Laundry, Motherhood, Prayer

IMG_0007.JPGAs a child I daydreamed of monasteries and monks and what it would be like to cloister away all day to pray and read.

I love solitude, and I thought monks—with all their praying—were as close to God as you could get.

Ok, maybe I was a weird kid. But even as a child I saw prayer’s importance.

In junior high I scrawled my prayer needs into a journal, faithfully tending that list. By high school praying had etched itself in me, carrying me through two years of ministry training and then college.

I never really struggled to pray—not until marriage and motherhood, when diapers and dishes swallowed up my time. After kids, the question, “Have I prayed today?” quickly turned into “Did I remember to brush my teeth?”

On these days I appreciate the simple prayers—what Anne Lamont calls the “three essential prayers, “Wow,” “Help,” and “Thanks.”

Motherhood showed me how I complicated prayer. I treated prayer like an end itself—like a spiritual barometer—not the bridge to know Jesus.

I no longer see prayer like a subject we can master. It’s not a game we win or lose.

Imagine if we charted and measured how much we talked to our spouses or our children?

God doesn’t watch us from on high with a stop watch, calculating how many minutes we devote, just like I don’t carefully measure the minutes my sons spend with me.

But I do take note when they choose to snuggle up next to me. I notice their small acts of gratitude and love. God, too, notices when his children trust him enough to come—not out of duty—but out of love. God doesn’t judge us by the clock, but he does test our hearts for faith.

Sometimes we forget that mountains don’t move because of heavy-duty lifting in the act of prayer, but the faith behind the prayer—faith in the Mountain Mover.

We earth-dwellers so often forget that without faith we will never please God (Heb. 11:6).

As humans this confounds us. I can picture myself in that fanatical crowd after Jesus feeds the five thousand. They can’t wait to find out what they must do to accomplish God-pleasing work. Jesus’ answer still catches me by surprise.

He didn’t tell them to go to the synagogue to pray for hours or send them away pledging a laundry list of good works.

Here’s how John’s Gospel records it, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent’” (John 6:29).

Believing. The true work of God is not in doing, but believing.

Allow that truth to sneak into your heart and smuggle out the fear your prayers don’t matter or measure up. Allow the grace-healing power of belief to set you free so you can keep trusting and talking to the One who offers unending relationship.

And when we begin to remember that our prayer walk is really a love walk, we’ll run to prayer

Practical Prayer Help

  • Don’t wait for quiet to have a “quiet time.” Solitude may never come, but God can calm your nerves and anxious heart when the house pulses with the busyness of life.
  •  Plan it. Set your alarm and coffee pot. If you want to develop a workout routine, habit experts tell us to lay out our clothes the night before. In the same way remove some of the barriers to prayer. Get your spot ready, complete with Bible, blanket, pen, and notepad.
  • Carve out time. Make what Ann Voskamp calls “hard stops” to pray. I think of these as little mini vacations from work and kids—time to connect with God, if only for five minutes.
  • Get sleep. Sleep might as well be a spiritual disciple because without enough of it, all the other spiritual disciplines falter.
  • Walk. For me motionless prayer so often lapses into sleeping, so I pace around my house to keep myself awake and focused. If you’re able, quit the house for a prayer walk outside.

4 Steps to Accomplish Spiritual Goals

 

Delight

 

We’re all unfinished people. You. Me. We. We’re people who are becoming.

So I embrace this perennial season of hope and resolutions. I love how every one of us can begin a new chapter with our lives. We can end bad habits and begin new ones.

We can change. God can modify who we are.

I once thought God left this sanctifying work up to me. Like a fool, I behaved like I could alter my core spiritual DNA.

So I analyzed and scrutinized myself, and set out trying to fix what was broken.

If I came up short on love, I played the girl who loves like an actor. And during those years I smiled, a lot. But one day I realized this faux love wasn’t the agape I thought it was.

So I asked the God who defines himself as love to show me what loving people really looked like. He did.

I learned that I can’t accomplish anything apart from God. The spiritual growth we try and drum up in the flesh ends up looking like a Play-Doh “Gumby,” when God wants to create in us something akin to Michelangelo’s David.

If you’re New Year’s resolution is spiritual growth—Bible reading or prayer, don’t try to accomplish it on your own.

  • Start with God, and commit this goal to him only. Don’t make it about you. Make it about worship, not work.

 

  • Know that God can do in a year what it could take us 30 decades to do on our own. He’s that kind of Person, and he loves to do miracles for those who believe.

 

  • Just ask. “You don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it” (James 4:2 NLT).

 

  • And keep asking. If you’re hoping for spiritual growth, it’s the will of God. Let’s take Jesus’ advice this year:

Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8 NLT).

I would love to hear from you. What are you in the process of becoming?

I’m in the process of becoming a worshipper and not a worrier. I’m also learning the daily habit of writing. Life tastes sweeter when I string words together on a page.

What about you?

 

How Stillness Leads Us to Worship

 

Photo by Jimmy Brown via Creative Commons

Photo by Jimmy Brown via Creative Commons

I feel the space heater warm my nose while I tug the blanket ever closer. Today, cold air is the price I pay for half an hour of stillness.

I sneak away to the part of our house where the thermostat reads 60. I lay open my Bible along with my anxious mind and discouraged mama heart.

It’s worth the frigid toes—this rendezvous with Jesus.

And always in these moments I ask myself why I don’t purpose this quiet more.

Most days Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know I am God,” feels like an accusation. I want to be still and know. So I work harder to create rest time, but rest never comes.

But always when I work from a posture of rest, I’m amazed at what I accomplish.

There’s a type of prayer we yell in frustration. And another we whisper to ourselves, but the best prayer of all is the prayer when we stop to listen.

Photo via Creative Commons

Photo via Creative Commons

Photo by Vinoth Chandar via Creative Commons

Photo by Vinoth Chandar via Creative Commons

This God of ours longs to speak life to us. He pines to abide in us—to spill his life out of us.

It’s easiest to listen in the stillness, and I seem to only find these tranquil places out of desperation.

When my heart breaks, I come. When fears ransack, I seek out this solitude. “Here I am,” I whisper Isaiah’s ancient words. “Send me.”

So much of my time I spend searching for my calling “out there somewhere” I can never seem to reach. All the while taking for granted this greater calling that’s much closer to home.

Stillness helps me embrace motherhood, to rest into this calling of diapers and dishes. The practice of quiet grounds me with God’s purposes for me in the present.

Waiting on God helps give birth to the fruit of the Spirit in me. Show me a home that can function without love, joy and peace?

I’m learning to rest in this calling of motherhood. I’m learning to look past the work and the exhaustion of a job that never ends, because in the serving I catch a glimpse of the kingdom of God.

You know the one that appears sideways to us turned-around sinners? The one where the humble are exalted and the foolish teach the wise.

In the bowing low of motherhood I see how we’re most alive when we’re dead to self. I see how the real work is not in the doing, but in the quietness of believing.

Do you remember what Jesus told the over-zealous disciples who were eager to find out how to do the “greater works?”

“Jesus told them, ‘This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent’” (John 6:29 NLT).

Stillness can give birth to a beautiful belief.

And when we purpose to listen somehow we carry the stillness with us back into our chaos.

Bench photo credit

Grass photo credit

Rain photo credit

The Dark Side of Idealism

Photo by David Woo via Creative Commons

Photo by David Woo via Creative Commons

I came undone there on the floor of the downstairs bathroom, all sobs and chest heaving for air.

“Did someone die?” my husband asks through the crack in the door.

No death except the quiet passing away of my idealism. Those cruel visions of my better self melted right there on the tile floor.

It was the kind of weeping that had been building up for months, maybe even years, and it erupted like Mt. St. Helen.

“You’re scaring the kids,” he says about 15 minutes later.

“Just keep them upstairs,” I muster. “I’ll be up to put them to bed in a minute.”

One minute turned into another 15 as I realized I couldn’t hold back the tears, nor should I.

I wept for my inability to be a better mother, a more accomplished writer, a better equipped tutor or more caring friend.

I wept for my lack.

Like Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Courthouse I surrendered my idealism. I waved my white flag to God right there beside the toilet.

Some days our biggest enemy doesn’t prowl around like a roaring lion, it stares at us in the mirror.

It’s in the giving up of our goals and plans and our self-imposed deadlines that we can embrace God’s plans for us.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons

When we receive His grace each day, we take in His power, His perplexing strength to overcome our weaknesses.

I know these God paradoxes well.

It’s in the bending down to serve when we are lifted high.

It’s the open, empty hands God fills.

When we are weak, we’re really strong because His strength is made perfect in OUR weakness.

But these upside-down kingdom principles are only beautiful to a mind that’s been renewed. To all else, God’s ways are nonsensical, utter foolishness.

Despite knowing God’s grace is sufficient for me, I often try to perfect myself.

I want to be strong and flawless. I tire of being that earthen vessel the glory of God shines through. How about you? Do you long for God remove your weaknesses?

Asking for help is not my strong suit, but I’m learning to ask for help from people—and God.

But I’m relearning how to surrender each hour, each moment to God. And it’s in this place where our lives intersect with the abundant life Christ died to give us.

Giving up is the first step to abiding with Christ. Walking in the Spirit happens when we trade our comfortable pace to keep step with His Spirit.

Matthew Henry’s words I read earlier this week keep coming back, reminding me to keep seeking the Living Water.

“Sometimes He keeps the cistern empty; that He may bring us to Himself, the Fountain.”

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When Trusting God Doesn’t Come Easily

Prov 3

I have a love hate relationship with Proverbs 3:5-6.

God’s Word, I adore, but I’m not great at trusting.

Oh how I want to live out its beautiful simplicity. How I’ve pined for God to direct my path all these years. But lately, I just can’t help feeling mocked by this verse.

Telling me to lean not on my own understanding is a little like telling a height phobic to climb his first ropes course.

I didn’t realize it at the time. I was too busy laughing, but I witnessed this very thing when my 5-year old cajoled his dad onto a ropes course.

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ropes

Sammy

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My little guy couldn’t go up alone, and I didn’t bring closed-toed shoes, so my husband took the bait.

Mike comes from a long line of a feet-on-the-ground kind of people, and I’ll never forget the look of nervous panic on his face the first time our son asked him to ride a toddler roller coaster.

I saw the same look on his face as he stared at the five-story ropes course. But up he climbed and never looked back. He maneuvered the course, careful to avoid the many zip lines.

Not my son though. Once he was comfortable with the harness, he knew it was okay if he slipped. He understood he wouldn’t fall beyond the harness’ grip.

My son moved so fast the workers made him stop and wait for Mike to catch up. I lost count of all the times he zipped along, feet dangling in the air.

The ropes course has two exits. Take a bungee-type leap from the top or walk the ropes down. My son took the plunge. His dad took the long way.

I can’t help wonder how many times I’ve taken the long way because I couldn’t trust that God’s grip was strong enough to keep me from falling.

How many times have I missed the fun of zip lining through life because I couldn’t silence the nagging doubt in my mind?

I know I’m not alone. We’re safety obsessed people in service of a dangerous God.

Still, I watch God wooing me up my own ropes course of faith. My feet long for the ground and my hands ache from holding onto the cord that’s holding me.

Lately, I’ve failed at living Prov. 3:5-6 because I’ve made it all about me. I’ve put all the balls in my court.

It’s like I have an app gauging how well my heart is trusting, and I keep checking it all day instead of checking in with the trustworthy One.

One thing about trust I’m sure of, it doesn’t come by looking inward. Trust happens as we gaze upward.

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How to Fight for Joy in the Middle of Suffering

By Dennis Tai via Creative Commons

By Dennis Tai via Creative Commons

Suffering is the stone we so often stumble over in this walk of faith.

Even atheists might believe if life really did work out the way the diamond-clad, TV preachers say.

When trials hover like fog, we all wonder and question, and we’re all searching for God in the haze. The blind days teach us how to lean into God, but it’s our own understanding we so often cling to.

I watch a lanky sophomore wrestle with the age-old question of why God allows suffering. A car accident shattered his world before an injury sidelined him for the season.

He stares at the floor in our youth room. His hands awkwardly rest on his knees.

“God has numbered each person’s days,” I tell him, knowing full well he needs more than theological answers.

I know his real question. It’s the same one I ask when dark days mount, “Does God see me and does He care?”

Then there’s a dear friend, barely to her third decade, when her husband breaths his last. She faces the hardship alongside her two chubby-cheeked boys and a baby on the way.

Some days our hurting hearts call out to the most wounded of all, and the only Scripture we feel like reading is Job’s story.

By Vanessa via Creative Commons

By Vanessa via Creative Commons

I see Kara Trippett’s cancer ripped body lean over a boy in front of a makeshift birthday cake, just a doughnut with sprinkles and candles. His arms reach around Kara’s neck as he beams a cheesy smile into the camera. See the photo here.

Tears erupt blurring my vision as I stare at Kara’s sick frame. When she plants that kiss on his neck does she know it’s the last birthday kiss she will give him? Maybe I’m crying for the boy, or for the God who set joy ablaze in Kara’s eyes, despite the pain.

God hasn’t left for a coffee break when we suffer. The Bible reveals a God who both sees and cares. He is the One who initiates positive from the worst situations.

God did this for the slave girl, Hagar, and her stunning revelation answers our question, “Does God see me in this mess?”

The first time Hagar nearly dies in the desert, she’s pregnant and on the run. The Angel of the Lord shocks her and changes not only the way she views God, but how she sees herself.

“Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the LORD, who had spoken to her. She said, “You are the God who sees me” (Genesis 16:13 NLT).

We collide with Hagar again in Scripture after she’s booted out of her home back to the desert. She has teenage Ishmael in tow while she calculates how long it takes to thirst to death.

Is one epiphany ever enough? Like us, Hagar needed a reminder of the truth that God sees her. So, the Angel of the Lord appears again, opening her eyes so she can see a well.

Friend God sees you too just as He saw Hagar.

If you’re desert-weary and have sand in your shoes and the red ache of sunburn to prove it, listen up.

God wants to open your eyes. He has a well to show you, a well of His amazing joy right where you sit. This well runs deep and can only be found in a relationship with Jesus.

Romans 5:3 tells us to that we can rejoice in our suffering because of Jesus, because we have peace with Him through faith.

“And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love” (Romans 5:5 NLT).

This heartache and burden is only temporary, but the love of God lasts forever.

May you find the voice to rejoice today.

Blessings,

Trisha

 

Christmas in September

elf picIMG_1518   

It all started when I stopped to sniff the balsam candle in the hallway closet. Right there, behind the sheets, it called to me

Who doesn’t love the smell of a fresh-cut Christmas tree? I wanted to dive right into it.

After three weeks of homeschooling, I craved a holiday. That’s when the crazy idea hit me. Why not celebrate Christmas just for a day?

Yeah, I know we’re three months early. I know it’s 100 degrees in Texas. I’m just not very good a resting. So go ahead and laugh, but a pretend holiday provided the escape we needed.

So, the kids and I hatched a plan.

  1. Christmas pajamas.
  2. Christmas books.
  3. Presents (toys we sent on “vacation” to the garage a few months ago.)
  4. Christmas-style breakfast with dad.

While they prepared for bed, I snuck our “small” Christmas tree from the attic. By the time bedtime arrived, giddiness had reached a fever pitch.

Children stand ready to enjoy life. We can learn so much from them.

The morning arrived, and I dragged a plastic bag, stuffed with out-of-rotation toys, into our living room and parked them under the tree.

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We whistled to Christmas music and lowered the AC to one degree below chilly. What is Christmas without snuggling under covers and hot chocolate?

The pretense didn’t stop there. The kids piled on hats, scarves and gloves to add to the make believe.

I admit, I struggle at make believe. Heck. Sometimes, I struggle to believe at all.

Belief comes so easily to children. I want belief like that, and I think I have discovered a little of their magic.

1. Children don’t care what others think.

Adults think this kind of make-believe, Christmas in September is foolish. Not kids. They don’t need cold, hard facts like when a holiday actually appears on the calendar to celebrate.

2. Kids focus on the good. Kids gravitate toward fun and joy. What would happen if we all chose to focus on the good in our lives instead of the lack?

We all desire joy, but kids don’t have walls around their hearts to prevent this joy.

After breakfast we thanked God for sending His Son.

Tonight we’ll take the tree down grateful for our misplaced holiday. The kids didn’t want to stop celebrating. Who would?

“Are we going to celebrate New Year’s in September, too,” one of the kids asked.

“No, we aren’t,” I said, admiring that kind of audacious hope.

3. Kids always hope.

Looking back at the rare moments I find myself full of child-like faith I’m usually meditating on the good, forsaking what others think and hoping for the best.

How about you?

The Brave Song

cliffjumping

As I awake a tidal wave of anxiety rolls in and pins me to my bed.

I hear the kids downstairs, and that tone of voice means one thing—a fight will ensue. I pull the covers over my head and let the undertow of dread pull me under.

The kitchen needs cleaned. The laundry beast needs tamed. Church responsibilities loom. Is this my life?

I hear my husband break up the fight. The house quiets, but an unseen hand turns up the volume of negativity in my mind, lies amplified.

You’re a failure, the worst mom ever. Loser. Fat. Idiot. Hack. Poser. Socially Inept.

If “hope is a thing with feathers that perches in the soul,” as Emily Dickenson said, then my hope just flew the coop.

But then I hear it, my new war cry. An anthem I sing to myself when I don’t want to face the world outside my covers.

Be brave.

That’s all I say, but the whisper stirs in me courage to quit the bed and put feet to floor. I am brave, I tell myself. No longer a lily-livered girl, God made me strong, confident and full of faith.

I’m learning to speak kind words to myself—the words of God. These truth words don’t come easily. Sometimes they burrow through two tons of lies before they can settle in my mind.

On my darkest days these lies roar to me from my dreams. Singing the brave song helps. Faith quiets the lies like rain clouds part for the sun.

The Bible brims over with songs of courage. Some days I murmur these ancient brave songs to myself.

“Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits— who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,

 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,  who satisfies your desires

with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Pslam 103: 2-5 NIV).

Abraham knew about bravery. I can see old Abe leaving home when God said so, setting off for destination unknown. I see him stroke his beard and ponder. Does he overanalyze every bend in the road like I tend to?

I didn’t think so a few years ago. I saw Abraham as fearless—so patriarchal and perfect. I realize now perfect, is what I imposed on Abraham—it was the ideal I reached for. Perfect and fearless.

I’m sure Abraham had moments, seasons—maybe even years of doubt.

I can see Abraham having it out with God right there on the road to Canaan, maybe just like the fight I heard from my covers.

God, why are you making me move? Can’t you just tell me where I’m going? Can’t you see what a huge inconvenience this is for me?

Abraham, the father of our faith, probably knew better than anyone how belief and fear can mingle.

Watch him walk toward Mt. Moriah, wood on his back and his Isaac chatting innocently by his side. You think his heart wasn’t pounding out of his chest?

But somehow Abraham learned that faith is not the absence of fear. He learned to dance to the rhythm of his own fearful heart.

Abraham found his own brave song.

Maybe it was the sound of bushes in the wind mixed with the cricket’s song, the first time God appeared to him.

In the middle of crippling fear, faith can arise. It can be as simple as a tune that your heart hums and when all hope has vanished.

What’s your brave song? What tract do you play in your mind to overcome fear?

 

 

 

 

If God Would Tweet

 

 

God's love

I saw him leaning against the wall near the door of Braum’s, oblivious to the world, entranced by the voice on the other end of the phone.

I stole a glance as I loaded my kids in the car. I smiled a “knowing smile” if there ever was one. He was just a boy, 17 maybe. I knew his look, that smitten smile.

He swam in her words, practically drowned. He was drenched in love, or was it infatuation? Still, it made me wonder. When was the last time my breathing slowed and my heart beat faster to hear someone’s voice?

As I drove home I pondered why reading the Bible has become so difficult for me lately.

I once read the Bible like a lover, hanging on every word, but now I read it like an archeologist, a theologian, a person with a to-do list. Why don’t I feel the passion I once did when I read those ancient words?

After all, isn’t this what Scripture is, God’s love letter to us? His love infused into the world, unfurled in a beautiful narrative of His grace, His redemption of mankind?

This reminds me of the letter to the church of Ephesus in Revelation. “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first” (Rev. 2:4 NIV).

The church in Ephesus received praise for endurance and perseverance, but they lost some of the ardor they once prized above all else.

Likewise, our love for Christ can erode. Life smashes in our hopes or unanswered prayer diminishes our love. It’s not that we’ve left Jesus. We’re still faithful, but the enthusiastic love we once offered Christ can slacken.

We see this happen in marriage, too, don’t we? Romance changes. It matures. If bitterness and resentment slip in and remain unresolved, love can unravel all together.

Teenage love remains powerful because it’s not jaded. It’s simple, pure devotion and oh so naive. We know better as adults.

No, I don’t believe we should always feel God’s love like a whirlwind sweeping us away. Life doesn’t work like that. It can smash us in and skin our knees.

What I’m talking about is losing love for God in the quietness of complacency, losing trust that He wants to pick us up, soothe us and bandage our bloody knees.

We must return to our first love because His love for us never fails and stands infinitely taller than our love for Him ever will.

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If the famous verse from Song of Solomon, “He has brought me to his banquet hall, and his banner over me is love” (2:4 NASB), were written in modern English it might sound more like this:

He doesn’t stop tweeting night and day about His love for me. My picture floods his FaceBook timeline. He can’t wait to introduce me to all of his friends and family.

Whether it’s difficult or easy to believe, know it’s true. He’s crazy about you.

“How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand– when I awake, I am still with you” (Psalm 119: 17-18 NIV).