Dear Children: Let Me Explain This Thing Called Summer

It was an hour after she got home from Vacation Bible School.

One hour after Water games! Snow cones! a Slimy Craft! Dancing and Singing! The Best Day Ever!

We were in the second week of summer. The second week of sleeping in and she was slipping and sliding

splash1

splash2

towards boredom.

Walking around the house, whining about nothing to do.

Kicking her foot and waiting outside the bathroom door. (I wasn’t hiding, really).

Sound familiar?

Go. Find. Something. To. Do.

She gave me an empty stare and then I realized she was waiting on me to tell her what to do, to do something with or for her.

And there it was again, this “You Owe Me” mentality that is wrecking our culture. We do so much for our kids- camps and classes,  back and forth to lessons and events, we spend money and fill their lives with stuff and you’d think they would be oozing gratitude, but we are taken aback when they just want more.

More activities, more fun, more stuff.

More.

And honestly, I can’t really blame my first grader. Because for a long time, I provided The More. I bought into this lie that it’s my job to make my kids’ childhood magical and fun and everyday an adventure all about them.

I have fed the entitlement beast and when it rears it’s ugly head, my children aren’t the only ones to blame.

Our children need to be bored. They need to kick their feet and wait outside of bathroom doors, unanswered. They need to be sent outside or to their rooms to play. They need to turn over the bag of tricks and find it empty.

Because that’s when they will discover they don’t need stuff to fill their time. They don’t need a plan for entertainment.

They can create their own. And that’s when summer gets magical.

I pulled my little one aside and got down on eye level and I said, “Let me explain summer to you, honey.”

“There will be fun days! We will check boxes off your summer bucket list. We will play. We will work. We will serve. We will have great times. But there will also be a lot of unplanned days, there will be empty hours. There will be days when you’ve watched enough TV or we won’t be leaving the house for something super fun.

At first, these days may seem boring or like there is nothing to do. And that’s okay. Because after you whine and perhaps, cry, you will have to make up your own fun. You’ll get into that book from the library. You’ll draw doll furniture and cut it out and give your paper dolls a good home. You will figure something out. I love to see you having fun, but I will not, I cannot make every day fun. It’s not my job to make every moment The Best of Your Life. But it is my job to teach you that the days that aren’t fun usually end up being the best ones of summer.”

She ended up with a bucket of Legos and spent a couple of hours creating the coolest flying space car ever.

Sometimes we have to just wait for our kids to remember just how fun boredom can be.

C’mon, moms! Who’s with me?

Read more about how we are trying to conquer entitlement in our home in Rhinestone Jesus: Saying Yes to God When Sparkly Safe Faith is No Longer Enough.

What Really Happens When We Look Fear in the Face

I walk into a room of 500 dining women waiting for someone to take the stage and my fear isn’t speaking in front of these women.

It’s eating with them.

I don’t know where I’m going to sit. My hands are sweaty, my heart is pounding like the rain on the window.

And my fear is a brewing storm.

Red gumboots in rain

Yet, I keep dancing with it.

Being fearless is temporary. At some point, something in our life triggers fear. What if my husband has a wreck driving home in this storm? What if those test results come back positive? What if I can’t pay that bill? The what ifs open the door to fear.

Dancing with fear is seeing the world as it is and then wisely stepping out into the unknown anyway.

It’s slowing sitting down among strangers, instead of running from that vast dining room to the safety of storm outside.

I love safety and comfort.

Which is why it’s sort of crazy that God has called me to a dangerous life of wild obedience.

But saying yes to God doesn’t make me brave because I’m still afraid; it makes me obedient.

Continue reading over at (in)courage….


This Is Why We Are Here

The hot June sun made the small musty apartment mustier.

The ladies were already waiting on us, in the dim room, clutching their bags, yarn spilling out. Within minutes, more than 40 women, not counting children packed into the crowded space.

I flipped on the lights and began dragging chairs around tables, the only furniture in the room, saying my good mornings to the refugee women relocated to my city from Burma, Bhutan, Nepal and Thailand. They nodded and smiled, waved in return.

It was my 15th Friday to drive an hour each way to oversee an art business class for refugee women. And somehow with 6 languages in the room, vast cultural and religious differences, these ladies have become my friends.

cb0uk86-rdzgfpB-yBSh43DieAcjXf3qh2lXCQTZyDQ,OFxEY3QZeXIYNKUvx9GX-ZyjXXHIcpZ0H1Y94oBRsEk

I sent my kids to one of the back bedrooms to help Katy with her preschool class and we started working on the purses they have been crocheting for a couple of weeks. We had the four new ladies fill out an information sheet and then took pictures of them for their name tags, a key to starting a friendship.

Each week, after we introduce the day’s project, we pass out donated yarn. Towards the end of the class, the women line up to sell some of their creations and we try to stretch a generous donation from a friend who helped us get started. We buy two items from each lady, sometimes it’s hard to choose because they have a bag full of items.  The volunteers work to sell the items during the week so there is money to buy more at the next class.

The women live below poverty level and need toiletry items and diapers for their babies. But they don’t need a hand out. Instead of giving them stuff every week, we offer them opportunity, so they can buy their own items. We’ve traded enablement for empowerment and I’m sure it’s a road that leads to Jesus for these ladies.

29Q0bx3Tnpw0STzIEzk2jE7QPXPdZF3lBAYasoLncfY,CsqI9DsdwmZw20kMKwxQZo08U2XOav0a_GO48-QR7WE

Because the room was so crowded, on an impulse, I opened the door to the third bedroom of the apartment and pulled my chair to the wall and sat down with my notebook and handed my friend the bag 0f cash.  The women followed and lined up patiently. We recorded every purchase, offering praise for their hard work. The women smiled, some glowing, nodding their heads because they understood we valued not only their art, but more importantly, them.

We’ve done this for 15 weeks. But this time was different. When the room emptied down to the last lady, a woman named Sancha, I smiled, relieved we had enough money this week. She is one of two ladies that speaks a little English. She is one of two ladies I have prayed for by name. After I recorded her purchase, she asked me where my friend Suzanne was. I told her she was bringing home her new son and 5th child from Ethiopia. She said, “She likes a lot of children?” I laughed.

ZXTW7mZ72boqZSCg7z7ZZPychdMMh6A7AOLKy9g6PI4,Dj_37SA5RObYh2a7ba3y_P-dlp7prLaYPGCLu6L5mYQ,c_aQViqKDCl2bxWqdnM_01T3quSKO9poWYZJN2CAPd4

“Well, she likes to help people.”

Sancha smiled. “I won’t be here next week because I’ll be in Africa, too,” I tried to explain the work of Mercy House.

“You are a good person,” she said.

“I just want to help people, too,” I responded. I tried not to think about the frustrations helping people had brought me the past week. I tried not to let my face show the worry that I struggle with, the burden that comes with empowerment when enablement would be so much easier. Again, she smiled and turned to leave.

But when she got to the door, she stopped and turned. She looked like she really wanted to ask me something, but she also looked uncertain.

I leaned in, encouraging her.

“Are you a Christian?” she asked in a hushed, holy whisper.

My throat caught. All this time, and never once had we mentioned God or Christianity.

“Yes, I am.”

Sancha’s face broke into a huge grin and she said excitedly, “I too, am a Christian. I follow Christ now.”

I was shocked. “What? When did this happen?”

Last night, she whispered and tears pooled.

I jumped from my seat and hugged her hard.

“This is why we are here. We want to show you and your friends the love of Jesus. He compels us to come. He is the only one who can heal the hurt in your heart,” I said, crying now.

“You are a Christian,” she stated again, relieved. It dawned on me that she must be terribly alone in her new faith. She confirmed it and told me that she was the only one in her family and in our class who was a follower of Jesus.

“You are not alone, Sancha. The women with me also follow Jesus, but more importantly, Jesus will always be with you.”

We hugged again and she left my friend and I in the room. We both burst into tears and hugged.

“This is why we are here,” she said. It was holy ground.

My yes is still unfolding. Last week we brought in six new pregnant girls into our new Mercy House residence. My family will be flying around the globe next week and we will get to meet them.

R0UgYQJeTvcYaKeluF9yJzQwjuK_7vfRsEDgUhZjW0s

Long after people read the story of my yes, I will continue to live it. I think most authors are relieved at this point that “it’s over.”

But I feel like it’s just beginning.

Because here’s the deal: Saying yes, stepping out in obedience, doing whatever God tells you—it is just the beginning.

When I fall into bed every night, I’m generally exhausted and overwhelmed. Yeses will do that to you, but I’m more content and alive and I’m giving this life everything I’ve got. That’s a combination I’ll take any day.

We don’t say yes because we are good or because we are good enough or because we know what to do next. We say yes because somehow in our meager, inadequate offering, Jesus is glorified.

People have asked me, “What do you hope people will feel or do when they finish your book?”

And I have one answer: When you’ve turned to the last page of my untidy and messy yes, I pray it isn’t the end. I hope it’s a new beginning.

A new day to live generously. A new chance to ask yourself hard questions. A new opportunity to touch another person. A new perspective on how what you do day-in-and-day-out matters so much. A new yes.

Because one refugee named Sancha from Nepal reminded me why I’ve said yes to God.

And I will remind you, it’s worth it.

Because this is why we are here.


WFMW: Saying “Yes” and Trusting God to Provide

YesWFMW

I’m happy to welcome this week’s guest post from LeeAnn 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.

Snuggled in our king-sized bed under mounds of fluffy down feathers, sleep overtook me as I waited for my husband to come home from a late night meeting at the church we helped plant less than four years prior. As a pastor on staff, his days and nights were filled with meetings, ministry, and more meetings. Our marriage and family life were struggling under the weight of expectations and other challenges of ministry life. His heavy footsteps treading down the hall woke me and the words, “I think I’m going to resign” came gently tumbling out of his mouth.

Rhinestone Jesus by Kristen Welch
In one night, my comfortable identify as a pastor’s wife in the church we loved came crashing down.

In the months ahead, I followed my husband into uncharted, uncertain territory as he moved from a steady (albeit small) church ministry salary to launching his own pastoral life coaching business and ministry. It didn’t take long to see God’s hand of favor in the one-on-one interactions he had on a daily basis, and my husband’s faith moved him to try audacious things as a new small business owner.

But I was scared.

Our tiny emergency fund wasn’t even the amount of one month’s salary and everyone knows starting your own business isn’t a recipe for quick financial success. My full time income alone wasn’t enough to meet our basic household financial obligations.

“Deep down I knew God was calling us to something radical,” writes Kristen Welch in Rhinestone Jesus. “And even though radical terrified me, I was more afraid of not following God.”

As his wife, I desperately wanted to support my husband in this new opportunity as he ministered to those who would never step foot in the door of a church but who would listen to godly wisdom shared in the context of creating goals and breaking down life’s hurdles.

His faith was contagious and it prompted my journey from a fear-based religion to a faith-based relationship with Jehovah Jireh, our Provider.

After two years of struggling financially when every month we have more bills than income, we have watched month after month God provide in large and small ways for our needs.

  • My husband’s new office needed painting? One of his first clients gave him a gift card to a paint store and friends provided the labor.
  • The kids needed pajamas? Old Navy had their exact sizes on clearance for $0.47. (No, that’s not a typo…less than a dollar each!)
  • No money for gas or groceries one month? A client gave me a card and $400 in cash with a note encouraging me as the wife of a world-changer…she knew it was hard and wanted to encourage me to continue to follow my husband as he pursued God’s call for his life.
  • The mortgage payment in jeopardy of not being paid on time? Without knowing the need, a friend gave us a check that more than covered the payment.
  • Christmas coming up and no money for gifts or extras? A family gave us $200 and told us to enjoy the holiday.

There are so many more examples of God’s faithfulness and provision through this time. We have learned that remembering God’s past faithfulness is the key to moving forward in bold faith.

Saying “yes” to God even in the midst of uncertainty has proven to be the greatest blessing. While I still at times struggle with fear as our financial situation each month is filled with unknowns, I am learning that “our need cannot be bigger than God’s provision.” (Gary Morland)

As we continue to say “yes,” He continues to provide for our needs, one day at a time.

Bio:

profilepiccropped

Growing up all along the east coast in a military family, LeeAnn Taylor has settled in North Carolina with her husband Chuck and two spunky kids, Salem and Sekaiah (with one more on the way!). She’s learned that living out the Christian life authentically requires daily submitting the pieces of our broken lives to God, the Ultimate Artist, allowing him to craft them into a beautiful mosaic masterpiece that can be used for His glory. She writes at The Mosaic Life about the journey of releasing fear & control, living intentionally, and embracing the freedom of Christ.

 


And Now I’d Like to Talk About Food

Remember that one year we went vegan to try and control my husband’s diabetes?

Shudder.

It was the season where my kids lost the ability to discern real meat from meat-like substances.

I’ve never been known as a health nut.

As a matter of fact, I recently discovered that my junior high son was at the top of the, um, food chain when it came to unhealthy lunchbox snacks…as in everyone wanted to trade their veggie sticks and rice cakes for his Little Debbie’s and Doritos.

I told him that was embarrassing.

He said, “Yes, for you.”

[Hangs head in shame].

For a long time, I’ve felt compelled to clean up and out the pantry and feed my family less processed foods. But I didn’t know where to start. Because let’s be honest– eating bad food is cheaper and more convenient than eating good food.

But after confessing my food-related guilt to my friend Jessica, a.k.a. a real health nut, she encouraged me to start slow and small and the very next day, that’s exactly what I did. For the past month, we have radically changed our pantry and refrigerator. I thought my kids would rebel, but instead they thanked me. And instead of beating myself up over their gratitude, I said you’re welcome.

photo copy 2

Here’s what I’m doing:

  1. I buy a large assortment of fresh vegetables (carrots, bell peppers, cucumbers, broccoli, etc)
    and fruit (blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, pineapple, watermelon, etc) every weekend and then have my kids help me chop and divide them into portion-sized zip-lock bags.
  2. I do the same with an assortment of nuts (peanuts, cashews, almonds, etc) and dried fruit (craisens, mango, etc) and popped popcorn in olive oil and sea salt.
  3. I am working hard to only buy from the outside aisles of the grocery store (where the fresh, unprocessed food is sold).
  4. I buy plenty of avocados, granola and yogurt and we are starting to pull ripe items from our garden.
  5. I also boil a dozen eggs every week and leave them in the fridge for snacks or breakfast.
  6. Oatmeal and yogurt with fresh fruit and granola are a favorite or veggie-stuffed omelets.
  7. Family dinners have always been somewhat healthy for us, but I’m working harder to plan ahead. We are grilling a lot more, too. Our current favorite meal: black beans with cumin and garlic, salted brown rice with fresh cilantro and a fresh chunk of avocado.

photo copy

After the first several weeks, my kids didn’t mention chips or pop tarts. But I did notice we wanted more snack choices, especially with them home for lunch this summer.

A friend sent me a $10 off coupon plus free shipping for NatureBox and I couldn’t wait to try out this fun idea.  I just got my first box and I’m hooked. NatureBox is a monthly subscription club that sends healthy snacks (you can choose from more than 100 or be surprised). I love the variety! Here’s my affiliate link and if you try it, use this code for $10 off: share10off 

photo

We still have some vices like toaster waffles and sweet tea, but we are trying.

Not only do I feel better about what we are eating, I feel better about what I’m feeding my family.