Strive Not

A little more Mary, a little less Martha


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Doctor’s Confirmation: It’s a Season of Rest

Yesterday my doctor confirmed the Lord’s recent prompting that this is to be a season of rest.  An ultrasound revealed a completely healthy little girl (Yay! So excited for sisters!) and a low lying placenta- placenta previa for the medically inclined.  With this ominous sounding diagnosis comes orders for more rest, no lifting (including my toddler!), and no running, among other things.  As I processed this with my husband, I saw two roads before me.  I could become paranoid and scared, making sure I’m doing everything in MY power to protect this baby girl while at the same time worrying about all that I’m not doing.  I’d be physically resting but those stress hormones would for sure be circulating.  Or I could  see this as a further invitation for rest, asking him for wisdom in how to care for my body without giving into paranoia,  leaning into what he has for me this season, and ultimately placing this baby’s health in his capable hands.

This morning, the Lord kindly put this verse in my day’s reading to solidify what he’s asking of me:

The people refused to enter the pleasant land, for they wouldn’t believe his promise to care for them.” Psalms 106:24 NLT

The Lord has pleasant land for me to take, rest to enter into this season, if only I’ll believe his promise to care for me. What about you, friends? What is the pleasant land he’s inviting you into?  What’s holding you back?

Holy Spirit, empower and enable us to trust the Father’s promise to care for us and lead us into your promised land of rest.  Amen!


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Mother’s Day.   My dad, siblings, and I would make a spaghetti dinner together after church.   It was a rare break for my mom in the day-in, day-out monotony of meal preparation duty for a family of six.   At the end of the meal we presented our handmade cards.  But it wasn’t the Hallmark scene of extravagant declarations of love followed by happy tears.  Instead a tension and awkwardness filled the air.  Did we strike the right balance of appreciation and honesty? Did we capture the essence of who my mom was without writing an inflated vision of the universal mom, that my mom could never live up to?  You see, my mom didn’t fit the Hallmark descriptions of moms.  # 1 Mom.  Best friend.  Biggest cheerleader.  Those titles didn’t quite fit.  We knew it, and most of all, my mom knew it.  Many mother’s day dinners ended with the suppressed tears of defeat and an afternoon of silent depression, as the holiday seemed to mock everything my mom was not.

Fast forward several years.  I’m nursing my firstborn when my mom takes her last breath, cancer cutting her time short.  In the weeks and months that follow, grief over losing her is tangled up in a grief over the mom I never had, the daughter I never was.  Sweet memories, the victory of reconciliation in our relationship, an afternoon cuddling in a recliner, our shared joy on my wedding day, were darkened by the memories of her struggle against mental illness, of failed connections, un-scaled walls.

I spent naptimes on my face before the Lord.  He’s quite the gifted counselor.  One day I had an encounter with him that changed it all.  A scene played out in my mind’s eye of my mom meeting her savior.  Her life is laid out before him.  All the victories, all the mess.   Waters rise, covering it all and when they recede, all the struggle, every moment of failure, every season of depression, has been swept into the vast ocean of grace.  And what remains?  The tenacious love and belief she had for her prodigal daughter in her wandering years; the praise lifted up when that prodigal daughter returned home.  The thousands of meals cooked, miles driven, loads of laundry washed in sacrificial service to her family.  Family memories and moments, created by her setting the stage.  Her open-handedness in the lives of her daughters, encouraging them to follow their call, even when it took them worlds away.  Her service to her coworkers and customers in her role as barista at Starbucks, her extroverted small talk and infectious laughter brightening the day of those coming in to get their caffeine fix.  The baby shower thrown for the unwed mother at work.  Her fight for her marriage and the subsequent breakthrough in renewal of love those last few years in my parent’s relationship.  Her undying faith and love for Jesus, in the midst of sickness, mental illness, and grief.

As my mom’s gaze meets the gaze of Jesus, there’s nothing but love, sweet love.  There’s not a shadow of disappointment in his eyes.  There’s no darkening of condemnation.  Just love.   My mom is beautiful, radiant, and whole.  Singing like I haven’t heard her singing in years.

This is the reality, My Friends.  This is who my mom is; this is what she’s living out right now.  So as I remember and celebrate her this Mother’s Day, the third Mother’s Day without her, I whisper the truth.  You are a beautiful woman.  You were and are the perfect mom for me and our family.  Every sacrifice you made was precious to the Lord.  Every failure is under the ocean of grace and every defeat turned to victory for you and worked into my good for me, by the hand our glorious redeemer.

I wish I had had the wisdom to say those words as a teenager.  But I know she’s getting the message now.  How about you?  What do you do with the moments your mom doesn’t live up to the cards?  With the moments you as a mom fail your own standards of momness?  Come to the Great Counselor, take a dip in this vast ocean.   There is a grace that will set you free.

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True Rest

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Rest on the Road 2

Rest has been on my mind a lot lately.  I want to lean away from striving and into….. rest, right? Except my attempts at rest have been thwarted.  I get myself in bed early (which is so hard for me) to be woken by my toddler throwing up.  Again.  And again.  Two nights later, the virus had an encore with my husband.

I try to simplify my to-do list, to not be consumed with details and logistics.  But life keeps adding to it.  Our insurance notified us  it’s increasing our rates- and no longer covering maternity- when we renew in June.  Not so good when you’re pregnant.  Add ‘talk to customer service’, and ‘research insurance plans’ to the list.  Our landlord notified us that his son is returning in the summer.  He will live in our apartment.  Add ‘search for affordable housing’, for the 7th time in 6 1/2 years of marriage.  And so the week has gone.  Last night we picked up our house guest for two weeks.  I feel honored by her presence and little scared and what that means for the peace of our home. My attempts at creating space for rest this week have been, for the most part, futile.

This morning,  obedient to a  renewed prompting to wake up to spend time with Him regardless of what the night before looked like, He met me again.    There, in my old testament reading for the day, the Lord is referred to as his people’s “true place of rest, and the hope of their ancestors” (Jer. 50:7 NLT).  Oh yes, that’s right.

Jesus is my true place of rest.  There is no rest without Jesus.

And if I get up in the middle of night with my toddler and I lean into Jesus, I have rest.  If I’m researching insurance options, dialoguing with the Lord about them and trusting him to ultimately provide, I have rest.    If I turn my heart to Jesus when it’s an afternoon slump and let a song arise  instead of complaining, I have rest.  And from this place of leaning into Jesus, the extra writing session made possible by my daughter sleeping in this morning- it’s another sweet gift of rest from him.   He knows what I need.   So the Spirit corrected me again this morning; I am leaning away from striving and into Jesus.  He is my true place of rest.

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Friends

Today I’m joining Lisa-Jo Baker for her 5 Minute Friday.  The Topic – Friends.  A five minute free flow on the topic:

I sat down a couple of weeks ago with two moms I greatly admire.  Soaking up their wisdom.  We started talking about friendship during this stage of motherhood- little ones in the house.  How do they stay connected?  They gave me this gem- Mothers stay connected to their friends by serving one another.  Serving one another builds daily and weekly community in a way that the rare coffee date just can’t touch.

It was an aha moment.  As I think back over my close friendships in the past couple years, I see this common thread as well.  What childhood friend still has my heart?  The one who drives two and half hours to come into town for the weekend and joins me in running all the many errands that are run the day before leaving the country.  It’s the friend who goes through my mom’s closet with me and cries as we load up bags for Goodwill and memory boxes to treasure.  It’s the friends I have play dates with and swap much needed date nights with.  It’s the friend who was my ‘Douala’ during labor.  Friends who love and snuggle my newborns and who I know all of their toddlers’ quirks.  It’s the ones who have permission to put my daughter in her thinking chair.  It’s the vegetable soup and homemade bread dropped off.  Maybe I connect with this so much because my second love language (next to quality time) is acts of service.  Or maybe it’s what moms do who live in close community, bearing each others burdens, meeting each other in the little and big moments of life, willing to endure a little

Stop!  Time is up!  Is it legal to add a picture?  Got to include a friend loving on my then newborn…

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Five Minute Friday


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The Plot Thickens

maiden rescueMy story line is changing.  I thought my life story line was Jesus met me. In an amazing way.  As proof of this encounter with him, I’m more amazing than ever and my life will be a series of world changing exploits with my super hero  husband,  who also happens to think I’m amazing and we do this all with a few world-changer children in tow, to the glory of God.

I think my story line is turning out to be more like, God comes alongside this little girl, for no reason other than he has destined her to be his daughter.  The land she lives in is covered in darkness, remnants of the curse course through every pulsing vein, silently invade the beams of every home.   The cracks in her own imperfect family widen until the image shatters, the storm without and the storm within bringing down the walls of this castle.  Little girl’s world gets broken.  Jesus valiantly rides in and rescues her.  Little girl is ecstatic.  She tries to show how thankful she is.  It’s kind of pitiful.  In the process she falls back into darkness.  He takes her hand and pulls her out.  She starts to know this Jesus.  She decides again to impress him.  Again its rather tragic.  And again, he comes through.  Little girl becomes a woman.  And guess what. Goes back into the darkness. He stops her whirlwind of strive, do, conquer and he goes and finds her.     He rescues again and again from the chains she walks back into.   He exchanges her tattered clothes of a servant for those reserved for royalty.  He pries the ‘oughts’ and ‘to-dos’ from her lye scrubbed, cracked and bleeding hands and slips on the  extravagant ring of the betrothed.  I am wanted, I am precious, I belong, I have authority.  Because of who I belong to.   All my little worlds fall away in the intensity of his gaze.  And the question is put forth.  Do I trust him enough with my story to not try and create my own?


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Rest

Sweet SleepToday’s weapon against striving: a nap inspired by this golden nugget:

“Rest is a decision we make. Rest is choosing to do nothing when we have too much to do, slowing down when we feel pressure to go faster, stopping instead of starting. Rest is listening to our weariness and responding to our tiredness, not to what is making us tired. Rest is what happens when we say one simple word: “No!” Rest is the ultimate humiliation because in order to rest, we must admit we are not necessary, that the world can get along without us, that God’s work does not depend on us. Once we understand how unnecessary we are, only then might we find the right reasons to say yes. Only then might we find the right reasons to decide to be with Jesus instead of working for him. Only then might we have the courage to take a nap with Jesus.”          -Mike Yaconelli

Going to take a nap with Jesus.


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No Condemnation

Welcome to my therapy session, where I, as a recovering striver, I bring to mind the ways God has met me.  Here I capture the glory, remember, savor.

College: I had a lot on my plate.  Studying nursing, collegiate runner,  navigating my first real (and turned out to be only!)  relationship and was walking my little sister through a particularly hard time.  One week I was feeling the stress, striving to meet the demands.   A good friend came to me and said we needed to talk.  She felt forgotten by me in a time where she really needed a friend.  My absorption in my own world had wounded her.  It cut like a knife; I knew it was true.  I apologized and promised to do better.  I had to go for a run before the sun went down, so I left.  I drove to my favorite spot – a secluded forest with a winding network of trails splitting off from the main gravel path that cut through the trees and hills.  I felt heavy and weary, all used up.  No matter how hard I tried, I could not be everything I needed to be and, today,  my friend was a casualty in this.  Who would be the casualty tomorrow?

I started running.  I felt the weight of condemnation, shame, the never-enough feeling.  Hot tears poured down my face.  It’s not recommended to cry while running.  It makes it quite difficult.   I went off the path to a small side trail, to avoid another runner witnessing my breakdown.  I took a trail up the hill until tears made it too difficult.  I sat down on a rock on an overhang, looking out over the forest, a small  river running below.  And I sobbed before the Lord.  Time passed.  I noticed something on the rock next to me.  There was a small book, lying open on a rock.  It looked old, weathered.   I picked it up and saw it was a small campus Gideon’s bible.  How strange.  ‘It’s a sign’, I thought.  ‘Thanks God, you see me.’   But then I glanced at what it opened to.  The first verse at the top of the page –

Romans 8:1 ‘For there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.’weathered bible

My mind was blown.  Deep sobs broke through at the kindness of the Lord – he’s not telling me to get it together or try harder, he’s not mad at me, ashamed of my shame.  No, he’s longing to take from me that which I’m not meant to carry – my condemnation.  The presence of the Lord fell thick.  I poured out my heart to him and he comforted me with his love, with his enoughness.  I don’t know how long I stayed there, but the waning light drew me from the rock and prompted me to return home before complete darkness.  And I felt light.  I felt the thrill of grace.   I felt the knowledge of grace go from my head and lodged in my heart and oh the difference.