Monday, May 22

The Messy Side of Friendship

As I was visiting with an acquaintance the other day, they made a comment about what great friends Kristin, Julie, and I seem to be and how they wished they had a good friend of their own, a “perfect” friendship.

And although I agreed that Kristin and Julie are wonderful friends—or framily, as we like to call each other—our friendship is far from perfection. In fact, often it is just the opposite. I cringed as the woman spoke, knowing that social media often only portrays the lovely side to many things in life, including our relationships. And although I have no plans to air our dirty laundry for others to observe, I do think it’s important to talk about the messy side of friendships, and how you can still have great friends.

So here are a few things I’ve learned about great friendships, and how we survive (and thrive!) through all the ups and downs of life.

Monday, May 15

What Does "Beautiful" Mean to You?

I love beautiful things. Quirky dishtowels from Anthropologie, weighty coffee mugs with printed monogrammed letters, bold art prints, cushy throw pillows in an explosion of colors. Handmade children’s clothes stitched to perfection, good-smelling bath salts that melt into hot water. Ella Fitzgerald songs. The freckles on my children’s noses, their chubby hands held in mine. I love beauty in all its forms.

I used to think that was shallow. I felt guilty for enjoying those small pleasures when there were so many deep and heavy issues in the world vying for my attention. But recently I realized that rather than being shallow, that love for beauty is God-ordained:

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 

Our love for beauty is a call to see the sheer possibility in the world, the loveliness of nature and relationships and creativity.

Taken another way: I read once that bravery and beauty, rather than separate concepts, should be considered synonymous. That it takes bravery to see beauty—in ourselves, our actions, the world around us—and that we miss out on our  chance to be brave when we fail to see the beauty in the world.

As I race toward my mid-thirties, I think about how true that is. How much more comfortable I am in my own skin, now, than I ever was in my twenties. I’m more aware and grateful for my body, the things it allows me to do, and how my good health isn’t something to be taken lightly or for granted.

But what does it mean to be brave? And what does it mean to be beautiful?

Thursday, May 11

Don't Forget to Celebrate

It’s better to have a partner than go it alone. Share the work, share the wealth. And if one falls down, the other helps. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (MSG)

"Mom. Our neighbor was right, turning seven is THE BEST."

My son continued on excitedly, describing a school day consisting of cupcakes, classmates singing happy birthday on repeat, and of being celebrated everywhere he turned.

Celebrated. As we chatted, I tucked that stray thought away so I could pull it out and ponder it later.

My son and husband have birthdays only three days apart, and it was at the surprise party for my husband's milestone birthday that the theme surfaced again. My heart was filled to overflowing to see childhood friends and brand new friends and friends from every circle of our lives gathered around the table, laughing as they gently ribbed my husband about his new decade. Celebrated.

Monday, May 1

Broken-Tailed Blessings {Guest Post}

Good morning, friends! Today's post is from Jen Spiegel, our dear friend and collaborator on our new book Grace for the Misfits: 31 Days Pursuing the Unconventional Favor of God, arriving NEXT Monday. In the meantime, Jen's writing today about broken-tailed blessings, and her post is a little preview of what we've got in store for you in our Misfits book.

I was at a women's conference last fall when my husband did the unthinkable. I'd warned him against it many times, but in a sudden burst of courage and obstinacy (fueled by my absence, I'm sure), a few cute pictures on a website had him driving an hour from home to pick up something I'd said no to more times than I can count.

It was Saturday afternoon, and as the conference was winding down I received a text from my hubby. It read, "Have I told you lately how beautiful you are?" There was also a picture.

A picture of a dog.

A picture of a dog in my living room.

After spending a few minutes oscillating between shocked silence and disbelieving laughter, I pulled myself together enough to finish out the conference and then headed home, not quite sure what I'd do when I got there.

We'd been down the dog road before, and it wasn't a journey I was excited about taking again. Ever. I've always loved dogs—other people's dogs, not ones that want to sleep in my bed every night and steal my bagel every morning.

Y'all, it wasn't pretty when I got home.

Monday, April 24

When You Feel Homesick

The clock reads 12:15 a.m…then 1:15 a.m…now 2:30 a.m., and I lay here, still awake. Unable to sleep
since waking with one of the kids who needed to use the restroom. Unusual for me, as I am typically able to fall back to sleep quickly, but tonight my mind begins to race with all the changes coming to our lives.

I wonder about where we’re moving, if it’s right. As I toss and turn and fret, a familiar feeling begins to rise in my chest, a fear, yes, but more than that, an ache. A familiar homesickness that sends me back to moments and memories of childhood where I longed for nothing more than to hug my mother's neck, smell her familiar scent, and know at once that I was home.

Home. A place you feel loved and known and know well yourself. For me, home has always afforded me comfort and safety. And this unsettledness, this homesickness I feel—can’t be shaken anymore by the embrace of my mother. Now I am the mother, loving my children, calming their fears.

But homesickness rises in me just the same and, as silent tears slip down my cheeks, I find myself whispering to God, “I just want to feel like I am home again.”

Monday, April 17

When Parenting is Holy Work

God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. Matthew 5:3 (NLT)

“Mom, can you make a window for me?”

The little voice was calling me from across the living room. Sighing, I turned from my laptop in the kitchen and looked over at my 5-year-old, standing expectantly by a large cardboard box, a pair of scissors in hand and hope writ large across her upturned face.

“Just a minute, Noelle,” I sighed, trying not to let my irritation over the interruption show. Tim and I were about to leave town for several days, and my to-do list of loose strings felt more like a rat’s nest of tangled threads, weighing me down. Our trip was two short days away and I already felt panicked over not finishing everything in time.

I returned to my correspondence, until a small voice piped up again: “Can you do it now, Mom?”

Frustrated, I turned to admonish her for lacking patience but, at just that moment, felt a small whisper inside:

What if this is your most holy work today?

The question made me pause. My to-do list felt endless, my house needed cleaning, laundry and dishes needed washing. I had editing and writing to do, and the organizations I work with needed tasks finished before I left town. All of those things felt important, necessary. I have people counting on me, I warred inwardly, silently.

But the quiet voice urged again: What if this is your most holy work today?

I have to admit that I pray for wisdom often as a mother because I know that, in my own power, I’m not cut out for it. I can be selfish; I’m not always brave. Sometimes I feel inadequate and unskilled, my degrees and life experience rendered meaningless.

Friends, I’m not enough.

But I believe—in a way I never used to—that motherhood is a calling. And that maybe, when God talks about being poor in spirit, this feeling of vulnerability—that in my own power, I am unequal to the calling I have received—is what he means and is the catalyst required for me to see how much I need him. Often, the mark of a true calling is the recognition that, in our own power, we are unequal to the task and could never accomplish it on our own.

For a long time, I hesitated to say that motherhood is a calling. It wasn’t because I didn’t believe it was important but because I know many women who may not have children, either by choice or by circumstance, and so giving motherhood that kind of privileging felt unkind. But I have come to believe what Holley Gerth says, that all women are mothers because all women bring life to the world in some way. Motherhood looks different to different people. With that said, I recognize my other callings, too. I’m called to be a writer. I'm called to be sensitive to those around me, overly empathetic in a way that can be challenging. I’m called to live generously. I’m called to volunteer with organizations that help others. And, I’m called to be a mom.

Refocusing on my daughter, I cross over to her. We talk about optimum window placement for her toy dog's “house,” adding one on each side and removing the top flaps. And as I sit beside her on the carpet, I resolve: Yes, this is my most holy work today. And I'm going to approach it that way.

Ponder: List one or more of your callings. Do you feel like God has equipped you to fulfill those callings? In what ways do you need to lean on him in order to fulfill them?

Pray: Read 1 Samuel 3. Though God may not speak aloud to us, he does communicate to us through his Word. Today, pray for the wisdom and discernment to listen to God and the truths he is revealing to you.

Act: Consider the callings you have received. Are there areas in your life in which you need to reprioritize in order to fulfill them? Today, prayerfully consider if you need to reconfigure your schedule, finances, or priorities.

We are SO excited to announce that our new book Grace for the Misfits: 31 Days Pursuing the Unconventional Favor of God, is available now! This book will offer encouragement and hope for anyone who has ever felt like they didn’t quite fit in, walked through hard times, or wasn’t sure God could use them--all while discovering the upside-down ways of Jesus, his kingdom, and what (and who) he says matters. This book will make the perfect gift for yourself or someone you know (Mother’s Day is right around the corner!). Find out more information here.