“Say more ‘yes’ to the right things.” (with My Right Things FREE DOWNLOAD)

The title of this post is a quotation I just read, like, 5 seconds ago. The words are from a successful mompreneur I’m reading right now, Lindsay Teague Moreno.*

Her quote actually summarizes the whole point of this post that I’ve been thinking about for the past couple of days, so voila: instant blog title.

I’ve posted about several “specifics” of what we are doing over here for school and how we are doing it. We’ve talked about:

And all of those things– checklists and curriculum and planning– come with small boxes to check and, often, to-do lists to do.

It would give you the impression that I thrive on details.

Confession: that’s not true.

If I get TOO locked into something, I start feeling twitchy and claustrophobic. That will eventually override my (needless) fear of not doing enough, and eventually make me cranky and shut down. If I feel like my day is a huge “DO THIS” instead of “BE THIS,” I languish.

That’s a very old word that seems a bit hyperbole-ish, doesn’t it?**

It’s not, in this case. Ha! I vascilate between all of the definitions up there. It’s pretty pathetic.

I’ve tried to talk myself out of this part of myself. But it hasn’t worked.

And you know what? Maybe it isn’t supposed to.

Maybe I’m not supposed to be a super checklist momma, as convenient as that might seem to be.

Instead, probably since my youngest was born, I’ve had to just come to terms that I have to stop being a control freak– not just over my circumstances, and my kids, but myself, too. At some point, you have to stop wasting energy to erase your weaknesses and instead, highlight your strengths.

You know what? Big picture is my strength.

And it is going “big picture” that saves my sanity a lot of times. The Big Picture showcases what is essential to me.

A brainstorming exercise that I recently did instructed me to write a list of values for my business. As I was writing them, it occurred to me that those values incapsulated 4 key areas that I wanted in EVERY area of my life, not just my business. I want these 4 things in myself, my home, and my homeschooling.

These 4 things can serve as My Right Things checklist for almost everything I want to do, and every lesson I want to teach. I’ve put them altogether in a print-off that I’m going to include on my walls in a few key locations in my home… and I’d thought I’d attach it here, in the hopes that these words resonate with any other Big Picture people.

I hope your day lets you imagine and spark imagination in others.
I hope you have the opportunity to both encourage and be encouraged yourself.
I hope you enjoy the power of education today– and that the knowledge you give and receive blesses you intellectually, morally, and socially.
I hope you take the time to truly enjoy today and everyday by seeking pleasure within the menial, noticing the benefit of each hour, and truly finding satisfaction with the ones you share your life with.

*She drops a lot of business goodies and truth bombs in her book Boss Up! You should check it out if you are balancing momming and businessing at the same time– or thinking about it. I wish I had several of her suggestions and early business walk-thru when I went into business a few years ago. But alas. Better late than never.

**Seriously, languish is an old word. Its origins are from the 14th century and comes from the latin word, languire, and means to “fail in strength and exhibit signs of approaching death.” It was probably originally used by a mother of 13 kids at a river, who was trying to pound a stain from a loincloth against a rock while simultaneously keep her 5 kids under the age of 4.5 from drowning. The other moms around her doing the same thing overheard, quickly made the word a part of their normal vocab, and the rest is history.

Why I “plan from behind.”

I first read about this brilliant concept from Julie Bogart’s The Brave Learner book, and it was so incredibly freeing! It felt wonderful to “have permission” to not stress and plan my life away in order to homeschool! I can spend my time actually teaching and learning with my kids, instead of just planning to… imagine that!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the concept of planning from behind with homeschooling, it is when, instead of spending time to write in what you will be teaching all week/month/year in a planner, you write down what you actually accomplish in the planner as you do it throughout the day. No getting stressed and having to draw arrows and erase and re-write and scratch out things in the planner if things don’t go according to plan. Instead, your record is what you actually did on the actual day you did it.

I will say I do have a game plan for every day, so we aren’t unschooling. There is a rhythm of our day in my head, but my brain doesn’t store the details. The details work themselves out throughout our day and get recorded in the planner.

Speaking of the planner… it’s been three weeks since it came in the mail and I’ve geeked out over it! It’s a custom-made Plum Paper planner*, and I LOVE it! You can find a little bit of a virtual flip-through in my instagram post.

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Guuuuuuyyyyyssssss… I’m totally geeking out over here! This is my first ever purchase of anything @plumpaper and I 👏🏻 am 👏🏻in 👏🏻love! 😍 I was having such a hard time finding a planner that did everything I wanted it to… I wanted my life in one place— personal, business, and homeschool. I finally decided I was just going to design my own. Fast forward a month later, a project that was turning into a major timehog, and was going to need a loan to print off. 😂 And then I saw something about how Plum Paper had a design-your-own option. It was love at first sight! ❤️❤️❤️ I personalized the cover, the tabs, the inserts… even the categories for each week to include my schooled kiddos, home list, business list, etc. I even have a designated space for bravelearning and mother culture! Time will tell if it will stand up to the use I’ve planned for this, but the quality is so amazing, I don’t think I will have a problem at all! Sure sure. It was more money than I ever spent on a planner… but considering I was buying 3 different planners, it really isn’t that much more. The customization and the convenience of having it all in one place is worth it! Take a gander at just some of the pages in the planner! 📒 . . . #willowhome #willowacademy #embracingessentialism #essentiallearning #essentialliving #plumpaper #winplumpaper #calendar #planning #organizing #homeschool #homeschoolmom #bravelearner #bravelearning #motherculture #eclectichomeschool #homeeducator #mompreneur #writeitdown #document #planner

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I’ve gotten a few questions about how I personally make planning from behind work for me, so I thought I’d just explain the process that my brain goes through every day we do school.

I plan from behind by doing the next thing. I know we are going to do some enrichment basket, LA, Math, and either Science or History every day. Each of those things has its own pattern. So I simply follow the pattern based on the day before.

The way our LA rhythm works is: read aloud/journal/play (Blossom & Root), read aloud/narration/play (B&R), word game/reading word list/mini poem (B&R), copywork/a lesson from The Good and the Beautiful/free write. So, yesterday, was a read aloud/narration/play day, so I know today is going to be a word game/reading list/mini poem day. So I go to the relevant places: the next section of the book, the next list, the next poem worksheet. We do them. We write those pages, lists, etc. down in the planner.

And we do the same with everything else we do: math, science… even our enrichment basket. (I know some people don’t record what they do in the basket in their planners, but I do. Our enrichment basket covers art, music, poetry, nature study, growth mindset, habit training, Bible, life skills, Spanish, and handicrafts. Some of that is covered every day we do the basket. Some of it is looped. But either way, I think it is worth writing down and noting that we are incorporating those learning areas in our lives.)

So, that’s it. I follow our rhythm (basket, LA, Math, science or history), do the next thing, then right it down.

And it completely works for us! I KNOW and feel confident in the fact that I am keeping a good record of work for my children, yet enjoy that I don’t have to spend hours writing it all in just to feel disappointed or like I’m failing if I have to rearrange it for some reason.

It’s just another way that I’m determined to keep the essentials/most important in my life– and in our homeschool journey, that’s not just what I plan, but actually HOW I plan, too.

* If you’d like to try Plum Paper for yourself, feel free to use my referral code and get a discount!

The Conundrum of Motherhood & Mompreneuring… with a side of Disney

There’s a Disney quotation or lyric for everything, isn’t there?

My husband says that the entire movie of Emperor’s New Groove should be made into GIFs.

He’s not wrong…

The other day, my kids wanted to watch a movie. Considering it was hotter than the surface of the sun outside and the babykins was cranks from teeth coming in, I acquiesced and found myself overhearing snippets and songs from Hercules while cleaning the kitchen.

I began wondering how many years ago that movie came out, but stopped. It was a little discouraging… besides, I had already put away the math manipulatives. Ha!

Anyhoo, I’m wiping down counters when I hear teen Hercules singing “I can go the distance.” Applicable in the whole mothering thing in general, yes? But the phrase that kept repeating in my head after the song had stopped and the movie had moved on was “I would go most anywhere to feel that I belong.”

Man, I didn’t think I’d relate to a pubescent demi-god so much at this point in my life.

Motherhood has given me an identity crisis of sorts… and I know I’m not alone.

I’m reading a book right now for mompreneurs that hits on this fact.

It’s called Boss Up! by Lindsay Teague Moreno. It’s good. If you find yourself doing a side hustle or not-so-side hustle while homeschooling, you’ll find it super helpful. Inspiring, even. And a kick in pants, if you are needing motivation that a business is worth doing as a mom. The book acknowledges that motherhood isn’t as fulfilling for some women as we assumed it would be… and how some women aren’t happy being stay-at-home-moms and regret that decision. You know what? It’s true. I think it isn’t talked about as much as it should be– that motherhood isn’t what we thought it would be and doesn’t complete us like we were told it would. But wanting to stop being with my kids to go back into the workforce full-time or heavily part-time? I don’t fit in that category.

Here’s my thing: I want to “stay at home.” I want to teach my kids. I love this homeschooling gig. I love reading stories to my kids, and doing art with them, and seeing their little ah-ha moments. I love planning learning units. I’m a curriculum junkie… I love it! It fulfills me. It lights my fire.

It’s the day-in, day-out other stuff that I lament. Warning: I’m about to sound like my 3 year old when he drops his ice cream cone on the ground, okay? I completely understand that I don’t sound like a “mature” adult that is supposed to have her “big girl panties” on.

But the constant straightening? The constant dirty clothes and putting away clean ones? The constant wiping down puddles on sinks and rings in toilets? The constant making sure everything is up off of the floor so my crawling baby doesn’t choke on the trail of rocks my boy likes to sneak inside? The constant looking around and seeing 1,000 things to do that I have no desire to do? The undoneness of all the things that I don’t have time for that reminds me of all I didn’t get to when I’ve been busy all dang day?

The pretty-much-constant-unless-we-are-actively-engaged-with-school-or-mom fighting between my two oldest (6 and 3 yo)?

THESE things. They wear my soul down. Make me feel like I’m slowly drowning in things that must be done and tolerated instead of things that bring joy.

I used to teach college. Now when I teach outside of the home, it’s to upper-grade highschool. And sure, there’s some mundane-ness to teaching. Grading isn’t my favorite… but I love the privilege of seeing minds sharpened. I love how the act of learning benefits ALL– student and teacher alike. I feel like my energy and effort is “worth” something, versus folding underwear. Or <<shutter>> sifting through kids’ clothes to swap out sizes.

To borrow from yet another Disney song…

Basically, I want to homeschool my kids, soak in all the moments with them, outsource all the stuff I don’t want to do, and invest the time doing laundry and cleaning and and and…

into something else.

Into the business that I have on the side. It’s not even a want, really. It’s a need.*

I don’t want to be 100% home. I don’t want to be 100% outside-the-home, either.

I want what I want from both.

And I realize as I type that how completely unrealistic that sounds.

I think that’s why the idea of Essentialism appeals to me so very much.

Less, but BETTER.

I 100% agree with McKceown that “only once you give yourself the permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter.”

I think for women that want the best of staying at home, and want the best of contributing in external ways (like me)… we don’t feel like we belong in the SAHM camp OR the working mom camp. So, we end up trying to do BOTH… and that’s just. not. possible. (Enter burn-out.)

Something has to give.

It makes sense to keep what brings you joy, what you are good at, what gifts contribute to others’ good the most– and somehow say no to the rest.

Is that selfish? Or is that “essential?”

Because I’ll be honest. I didn’t decide to stop teaching college to stay home and clean my house all day. I did it so I could spend time with and educate my own children. My side job? It’s a flexible thing that I like doing that allows me to be present for my kids– not free up hours to sweep and referee at the same time.**

So, besides spending money (that I can’t currently budget) to bring in someone to do what I don’t want to do, what’s the answer?

Let the non-essentials go? Ignore them, despite the chaos it would cause?

Keep doing the non-essentials, despite the fact it wears on happiness and prevents solid time investments in a side job that would make it possible to financially afford concentrating on the essentials the way you want?

Are there any fellow women that land in this no-man-land’s of Motherhood? One foot in, one foot out of this SAHM, Working mom thing?

If so, I’d love to learn from you! Tell me how you handle this odd internal conflict AND how it practically looks for you in your home! Let’s encourage each other!

Comment on this post. Find me on facebook. Or connect with me on Insta or my page.

Let’s be friends!

*My business needs more of my time. But I don’t want to sacrifice my time with my kids for it. I will sacrifice bathroom clean-up. But I still need bathrooms to be clean… See the conundrum?

ˈsekyələr?

It’s interesting… the stereotypes behind homeschooling, isn’t it? From “lack of socialization,” wanting to have our kids “live in a bubble,” to wanting to sleep in and stay in pjs all day.

For Christian homeschool families, I think a major assumption is that we have chosen to homeschool because we are… afraid, for a lack of better word.

We are afraid of secular curriculum.

We are afraid of secular teachers.

We are afraid of secular kids.

We are afraid of secular schools.

We are afraid.

And lets be honest: there is a LOT to disagree with for conservative Christians. From the rejection of traditionally defined genders (with incidents of drag queen performances at schools, affirming gender switches in lower elementary grades (even allowing children to affirm their own gender at school separate from what parents documented, etc.), not including the secular humanist perspective that’s already pervasive in science, philosophy, etc., there is a lot to “fear.”

But for those who might be tempted to think that homeschooling is going to keep our kids from hearing about such things and living in such a world… I’m sorry. It doesn’t work that way. This IS the world we live in. Our children will HAVE to navigate it, as much as we wish they didn’t.

It’s our job to prepare them, not isolate them.

So, I’m not homeschooling my kids because I’m going to shelterthemfromallthethings.

I’m homeschooling them to prepare them uniquely– unique to my children. Unique to their gifts and abilities and our values as a family. That includes our faith of course; but it also includes…

  • our emphasis on loving story–the reading, writing, and telling.
  • appreciating and participating in music and arts. (There is a LOT of value in STEM, but I feel like the cutting/deemphasizing of creative arts is not good.)
  • lots of freeplaying and crafts/hands-on to help absorb big Truths and details alike

I’ve taught on the high school and college levels since 2005 (whhhhuuuutttt?! Pardon me as I ignore the fact that was 14 years ago!), and have noticed the trend to assess and test the love of education right out of students, and honestly, I have no desire for that to be true of my children. The students that succeed the most on the upper high school levels and in college are the ones who are still curious– that still ask questions and DARE TO GET IT WRONG in order to actually learn and explore, not just memorize to get right.

I want my kids to be prepared for life, not just a test.***

But I digress.

As a Christian homeschooling mom, I have made a choice that most people in my circles would squint at: I’m homeschooling and choosing to use a “declared-secular” curriculum as the major spine of our school year.

It will serve as our major science, nature study, language arts, and math/art study this year, as well as be a component of social studies.

Does it use living books and resources? Yes, and I LOVE that.

Do those living books and resources sometimes include evolutionary thought? Sometimes, yes.

In fact, one of the first science lessons is about teaching the principle that “everything on Earth, including us, come from the same material.” The major premise behind is “evolutionary” because of Big Bang Theory… but you know what? I don’t disagree with the lesson. Everything on Earth, including us, does have the same Origin, doesn’t it? We are all made of the same elements because our Creator made us with the same material. I can teach the lesson and talk about Divine Design.

So why not just go with a curriculum that I don’t have to tweak along the way here and there? Because this particular curriculum is constructed beautifully with 6 different areas to adapt the lesson depending on the type of day you want, or the learners you have. The ideas are living book based, hands-on, creative, thinking, and exploring… and frankly, I haven’t seen a non-secular curriculum have the options that this one does. Maybe one day there will be (my husband has even mentioned maybe I should do it), but I don’t have time to create it from scratch right now. So I will buy a great tool and tweak and/or omit here and there.

I will also admit that I find it interesting that so many things that are “secular” have a lot of Truth in them… because I don’t think people can escape Truth has much as they want to and think they can. (It’s true in Story, and it’s true in science.)

I’m not afraid to go with secular because, ultimately, I don’t think that the curriculum will be doing the brunt of educating my children.

The person–and perspective of the person– guiding children through their learning is the most important.

That’s us.

That’s us, whether we are homeschooling, or sending our kids to school.

We are the ultimate guides.

And as long as we make sure our hearts are in tune with Truth, and that our perspective is on what is really important, we don’t have to fear all.the.things.

We can rest, and have joy in the journey and in the road of learning we take with our children.

***Now, that’s not to say that I think that everyone who goes to public or private schools are doing it “wrong.” Not at all! Each family has to choose what’s right for each kid and for their family as a whole, and there’s a LOT of components in that decision-making process.

My observations are mine, and they shape my decision for my kids and family and what I think is best for them now. If my husband and I need to re-access in the future, we will.

Getting ready… one help at a time!

So, it’s the middle of July… which means it’s time for all the homeschool mommas to panic prepare for the next school year. If they haven’t already.

I’ve piecemealed our 1st grade year and am SUPER excited about the line-up! I’m going to share what we’ve decided to brave learn this year in a future post in the next couple of weeks, but I’m waiting for the books to come in the mail and want to share those in the post, too. I don’t know about my kids, but MAN… I get excited about “unboxing day!” We haven’t had too many around here really, because we are just getting started in our homeschooling journey with our oldest in 1st grade. But I already know I’m going to be a curriculum junkie. Pair that with our eclectic homeschool style, and that means #allthebooks.

We definitely know that our daily routine is going to include an enrichment basket, language arts, math and science and social studies loop. (Don’t know what a loop is? Read more about what it is and its perks here.)

I also read The Brave Learner a few months ago– going to re-read it again whenever I get in a “slump” I think– and definitely want to incorporate the Brave Writer/Learner lifestyle in our homeschool journey. The Brave Learner talks about some amazing “big picture” ideas, like enchantment, the superpowers of brave learning, the capacities for learning, the ports of entry for learning, etc. But Julie Bogart, the author of The Brave Learner, lists several practices that can weave the “atmosphere of education” (a phrase borrowed by Charlotte Mason) in the home.

I found that I do well when I can see things all in one space, versus flipping through and remembering through our school planner. So, I made this easy tool for me. I could spend a lot more time and, oh, actually use fancy fonts and a printer, but I decided to use markers instead. Ha!

Here’s what I did!

I wrote down the Brave Learning practices, and put it in a dry erase sleeve (all praise to the dollar section at Target with school stuff right now!) on one side…

and our schedule on the other side. You can see that our Enrichment Basket actually will have a loop component as well with composer and art(ist) study, habit training, growth mindset learning, handiwork/lifeskill, and nature study.

Theoretically, by the end of the week, the Brave Learning side should be completely checked off by MOST of the stuff we do during the week through school and life. If not, I’ll have an idea by the weekend what we need to make sure we incorporate over the weekend. I can see (non-academic) 1 on 1 time being something that doesn’t happen too much during the week that the weekend can offer us.

The Daily/Loop side will help me keep track of the loop easier than glances through the daily/weekly parts of the assignment book. Besides, there is something nice about crossing something off, versus just writing it down. Or is that just me?

I tapped a small picture nail in the side of our Billy book case, rigged a whiteboard marker, and made a little wall station for our list.

Just this little task-turned-tool being complete makes me feel more ready for the year ahead.

How about you? What little tools have you created to make your homeschooling journey a bit easier?

Maybe homemaking is a bit like writing.

So, I’m in the middle (chapter 10, to be precise) of reading Sarah Mackenzie’s The Read-Aloud Family. And by “reading,” I mean “listening.” Ironically, the only way I can read right now is to be read-aloud to myself. 🙂 I much prefer reading an actual book. I love underlining and circling and underlining and dog-earring. I love writing my thoughts and mini-essays in the margins. I process and remember so much better that way.

But after going through a LOOOOONG season of not reading much of anything besides board books and debate briefs, I decided a subscription to Scribd was a small price to pay for my own mental health and investment in mother culture.

I have no regrets.

There are lots of great parts in Read-Aloud that I wish I had pushed the “bookmark” button for, but didn’t get to, (alas, the downfalls of listening and driving…) but this one I managed to scramble and tap the small icon before it moved on too much past the thought.

Mackenzie is quoting children/YA author, Katherine Paterson, when she writes,

“When I write a story it is not an attempt to make children good or wise. Nobody but God can do that, and even God doesn’t do it without the child’s cooperation. I am trying, in a book, to simply give children a place where they can find rest for their weary souls.”

These three sentences sponsored several thoughts.

First, I have written Christian drama, adapted books for stage, and even dabbled in children’s writing myself–although I want to do more. I have personally felt the conflict of wanting to make the best decision for the story, and the expectations of a conservative Christian audience to insert clear black and white messages and even work in a salvation prayer or a character hug somewhere. But you and I know that life isn’t like that. It isn’t black and white. We don’t know all the answers. And I don’t know why writers are expected to inject all of that in a play that’s 90 minutes long, or a story that’s barely 10 pages (in the case of a child’s picture book). I mean, we aren’t all script writers for Full House, you know?

Second, I love the implication here that, just like we shouldn’t expect an author to shoulder the burden of “making children good or wise,” we CAN expect THE Author to do that. I believe that each story has the Gospel in it– Creation can’t escape it. Every time a story has good triumph over evil… every time sin has a consequence… every time a character struggles to make the right choice… every time a princess is rescued or ANYONE is rescued– that’s Gospel. That’s Truth. That’s the Story that is inscribed on our hearts. I believe God can and does use story–all of it– to impress Truth on us. That’s His Craft. His Business. His Work.

The third thought Paterson’s words provoked had absolutely nothing to do with writing and everything to do with parenting. Ah, parenting. You know. That 24/7 job that, at least for me, takes 98% of my brain’s CPU when its in problem-solving mode.

I very much feel the heaviness in my heart when my children do things they aren’t supposed to do. The problem isn’t that they are “misbehaving” or “acting their age.” Children do silly things, have maturing brains, etc., etc. I get that.

My thing is, so often, I have a hard time discerning if something is “just a phase,” or the beginning of a horrible character flaw and sin habit. The first possibility requires more patience than anything else. The second requires intentional consistency that is exhausting, but necessary.

Unlike bookwriting, parenting does have more of a goal and obligation of imparting goodness and wisdom in their children. It is the parents responsibility to take care of their specifically-given children, unlike an author that writes for an age-group of people they don’t personally know.

But here is where I think the quotation hits home. Literally.

Like a story, I can’t make my children good and wise. I can’t. Sure, I can *try.* Sure, I can encourage it and make choices that help deposit those things in the heart of my children. And sure, I can do my best to NOT GET IN THE WAY of goodness and wisdom taking root. But the burden of squeezing in all goodness and wisdom in my children in the 18 years I have them? I can’t do that.

But you know what? Making my children good and wise isn’t my job. Because “nobody but God can do that.” And Paterson is also right– God waits for cooperation. A willingness. He waits for me– and will wait for my children– to come to Him, after feeling the tug and persuasiveness of His Love and Truth and promise of Rest.

And that leads us to the end of the quotation: “I am trying, in a book, to simply give children a place where they can find rest for their weary souls.

Recently, I have been full of my own wonderings of “what should I do?!” as a parent. I don’t want to under-react or over-react, so I don’t know how to ACT at all.

But when I heard this quotation, it was like a little light went off in my head and heart.

What if I tried, in my home, to simply give children a place where they can find rest for their weary souls. That was it. To offer rest.

So when drama happens? Offer rest.

When they are tired? Offer rest.

When they are sad? Offer rest.

When they don’t know what to do? Offer rest.

And we might think to ourselves, “how much rest do they really need? How ‘weary’ can a 3 year old be?” (Or a 6 year old or 10 year old or 13 years old or 35 year old… <<ahem>>)

But weariness affects our children just as much as it affects us. They have their version. We have ours.

And in our weariness, what do we want most?

Rest.

Rest.

And think about it. Isn’t it life-Rest and soul-Rest that draws us to Jesus?

So, it makes me wonder. What would happen if I stopped trying so hard to “make” my children good and wise, and instead, focused on making a home that invited them to experience True rest?

Wouldn’t I be inviting them to Jesus?

Wouldn’t I be ushering them to the One who CAN make them Wise and Good and Whole and Well?

And in focusing on Rest for them, an interesting thing happens.

I find that I can find Rest, too.

Ever-fixed thanks.

I would like to say that “in everything, I give thanks.”

But both heaven and my husband know that’s not true.

I’m the solve-a-problem-by-preventing-it type… which means you actually have to pre-think problems in your head to solve them before they start. I am fairly decent at doing this for the day-in, day-out stuff.  Packed diaper bags.  Pre-snacked children.  Plenty of gas in the car.  Electronic tickets screen-shot vs. trusting wifi to open the email when I need them.

I’ve saved myself a lot of angst with this pre-thinking thing I do.

But you see, this Forethought Super-power comes at a price.

It requires I focus on the “bad” more than the “good.” The negative “what-if.”

And often, it’s hard to be thankful for bad.

This labeling of something “bad” assumes, of course, that you actually know what “bad” is… but can we all admit that we have a hard time knowing which is which sometimes?  Things that look bad on the surface can actually be good… and the assumed good can sometimes be bad.  And then there’s a whole bunch of morally gray areas in life that no one can really pin down this side of heaven.

It’s confusing.

But in this verse?  There is no question.

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good.

What He does is good.

We agree with that in the pews on Sunday and some people give a hardy “amen,” but can we all also admit that it’s hard to reconcile that with junkie stuff that happens?  When tragedy strikes?  When betrayals hit close to home?  When sickness sweeps in?  When fear takes hold?  When loved ones die?

I’ve never been one to question God’s power.  

But I’ll fully confess to questioning His Goodness.  More times than I care to admit.

But last night, as I read this verse, something struck me.

It’s easy to read the phrases of this passage all disjointed and disconnected… like David was just sitting there going, “this truth sounds good.  Oh, and this truth sounds good.  I’ll just smoosh them together in a verse, I think.”

That’s not the way poetry— specifically Hebrew poetry— works.  There is parallelism and cause and effect.  We see that all over the psalms.

So here we go.  

Give thanks to the Lord.

Why?

Because He is good.

Why?

Because *His love endures forever.*

We like to believe that the love on this earth is eternal, don’t we?  I say to my husband and my children “I will always love you” and I mean it more than I mean anything.  I can’t imagine the love I feel for them breaking.  My heart may break in the loving, but my love?  Surely, that will be steadfast.

We want that to be true with every fiber of our beings; but there are no guarantees with love or life.  Whereas I believe that love is a choice, and we need to choose it every day, and we will always keep choosing it… the fact of the matter is, we do stop loving sometimes.  We claim to love people, but hurt them.  We choose ourselves over the object of our love, and harm the bonds between us.  We break promises.  We break vows.  We break hearts.

But not Him.

We can always give thanks, not because He does good (He does).  Not because He is good (He is).

But because He, as Love, endures FOREVER. And forever, loves us perfectly.

With Jesus, there is no altering, when alteration finds.

There is no bending with the remover to remove.

He, as Love, is ever-fixed…

Courage required.

I have broken places.
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And since you are a fellow inhabitant of earth alongside me, I can pretty much guarantee that you have broken places, too. 
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I can pinpoint to several places as a child, as a young adult, as a wife and mother, where I felt myself snap. Felt the break in my soul. Experienced moments where I knew I wasn’t going to be the same once the acuteness of the pain subsided to an ever-present ache.
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God doesn’t ask us to not break. He doesn’t ask us to be self-sufficient. Nowhere in the Bible does it say “thou shalt pull up thyself with thine bootstraps.”
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It is the opposite. He says He will be our strength. He says He will make beauty from ashes, because He knows we will not walk this planet unscathed. At times, our hopes will burn. Our dreams will go up in smoke. Life in this fallen world will set our expectations up in flames.
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But our Father promises Beauty.
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Not just in spite of the destruction, but He will take those cinders themselves and repurpose them into an amazing gallery of Redemption and YOU will be His Masterpiece.
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Here is to you. Here is to me.
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Here’s to courage to rise from our broken places today…
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and everyday.

(Originally posted on social media, 1.31.19)

Tomato Theology

I’m having a fun event at my house tonight… I really planned it because I’ve been wanting to learn how to make homemade cheese and realized I would never do it unless I gave myself some external pressure. (Thanks grad school.)

Anyway, I am making a tomato basil salad to go with the mozzarella and thought that the variety of small tomatoes would be a good opportunity to teach my almost six year old some knife skills.

She’s doing great. I’m right beside her, giving her instruction. She’s enjoying herself, and begins talking about the different tomatoes.

“This one is long and skinny and yellow,” she says. She cuts it and puts it in the bowl.

“This one is red. And it is really round,” she says. She puts it in the bowl. “It is like you. You are round, too.”

Enter that wave of shame.

Those of you who have always struggled with your weight are familiar with this feeling. It’s a horrible companion. It was the bully that tapped on my shoulder and called me fat before my kindergarten pictures when I was barely five. The shame made me suck in my stomach.

And I haven’t stopped feeling like I have had to suck it in and be small ever since.

With my shame present, I don’t say anything, except to place another handful of tomatoes on the cutting board.

My daughter chatters on.

“Mommy, do you ever wish you were skinny?”

I’m beginning to regret this impromptu chopping class. I was thinking the produce would be cut, not me.

I understand it is an opportunity. But it is definitely one I’m not sure how to take.

I use a cross examination tactic to buy myself a few extra seconds for my brain to process.

“That’s a really good question…” I say slowly, looking down and feeling sympathy for those slashed cherry tomatoes sitting in the bowl.

And then, words. Maybe grace.

“You see how pretty that bowl of tomatoes is? All different shapes and sizes and colors?”

“Yes.”

I pick up an uncut round red tomato and a long skinny yellow tomato and hold them in my hands.

“These tomatoes look different, and they taste different. But God made them both beautiful and good, with their unique taste. Is the round, red tomato better than the yellow, skinny tomato?”

“No mommy. They are both tasty.”

“Right. They are both good. And then, we put all the kinds of tomatoes in the same bowl and they are even prettier and better together, aren’t they?”

“Yes.”

“That’s how God made people. All different shapes and sizes.”

“And colors!” She interrupted.

“Yes, and colors. And He put us all together in this world, just like we put all the tomatoes together in this bowl. And all together, in all our variety, we are even more beautiful. Remember when God made us… what did He call us?”

“Good!”

She reaches for another tomato and cuts it and begins humming.

I place a few more tomatoes in front of her, not sure if I actually believe my impromptu tomato theology. 

But in the moment, I know I have stumbled on truth.

And I hope that I will gradually come to this faith… and that my daughter will always be a believer in the beauty she was created with and in.

(Originally published 11.02.18 on social media.)