As a mother of three girls under age four, I’m doing my best to beat back the winter doldrums. We tiredly pull on our boots, zip up our jackets, and pop our hoods over our heads.  We’re trying to function mostly indoors: community play places, the gym, the library, the grocery store.

In winter, everything takes more effort and energy. No lie – even breathing in the cold takes more work, since our bodies have to warm and humidify the air.

I could go on and on. The sky is the same color as the rooftops, which are the same color as the ground, and it’s easy for all of the vibrancy of life to feel drained down to a muted, dirty white.

This starts a spin cycle of questions for me… Just why do I live in Minnesota again? Why did I say yes to X? Why does my baby insist on dunking her stuffed animals in the toilet? Why am I not on vacation? Why does everything have to be so HARD?

My whiny perspective is simple evidence of one thing. It’s easy, far too easy, to lose track of the good plan for my life…and then start looking around with cheating eyes at everyone else’s lives.

But friends, I have a quick encouragement for you today. I didn’t come up with it, but the girl who did is pretty amazing. I recently heard her speak at an online Thrivemoms retreat, and what she said changed my whole perspective over the past few weeks.

“God’s good plan for you doesn’t look like his good plan for someone else. Stop comparing the two.”

Stop for a second. Think it through. God’s good plan for you is not His good plan for me. My life is unique to me, and your life is unique to you. And each of us is promised enough grace and compassion to get through each day in our own situations, difficult or otherwise.

PS. I also get the view from the other side. Maybe you’re in a place that feels as far from God as you can get, and if this is His plan for you, forget it. You’re out. Or maybe you felt like you knew God once, but you’re not so sure about Him and his plans anymore. (If this is you, do me a favor? Head over to my friend Addie’s recent post at Off the Page “When you want to believe…and can’t”. It’s poignant, and true, and might help you search out some things.)

I’m no guru. I don’t have an answer to why our lives are lovely sometimes, and crappy in others. But I know that when I fall face-first into my rock bottom, this truth from Jeremiah 29 is always the bedrock gravel I’m picking out of my teeth.

11 For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 In those days when you pray, I will listen. 13 You will find me when you seek me, if you look for me in earnest.

So guess what. It doesn’t matter how many times hardship and comparison step into our days if we’re equipped to sweep them aside. And Truth makes a pretty darn good broom.

Friend, your life has a good plan. It is a plan that is completely your own and no one else’s. Take a second to look around it. Look at the roof over your head, the food you had for breakfast, the people who have your back. Look back through your recent social media feeds and be reminded of all the things you wanted to share with the world.

I don’t know what your plan is. Heck. I don’t know my plan is most days. But I can trust that the foundation is sure, and that it’s working toward a future and a hope.

May that be good enough for all of us today.

Diary of an Overconsumer (day 2)

IMG_20150323_095029_001Confession: This is what my fridge looked like three weeks ago. That day, I opened it up and whined, “Why are we always running out of food?”

*Gulp*.

Two unopened gallons of milk. Carrots. Eggs. Bread dough. Black rice. Peach cake. A 48-count package of sliced havarti and gouda cheese. Deli meat. Gorgonzola. A gazillion pound bag of chia seeds.

I was definitely running out of something. How about reason.

Today is day 2 of the 40-day fast, and all day long I’ve been stumbling into this truth:  I have a lot of work to do in changing how I think about food.

An hour after lunch today, my stomach felt empty. Heaven only knows why. Lunch today was a spinach salad with shredded chicken, dried mango slices, peanuts, and watered down mayonnaise as makeshift salad dressing.

I’m hardly starving over here, folks.

I got up, filled a glass full of water, and drank half. I stared out the window, watching the driving sleet, and thought about why I was hungry. Because really. Was I hungry? Or was it something else?

Did I simply need a new flavor in my mouth?

Psalm 19:10 –  God’s Word is better than a diamond, better than a diamond set between emeralds. You’ll like it better than strawberries in spring, better than red, ripe strawberries. (The Message version.)

I love strawberries in spring – the brightness, the tart-sweet juice. Deep breath. (stop drooling.) God’s words are better? Another deep breath. Yes. I believe that. Even today, when all I want is SWEET, RED FRUIT.

Why are God’s words better? Because truth lasts longer than the my ongoing cycle of crave and satiate. Truth teaches me how to live life. And right now, I want my living to get beyond the circle of myself and my family and into the world and it’s places of need.

Oh right. This was a call to action. 

I took a second and prayed for housing for Djeneba and her six week old daughter Nana. Becky and Hedi, the missionaries on the ground in Segou asked me to keep these two at the forefront of my prayers for the next couple of days.

Looking back at this, I see these little blips all over in my day. Moments when I’m hungry, tired, bored. Moments when I want a new taste in my mouth. These are the moments I need to stop and pray. Nothing big, nothing long, nothing flowery. Lord, provide a home for Djeneba and Nana. Give them peace in their day. Help Djeneba not to be overcome with worry. 

It’s going to take a little bit of practice to immediately turn my cravings for food into a prayer for the needs of others, but if that works, this will all be more than worth the effort.

PS – best news of the day? We get to break our fast on Sundays for a day to feast.

And all the people said AMEN. Please pass the ice cream.

Present when I need it most

It starts at 3:23 am, a hungry cry.

And then another, 4:08.

7:07 welcomes a broken chunk of window lattice, and Ellis rapping on the window. Followed by an exclamation. “Mama, I’m poopy.”

7:11, a glance in the mirror when no glance should have been taken, hair three days bedraggled, face a tired shade of pale.

Ellis asks me at 7:14 if I am crabby. I do not lie.

There is snow on the ground and the floors are chilly, so I attempt to build a fire at 7:34.

At 7:40, there is no longer a fire.

I am in the middle of a soggy bowl of Special K when the hunger chorus erupts from upstairs at 7:45.

8:30 – Diaper time for all three girls.

At 8:52, the twins are asleep in their swings. (And as a quick aside, one of the best pieces of advice someone gave me about living with twins was to never to put anything off. If the time is available to do something, it behooves you to make the most of it. So when my girls sleep, it’s the perfect time to get my toddler outside in the morning.)

I cajole Ellis into her snowsuit, boots, hat, and mittens.  We venture outside to let the chickens out, collect eggs, and generally burn off steam.

I am away from the clock at this point, but I know we have at least an hour or so of solid sleep time. Ellis needs to play outside as much as I need to go straight back to bed. She wins. Until suddenly the world is tragic, and the only way she can fight off her frustration is to flop face first into the snow when I’m trying to get her to walk. And then something happens.

I break. Every single frustrating minute from the morning pile-drives my patience and I have to fight back against the weight of it. So I yell. I yell at my daughter to stop laying in the snow so we can walk down the driveway. She yells back, and we both stand there, snorting steam into the winter air. I imagine we look like rams, heads lowered, ready to clash again at any moment.

I turn away, staring down the length of the snow-covered driveway. I feel a thousand miles away from anyone.

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

The verse from Proverbs 15 comes from out of nowhere, slips in the door without knocking, stands in front of me.

It is another confrontation. But this one I know how to handle.

I pick my little girl up off the ground, and then I get down on my knees in the snow. Her blue eyes are crystalline with tears. I apologize for my yelling, tell her I love her. The wind blows around us and I feel it pushing away the heat of my anger.

Happy now

Happy now

My daughter looks at me, wiping her nose on the back of her mitten, and says, I sorry too mama. I happy now. I laugh. Happy now is her code for everything’s okay. I’m ready to move on.

And just like that, it IS okay. We walk down the rest of the driveway, check the mailbox, come back to play on the play set, and journey off to go pick another bunch of wild grapes growing on our corn crib. They are incredibly sweet after the frost.

I grew up in the church, so I’m familiar with the phrase “the word of God is living and active”. I also get that it sounds a little fake, or maybe just too evangelical, but hear me out. Because I haven’t ever felt a bible verse be more present and real than in that moment, in the snow, having a face-off with my toddler.

The verse became more than a platitude. It became truth – real, actionable, truth. Anger put a sudden halt on my discipline, but Forgiveness let me walk hand in hand with my daughter.

I don’t have a lot of time for quiet, introspective Bible reading these days. I think God knows. I think He also understands, and in the moments when I’m almost ready to crumble, He carefully places a verse in my palms.

Then He waits for me to do something with it. Because it’s not enough just to know truth.Truth needs to be practiced, moment by moment, mess by mess, until it’s meaning emerges.

Living. Active. Present when I need it most.