Tuesday, February 12, 2013

When there just isn't enough

What do you do when you feel completely and utterly overwhelmed and incapable of actually making it through half a day without everything going to hell in a hand basket?  (And, really, where did that phrase even come from?)

I don't know how to exsist in my own skin when I feel I might burst like I do right now.

I have this amazing husband who I love spending time with.  I love creating a space in our home where he feels warmth and love and encouraged when he gets home.  (notice I did not say clean, I just meant generally happy people he comes home to.)  I long to invest in our marriage where the only thing we want to do in the evening is spend time together, talking about life, dreams and faith.  I never want the spark to leave us.  I want there to be time every day where we can invest in some real way in the foundation of what makes our family.  I also want to be able to support him in his dreams and be on his team for making his dreams work.  I love him and want more time for him.

I also have these incredible, spirited, funny, normal acting out kids that I JUST LOVE TO PIECES!  Good grief, is it possible for a mom to love her kids more than I love mine?  When they came home today from school, we put on an old vinal record and played card games for an hour.  I just kind of want to hang out with them all the time participating in dance parties, reading stories, building snow forts, playing legos, coloring pictures, the list goes on and on.  I want to pour into them spiritually, preparing thier devotions and creating a family structure that is based in God's truth, and his freedom for creating and love.  I want to teach them to lean into God when they need answers so that they know it isn't me or Paul, but He is the one they should seek.  I want to have time to prepare crafts and activities for us to do as a family.  I want time to teach them all sorts of character building qualities that are important for this life.  I want them to have time to play freely, participate in chores, help with the planting and growing and preparing of our food because this is a life skill they need.  I want so much for them it feels overwhelming today as I try to figure out where to put my efforts in my last hour of free time tonight to prepare for them tomorrow.  I love them and want more time for them.

I am blessed to have amazing people in my life.  I mean, really, incredible people where my desire never matches my reality in loving and serving them.  Investing in them.  Knowing them.  Encouraging them and uplifting them.  I want more time to remember all the small and big things going on in their lives.  I want to be the friend they can count on.  The friend they can call in a crisis.  I NEVER want any of these people to think, "She is too busy for me to call".  That would break my heart.  I love them and want more time with them.

I serve on this beautiful board of servant hearted folks that make up the Haiti Mission Project.  I recently made a mistake that will cost one of our members more time and energy than before to help correct my mistake.  My mistake of neglegence.  One of my great fears revealeved.  That I really just am too busy or too lazy to stay focused and committed to this task.  I love Haiti.  I love this ministry.  I am in love with the people we work with.  I am honored to work alongside the other board members.  How do I committ more time or energy to making our dreams and plans happen in this wonderful little country?  I love them and want more time for them.

I believe with my whole heart that God put a gift and desire in my heart for sharing his life giving love with others.  I currently couldn't define exactly that looks like but am in the process of figuring it out.  I know it means writing.  I know it means speaking.  I know I need to do it to feel alive.  But writing my book right now feels crazy.  Planning a small tour seems impossible.  Organizing all the business details to make that happen takes up more time than I want.  So then I should get an assistant and look what it would take to make that happen to free up more personal time, but in the end, paying someone else takes pay away from my family which needs it.  And that all just makes my head hurt.  But I love this and want more time with it.

Then there is my love of reading, cooking, sewing, gardening, working out, sleeping, painting, and writing. I love all these things and want more time with them.

What do you do when you have too much you love and not enough time?  Giving up on any one of these feels kind of wrong.  I know that there are seasons in life and through each season, one love takes the front seat while another the back.  Lately however, they all seem to be screaming "SHOT GUN!".

My head is spinning, and my heart feels like I ate too much at Thanksgiving.  I also know that everyday you survive, you just keep chipping away.  You just try to make a little improvement each day.  You invite God into the process.  You surrender your control and expectations, and let him take the lead.

But today, I felt like my baby spoon was in no way the tool I needed to face the mountain.

And some days are like that.

Some days, you just thank the Good Lord you survived the day. You go to sleep.  Rest your weary body and soul, and tomorrow, see if you can start over.

This is where I am today.  Coming home from a weekend youth retreat where I was incredibly sick for two days, in the game of life, today won.  It kicked my butt to the curb.  But, tomorrow is a  new day.

Thank God for new beginings.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A letter to my husband

My dear sweet husband,

Valentines day is coming.

You wrote a song once about how much you hate this day.  That really Valentines should be a day off from striving to love the ones you love all year long.  Love shouldn't exist within the confines of this one day.

Even though we both agree, it's kind of a silly holiday, we like that it reminds us to appreciate the ones we love.  To celebrate love wherever it exists. And to applaud the courage it takes to stick to love when it moves from a feeling to a commitment.

You, sweet husband of mine, are really good at giving presents.  Thank you for always trying to find something special that's just right for me.

This year though, I thought we could put aside the gift giving.  I don't want the candy or flowers or fancy dinner out, even though we've never done those things.

I don't want you taking your time away from us shopping for something that you heard me say I liked six  months ago because you know it would surprise me that you remembered.

I don't want you worrying about money, and trying to find the right thing that says, "I love you".

I thought I would make this easy for us, and just tell you what I want.

I want you to see me.  I mean really see me.

I want you to see past the sweat pants that I wear all winter long because its too cold to wear anything else.

I want you to see past my fabulous outfit that I put on to go out.

I want you to see past the mom who is in charge of the house and lives under a check list.

I want you to see beauty in  my aging, child bearing body, because those my dear are the trade offs of living a life time with someone and experiencing the joy of our children.

I want you to see beauty in the wrinkles on my face, because you caused most of the laughing ones and some of the worry ones.  Those are the scars you left on me.

I don't want you to say "I think you're wonderful", I want you to tell me WHY you think I'm wonderful.

I don't want you to say "I love you" I want to know WHY you love me.

What is it about me, specifically, that makes me amazing, or cherished, or lovable by you.  What sets me apart from every other woman you encounter.

In telling me WHY, you communicate that you still see me.  You see my goodness and you see my pain.  You see me every day, but do you notice me?  Do you notice the little things?

The other day you came into the kitchen, tugged at my hand to pull me away from the counter where I was prepping food.  You danced with me, right there in the middle of the kitchen.  You knew I was stressed  I had been in there all day, and you brought me relief.  You pulled me out of my crazy place, and put me in your arms.  You said nothing, we danced till the song was over and then you released me.

I felt seen in that moment.

You are good at noticing the little things and always thanking me for all I do.

This letter isn't written because you are bad at seeing me.

I write this letter because it is easy to go unnoticed behind the mom uniform, the chef's hat, the speaker's dress, the servants sweat pants, and the tired eyes.  It is so easy to get lost in those things.

Your words and encouragement seep into all those tired and broken down places.  When you see me, when you really see me, I feel...well, I feel like me.  Bright eyed, lovable, young, in love, appreciated, cared for.  I feel alive because someone sees me.  I am no longer the invisible frame that moves about the house making everything work for everyone else.

So, please, I don't want a present this Valentines day.

What would mean the world to me, is if you took a moment to see me, and told me again, why you picked me.

Your Wife

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

How much is too much?

I needed to shovel the snow for the third day in a row yesterday.  Little and I came home and I went to work.  Then I remembered that we have neighbors who live three houses down whose dad is out of town for the next two weeks.  So its just the mom, who works full time, the grandma and the 2 year old daughter.  It sure would be kind if I could help out and do this one small chore for them so them so they wouldn't have to do it and bear the cold and risk slipping on the ice.  Easy right?  Shovel your neighbors walk, 15 min, done.

A confession is that I don't usually think about helping my neighbors and shoveling their walks.  Sad, but true.  I just go about my business and do my own thing, get my work done and then move onto the next thing on my list .  But this past Saturday, middle came out to help me shovel and I thought this was a good activity to help teach him how we can help people in all sorts of ways, even on our own block.  (Sad that I often will only think of helping others when I know it will help me teach my kids about compassion.  Man I have a long way to go in understanding a full change of heart.)

So we shoveled their walk two days ago.  Now I am out there shoveling again, and I think to myself, no one is here to see me or learn from me.  Why aren't I shoveling their walk again?  OK, so I will go and shovel their walk.  But in order to get to their home, I need to pass my immediate neighbors.  My immediate neighbors who I have lived next door to for 10 years and I have never once shoveled their walk.  They don't speak English, but we have lived peacefully, watching our kids playing together for years.  The grandma has helped me weed my garden and we have shared plates of food with one another every time a baby is born in either home.

Would I really walk past their snowy sidewalk and not help out?  They have 15 people who live in that house.  Many capable people who could shovel.  But just because they can shovel their own walk, doesn't mean I couldn't show kindness to even them.  So I just kept shoveling.

The house after that is our neighbor who I struggle with.  Their little boy who is hard for me to love, but God challenges daily in the summer months that kids act out for a reason.  And he has his reasons.  Two years ago while holding Little, we got ran down by the S.W.A.T. team as they busted down this neighbor's door looking for a stolen weapon.  Then we watched the little boy who watched his dad and his uncles hurl curse words and slander while they cleaned up glass from the broken door and window.  Things are hard at that house.  Are they not worthy of kindness?  Would a kind act show this family compassion and a little bit of joy?  So I just kept shoveling.

Now the house between the family I just told you about, and the mother with her husband gone has been abandoned since the tornado.  It sits, neglected, all doors and windows boarded up.  We thought the city might own it, but a few weeks ago a couple guys came and cleaned the house out.  Now it sits with a For Sale sign on the lawn.  I'm not gonna lie.  We all loved when this family left.  They were really hard to love.  There were all sorts of shady things happening in that house.  Cops were a regular there, and a few years back they received a lot of attention of shooting and killing their dog in the basement.  But mostly, it really bothered me the way the oldest son talked to his little brother.  The way he would interact with him.  You knew bad stuff was happening there.  ANYWAY, it is one abandon house that sits between all my shoveled walk, and the house I am trying to get to.  So I shoveled.  I don't know if anyone was going to come and shovel.  I doubt it.  And I thought of all the people who would walk the sidewalk getting to the bus or to work, and I thought about the mailman.  So I shoveled it for them.  Then I shoveled our friends walk.

As I was shoveling, I thought about all the things I had just written about.

The family who is capable and has lots of people to shovel.
The family, who for honesty sake, kind of scare me.
The empty home with no family, but so many past mistakes.
The family in need.

I was placing judgments on who was worth my time and kindness.  Who REALLY needs help?  Those are the people we help right?

Being in the tornado almost two years ago really has changed me.  Like never before, was God's call for us to simply live out our lives, loving the people around us mean as much to me as it did after that experience.  No kindness goes unnoticed, because in every act of kindness, there is love, and where there is love, God is present.

Well, after I was done shoveling, I noticed that all I did was reveal all the Ice underneath the snow.  And my first thought was, "Grap!  For real?!"  So I went into our home and got our bag of salt, selfishly thinking to myself, "Now I have to go and buy more salt because I am going to use it all up and I wasn't planning on spending money on this, and Paul is just going to love that I am salting the walk of crack house.  He's gonna love me for this."  But, come on, really, it would be a terrible thing for me to shovel, only to reveal ice and then let someone slip.  I love the way God just keeps pushing me further.  "Just give a little bit more Dani.  Give till you can feel the pain of letting go of your stuff, your money, your time for someone else.  I want you to feel giving, not just be a convenient giver, because that is really no servant heart at all."

So I salted everyone's walk.  I knew it was right.  I knew God was teaching me in this moment and shaping my heart to look a little more like his, and I am thankful for that, really.  So I didn't say anything to my neighbors or to my kids.  This was just about serving and loving the people around me.  Truthfully, I'm not sure they would know we are Christians by the way we live.  I mean, we go to church, and we talk about kindness here and they know we are believers, but that's only because they've asked.  I am ashamed by how little I have done to serve the people right here on my street.  This. This is why God is shaping my heart.  To make me less selfish, and I am thankful for that.

This morning I had a wonderful devotion/prayer time before the kids got up.  I went to the kitchen and started my routine.  Then big woke up and when we looked out the window he saw it had snowed again.  AGAIN!  Four days in a row.  He said, "mom, I think we should serve our friend by shoveling her walk again.  I mean you could do it." And that is when I rolled my eyes.


Yes all the shouty capitals were in my head.  And then a quiet understanding came to me.

When are we done serving?

When ever is it enough to stop giving?

Where is the line for not loving your neighbor?

So my heart got worked on a little bit more today.  My understanding of faith, love, serving, obedience and God got a little bit richer today as yes, I did shovel everyone's walk again today.

And maybe, just maybe, I'm a little less selfish today, and little bit more focused on God.

(But then secretly I tell myself, you have to really get it today, otherwise it will snow again tomorrow Daniel-son.  I think God might just be Mr. Miyagi.)

So yes, this girl still has a lot to learn.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Just Show Up

"Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed" - Mark 1:35

I think devotions are extremely important, and yet I think many of us are scared of them.  I know I used to be.  I thought every devotion needed to have this earth shattering moment where God spoke directly to me and my world would be changed.  That my heart would be full and I would walk away renewed and in touch with my soul.   But then there is the question of "what to do for devotions?"  Pray? Journal? Read?  But read what? The Bible? A book? What book?  Of Poetry .short stories with meaning...a chapter in the Bible, but then where do I start with that?  Good grief, it's just easier to ignore it all together.

I think Satan speaks these things into our Spirit to keep us from even trying.  We come to a devotion/quiet/ meditation time with expectations.  We hear people speak of how God is changing them, speaking to them, revealing things to them.  We show up once, it doesn't happen, and it becomes harder the next time to be as open, be as vulnerable.  We show up again and we read text but it doesn't really get down into our soul. (and then there is the issue of being terrified of what God might reveal to us, or what we might see in our own souls that we don't want to see and will have to confront.)

I can't believe I am actually going to say this, but because I hear Tony Horton's voice every day in this house, (God bless my husband for his dedication to his health and workouts), I am going to repeat what he tells his clients,


You don't always feel like it.  You may suck at it some days.  You may feel nothing some days, but you have to show up.


I had a friend who decided to just show up to silence every morning for 30 minutes.  She wasn't sure what she was doing.  She wasn't sure if she was going to think on a passage, or say something, or wait.  She didn't know, but what she knew is she needed to show up.  If she kept showing up then something was going to happen.

There is no right way to do devotions.  Over our last Sabbath, I read all of C.S. Lewis' "The Great Divorce" I never opened my Bible or prayed.  But I read a book on spiritual matters.  My soul was stirred and my heart was full of new thoughts regarding God and his love for me.  That was my devotion time.  It was refreshing because there are so many days where I read the proverbs or the Psalms or Hebrews and...there's just nothing.  I don't know what I am supposed to be hearing or learning.  Nothing jumps off the page at me and grabs me.  I read.  I close the book, and then I'm done.  It was nice to feel something after doing a devotion.

We have to acknowledge that there is a lie here that says that devotions have to be hard, complicated, intimidating, long, life changing.  Most devotions/quiet times/meditations are just showing up.  Because something beautiful happens in the showing up.  When we consistently show up, we change our habits to include a greater force than ourselves.  We train our brains to remember that we are not alone and are under a higher authority.  It forces us to remember that God is there.  We are not alone.  God is there.  When we show up it creates space for God to be God.  When we show up we will slowly chip away at our independence and fear and control issues and slowly and gently God will take them from us and replace them with his compassion, forgiveness and love.


Doesn't matter what you start with.  Doesn't matter how terrible your prayer is.  (I love to pray. I like to pray more than I like to read the Bible.  I like to pray more than I like to listen to God's answer.  Some would say they like listening to me pray.  But in devotion time, my prayers are horrible.  They are scattered, they are confusing, they are distracted.  They are jumpy, meaning they go from something very real and deep to something like, "please God help me not to forget that my son needs a special treat today."  A lot of times, my prayers are begging God to help me stay focused.  I struggle with saying the things I think I am supposed to say and what I really want to say.  They usually end up being both, just in case.)

Devotions can be short to get started.  Devotions can be listening to a song with a strong spiritual meaning.  It could be reading a book that teaches you or encourages you in spiritual matters.  It could be a Bible Study.  It could be a Portals of Prayer, which I've actually never read before.  huh.  It could be prayer.  It could be journaling.  Doesn't matter, just show up.  God still shows up, so you won't be alone.

Start where you need to start to have success.  If that means 15 min. three days a week, then start there.  Start in a realistic place where you will have success and be encouraged to get to the place you want to be.  Remember, there is no right or wrong in this.

But let's be honest here.  If we aren't spending time re plugging into our spiritual source, how can we expect our faith to flourish?  How can we be strong and courageous if we aren't doing anything to strengthen it?  Our Christian faith is like any other living thing.  It needs to be fed and strengthened, otherwise, it withers and dies.

I wish I was better at devotions on a daily basis.  A lot of times I am so exhausted from staying up late trying to do too many things.  This last Sabbath was a big reminder to me how important taking time out, making it a priority is.  Taking time to learn from the one who made me.  Feeling my soul shine a little brighter, feel a little more alive, a little more real and full.  And to learn a little bit more about the one who loves me.  To challenge my preconceived ideas and stretch my understanding.

I need to remember...Just show up.

It's not about how to do devotions.

It's about why we do devotions.