Lent – Letting Go and Leaning In

Lentcoffee-cup-desk-pen

A time of letting go.

A time of preparing.

A space to rest and reflect.

So often overlooked by modern culture.

Sometimes overly strict for perhaps the wrong reasons.

In the history of the Church, Lent is the season before Easter. It is marked by 40 days that precede Resurrection Sunday (excluding Sundays), or about 6 weeks. For many in the Catholic Church, lent became a season of giving up sweets and alcohol. Before Lent begins, on Ash Wednesday, there is one last hurrah on Fat Tuesday. (in French… Mardi Gras, which translated literally means Tuesday Fat). That’s also a reason many children typically receive candy on Easter morning, to mark that the fast from sugar is over. Hopefully the kiddos aren’t also getting a bottle of booze in their basket.

Some people know this information well.

Some might say, “Oh, ya. I kinda recall that.”

Following the tradition of giving up things, I know people who have taken a break from Facebook for Lent. Others who do give up sugar or alcohol. Sometimes people give up other foods like coffee or soda. (Yes, coffee is its own food group. Don’t judge. Also, I’m not giving up my coffee this Lent) I’ve known people who give up one meal a day. If you’re giving something up, let me be the first to encourage you!

In the right idea of Lent, it’s not just about giving something up. Because in that model, it’s all about us. In this busy culture and busy lives that we lead, the giving up of something trivial is easy. No candy, meh, I can handle 40 days. Skipping Starbucks for the home brewed coffee, ya, I can handle that. And in our busy, I’m sure something else will fill that space or perceived need we have.

If it’s not about me and what I’m sacrificing, then where is my focus? It’s more about replacing.  It’s about replacing that activity you would normally do or food you would normally eat to spend more time with Jesus. It’s about journeying through those last weeks and days until he was crucified on the cross. It’s about remembering what He has already accomplished on your behalf and growing your soul closer to Him.

Really, the Lenten Season is a both a giving up of something personal to us and a giving in to something so much greater than us. It’s about surrendering our ways to the The Way. It’s about letting Jesus into our personal, daily, breathing in and breathing out spaces of life. It’s about letting Him guide us and transform us, bringing a true inner peace and understanding in a way that only He can.

So what does that really look like to give up something a little more personal?

That can be a challenge.

Rearranging our schedule to make more time with Jesus? Giving up our old ideas and ways of doing things? Letting go of our expectations and control of how it’s always been done? Letting go of that perfect picture in your head of what life should look like for yourself? Offering our time and lives to be in service to others? Saying yes to the hard things He asks of us? AND inviting Jesus into the process? Trusting even deeper in your inner being that He is there for you?

Yep, that can be a journey.

It’s a journey I’m ready for.

A time to cleanse the old ideas. A time to be refreshed by the one who refreshes.

Are you ready too? I encourage you to take some time and consider what you may let go of so that you receive the grace He desires to pour into the empty space.

 

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him,

so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Rom 15:13)

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Surviving the “Off” Days of Life

Do you ever have those days that are just “off”? Nothing seems to work and you don’t even really have the drive to make anything work? A day where it might be better to just call in sick or go back to bed and call it a day? At like, 8:30 in the morning?

Yah. Today was one of those days for me.

I don’t even really know why.

This is what I posted on Instagram when I was in the middle of feeling the yuck:

Ever have one of those days you just want to build a blanket fort with someone then sit in there, listen to good music, let them hold you & tell them everything that’s rolling around in your head & driving you nuts today that you just can’t even human for the day and let them remind you how awesome you are & that you can do hard things. Ya. Today. But human I must. Maybe I’ll make my own fort later. Deep breath… #Icandohardthings

Apparently, I also need to write really long run-on sentences when I’m in the yuck.

And remind myself that I can do hard things.

And give myself some space even when I feel there is no margin.

And take a deep breath and step forward. Even when I really don’t want to.

But that’s what I did.

I took the morning off from work to get some errands done that I knew I wouldn’t get to tonight. I stopped and bought myself a chai tea latte. Because on rainy blanket fort days, chai tea is needed. I also stopped in the middle of my errands and bought myself a new candle to make my no-window-dungeon-office smell like a tropical vacation.

I went to work this afternoon and enjoyed the tropical smells. I sent several emails that needed to be dealt with. I asked for help on a couple video projects. There were ridiculous wardrobe malfunctions, a few times I yelled “CUT” seconds after recording started. I even cursed at the end of one of the videos. That didn’t make the final cut. Oops. But I got them sent off to the right people. And over the next few days several hundred people in the Pacific Northwest will see how ridiculous I am.

I picked up my daughter, let her drive home, made the kiddos some dinner, gave and received some hugs. I also gave grace on their undone projects and responsibilities, because we all need grace. Then I pushed on and worked out, because pull ups and push ups remind me how weak I am, that I still need help, and that ultimately I can do hard things.

That’s the real deal, isn’t it? Sometimes life just comes at you thick and fast. You deal, you process, you take action in the moment because that’s what’s required. Then maybe you just feel completely worn out and weak, like nothing you do matters or has any impact. It’s okay to feel that way sometimes. It’s just not a place to stay. We can do the things that seem hard, we can ask for help, we can get through them. We can learn as we move forward and gain confidence in the process.

Tonight, reflecting back, I realize why I’m worn out today. Why I’m feeling weak. Some things just take a lot of energy and wear me out. Like dealing with fraud on my bank account yesterday, consolidating loans and moving money around, preparing for some upcoming speaking & teaching opportunities, comforting my kids and helping them see their options, interacting with friends and encouraging them even when I feel I have nothing left to give.

And that’s also part of the real deal too. We all have more to give. Even when we don’t think we do.

We know what we need to do, even when we feel the only option is to crawl in a blanket fort.

My good friend, Jen Hatmaker, reminded me of this today. (Okay, so I don’t really know her, but don’t we all like to imagine she’s our best friend?!!) She reminded me that I know what I’m supposed to do when I face a challenging situation.

So, that’s what I did.

I prayed. I read some scripture. I let a few tears fall, because they just leaked out of my head all on their own. (who am I to stop leaking out of my face?!) I got some work done that needed to get done. I asked for help. I asked a friend to pray for me. I laughed. I hugged my kids. I ate some food that was good for me and let my body get some exercise. I listened to some good music. I laughed some more. I wrote this, because I feel better when words spill out of my head.

So that’s my advice for you too when you find yourself having an “off” day. Give yourself some grace, some unexpected margin. Breathe. Pray. Reach out to friends. Do what you know you need to do. Keep moving forward, one baby step at a time, and the hard things will get done.

You are qualified, you are capable, you are amazing.

You’ve got this.

I believe in you.

And at the end of the day, when you see how strong you really are, go build yourself that blanket fort. Just like I’m about to do. ❤

dark-heart

 

Listening to the Whisper

I love sharing The Big God Story with children.  I relish the opportunity when I get to help children learn of God’s love and His plan that He is continuing to work out.  I love helping children understand something they’ve maybe always known, but now see it in a new way.  Or take a concept and explore it deeper with them.

Kids kind of get that “a-ha” moment, just a slight shift in focus when things become clearer.  Then sometimes, as I’m preparing a lesson, the Holy Spirit is teaching me something in a fresh new way.

Recently I was getting ready to share about the prophet Elijah.  I honestly don’t remember learning of him as a child.  I think the church I grew up in was Old Testament poor.  I have since learned about Elijah and have often been with preschoolers when share about him.  We usually focus on the offering the prophets of Baal placed out.  They danced and chanted and prayed, but no god showed up.

Then Elijah offered up a sacrifice, first drenching all of it in water to prove a point.  After praying to the one true God “The fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.” (1 Kings 18:38)  Boom.  That fast.  God sure can act quick.

This lesson didn’t stop there though.  It continued on with Elijah having to escape for his life.  After killing the prophets of Baal, well, Baal wanted Elijah dead.  So he ran and hid on Mt Horeb.  This is the part I love.  This is what I needed to hear that day when I was with the kids.  Granted, I had read the lesson through several times and made all of my preparations.  But it’s so different being on our little stage in front of kids and presenting it to them.  It affected me differently.  God affected me differently.

You see, when Elijah was hiding on Mt Horeb, he was tired and lonely.  He had done all that God asked of him, yet here he was in a dark cave all alone. God showed himself in a great wind, in splitting rocks of an earthquake, and fire that came around the mountain in a huge display.  Lots of chaos was around Elijah.

But God was not in the wind, the earthquake or the fire; He was in a still, small whisper that gently blew across Elijah.

This is where I’ve found myself lately.  I feel like I’m in the dark on Mt Horeb, crying out, “God, I’m lonely and feel lost.  I’m trying to do what you’ve called me to do, yet here I am”.  There’s so much around me, but God isn’t in the activities and the stuff consuming my day and kaleidoscoping around me.  He’s there in the whisper.  The soft still voice.

“Nancy, I AM.  I AM here, I AM with you, I AM working all of this out according to my perfect plan, I AM holding you in this, I AM who I AM and you are going to be fine.  So be still, hear my whisper, hear my voice, and know that I AM God.”

A-ha.  You’ve got me again.   I’m sitting still and listening to the whisper.

mountain-whispers


Originally posted on Truministry