for your weekend

weekend blessing

May your weekend moments remind you of your need to be still.

May you hear His sacred whisper inviting you deeper into silence, and may you follow Him without hesitation.

Don’t dread the still tongue, the quiet room, the questions in the darkness. Let the hum of solitude be your only theme song as your soul moves with grace to a different kind of rhythm.

Enjoy your weekend, friends.

Here are some good reads along the way:

what it really means to ‘do less and be more’

When John came home from a walk with our friend Steve and told me that he (Steve) asked him, Are you willing to do less and be more? the question lingered with us for a long time. I even wrote about it in my first book.

“The words stopped me in my dinner-making, clothes-washing, nose-wiping tracks. On the scale of life, these days my doing far outweighs my being. Be more. Do less. It sounds as blissful as it does unrealistic. I hear the mocking voice of reason, the one telling me how the sentiment is nice, but the reality is that things just have to get done.” Grace for the Good Girlp. 149

It’s been three weeks now since John left his job and we’ve had some uninterrupted family time. We have been doing less. As it turns out this question – Are you willing to do less and be more? – is not a question for your schedule.

It’s a question for your soul.

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We spent a night on the side of a mountain and a week on the edge of the sea. But even when my schedule is set on doing less, I still have my soul to consider.

When Steve asked the question those years ago, he was speaking soul language. A slower schedule does not instantly present a still soul. You have to work for that.

I’ve had to ask myself the question again – Are you willing to do less and be more? Not just on the outside, but within?

Are you willing to calm your mind? To wrap your many thoughts around one central thread of truth?

Are you willing to worry less and breathe more? To burrow deep below the folds of anxiety and discover your union with Christ at your center?

Are you willing to set aside the frantic managing of outcomes and instead embrace your position as the loved of God? To choose with your will to be the loved in moments of potential insecurity?

When I honestly answer these questions for myself, I have to admit in some cases the answer is no. I’m not willing.

But I want to be willing. And that is a good place to start.

light

lamp & the moonWhen I see a lamp post, I have a hard time not taking a photo of it. Like trees, lamp posts bear witness to stories that happen beneath them. They are interesting to me. I feel the same way about the moon. So when I see a lamp post and the moon at the same time, I capture them both and share them here. It only seems right.

I may be sharing a photo-a-day this week. Or this may be the only one. Don’t you love the freedom of summertime?

 

sweet July

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Ihave lived in North Carolina for 16 years now. I can’t remember ever referring to July as “sweet.” Hot and humid? Yes. Heavy with grief? Once. Relaxing and fun? Usually. But this year I name July sweet because she comes bearing the gift of rest and space for my husband.

Saturday I sent out our monthly letter sharing with readers what we hope the next six months will look like now that John’s days as a youth pastor are behind us (If you would like to get July’s letter at the end of the month, here is where you can sign up.) The first item on the list is rest.

July

My schedule is picking up starting in July but John’s is doing the opposite. Still, I long for this month to be a time of deep soul breathing for both of us. We’ve had many conversations about how to navigate his calmer schedule with my more active one. One way I’m planning to do that is to take some extended time off from the blog this month while I work toward finishing some non-blog related deadlines.

I’m not sure exactly what that will look like, but I wanted to let you know that’s what’s going on if you don’t hear from me for a week or four.

In the meantime, here are some things I wanted to be sure you know about incase it’s a while before I check in here again:

She Speaks Meet-up for Chatting at the Sky readers: I mentioned this before but wanted to say it once again. In a little over 3 weeks, some of you will be headed to Charlotte for the She Speaks conference. I know this is a nervous time for many so I wanted to host an intentional time to meet up with you. Let’s gather in a corner, connect with one another, and share some encouragement for a few minutes. If you’re going to She Speaks and would like to gather with a smaller group for a little conversation at some point during the weekend, email me including “She Speaks” in the subject line and I will be in touch. If you have already emailed, you’ll hear from me soon!

Things I Learned in July: Y’all. Friday was so much fun. Seriously, this is my favorite link up I have ever hosted. I’m slowly working my way through your posts (all 128 of them so far) and I am learning the most spectacularly random stuff! I love it so much I can’t wait to do it again at the end of this month. So keep your “what I learned” lists going and we’ll meet back here the last week of July.

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Letting Go of the Try Hard Life Conference: I’m headed to Johnson City, Tennessee next month to serve at two events alongside two of my favorite musicians, Christa Wells and Nicole Witt! My prayer for both of these events is for girls and women to remember how Jesus’ pursuit of us is more important than our pursuit of anything else and to find relief from the anxiety of performing for acceptance. Here are the details for any of you who might be close enough to attend:

Grace Fellowship – Johnson City, Tennessee

For Teen Girls Friday August 9, 2013

For Women Saturday August 10, 2013

Alright friends. That’s all I have for now. In order to create a space here for your soul to breathe, I have to create some space for my own. So I’m going to take some time to do that this month as best I can. I may be back next week or . . . not. Until then, may you breathe in grace and breathe out worship in everything you do. Enjoy your week, friends.

what you can find in the ordinary moments

“The discovery of God lies in the daily and the ordinary, not in the spectacular and the heroic. If we cannot find God in the routines of home and shop, then we will not find him at all. Ours is to be a symphonic piety in which all the activities of work and play and family and worship and sex and sleep are the holy habitats of the eternal.”

Richard Foster, Prayer

These words of Richard Foster’s in his chapter called Praying the Ordinary resonated with me this morning so I thought I would share them with you. You’re welcome.

june

His words also remind me to remind you to come back here tomorrow to share some of the ordinary (and perhaps not so ordinary) things you have learned during the month of June. Here are some tips to write your post if you need them. I plan to have the linky up by around 10 am EST. Can’t wait to see what you come up with!

simple thoughts on faith and leaving

Many of you have written me kind notes of encouragement since I first shared with you about why my husband is quitting his job. Your emails, comments, (and even some letters!) have been cool water on dry days for us. Today, five days before his last day as a youth pastor, we are encouraged, thankful, and filled with hope.

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I have wanted to update you on how things are going as it relates to John’s job and what comes next, but before I do that there is something that has been rolling around in my soul and I’m unable to move forward in writing or in thinking until I find the words to express some thoughts regarding this transition.

Since we announced to our community and to the public that we have made this Very Big Decision to quit our perfectly acceptable job with our perfectly regular paycheck, we are never sure exactly how people are going to respond. But there are some common themes to most of the responses we hear:

You have so much faith.

You are brave.

You are an inspiration.

And every now and then, we also hear what people say behind our back to friends and relatives: What in the world are they going to do?!

I think I love that one the most, because I know that’s really what many are thinking but they worry it will offend us if they say it to our face.

I understand where people are coming from when they say all these things. I’m deeply grateful for the encouragement and don’t want to take away from the genuine and heartfelt support people so kindly offer. But I wanted to take a few moments and point out some of the unspoken assumptions that might hover invisibly over words like “you’re brave” and “you have great faith.”

There is a part of me that gets a little squirmy with the implication that we have faith in greater measure just because we are leaving a job.

It’s true, faith is often required to leave a job.

But faith is also required to stay at a job.

“I’ve never attended a ‘steadfast obedience’ party at work. I’ve never been invited to a ‘staying put’ get-together. I’ve never heard of a ‘sticking around forever’ shindig. And I haven’t for one simple reason: We live in a corporate culture that celebrates people who leave and ignores those who stay.”

Jon Acuff, Quitter

We have to be careful not to point to outward actions as the only implication of an inward reality. You can’t always tell from an outside glance what is happening on the deep level of the soul. Over time, theses realities become clear. But be careful to elevate those who seem to be making noticeable decisions that have obvious impact over those who make small decisions in quiet corners with little noticeable impact at all.

All movement requires faith no matter how big or small it may look on the outside – whether you’re stepping into the unknown or stepping into the same thing as yesterday.

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John and I have have been praying for over two years about what might be next for us. For two years, we have quietly waited, listened, and stayed right where we are. During that time, no one said we were brave or had a lot of faith because there was no action to point to as proof. But those years of waiting and listening were necessary for the movement happening right now – the kind of movement people can see.

Maybe your movement is small right now, too. Maybe you watch as others around you seem to be making “big moves” and have “great faith.”

Take heart, friend. The size of your faith isn’t really the point; only the size of your God.

So yes, we are leaving a job. And over the next few days, as kind friends and curious bystanders send us off and say some of these lovely words, John and I will receive them with gratitude and beg God to filter words of praise for us through the person of Jesus who did only what he saw his Father do and said only what he heard his Father say.

May it be so of all of us no matter how big, small, or ordinary our next steps might be.

the importance of looking beneath

Chances are, since you are human, something annoys you right now. I don’t know what it is, but it is annoying or frustrating or stressful or some maddening combination of all three.

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Sometimes those everyday annoyances are just that – annoying. This is me, in all my big-self glory, being selfish and ridiculous and I just need to get over myself.

I do need to get over myself, but it is also possible that I may need to look into myself – to take a little time to peek beneath that minor annoyance and see where the root of it really comes from.

This can be difficult for me, because I have to be willing to face whatever I see there – when I’m bothered/ annoyed/rejected/frustrated is it really because of this surface thing that is rubbing me wrong?

Or is there something deeper going on, some need I am insisting someone else meet, some expectation I’m placing on the backs of those I love, a burden they were never meant to carry?

I’m sharing an example of this about this over at (in)courage today. Join me?

for when you are running on empty

Sometimes you anticipate your vacation, make plans and reservations, and look forward to your needed time off. You pack a nice bag, shop for a few travel sized toiletries, and ask the neighbors to pick up your mail while you’re gone.

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Other times, you work on your projects and try hard to finish tasks but you end up just walking in circles and writing the same to-do list items on seven different 4×6 note cards until you finally realize, Oh. I’m not getting anything done. I suppose I should take some time off.

So here’s to time off – both the kind you take and the kind that takes you.

If you are vacationing, may it be restful. If you are working, may it be fruitful.

And may you have the wisdom to know when to stop if it isn’t.

As I take a few days to readjust to the summer schedule, here are a few things I’m into this week that are helping me out:

I have the privilege of co-leading a retreat with Fil and Nathan Foster this fall (maybe I’ll see you there?)John and I have known Fil for about 12 years now and I highly recommend his books – but I also highly recommend his person. Is that weird? His portion of the interview starts in around 10:00 mins. You can also listen to it in iTunes by searching “Simplicity Podcast.”

“Here’s a guy who’s famous for what he has to say, yet what I remember most about him was how he sat and listened . . . He touched my life with his kindness.”

-Fil Anderson on his friendship with Brennan Manning

  • I’ve been listening to this album by Christa Wells and Nicole Witt on repeat. Track 5 called Pray is The Lord’s Prayer and it is beautiful.
  • I got my third Stitch Fix! I’ll share what came in that box soon, but I realized I never told you what I kept from my second one: so here’s my keeps from my second fix.

What are you into this week?

why you need to tell someone how scared you are

The pool opened this weekend so the air smells like burgers and coconut sunscreen. I spent the weekend fully clothed in my lounge chair – most days it was too cold for me to swim. But it’s never too cold to people-watch and one of my favorite places to do that at the pool is down by the diving boards.

diveI watched my son fly off the low-dive, swim to the ladder, walk fast back to the diving board line and fly off the end of the board again. He doesn’t even think about it.

But that isn’t the case for some. While he made his rounds on the low dive, I noticed a little girl – maybe 8 or 9 – standing at the end of the high dive. She wasn’t jumping.

Instead, she stood there looking around for another way down. She bent her knees like she was preparing, but quickly stood up straight again.

Bend, straighten, repeat.

After a few tries like this, other people began to notice her and it wasn’t long before all eyes were on her. Her dad appeared from the crowd shouting encouragement and waving a thumbs up.

It happens a lot at the pool – some kid gets scared at the top of the high dive and everybody watches from below. Secretly? I kind of love it. I don’t love watching scared kids – I love watching scared kids jump. It never gets old.

Someone started to clap. Soon, everyone was clapping, cheering her on. We could tell she desperately wanted to jump, but I heard her say faintly, “It’s too high.

She couldn’t do it and slowly climbed backwards down the ladder.

My heart sank for her. But you know what else? My heart sank for me, too. I wanted her to jump. I don’t know this girl personally, but I understand her fear.

Ten minutes later, I saw her climb back up. I nudged John next to me, “Look! There she is again.”

She seemed more determined this time, standing on the edge. She bent her knees same as last time. And again, she straightened back up.

Crouch . . .

Stand.

Crouch . . !

Stand.

jumpThe crowd began to clap again, this time with more energy. Several people from across the pool started a countdown – 3 . . 2 . . 1 . . and with one slow motion crouch, she flung herself from the end of the board, arms straight above her.

As she fell, we all whooped and hollered, our collective happiness coming from a genuine excitement for her. I know she heard us before she hit the water.

Here’s the thing: kids jump off that board every 30 seconds and nobody cares. They turn flips and touch their toes and they do it 10 times in a row.

But it isn’t until someone hesitates that the crowd gets involved, even a crowd of strangers.

With a little more than a month left in the only job John and I have ever known as a couple, I feel like we are not only standing at the end of a diving board, we’ve decided to go ahead and set up a tent there on the edge.

Last week I spent some time with the other pastor’s wives at our church. They were kind to gather in the midst of a busy month to spend some time with me and say goodbye. As we sat around the table eating pimento cheese spread on crackers and a delicious chocolate cake with my name on it, I cried as I shared with them my excitement as well as my fear.

They prayed for me, and in a very real way, I felt like I was standing scared at the edge of the diving board. But I had a profound awareness that for those moments, these women were a tiny crowd around me, encouraging me to jump.

If I hadn’t told them I was afraid, they may not have known to cheer.

Now before you get the wrong idea, I want you to know something about this group of women - these other wives and I are not best friends. We don’t have Bible study together or go on vacation with each other’s families. I like them, I respect them, I love to spend time with them. But we hardly ever see one another and it honestly would have been easier and more comfortable for me to not let them see me cry.

After that evening with them, I reminded myself of this: Don’t insist your encouragement should come from a particular person or group of people. Be open to receiving God however (and through whomever) he may want to show himself.

Sometimes it’s good to let them see you sweat even when it feels awkward. Fear seems to grow in the darkness of isolation. But when you expose it in the light of community, it tends to lose power. Sharing my fear is often the path that leads to courage.

So here’s to climbing up on top of diving boards and being honest about how terrified we are. May you push through your insecurity and fully admit your fear. And may you be open to receiving the kind community of people there waiting to cheer you on.

3 questions to ask yourself before you change the world

Change the world is a tired, over-used phrase. I know that. But you know, we could say the same thing about “I love you” so I’m just going to go with it. These three questions are for anyone who wonders if it might finally be time to do something – write, teach, move, speak, listen, join, or quit. They are questions that help me – but maybe your questions are different. I’d love to hear what they are.

3 questions

In an interview Jeff Goins did with Seth Godin, he (Seth) said all his books were a result of his being frustrated by something. (By the way, raise your hand if you have ever called them Jeff Godin and Seth Goins – I mean, really. Could their names BE any more similar?)

Seth: “For me, I don’t wake up in the morning saying I need something to write about or I owe the world a book. It’s totally fine with me if I don’t have anything. If I’m gonna name something or if I’m going to bother going the year long trouble of writing a book, it’s because I’m frustrated. The only reason I do any of this is because no one else has done it in a way that I think is going to push an idea forward that I think is worth addressing.”

I’ve thought about this for a while and compared what he says to the way I feel about why I write or explore an idea.

I wrote Grace for the Good Girl and Graceful because I saw myself in the girls in our youth group. Jesus didn’t seem to be an answer to real problems in their lives. He was only an example to follow when they wanted to be good Christians.

This gross distortion of the Gospel broke my heart and made me mad. Are we teaching our students a compartmental salvation? And am I partially to blame for that?

So yes, frustration was the first spark of my motivation.

Being frustrated didn’t make me qualified or ready. But it did wake something up within me, something that compelled me to move, something that made me want to get ready.

The frustration rolled into a compulsion towards change – passion to communicate a message, to move into the chaos of the questions even if I didn’t have all the answers.

But being frustrated about an issue and compelled to do something about it won’t sustain the message for the long-term. For me, what really keeps me moving is the hope of something better.

In my experience, when I am frustrated and passionate without hope, I’m vulnerable to cynicism. If I don’t have hope for change, despair creeps in and I want to give up.

Am I able to peer behind the mysterious curtain of the present and catch a glimpse of what could be?

Am I willing to move into the darkness even though I don’t feel fully qualified or confident or prepared?

These are important questions for me to ask about the work I do. There are plenty of things that frustrate me. But that doesn’t mean I am called to tackle them all. It’s only when I sense all three of these motivations working together that I begin to accept I might need to explore an idea, a thought, or move towards influencing change.

Frustration wakes me up.

Passion gets me moving.

Hope keeps me going.

What about you?

What frustrates you?

What compels you?

What do you most hope for?

Maybe these questions will help you define and refine your goals, your dreams for yourself or for others, and your desire for change.

A quick thanks to you for your kind comments, emails and prayers regarding my last post. John read some of your responses as well and afterwards he looked at me and said, “Wow. A lot of people are in transition.” So here’s to waiting, to believing, and to seeing what’s next.