Gather.

I was hoping to share with you an article I got published in a magazine. Instead, it’s an article I wrote for a magazine, but they in fact decided not to publish it. I’ve set some writing goals for myself, among other goals, and writing articles was one of them. Turns out, just like the all the real authors say, there is a lot of rejection associated with writing. Not cool. So, while this article was in fact rejected, I have to giggle to myself because I think it’s pretty good. Okay, I’m clearly biased, and maybe it’s just barely decent.

ButI hope you can see how special you are, my dear reader, since I feel like I can in fact share this article with you. It was tempting to tell myself because it wasn’t good enough for a magazine, it’s not good enough for anyone to read. But, I’m choosing to believe that isn’t true. I’m choosing to believe that perhaps it wasn’t the right article for them, but it’s still an article filled with truth, real life, and one woman’s thoughts on gathering.

The topic was simply “Gather.”  How appropriate with Thanksgiving just a month away!

Here is the article….

Gathering is essential. Our need for heart to heart connection is vital to our survival. And it is a silent and powerful way of demonstrating that no matter what we believe,  where we stand politically, or who or what we worship, that we love someone. We value them. When we gather, we are saying that even though we have differences, and life is hard and complicated, being together and making time for each other is bigger than those things.

 

Sadly, I recently lost sight of that. Just this past summer we visited our extended family in California. My husband and I braved the expensive and long international flights with our three kids so we could gather with our family and closest friends. And we usually have a pretty great time. But this particular trip, well, it was a cluster. I am not solely referring to the standard cluster we normally are as we travel internationally with 3 kids under five; as we lug around 3 car seats, 5 pieces of luggage, backpacks, strollers, sippy cups and snacks falling behind us like we’re Hansel and Gretel. People see us coming and they give us either sympathetic nods or annoyed side ways glances, praying we aren’t on the same plane.

 

No, I’m more specifically referring to the actual time with our families that was just not as great as it usually is, and it’s usually pretty amazing.  I still am unsure what exactly went wrong, but I think it was a combination of poor communication, bad planning, and not nearly enough grace for each other.

 

For weeks after we returned my husband and I talked about it. We dissected it, hoping to figure out what went wrong. And we blamed. Oh, how we blamed. As we picked everything apart, and finger pointed, all we began to focus on was our differences. We are all so very different from each other. My siblings, and my husbands siblings, we are all grown up now. Like, full blown real adults, with spouses, children of our own, and even real careers. And as we’ve grown up, thankfully, we’ve changed. We are no longer the immature children we once were; locking one another out of rooms, wearing each others clothes without asking, lurking around corners hoping to scare the other into tears, and taking family game night just a little too far with our competitiveness. Okay, confession, some things some of us haven’t outgrown. Ehem. So naturally, with all that growing up, we see things differently. We believe different ideals, we vote differently, we spend our money differently, we vacation differently, we school our children differently, we have different thoughts and ideas about Jesus, and we are raising our families differently.
That’s a lot of differences.

 

And that was all I could focus on for a while. But I finally decided to talk to the Lord about it, perhaps rant is a bit more accurate, and He listened. Then He held up a mirror to my heart, in the tender way that He does, and showed me my culpability. He showed me how desperately I lacked kindness and grace.  Grace. One thing I desperately needed on that particular trip, but sadly wasn’t able or willing to give. I was too consumed with my own stress, my own life, my own little family.

 

I knew I had to apologize. And I had a feeling, deep in my heart, there was something else God wanted me to do. My pride was telling me that time would heal this wound, and maybe we’d just not visit again for another year, or two. Because I knew if I wasn’t ready for another visit, they too probably weren’t too thrilled about us coming back so soon. But the Lord was prompting me to take a different route. He wanted me to repent, extend grace, and take the path towards reconciliation. And He also wanted me to book plane tickets, and more specifically, not in two years from now.

 

So, I finally listened. We are going to visit my family thisThanksgiving, and we put another trip on the calendar to visit my husband’s family next spring. Sure it means we’ll spend more money traveling, we’ll use all our vacation time visiting family, and we’ll be going back when our hearts are still a little tender from the last visit.

 

But we are going to do it, because I know what else it means. It means we are sowing peace, and choosing love. These next two trips are an olive branch, the best way I can tangibly demonstrate my love for them. I want them to hear me, loud and clear, when I say that I love you. Even when I act selfishly, even though I’m probably not always easy to love. Even though there was hurt and misunderstanding on both ends. Because I am learning it’s essential to choose love, and give grace freely, especiallyin the thick of our differences.

 

So as I prepare for this next gathering, I want to be a little less concerned with what I’m packing, and spend a more time preparing my heart, asking the Lord to fill me with more of Him, and less of me. It’s only with the Lord’s help that I can do that. Because, let’s be honest, if I’m going to brave another international flight with my adorable but legit hot mess of a crew, that’s the only way I want to arrive. Full of grace and love, and perhaps a few half chewed goldfish stuck to my pants as well.

 

 

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Making a list.

I’m doing a little research, and I’d love your help.

The topic is obedience. Don’t shy away from that word, because I know some of us sort of cringe when we hear it. Doing what someone else tells me to? We are adults for goodness sakes. But obedience to the Lord is a key facet of following Him, we all know that. And we also know there are so many reasons why we don’t do it.  It’s hard and complicated and has the potential to put us in awkward situations!

I’m making a list of all the reasons why we don’t obey the Lord. I’ve had some help from Priscilla Shirer, she shared some answers that her followers shared on Twitter. I thought they were pretty good! But I would also like to add to the list. So, could you do me a favor and read over her list? And if you have anything to add, leave a comment! I’d so appreciate it!

  1. Fear
  2. Pride
  3. Laziness
  4. Stubbornness
  5. Peer Pressure
  6. Lack of trust in God
  7. How do I begin?
  8. I’m too unsure
  9. Impatient with God’s timing
  10. Too busy
  11. I might be hearing Him wrong
  12. Previous disappointment
  13. Doubt that I’ll like His response/what He asks of me
  14. Procrastination

 

 

 

Back to school.

Those words haven’t meant much to me, since it’s only just this year that my oldest has gone off to Kindergarten. It actually feels a lot like last year, since she did Pre-K. But last year, my friends, was nothing like this year.

I know back to school is about, well, kids going back to school. But it’s also about the teachers and parents too! Mine is fairly independent she hardly turned back around to kiss me goodbye. So since it didn’t seem traumatizing for her, I am left thinking about how it feels for the mamas. Because when you are a new mom, to a new school, with it’s rules (both written and unwritten) it’s overwhelming.  I am usually not a very anxious person, but that first week last year just about did me in. I didn’t know where to park, (rather what to do when there were not spots left even though I showed up 15 minutes), I somehow couldn’t keep track of which day was regular uniform and which was PE (and a free color day mixed in there) so my daughter came to school wearing the wrong thing the first four days of class. She of course didn’t even notice, but I actually cried hot and angry tears that fourth day. I also didn’t know if I was allowed to let my other two littler children play on the school playground before school started, because some siblings were and others were not. And regarding packing a lunch, I somehow managed to botch that one too. I didn’t know that recess was actually pretty short, and here I was packing her a 3 course lunch for the day. I finally figured it out when my daughter begged me to not pack so much food because she didn’t have time to eat and play. Yes, she had been missing both recesses every day because she thought she had to eat everything in her lunch. Fail!

But this year was different. And because my head wasn’t stuck up my butt worrying about myself, my daughter, and what on earth was going on, I could actually look up and see what was going on around me.

And it was beautiful.

It was sort of like people watching at the airport, with the long hugs, teary faces, and a little bit of confusion all mixed in. Note: I am in the Pre-K and K section, hence the more abundance of tears. I saw one couple run and take cover behind a tree when they dropped of their little one, close enough to hear if their kid was okay, but most certainly to hide. Another mom I know was putting her 3rd child in Kindergarten, the last one to leave the house, and what a sweet and emotional time for them both. One little girl was crying, just crying and crying and everyone passed her parents with sincere looks of understanding. And of course lots of chatting (both awkward and not as much) catching up with familiar faces you didn’t see over the summer.

And slowly, every single parent got back into their car and left. Some to continue with the regular rhythm of work, others to return to an empty house which hasn’t been empty of little people in the morning time in years and years. Others loitered, probably unsure what to do with this new found freedom. Freedom that as parents we find ourselves feeling simultaneously giddy, sad, apprehensive, and overwhelmed. We don’t know if we want to do a jig all the way back to the car, or cry our eyeballs out. Such a strange feelings this first week of school brings.

So I took some advice of a dear friend, and whispered in my daughter’s ear. I encouraged her to be brave and kind. And to look for someone who might be having a rough day, someone new, someone perhaps a little scared. I remind her to be a sweet friend. And as I told her those things, and kissed her sweet face and sent her into Kindergarten, I couldn’t help but about myself. How I should do the same, walk into my day looking at the moms around me dealing with the same back to school drop off cocktail of emotions, and be kind to them. And tell myself to brave as well. Because going back to school is hard- and amazing- for every student, parent, (and teacher!!) the world over.

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