How Are You? Really.

My thoughts were a million miles away and I didn’t even hear her call my name the first time.

When she said it the second time, I realized I’d been lost in thought.

“Hey, Kristen! How are you?” We were new friends.

On the outside, I had it together. But there was a swirling storm inside. I looked better than I felt.

I was living out my yes to God. But I was having a hard day. I was tired and overwhelmed. I had more questions than answers and mostly, I felt so alone. I was facing impossibilities and I just wanted to quit.

“How are you?” People ask that question all the time. It’s a greeting, something to fill an awkward pause. But few wait for an answer.

This day, my friend did. She asked and then she waited.

Maybe I was desperate for the waiting. Maybe it was the kind of day where tears just brim. Maybe she really cared.

I believed the last and I decided to tell her exactly how I was doing.

I shared my burden, the struggle, the unknowns. The dark clouds began to clear.

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Sometimes healing starts with a question.

I let her in. And she tasted my brokenness. As I wiped my tears and apologized for my awkward answer slash confession, she asked me what I wanted to happen. How did I want God to answer this big question mark in my life?

And so I told her. I confessed a dream I had told few people–a big, impossible dream, a best case scenario answer. I felt silly saying it out loud.

But I also felt bold. Like speaking it meant something.

She listened and then she did something so powerful. She didn’t say, “I’ll pray for you.” She prayed for me. Right there, in a hallway, with people passing by. She grabbed my hands and asked God for the impossible on my behalf.

Nothing changed. But everything was different. I felt like I had let someone in and more importantly, laid the weight of burden down.

That was nearly a year ago.

Last weekend, I saw my friend again for the first time since my hallway blubberfest.

And I got to share the most profound news with her….

click to continue reading at (in)courage

 


The Real School Supply List Every Kid Needs

She starts high school in a couple of days.


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That little brown-eyed baby girl made me a mother and now I’m wishing I could make the clock slow down.

I showed her how to make her bed and her lunch and now she’s showing me how she will make her way.

Something special happened this summer. We don’t always get to see our kids grow-it’s slow and steady, it’s something we recognize after the fact. But there was a moment when time slowed down and I noticed the tilt of her chin, the determination in her eyes, the rapture of deciding who she is and realizing no one can take that away.

It was a brief glimpse of her becoming and it was beautiful.

She’s ready for those Chuck Taylors to take her places.

My son is starting junior high. His growth is obvious, man-sized hands and feet, hard to miss. I’ve never known a more g00d-natured soul, the kind of person who you just want to be around all the time. He is insightful and funny. He brings peace along with him.

I pray an invisible shield around his kind and thoughtful heart and pray the world doesn’t chip away his strength and resolve.

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My baby, a second grader. Oh, time.

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We finished up school supplies and my oldest asked about her high school list. I told her the teachers would tell her everything she needs on the first day of school.

“Mom, I need a pencil and paper at least. I can’t go unprepared,” her way of saying, One more trip to Target, please?

Prepared. We spend a lot of time in preparation, don’t we, moms?

But there isn’t a school supply list in the world that contains all I want to give my kids and it’s not what the world tells me they need.

While our culture says they need more selfies and self esteem, I want my kids to be more selfless. Find the new kid.

While our world says they need to fit in, I want my kids to stand out. Be different. Be themselves.

While our society says they are not enough, I want my kids to know that’s okay. Because Jesus is Enough.

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The Real Back-to-School Supply List:

We can instill purpose in them | We are raising kids in a culture that is constantly changing its moral code. And without deep-rooted purpose, it’s far too easy for our children to get tossed around by whatever is politically correct or by social norms that shift without warning. If we don’t teach our kids we are here to glorify God and our ultimate purpose is to know Him and make Him known, no one else will.

We can encourage positive community around them| When we’re expecting our kids to live in the world, but not be like it, it’s absolutely crucial to provide opportunities for positive community. It’s actually not always convenient to attend church youth group or get together with like-minded friends, but it must be a priority. Kids need to feel like they belong somewhere. And they will.

We can offer them a safe place to fall and fail | Our kids grow through failure. We all have bad days and offering them a safe place to be themselves is a gift. If they have to keep it all together all the time, they just might fall part in the wrong place. Be their safety net. We don’t have to expect failure, but our kids should be able to expect our support no matter what.

We can remind them to be kind and thoughtful to others | Nothing makes me prouder than when I hear that my kids were kind to the new kid or reached out to someone. Parents are often the best teachers. When we take time to serve or put others first, we are teaching our children that this is valuable.

We can show them the beauty of faithfulness when life is hard | In our culture, it’s too easy to quit when things get tough. When we are faithful in hardships, this is when we learn. This is success. Expecting our kids to be faithful to their commitments is something they will carry through life.

We can choose to live in peace | Our world is in chaos. It’s a scary time to be raising kids today and we can’t predict or provide peace in the world. But we can try and provide it at home. We can pick our battles with each other and especially with those who choose to live differently than we do. It’s not really about tolerance; it’s about love.

So, let’s send our kids armed with backpacks and scissors and no. 2 pencils, new shoes, a great breakfast and a pat on the back to “do your best,” but  let’s also remember there are important things we can offer them that can’t be found on the Back to School aisle.


WFMW: The Secret to a Greater Yes

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I’m happy to introduce you to this week’s guest poster Arabah for my Wednesday series Yes, Works For Me! Please welcome her and be encouraged by her yes to God and continue to link up what works for you.

I’m jealous of people with super-sized God dreams and extra large yeses.

There, I said it.

I wish I could believe God for huge things and then go jump off an airplane at 10,000 feet on a rescue mission.  Or something. But truth is, I’m a woman with trust issues.

That’s pertinent information because when I tell you I’ve lived an international, nomadic life for over a decade, that I’ve eaten pig snouts and given birth in three different countries, that I’ve adopted a child from a hard place, and moved more times than I can count, it sure isn’t because I’m the adventurous type.

{Trust me. I didn’t find out about the pig nose until after the fact, if you know what I mean.}

I look back over my life and don’t see any big choices, no jumps or leaps of faith… just small little yeses every day. Over time, this is where they’ve led.

Yes is like a seed. It grows over time. But I’ve learned a little secret. Our yes is only as big as our trust. So if I want a greater yes…and I do… I need to strengthen my trust muscles.

In John 6:28-29, some people told Jesus they wanted to do God’s works too. So they asked Jesus what they should do. I imagine they were asking for all of us, because it is a desire God’s people have, to do God’s works.

Jesus answered them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe.”

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In other words, the work of believing God is the greatest yes of all. It prompts and enables all the other yeses.

It doesn’t take someone special to do big things, it just takes faith in a big God. To me, that is really great news!

We see this in Abraham. Isaiah 51:2 tells us to ponder his story, to realize that when God called Abram, he was a measly, solitary one. He wasn’t the Abraham we generally think of: wealthy, blessed, full of life and God’s favor, rich in faith, intimate with God. He was none of those things. Yet it was through faith that Abram became Abraham, the father of nations.

It could be our story too.

God is always issuing the invitation to trust, to move out of ordinary into the realm of yes.

It doesn’t have to be big. Maybe it means we stop viewing our lives as boring and mundane and instead believe everything we do is significant. (I Corinthians 10:31)

Maybe it means speaking to the person in line at the grocery.

Maybe it means writing a letter or paying it forward or just hushing that inner voice of condemnation over our failures based on the truth of God’s word.

We can’t follow the traditions of others or the culture around us. We can’t do things the way we’ve always done. Saying yes means we trust God… then step out and do things differently. We think and move in new patterns.

A life of trust is one small yes after the other, minute after minute, day after day. The result is a legacy we can be proud of.

No 10,000 feet plunges required.

Unless, of course, that’s what’s on your invite.

So, what is your yes going to be today?

 

Bio:

Arabah Joy is wife to Jackson and mom to four frog-loving, scooter-toting kids. She and her family live on the 26th floor of a high rise somewhere in Asia. She is author of several books, including the just released book, Trust Without Borders, a part memoir, part spiritual guide to living a life of trust. She loves connecting with readers on her blog at www.arabahjoy.com.


Three Things I Gave Up to Make My Marriage Better

I could tell by the tone of his voice over the phone he was upset.

He came straight home from the doctor’s appointment and shared the news: His diabetes had progressed and he needed to make (more) immediate life changes or get on more medication.

I could hear fear in his voice–not for his own health, but for his family.

And I love that about this man I’m married to. I’ve watched him lay down his dreams, desire, his life for us. He has made of life of loving us.

They say marriage is give and take.

They are right.

It’s been the secret of our 19 year union. Through the ups and downs–and there have been many– we are committed to fight together, not apart. Although some days we do this loudly.

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I love my husband.

And if nearly two decades has taught me anything, I’ve learned that sometimes we have to give up and give in, to get the best out of our marriage.

Three things we can give up to gain more in our marriages:

1. Pride: Let’s admit when we are wrong.

Which is hardly ever, amiright? It’s all-too-easy to divide marriage down the middle into rights and wrongs. Because we are human and humans excel at this. We are the best at holding grudges, stewing, making excuses. It’s time we humble ourselves and admit when we are wrong.  Apologizing, making amends, confessing is how we make marriage work. Pride will destroy a marriage and a soul.

2. Superiority: Let’s hush when we are right.

Gloating over your mate being wrong? That might be worse than never admitting wrongdoing. Sometimes we nail it. And just because we can wave the “I told you so” banner boldly, doesn’t mean we should. Some of the most powerful moments in my marriage has been when one of us was right and we didn’t say a word. It’s called grace and you just can’t have too much with your spouse.

3. Selfishness: Let’s support our spouse even if it costs us something. 

No one has to teach us how to be selfish. We just are naturally good at it. Sometimes our spouses need our support–in a job they hate, in a health crisis, emotional support or a battle for their soul.  When we join them in their fight, we are reminding them they are not alone in their struggle.

So, we have a new family game plan for my husband’s health. More of this, less of that. And the great thing is it’s really for our family’s health. Because we are a team and we want him around.

The bottom line is this: I love my husband. I love my marriage.

And I’m willing to give up some things to make it better.

 

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What Seven Days on A Farm Taught My Son About Life

It was a last minute plan–to send my 12 year old son to spend a week on his grandparents farm. It was the first time for him to go alone, without the comfort (and irritation) of sisters.

Farm days in August can stretch long. But the alternative was another routine week at home, so he jumped at the chance to get away. A couple of days before, my father-in-law hurt his arm badly and was waiting on surgery. My son said “Maybe I can help out.” Which is code for I want to drive a four wheeler or kill something.

(He got to do both).

We met halfway to hand him off  in Dallas and I put the family phone we keep at home into his pocket in case he needed to reach me. But we both knew it was more for me than him.

I knew this would be a special week.

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Knowing my son, I knew it would be special time for his grandparents, too.

Every time I talked to him, I could hear the smile in his voice. I listened to adventures and laughed at his stories.

We only had one text conversation the whole week:

“I miss you.”

“Can’t blame you,” he replied.

“Ha. You’re so funny. What are you doing?”

“Sitting in a hayfield, playing Candy Crush, eating puffy Cheetos with Nanny,” he said.

“I think that’s what Heaven will be like: a serene hayfield, Candy Crush, Cheetos and love.”

“With Jesus.”

Oops. Yes.

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Here’s what seven days at the farm taught my son about life.

  1. Listen to the wiser, older people in your world. They can teach you a lot. People don’t always listen to the elderly, but they have a lot of good stuff to say. He loves to retell their stories.
  2. Hard work produces results. Food you plant, watch, grow, harvest tastes better than any you can buy. He walked the garden rows for hours, filling buckets with vine-ripened tomatoes, snapping off fresh okra and picking cucumbers. It was the best kind of work.
  3. When you don’t know what to do, find something to do. There’s always something to do on the farm. Exploring, roaming, imagining and hard work cures boredom.
  4. Slow down to appreciate the beauty around you. Sitting in a field on a hot August day, watching the wind whip and roll the grass like waves with crystal blue skies as the backdrop is hard to ignore.
  5. Helping others helps yourself. It felt good to help out, to be needed, to learn from someone older willing to teach someone younger. Helping makes you want to help more and that feels good.
  6. Time away from the people in your life makes you miss them. Every time I heard my son talk to his sisters on the phone, I smiled. It’s hard to disagree or argue when you simply miss being together.
  7. Life is better with gratitude. Since returning home, my son has referenced his grandparents dozens of times. He’s shared kitchen and gardening tips he picked up and offers new thoughts on life from their perspective.

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I have no doubt the week changed us all.