The Weirdest Bill Ever


I’ve developed a special cringe-face which I use solely for opening bills. This is a result of having both the electric and gas bills double recently. A while back, we signed a two-year contract with a market supplier for gas and electric. This saved a great deal of money for the first two years, but the rates skyrocketed when the contract ended. Hence the doubled bills. I had every intention of watching for this increase and switching suppliers before the rates hiked up, but I got distracted by things like cutting crusts off PBJ sandwiches, attempting to potty train, and trying to find a single matching pair of socks in the laundry pile. (Seriously, where are all the socks going?!)

Anyway. Now I have this special bill-opening-cringe-face, because—I realize this sounds dramatic—I’m a little traumatized by the doubled utility bills.

In February, we received a bill from a healthcare provider. I had a major cringe-face when opening this bill. Healthcare provider bills, in my experience, are basically horror movies in an envelope. Imagine my relief to find this bill was only for $23.00. I perused the bill (which included detailed insurance adjustments) shrugged, nodded, and sent in our check—no questions asked.

At this point, you’re thinking, Wow. This is a rather boring blog post. I can’t believe I’ve wasted three minutes of my life reading about your $23.00 medical bill.

But stay with me, we’re going somewhere slightly more interesting with this.

Several weeks later, we received another bill in the mail from this same healthcare provider. Lots of internal panic and cringing ensued, because I naturally assumed this bill was for upwards of one million dollars. (Like I said, I’m traumatized.)

So I opened it up, ever so carefully, and peeked into the envelope with only one eye open. I peeked just enough to kind of sort of see how many zeros we were talking here.

And I saw the weirdest thing.

There, in the envelope, was our original bill, along with our original check, and a letter. The letter read: According to our records, there is NO balance on your account and I am therefore returning your check to you.

Weird, right? At some point, their records obviously indicated a balance on our account. Hence the original bill. But all the sudden, no balance. No need for us to pay anything at all.

This never happens. Like, ever. I was skeptical. I was weirded-out, if you will. A flood of questions entered my mind.

What is this all about? What should I make of this? What’s the catch?

Then, I saw the craziest thing of all.

There, on our original bill, someone had crossed out the Amount Paid section. When they crossed it out, they ended up making a fish symbol. The same symbol that has come to represent Jesus. No joke. I can’t make this stuff up. Look:

I don’t know if the person who did this meant to do it or not. But I’m confident God meant for me to share this simple illustration with you.

As Easter approaches, I’m reminded that this is what Jesus did for each and every one of us. He made our debt disappear, separating it “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12).

I don’t know about you, but if I were left to pay my own debt to God, that would be one terrifying, cringeworthy bill. It would be something I could never, ever pay on my own.

Because of Jesus, there is no balance on my account. That’s truly something to celebrate.

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteousness, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit (1 Peter 3:8)

I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you. (Isaiah 44:22)

A Song on Repeat


There is a special kind of humility that comes with driving around in a used, powder-blue minivan. Especially when said minivan also has a glitter finish. I know, because I’ve been doing it for the past few months.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for my minivan. And I wouldn’t trade it, glitter and all. It just doesn’t scream cool. There was a time when, through a series of opportune events, I drove a Mustang GT. It was a short time, because through a series of not-so-opportune events, I crashed it… but there was a time.

Something tells me the powder-blue glittery minivan will be with me for a long, long time.

Anyway. I’ve done my best to become fully committed to this less-cool phase of life. In fact, I like to enhance the overall minivan experience by playing loud children’s songs, often on repeat. (Truth: I don’t actually like to do this, but I do like when the kids aren’t screaming, so if they want to hear a song on repeat, I figure it’s a small price to pay for peace.)

For the past—I don’t know, three years it feels like, but probably eight days or so—we’ve been driving around with a certain song on repeat. It’s from a cd we received as a gift, which is really a great thing, because it takes simple Bible verses and puts them to a catchy tune, so you can get the tune stuck in your head and have the Bible verses memorized. My kids have memorized lots of verses this way. The one they’ve been into lately is Philippians 4:13—I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. If you want to step into my world and listen to the song, here’s a link. Just play this over and over for about thirteen hours, and you’ll get an idea of how many times I’ve heard this song lately.

At some point over the past several days, I think I tuned it out. Moms can be really good at tuning things out. It’s a survival skill. Not the kids, though. They sang it enthusiastically every time it played. And every time the song ended they shouted, “Again!” Then they cheered with delight when it came back on.

One morning this week my little girl woke up and asked for a piece of paper and a pencil. She was determined to write down those words—I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me—first thing in the morning.

And then the craziest thing happened. I went to drop this precious girl off at school, prepared to engage in the usual routine of peeling her off my leg and gently pushing her into the classroom while she’s desperately clinging to me. But I didn’t have to. For the first time in her life, she walked away from me with complete confidence.

She looked over her shoulder, gave me a smile, and said, “Bye, Mom.” Then she was gone.

I was stunned. When I picked her up, we celebrated a little and I asked her about it. I said, “You had so much courage going to school today! Where did that come from?”

She told me, “I just thought about the words in that song. And I thought of them so hard that nothing could distract me. And I knew I could be brave about going to school.”

Every day since, she’s walked right into the classroom with the same confidence. There’s been a drastic and remarkable change in this child.

A few days later we were out at a play place, and there was a tall green tunnel slide there. The thing about tall green tunnel slides is that they seem dark inside, so my kids avoid them. I asked my daughter if she wanted to try the slide, and she said, “No way.”

After a little while, out of nowhere, she climbed the stairs and went right down. Then she did it over and over again, squealing with joy each time. This went on for at least thirty minutes. At one point her little brother joined in the fun.

We were recounting the experience that evening, and again she told me how the words in the song gave her courage. Then she said something I will never, never forget. It’s something I just have to share with you.

She said, “That song changed my whole life.”

That song changed my whole life.

It’s adorable, of course, when a little kid talks about something changing her whole life. Because the giants in her world are small right now; preschool drop-offs and tunnel slides. Nevertheless, those words did change her whole life. I saw it happen right before my eyes.

She didn’t do these big brave things because I talked her into them or bribed her to do them. She did them because God’s Word settled into her heart, and she was changed.

God’s Word changes people. That’s what it’s done for thousands of years, and that’s what it will continue to do until the end of time.

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11 ESV)

I suppose there’s no better gift I can give my kids than the gift of letting them listen to God’s Word over and over (and over) again as we cruise around town in our glittery minivan. To the person who introduced my kids to these songs in the first place (you know who you are), thank you.

I don’t know what the giants are in your world right now. If I had to guess, I’d say they’re probably bigger than tunnel slides and preschool drop-offs. All I know for sure is this: God’s Word changes things.

If you find yourself in need of a change today, my prayer for you is that you’ll have the courage to look in the one place where true, lasting change can be found.

…and you shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:32 ESV)

Late to 2018


It is January 10th, and I just got the calendar switched over. More on that in a moment.

First, I want to gush for a little bit and tell you that I see the Lang Folk Art calendar as the equivalent of comfort food hanging on the wall. My mother always kept one around when I was growing up. She didn’t use it to keep the family organized with important dates and appointments, though. My mother used these calendars as something like a prehistoric Facebook feed, complete with hand-drawn emojis, because she was ahead of her time. Twenty-five years ago, my mother’s January calendar would’ve been peppered with entries like this:

Courtney built a snowman (hand-drawn smiley face)

Or, Christmas break is already over (hand-drawn crying face)

One day a couple years back I was sitting in a girlfriend’s kitchen and I caught a glimpse of her Lang calendar hanging in a frame. All the memories of my mother’s calendars came flooding back – like I said, comfort food on the wall. Ever since then I’ve had one on my wall, too.

Our calendar is kept in a place where we can see it as we come and go. I took down the 2017 calendar today and flipped through it. A quick glance told me that we use our calendar to manage relationships and to plan the sharing of our lives with others. Our 2017 calendar is crammed with names of the people we were blessed to do life with over the past year. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Of course, this new calendar is empty right now. That’s because I’m a little late to 2018. Ten days late, if we’re counting.

I didn’t burst into 2018 when the ball dropped. There were quite a few reasons for this, but perhaps the biggest was the fact that the stomach flu came roaring through the house. So I missed the time when people everywhere were making fresh starts and feeling more motivated than ever to tackle new challenges, finally get organized, and be healthier. While all this was transpiring, I was setting my sights on getting up off the bathroom floor and out of the pajamas I’d been wearing for three days straight. And quite frankly, the goal seemed far too lofty.

So yeah, I didn’t propel into 2018 with enthusiasm and zeal. I crawled into 2018 like a swamp monster; not even the cool and scary kind of swamp monster, but the pathetic kind from the old movies, back before special effects could make them seem truly scary, so they just looked kind of sad. I crawled into 2018 like that, only to be met with the numerous unintended consequences of being a sick mom. You know, mounds of laundry and empty refrigerators, those sorts of things.

I’ve been climbing out of the pit. I have a little way to go, I suppose.

This isn’t meant to be a depressing post, however. So let’s shift tones a bit.

Here’s the important thing I want to share with you today. This is what I’m hanging my soggy-swamp-monster-hat on as I (finally) enter this year:

“New” isn’t something to be grasped on January 1st. New is something to be grasped each morning.

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‭‭(Lamentations‬ ‭3:22-23‬ ‭ESV)

Sure, I missed the chance at the iconic “fresh start” of the New Year. But in thinking it over, I’ve realized something much bigger: All too often, I miss the daily fresh start that’s mine to take hold of every morning, simply because of who Jesus is and who He calls me to be.

In a weird sort of way, I’m grateful for how this year started, because it helped me to realize how important it is to welcome each day with the new mercies and renewal that only Jesus can offer. To let go of any burdens or negative attitudes from yesterday instead of carrying these things around for days and weeks at a time.

I can testify, now that I’ve officially missed the start of a New Year, that missing your chance at a fresh start leaves you feeling a little behind, a little sluggish, a little grumpy. A little swamp-monsterish, if you will. That’s no way to wake up each morning.

Look out, 2018, I have officially arrived! I don’t come resolving to get healthy or get organized. I simply come ready to wake up to the new mercies I so desperately need each morning; ready to put on my new self; ready to be transformed. Ready to let others do the same.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a pit to dig out of—and a calendar to fill.

And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you. (‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭4:23-24‬ ‭MSG‬‬)

I Told My Kids They Belong on The Naughty List. Here’s Why…


Two Decembers ago I took this photo of my son and captioned it: Wait… what naughty list?  

The expression on his tiny face still makes me laugh every time I see it.

The other day, I saw a similar expression on his face when I told him (along with his older sister) some harrowing news about the naughty list. Here’s what happened:

I was reading the kids some cutesy Christmas book about a little boy who dreamed he was on the naughty list and woke up to a stocking full of coal. When the story was over, my daughter asked, “How do people get on the naughty list?”

“What do you mean?” I was buying some time. I do this a lot when answering her questions.

She proceeded to ask if her brother might be on the naughty list. “Because he does naughty things sometimes,” she said.

I nodded. Valid point. (Almost-three-year-old boys can be a bit of a handful.)

It could’ve been such an easy conversation. I could have said, “No, he’s not on the naughty list.” Then we could have moved on.

But I didn’t say that. Because apparently I’m not one for easy conversations. Instead, I felt a tremendous burden to take this opportunity to tell my little girl something. I asked her, “What does the Bible say about this? Does the Bible say we’re naughty?”

You could see the wheels in her head spinning. After a long time she answered, “The Bible says we’re… nice? Right?”

I shook my head. “No, sweetie. The Bible says we have all done naughty things. This is called sin. And we all have sin. We all belong on the naughty list.”

…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23 ESV)

My son, who had been shoving fistfuls of Cheerios into his mouth this whole time, paused, mid-bite. His eyes widened.

“Even me?” my daughter asked. “Do I belong on the naughty list?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Even you?” she asked.

My mind went back to a few days earlier, when I dropped a 42-pound double jogging stroller on my foot while unloading it from the van in a crowded parking lot. The pain was so fast and intense, without thinking I let a word fly out of my mouth that was neither holly nor jolly. I remembered a whole lot of other things, too. Things from long, long ago, that still have the power to make me cringe if I let myself dwell on them.

“Yes,” I said. “Even me. We all have sin. Every last one of us.”

“Does even Jesus belong on the naughty list?” she asked, her voice louder than before.

“Well, no, actually. That’s the whole point. Jesus did not have sin. But he took the sin of the whole world onto himself, and he died so that we could be free from the penalty of our sin.”

She furrowed her brow. I tried explaining it again, in terms more appropriate for a preschooler.

“Every last one of us belongs on the naughty list,” I told her. “There’s nothing any of us could do to earn our way off the naughty list. No matter how good we are, no matter how hard we try, we could never be good enough to measure up to God. The Bible says the only way to be right with God is to accept the free gift that Jesus gave to each of us. The gift is called salvation. Jesus saved us from being stuck on the naughty list forever. And even if you’ve done something really, really bad—even if you’ve done the worst thing you can imagine, you can still be saved because Jesus gave this gift to everyone. That’s what the Bible says.”

“So I belong on the naughty list?”

“Yes, sweetie. You belong on the naughty list, and so does your brother, and so does Mommy. We all belong on the naughty list, every last person. But because of Jesus, we don’t have to stay there. And that’s why Christmas is such a big deal. That’s why it’s so very, very special.”

We talked a lot more after that. My daughter learned a big new word, Redeemed. (Which, by the way, sounds super cute coming out of her mouth because she pronounces her R as W.)

And, as far as I can tell, getting the news that they belong on the naughty list didn’t ruin Christmas for my kids.

We focus a lot on that, as parents—on not “ruining” Christmas. We focus on making Christmas magical and perfect for our children. We feel this pressure to bring the wonder of the season to our kids. But I want to be ever so careful, in sharing the wonder of Christmas, not to miss the mark.

I want to be careful to avoid the cultural pressure to teach my kids that they need to strive to be good, because someone’s watching, and they’ll be judged on how well they strived to measure up to this standard of “good”. I want to avoid teaching them this because it’s just not true. The truth is none of us could be good enough. Ever. That’s the whole point of Christmas.

I want to be intentional about teaching them not to strive to make the cut, but rather to accept that they could never make the cut on their own. I want to teach them to embrace their spot on the naughty list, and my hope is that someday, they’ll embrace the Savior who was sent to rescue them.

Here’s the thing: I’ve talked to a lot of grown ups about this. We don’t use the phrase naughty list, of course. Instead, we talk about regrets, about shame, about feelings of not being good enough. We are living in a world that is very much focused on being good enough—on striving to be liked and accepted. Perhaps it’s because we start striving, as children, to be on the nice list. And perhaps we take this mentality of earning our way onto the nice list into our relationship with God. We think we first have to be on the nice list, and then we can have a relationship with God.

Then, this “try to be good” mentality turns into a very vague and dangerous lie: that if we’re generally a good person, we’ll hopefully make the team and go to Heaven.

That’s not what the Bible says at all. The Bible says the only way to go to Heaven is to accept that we’re not good enough, and that we need a Savior. The Bible is clear that our only hope is to accept the free gift of salvation that only Jesus can offer, because we can’t earn it, no matter what we do.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6 ESV)

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph 2:8-9 ESV)

So let me be the one this Christmas to say something very important to you, if you haven’t heard it:

You don’t have to strive to measure up. You never will measure up. None of us will. Please don’t miss out on knowing Jesus because you think you’re not good enough. That’s the whole point! It’s why he came, and it’s why he died. Because you’re not good enough. Neither am I. We don’t have to pretend to be. I hear far too many people joke that, “If I walked into a church, it would burst into flames.” If that were true, there wouldn’t be a church still standing, because every person who will walk into a church this weekend has struggled and will struggle with sin. The truth is, all of Heaven rejoices when someone full of sin decides to drop the pretense, to stop pretending they’re okay, and come to Jesus, broken and real.

Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue. (Luke 15:7 MSG)

We all belong on the naughty list. But we don’t have to stay there.

If you haven’t embraced your place on the naughty list yet, if you’re still striving to measure up, and if you’re exhausted from all that striving, why not lay it down this Christmas? A good way to start is to head to church. You don’t necessarily have to be at church to get to know Jesus, but it helps. It helps to spend regular time learning about who God is and who you’re called to be. You might be very surprised at what you find out.

If you’re local, and you’re looking for a place to go, get in touch! I know a place, and you’ll even have someone to sit with… a fellow sinner who belongs on the naughty list, too.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16-17 ESV)

Real Rest for Real-Tired Moms


(Transcript from my talk at a gathering of amazing moms on November 16, 2017)

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” – Matthew 11:28-30, MSG

In a room full of this many moms, it’s safe to say a lot of us, if not all of us, are tired. Worn out. Burned out. If you came here today feeling this way, like you’re running on empty, then I’m especially excited to speak with you. I’m going to tell you about my journey to find real, soul-level rest – “rhythms of grace” in the middle of the knee-deep crazy of motherhood.

I’m going to tell you about Sabbath – regular time set aside for rest and worship.

Now I know that word – Sabbath – can sound outdated and kind of scary even. At least, that’s how it used to sound for me. So right off the bat, I want to tell you I’m not going to be slamming you with a bunch of rules today. I hope you walk away with some helpful ideas for how to experience God’s gift of rest on a deeper level, but these ideas are in no way meant to be strict rules to follow in order to “do Sabbath right”. This is not about giving you a bunch of spiritual hoops to jump through. This is about stepping away from expectations, our own and those others place on us. This is about breaking the chains that are holding us back from living the abundant life we already have in Jesus.

I also want to confess that I’m not sharing with you today because I’m really good at this whole Sabbath thing. In fact, by nature, I’m really bad at it. So very bad at it. But God, in his mercy, has called me (and all of us, really) to a different way of living. Through studying what the Bible has to say about Sabbath, I’ve learned that we are not called to be constantly overwhelmed, stressed out, and exhausted. My journey to discover this different way of living has been an imperfect one, but it has also been a beautiful and transformative one, and I just can’t wait to share it with you.

If you’re here today and you’re not in a relationship with Jesus, stay with me, because I’m confident you will still glean some good takeaways from this time. Takeaways that will hopefully strengthen you in your role as a mother. Because we all could use deeper, soul-level rest; reminding us that we are human beings, not human doings.

Let’s pray.

Heavenly Father, thank you for creating everything, including rest. You made us and you know how much our bodies, minds, and souls need rest. And yet, we run from resting in you. We search for rest and rejuvenation in places where there is none to be found. Forgive us for turning to empty sources of fulfillment. May our weary and burdened hearts learn to seek your presence and find real rest. I pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Okay. So. The first job I had out of college, I worked as a recruiter for a foster care agency. My job was to find potential foster parents, vet them, and then take them through the licensing process. The job sort of forced you to get up in people’s business, so I got to know some of these people pretty well.

I worked with this one particular woman for a while, and as I took her through the process to become a foster parent, she decided if I was going to get all up in her business, it was only fair that she’d get all up in my business, too. So she was always calling me out and challenging me on all sorts of stuff. And she had this go-to phrase that she said over and over again. Whenever I asked how she was doing, she’d respond with, “I’m too blessed to be stressed.”

So one day, I go to her house and ask how she’s doing. And she says, as expected, “I’m too blessed to be stressed.” But then she says something unexpected. Then she goes… “Are you?”

And I say, “Am I what?”

And she goes, “Are you too blessed to be stressed?”

I could already see where this was going.

I was partly joking, partly serious when I said, “I think I might be doing it backwards. Is it possible to be too stressed to be blessed?”

Well… we had a conversation. Because as you may have guessed, she indeed thought I was too stressed to be blessed. Our conversation didn’t really change anything, but I mention it because it helps to set the scene for who I was before stepping into the regular rhythm of Sabbath. Apparently, I was someone who gave off a “too stressed to be blessed” vibe.

Fast forward to a few years later, I didn’t have any kids yet, and I’d met one of my girlfriends from my minichurch for a walk. So we’re out walking, and she goes, “I tried to call you Sunday, but your phone went straight to voicemail.”

She assumed I had turned my phone off in observance of the Sabbath, and she went on to explain how she thought it was amazing that I was so disciplined to set boundaries for quiet space with the Lord.

The thing was, though, that my phone wasn’t off in observance of the Sabbath. Quite the opposite, actually. My phone was off because it had died while I was running around like a madwoman that particular Sunday. At this point in my life I was in a much more demanding marketing and public relations job, and I had a ton of stuff to tackle before the work week started. And when my phone died, I was so frantic and stressed that I didn’t even have a minute to spare to charge it. (If you’re wondering how I survived, this was back in the flip phone days.)

So I sheepishly admitted this to my friend. Honestly, at the time, even hearing the word Sabbath felt really strange to me. It was a word I didn’t really understand. Here’s what I did know, or what I thought I knew: Sabbath was for like, the SUPER Holy people. The people who have their stuff together. The people who come early to church with their Bibles in the quilted carrying pouches. Those kinds of people. Surely this whole Sabbath thing wasn’t for a stress-mess like me. I figured someday, maybe, I’d arrive at this place where I finally was together enough to incorporate Sabbath into my life. Someday. Maybe.

Fast forward a little more, to a time when I was a mother, and my husband and I welcomed baby number two. Things got crazy during this time. My daughter was two and a half when my son was born. Just having a toddler and a newborn at the same time… I don’t even need to explain. You girls know. Things were more complicated than usual though, because in the first few months of my son’s life, we moved not once, but twice. And for two months we lived among boxes with our two small children at my in-laws’ house. Meanwhile, my mom got diagnosed with cancer and passed away from it. It was a very, very hard time. And everything felt completely upside down and chaotic, as it would on even a good day with very small kids. But so much more so with all of this major life change and grief to deal with.

My soul was not rested. I was completely burdened. I wasn’t living freely and lightly at all. I had no time for rhythms of grace, whatever those were. You see, I have an incredibly task-oriented personality. And part of the way I coped during this season – once I landed in a new house with two babies, more boxes than I could count, and no mom – was by increasing my productivity. By keeping my mind and my body too busy to actually process the life that was happening around me.

I’m one of those people who makes to-do lists simply because I love marking things off the list. It gets really ugly sometimes. If left unchecked, my tendency toward productivity majorly gets in the way of my ability and willingness to love and invest in the people in my life.

I could give you lots of examples, but my time is limited. The point is, I kicked my already task-oriented personality into even higher gear after this major upheaval in my life.

But there was an exception: Christmastime. I mean, not actually Christmastime. Christmastime was as chaotic as ever. But after Christmas. December 26th through January 1st. I still don’t quite know how it happened, but in 2015 we had the most glorious week of rest in our home that week. We were all together, with no real commitments. And there was this found time to reflect, real, significant time to restore. It was truly beautiful. I thought it was a fluke. A welcome fluke, but a fluke nonetheless. I didn’t realize it then, but a seed was planted in my heart that week.

One year later, the seed was watered. We had the same kind of week after Christmas. A glorious, restful, restorative week. This time, I didn’t think it was a fluke. This time, I knew it was a gift. A welcome, wonderful gift.

I was savoring the last bits of this gift, late in the evening on New Year’s Day. So this was January 1st of this year. It was a Sunday – I’ll never forget that detail. Everyone in my house had fallen asleep. It’s so rare for me to have time alone like that. I sat there enjoying the Christmas tree and the fire in a quiet room. I remember praying silently, thanking God for this wonderful, peaceful week. I was sad, because I knew it would be another year before I had this kind of peace again. The next morning it would be back to the grind. But that night, I wanted to soak up every last drop of this amazing, unusual time.

So in these last few precious moments of peace and quiet, I did something which at the time seemed pretty inconsequential, but would actually end up changing my life. What I did was reach for this book.

This is a compilation of stories people have contributed, sharing their memories growing up in West Virginia. This is where all my relatives come from, and my cousin wrote a story about my grandmother in this book. My dad had the book and thought I might want to read the story about my grandmother, so he brought it to me over the holidays.

Here’s what I read about my grandmother: “Once, it was a Sunday night, and so hot we could not sleep. Grandma had a rule of not working on Sunday, so she waited until after midnight that hot night, and then we started doing laundry. Technically it wasn’t Sunday anymore, and the laundry needed to be done…”

I read this part of the story over and over again.

This story – this anecdote about my grandmother waiting until midnight to do laundry because she refused to work on Sunday – it totally rocked the foundation of who I thought I was. Because I never knew this about her. We lived far away, and I was a child when she passed. So of course there were some things I didn’t pick up on. I knew my grandmother to be an incredibly hard-working lady; a lady who could often be found – no exaggeration – outside with an axe, splitting wood, when she was well into her eighties. I knew she was tough and I knew she was fierce. But I didn’t know she was so serious keeping the Sabbath. I didn’t know that my grandmother was just as fierce in her dedication to the Lord as she was in swinging an axe over her shoulder.

Perhaps “this is just who I am” was no longer an adequate excuse for the exhausted and stressed-out way I was living. Perhaps my legacy was to be something altogether different.

Have you ever had a moment when something just clicks? A moment when you can sense God orchestrating details in your life?

This was one of those moments. It didn’t seem like an accident or a coincidence, that I was sitting by myself on the first day of the New Year (which happened to be a Sunday) wishing I didn’t have to let go of this restful time and reading these specific words about my grandmother not working on Sundays. It didn’t seem like a coincidence at all. It seemed like a divine appointment.

I was paying attention in this moment. More so than I usually do. And I realized something:

I realized I didn’t have to wait until next year. I could experience this same level of rest and peace next week. Literally. Next Sunday.

In fact, that’s what God would want for me. It’s what he’d asked me to do. Commanded me, even.

“Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God…” – Deuteronomy 5:6, ESV.

I’ll be real for a second. Up until this point, I always viewed this as “the old fashioned commandment”. Like, don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t commit adultery – all those still seemed to be relevant. But this one… I always secretly thought of it as the outdated commandment that I could brush aside. I wasn’t hurting anyone by disregarding this one… at least I didn’t think I was.

Ordinarily, I would have continued to brush the idea of Sabbath aside as an obsolete, if not impossible notion.

But in the quiet of the room, in this beautiful, peaceful moment – I had a new understanding that this was important – so important – for me to finally get hold of.

I knew it was the beginning of a different kind of journey. It was the first day of a New Year, and God had already given me a gracious head start in having rest on the first Sunday of 2017. So I asked myself this question:

Would I commit to doing life this way every Sunday of 2017? Would I dare to commit to a whole year of Sabbath keeping?

I want to pause and emphasize that this was not a New Year’s Resolution. This was something much bigger than that. But our God is a God of making all things new, and I do love the way this new journey started on the first day of a New Year.

I was one hundred percent sure this was what God commanded of me through his word. And for the first time, I wanted to obey it. I knew it would be good, because “all his precepts are trustworthy” (Psalms 111:7).

But I’ll be honest, this was a really tough moment for me. And I’m going to tell you why in a moment. But we’re going to transition. Up until now, I’ve given you this chronological story of how I got on this Sabbath journey, but from here I’m going to share my journey within the framework of three practical takeaways you can use if you want to take a step of faith and incorporate Sabbath in your life. Again, these aren’t going to be rules. But if you’re approaching this for the first time, you probably most want to know, “Where do I even start?” I’m hoping these takeaways will give you a jumping-off point, and a grace-filled landing place, too.

Okay, so here’s takeaway number one.

1. If you want to embrace Sabbath rest, first examine your heart.

This is so important, because this is the way you will figure out who – or what – you’re really worshipping. Most people associate Sabbath with rest. And yes, it is about rest. But it’s very much about worship, too. It really begins there, because if something has taken up too much authority in your life, you’ll find it very difficult to put this thing aside and experience real rest.

For me, as we’ve talked about, I’m very task-oriented. I like having the house clean. I like being caught up on my to-do list. The Bible is very clear that we should have no other gods (or idols) in our life, and when I got real with myself, I knew that I valued productivity so much, I’d made a god out of it.

I had made an idol out of being “done”. And I went to great lengths to chase this false “god of doneness”. I fooled myself into thinking that once I was finally done, sitting in my perfectly clean home, all caught up on my work and my to-do’s, then I could feel rested. Then I would be restored. Then I would have peace.

Early on in my Sabbath journey, I had to come to grips with the truth: The false “god of done” is an ugly liar. There is no done. Guys, I had to come to grips with the fact that I will probably die with things still on my to-do list and possibly even dishes in the sink. There. Is. No. Done. There is only, as the Bible says, “a time for everything” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). There’s a time to do, and a time to stop.

For me, the first step in even mustering up the courage to make room for Sabbath was deciding that I would no longer serve this false “god of done.” Once a week, I would put aside my need to feel like I was staying on top of everything and getting ahead. In that first moment, on New Year’s Day by the fire, I had the desire to do it. But it went so against my nature that I wasn’t sure I could change.

The funny thing about false gods – things we’ve let become too important in our lives – is they carry with them this illusion they can somehow fulfill us. The truth is, they don’t have anything to offer at all. Logically, I knew that my life would be more impactful and meaningful if I could find a way to stop relentlessly chasing after “doneness”. And yet, the thought of loosening my grip, even for just one day a week, made me very anxious.

If you’re wired like this, you can probably relate to feeling like the world might crumble if you stop. If this isn’t you, I wonder if you might take some time to reflect on whether there’s anything similar taking up too much space in your heart and your life. Is there anything you’d be anxious about giving up? Even for a small period of time?

Maybe you’ve put too much faith in spending money or accumulating material things. Or maybe it’s an attitude – constantly comparing yourself, scrolling social media feeds to see how you measure up to others.

Maybe it’s technology, like your phone. Maybe it’s something that seems restful, like your Netflix account, but only allows you to turn off your mind and go numb, rather than restoring your soul the way God intended Sabbath to do. We often associate “vegging out” with resting, but numbing out and resting are actually very different things. Jennie Allen writes, “Most of the ways we try and rest actually make our insides more chaotic. Surfing Facebook can end with us angry over someone’s post or comparing our lives to our friends’. Binge watching a show can suck us into fictional stress and distract us from connecting with our real-life people… When Jesus promises rest, he is almost always talking about soul rest… nothing but Jesus can issue rest for our chaotic insides.”

There are all kinds of false gods out there, vying for our attention with empty promises that they’ll fill us up.

So many people, upon hearing about my journey to incorporate Sabbath into my life, have said the same thing: “I really want to do this. But I don’t know how. What are the rules?”

Please hear this. The Sabbath is not about us measuring up to a bunch of legalistic rules. Rather, it’s about meeting up and filling up with the One and Only source of life and rest. I would be lying if I said it doesn’t take discipline and obedience – because it does. But if we approach Sabbath from a place of striving for it based on this list of rules we’ve created, we’ll miss the mark entirely.

If you take an honest look at your heart you’ll know where to set the boundaries so your soul can rest – whether that means taking a rest from social media, turning off your phone, refraining from spending money one day a week, or letting a home project go and choosing to do something restful instead. Perhaps all of the above.

It’s hard to find the courage to let go of whatever false gods we’ve been serving. But there is a very real freedom to be found in resting from these things and trusting God with our time.

I have a heartbreaking, but sweet story to tell you before we move on to our next takeaway. When I first made the decision to incorporate Sabbath, I knew I needed some accountability. But I was afraid of too much accountability. So I went to my husband and told him I planned to try a Sabbath day the next week. I didn’t even have the guts to tell him that I was feeling called to try it out for a year. Because what if I wasn’t strong enough to change?

So I told him about the one day, and he was so excited even just to hear I wanted to do this once. Because he knows me well, and he knew how I had over-prioritized my desire for productivity. So the first week came, and it was so very glorious that I knew I was never going back. Not ever. I was a forever-Sabbath girl after just one week. Please don’t hear me saying the time spent in rest was perfect, but it was good.

After the first couple weeks, I don’t even think it was a full month yet, I was in the BJs parking lot, loading kids and groceries into the car. And my daughter said, “Mommy, is tomorrow Sunday?”

I told her it wasn’t, and her face fell. She said, “Oh. I just really want it to be Sunday. Because that’s the day we snuggle a lot. It’s my favorite day.”

My daughter, who was four at the time, picked up on the fact that Sundays looked different all on her own. We hadn’t told her yet. She just picked up on it. It was shocking to see how much and how quickly she caught on to this change in the rhythm of our lives. It was heartbreaking because I knew we’d all missed out on this rhythm – this beautiful gift from God – for far too long.

I mention this because when we allow something to take too much priority in our life, it doesn’t only affect our relationship with God. It affects all of our relationships.

But rest brings restoration. I’m learning that.

Okay. Takeaway number two.

2. If you want to embrace Sabbath rest, plan for it. (And be prepared to fight for it.)

When was the last time you discovered you had a whole day with nothing to do? I might as well ask, when was the last time you saw a unicorn doing cartwheels in your backyard?

We’re moms. There isn’t going to be this magical moment when everything falls into place and we can kick up our feet. We are wading through a flood of crazy every single day.

So, if you’re going to incorporate Sabbath, realistically you’re probably going to have to do some planning to contain the crazy and create this margin space. How much or how little detail you put into planning will depend on your personality, and that’s totally okay. You can make a spreadsheet, or you can make a mental note. But we have to be intentional with our time at some level in order to create margin in our lives.

Here are some things to consider:

When will your Sabbath be?

Find something that works for your family. It doesn’t have to be Sunday. It doesn’t even have to be a whole day (but I do think there’s something to that, if at all possible). Don’t be afraid to start small, with even a few hours at first. You can build from there.

How can you plan your week to make margin?

Planning ahead creates the space for peace. My Sabbath is Saturday evening to Sunday evening. I found it extremely helpful to make a schedule and plan out how I would spend my time Monday-Saturday so I could get to Saturday evening and stop without feeling stress or guilt or fear of what might be lurking in the pile of laundry. I planned out when I would grocery shop, when I would do certain chores, and when I would get my work done. It took some shuffling around at first, but eventually I got into a rhythm that worked. For the most part now, I’m generally able to stop with peace of mind when Saturday evening rolls around. And when it feels like I can’t stop, that’s when trust and obedience comes into play. When this happens, I have to ask myself, do I trust and obey God enough to put down my own agenda? Here’s something cool about this – As a result of making this space for Sabbath margin in my life and planning ahead for it each week, I’ve found myself living from Sabbath to Sabbath. I’ve found myself planning my time with Jesus at the center, instead of planning my time with ME at the center. And that has made all the difference, because it turns out life is very exhausting when everything revolves around me.

Is there something you need to say “no” to?

The world tells us that we need to find balance. And in order to find balance, we have to spread ourselves out neatly across all of these little categories, and strive to keep it all together in all these categories. And then, the world tells us we should look around at how everyone else is doing it and make sure we’re doing it right. Then readjust, repeat. Readjust, repeat… always striving for balance but never quite achieving it. The Bible tells us something totally different. I love the way The Message version puts it, in Galatians 6:4-5: “Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.”

Here’s the truth. It is utterly exhausting and draining to look around this room in order to become more like each other. But it is invigorating and life-giving when we look to Jesus in order to become more like him. God made you with specific gifts and passions and life experiences that are completely unique, and you were made that way for a purpose. You were not made to be like the woman who is sitting to your left or your right, even if that woman happens to be totally awesome.

In making a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, you may find that you have to say “no” to some things. You may find you can’t volunteer for every little opportunity that comes up, even though it seems like another woman is always able to do so. You may find that your family’s list of extracurricular activities needs to be scaled back, even though your neighbors are at a different activity every night of the week. It is okay to say no. It is okay to do things differently than someone else does. It is okay to live with some margin. It really is.

I came across this podcast, and I heard Dr. Robert Lewis explain his definition of biblical womanhood. I’m paraphrasing a bit, but here’s the basic idea of what he said: A real biblical woman is one who embraces her core callings. Out of those core callings, she chooses wisely, because she’s always keeping those in mind. There will be times when she’s confronted with situations that challenge her core callings, and then she’s going to have to live courageously. In living courageously, she’s expecting, by faith, that ultimately she is going to live a life that’s rewarded by God.

I love this definition because it acknowledges that it takes courage to say no. And that’s hard. As a result of being on a Sabbath journey, I’ve had to find the courage to say no a few times this year. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve said a lot of yesses, too. But some no’s along the way. It’s been tough for me to say no. And yet, it has been easier for me to discern what I need to say no to as a result of being more intentional with my time.

That is one of the things that has totally blown my mind in doing Sabbath. It has made me much more intentional with my time. I assumed stopping to rest would result in being way behind on everything else in life. But it has actually had the complete opposite effect. The Bible tells us to “walk carefully and make the best possible use of our time” (Ephesians 5:15), and it has truly surprised me to see how directly Sabbath rest is tied to making better use of the other days of the week.

It hasn’t been easy, though. It’s been really hard for me to trust God with my time. It’s been hard for me to let go of my agenda and just… rest. It’s been hard for me to say, “I’ll loosen my grip and give this time to you, God.” But it’s been insanely rewarding. I’ve learned that God is much bigger and much more personal than I imagined. I’ve learned that life isn’t nearly as crammed as I thought it was. I’ve learned that there’s more opportunity than I thought to take big risks for the Kingdom. I have more precious memories of actually being with my husband and my kids and simply enjoying their company. I’m more creative somehow – I can tangibly see a difference in my ability to be creative and spontaneous as a result of regular rest. And I think – I don’t know for sure but I think – that for the most part I’ve stopped giving off a “too stressed to be blessed” vibe. I hope my friend who called me out on that all those years ago would agree.

That’s something I’ve grieved a lot – the fact that for the vast majority of my life as a follower of Jesus, I’ve given off the “too stressed to be blessed” vibe. Stress and striving don’t communicate hope to a weary world. If we’re following Jesus, we can rest in who he is and what he’s done for us. We can say no to the cultural pressure to push, push, push. We can – and should – look different.

Last takeaway.

3. If you want to embrace Sabbath rest, give yourself grace. And then give yourself more grace. And then wrap yourself up in a warm, cozy grace-blanket.

At this point in my year of Sabbath journey, I’ve had about forty-five Sabbath days of rest. Not one – not one – of these days has been perfect. Because let’s be real. I still have to feed the kids, wrestle them into their clothes, and haul them to church. I mean, that alone can be a whole lot of work.

We are moms, and even the most intentional rest won’t be totally quiet and serene all the time. And that’s okay. One of the important things I want to emphasize is that Sabbath rest has a whole lot to do with resting from our expectations of how this restful time should look. It won’t be perfect, ever.

I read some words one mom of young kids wrote about realistic Sabbath, and I want to share this with you, because I’ve found these words to be true over this past year. This is from Shelly Minter’s book, Rhythms of Rest. This mom writes:

In the context of practicing Sabbath as a mom of little ones, I found that making some clear distinctions between Sunday and the rest of the week was extremely helpful. No, I can’t lie on the couch and read books or spend hours in prayer or devotion as I’d like to, because kiddos still need my near-constant help and attention. But I found that even in the midst of mothering I could establish some workable parameters that would help the Sabbath feel set apart…

Initially, this mom decided there were certain things she would not do on the Sabbath – dishes, laundry, extensive cooking, opening the computer, engaging in social media, or emailing from her phone. Then she decided there were things she would do on the Sabbath – nap, read a book while her kids slept, spend intentional time with family by playing a board game or LEGOs, and watching movies together. These aren’t specific rules that create a legalistic Sabbath practice, but rather boundaries that allow greater flexibility in rhythms of rest. She writes:

The beginning weeks and months often felt cumbersome and awkward. But over time I found something remarkable: I looked forward to Sundays with increasing excitement! I got better at planning my week in the areas I needed to be freed up on Sunday to rest. There really was time to get it all done in the other six days. And what had to fall by the wayside probably wasn’t that important to begin with. More than a sacrifice, Sabbath-keeping started to feel like a gift…

The one thing I want moms of little ones to know is my Sabbath doesn’t always feel super spiritual. Yet I know for certain that resting is a spiritual act of worship, and God is using it to transform my heart. Practicing Sabbath has been huge in minimizing that feeling that so many young moms like me have of just going, going, going, without a break.”

It’s still real life, but we can find rest in it.

I want to share so much more with you. I could probably talk about this every meeting for a whole semester and still not be done. No joke. But we need to wrap up.

I know if you’re not in a regular rhythm of rest, it can feel totally impossible to ever find one. I want to take a quick moment to address anyone who has been listening this morning and thinking, “That whole Sabbath thing works for her, but I could never do it because I have more kids, more responsibility, etc.” If you’re thinking this way, I just want to encourage you that you can find rest. The Bible does not prescribe Sabbath rest only for those who have time. It’s for all of us, and the busiest among us are the ones who need rest the most.

Remember, you don’t have to do this on Sundays. And you can start small, even for a few hours. I know it can be hard and maybe even scary to stop, but I promise you that your life will never be the same if you take a courageous step of faith and make regular time to rest and fill up with the One and Only source of life.

Thank you so much for letting me share my heart with you today. May we all find rest in this season of life when we need it the most.

Discussion Questions:

Do you ever feel like there isn’t enough time to get everything done, or that you’re constantly striving to catch up?

What thing (or things) have taken up too much importance in your life? (work, household chores, your phone, t.v., social media, negative thought patterns, etc.)

Rest can feel risky. What would you have to risk in order to stop and rest? How would this require you to trust God more?

Do you want to try and incorporate Sabbath into your life? If so, tell someone! Get accountable with someone from your table. Don’t be afraid to start small.

Tell Your Father All About It 


I have some unofficial, but pretty reliable scientific evidence which suggests there’ll be a high volume of tiny Moanas roaming the streets this Halloween.

I’m basing this on the fact that there was only one Moana costume left at Target when we were there several weeks ago. My five-year-old spotted it from afar, as if she were equipped with some sort of advanced Moana-costume-tracking-radar.

She raced toward it and yanked it off the rack, breathless with excitement and babbling on about her sudden plans to dress up as Moana this year and wasn’t it so perfect that there was one costume left and we found it at just the right time and could we get it Mommy, could we, Mommy, please could we, Mommy? Please?!

I stood there trying not to cringe. You see, I’m not a huge Halloween mom. It partly has to do with the fact that as a kid, I was terrified of costumes, even happy-looking ones. So I didn’t love having to be out and about in a sea of masked faces while trick-or-treating each year. To this day, I’m still a little uncomfortable around mascots. Once not too long ago I was heading into Chick-fil-A and the cow was standing there, greeting people at the door. I turned around with a shudder and went through a different entrance.

I’ve probably got some weird, deep-rooted psychological issues to work out.

The point is, I’m not a huge Halloween mom. I’ll let the kids dress up for costume parades at school, and we’ll go trick-or-treating with friends, but the kids’ costumes are usually low-key; something we’ve borrowed or made with minimal time and effort. I found this one for free on a consignment website when my daughter was a baby:

Is it a kitty? Or perhaps some sort of pink wolf? Who knows? But it was free.

This year, I was hoping my little girl would choose something from her dress-up box. She seemed okay with that idea. Until she saw the Moana costume, that is. As she stood in the store clutching the costume and looking up at me with big, excited eyes, it was clear there’d been a shift. In that moment, her very happiness hinged on leaving the store with this costume in hand.

“I don’t know,” I told her. “We need to think about it.”

Her face fell. “Why?” she asked.

“Well…” I took the costume from her and examined it, buying some time. That’s the thing about parenting. There always seems to be a pop quiz you didn’t study for. One minute, you’re minding your own business shopping for lightbulbs, and the next, you’re trying to find an age-appropriate way to explain to your preschooler that you can’t give in to her every whim because it would set her up for a lifetime of unrealistic expectations and disappointment. It’s tricky business.

I got lucky though, because I noticed the costume was two sizes too big. “Well, for one thing,” I said, “this costume isn’t the right size for you.”

“We can make it fit,” she said. “Please, Mommy. Please!”

“Let’s think about it a little more.” I ushered her away from the costume, and she strained her neck to look at it as we went.

The costume remained a hot topic of conversation all throughout the store, and in the car on the way home. She didn’t understand why she couldn’t have it, right then and there.

At one point as we were driving, after I’d explained to her (again) that the costume was the wrong size, she said, “I know it doesn’t fit me… I just want it so much.” Her tiny voice was raw with emotion.

Now, let me just stop and acknowledge that this definitely falls into the category of first-world problems. There are children with much, much greater needs in the world than a perfect Halloween costume. I am not trying to magnify this desire into an actual need. It doesn’t even hit the radar.

But, oh, how I could relate to those simple, honest words, “I just want it so much.”

I know as my little girl grows, she will learn what it is to have real heartache. It’s an inevitable part of living in a broken and fallen world. She fell into thoughtful silence after her confession, and I reflected on the I-just-want-it-so-much moments of my own life: longing for a child after a loss; dreaming for a house when it seemed like it was impossible; wanting nothing more than to wake up one morning and realize cancer wasn’t a reality, but just a bad dream.

We don’t outgrow the I-just-want-it-so-much moments. We learn to live with them a little better, perhaps. We learn to hide our suffering. We learn to put on a brave, everything-is-okay face, reserving our true feelings for our innermost thoughts.

And somewhere along the way, as we condition ourselves to quiet the I-just-want-it-so-much voice, we get to a place where we learn to keep that same simple and honest voice from crying out to God. I know I have, at least – I can pinpoint times when I’ve come to the Lord in prayer as my “cleaned up” self; praying what I think I should pray instead of trusting God with my real I-just-want-it-so-much heart. As if he can’t handle my true, uncensored feelings. As if he doesn’t already know all about them.

Paul Miller writes in his book A Loving Life about the importance of crying out to God in our moments of despair and disappointment: “A lament puts us in an openly dependent position… it’s pure authenticity… to not lament puts God at arm’s length and has the potential of splitting us. We appear okay, but we are really brokenhearted.”

Pure authenticity… my five-year-old has it, and I love that about her. I want her to hang on to it. I want her to develop a relationship of pure authenticity with her Heavenly Father as she grows.

So I figured we could practice. I figured we could practice now, with her earthly father, while it was still something as easy and trivial as a costume at stake.

I turned down the radio and told her, “There will be times when you feel this way. There will be times when you want something so much. And when that happens, what you need to do is go to your father and tell him all about it. Then wait to hear what he says.”

“You want me to tell Daddy?”

“Yes. I want you to tell Daddy.”

“And I can ask him for the costume?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said. “You can ask him for the costume.”

She considered this for a while. “What if he says no?” she asked.

I thought this question might be coming. “Well…” I glanced at her in the rearview mirror. “There will be times when you want something so much, and you tell your father all about it, and you ask him for the thing you want. And the answer is no. Or, not right now. That will happen sometimes.”

“But, Mommy… what if he says no?

“Your father is good. And he loves you very much. And he knows what’s best. So if he says no, you can still trust him no matter what. Even if you’re disappointed. Even if you’re sad. He will still love you. And he will still be good. And he will still know what’s best.”

I glanced into the mirror again and saw her purse her little lips.

“Will you tell your father all about it?” I asked.

“Yes,” came her determined voice from the backseat.

When that little girl’s father came home, he heard all about the Moana costume before he even set foot in the house. He didn’t know he was part of this big-important-practice-drill, helping his daughter practice talking authentically with her Father in Heaven. But my little girl is blessed with the best dad ever, and he did exactly what I suspected he would do. He listened to her every word with a delighted expression on his face. And when she asked if he would take her back to the store right then and there, he told her no. He explained it would be best to wait a little while before making a decision. He told her he wanted her to have a costume that fit her perfectly.

It went on for a little after that. It was a purely authentic conversation, and I pray she will remember it always.

I’d do well to remember it, too. I’d do well to follow my daughter’s example and talk to my Heavenly Father with that same brand of pure authenticity. We all would.

The thing I most want to share with you today is this:

You can talk to God like that. You can trust him enough to tell him your biggest desires. You can lament if you need to. You can tell him when you’re disappointed and terrified and utterly discouraged. You can do all this even if you don’t know God too well. Perhaps one of the biggest roadblocks to being close to God is authenticity. There is this illusion that God only wants to hear from “happy” and “whole” people, but open the Bible and you’ll see lament after lament – gut-level honest prayers in the book of Psalms.

It’s okay to get real with God. It’s okay to deal with difficult emotions in prayer, to open up the ugly places of our hearts with pure authenticity. It’s okay to tell him your I-just-want-it-so-much feelings, even if you’re afraid of what the answer will be.

It feels risky, sharing our hearts with pure authenticity. We’re not used to doing it, because we live in a culture of “I’m fine, thanks, how are you?” But God already knows the not-fine places in our hearts. Perhaps it’s time we start getting to know him a little better, too.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. – 1 Peter 5:7

In case you’re wondering how the costume business worked out:

After the initial disappointment of not getting the costume she so desperately wanted, my daughter did end up getting to dress up as Moana this year. We made her dress together, carefully selecting fabrics and trims. And yeah, I didn’t want to spend a bunch of time making an elaborate costume this year, but I did it anyway, because I wanted to show her something. I wanted to show her that when she brings her purely authentic heart to her father, she won’t always get exactly what she wants exactly when she wants it. But, in the right time, she just might get something which fits her perfectly.

Perhaps to really drive this point home, I should’ve had her dad make the costume. Next year, I guess.


Do You Do Anything Purposeful? 


I overheard the question come from a stranger who’d approached the other end of the table I shared at a restaurant with a small army of fellow moms.

We were all clad in matching t-shirts, and originally the stranger had approached to inquire about what the t-shirts meant. Someone responded with something along the lines of, “We’re a group of moms who get together regularly to encourage one another.” And that’s when the question slipped out.   

“So, do you like, do anything, uh… purposeful?”

A laugh escaped from me without warning, and I clapped my hand over my mouth. As far as I could tell, the question wasn’t delivered from a place of rudeness. It was just… honest. I couldn’t help but find it funny, because it’s the same question I ask myself sometimes when I’m scrubbing chocolate milk stains out of the carpet, navigating a public tantrum, or shaking sand out of tiny sneakers.

Apparently, being a mom who encourages other moms didn’t fall into this particular person’s category of purposeful. We got lucky though, because we’d just come from pulling off a large community event which was easier to define as “purposeful”. So we shared a little about the event, and this seemed to satisfy the inquisitive stranger, who walked away nodding in affirmation. 

A few days later, I was walking through the grocery store. More accurately, I was running through the grocery store, chasing two kids who were overflowing with excitement about life in general, the way kids often do. We came upon a pregnant mother who was bent down picking yogurt-covered raisins off the floor while her toddler munched happily in the shopping cart. 

She could’ve easily left the mess for someone else to pick up, someone who would get paid to do it. But she took it upon herself to bend down and pick up every last one of the scattered raisins. In the most mundane moment, this mother showed the character of Jesus to her child, by willingly (and literally) lowering herself and serving. 

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. – Mark 10:45 (ESV)  

We went over to help gather the raisins, and I recognized her from the group of women who gather to encourage one another. My kids fell to the floor with a collective thump, eager to participate in this raisin-gathering game. She let them help, and in doing so, she gave them the opportunity to reflect the same character of Jesus she was modeling for her kid, my kids, and anyone else who might be observing the situation. My kids beamed, thrilled to help clean up a mess for once instead of make it. 

“I bet you find these raisins in your washing machine a lot, huh?” I asked her as we finished the job and stood up.

“My pockets are full of them,” she said.

“Been there.” I dropped a handful of raisins into my own pocket. “For solidarity,” I explained.  

We said our goodbyes, and later that night I had the very rare mental presence to remove the yogurt-covered raisins from my pocket before throwing my pants in the hamper. (Win!) 

I looked at the pile of raisins, reflecting on the bent posture of the mother I saw in the store, and reflecting on the stranger’s question, “So, do you like, do anything, uh… purposeful?” 

It’s not just a question for moms. It’s a question for anyone. We all ask ourselves this at times when we’re in the grind. We ask ourselves this on the days which seem so very uneventful, and we find ourselves wondering… 

Is this going anywhere?  

Where’s the payoff?  

Am I doing anything purposeful? 

Being faithful day-in and day-out right where God has you doesn’t always seem very exciting. It doesn’t always seem very purposeful. Not by the world’s standards, anyway. 

But what if those days, when we are unseen and unsure of where it’s all going, are the most purposeful? I’d say they are, if we’re submitted to serving and pleasing God in the small (no matter how small) moments. I’d say these small moments could add up to something very big, indeed.  

I’m reading a gem of a book by Jay Pathan and Dave Runyon. Here’s what they have to say about this topic: 

“In our culture, we have a fascination with celebrities and talent. We are riveted by movies about extraordinary people doing extraordinary things, because we want to be inspired and wowed by the lives of others. So imagine watching a movie about a man who goes to work every day, has dinner with his family five nights a week, and reads books to his kids before they go to bed at night. He also is a great neighbor… Imagine in scene after scene of this film, we watch a man who is consistently faithful… This would be a terribly boring movie. No one would pay to see it. The movies we watch tell us a lot about what we value in our culture. We don’t value consistency. On the whole, we are convinced that we need to make a big splash to make a difference… This simple truth can change everything: small things matter. They really do… We all wish we were a bit more of something – smarter, funnier, or wealthier. Often we have a hard time recognizing what we do have to offer… It may not seem that we have much, but when we give from what we have, something sacred happens. God uses the small things that we bring to him and multiplies them into a miracle.” 

In the past month, I keep stumbling across the Scriptures which describe Jesus feeding 5,000 – making a miracle out of five loaves of bread and two fish from a single boy’s lunch. I’m hearing about this event in church, having conversations about it in life, coming across it in various books I’m reading. Over and over again, it seems I can’t escape these Scriptures.  

I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I wonder if the boy, who simply showed up and gave his lunch to Jesus that day, had any idea we’d be talking about it, studying it, writing about it, and reading about it more than two thousand years later. I wonder if he ever dreamed that his meager lunch would become an epic miracle.  

And I wonder what this boy would’ve said, after watching Jesus create a miracle of abundance out of his small offering. I wonder how he would’ve answered the question, “Did you do anything purposeful today?” 

The Scriptures don’t say, but I like to think the boy would’ve shrugged, pointed to Jesus, and said, “No. I didn’t do anything purposeful at all. But He sure did.” 

Because I’m finding so much freedom these days in realizing it’s not my job to manufacture purpose. It’s not my job to garner anyone’s approval or applause. My job is to show up and offer what little I have to Jesus, again and again. 

I hope I get another chance to answer the question someday, “So, do you like, do anything, uh… purposeful?” 

If I do, I hope I won’t be so quick to burst into laughter. And I hope I’ll resist the urge to respond in a way that elevates myself as purposeful. I hope I’ll be confident in saying, “No. But I show up and give everything I have to the One who does.” 

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)