When You Just Need Time to Slow Right Down

PlaqueTwo weeks have gone by since my last blog post. Chances are good no one has noticed this tiny, little fact.

But I’ve noticed. And it was this tiny, little fact that had me to turning to Chris around 9:00 Saturday night saying, “What the hell has happened to me?”

I used to blog every week…twice! For over two years I never missed a Sunday.

(A little background: my eight month old is teething and when she finds she’s not in my arms she cries like the sky is falling. Thus any activity that requires, two hands, two arms, and/or my undivided attention has become a challenge, to say the least. And sleep…Oh, yes, I remember sleep! Fondly.)

Anyway…I get that it really is okay. The world has indeed kept turning. Life goes on as they say.

But what of my world? My life?

What should I make of this nagging anxiety I keep feeling over all the things that aren’t getting done?

My blog?

My book?

My laundry?

Homeschooling?

Date night?

A shower?

In the pit of my stomach I have this deep seeded fear that I’m failing. That I’m trying so hard to do and be so many things that I’m not doing any of them well.

Think Bilbo Baggins in The Fellowship of the Ring when he tells Frodo he feels like butter scraped over too much bread. Yes, my dear Bilbo, that’s exactly how I feel!

It all came to a roaring head when I bumped my baby girl’s precious noggin against the corner of the wall a few nights back. It was an accident, of course, but a stupid one. A should have known better one. An I need to get another load of laundry in the wash so why don’t I balance the baby on one hip and the laundry basket on the other while I head down the stairs one.

When my sweet pea started wailing something wild broke loose inside me. After a few minutes of tears she was fine but I wasn’t.

I was weary and broken and tired of losing. In a house full of people I felt so alone. I felt unseen, unheard, unmattered. I was failing them, failing me, failing everything! I mean, really, blowing it big time.

It was one of those rock bottom moments when all you can do…and the last thing you want to do is pray. You don’t want to because you’re convinced you’re so far gone it won’t really help. But you start to pray anyway because that one shred of faith and trust you have left just might turn the tide. And, really, when you’re this bad off who can save you but Jesus?

So I prayed and asked for forgiveness, for help. For less fear and more love. For less stress and more joy. For plenty of butter to cover the bread.

And what I heard from Him were two tiny, little words: Be present.

Be present.

As in not thinking of all I did wrong, messed up, forgot, didn’t do.

As in not focusing on all that’s waiting ahead, stacking up, growing dusty, going to bring down the stars if it doesn’t get done.

As in stop and be all here, all in, right this very moment now.

Be present.

As in, stop, and be present to the baby girl who won’t sleep in her crib but will sleep in your arms because God picked you to be her mama and your hers and she’s yours. All yours. Listen to her sleepy breathes. Admire that skin so creamy. She’ll out grow those arms in no time so rock her while you can. Then sit and rock some more.

As in stop and be present to the first grader as she sounds out that tricky new word. Marker ‘e’ makes long ‘a’ and these days aren’t long but fleeting. This moment here with her golden hair smashed soft against my chest as we sound out homeschool together is but a fraction, a sliver in time. Don’t miss it!

As in stop and be present at the kitchen sink, the laundry basket the dinner table. Feel the hot water pouring from the tap. Close your eyes and breathe deep the scent of the detergent that conjures memories of Mom-Mom and all her magical loveliness. Fall head over heels in love again with the man so hungry from a day of hard work that his plate is empty before yours hits the table. (And ignore the mud he tracked on the floor.)

Whatever it is you’re doing be present. Be all there.

And watch how time slows down. Watch how things get done, or don’t. Or whatever? Who cares?

Watch how things that matter, matter and things that don’t, just don’t.

Watch how the world keeps spinning and joy keeps ringing and love casts out fear.

Because the tiny, little fact that can’t go unnoticed isn’t the blog, or the laundry, or any of the stuff that seems so important, that’s not getting done.

It’s Him.

It’s here.

It’s now.

Don’t miss it! Don’t waste this gift of right-this-second-now.

Cradle it like a baby. Like a sleeping, slumbering gift. Fragile and fleeting and worth slowing down for. Worth stopping everything for.

Be present.

Unwrap the gift of now.

Open wide the abounding, sprawling, to-do-list defeating gift of Him.

When You Need A Little Mercy

 

My Mother's CamFor the past several months I have spent my days adjusting to life as a mother of three. Seven months have passed since my baby girl was born and for the most part I feel like “Allen Party of Five” has settled very happily into our new normal.

Just the other day, during a family stroll around the block, I grabbed my husband’s hand and with a contented sigh told him how much I love my life. How much I love being a mom of three.

It’s good to be in this place but believe me I’ve had my moments. I knew all along this season of adjustment would be tough at times, what I didn’t know was how discouraged I would sometimes feel.

Surprisingly, at least to me, the discouragement I’ve felt the most hasn’t come from late night feedings or nursing dilemmas or middle child meltdowns, but from a lack of time to write.

Before Promise was born I had a solid writing routine that supplied me with the chance to work on my novel almost everyday. I didn’t know how spoiled I was or how vital this time had become to my ability to function. When my routine went haywire, replaced by feeding times, rocking times, and a few extra minutes of much needed sleep, I found myself feeling like I couldn’t breathe. Without my time to write I was suffocating.

I needed a little mercy. Just an hour, please, to sit and write.

In the midst of this season God has been good, giving just the mercy I need. His mercy has surprised me, coming not in hours to write, but in hours to sit and read.

For a writer reading is the next best thing to writing, and while I don’t get the chance to write everyday, nursing and rocking my newborn has given me a newfound chance to enjoy the words and pages and joy of a book. 

You see, God and me, we have this thing. This thing with books. This thing in which He always seems to bring just the right book at just the right time into my life.

Most recently He’s done just this thing through My Mother’s Chamomile by Susie Finkbeiner. For almost a year this lovely novel sat on my shelf, and now I know God was saving it for a time such as this. For a time when days go by without putting pen to paper because so much time is spent being a mom to three little ones.

Sometimes I fool myself into thinking that God wants me to read nothing but non-fiction books that help me grow in my walk with Christ. That draw me closer to Him through a better prayer life, a cleaner house, a smaller waist, a thankful heart. And while these books have their place in my life, My Mother’s Chamomile has reminded me that God also speaks to me and draws me close through stories.

It wasn’t until I picked up this book that I realized how starved I am for fiction, for story. For words that make my own words better. For a book that reminds me to dream, to write, to keep writing, even when I feel discouraged.

So many heart lessons were learned as I read this book. Lessons I know I’ll return to again and again. Discoveries my heart needed to wake up to. Reminders of what I already knew to be true.

God knew I needed this mercy. My need wasn’t lost on Him. He knew what my heart needed, (even more than I did), and came through with just the thing. With a book that spoke to my heart. With waters of mercy for a thirsty soul. With grace so I could breathe.

All of this is to acknowledge the fact that we all need a little mercy. 

Whether you’re discouraged, grieving, drowning, or just needing a reminder of what your heart is for and Who’s for your heart we all need His mercy. His gifts of grace in our lives.

No one knows this more than He does and that’s why He’s waiting, that’s why He’s here. That’s why He keeps showing up morning by morning with brand new mercies and baby fresh grace. 

Mercy for this mama’s heart. 

Mercy for all hearts in need of more of Him.  

 

~ From the cover of My Mother’s Chamomile ~

“Desperate for the rains of mercy…

 Middle Main, Michigan has one stoplight, one bakery, one hair salon…and one funeral home. The Eliot Family has assisted the grieving people in their town for over fifty years. After all those years of comforting others, they are the ones in need of mercy.

Olga, the matriarch who fixes everything, is unable to cure what ails her precious daughter. She is forced to face her worst fears. How can she possibly trust God with Gretchen’s life?

A third generation mortician, Evelyn is tired of the isolation that comes with the territory of her unconventional occupation. Just when it seems she’s met a man who understands her, she must deal with her mother’s heartbreaking news. Always able to calm others and say just the right thing, she is now overwhelmed with helplessness as she watches Gretchen slip away.

They are tasting only the drought of tragedy…where is the deluge of comfort God promises?”

Susie Headshot 2

Author Susie Finkbeiner

Susie Finkbeiner is the writer of fiction, both short and long. Her deepest desire is that her fiction reflects the love of Jesus in a broken world. She and her husband are raising their three children in the beauty of Michigan.

With many thanks to author Susie Finkbeiner I am SO, SO, SO excited to giveaway a copy of Susie’s latest book A Cup of Dust to one of my readers. (Now that’s a mercy AND a grace! Thanks, Susie!)

To enter my Cup of Dust giveaway please leave a comment below and share this post on Facebook or Twitter. The winning name will be drawn next Saturday and the winner will be announced in next week’s post.

Cup of DustA Cup of Dust is available online and at Baker Book House and releases everywhere October 27th. 

Also don’t miss an exciting chance to make a Kindle version of My Mother’s Camomile your own, October 9-14th for just $.99! 

A Prayer for the Start of School

 

First Day of SchoolToday is the first day of school here in Michigan. In my house we never really stopped our homeschooling over the summer but even still we’re ready for a new year, a new grade, a fresh start.

For many moms out there, I know today is hard. Many of you have already put your kiddos on the bus, some for the very first time. (Gulp!) Others took big kids to middle school or high school or watched as the child who was just a baby yesterday took their first steps across a college campus. (Even bigger gulp!)

As I sit here in my little corner of Michigan, in my classroom for two with the comforts of home, my heart is with you, friends! I’d like to give you a great big hug or pass a tissue or two. I’d like to tell you it will be okay, that they will be okay.

I’d like to cheer with you and celebrate or sit at the table in your unusually quiet kitchen for a grown up conversation and a hot cup of coffee.

Unfortunately I can’t, at least not really. But I can pray. And mamas…I am! I’m praying big time for you today. And I thought maybe, just maybe, we could grab a collective cup of coffee and take a few minutes to pray for each other. 

Because whether you’re a homeschooling mama, a preschool mama, an elementary, middle or high school mama, a college mama. A special needs mama, first day of kindergarten mama, an empty nest mama. A working mama, a stay at home mama, a single mama. A grandmama, an auntie mama or a hope to someday be mama.  We all need prayer. We need the support and love and encouragement only a fellow mama can bring. 

So will you take your mama’s heart and come before the Father with me?

 This is my prayer for you. A prayer for the first day of school and all the days thereafter… 

Dear Father, 

 Thank you for this day. Thank you for your love and your grace. Thank you especially for the fresh grace you gave us this morning as our children went back to school. 

 Please, come now and be with us. Meet us in our hearts. Bring us your peace, your comfort, your courage. Be with all the mixed emotions we’re feeling. The sadness, the fear, the doubt. The happiness, the excitement, the joy. Be with us when we think of all the things we could have done or should have done. Be with us in all the things that fill our hearts with pride. Meet us in our desires and help our ultimate desire to be found ultimately in you.

 Lord, take all these thoughts, these feelings, and cover them with your presence, your wisdom, your grace. 

 Be with our children today. Help us release them to you. Take all our hopes and dreams for them, Lord, and help us remember your way, your timing, and your will is perfect. Remind us, Lord, that our precious children were yours long before they were ours and that your heart for them and for us is good, that you love them and us more than we’ll ever know. 

 Protect them, Lord. Draw them to you. Let them walk in relationship with you all the days of their lives and use them, Lord, for your kingdom. 

 Lord, help us to claim, today, the truth that you’ve got this! You’ve got them and you’ve got us, and help us to rest in this fact. 

 Give us strength, Lord. Give us joy. Help us as we mother. Today, tomorrow, and always. Find us faithful to our families and faithful to you, Lord Jesus. 

 In your beautiful, powerful, and precious name we pray. Amen!

See you again tomorrow? I’ll be here, friends, praying for you!

If there’s anyway I can pray specifically for you please feel free to leave a comment below. And also check be sure to check out the giveaway I’m hosting here for your chance to win a copy of Balance, Busyness, and Not Doing it All by Brenda L. Yoder, the perfect resource for busy moms.

Happy first day of school, Mamas! May each day to follow be blessed!

For When It All Starts Coming Undone

Running ShoesA few weeks ago while shopping I heard Lady Antebellum’s country hit Run To You played throughout the store. I found myself singing along to this song I’ve always liked but never really thought about.

This world keeps spinning faster

Into a new disaster so I run to you

I run to you baby

And when it all starts coming undone

Baby you’re the only one I run to

I run to you” (Run To You chorus)

These words, this song, they made me think of Jesus. I love when a song does that.

I recently wrote a post about my struggle with anxiety and my compulsion for sugary treats and online shopping. After writing this post I realized it’s in times of stress and fatigue that these struggles become real to me.

Isn’t it always true? That you can turn up the heat and find out who and what you turn to.

I run to sugar and shopping.

I run to my husband.

I run to my friends.

But God? Jesus? I’m sad to say He’s not the first place go. In desperate moments of loss, hurt, or strife I cry to Him, of course I do. I beg Him for help, comfort, and rescue.

But in the day to day, in the worrisome hiccups and squabbles, it seems so much easier, so much more gratifying to pick up the phone and text my best friend. To eat a handful of M&Ms or buy those cute shoes.

But God wants more than my frantic pleas. He wants all of me, my whole heart. He wants me to run to Him when my kids are driving me crazy. When my husband and I can’t stop fighting. When I’m tired, discouraged, and stressed.

When this world spins fast and disaster strikes He wants to be my One, my Only.

So often in times of trouble we turn to the people and the things that can do nothing. All the while resisting the only One who can do anything and everything.

So what does running to Him look like? For me it looks like worship, and solace, and thanksgiving.

It’s a playlist of songs that take me right to the heart of His comfort, His favor, His love. It’s listening to this playlist while getting dressed or cooking dinner instead of other voices, other noise.

It’s prayers whispered in the heat of the moment. In those times I don’t feel like praying. It’s grabbing my prayer journal or taking a walk, a quiet moment just me and God.

It’s filling my heart with the good things He gives me. Scribbling down words of thanks, writing time, a cup of coffee with a good and godly friend. It’s treasure troves of scripture pinned throughout the house. A breath of fresh air from a book that inspires, a sticky-note glimpse of His truth.

And isn’t it also true? That any of these things can become idols, and any of our idols can become conduits of His love.

The difference is who and what we’re running too. 

When the heat turns up, turn to Him.

 Run to Him.

 Only Him.

 Just run.

Today Was A Fairy Tale

 

IMG_2116Once upon a time there was a princess and her King Papa…

 “One splendid sunshiny day, about an hour after noon, Irene, who was playing on a lawn in the garden, heard the distant blast of a bugle. She jumped up with a cry of joy, for she knew by that particular blast that her father was on his way to see her. This part of the garden lay on the slope of the hill and allowed a full view of the country below. So she shaded her eyes with her hand and looked far away to catch the first glimpse of shining armor. In a few moments a little troop came glittering round the shoulder of a hill. Spears and helmets were sparkling and gleaming, banners were flying, horses prancing, and again came the bugle-blast which was to her like the voice of her father calling across the distance: ‘Irene, I’m coming.’ On and on they came until she could clearly distinguish the king. He rode a white horse and was taller than any of the men with him. He wore a narrow circle of gold set with jewels around his helmet, and as he came still nearer Irene could discern the flashing of the stones in the sun. It was a long time since he had been to see her, and her little heart beat faster and faster as the shining troop approached, for she loved her king-papa very dearly and was nowhere so happy as in his arms. When they reached a certain point, after which she could see them no more from the garden, she ran to the gate, and there stood till up they came clanging and stamping with one more bright bugle-blast which said: ‘Irene, I am come.’

By this time the people of the house were all gathered at the gate, but Irene stood alone in front of them. When the horsemen pulled up she ran to the side of the white horse and held up he arms. The king stooped and took her hands. In an instant she was on the saddle and clasped in his great strong arms. I wish I could describe the king so that you could see him in your mind. He had gentle blue eyes, but a nose that made him look like an eagle. A long dark beard, streaked with silvery lines, flowed from his mouth almost to his waist, and as Irene sat on the saddle and hid her glad face upon his bosom it mingled with the golden hair which her mother had given her, and the two together were like a cloud with streaks of the sun woven through it. After he had held her to his heart for a minute he spoke to his white horse, and the great beautiful creature, walked as gently as a lady — for he knew he had a little lady on his back — through the gate and up to the door of the house. Then the king set her on the ground and, dismounting, took her hand and walked with her into the great hall, which was hardly ever entered except when he came to see his little princess.” (From The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald)

 

When I was a little girl my daddy traveled a lot for work. But when he came home, always with kisses, always with hugs, I felt a delight like none other. My king-papa had come.

When first I read this passage from The Princess and the Goblin these childhood memories came to mind, but what also came to mind was a picture of the father-daughter relationship I share with God.

I know Father’s Day can be hard. As I type this post I can think of three close friends who have recently lost their dads. I also know friends who grew up without a dad and those who struggle beneath the burden of a strained and broken relationship with a dad who was supposed to love them, a dad who was supposed to be so much more.

My heart breaks for the hearts that break whenever Father’s Day rolls around, and while I can’t relate from a level of personal experience, perhaps I can offer some hope.

We all, like Princess Irene, have a King-Papa who longs to pull us close, who longs to come for us, who longs to fill and heal the gap left by death, destruction, and broken relationships.

As the princess delighted in her papa, so we can delight in Him. Because He loves us. Oh, how He loves us.

Brave Prince, Lovely Princess, may you wake up this day to the fairytale found in God, your King-Papa. In the pain and brokenness of this world’s relationships may you know His fatherly love and find yourself clasped in His great strong arms.