It’s Whatever

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I just walked a mile around he lake in our nearby forest preserve. That might not sound like much. It isn’t compared to a mere six months ago. Six months ago on vacation, I routinely walked 8 miles a day. Every day. For two weeks.

When you stack up today next to six months ago, today appears to fall pretty far short.

But that wouldn’t be telling the whole story.

Almost four months ago, I injured my back. In ways known only to witch doctors somewhere in deepest darkest Africa, I managed to get a herniated disc just getting into the car. Pray you never experience this. The level of pain is off the charts, and recovery has been ponderous.

I don’t like slow. I yell at slow drivers, give side eyes to dawdlers in the grocery store, and have zero patience with organizers of anything who aren’t properly organized. It’s the curse of the high-strategy person. (Fortunately, Jesus holds his hand over my mouth and puts my heart in the place it needs to be. This, in itself, is enough reason to believe he’s real.)

So extremely slow physical recovery isn’t my best game. I want to be able to get back to 6-8 miles within weeks, not a year. I dreamed of a sixteen-mile hike in the Channel Islands this summer. That dream just isn’t going to happen. It’s going to be slow, careful, one mile by one mile.

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Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men. (Colossians 3.23)

So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10.31)

I’ve heard these verses a lot. They’re good words. I think, though, I’ve let these well-known verses bully me, in a way neither God nor Paul ever intended. It all depends on where we put the emphasis. (It also, always, depends on context.)

I’m used to looking at these verses and seeing the words “heartily,” “”work,” and “all” first. Like, we have to do everything. A few things won’t do. And how we do that everything? With all we’ve got. All the effort. All the perfection. As all coaches’ favorite woefully unmathematical motivational platitude goes—give it 110%.

Go big or go home.

But sometimes, big is more than we have. It leaves us feeling like we should be making those 8-mile hikes every single day, signing hymns all the way, and if we’re not, we’re just not enough.

I think maybe I’ve been seeing the wrong words first.

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That’s not the way Brother Lawrence read the verse when he chose to have a joyful life working in the kitchen slicing carrots and stirring stew.

“We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed.”

As long as he did it with gratitude, he considered washing dishes glorifying to God. It wasn’t everything. It wasn’t perfect. It was enough.

Why do we hear these verses and think that one lousy mile for God isn’t enough? Small things aren’t sufficient. We ought to be doing grand things, big things, amazing things, if we’re really doing our best for God.

Shouldn’t we be going 6-8 miles, or 16 miles, like others? Or even like ourselves, six months ago?

Whatever

I know all about the illls of comparing myself to others. But I hadn’t thought too much of the illls of comparing myself to . . . myself. So what if I could do more this time last year? Does that negate the mile today? Is it any less significant an accomplishment because a previous me could do better? Why is the me of today less than the me of yesterday because of some arbitrary mile marker I use to determine my worth?

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Our yesterdays don’t determine what we are today. Or tomorrow. Today, it’s enough to do whatever I can do to God’s glory. To take the focus off the “all” and the “heartily” and put it on the “whatever.” It’s the first word, after all. Whatever we are able to do. It doesn’t matter at all if that’s different than it once was or from what it will be someday. “Whatever” is the word I want to concentrate on.

It’s a mile. A good mile. One enjoyed on a warm April day, a rarity this year. To have enjoyed it, to have been grateful for it, to have raised a fist in victory after it—those are the things that bring God joy and glory. They do so no less than to have run a marathon and bested the field.

Whatever you do.

*By the end of this month, I hope to be at two miles. I’ve signed up for the Human Race again, raising money for World Relief and refugee resettlement. With God’s help, I’m going to get there! If you’d like to donate to my walk, please follow the link. I and the amazing refugee population I know and love would appreciate it greatly!

The Good Stuff

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My husband has worms in the basement. (He also has bees in the backyard and frogs in the dining room. He’s a odd duck, but he’s my odd duck.)

We faithfully save our table scraps and those items in the crisper drawers that have been there ever so slightly too long. (As in, I really can’t identify that green slime, but I believe it was once related to lettuce. Or parsley. It’s a tough call.)

We toss them in the compost bucket by the sink, and he feeds it to the worms. Worms do what worms do, which is basically absorb and poop, and lo and behold, we have beautiful, fine soil to add to our garden beds in the spring.

It’s a strange process, but it works.

Jesus’ story of the soils. We’ve covered the hard soil that refuses to be vulnerable and so never allows others to affect their lives.

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We need to soften our hearts with vulnerability to tell a good story.

We’ve covered the rocky soil that refuses to commit and so stays shallow, never allowing Jesus to get in and make changes.

We need to deepen our hearts with involvement to tell a good story.

We’ve covered the weedy soil that refuses to prioritize and cut out some of the clutter.

We need to declutter our hearts with focus to tell a good story.

Now, the good stuff. The fertile soil.

“Other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”

Someone had worked to clear that soil! The weeds were cut down and their roots pulled. The rocks were thrown to the side. The soil was tilled and turned and dug deep just waiting for the seed.

That heart was ready for God to get to work.

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Fertile soil is rich and deep. It’s filled with nutrients. It’s been carefully worked so that it’s not too sandy, not too much clay. In our yard, fertile soil doesn’t just happen. We’ve got solid Midwestern clay. Hence, the worms.

It takes buckets of compost, faithfully saved. A watering system that maintains a careful balance in our seasons of drought and regular gullywashers. (If you don’t live in the Midwest, perhaps you don’t know what a gullywasher is. But it is a rainstorm to behold, let me tell you.) It takes weeding and prepping and care—but when it’s ready?

You should see the crops of beans and peppers.

“The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” (Matthew 13)

A heart that is ready for God to work is a heart filled with life. Is that who we are?

Fertile soil just aches to grow things. It’s its only reason for being. Fertile soil has no interest in hanging out with nothing to show. Fertile hearts have heard and paid attention to Jesus’ story. They respond. They know you have to make growing good things a priority for it to happen. They’ve done the hard work of softening their hearts in vulnerability, deepening their hearts with commitment, and decluttering their hearts for focus. They’re ready for that seed.

But How Much Fruit?

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A funny thing happens at this point in the story. The seed sown on good soil yielded different amounts. That’s the way it works when we open our hearts to God. He knows the maximum we are created to produce, and he asks only that we grow to our own best. It’s pretty great that God isn’t standing there in the field saying, “Hey, you grew way more than that other guy. But you—you are such a failure. You only returned ten times what I gave you. Loser.”

Nope. He doesn’t do that. He rejoices over everyone’s return, no matter how much. He knows what we are designed to do, and his only desire is that we bear the fruit we were made for and make it good. We don’t need to worry about how much. We just need to make that fruit so good people will want to taste it.

In fact, when we start to compare our fruit to the person next to us who had a hundred times return on the seed, you know what happens? Those weeds start coming into our plot of land. The rocks end up back under the soil. All the worries we weeded out come right back in, because we took our focus off of producing good fruit and started to compare how much other people were doing to what we were managing.

God is overjoyed at our return. Not the size of it—the fact of it. He celebrates the people who returned ten times as much exactly the same as he celebrates the ones who returned 100 times. He says the same thing to both—the same thing he says to the servants in another of Jesus’ stories.

“Well done good and faithful servant. Come celebrate with me!” (Matthew 25.23)

The hard soil doesn’t get to celebrate. The rocky soil doesn’t get to celebrate. The weedy soil doesn’t get to celebrate.

The fertile soil celebrates like crazy—all together, all celebrating one another’s return. Because that’s how it works in God’s crazy kingdom. He loves when we rejoice over one another’s wins. He rejoices, too.

So here’s the question, after all this.

Will we take the risk to cultivate our soil, digging deep and plowing up? Will we make the sacrifice to change priorities and seek the kingdom first of all? Will we make the commitment to put those roots deep, coming to God in the every day rather than saving him for emotional highs and lows? Will we rejoice over others’ successes?

Will we love him with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind? Will we tell a good story with our life?

Then we’ll bear fruit worth getting excited about.

Good stories change us for the better.

People who are changed tell good stories.

How do we tell a good story?

We need to soften our hearts with vulnerability to tell a good story.

We need to deepen our hearts with involvement to tell a good story.

We need to declutter our hearts with focus to tell a good story.

We need to fill our hearts with life to tell a good story.

Are you ready, in this season of the greatest story of all? We’re celebrating the most epic sacrifice ever, God’s willingness—no, his utmost joy— to put our needs first and come to earth. He’s already told the story. What part in it are we going to play?

Comparison Creep

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T. S. Eliot said April is the cruelest month, but I vote for January. Where I live, January is blizzard month. Christmas, with all its cheerful songs and twinkling lights cutting the cold darkness, is over and done. January finds me peeling Christmas lights from the frozen ground, lights that stopped working a couple of weeks ago anyway, and tossing them away like the bright hopes they represented.

We’re staring down the barrel of a new year, with new demands–or old ones depressingly unfinished. Maybe we accomplished what we wanted last year, and now we’re feeling underwhelmed with the results. Or we didn’t, and we feel guilty because perhaps we never will.

Do you ever feel the sneaky pull of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) that happens this time of year? Do you wrestle with the comparison creep that keeps you from fully finding joy in January? Join me at The Glorious Table to read more of this post and find out how sharing joy keeps FOMO at bay.

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How to Help Your Kids Overcome Jealousy and Insecurity

P1050504(Sibling rivalry does not have to come to this.)

“Mommy, is she going to be better at everything than me?”

I hugged my dripping wet tiny seven-year-old. At the end of our girls’ first swimming lessons, what I had dreaded the whole six week session happened.

The younger got promoted to the next level and her big sister didn’t.

Bigger and more athletic than her older sister, she simply had better motor skills, a higher attention span, and more courage at that young age. Big Sister struggled with a mix of hurt and jealousy.

“Am I always going to be not as good?”

I struggled, too.

I mean, given their genetics, none of our children were ever going to be athletically coordinated, let alone gifted. As the larger and stronger child, though, her little sister did have an edge. What to say to this little wet waif, certain that she would always be at the end of every performance test?

I’m checking in at A Fine Parent today with this article on children, jealousy, and how to find abundant praise for everyone, no child left behind!

Read the whole post here.

Dirty Laundry: Questioning the Have-To’s of Our Lives


One of our cats prefers to hang out in the clean laundry basket. Whatever. I’m so used to cat hair on my clothes I don’t stress too much over the fact that he gets it there before I’ve even had a chance to put them away. 

But the other day he hunkered down in there while I was actually doing the laundry. So it happened that I began to toss clean folded laundry on top of him. Hey, if you’re going to lounge around where I’m working, expect to get buried in stuff. 

He did not move. No matter how many clean clothes I piled on top of him, on he slept. He may have opened a slightly perturbed eye now and then, but he had no plan to get out of that basket anytime soon.

Sitting in Dirty Laundry?

At first, I wondered what to make of this. I mean, wouldn’t a normal human being (read that cat) want to maybe move away if he was being suffocated in stuff? Then I thought about it a bit more. And I wondered how often that was true in my own life. How many times have I sat there while life, or other people, piled things on top of me? I just took them and slept on. When it would make sense to wake up and say, “Hey! Didn’t you notice me in here?” and then get the heck our from underneath all that junk, sometimes I don’t behave any smarter than the cat.


Comfortable Excuses Reasons

There may be lot of crap being piled on top of me, but I am comfortable. Moving is work. Moving means finding a new place to be. It means giving up the known and comfortable basket and making the effort to walk away toward other options.


Raise of hands—how many of you do that consistently? I thought so.

I know so, because I hear it all the time.

  • I’d like more time together at home but I have to take my kid to four practices this week. . .
  • I would hang out but there’s this project at work someone else was supposed to do and now. . .
  • My family expects me to host this big dinner and I can’t take the stress . . .
  • I’m going to feel so guilty if I don’t do this the way my in-laws want it done. . .
  • There are two meetings and an outreach event and a kids’ camp at church this week, and I really should be there . . .
  • It’s my three-year-old’s birthday and I have to make zoo cupcake trains. (Is that even a thing?!)


Did you notice some of the common words in those all-too-real scenarios? Expect. But. Supposed to. Guilt. Should. Have to.

Ask the Questions

There is all kinds of stuff being piled on us all the time, and we accept it because it comes with those magically guilt-inducing words: “have to.” When was the last time you looked at one of those expectations and asked, “Do I really?”


  • Do I really have to put my kid in all those sports, or can I step off that wild ride?
  • Do I really have to complete someone else’s work, or am I just controlling that it has to get done?
  • Do I really have to host a dinner for family, or can we call it a potluck?
  • Do I really have to craft a birthday party that rivals Martha Stewart and Disney combined, or will a family get together with a cake and candles do fine?


What are we afraid is going to happen if we question the have-to’s in our life? .

Hard truth–We put too much blame on what others are throwing on us and take too little responsibility for not moving out from underneath it all. Their laundry is stifling, but at least we know we’re comfortably in control of making others happy. We know we’re needed. We know it will get done right. 

Let’s be honest, more often than not, if we’re sitting under a load of stuff, we have chosen to sit there. We could get out. But we’re afraid to leave the warm security, even if it’s slowly suffocating us.

  • What’s the worst thing that can happen if I say no?
  • What terrible tragedy will take place if I decide to let something go I think I have to control?
  • What world will spin out if I choose to let others be responsible for themselves?

  • Will I still be a worthwhile, loved person if I get out from under the pile?


As Jen Hatmaker writes in For the Love,

“We no longer assess our lives with any accuracy. We have lost the ability to declare a job well-done. We measure our performance against an invented standard and come up wanting, and it is destroying our joy. No matter how hard we work or excel in an area or two, it never feels like enough. Our primary defaults are exhaustion and guilt. Meanwhile, we have beautiful lives begging to be really lived, really enjoyed, really applauded—and it is simpler than we dare hope.”


Jump Out

How simple? Get out of the laundry basket. Decide now that the world will not implode if you don’t please everyone or control the outcome of everything. Start asking yourself the questions: Do I really? What’s the worst that could happen? Will I still matter?


It’s doubt on that last one that kills us. So let’s settle it now. You are a human being made in the image of God. (At least I think you’re human. If you’re not, and you’re reading this blog, pleeeease send me a video.)

That image has never been rescinded. It’s never been recalled. It’s never been contingent on how much you’ve done to earn it. It was a done deal at creation. If someone else wants to doubt that about you, that’s their big ol’ mess of laundry, not yours. Pitch it off.

That’s why we have beautiful lives begging to be really lived. It was wired into us from the beginning. Lived in the sense of knowing all the way through us that it is freer outside of the basket where the air is clear. (Especially if it’s dirty laundry being thrown on us. Eeew.) It only seems scarier just before you jump out.

Mostly Good Is a Raging Success

I have been blessed beyond expectations for the last several months to be a part o the launch team for Jen Hatmaker’s new book, For the Love(available for preorder now on Amazon).

Beyond expectation, because beside the opportunity to read a fantastic book before anyone else (I am slightly competitive?), the community that has formed among the launch team members has been phenomenal. Advice, weeping with those who weep, laughter, and discussions about online dating have been just a few of the things discussed. You may not want to know. We hang it all out there, and it feels like community. Which is kind of what this book is all about.

For the next few weeks, I’ll be taking chapters of the book that meant a lot to me and discussing them. Please, chime in.

Chapters 1,9,10:
Worst Beam Ever, Hope for Spicy Families, and Surviving School

Because balance beams are for gymnasts, not parents.
Raising kids. In a Pinterest world. Can I get an amen on that dilemma? The subtitle of the book says it all here: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards.

There is a reason my talk “The Enemy of Good Enough” is popular among MOPS groups. (Though not as popular as the anger management for moms one. That’s a ringer anywhere.) We all feel “not good enough.” We all doubt ourselves. No matter how many birthday parties we throw, how many classrooms we volunteer in, how many times we read Good Night Moon together (and it is a lot of times), we still feel there is more we should be doing to ensure our kids will grow up safe, sane, and with a low likelihood of criminal activity.

Not enough. Not enough. Never. Enough.

The funny thing is, as Jen points out, no generation of parents has ever done more to effect that guarantee.

“Condemnation is a trick of the enemy, not the language of the heavens. Shame is not God’s tool, so if we are slaves to it, we’re way off the beaten path. And it is harsh out there, debilitating actually. If your inner monologue is critical, endlessly degrading, it’s time to move back to grace. Then we can breathe and assess our own parenting with the same kindness we extend to others. Only our overly-critical, overly-involved generation could engineer such carefully curated childhood environments and still declare ourselves failures. We are loving, capable mothers reading the room all wrong. . . .We no longer assess our lives with any accuracy. We have lost the ability to declare a job well-done. We measure our performance against an invented standard and come up wanting, and it is destroying our joy. 
We need to quit trying to be awesome and instead be wise.”



You know what a huge part of the problem with not letting ourselves off the hook is? We truly think that, if we remain on this self-manufactured hook, we can control the outcome. The problem is, there is no guarantee. Ever. No amount of quality parental hoop-jumping will ever ensure your kids turn out perfect. They will never be totally safe from either harm in the world or their own bad choices. And that kills us. So we try to control it with every little pinterest-approved healthy meal or bonding craft we can muster. We will get it right. Enough will ensure the future.

Enough never is. It never will be. Stop trying to be awesome. Rest in the grace of knowing, really knowing, that the One who is in control has this. No promises of safety. But abundant promises of care and provision and loving arms that wrap around you in all heartaches and fears.

Because this is just not real life.

We can’t ensure the future, and in fact, we shouldn’t. Our kids do not need to grow up expecting mom to create wonderful experiences every time something scary or threatening or sad happens. They need us to hold their hands and bring them before the One who can get them through the sad/threatening/scary times. The times they will face someday without mommy around. They need us to teach them how to handle sad and scary. All by themselves. Without dolphin sandwiches. (You’ll just have to read the book to understand that one.)

I love this quote that lets us all off that terrible hook we put ourselves on:

“Can I tell you my goal for my kids? That their childhood is mostly good. People, I declare “mostly good” a raging success. If I am mostly patient and they are mostly obedient, great. If we are mostly nurturing and they turn out mostly well-adjusted, super.”



Isn’t that freeing? Isn’t mostly good truly good enough? Can we give ourselves grace to be mostly good? Our kids will thank us.

Find Jen’s book here. Trust me, this is so worth it. I’ll keep telling you why for the next couple weeks!

not the happiest place?

Facebook is not the happiest place on earth. Two German universities have proved this.
This new study reveals that envy is rampant on Facebook. To be precise, “The spread and ubiquitous presence of envy on Social Networking Sites is shown to undermine users’ life satisfaction.”
In fact, we are so jealous of our social counterparts that we feel less happy with our own lives after spending our mornings with social media. We also embellish our own public lives. Just a little. Maybe. To keep up.
When I first heard that people were dissatisfied with their time on Facebook, I thought, duh, if I see one more post on a) the presidential election, b) gun control, or c) I Haz Cheezburger-style grammar, I might actually purchase one of those guns and go postal on my laptop. (After which, of course, I would post the video on Facebook.)

But no, the two sources of unhappiness surprised me. They were looking at other peoples’ vacation photos and checking how many times other people were wished Happy Birthday.
What? Someone actually sits around doing that? Counting birthday posts? I am beginning to see why those people might have life satisfaction issues. They have no life.
The interesting point getting less press is that envy and dissatisfaction were linked to how much the person actually interacts on Facebook. Lurkers feel more envy. A lot more. The more people simply look at your vacation photos without interacting with you personally, the more they envy you. The more they spend their time counting ‘Likes’ as opposed to talking to people they like, the more unhappy they are.
We did not need a German study to tell us this. Common sense should point us in that direction, though sense is far less than common these days.
Sense would tell me that it’s easier to compare myself to someone and envy them when I have never really talked to them, never discovered their hurts, dreams, and common threads. It has never occurred to me to envy my friends’ vacation photos and birthday wishes because I am genuinely happy when they are happy. I have made their happiness a part of my life. (Also because most of us, if we’re honest, are annoyed by 500 birthday notifications ringing through on our phones all day.)
If we choose to watch other people live their lives rather than living our own, we are unhappy. This is not new to Facebook world. It’s just more easily accessible.
Maybe rather than cause some people to tone down their vacation pics or others to ramp up their stories to compete, this study should call us to recognize that our happiness is in our own hands, not those of our “friends.” 

We can choose to compare lives or we can choose to make lives.
Making a life doesn’t mean streaking off to the Bahamas or Paris and then posting pictures. It means finding the richness we have where we are by interacting with life and with others rather than watching then live. It means to stop observing and saying “I wish” and start jumping in, saying, “I will.”
I will. What do you want to jump into today?