Beautiful in His Time

132Just a few minutes ago, I sent all three of my kids off to school together. Yes, my baby officially packed up his book bag and shipped out to Kindergarten. And while this does nothing to change the fact that I am still (and will always be) their mother, it does signal a change of season for me. At least for this year, between the hours of 8:00-2:15, I will not be accompanied by the constant presence of someone under four feet tall. This has not happened in ten years.

Truthfully, though,  I’m not exactly sure what to do with myself.

One thing I do hope to do is catch up on some quiet space. For the last decade, I haven’t been able to give myself to prayer or Bible study without half-listening in the background for “Mommy, I need….” This isn’t problem–life naturally cycles through different stages–and I’ve learned to I take great comfort in what Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones once told a group of medical students who complained that they didn’t have time for prayer and Bible Study:

I am a doctor. I have been where you are. You have time for what you want to do. I make only one exception: the mother of preschool-aged children does not have time and emotional resources.

But now, I am officially no longer a mother of preschool-aged children. (*sniff*) And that means learning to steward my time in different ways. In fact, I won’t be surprised if it’s as much a learning curve for me as kindergarten will be for my son.

Still, I want to say something to all you mothers who do have preschool-aged children: Stay strong in your love. Love these little ones and these little years because they slip by more quickly than you can imagine. Your life is very full right now. So full that you can hardly see the road ahead over all the sippy cups and diaper bags and potty charts. But this too will come to an end, and when it does, you will be thankful for these years.

Don’t get me wrong, there will be plenty of “could’ves, would’ves, and should’ves.”  These are the natural result of caring as much as you do. But when it is time, when you start giving away the baby paraphernalia, it will be okay. It will be okay because you know that something–Someone–greater than you has been directing these seasons. And just like you’re ready for autumn after the joys of summer; and just like you can’t wait for the first winter’s snow fall, you will be ready for the next season. You’ll be ready for it because You know the faithfulness of the God who brings it.

So embrace the time at hand, whether that means sending little ones off to their first day of kindergarten or sending them off college. Embrace the time at hand because you know it comes from His hand. Because when you know this, you will be free to live fully in it, hallowing it as a sacred gift. You will be free to look to the past with joy and look on into the future with hope–the hope that the One who created time makes it all so very, very beautiful in His time.

 

Girls Rule. Boys Drool?

Next week, all three of my kids will head to school. They will pack their book bags, grab their lunch boxes, and walk right out the door and right out of my protective care. As a parent, there’s something very unsettling about this. My natural instinct is to protect them by keeping them close so I can know exactly what they are doing every single minute of every single day. But as I’m beginning to learn, part of being a mom means, not only protecting them from the world, but teaching them to sort through the world in a Christian way. Each family will pursue this goal in different ways–some through homeschooling, others through private school–but our kids attend the local (as in 3/4-of-a-mile-local) public school. But if I’m really honest, I find that we spend equal (and often more) time sorting through what they learn on the playground than in the classroom. Whether it is new (*ahem*) vocabulary or how to resolve conflict, the playground is as much a part of their education as the school’s curriculum could ever be.

One of the things that we’ve had to discuss is how boys and girls, and eventually men and women, relate to each other. (Apparently, it was on the playground last year, that two of my daughter’s fourth grade classmates “got engaged.”) At the same time, the playground is also where they first encountered sexist messages like “Girls Rule. Boys Drool” and my personal favorite: “Girls go to college to get more knowledge/ Boys go to Jupiter to get more stupider.” I recently wrote a piece for Her.meneutics that explores how we as parents and adults can sort between natural playground banter and truly harmful sexist messages. Like so many things in their lives, this is an opportunity for us to show children a better way.

We must realize that demeaning language harms the imago dei of both the one who speaks the message and the one to whom the message is directed. When we sanction messages like “Girls Rule. Boys Drool.” we affirm a false message about what it means to be made in God’s image. And when we undermine the truth of what it means to be made in God’s image, we undermine the ability of all of us, male and female alike, to live in that truth.

The Apostle James reminds us of the relationship between what we say and how it relates to being image bearers when he writes,

No human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God… Does a spring pour forth form the same opening both fresh and salt water?

In essence, when our words belittle those who bear God’s image, it reveals that we ourselves are not bearing his image the way we should. We are not reflecting him because we are not doing what he himself has done—extending honor and grace to those made in his likeness.

You can read the rest here.

He Shall Feed His Flock

arabic-n-christians-iraq1Over the last several weeks, news has trickled out of Iraq and Syria. News of persecution, of ethnic and religious cleansing, of genocide. We have responded by changing our profile pictures, offering up prayers, and petitioning our political leaders. But the news has continued. News of churches burning, of thousands starving on barren mountain tops, and then this week, of even children being beheaded.

At some point, it is simply too much.

We want to look away, to go about our business, to focus on the world that is near. We want do this–not because we don’t feel the weight of what is happening there–but because we feel it too much. We are mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, grandmothers and grandfathers, and we know that these could be our own children and our own families who are lost, thirsty, confused, and dying. In truth, they are. And when we consider this, when we let the reality of what is happening sink in, we are overwhelmed.

Our souls simply can’t handle it.

So we turn away. We cook our meals, we hug our children, and we offer up prayers for our brothers and sisters. But if, for a moment, we consider it; if even for a moment we feel the weight, the unbelievable weight, of their loss, we have a chance to share in their suffering.  And when we share in their suffering, we may also be comforted with them. We may be comforted by the One who promises to feed His flock, who promises to gather the lambs with His arms, who promises to gently lead those that are with young.

And truthfully, these promises are all that any of us have.

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(Disclaimer: The images in the following were collected from various media outlets and used solely for the education of my audience. The background music is from a 2008 London Philharmonic recording of G.F. Handel’s Messiah.)

Think Before You Write

This is a second post in a recurring series that addresses questions of craft for those writing in “the-in-between.”

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Q: My friend Rachael and I were talking a few days ago when she brought up this question:  How do you find time to write, especially in the busy seasons of life?

A: Those of us writing in “the-in-between” have a lot of questions, but this is THE question. Whether you work a full-time job, are invested in a busy season of ministry, or are running after toddlers, finding time to write is one of the biggest obstacles to actually… writing. (Case in point: While I was in the middle of writing this post, my husband came down stairs to ask me to cut his hair.) Last week, Taryn Hutchison offered some helpful tips at Redbud Writers Guild; and when I posed Rachael’s question to a group of writing friends, several sagely pointed out the need to keep reasonable expectations. Some seasons of life will simply be more productive than others.

Still others swear by early rising, spouses who pitch in, and dedicating space in your weekly calendar. Truthfully, though, I’m not that organized. In our house, no two weeks (let alone days) look the same. And while I do sometimes stay up late to work a piece, it’s usually because I can’t sleep, not because I’ve reached a new level of productivity. But I have found one technique that I swear by. In fact, if I didn’t do this one thing, I’m convinced that I’d never have enough time to write.

So what do I do? I write on my feet. More accurately, I think on my feet.

Many people mistakenly believe that writing is the work of arranging words on a page, of finding just the right sequence of letters and punctuation. They believe that “writing” happens with pen and notebook in hand or sitting in front of a computer. But writing is NOT simply about words; it is just as much about the about the ideas behind the words. And until you learn to think through your ideas, all the time in the world won’t be enough to write about them.

The good news is that you can think anywhere. Ideas bombard me in the shower, at the grocery store, listening to the news, and scrolling through Facebook; the place they are least likely to form is sitting in front of a computer screen. If I wait to begin “writing” until I plop myself in a chair, more often than not, the words won’t form because the ideas haven’t formed yet.

So I’ve learned to think on my feet. And as the ideas come, I’ve learned to capture them and squirrel them away. Forget Scrivener; the first draft of Made for More was written on the backs of church bulletins, restaurant napkins, and grocery receipts.

The first “draft” of Made for More.

I also make notes on my phone, send myself emails, and record myself talking if my hands aren’t free. (Nor am I above asking my 10yo daughter to act as my secretary—“What’s trans-sub-stan-ti-a-tion mean, Mommy?”) By the time I actually sit down in front of a screen, it’s just a matter of arranging the bits and bobs into a coherent whole.

Don’t misunderstand. When I say “bits and bobs,” I mean a thesis and all the examples that support that thesis. For me, the process of collecting these can take anywhere from a couple days to several weeks, but I don’t sit down in front of the screen it until everything “clicks” –until all the random thoughts actually form into a concept. And then once I know what to “write,” the time I do have to write is much more productive.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t struggle once I sit down, but when I do, it’s usually because I need to step away and think about the ideas some more. If the words don’t come easily, I don’t waste my time sitting in front of the computer because I probably need to spend more time thinking. So I go clean a toilet, make dinner, or do laundry. But I keep thinking while I do.

I don’t want to make it sound simpler than it is. I don’t want to minimize the time that good writing takes. And I certainly don’t want to suggest that you check out of your real life in order to puzzle out the mysteries of the universe. But you probably have more time to write than you realize because finding time to write well doesn’t begin with hours in a coffee shop, long walks along a placid lake, or evenings spent scribbling in your moleskin notebook. Finding time to write well begins with thinking well.