Category Archives: life lessons

I lost my cool the first day of school by Willow Weston

 

I lost my cool the first day of school.

Yep, its true. And the day before too. I’m not feeling great about it. Feeling proud is not why I am letting you in on my mom fail. This mom gig is hard sometimes. I’m thinking maybe I am not the only woman who feels this way. Maybe some of you lose your cool too. And if you aren’t a mom, maybe reading this will invite you into an authentic place in your expectations if you become one. Or maybe reading this will give you grace or invite you into what you can learn from losing your cool at work or on your roommates or your hot boyfriend.

The weeks leading up to the first day of school have looked like school supply shopping, consigning old clothes, purchasing new, doctor appointments, orthodontist appointments, physical therapy appointments, filling out online school forms, getting backpacks, grocery shopping for lunch food, and on and on. You get the drill.

So I thought I had my ducks in a row.

I thought I was well prepared.

I thought I did my best to think of everything that was needed, and even what wasn’t.

I thought I had planned things so that the transition would be peachy keen.

I don’t know what it is about me, but I love celebrating. I love tradition and I am a sucker for trying to take ordinary and not-so-ordinary life events and making them special in some way, especially for my kids. So, I made shepherds pie the night before school because I loved it as a kid and now my kids love it. I thought we would all get our backpacks ready, be super prepared, and then enjoy homemade mint cookie ice cream sandwiches and sit together and connect before one kid enters high school and the other 7th grade. I even got a special breakfast for the first day of school and made special lunches and well, this is where you might start judging me. This is where I start to sound like one of those crazy moms that does too much for my kids. It’s so easy to judge each other. But one thing I know I will never regret: I will never regret working hard for my kids, loving my kids like crazy and sometimes trying to bless their socks off so they always know they are special. There’s no shame in that.

But in my great attempt to make everything so special, my kids did not cooperate. They were exhausted, maybe nervous, definitely not ready for school to start, and most definitely not ready to go from late nights all summer to earlier bedtimes, nor were they ready to ditch slumber parties for studying. After struggles and arguing and angsty teenage faces and mom smack downs, I did it, I took away the homemade mint cookie ice cream sandwiches and sent the kids to bed.

I know what you are thinking. Not the mint cookie ice cream sandwiches.

Yep.

And you’d think they would wake up like little angels the next morning ready to eat their lovely pecan sticky buns and kiss me on the forehead telling me they loved me and smile for my camera 30x and then skip off to school like lovely little school children with their perfect sack lunches.

But no.

They woke up grumpy. They woke up complaining. They woke up like protesters.

Every year since kindergarten we have had a tradition on the first day of school. We take pictures of the kids in front of our front door. No matter what door, what address, what grade, we do it every year. And I will tell you that this year the pictures don’t tell the story. Or maybe they do.

By the time I fed them breakfast, took pictures of them, made sure they had what they needed, drove them to their before school parties, and then got them to school, I was mad and tearful all at once. Part of me wanted to kick them to the curb on the side of the school parking lot, and the other part of me was holding onto them with my whole heart not wanting them to ever get out. I was over having to beg them out of bed. I was exhausted by the lack of gratitude for all my work. I was irritated by the attitudes of entitlement. I could care less if they didn’t like sticky buns or couldn’t find clothes to wear. And I felt sad that they didn’t want to take the pictures anymore. So, I said things I regretted, but more I said them in a way that I regretted.

I lost my cool the first day of school.

I have had to step back for a few days and think about what was going on in me. And I have some thoughts that might help you when you lose your cool too.

In our attempts to make “plans” special, are we making “people” feel special?

It is totally okay to go out of your way to bless people’s socks off. It is totally ok to get out the china and the white tablecloths for a Wednesday night dinner. It is totally cool to cookie cutter your kindergartener’s peanut butter and jelly sandwiches into hearts. But if your special, well laid plans get dashed by bad moods, teen angst, rush hour traffic or menstrual cramps, don’t lose sight of the very people you were making those plans for in the first place.

On the first day of school I had all these expectations that my special plans would make us all feel good, like everything was going to be okay. But the main thing that made us not feel okay was my response when my expectations were disappointed. So what if my son wanted to wear an old Thrasher t-shirt and holey shoes to show up as a freshman? So what if they didn’t like the sticky buns and told me so? So what if they don’t hold as tightly to our tradition as I do? Who were the school clothes, the sticky buns and the pictures for in the first place?

I love how Scripture says, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” We can try as we might to make things all hunky dory, but when our plans don’t go as planned, it’s still the Lord’s purpose that prevails. And we have to be a people that can in a moment return back to PURPOSE. What is the purpose behind this? The Lord’s purpose for this mom on the first day of school was to love my kids, to encourage them, to pass out bravery and to let them know they always have a refuge called home.

When your car breaks down on your date night, what is the Lord’s purpose? Love your spouse on the long wait for a tow truck. (Your purpose is not to rant at him about how he should have gotten a tune up on the car.) When you invite new friends over for dinner and you burn it, what is the Lord’s purpose? Laugh and connect and build a good memory at the beginning of what could be a long friendship that started over burnt lasagna. (Your purpose is not to throw the entire night away and call it a loss just because the food sucked.) When you plan a gathering for your somewhat estranged family  in the hopes of reconciliation and things gets complicated, your purpose is to keep pointing everyone toward that hope. (Your purpose is not to bring up the long standing issues when your plans don’t go as planned.)

You get what I mean. We have to be a people who go back to the purpose for why we made our plans in the first place. I made special plans for my special people. They are special no matter what happens to the plans. People over plans. That remains our purpose.

When you lose your cool, ask yourself “What is going on inside of me?”

At one point during my failure to keep my cool, my husband said, “You need to chill out.” And that is when fire and smoke started coming out of my nostrils and a new sounding voice came out of me that said “Donnnn’t tell me to chill out Robbbbbbb.” (holding the awwwwww in Rob a very long time). Daring to step out in truth, he said “I think you’re having a harder time than the kids are.” And I was of course sure he was wrong. But the Spirit soon had a word with me.

Behind the camera lens as I captured my kids dancing and being goofy, all the years flashed by. It’s gone so fast. I just held Aidan in my arms in the hospital at his birth. I just watched him meet his daddy. I just rocked Bella to sleep and counted all her fingers and toes. I just taught them to say ma-ma. I just dropped them off at preschool. I just ….

I started to feel weepy but was trying to keep it in as I had them pose for our annual photo shoot, despite their defiance. As I zoomed in, I have so much love for these two. Him and his blue eyes. Her and her green. Their belly laughter and the way they love each other. Their perspective on life. His stand for justice and her love of everyone.

If I am lucky, I have four more years with Aidan in the house. Four. I still want family dinners but everyone is going every which way most of the time. I still want them to snuggle but they would rather be on Instagram than in my arms. I still want them to need me and they do, but it looks different. Time is changing everything and I can’t do anything about it. Other than embrace it.

And I think I will embrace it, but sometimes before you can embrace something, you first have to grieve. And what I was incapable of doing when I was losing my cool was to recognize that I was grieving. Grieving is the art of recognizing what you have lost. And at the same time that there are many things that I gain, I am grieving their time, their innocence, their affection, their adoration, their childhood.

Maybe you are grieving something too. Maybe you are losing your cool because what’s really going on deep inside you is that you are losing something. You know, in case you forgot, we lose loved ones, friendships, seasons, stability, security, community, control and so much more. What does it feel like you are losing right now? Maybe if we can recognize what we are losing, it will be the first step in keeping our cool.

When we can say, “I am not mad at you, I am just grieving”, the outcome in a relationship and a circumstance ends up looking much more healthy. After the first day of school, that night, we sat down as a family and processed together what had taken place. We had an honest conversation. We had to drop some parent discipline on their sassy attitudes. But I also had to confess. I had to admit to my kids that it’s true, “I am having a hard time.” I had to say to my high schooler, “This is hard. It’s good, but it’s hard. I just miss you and things are changing so fast. I am sorry for losing my cool…… 

……I just don’t want to lose you.”

I said it. I said the thing that I didn’t even know was there. “I just don’t want to lose you.” I lost my cool because there was something going on deep inside me. And I couldn’t have gotten to this place to be able to say these words if I hadn’t have made space to ask myself what was going on inside me. We can ask ourselves: What are these feelings? What is this irritation? What are these tears? What is happening on a deeper level here? What am I really feeling?

That night there might have been tears. But there were also hugs. And understanding. And peace. And reasonable conversations where teenage angst and parent fear had no place.

Know: There’s room to be cool tomorrow.

I love that God’s mercies are new every day (Lamentations 3:23). He promises us that this is true. I blew it today, thank God I can wake up and get my cool back tomorrow. Our relationships need mercy. Our families need mercy. Our friendships need mercy. Our marriages need mercy. Our co-workers need mercy. Our enemies need it too.

I don’t know about you but sometimes I lose my cool. Thank God, He grants it back. We all disappoint each other. We all fail. We all say things we shouldn’t. We all lose our patience. We all judge and misunderstand. We all make up stories about each other that aren’t true. We all lose our cool. We need mercy. Our world needs mercy. We need mercy for being too quick to judge. We need mercy for forgetting our brothers and sisters who are hurting. We need mercy for choosing ourselves at the disadvantage of another.

We might have lost our cool today, but we can wake up tomorrow. We can chillax our expectations. We can recognize what we feel like we are losing whether it’s a season, a title, a status, a friend, or control. And then we can come before the One who doses out mercy like there is a never ending supply and He says “You can be cool today.”

It’s funny, when we admit we need God’s mercy for losing our cool, others do too. Even teenagers. And then when we both turn together to the One who freely gives it, we find ourselves sharing a Divine mercy moment that changes everything.

Oh Give thanks to God, for He is good! His mercy endures forever. Psalm 136:1

Luke 6:36 says Be merciful just as your Father is merciful. We have a God who over and over again extends compassion and mercy upon us when we aren’t cool. Let s do the same for each other- in our homes, in the Church, at work, on social media, with our neighbors, our employees, people who are different than we are, and yes even with our teens.

Now go be cool. And when you lose your cool, remember there is One who has an endless supply to replenish it.

His Mercies Are New When by Willow Weston

At a church one Sunday it was like I was pierced right between the eyes, and the sermon hadn’t even started. I was standing there with friends “worshipping” when a man I know and his new girlfriend filed in with both their kids and sat a few rows in front of us. My mind started running every which way wondering to myself “How soon is it ok to just show up at the church that your wife goes to, with the new girlfriend you left her for?”

And it was clear as day. Almost as if a voice from heaven yelled at me in row 9, straight down from the clouds. When are My mercies new for other people, Willow?

I often claim God’s promise out of Lamentations 3:

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

I have prayed many a morning, reminding myself, “Lord your mercies are new for me today.”

Mornings where I have completely blown it the night before, I have stood on the promise that His mercy is afresh upon me.

Mornings when my parenting fails woke me up discouraged, my Father encouraged me with this good, good promise.

Mornings where I felt like I have failed relationships I care about and needed a renewed sense for the path forward, I have prayed this lamentation.

Mornings when my husband and I woke up to coffee AND still being mad from the night before, I have asked God to shower me with His brand-spankin’-new mercies.

And every morning that I have asked God for His fresh mercy, I have been its recipient. I have jumped off my couch and felt a sense of forgiveness, of freedom, of shame let go. I have been given courage to press on, not looking back but instead ahead because of God’s good mercy toward me. I have been let off the hook for nasty behavior and mean banter. I have been let out the jail I created in my own head. I have seen the Hand of God extended toward me in a deep dark pit that I would never have gotten out of on my own. And every time I find myself there in the pit again, I call out to this beautiful God and in earnest prayer claim, “Your mercies are new every morning and I need them to be new today.”

And wouldn’t you know it, they are.

That Sunday, God knocked me out with a jab to the throat. When are my mercies new for other people? Not everyday? Only some days? Every other decade? After one proves they are so, so, so very sorry? When they make up for all they did wrong? Once they suffer all the consequences of their mistakes, then maybe, then? Are God’s mercies new for people only when they do what I think they should? Are God’s mercies only new for people who can erase everything they messed up? Are God’s mercies only new for those whose screw-ups aren’t so big?

Maybe what’s wrong in the pews on Sunday is people like me who are begging for mercy for themselves, but are unwilling to hope it for others.

I am pretty sure Lamentations promises each one of us that God’s mercies are NEW EVERYDAY. A man who leaves his wife and starts a new family with his hot girlfriend and rakes his kids through the ringer can find mercy tomorrow morning and there is nothing I can do about it. Why? Because God is that big and His mercy is that compassionate and that powerful and it stretches that far. God’s mercy is not dependent on my opinions, nor my ways. His mercy is boundless and does not end. Though I might want another to suffer for what they have done or learn their lesson or limp a little for their ugly betrayal, God can extend mercy to whom He wants, when He wants.

You know who needed mercy most that Sunday?

Me.

I needed God’s mercy to reach down into my black pit of judgement and say, Willow, I will even extend you mercy for the way you rule people out of my Kingdom, the way you make assumptions about others, and the way you try to take over my job of shelling out mercy. His mercies are made new every morning. Thank God. I need them. Maybe you do too.

the husband

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Over the last month or so, I have been living part time at a hospital and much of that time has found us waiting and waiting and waiting again. We have eaten awful meatloaf and fake potatoes gazing across the cafeteria to see other sick and grieving people. We have made more jokes about fecal matter and bowel movements than anyone should ever make. We have put on so many yellow gowns and blue plastic gloves that we are now responsible for an entire land fill ourselves. We have washed our hands so much that they are chapped and our pores are full of antibacterial soap. We have been put in the position of having to advocate to save my mom’s life and have experienced first hand what happens when the hospital fails to call you and let you know your family member is in the hospital. We have had days fearing the very worst sprinkled with days of hope. We have met more than 10 doctors and 20 nurses. We have awaited CAT scans, X RAYS, stool samples, urine samples, blood samples, breathing treatments, physical therapy and more.

One day while waiting inside the “waiting room” a dead body with an American flag draped over it was wheeled right up to the doorway. So there I was, waiting with a corpse.

A few hours later I walked back into the waiting room and there was this older gentleman, also waiting. I had seen him the day before. His head was held low and his body was slumped in the chair. His white hair sparkled, but his eyes looked deeply sad through his glasses. I got this intense tug in my gut that I was supposed to do something, but I had no idea what. Before you knew it my body acted before my mouth had a plan. This happens to me a lot. Standing right above him in his chair, tongue tied, I blurted “Uhhhhhh, can I, can I do anything to help you?” He was so tired, with just enough energy to muster a gracious “No, but thank you.”

I went and sat back down on the couch and waited.

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Then a man around 50 walked in. His skin was pasty white and I had been watching him for days pace the hospital halls like me. He was holding a piece of paper up to his eyeballs and with one eye’s eyelashes brushing directly across the words on the paper almost as though by osmosis, he said something like “Dad, we need to take Smith Road over to 1st and then a sharp left onto Jones and then it’s behind Home Depot.” In my gut, I just knew what he was talking about.

He suggested to his dad “Maybe we should call people and let them know.” His dad said “We don’t have a phone,” lifting his hands in the air with a helpless motion. That intense tug was still inside me. I stood up unsure that I should be in this room, but I trusted Destiny and said “I have a phone you can use.” They said “We don’t use cell phones, we’re old fashioned.” I offered to teach them how.

The son silenced. So did I.

Then the son said for what you could tell was the very first time he uttered these words, “I would be using your phone to tell our family that…. my, myyyyy mom just died.”

“I am sorry. I am so sorry.” What else can you say? There is nothing else that can be said. No trite answer, no quote, nor talk about your own woes suffices. These two men looked up at me after having just lost the most important woman in their life.
This kind of room is the most sacred room you can ever sit present in, I realized.

After some pause, I offered to help them call people. The son took a business card to his eye again and rattled off the numbers. I quickly realized he wanted me to dial, so I did. The answering machine came on. He was paralyzed, unsure what to do. I gently laid out the options. We could hang up or leave a message. We hung up. Here I was helping them make the call no one ever wants to make and no one was answering.

The son decided to go get his Kindle to email people. While he was away, the husband and I talked. Sixty five years they had been married. Thats six and a half decades. That’s 23,725 days. That’s life in your 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. That’s 4 children, 3 spouses and many grandchildren. That’s the story of this other son, the one I meet. He had been in a horrible collision in high school. A car hit him and he has never been the same. That’s why he can’t see. His dad explained that his son had lived at home his whole life, never married and in fact spent about 15 hours a day bedside his mom when she was ill. Most likely, I thought, just like she had when he was in the hospital decades ago.

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The son came back and started emailing people. At one point he asked for his dad’s approval, “ Dad, I said, ‘Mom passed away at 4:30. Dad and I are fine.’ Because if I don’t say that, then the email says: Mom passed away at 4:30 and that just sounds sad.” I wanted to scream in that little room, “It is saaaaaad! Its ok to feel sad.” I looked down at my laptop. It was 5:19.

The nurses came in and said her body was ready. They were invited to wait again for the funeral home. The son left to be with his mom for what would be the very last time. The husband was glued to the chair across the room and here I was again alone with him. He said she was 95 and he was 91. I smiled. “Wow you married an older woman huh?” He smirked, “Yep, I robbed the cradle.” I said, “What a gift. Sixty five years with the love of your life.”

He got quiet. I gave him his space.

And then in the sacred, deep grief, out of the silence, he raised his voice, “His will be done.”

I echoed him, “His will be done. And let us hold onto the promise that we will have the best reunion with the ones we love in the perfect place where there is no more pain.” I wanted to, with this man, entrust God with the whole journey as I found myself with no idea as to what lie ahead.

The husband nodded and said, “She is home.”

At the very end of our journey and all along its way, may we be able to, like the husband, say ‘His will be done.’ His will done in the beauty and the pain. His will be done in beginnings and endings. His will be done in victory and loss. His will be done on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday… His will be done in good and in bad. His will be done when our prayers feel answered and when they don’t. His will be done on the gorgeous meanderings and trails that lead to love, as well as the hard pedal uphill and the wipeouts. His will be done on earth as it is in heaven, in death and all along the paths that lead to true life. On the rode ahead, there might be brakes that fail, hospital stays, run- ins with other wounded people, rain storms and love lost. We have no idea what lies on the journey home but at it’s end may we be able to say, His will be done. Those words, I have a feeling, will more readily pour out of our hearts in the most sacred of moments, when we begin uttering them in the most ordinary.

entrust

Happys and Crappys

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The other night we sat down for dinner as a family. The harvest pumpkins and the wheat bouquets were out, the candle was lit, and all four of us gathered to share a meal around the table. It almost feels like a miracle, something as simple as sitting all in one place at one time. No sports practice, no real estate open house, no ministry meetings, no parent teacher conferences. My favorite three people all in one place. This togetherness felt like an Amen so we skipped our rhythmic prayer before dinner and jumped right into something else.

I don’t remember what we ate, but I do remember saying “Let’s go around and do happys and crappys!” And Bella said “Do you mean roses and thorns?” I thought that was clever and said “Yes, thaaaat!” If you have never done “happys and crappys” or “roses and thorns” before, I promise you it might be your saving grace if you are a parent of a disengaged pubescent teenager whose favorite words are whatever, fine and duh.

Basically each person shares a great moment from their day, and a not so great moment. ‘Yes’ and ‘no’ answers aren’t an option because there are no questions. At least at first. Each person is invited to share story. Sometimes it is quiet at the start, but usually at our house one of the kids just takes off and the next thing you know we are hearing about the places they are feeling most victorious. A proud smile peeks out in the telling of a good grade or a compliment from a teacher. It is in story that we engage each other’s worlds and laugh, and maybe even cry. As we do, even the sassiest of teenage punks rarely sees further questions as a nuisance. Instead, they begin answering our questions gladly as if they are painting a more colorful picture they want us to see with every stroke of an answer.

So we took turns sharing. We all shared, even us parents, describing the places where we felt like we had failed, or disappointed ourselves, or let down another. I think it’s good for kids to know parents struggle, and good for parents to know kids have victories. Our stories drew us together. One minute we were laughing about some fart outburst in class, the latest boy-girl crushes, new discoveries in our Milky Way, and the next minute we were talking deeply about the change we really want to see in our lives or the lives of those we love.

At the end of dinner, the roasted vegetables were half eaten, the table was a mess, and the dishes needed to be done. But instead of hurrying up to do homework and clean and make lunches and brush our teeth and on and on, we held hands. With full bellies, we gave thanks. We usually give thanks with empty tummies. But this time we prayed after dinner. I highly recommend it. We do that sometimes. It is then that we don’t take for granted the sustenance in our bellies and the fullness in our hearts. When we say thanks after dinner we don’t take for granted that all four seats are taken. We say grace after we eat for the grace which we have found in our story together. So the other night we thanked God for the food that satisfied both our pallets and our need. We even thanked God for broccoli. We thanked God for laughter and farts and friends at school. We thanked God for this table and these people around it. And then we asked for the same God who blessed us with the happys, to help us in the crappys.

Oh what a joy it is to have your kids pray on their own for the places as a parent that we need peace and encouragement, and then in the very same breath laugh their amen aloud. Giving thanks together will not always be this easy. Some days and seasons we won’t have happy stories to tell and at other times it will be all we have to share. The beauty is in thanking God together, who is here in both the highs and the lows. 

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So often when we give thanks to God it is because things are going good. We say thanks for good days, promotions, hot dates, coffee, financial aid, vacations, and not getting pulled over by the cop. Job confronted this way of thinking when his wife was complaining about her life. He said “Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?”

What about us?

Shall we accept life and not death?

Shall we accept laughter but not tears?

Shall we accept health but not sickness?

Shall we accept sun but not rain?

Ambrose of Milan spoke to this saying, “I cannot be ungrateful to God, for I must rather rejoice that I had such a brother than grieve that I had lost a brother…who would think that he ought to be excepted from the lot of dying, who has not been excepted from the lot of being born?”

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says “Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  Giving thanks is God’s will in both the victories and the failures. Partly I think this is so because digging deep for gratitude when it’s hard is often what walks us out of crappy back into happy. Giving thanks makes us have to look for the gems in the rubbish. It causes us to have to search for the positive swimming in the negative. Giving thanks beckons us toward being a people of hope rather than dismay. And giving thanks reminds us that God is God in the good and the bad. Though our circumstances change, our God does not.

The older my kids get, the more I find the invitation into being a grateful people more and more significant. Entitlement, first world problems compared to third world problems, the misuse of the word “need” being confused with the word “want,” and the growing difference between the poor and the rich, can easily find us only praying when life is crappy or life is happy. Inviting our kids into a life of faith only in need, or only on top, confuses the presence of God and the power of God. But inviting one another into faith despite circumstances, might potentially be our greatest key to walking mountaintops with humility and valleys with an unwavering faith. We know our children will experience both, life’s disappointments as well as life’s joys, and it will be in both that we hope they remember God is God. God here, present, powerful, good, alive in the happys and the crappys.

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My hope is that we would be people who gather around a table with full bellies when happiness rains, giving thanks as much as coming before God when happiness has been sucked dry by a severe drought. In the good and the bad, may we find gratitude because it is there we find God together. If we can be a people who before dinner or after, carpooling or not, hungry or full, in a pew or a papasan, come together sharing in life’s ups and down and yet still giving thanks, we will together see the roses as beautiful, despite the thorns.

What rhythms, prayers, table games or family traditions do you partake in to give thanks? Let’s learn to lean into gratitude together by sharing with each other here…..

 

 

Mother’s Day gone wrong gone right

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This mother’s day marked the one year anniversary of Rob’s mom’s passing and so we decided to get away to the beach. The kids and I headed out Saturday and waited Robs arrival from work Saturday night. We drove up and saw that the tide was out and the kids threw off their flip flops and ran about as fast and as far as they could allowing the tide to determine their depth. I finished up unpacking our things in the hotel room and then went out to meet them. I could hear their giggles and see their hair sparkling in the sunlight. As I moved toward them, they ran to me with exuberance and a handful of sand dollars chanting “Mom, mom! Look what we found!!!” It was raining sand dollars which always feels lucky at the beach.

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As they approached me I felt overdressed and overworked and hadn’t invited myself yet to play. So I said to myself “Self, just jump in, get dirty and play!” It’s not so much that I am a pansy snob and don’t like to get wet and muddy, it’s just that I had to free myself up to be present, to enter in, to go for it. Sometimes we need to preach to ourselves. At least I do. So I unbuckled my bedazzled sandals and parked them where the rocks and the sand meet. I tied my striped maxi skirt to a mini and ran to them celebrating the blizzard of sand dollars, the warm water and the hot sun. I unleashed our doodle Addie and she ran free as a bird! It was like she became a new person, as many of us would, if we were set free.

The beach has always been a place where I find God. It’s not that He is there more than He is anywhere else. Maybe it’s that I show up. Ever since I was a kid I have felt something special about the beach, a connection to something bigger than myself. There is something about the ocean and the sunset that washes everything else away with the tide and centers what is good and what is right and what is true.

I look out at the waters edge that seems to have no end and when faced with the death of someone I love, I see a horizon that seems to have no end and hope life is the same. When I gaze at the sunset and see colors in shades and hues I have never seen, I am reminded that my vision for my life is too small, limited only by what I have seen but not what could be. When the waves rhythmically crash in yet never crush me I am aware that whatever threatens to hurt me, to come at me, it will not crush me. It might touch my toes and maybe even crash against my shins up to my knees, but it will not overcome me.

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Why doesn’t the tide just come in one day and keep coming? What keeps this rhythm day after day? When will the sun just not rise? There is something bigger than me that I find with all the sand dollars at the beach. I love how God questions me back…

Where were you when I created the earth?
    Tell me, since you know so much!
Who decided on its size? Certainly you’ll know that!
    Who came up with the blueprints and measurements?
How was its foundation poured,
    and who set the cornerstone,
While the morning stars sang in chorus
    and all the angels shouted praise?
And who took charge of the ocean
    when it gushed forth like a baby from the womb?
That was me! I wrapped it in soft clouds,
    and tucked it in safely at night.
Then I made a playpen for it,
    a strong playpen so it couldn’t run loose,
And said, ‘Stay here, this is your place.
    Your wild tantrums are confined to this place.’
Job: 38: 4-11

Maybe since I was a little girl going to the beach with my mom and playing the game “I spy the ocean first” and searching for seashells and jumping the waves, I have been drawn to this playpen that reminds me there is One bigger than me. One bigger than all this. Bigger than the self imposed pressures, bigger than the pain, bigger than mean people, bigger than nasty political campaigns and cancer, bigger than skinny jeans and bigger than the deepest fears in me that have taken residence. I need that One and when I stand on the shores I find Him. Nothing stands between us there. There are no rules. There are not niceties or etiquette in play. There is not a long list of things I need to do. I stand there and Presence stands with me.

At sunset, Aidan took this picture.

semiahmoo

If this doesn’t sum up the majesty and mystery that is our Creator, I don’t know what does. At breakfast, the kids shared some of their favorite memories of me and then of grandma. The ones of me were like when I showed up to Aidan’s middle school with our dog who was in heat with a diaper on. Great. My kids are not remembering the games I play with them or the things I whisper in their ears or the prayers I pray over them as they fall asleep. They are going to remember the mom who showed up to school with a dog on its period. They did remember sweet things about grandma like all the Wednesdays when she drove up weekly to be with them. It might seem as though her tide has gone out, but it will be back just like next Wednesday.

Bella gave me the sweetest bouquet of yarn flowers and a poem that made me tear up. Then Aidan handed me an old Nike box wrapped in a blue rubber band. He asked me what I thought it was and I guessed, kiddingly, that it was all the little pieces of junk I always ask him to pick up in his room that he never does. He looked at me like I nailed it and then opened it up saying this box symbolized all the opportunities he has had because of me. He pulled out a football that no longer had air and told me that I have continually encouraged him when he needed it. Then he pulled out a picture of me cuddling him when he was little and talked about how I have always been there for him. He brought out all sorts of random items and then he brought out a picture of his baptism saying “I found Jesus because of you, mom.” Ok, that is when I lost it. I don’t know if Aidan discovered flippin’ Pinterest but his lil mom speech melted me. Kids man, they’ll move in and break our hearts. In good ways and bad. Trust me, I am going to have to remind myself of this orange Nike box full of random when he pretends to ignore me when I ask him to do chores or when his eyes roll back in his head when he doesn’t get what he wants. We all hugged on the couch and had a beautiful mother’s day morning.

The plan for the rest of the day was to plant plants for our patio and Rob was going to set up these lights we have wanted to put up in our backyard for awhile now. I have wanted them for so long that instead of eating out at my favorite restaurant we decided I would whip up some food so we could have dinner under them together. So Rob and the kids got to work while I whipped up some food. The steak, potatoes and caesar were ready and the table was all set. Rob just put the last string of bulbs up after hours of hard work. We sat down for Mother’s Day dinner and felt a drop and then another. We prayed in a hurry knowing rain was coming. Amen and the next thing you know it down poured!

The steak was covered in water, the twice baked potatoes were more like creamy potato soup, the croutons in the caesar were squishy. Rob ran to save our lovely dinner by grabbing the umbrella that had been packed away for the winter and in an attempt to set it up crashed it into the lights and half of them shattered. Glass everywhere. I had no shoes on. Everything was soaked and as first world problem status as it is, it would have been so instinctual to say: “This sucks, let’s all go inside. Grab your food, grab your drink, run for cover.”

I had this moment. Maybe you have had these too. Even with something so seemingly small, we had an idea, a plan, a hope and it didn’t happen. Disappointment sets in and our gut instinct can be to respond out of that disappointment, which I often do. In the seemingly mundane ordinary moments which make up most of life we always have a choice and it’s so easy to let the spilled milk, the flat tire, the run in with the boss, the bad hair cut or whatever else own the moment. I looked around at the soaked food, the shards of glass in my wine, the feel of wet underwear and pants. I looked at the greenery around us illuminated by the light through the rain. I looked at my kids and my husband and I could feel our instincts kicking in, but I sensed another choice.

IMG_6008

I pulled my hoodie up over my head. Aidan followed suit. I yelled loudly to the sky “Briiiiing it onnnnnnn Goddddd! Let iiiiiiiiit dowwwwwwwwwn pour!” One kid laughed and then the other and then we were all laughing. We all yelled together “Rain harder! Hail! Dooooown Pour!” It rained more. Not even kidding. Drenched through and through, we sat accompanied by shattered glass between our toes and our steak, sharing one of the best Mothers Day we’ve ever had.

Life is a series of experiences and we never actually know how things will go. It seems like how we choose to respond to the down pour, that is actually what makes for a good story. And good stories make for a good life. The story of a barbecue under some pretty lights…well that is a pretty typical story. But choosing to enjoy a Holiday meal underneath a rain storm hollering at God for more of what He’s got, well that just doesn’t happen everyday, at least not in our house. It happens when we make a choice to not get angry, to not curse everything, to not kick the dog, to not go inside and turn the tv on, to not give in to what is comfortable and easy and dry. I looked into the faces of these three people that God has given me and I knew that no matter what comes our way, we will choose to laugh, we will choose to call out to God and we will be together, and that is what makes a moment that goes wrong, so very right.

As soon as dinner ended, so did the rain.

The God who met me on the beach and tells the tides when to come and go, He also met us in our backyard and He also tells the rain when to fall and when to stay cooped up on hiatus. We are at His whim, His beck and call, and all any of us can ever do is stay present, call out to Him, and laugh heartily when we can find it in us to do so, waiting for that never ending horizon to beckon us home to the forever place. And in the meantime, we can spend time chasing our kids, collecting sand dollars, running free unleashed and eating fancy steak dinners in rain storms.

Greater Things Part 3 by Willow Weston

“Greater things,” the two words Jesus used to describe what His disciples, His homies, are capable of. Is that you? Because Jesus said you can do even greater things than He did. That’s a radical statement coming from the One who turned water into wine and restored lepers and rose Lazarus from the dead. So either Jesus is blowing smoke or you are underestimating your potential. This 3 part series called Greater things challenges our confidence problem and helps us see that God always uses unlikely people.

In fact, God promises His power is made perfect in your weakness.

2 Corinthians 12:9 says “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Not in strength. Not in armies. Not in crossfit. Not in titles. Not in flashy lights. Not in beauty and perfection. Not in dolla dolla bills ya’ll. You think that’s ludicrous?

So is a rod.

So are 5 stones and a slingshot.

So is a prostitute with her long list of tricks and the pain that led her there.

So is God on a tree.

Hanging there.

For you…

and me.

Salvation came through through pain.

suffering.

humility.

weakness.

wounds.

Why would you be able to bring it any other way?

Isaiah 53 describes what the Messiah, the ONE who could come and change the world, what He would look like: He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. 

by his wounds

Funny, even God Himself didn’t use force or arrogance or the highest rung on a ladder or lots of letters after his name. He didn’t use a perfect family line or a position of power or wealth or worldly ideals of strength to impact the world. God used not a crib but a manger. God used not a “because I told you so” authority, but a “I’ll show you so” humility. God used not a long line of Christian nobility, but instead a family tree that was about as crooked as can be with harlots, ho’s and heathens that birthed His DNA. God used not a throne, but a cross. God used not success but suffering. God used not a strong hand of punishment nor a power play, but instead He laid down His life in a salvation move that was well played. And yet we think it’s going to be by our clout, our titles, our awesomeness, our cool factor, our magnetism, our put togetherness and our strength that changes lives? Who are we kidding?

What does God use to change the world?

Wounds. Jesus wears them like a shirt on His back. He stays there taking on our abuser’s abuse. The anger that was lashed out on us lashes Him. He wears the wounds that caused those wounds and those wounds my wounds have caused. He takes on the molestation and twisted confusion. He takes on the names they called us. He takes on the despair that leads young people to give up. He takes on the agony, the grief. He wears all of our wounds. He says with His life “These won’t keep you from me. These won’t separate us. Your wounds won’t have the final say. Mine will. My wounds will heal you. My wounds will set you free. My wounds will define you. My wounds will determine who you will be.”

God isn’t running from your brokenness. He wiped brokenness all over Himself. Your brokenness didn’t keep Him from saving you, it sure as hell isn’t gonna keep Him from using you!

God will use your pain for good. 

I love what Joseph- who was betrayed and abandoned by his own brothers and then used by God to reconcile his family and help people in famine- said: What you intended for harm, God intended for good.

I get it, I promise I do. Some of you have been abused and you still live in fear and your fear is paralyzing your destiny. Some of you, man, you don’t trust anybody because people haven’t been trustworthy and your trust issues are holding you back from great things. Some of you have been hurt by the Church and those wounds are keeping Jesus and his call on your life at a distance. Some of you are sure your mess will keep following all of your dreams so you’ve stopped dreaming. Some of you have been told you don’t have what it takes to do great things and you have started to believe it. You can believe all those lies because our brokenness lies to us.

We have a God who enters brokenness and purposes it. We have a God who can take everything you have ever been through and He can, instead of writing you off, write the best stories with your pain. Your story of abuse can set free someone who is being abused right now. Your parents’ divorce can comfort someone whose family is falling apart today. Your struggle to like what you see in the mirror can come alongside young women and keep them from going down the agonizing road you have. Your pain can point to His pain and His pain is what heals. God does His greatest work through pain. His and ours. Allow Him to meet you in your brokenness and use you there.

Jesus’ very presence challenged my confidence problem when I was a young college student doubting I could be used to do great things. And He continues to challenge my confidence problems. Everything I saw in Him made everything in me turn around. I went back to the pastor and said “God told me Never say no to what I can do through you. So here I am taking Him at His word that He use even me.” And that was when I became an intern at a church for God’s sake.

The pastors threw me in with the wolves. No training. No Bible 101. No speech class. All I felt I had in my pocket was pain and Jesus meeting me there. So up on a stage with a mic, I spoke a piece of my story. A girl came up to me afterwards and said, “I know what it’s like to hurt too. My stepdad beats me.” My very first lesson as a pastoral intern was that God used my pain to engage hers. She wanted my Rescuer. We wanted Him together. The day I turned around, putting my confidence in the greatness of what only God can do, was the beginning of experiencing greater things.

place your confidence

You want to change the world? You want to impact a generation? You want to live out your God-destined dreams? You can! Your confidence needs to be not in your self and what you can or can’t do. Your confidence needs to be in the greatness of Jesus Christ to meet you in your brokenness and use you there too. Turn around. Lay down your confidence and your insecurities. Lay down your failures and your past. Lay down your wounds. And pick up the greatness of Jesus Christ. You can be confident, He is all you need to do great things!

 

Greater Things Part 2 by Willow Weston

greater things

A few days ago I shared part 1 of 3 parts of this series called Greater Things. I opened up about my great sense of inadequacy to believe God could use me. God met me on a trail when I was walking home from class in college and spoke to me in a way that I knew I would have to decide when I stepped off that trail if I would follow Him or go my own way. When I stepped off that trail I knew what I was being called to do….

I applied to be an intern at my church.

I was sure they would find out who I really was and turn me down lickety split. On my 3rd interview, I sat down across from the Senior Pastor and he asked me if I was willing to try preaching. I said “Me? No way! Never! But I’ll clean toilets, greet old women, play dodgeball and talk to sassy teenagers about Jesus, but I will NEVER speak up front and actually have something to say that will change lives. Plus they will see my butt. And no one needs to see that.” They turned me down. Of course they did, I thought. I had an opportunity to do greater things but I walked away because I couldn’t believe God could use me…

Are you walking away from opportunities to do greater things because you struggle believing God can use the likes of you? I think you want to change the world and I think you think that the very thing that it’s going to take is the very thing it’s not. Some of you are waiting. You are waiting to get cooler. You are waiting to get tighter with the Big Man upstairs. You are waiting to sound more spiritual. You are waiting for a degree. You are waiting for your wounds to go away. You are waiting for your insecurities to be replaced with a strong self-confidence.

And you can wait until you’re blue in the face honey, ’cause you being more isn’t what’s gonna change lives. What’s gonna change lives is Jesus Christ and when I see Jesus Christ change lives it has little to do with what you’re waiting on. When I walked away from the opportunity to do something only God could do through me, I kept thinking about Jesus…

Jesus fiercely challenges

Jesus fiercely challenges our confidence problem.

Every thing I saw in Him told me that I was wrong. I was believing lies. I was letting my past determine my present. I was letting my wounds win. I was letting my insecurities call me. Are you doing that?

Everything in me wanted to turn around and take God at His word, counting on Him to be who He has always beenAnd who God has always been is a God who uses unlikely people. Throughout history God has used fraidy cats, punks, failures and big bad sinners with painful stories and sketchy pasts to change lives. God picks the least likely.

If God used the people we would use, then…

  • Goliath would still be bullying people. Instead God used an insecure, unequipped, young man who stepped up and didn’t let insecurity in what he didn’t have get in the way of what he was called to do. God used David to pelt an oppressive monster straight square in the eyes with a mere pebble to rescue His people.
  • Gideon’s people would still be oppressed while he put his confidence in his sissy baby self. Instead, God found that unlikely wimp hiding in fear, peeing his own pants and God used him to set His people free!
    The 5000 hungry humans would still be hangry but instead God chose to use an unlikely little boy’s lunch to feed a small city.
  • The Israelites would still be slaves for Pharaoh, the Red sea never would have parted and we would be missing one of the best Disney movies ever if Moses would have let his stutter and disability determine what he was supposed to do with his life. Instead Moses allowed the call of God to be louder than his weaknesses and that saved a nation.
  • The 5000 hungry humans would be hangry right now if God hadn’t chosen to use an unlikely little boy’s lunch, 5 loaves of bread and 2 small fish to feed them.
  • The Philistines would still be oppressing the Israelites had God not chosen to use the jawbone of an ass to turn them into Philly steak sandwiches.

You can sit around until you’re 105 saying “I’m too.” I’m too young in my faith. I’m too much of a disappointment. I’m too stained. I’m too plain. I’m too different. I’m too weighed down with baggage. I’m too ungodly.

I’m too? God’s too.

God’s too BIG! God’s too SUPERNATURALl! God’s too MIGHTY! God’s too POWERFUL! God’s too AMAZING! God’s too everything you’re too not! If you think its unlikely God can use you, you are in the right place. That’s where Moses was at the burning bush. That’s where Gideon was in the winepress. That’s where Joseph was in a hole his brothers threw him in.

unlikely is

Unlikely is God’s middle name. It is there people will know His first. God uses unlikely people so we know it’s Him and it’s when you start to believe this, it will be you He uses! It’s often when you are peeing your pants, when you are stuttering, when you are a harlot, it’s in that kind of unlikeliness that God does His greatest things!

God confounds us.

1 Corinthians 1:27-28 says God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are…

The word shame is more accurately the word confound which means to: bring to ruin, destroy, baffle, frustrate, throw into confusion or perplexity. God will confound you by who He uses. God will surprise you. God will not be predictable in His power. His power cannot be made sense of by man. So then when He uses nitwits, depressed artists, recovering drug addicts and shy people, only God gets the props. “It must have been His power,” people will say.

God wants to confound people with your life. Will you let Him?

Come back Tuesday and be continually encouraged that God can and will do greater things in and through your life!

 

Greater Things Part 1 by Willow Weston

I recently found myself speaking to a room full of young people, young people who want to change the world, young people who want to do great things and yet struggle to believe they can.  The next few posts will be some of what I shared. I hope you will be blessed, but even more, challenged by what God can do through you and your life as you read this 3 part series of posts! – Willow

greater things

I think you want to change the world. I think you do. I think there is something in you that hungers to do something about all the injustices. I think this generation is looking around at a political crisis, a racial crisis, a sex trafficking crisis, an environmental crisis, a spiritual crisis and something is rising up in you. It hasn’t boiled over yet, but it’s gettin’ real hot. And I think you’re tired of suicides and school shootings. You’re tired of bullies and dysfunction in your family. I think you’re tired of seeing the people you love wounded and messed up and seeing their mess spill all over the place. And mostly I think you’re tired of being made to feel like you can’t do much about any of this.

What I really think is you, like me, want to see lives change. You want to see hope restored. You want to see light in the darkness. You want to see your dad set free. You want to see addicts healed. You want to see teenagers know they matter. You want to see your friend believe about herself what you already do. You want to see people come to Jesus in droves because you know to your core that He is the only One who can do anything about all this mess.

You want it. That’s maybe why you‘ve said to Jesus, “I need you. I’ll follow you all the days of my life and serve you.” Jesus said in John 14:12 “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these…” Jesus said his disciples can change the world. Is this Jesus just blowing smoke? Let’s by faith assume Jesus isn’t a poser and that He isn’t blowing smoke. Let’s take Him at His word. If it be true, why isn’t it a reality in our lives?

We live in a world and even a Christian culture where we have begun to elevate the strong, the seemingly perfect, the “successful”, those at the top of the ladder, and we disqualify the insecure, wounded and weak. We think the people who go to Seminary and have lots of letters after their names are legit and those of us who need to read the picture book Bible are illegit. We’re pretty sure that the guy with the guitar and the girl with the angelic voice are more equipped than those of us who have no rhythm and little gifts. We think the voice that booms from the front with big obnoxious confidence and a mic must really be God’s instrument, and the kid in the back slumped down on his seat,  insecure and questioning himself, will get little play. We think the people who came from perfect Christian families are the people who will do the greatest things and those of us who need weekly counselors to hash out our issues won’t be capable of much greatness. We think that if we are a hot mess, we’ll need to undergo a spiritual bleaching before we can help clean up anyone else’s mess.

See we are confident God uses our God swagger, our hipster hipness, our unwavering faith, our right answers, our education, our knowledge of the Bible AND obscure bands, our magnetism, our born-with-a-silver-spoon, well-to-do, accomplished, trending selves. We have a confidence problem.

Our confidence is in the belief that we must really be something for God to use us and confident He won’t use us if we aren’t. As long as we have our confidence in our own confidence we will not change the world. Instead we will be impressing ourselves and each other with our small bouts of self glorifying success  and we will be held back by our sicknesses and deep rooted strongholds. So our confidence and lack of confidence in SELF will both be the very things that halt the power of God through us to change the world!

The week I became a Christian, two guys came through my line at Haggen, where I checked groceries to pay for my long island ice teas in college. They were buying massive amounts of baby food. It turned out they were youth leaders at the church I had just given my life to Christ in. And of course they were playing some obnoxious game with whirled peas and carrots that was going to explain the Trinity or something. They eagerly invited me to come be a youth leader. I thought to myself, there is no way! I have never been apart of a youth group, let alone qualified to lead at one. I wouldn’t have a clue how to make a 15 year old play with baby food and turn that into a bestie friendship with Jesus. I thought, I am not even tight with God. I am a slut and I really like to drink Peach Schnapps and dance to Bob Marley. I mean how could God use a girl from an irreligious background with skeletons in the closet, lots of baggage, a load of insecurities, little knowledge of Jesus and no church background? What a wounded mess. I didn’t fit the profile.

But these two men were convincing so I showed up at a rowdy youth group for the first time… as a leader.

I often felt insecure to help people for God. I was sure I didn’t belong and I wasn’t good enough. But the more I showed up to help the kids, the more Jesus started helping me. And these crazy things started happening. I started waking up in the middle of the night with words coming out of my mouth and stories that I had to write down to help struggling high schoolers. I met with the youth pastor and his wife to ask what they thought was happening to me.

They looked at me and said, “We believe God is calling you into vocational ministry.” “What’s vocational ministryyyyyy?” I honestly had no idea. They answered, like duh, “It’s when ministry is your calling and your career.” Stomping my feet on the inside, I said “Noooooooooooooo!” I was pursuing a business degree in college so I could be a leader in the corporate world and make the big bucks and boss people around. I was planning on marrying the guy I had been dating for years and I was going to bring Jesus with me. He was my new friend and He could come along. I wasn’t a Jesus follower. I was a Jesus dragger.  Maybe you can resonate. This was one of my first invitations from God to live a life doing something greater than what I had been.  Start following and stop dragging.

If you

One day after class, I was walking on the arboretum trail above campus and words came out of my mouth. It was my voice, but God’s words. And He said “I want to use your life to proclaim my power. Sure you believe in me but I want more than that for you and from you. When you get off this trail, you choose, are you gonna go your own way or follow me?” When I stepped off that trail I knew where I was going…

Stay with me and on Friday, we will step off that trail together ….. – Willow

 

 

 

Give Thanks with Childlike Abandon

give

Every year we have a thankful tree. And on this tree we hang leaves that wear our words of gratitude. We share a meal with each other and with guests and every night in November these leaves are our prayers. Everyone gets a leaf in whatever hue or pattern they prefer and are encouraged to write down something they are thankful for. I have kept these leaves over the years and have been able to see the beautiful people that have graced our table, remembered the conversations we have had and have been able to look back at all we have been grateful for. The leave’s words are often simple like “food and shelter” or general like, “friends and family.” Sometimes, people specify like “Chipotle” and “my daughters dimple when she smiles” or “Bob Dylan”.

The one thing we have in common when we come to the table, universally, is that we can all think of something to be thankful for, sometimes begrudgingly but even still. We are thankful to have another day, to breathe, thankful for eggplant in purple and butternut squash in orange, we are thankful for gorgeous walking trails, blue skies, for holding “their” hand, for music. When we share these things, it bonds us in a commonality to our universal experience of goodness. There are good things all around us in the midst of awful, ugly things. There is love in the midst of hatred and war and a refugee crisis. There is life in the midst of fall and a winter coming. There is meaningful conversation outside of the annoyong red coffee cup one. There is the flavor of saffron and basil and curry in the midst of tasting harsh realities. There is presence in the midst of loss. There is a realm unseen but felt all around us. We can show up at the table and find something we taste, touch, hear, smell, see or experience that we are profoundly glad we do.

One of the consistent experiences we have with this discipline of gratitude every fall is that kids express gratitude differently. Adults stare at the leaves trying to muster something up. Adults write one word. Adults think about something that will have their preferred outcome when they share it and thanks, then, becomes more about self than about something bigger. Kids write with wild abandon. Kids write all over the front and back of their leaves. Kids are thankful for silly things and spiritual things. Kids are thankful for water and pop. They are thankful for what we take for granted and for what we stopped enjoying. They are thankful for so many things that they run out of room to write them. Kids don’t worry about seeming too thankful. Kids don’t overthink gratitude. They don’t feel the pressure to come up with something deep. It can be something as wacky as “farts” or as ordinary as “fuzzy blankets.” Kids aren’t trying to look cool, or mysterious or smug about life when giving thanks. They with unabashed abandon write like crazy about all the things they are thankful for including their dog’s name, even if it’s, Gizmo, and football, friends, family, God, water, root beer, candy, and even homework and tutors. When kids give thanks its almost like they can’t stop.

thanks

I find it interesting that in our expression of thanks we have gotten to place as full fledged adult people that we can’t seem too happy, too ecstatic, too grateful. That kind of place comes across as “over the top” or too “blessed” or naive and cheesy. And yet I keep reading the Psalms and the psalmists seem like they are more like children who in wild abandon start listing out all that they don’t want to take for granted, all that they cannot control, all that they enjoy, all that is good. And without shame, they bust out in crazy, no rules, no limits, praise.

Just look at Psalm 138.

I thank you, Lord, with all my heart;
I sing praise to you before the gods.
I face your holy Temple, bow down, and praise your name because of your constant love and faithfulness, because you have shown that your name and your commands are supreme.
You answered me when I called to you; with your strength you strengthened me.
All the kings in the world will praise you, Lord, because they have heard your promises.
They will sing about what you have done and about your great glory.
Even though you are so high above, you care for the lowly, and the proud cannot hide from you.
When I am surrounded by troubles, you keep me safe.
You oppose my angry enemies and save me by your power.
You will do everything you have promised;
Lord, your love is eternal.
Complete the work that you have begun.

Imagine this guy at your Thanksgiving table. And be honest. A guy like this busts out and starts thanking God for His love and His faithfulness and His Supremacy and His power and His protection. And all the while, you and I would be snickering while thinking “Get on with it, already! It’s time for mashed potatoes and gravy!” We would be judging this guy thinking “Does he realize not everyone feels so thankful?” We would be thinking he could have kept it simple and said “wife” or “Seahawks”, but no he had to keep on going.

I just wonder what happened to us? When did we stop feeling so grateful that we no longer wanted to make a long list? At what point did we get shy, callused and ashamed of being full on grate-full? We are grate-kindoffull. Maybe what we should abandon is our pride, our reputation, our uptightness, our agendas, our fear of looking like a fool, our negative vibes, our disgruntledness, our dreams lost and given up, our complaints and our callused hearts.

Might I remind us that we are still kids and He is still our Father. May we this Thanksgiving with wild, abandon, make lists of what we are grateful for. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Give thanks in all cirumstances. Give thanks when you are young and when you are old. Give thanks when you have a turkey on your table and when you have pepperoni pizza. Give thanks when grandma is there and when she is now, gone. Give thanks when there is family dysfunction at it’s greatest height and when the peace this year surprises you. Give thanks when you can’t see what you so desperately want to for its called faith. And give faith when what you have always wanted is sitting right in front of you. Give thanks when you have homework in middle school and when you still ahem work as a 4o year old. Give thanks when you have running water to shower and when the power goes out and you can’t do anything except sit in the dark and do nothing with the very people you give thanks for. Give thanks. This is God’s will, to be like children, thanking, thanking, thanking. It might just be that when you wildly abandon all the polite, expected, stuffy rules of an adult and go crazy in thanks that you will feel again like a child.

with abandon

Happy Thanksgiving friends. I find myself thankful for early Christmas music, gingerbread lattes with the whip cream and nutmeg. I am thankful for belly laughter, my fireplace, lit candles, SNL skits, Adele’s vocal chords, good books that make you feel like you lost an ol’ friend when they come to an end. I am thankful for my kids who are the best gifts I have ever been given. I am thankful for flowers in all their brilliance, annoying labradoodles that look like stuffed animals, good friends that fit like a pair of sweats. I am thankful for Bieber’s come back and that I can say that out loud and your judgement of me doesn’t define me. I am thankful your not judging me right now. I am thankful for spiritual wisdom that resides in people I get to do life with and for hot water. I am thankful for friends who prank me and people who invest in my kids. I am thankful for my husband who is the very best cheerleader and who is the real deal, with a good heart. I am thankful for God’s bounty of love that meets me at every corner and reminds me who He is so I can be reminded about who I am and who I am called to be. I could keep going, but I don’t want my abandon to keep you from yours! Eat a lot of turkey and make long long lists… -Willow

Stop and smell the roses

stop and...

The four of us went on a hike on a desert mountain today. It was dusty and dirty and there were signs that warned of bears as we trekked toward what was said to be Paul’s tomb. Who is Paul, I wondered? Without knowing, we worked toward him anyhow. The trek turned out to be more miles than the Canadian kilometers we were promised. On the way back, our walk along the water’s edge slowed to a snail’s pace. Bella, my daughter was wearing ridiculously vain hot pink sandals. My husband wondered what I was thinking allowing such a fashion statement on a hike. This is to assume my daughter’s wardrobe points to my common sense. If that were so, she would have been wearing a jean skirt and a sequin tank with some cute dangly earrings and maybe even a flower headband in her hair!

In the last mile or so after we had listened to some whining and attempted to console it with piggy back rides and promises of a yummy lunch, I slowed my pace and held her hand. We walked down a hill and round a bend and it was then that I saw the most beautiful peachy pink, roses. I invited Bella to “Stop and smell the roses.” They were too high for her nostrils to play. I took note of the green branch and where my fingers could grasp and avoid the thick thorns. I pulled one down that had bloomed three roses, one of which lay at the end, big and boisterous. Bella with her golden tan skin leaned in and allowed the air to enter her nose taking in it’s notes. As she did, I asked her if she knew what this phrase “Stop and smell the roses” meant? She thought it meant to stop and smell the roses, literally. The rest of our walk, we held hands, walked slowly and together talked about what this phrase really means and then thought of stops we could and should engage in life. Here, I share some of those with you.

Stop and Smell the Roses

Stop and buy an ice cream cone from the ice cream truck.
Stop and play pretend.
Stop and think about the lyrics you hymn.

Stop and hold their hand.
Stop and say sorry for what you know you haven’t.
Stop and put bright red lipstick on.

Stop, put your camera down, and live a moment you’d otherwise try and capture. Then, you have actually captured it.
Stop and embroidery again.
Stop and write a thank you card, in your best cursive.

Stop and dance in your living room, playing that song over and over again.
Stop and stand in the rain allowing it to wash you clean. Use your umbrella another day.
Stop and ask the waitress her name. Order her story more than your chicken kiev. It will taste better.

Stop and feel the place your breath draws from.
Stop and notice the color of their eyes. The differences in shades. The yellow hue next to the sable round. The white in contrast to the brown and how they meet. The way their eyelashes trace lines that fashion what stare at you.

Stop and light a candle to remember them.
Stop and grieve. Write down everything you lost when you lost.
Stop and feel with your entire body the power of the train as it passes you by.

Stop and study the willow branches sway and weep.
Stop and belly laugh.
Stop and smell the nave of their neck. Inhale and promise your memory, this smell you won’t forget.

Stop and smell the tomatoes, looking for the one that actually smells like tomato. That one is yours to take home.
Stop and invite the neighbor over that you have told yourself you would for far too many years. Your good intentions keep letting you down and they don’t have to keep doing so.
Stop and make your own chicken noodle soup when one you love is sick. Feel deeply good about the healing properties of what you took part in creating.

Stop and buy the bike basket you have always wanted. Then go to the farmers market and fill it with a gorgeous bouquet of sweet peas and purple and orange carrots and a card handmade by the 7 year old who sketched her dog playing with a dragon.
Stop and send the card to the first person who comes to mind that is lonely.
Stop and snip the sweet peas and place them in your most beautiful jar and put them above your kitchen sink. They are just for you.

Stop and smell the roses. They grow in grace and beauty even if you see them not. They smell delicious and enticing even if you smell them not. To stop and allow all else to wait for you to engage them, engages you.
Stop and go on a hike with the kids you think will complain the entire time. They just might surprise you.
And as my daughter says, stop and just stop. Sit on a bench and behold what colors are before you, the petals that fall, the waves that come to say hello, the skin that brushes yours. Life is found there and so is the Divine, found when you stop and smell the roses.

– Willow