How Not To Waste A Life

 

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I thumbed through my clothes twice, both times finding nothing suitable to wear. I began a third time and stopped at a khaki skirt. It’s nothing fancy, in fact, it’s quite old, but I rarely wear it. I save it for “special” days. I wondered why I always save my favorites for later. Sometimes later never comes. Some years that skirt never actually gets worn. Although I had no special plans, I wore the skirt. Sometimes living in the moment means wearing your best skirt for no good reason. Sometimes living in the moment means not saving anything for later.

I’ve decided saving is overrated.

The boys and I sipped breakfast smoothies chatting about summer. No two summers have ever held the same flow, this one is no exception. Yet, they all have one thing in common. Each summer feels it’s the best summer of my life. Jacob smirked as I reminded him of this. “Mom, you say that every year.”

The summer doesn’t feel it’s the best because my circumstances are better than any other year. In fact, this summer holds some very difficult challenges and incredibly hard moments. It’s more about my perspective of life rather than what life is serving.

“Well, it’s true. I’m not sure why.” But I do know what makes this one feel different in its own unique way. I stopped saving. Stopped saving moments for later.

I’m living my life fully spent. I’m not saving an ounce for the future because I don’t know what tomorrow holds. Each day I’m falling into bed exhausted with nothing left to give, yet sleeping with complete peace knowing I’m exerting every ounce exactly where He has me right now.

It’s a different kind of exhaustion, the kind that comes not from overcommitting or trying to do everything placed before me. It’s the kind of exhaustion from living fully right here.

I’m trading in being a saver of life so I can savor life.

Why work hard at life to save it all for later? What if later is drastically different from today?

I tell my boys all the time, whatever is worth doing is worth doing well. Whatever is worth doing is worth pouring your entire being into, giving it your absolute all. Do everything as if unto the Lord. I think it applies to life in general as well.

Life worth doing is worth doing well. Doing life well might mean spending every ounce of life we have every single day, not saving any for another day. Doing life well might mean pouring out life and asking God to refill us for the next day. Telling God we are going to spend it all today because we know He is the giver of life and we trust in Him to replenish our strength fresh for tomorrow.

For me, I’ve discovered there are 5 keys to not wasting my life. For me, if I don’t spend my life, I wonder if it might look wasted one day? Maybe spending it fully every day is the key to making sure none goes to waste.

5 ways I’m learning to spend my life:

  1. Get out of bed and move with intention and a plan to live. My boys have perfected the art of sleeping late this summer. By the time they wake up, I’ve been up hours and am fully charged and ready to hit the day. Jacob and I have completely different wake up styles. My eyes open, I hop out of bed, and my feet hit the floor. He opens his eyes, lays for a good looooong while, and then finally gets up. The longer he takes to get out of bed, the slower he moves about his day, and with much less drive. Now, if he knows the day’s plan, he wakes up with a purpose. Feet hit the floor, he moves with a sense of direction, he starts getting stuff done. This always affects his attitude and his mood. I began to realize how this plays into my everyday life. When I’m not intentionally thinking about spending my life well, life simply happens. When I decide that I will encounter all parts of my day with a purpose, I engage fully and with purpose. There is deeper satisfaction at the end of the day. I don’t have to have all the details of my day lined up, I just need to set my heart and attitude right so that I engage moment by moment with the mindset that all life is purposeful.
  2. Keep my eyes open all day long, keep God at the forefront of my thoughts. My eyes can be opened, yet I can fail to see anything set before me. I see a drastic difference in my daily life on the days I decide when my feet hit the floor to keep my eyes open and alert to God at work all day. Every teeny, tiny detail. When we open our eyes and begin to hunt for Him, life overwhelms us in the sweetest of ways. Jacob and I took a long bike ride together last week. It was scorching hot, but we were doing our best to chat it up and distract ourselves from the heat. Before we realized it, we were riding our bikes through a sprinkler that offered a quick, surprising soak. Jacob commented how that was perfect timing and just what he needed right then. I smiled knowing that there are no coincidences. God is so involved in the smallest of details, so delights in delighting and surprising us, so wants us to delight back in HIm. I realized then that when I’m looking with eyes searching for how God is moving and speaking to me in every moment, life feels rich with purpose, life feels personal and intimate, life is lived well when we are living in constant search for Him.
  3. Live on sensory overload. A life not wasted uses all senses all the time. Summer is for experiencing through all our senses. It’s for recalling memories of our own childhood through smells and sounds, for recreating those for our children. For storing away memories that our senses will pull back out for us again and again. Living life all senses awake is entering into a moment and deciding it will take up a permanent residence in our soul. It will leave its mark.
  4. Giving all we have to give. I’m notorious for saying yes, but later to life. Someone will ask me to do something, and I will put it on my later radar. Sometimes it happens, but sometimes life gets in the way and it won’t happen. This summer I’m doing less procrastinating of life and experiences and more saying yes, right now, why not, I’ll give it all I have until there’s nothing left because I know the One who will replenish me.
  5. Live in real life, real time. This summer I’ve put away distractions. I am much more disconnected online and much more connected in real time. I’ve intentionally decided to pay more attention to the lives right in front of me rather than the highlights of other’s lives around me. This means little social media for me. Less news, less articles, less anything on my computer. Less writing (which I miss, but a season will arrive when I can pick it back up again). When I’m on my phone or on my computer, time seems to be vacuumed right up from my life. When I put away all online distractions, it’s amazing how my senses come alive, how my mind clears up, how my vision is crisp. I’m motivated to do life well, right here, right now.

And the biggest thing I’ve realized is that not wasting life daily looks different for everyone. Not wasting life, fully spending life, will not look the same for you as for anyone else. For me to spend everything I have on my life today might look very simple compared to how someone else will spend their life today. Doesn’t make either one right or better. It’s an awakening to where God has you this very day, and living it with all you have, spending every ounce of energy on each moment He brings your way as you trust He will restore your strength and soul each and every day.

So today I start anew as I have each day this summer. I will say yes more than no. I will trade saving life for savoring life. I will spend my life fully today and ask Him to restore me tomorrow.

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Take Heart – Encouragement After The Supreme Court Ruling

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The grief is real. As christians we can’t help but grieve when we see sin legalized and celebrated. When we see a path of destruction ahead. When we see our God ridiculed and laughed at. But then again, there is nothing new under the sun, right? (Ecc 1:9)

We are misunderstood, labeled as intolerant haters. That couldn’t be further from the truth, but would Satan use any other method than a lie as his foundation?

I had trouble sleeping over the weekend. I woke through the night praying for our nation and praying for the multitudes of people who believe the lie that love won with the Supreme Court ruling. Oh, my precious friends who believe yet another lie, my heart aches. You are being deceived. I know your deepest need is for love. And so does the Father in Heaven who created you. God is love. (1John 4:8) He knows better than anyone that love never fails. His love for you is so unfathomable, He sacrificed His Son, placing the weight of our sins on Him, so that we could enter into a relationship with Him both now and in eternity. (John 3:16)

Yes, love wins, but it was won on a cross. It was’t won by the Supreme Court. That version of love is counterfeit. It will fail, fall, crumble, and eventually burn. God’s love – well, it’s eternal, and when we first taste it, we find the satisfaction our soul has craved, and we finally experience true freedom.

My heart grieves for the lost. “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.” 1 Cor 1:18.

So we pray and never stop praying. Lord, open their eyes that they may see the wonderful ways of your laws. (Psalm 119:18)

Saturday I read from Romans 1.

Romans 1:20-21 “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Romans 1:24-27 “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. 26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.”

This sat heavy on my heart. I felt all of Psalm 119:28 “My soul is weary with sorrow. Strengthen me according to your Word.”

I went to bed praying. I woke praying through the night. Then Sunday morning, the Lord woke me with encouragement.

My eyes opened Sunday morning, and this verse played in my head. Psalm 27:13-14 “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD. Be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.”

I went downstairs to spend time with the Lord. At the end of my time with Him, I set my Bible down where it fell open to Psalm 27. My eyes drawn like a magnet to His living Word. Psalm 27:13-14. I bowed my head and thanked Him.

Yes, we will remain confident of this. We will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. He is Sovereign. He is God. While it appears the world spins out of control, it doesn’t. It’s His kindness and mercy not wishing that anyone perish.

2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

So, brothers and sisters, let’s look for His goodness in the land of living. Let’s know He is extending patience and mercy to His creation.

Romans 2:4 “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”

Let’s not show contempt. Let’s remember His kindness that led to repentance and extend the kindness to others. Sharing that God is loving and kind. He isn’t a God who withholds good, withholds love. He desires that we experience true love, not the fake version.

Sunday morning God encouraged me through His Word after a weekend of mourning the Supreme Court decision. It didn’t take long for God to show His goodness. We sat through church as the Baptist Childrens Home of North Carolina worshipped with us. We listened to stories from kids and adults of a God who reached into their lives and saved them from trauma, abuse, neglect, and pain. We saw the testimony of lives redeemed. The goodness of the Lord on full display. That is the God we serve. Yes, He’s a Righteous Judge, but we can’t lose sight of His love, patience, and kindness.

The Surpreme Court ruling didn’t take Him by surprise. He’s not standing wringing His hands wondering how this happened. There is an enemy who seeks to destroy and devour and uses our sinful desires and pleasures to take us down. But our God holds the world in His hand. A day is coming when He will judge each and every one of us. He knows how it ends. Some battles He allows the enemy to win, but He already won the war on the cross. Love won, love wins, and love will never fail.

So today, we wait for the Lord, we stay strong, we take heart, and we wait for the Lord. We thank Him for His kindness, patience, and mercy. And we pray fervently. Never stopping.

Take heart.

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What if we never stopped playing?

So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun. Ecc 8:15

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When I was a little girl, I constantly heard someone telling me to go play. But I didn’t like to play. Play felt strange and unnatural to me. I don’t like silliness, so I never found myself drawn to silly play with other children. Pretend play was fine, but only for a short period of time. I preferred to sit and read or do something productive.

When I had babies, I played with them, but I had to work hard to play. Playing seemed luxurious to me because a never-ending list awaited conquering. Nevertheless, I played. I got in the pool and swam, I ran around soccer fields and kicked, I built tall towers and demolished, I sat on swings and pumped hard.

Then the kids inched older and began playing with each other. I began tackling those to-do lists. They inched a little older still, and playing with them felt silly. Have I mentioned I don’t do silly well?

A couple of summers ago, I sat in a lounge chair watching my boys swim. I looked in the pool bag and caught sight of the book I’d been attempting to read for weeks. For years I’ve packed a book in the beach bag because that is what you do at the beach, you read. Or you did. Before kids. Steve chuckles, “I don’t know why you are packing that. You know you won’t be able to read.”

We’ve always worked out systems so I could catch some beach naps or a little beach reading. On this trip they were old enough that I could actually read while they swam. At the end of the trip, I realized I’d only entered the water maybe two or three times. We’d reached a stage where I could quite possibly watch from the sidelines my children at play all day.

Several times they called out asking me to swim. I’d answer, “No thanks, I’m going to read. You guys are having fun with each other. Keep it up!”

A trend formed. Kids swim, I sit on a chair. I’m perfectly content on that chair. They nag me to jump in. I answer there is no need. On we go. It’s not because I’m insecure in a swimsuit or care what others think. It’s because I simply would rather sit and read than play.

I’ve discounted the importance of play for myself, yet I find myself saying the same things to my children I heard throughout my childhood. GO PLAY. I’ve bought into the idea that my kids need to play, but I’ve outgrown play.

I can be far too serious and think much too much. I am inclined to view life as ‘what needs to get done’ rather than ‘wow, let’s enjoy this life right now.’

I think, plan, and prepare so everyone around me can play while I sit on the sidelines and look on. Not always, but a lot of times.

I’ve failed to see the benefits of play in adulthood. I’ve focused most of my attention on making sure my kids play and enjoy their days.

I’ve come to a new conclusion on play. Play is important no matter our age. In fact, maybe play is even more important for grown ups than it is for kids.

Maybe if we played more, we’d snap less.

Maybe if we played more, we’d grumble less.

Maybe if we played more, we’d let the little things go with ease.

Maybe if we played more, we’d sleep sounder.

Maybe if we played more, we’d laugh harder and linger longer.

Maybe if we played more, we’d listen closer.

Maybe if we played more, we’d love more intensely.

Maybe if we played more, we’d rekindle what’s dwindled.

We are reaching 100 degree temps here in North Carolina. Sitting in a pool chair has become more uncomfortable than doing handstands in the shallow and playing water bomb with the boys.

I set our pool bag and cooler at the table while the boys wasted no time canon balling straight into the pool.

“Mom, you HAVE to get in. PLEASE. It’s sooooo warm.”

I’d already planned to get in the water. I think it’s time I stop sitting on the sidelines. It’s time to enter into the moments again with my kids. Maybe they never outgrow playing with their parents like I’ve been told.

I’m certain they expected another no thank you, and I took great delight in their shocked expressions when I stepped right in.

Andrew came up for air, calling my name as usual. He seems to say my name an average of 3,356 times a day. Spitting water from his mouth, goggles clouded over, he’s calling my name, looking towards the table.

“Hey, Andrew, I’m right here.”

He whipped around to face me. “Mom! I did not know you were in here. You are swimming!”

Jacob watched from a distance. Always my thoughtful and sensitive child, he acted as if this moment were as normal as seeing me preparing dinner. “So mom, wanna play water bomb?”

“Sure, tell me how to play.”

And we played.  And I snuck wet kisses from Andrew, who always turns away. And we flipped under water until our lungs felt they would burst. And we splashed. And we laughed. And we raced.

And God brought it all together. My soul needed to play. My kids needed me to play. Play isn’t silly. Play may be the thing that reminds us life is full of joy even on the days and weeks that grief weighs heavy, that life feels its played a dirty hand.

That evening I felt lighter. Conversation with my boys came easy. Time seemed less rushed. My soul stopped racing and instead strolled at a comfortable pace.

Steve came home after the boys were sound asleep. I filled him in on our day. He listened and nodded along, making no big deal of the fact that I swam.

“Can you believe I actually swam with the boys today?”

Wiping toothpaste from his mouth, he set the towel aside. “Yeah, I can.”

As if it were as normal as seeing me prepare dinner.

The big deal to me maybe wasn’t such a big deal to anyone else. Or maybe they were just being kind. Or maybe it was just the soul within me that felt in need of revival through play. Awakened inside.

Maybe play is not so silly after all. Maybe this summer, I’ll play a little harder. Summer is for learning new talents. I’ll learn the talent of play.

It is a happy talent to know how to play. Ralph Waldo Emerson

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When our boys thought feeding the poor was their favorite summer memory

Sharing Words of Encouragement

But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 1 John 3:17

Sweat dripped off our bodies as we all jumped in the car, and I impatiently waited for the air condition to put me back to comfortable. I sat with my face nearly pressed to the dash allowing the air to blast at full speed. 98 degrees and I are not friends. Neither are 48 degrees and I. I get along best with about 72, but in North Carolina you pretty much go from winter to summer with only a few glorious weeks of spring in between.

Jacob and Zachary clambered into the back. “You know, that was more fun than if you had taken us to a movie and bought us popcorn, cokes, and candy.”

I waited for the “Yeah, right” but it never came. Turning from the arctic blast, I looked at Zachary. “Are you serious?”

“Yes, mom, I’m so serious.”

Then it was Jacob. “Yes! It was so awesome. I want to do it again. When can we?”

Those were not the responses we were expecting, but isn’t God good like that? It’s in those moments I wonder if He is saying, “Renee, trust me more with your time. Watch what I can do and grow if you give it to me.”

Time. That’s really what it comes down to. I want to serve more, but that time thing always seems to get in the way. Honestly, the time issue would have stopped us from feeding the homeless that day as well if Steve hadn’t encouraged us to intentionally take the time before the time took us. When he saw the opportunity to serve, he asked that I schedule the date and make it a priority. That meant we declined playing in a baseball tournament double header. That meant we didn’t attend the free festival in our neighborhood that our kids had been asking to attend. That meant I had to decline an invitation for lunch.

Time. I really don’t need more time, I just need to be intentional with the time I’m given. Isn’t summer a great time to refocus?

Given the choice to give money or time, many of us choose to give money. In the culture we live in, our time has become almost more valuable to us than our money. We are running frantic daily, we are squeezing in as much as we possibly can. When we see pockets of time, we want to guard it, hold it closely, protect it with everything in us. It’s the world we live in, but our model did the exact opposite. He gave it all away, including his very life.

If we want grateful kids, we train them to serve. If we want respectful kids, we train them to value others above themselves. Will this happen overnight? No. Will we see these traits daily in our kids? No. Parenting isn’t for the short-sighted. We parent hard daily to produce adults that love the Lord with all their heart and love others well. This takes time. It all comes back to time.

Several summers ago we began what we called Mission Mondays. You can read about it here. Mondays were reserved for serving others in various ways. Many of our mission projects, while wonderful in so many ways, were projects where we served from afar. We collected money through our hard work and sent it overseas. We created packages for homeless children and sent them away. We sponsored children in poverty stricken countries and sent gifts and letters. While these are vital, we could do them from a distance, we could feel good about what we did, we could remain in our comfortable world, and life for us went on.

I began to ponder something. The people I know who serve with everything they have to give, have a deep love for others. A love for others I wish I possessed. The people I know who love others well usually step right into their lives.

So I wonder if to truly love others deeply, do we need to enter into their world?

When we enter into the life of the poor, the orphan, the widow, the homeless, the needy, the sick, something else happens. We see into their eyes. We see the person created in God’s image. Sending a check or serving from a distance, we miss the eyes, we miss hearing a voice, we miss a story told firsthand. We can’t stop serving from a distance, but we can do both.

Serving a Meal

Packed and Ready to Head Out

Last weekend we served with Bread of Life with other members of our church. Volunteers boxed up lunches, loaded a trailer, and we headed to a grocery store parking lot in downtown Charlotte. We opened up the doors, opened up the window, and within seconds the homeless and poor made their way for refreshment.  We took Jacob and Zachary with us, and they were put on drink duty, which they took very seriously. Filling cups of lemonade and water as we prayed each individual would come to seek living water.

Before we passed out food, we gathered across the street in the parking lot of a restaurant, we joined hands, and we were led in prayer and worship by Freddie Powers of Keeping Hope Alive Ministries. Bread of Life goes to this area a few times a year, but apparently Freddie goes every Sunday. The homeless and poor in the area knew her. Someone was investing in these people who might otherwise be looked over all day long. Someone was telling them they are loved and cherished and they have value in the eyes of God- these people who feel devalued because of a society who can judge a person’s worth based on their surroundings. These people who live in a world most of us can’t imagine.

Prayer

Welcoming

Afterwards, we served food, drinks, and Bibles. Volunteers prayed with each person who was willing. It was hot, so very, very hot. We are in a 2 week stretch of high 90’s reaching 100. All I could think is how these people who either lived on the streets or possibly in homes with no air this is their reality. These people who are dearly loved by God. I don’t understand the why’s of this world, but I do know that it isn’t simply because of my hard work that I’m not in the position they are in. It’s not that God favors me over them that I’m not living on the street. It’s not that their life holds less value than mine. No, but our society can be quick to say, “Well, I’ve worked hard for what I’ve received.” Yes, maybe, but the hardest work can sometimes turn upside down and inside out. What we do know, is the Lord loves the poor, and the Lord desires we serve the poor, and the Lord is near to them.

When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them. Isaiah 41:17

You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’ Deuteronomy 15:10-11

Later that night our family sat on the lawn in our small town listening to music, throwing a football with friends, eating food we had of plenty. It was just me and Jacob sitting there at the moment. He was quiet, looking off. I placed my salad on the blanket and watched him for a minute. “Hey, Jacob, are you ok?”

He looked back at me and smiled. “I’m fine. I’m just thinking.”

“Everything ok? Just thinking or worrying about something?”

“I’m just thinking about all those people we met today. That’s all.”

Me too. It’s hard not to think of them. Several of their faces continue to scroll through my mind. I see toothless smiles and grateful eyes. I see a mom’s face with her 2 daughters, all took a Bible and food, and I can’t stop praying they will come to know the Lord if they don’t yet. I think of the family that brought their 3 young children. Those sweet, precious, innocent eyes that met ours as they each said thank you. I see the man on the bike who told Steve he’d biked a great distance to come. I watched as he drank 2 cups of liquid in record time. I’ve thought back as well, my boy.

Entering into their world was a completely different experience for us. Seeing into their eyes, hearing their voices, it changes you. And you see Jesus. That’s it. That’s how we love more deeply in order to serve wholeheartedly. We see Jesus.

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Summer Is For Simple Moments

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I guess it goes without me saying, though it dawned on me I should say it, I’m taking a blogging break while my boys are home this summer. I will still blog, but much less frequently. Rather than 2-3 times a week, you might only hear from me once a week. Summer is for discarding a schedule (unless you have a job with a boss).

Last summer I felt a tension within myself that I did not want to experience again. A tension between my primary ministry (my family) and my writing ministry. I wanted to write, I had so much to write, yet finding the time felt impossible. No longer did I have napping children or children who went to bed at 7:00. I’d lost my pockets of writing time. So I tried squeezing it in while they were with me, but that only led to frustration when I found myself in the middle of a piece only to have to stop to break up a sibling battle or assist in a crisis moment. I found myself becoming frustrated and losing sight of my ultimate vision and goals. Sometimes when tensions mount, simplicity whispers that something must be loosened. Summer is for setting goals and accomplishing them in the simplest of ways.

I learned from my mistakes and decided this year I’d adjust my expectations. I expect to love on my family this summer, to invest in them, to encourage them to the best of my abilities, and pray that God will grant me those surprise moments of time to write (like right this very moment). Writing  is such a time of connection for me with God. He knows I need it and desire it. But I have to keep it in the right order. Summer is for realigning priorities and goals. Why wait until January?

I already feel as if the summer is slipping away, but I keep reminding myself that many haven’t even started summer yet. We are in week 4 of 12, the honeymoon phase has ended, some sort of schedule is beginning to emerge, and we are fully invested in spending as much time together as we can.

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Last week Jacob took a 14 hour trip with my dad to Missouri on a fishing trip. The memories he created are priceless. In particular is the 28 hours they spent together in the car. That is what he continues to remember. It’s all about time. Summer is for taking back time.

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All the boys wrapped up their spring baseball season. Andrew’s first season of machine pitch ended with a championship win! Andrew is in the front row, dead center, 3rd from either side. Summer is for championing for our families and friends. For cheering and celebrating life.

We have logged a good 100 hours of audio books and hundreds and hundreds of pages read over endless hours. Trips to the pool, campfires in the backyard, Bible study with friends, weekend visits from good friends, a trip to Georgia twice.

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Our dear friends from Virginia visited us over the weekend. This is their 5th annual visit to see us. We lived in Virginia for only 2 & 1/2 years, we’ve lived in North Carolina for 4 years. Our friends have visited us for twice as many years as they even knew us in Virginia. Summer is for friends. Summer is for simply investing in life-giving relationships.

A lot has been packed into 4 weeks, and we realized we haven’t even made our bucket list yet. While my kids love to make a bucket list, I prefer to make a simple moments list. The simple moments of summer end up becoming the memories that truly fill their tanks and mine. They don’t realize it, but I see it. Summer is for simple moments.

The bucket list items – the trips to the zoo, the trips hiking, the backyard campouts, boating – we love them, we want them, we take pictures of them and document them.

The simple moment items, they can happen spontaneously, they need no planning or at least very little planning, they are often free, they are easy to replicate repeatedly to carve deep memories in their hearts. The simple moments of summer are the ones that fill their daily love tanks. The simple moments of summer are the ones that I treasure most.

The simple moments of summer can pop up like a summer thunderstorm with little or no warning. Those are my favorites.

Here’s a few of my favorite simple moments:

sitting on the porch watching a storm, stopping in the middle of what I’m doing and playing checkers with one of my boys, catching one of the boys when they are sitting somewhere alone and joining them in their daydreams, taking a walk, cooking together, talking, talking, and more talking -about everything, hitting the tennis ball on the driveway, playing catch in the backyard, looking through photo albums, telling stories, watching the Braves play.

The list goes on and on. My day is packed full of opportunity if I see the opportunity. I don’t need money or extravagant trips and camps to give them a summer to remember forever. The simple moments will not wow our kids, but they tend to stack one on top of another burying into the deep parts of their souls. The simple moments remind them they are loved and cherished, accepted and known. The simple moments give space for grace to enter. The simple moments soothe the rush of the year. The simple moments provide the stability in a culture that attempts to pull them away. The simple moments are not to be discounted. Summer is for slowing down and simply being.

When my kids are asked if they’ve done anything super cool or exciting this summer, these simple moments won’t make the list. When they are asked what they’ve done this summer, they won’t say their favorite moment is listening to mom read on the screen porch or share embarrassing stories on long car rides, or taking evening runs together. But I know that when they are grown and they look back at their childhood summers, these simple moments will resurface.

These simple moments have power to bond families. Summer is both simple and complicated. Summer is both empty and full. Summer is for reclaiming time lost in the first half of the year and stocking up for the 2nd half.

Like all of life, summer is a gift.

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When Tragedy Strikes Your Community

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The community of Charlotte is grieving deeply over the recent accident that took the lives of a 2 year old and his brother delivered by emergency c-section.

It’s the kind of tragedy that leaves no words. The grief this family faces is unimaginable. The community has been rocked. You don’t have to intimately know a family to grieve alongside them. That is what families in Charlotte and beyond are experiencing right now.

No matter what tragedy hits or where it hits, God is still in control. While we can’t make sense of this, and we cry out to God and ask why, if we are His, He holds us and comforts us, He carries us, He mourns with us.

I recently had a friend ask how we can reconcile how God allows these tragedies to happen. The answer is that we can’t reconcile tragedy. It’s horrendous, it’s painful, it’s raw and burning. There is no reconciling on our end. But we aren’t left to hurt alone. God has reconciled the wrongs in this world through the cross. And while we grieve here, and we are held in His arms, He whispers reminders of His promises to us. He will comfort us as a mother comforts her child (Isaiah 66:13). He will hide us in his shadows while these calamities pass by.

He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Psalm 91:4

He has a place for us in eternity when we have accepted His son, and this….this is our hope. This is the ONLY way we can get through tragedy. Knowing that one day there will be no sorrow, no sadness – that is where we place our eyes. We hurt, we cry, we grieve, we suffer, but He’s taking us to a place unlike anything the mind can conceive. (1 Cor 2:9)

There is a God who created a perfect world, sin entered this perfect world and messed it up. But God put a plan in place to save us from our pain before the pain touched our lives. From the beginning of time, God pointed us towards reconciliation and restoration. It is the cross.

The cross reconciles the wrongs, the injustice, the wounds. The cross restores our souls. The cross tells me that when I’ve accepted Christ, my hope is in eternity with Him, not left in a state of mourning here.

The thing that stilled my grieving heart this morning was this article. A family forgiving the man who took the lives of their two children because they know they too have been forgiven. And asking the community to forgive. Only God. Only God make a heart ripped open forgive.

Would you pray for this family? We are surrounded by stories too heavy to bear. We are surrounded by life that is too much to handle. He knew that, He reached down, He righted it all in the cross. And His desire is that we lean into Him as He carries us from here into eternity. This world may try to crush us, but He promises that His children won’t be crushed. He holds us.

If you do not know Jesus as your personal Savior, I invite you to turn to him today, right now. He is waiting for you with open arms. If you have questions and don’t know what it means to accept Christ as your Savior, please email me. I’d love to share with you how you can enjoy eternity with the lover and creator of your soul.

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Fast Pass to Pure Grace

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On our recent trip to Disney, the boys and I raced through the fast pass lane on Space Mountain. We flew right by the ones waiting in the regular line. When we got to a stopping point, Zachary turned and asked, “What if someone entered the regular line, then when no one was looking, crossed into the fast pass line, then got to the final fast pass checkpoint and got caught?”

“Well, they would either send them back to the regular line, or they could choose to tell them they couldn’t ride at all.”

His face turned serious, which is so rare. “Well, I would just let them go through anyway.”

Now, Jacob is my child who must see justice served, but Zachary is a rule follower, so his answer surprised me.

“Why?”

His eyes, full of softness, met mine. “Because that is pure grace.”

Grace, an over-used, often misunderstood word. I had been a christian for years before understanding what grace actually meant. I’ve now come to realize grace can never be fully understood. It’s beyond our human ability to comprehend such a free, wild, and extravagant gift.

I know the definition of grace is an unmerited gift. It’s a gift we don’t deserve, a gift we didn’t earn. Salvation I don’t deserve. Salvation I can’t be good enough to earn. There are no scales. You see that would be unfair. And God is fair and just, beyond that He is wildly compassionate and loving. So in love with us, He extends grace.

Have I become desensitized to the word grace? Have I spoken of grace with such ease that it’s lost its magnificence on me?

Grace goes beyond comprehension. Pure grace, well, that just causes me to pause. If Zachary had simply said the word grace, I think I’d have smiled and nodded along with him. When he placed pure in front of grace, my thoughts came to a halt.

Grace is pure. Grace doesn’t need pure added to it. Grace needs nothing added to it. Grace is grace. Pure is pure.

The grace I daily extend tends to come with a price. But then that’s not grace. I’ll forgive you if you offer me a proper apology. I’ll accept you into my circle of friends or family, but you must behave a certain way. I’ll do this favor for you, but I hope you remember you owe me one.

My grace may come with conditions. His grace, no, it’s pure, no strings attached.

Grace is God as heart surgeon, cracking open your chest, removing your heart—poisoned as it is with pride and pain—and replacing it with his own. Rather than tell you to change, he creates the change. Do you clean up so he can accept you? No, he accepts you and begins cleaning you up. His dream isn’t just to get you into heaven but to get heaven into you.”
Max Lucado, Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine

Grace should cause my heart to skip a beat. Grace should cause me to look at every situation in light of eternity. Grace should not become a commonplace word in my vocabulary, desensitizing me to its magnitude. Grace changed everything. Grace is changing everything. Grace came for me, and grace came for you.

Look for grace today. He bathes us in it, but we may find ourselves so accustomed to His graces they have become a bit too common. Pray today for an awareness of His moment by moment grace.

Lord, capture our heart by your grace.

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