2014: A Great Year for Writing!

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My report from my blog for the year! Thanks for making it a great year. And don’t forget to follow me over at http://www.debirussell.com in 2015!

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 200,000 times in 2014. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 9 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Why Love>Hope

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I was texting my girlfriend today about how her week was going. We are both currently riding the same struggle bus with our teens and it’s quite a roller coaster at times. I was trying to encourage us by sharing some thoughts from 2 Peter which says we have everything we need to do our job as mama’s when out of the blue, a thought popped into my mind…..

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Love is greater than Hope

I work with clients who, at times, become very depressed, even suicidal. In those moments I pray for  wisdom to help them find hope to cling to. Hope is a beautiful and precious belief that meets us in our dark places to give us a glimmer of light. It empowers us to keep going, when quitting feels like the most rational choice. So I have often wondered about the verse that says, “Now these three remain- faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13) Why is love bigger and better than hope? As I was mulling over these thoughts I realized something new. While hope allows us to keep believing we can move forward, love gives us the reason we would want to. Hope is how we find strength to face tomorrow, love is why

I do not usually enjoy American Idol auditions because it is so painful to watch people who have a firm delusional belief about their abilities make a fool of themselves. I get so embarrassed for them, I just have to walk away. When your hope is placed in the wrong source it can be a trainwreck. On national TV sometimes. If we do not understand why we hope, then we may begin to hope in the wrong things. Finances, relationships, our looks, careers, children, houses….. All unstable and unworthy sources of lasting hope.

“…we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character and character, hope. And our hope does not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through His Holy Spirit whom He has given us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

The hope we have in Christ will never be misplaced because His love has proven Him to be trustworthy. It is not my love that I lean on, but His love for me that creates hope. I can hope confidently for Him to work all things together for the good, because I have seen at the cross His love that led Him to suffer in my place and then work even his death for the good of all who will trust in it.  I can hope that even as my children struggle through their teenage years, the love that took their place at the cross will never stop pursuing them. And as I ride the roller coaster of adolescence with my children, I can hope, not in them getting it all right, or even me  getting it all right. But instead that Jesus got it right in all our places, and that His love will never fail or fade.

The Great Blog Renovation- Woot! Woot!

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Hello sweet blog loving friends! It has been quite a month! I am currently laying in my bed under all the covers trying to find the will to go to Kroger to get the food to feed the people. It’s at the point where I’m thinking: surely there is something I can make with chicken and tomatos and string cheese and cucumber and eggs. (Or not) Fear not, they are a hardy bunch and have been known to survive on popcorn and cereal if mama can’t find her way into the madness of Kroger on a Saturday.

Today I got to teach at the Called Women’s Conference here in my town and it was truly wonderful. But after all the exctiement and adrenaline wore off, I find myself snuggled down hoping for a quick nap. Then my thoughts turned to you! All you wonderful women (and men too!) who read Millinery and have joined in the conversations about the hats we wear and how we juggle them and how Jesus did it all perfectly in our place. And I want to tell you something exciting: I have done a renovation! My wonderful friend and sister in Christ,  Mindy, took pity on my lack of techy ablilities and kindly but beautifully updated my blog. Out with the shiny brass faucets and in with brushed steel, so to speak! I would be terribly sad to leave any of  you behind and so I’m inviting you all to follow me over to:

http://www.debirussell.com

Now you may recall, this happened a year ago or so. BUT, in my defense,  I knew nothing about how to set up a blog when I started writing. I just had to find a place to put All.the.Words. Now, I still know almost nothing but Mindy knows almost everything, so I think I can really settle in, unpack all the ideas and explore the things God lays on my heart to share with you. It won’t be the same without you there though, so come join me and it’s my last move, promise!

Flinging Starfish- How to face overwhelming problems without shutting down

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A story begins……There was once an old man who was taking a walk on the beach where he lived. As he walked in the mid day sunshine he noticed a little boy running frantically up and down the beach picking up starfish that had been beached by a high tide earlier, flinging them back into the cool water. The beach was covered with them and there was no way this one boy could get them all back into the water before the sun’s rays dried them up and killed them. Wanting to save the boy from wasting all his efforts, the old man stopped him saying, ” Son, you can’t possibly get all these starfish back into the ocean in time. You are using all your energy and it won’t even matter. Just accept that there is no way to save them and move on with your day.”

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The young boy turned to the man, holding another starfish and never breaking his gaze flung it into the sea. Before he turned to continue his one man rescue operation, he replied, “It mattered to that one!”

I heard this story as a teenager and it has stuck with me ever since. I remember feeling so overwhelmed by so many problems in this world and not knowing how I could make any difference at all. But the truth of that simple  story resonated deep within me. I cannot do everything. But I can do something.

I am the mother of teenagers now. The world has not really gotten better. Oh sure, some things have improved over time. But the reality is brokenness just finds a new outlet. When we solve one problem another will take its place. If I’m not careful I can find myself wanting to stick my head in the sand and live as though my little corner of the world and my tribe are all that matters. Protect mine. Conserve my energy for problems I face, because after all, what difference can one mom from the suburbs really make in a dark and broken world?

And yet, Jesus calls me light. In fact, “a city on a hill” that is meant to bring hope into the darkness is what he says I am. Because my heart is the residence of his Holy Spirit, and he was the Light of the World, his light now shines out of me. If I’m willing.

I was walking out of the doctor’s office last week and a young woman was sitting with her two babies, presumably waiting for a ride. She looked young, and she looked tired. The kind of tired that does not just come from sleepless nights, but from stress and hard times. Her babies were dressed so sweetly and she clearly was attending to their needs. I watched with admiration, noticing she was not wearing a wedding ring, and thinking how hard being a young single mama is. I felt deeply moved by the scene and wondered if she had anyone encouraging her. Did anyone ooh and aah over her babies? Did anyone tell her she was doing a good job? Before I could really stop myself I just had to speak to her. I asked if I could take a peek at her little one in the carrier and made ridiculous baby talk with the girl in her arms.  I asked a little bit about them and then stood up and said, “your babies are beautiful. You are doing a great job.” I don’t know what kind of mama she is all the time, but in that moment I wanted her to know that I saw her taking care of her children and it was beautiful. I would tell you I don’t know if it mattered to her, but I could see in her eyes it did.

And another starfish found it’s way back to the water….

There are way too many times I just walk right by dying starfish on my way to my next meeting. I miss opportunities to be the light in someone’s darkness often. But that little exchange reminded me of something: I cannot do everything. But I can do something. And it matters. If I just focus on the people, and not on the magnitude of the problems, I can do something that matters. Loving others, being kind, offering help, sharing truth, giving food. They all matter. You don’t have to carry the weight of changing the world- Jesus did that for us. So now we are free to carry hope into the lives of the people who God puts in front of us. Every city, every town, every person is crying out to see real love displayed. You might look like a lunatic to the jaded and cynical among us, but to those whom you show love, you will look like Jesus.

Vulnerability, The Painful Catalyst for Healing

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There are plenty of masks you can wear to hide. If you wear them long enough you will forget how to take them off. In fact they will feel so fused to your identity it becomes painful to peel them back and allow someone to see the real you.

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Masks take different forms for different women. Some wear the mask of Perfection, always polished and smooth. Some wear the mask of Achievement, ever climbing from one rung to the next up the ladder. For others the mask is Humor or Hostility or Entertainer or Flirt. The nuances and variations are endless and one woman may wear several. After all, it takes a lot of coverage to hide deep wounds and fears. They have a tendency to seep out unless tucked away carefully under layers of protection.

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In the past month, I have had so many conversations with women who are hurting and struggling but simply  cannot bear to pry the mask back to let anyone see the places they are ashamed of, the broken fragile pieces of their lives. And so they sit with smiles hiding loneliness and laughter masking tears. If I thought that ripping the mask off for them would free them of it, I might be tempted to try, but the truth is a mask is simply a choice to guard yourself from others knowing the real you. There is no way for anyone to make another person drop their defenses. It began long ago in a garden with some fig leaves, and it has been going on ever since.

As I was ending a recent conversation with a young woman who was feeling very alone and ashamed, I reminded her the only way she would begin to heal was to be honest and stop avoiding her feelings. To allow me to ask her questions and to really answer them. “It’s hard,” she replied with tears she kept from spilling out by sheer will it appeared.

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“it is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick.” said our Lord in the gospel of Matthew. He didn’t mean that any of us were healthy to begin with. Rather that only when we will acknowledge our sickness, and go ask for help- expose what is going on inside us- then we can find the healing we so desperately need.

Do you know that Jesus understands this tendency to try to hide also, to avoid being vulnerable and exposed? In His great love for us, He was willing to become completely known by people who would reject, abuse, abandon and eventually murder Him- all to make us secure. He became weak so we could become strong. He was exposed so we could be covered. This is the gospel- God in His love, coming down to trade places with us. This is very good news, because only when we know that God sees us fully and loves us completely can we find the strength to begin to open our hearts to others. They may not perfectly love the real you, but God does.

Do you know the safest people to take your mask off with? The ones who have already taken theirs off too. Look for people who are vulnerable and open about sin, feelings, past experiences and weakness. The ones who have already journeyed ahead through vulnerability  into healing are the most equipped to gently sit with you as you begin the sentence, “I think I need some help…..”

 

What Happens When We Are Left

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Many of you know my story because you have shared this blog journey with me for long enough to have heard my back story woven in and out of my writing. For those who don’t, the very short version is I was married very young to my high school sweetheart, and after several years of my codependency and his affairs, our marriage ended in divorce. God has brought so much healing into my life and the lives of my sons over the past 14 years for which I am eternally grateful. What I did not have back then was a real life friend who had ever walked that path ahead of me who could show me hope in their life. I did not have anyone who shared the feelings I was going through. Or someone who could voice my fears for my kids.

I am so excited to share a new book that has been released this week by my friend and worship pastor, Jonathon Edwards. His new book Left, is an amazing resource if you have ever been abandoned by a parent or spouse. It will show you the honest pain, and the breathtaking hope we have in Christ. I could not be more excited to share this excerpt with you!

To find this book on line…. http://www.Left-Book.com
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“[What] makes sense is that mommy and daddy stay together, because we’re a family and to us that is what families do. We believe they stay together. We believe they help us rather than hurt us. We believe families should make us feel better, not worse. But the truth of our stories is that this isn’t the case. Our families don’t make sense to us. Our families make us confused. They make us unsure. They make us doubt. They make us lose trust.

Because my father left my family.

And I will never forget it. I kept asking my mom where he was and why wasn’t he home. I wanted to know why he wasn’t eating dinner with us and why his car wasn’t in the driveway. It bothered me. It kept me up at night. I didn’t know how to process being home and living life without him there. I remember feeling so vulnerable and exposed. I remember being so uncomfortable. I had so many questions and so many concerns. It was here that I was reluctantly introduced to the empty space that would begin making its way through every aspect of my life. This vacancy, this void, was everywhere.

As I began re-imagining life and attempting to re-learn what my days, nights, holidays, meals, tee-ball games, Saturday afternoons, bed times, and home was going to look like, there was so much of this empty space. It was taking over. There was space in the living room where his big, blue leather chair used to be. There was a space at the end of the table where he used to sit and tell us jokes and talk about his day and tell me to always eat over my plate. There was a space in the driveway next to mom’s van where his light blue Honda Civic used to be parked. There was a space in his bathroom at his sink where his toothbrush and toothpaste and deodorant used to be. There was space next to mom in their bed where he used to sleep. There was space in new pictures and on the mantle at Christmas where his stocking used to hang and in the laundry basket where his dirty clothes used to be.

But his clothes weren’t there. Our laundry basket didn’t have any of his t-shirts or pants or socks. All the clothes in the basket were too small for him. We didn’t have any daddy clothes to wash.

The days and months unfolded with this ever-present, physical emptiness forced to be tolerated by a mind too young to comprehend anything inside this new way of life. I didn’t know what to say or how to act.

I just…existed.

It was a whole new world to me and this new world I was in was much different from the one Aladdin and Jasmine sang about. Normal became foreign. Everything was strange. Everyday I woke up hoping it was all a dream, hoping that I’d run downstairs and there he’d be in his blue and white bathrobe with his brown leather slippers, drinking coffee and having breakfast doing his crossword. But once I woke up he was nowhere to be found and he left me nothing to help navigate and comprehend the hell I was in. He didn’t leave me any instructions or guide to help me weather this monster of a storm that he created. I felt broken. I felt lost. I felt abandoned. There was no warning, nothing on the news to tell me where to go, or how to hide, or how to stay safe.

There was nothing to warn me that everything I knew, everything I called home and everything I called family, was going to shatter. And in the aftermath, there wasn’t a class to take. There wasn’t an instructional video to watch. It all just switched. One day he was there.

The next day he wasn’t.

Just like that he was gone.

And just like that there I was.

Left.

I hurt for answers, clinching my fist while screaming into my pillow. I cried for them. I’d lie in my bunk bed, my mind racing, aching to know what happened. It was a mystery. A giant riddle. No matter how hard I tried, nothing helped. I found myself on my knees begging for some kind of deliverance. I just wanted to understand. I wanted to understand something that I don’t think ever will make sense. I wanted to understand why families break and why parents leave. I wanted to understand why my family broke and why someone hadn’t come to fix it.”

Why You Need Community

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Women from my last community group whom I just adore. Can’t you tell?

I know you are busy. As in “what the heck happened yesterday and what am I supposed to be doing today” busy. We all are. It’s the American way, these days. Even when we’re trying to simplify our lives it takes an act of Congress to move something off the calendar to create a space to breathe it seems. So I really do understand why, when you show up to church and your pastor tells you to sign up for a “small/care/community/home/core” group, you say,

Nice try Preacher Man. I’ll attempt that next year or once the kids are older or job gets easier.

I get it mama’s. I really do. It’s a challenge to squeeze one more thing into your life and believe me, I live in that world of juggling too. So before you tune me out, let me share a different angle on this that has really helped me decide to invest my time in a group of relative strangers in the hopes of God doing something miraculous.

At the backyard celebration for my friend who adopted three children one year ago- she will tell you she could not have made it without community

You need community to heal. There is a saying in counseling, that we get wounded in relationship, so we must heal in relationship. It means, you cannot sort through all the hurts and issues in your life in a vacuum. It means you need people to bump into your stuff to draw it out of you. It is about healing the past junk through new interactions. In my own life, some of my most profound moments have come through my deepest community. I remember when I was suddenly a single mother facing a divorce. Devastated. Rejected. Afraid. I had two little boys and wasn’t sure I knew how to be mama and daddy to both. My women friends rallied around me with fierce loyalty, but my wound had come through abandonment from my closest male relationship. Guess where some of my most important moments of healing came?

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most of the women in my church community 16 years ago

One was sitting in my house on my couch, exhausted. My dear friends Darcy and Tim had come by to just be with me. Darcy was holding my hand and I was sharing my fears and pain, and without a word Tim just started rubbing my feet. I know that may sound strange but for me it was like I was being protected by an older brother. Someone who saw me and knew I had been wounded and wanted to serve me in that simple way.  Another moment came on Mother’s Day. I hadn’t really thought about how I would help my boys to honor me on that day, but as that morning approached, one of my friend’s husbands had already planned for it. We were at their house having dinner, and he called my boys into his bedroom. They came out carrying roses for me, “from them” and were so proud. I didn’t need the roses for me. I just didn’t want them to feel sad at church on Sunday when everyone else was talking about what they had done for their mama’s and my guys hadn’t done anything. Now they could say, “We got our mama roses” and know they had been good boys. I cannot tell you how God used both those moments to assure me that I was going to be okay. That He would provide for my physical, emotional and relational needs.

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My friends Tim and Darcy, with their oldest at the time, Alexandra

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the women who loved me through my healing

You need community to grow. It’s not just old wounds that come to the surface as we rub shoulders with other people. It’s also our ugly side. You know the side of you that your spouse sees, but is carefully hidden from coworkers and neighbors and church folk? Yeah, that part God wants to uproot and replant with the fruit that comes from His Holy Spirit. But it takes some exposing, and nothing exposes it faster than people needing you. (On a Saturday. To move from a second story apartment, to a two story house, in July.) Or people who interrupt, or show up late or forget your birthday, or whine about things you consider trivial. Yes, those people expose things in you and I that need uprooting. Pride, selfishness, apathy, laziness, fear. And sometimes, if we are really willing to open up our lives to the point that we share thoughts and feelings and details of what goes on, well sometimes people will speak into them. And it is challenging. It makes us step back and take another look at what might really be going on in our hearts. It helps us remember we are not alone when we begin to believe that lie. Or to remember we are loved to the core when we start feeling too much or not enough. (the lies women bounce back and forth with on the daily.)

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the women who have loved me over the past five years or so (minus my bestie in Florida)- they speak truth to me, they pray for me, they ask for my help and they are all different from me in ways that challenge my walk with Jesus

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my Branches girls- they know me well enough to call me on my junk, but they love me enough to do it kindly

You need community to survive. I have some friends who as I type are in ICU at a hospital in Nashville. The husband had brain surgery to remove a tumor and is in a coma. The wife is there night and day, in total shock- clinging to the hope that God might perform a miracle and heal her husband. And He might, I don’t know and it’s not my job to decide. But what has struck me mightily as I have watched through facebook posts and heard through texts and from my husband who has been there to see them, is the overwhelming flood of real live community that is surrounding them. Night and day, people are there. My brother in law drove through the night to be here with them. People are gathering in parks to pray. I have no idea what the future holds in this life for that family, but I know that whatever it lies ahead, their community will be there to walk it out with them. They have been investing into the lives of others sacrificially and generously for years. And now we will all be there to hold them up. Life is hard on this side of heaven. It’s broken and everything breaks with it. But community holds you up when everything else falls down.

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That little head peaking out on the far left is me. On a bus on a mission trip in Brazil. That smiling face on the right is my friend in the hospital today. Will you stop and say a prayer for he and his wife and their two little girls?

 

The Day You Take Your Son To College

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It feels so normal. Hustling everyone around to get out the door on time. “Emma! Do you have your shoes on yet?!” Exchanging glances with my husband as he sees me check the time, knowing I am about to hurry him too, he offers “I’m just looking for my glasses then I’m ready.”

But today is not normal at all. Today we will start the day with three children at home and end with two. Today our van is packed to the top with most of our son’s things to relocate his life to Nashville. Today he leaves for college and life changes for us all.

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We arrive just a few minutes behind our scheduled time. Vanderbilt has a huge campus and finding our destination, “lot 77” takes a phone call and some rerouting, but now we are in a long line of cars and vans with mini fridges and suitcases and pillows all crammed around families with precious cargo. Kyler does not love all the overly caffeinated welcoming crew screaming and making us honk our horns while waiting in line. He is ready to get moved in and not feel so new and watched. I kind of like all the festivities. At least the college is acknowledging what a big day this is.

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We are greeted by a pack of kids in fluorescent green Move In Crew t-shirts, eager to help unload our van and find Kyler’s room. The husband is sent off to a parking garage with our van and Emma grabs my hand as we follow behind the green t-shirts. “I’m sad Kyler is leaving today” she whispers. I squeeze her hand, kiss the top of her head and blink back tears that are welling up. Time for that later. He is the first of his roommates to arrive as we walk into the empty space that will hold his life next year. Time to find comfort in my familiar role of nesting and I am delighted to direct everyone in unpacking and sorting. Emma and the husband set off to locate some breakfast for us and Kyler and I settle into our familiar patterns of working on a project together.

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It is surprisingly easy to get everything settled and I begin to feel unsure. I anticipated a longer process, not wanting the day to rush by quicker than it must. We have been introduced to a myriad of smiling, helpful welcoming people, all with clip boards and instructions and stickers for us to wear. We are now officially Vanderbilt Parents and a Vanderbilt Sibling. We decide to loft Kyler’s bed to give more space below, so the men redo the bedding while I read instructions and Emma swivels in his desk chair. Our next job is to walk across campus to the Commons, where he can get his ID, then on to pick up text books. His roommates have not yet arrived, and he is getting anxious waiting, so we decide to head out to explore a bit and check off our tasks for move in day.

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The day continues on, minutes ticking by as I try to take in all the details of his new home. Thinking about home, I text our middle son to update him on the progress of the day. He is not the kind who enjoys big crowds of strangers, so he opted to stay back. I wonder how he will adjust to being the oldest child in the house. The only big brother at home with Emma. My mind wanders back to when the boys were little and no matter what we asked Klynt to do, his first response was “What about Kah-ler?” in his two year old squeaky voice. They have always been together and now they branch off.

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We meet his roommate Dre, and I am so thankful. He is very different from Kyler but I sense they share some common values as we interact. I resist the urge to take a picture of them, knowing the look my oldest would give me if I tried. We grab lunch off campus at our favorite Indian restaurant. Kyler attends a presentation by one of his deans and then it is dinner. We are all tired. We follow him back to his room one last time before we go and I feel myself wanting to stall a bit, but knowing it’s time. My husband leads us in a prayer and then we hug him tight. The tears are about to burst when I realize I have not taken one picture with Kyler all day.

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And then, we are done. We walk out and he closes his dorm door behind us and we head to the car. Emma wipes her tears with the back of her hand, but I just let mine fall. I cry because I love him so much. I cry because he is no longer nesting with me. I cry because it feels so strange to let go of one whom I have held so close for so long. I cry because while I am happy for him,  I am sad for me.

I know I will see him again, probably soon. I know this is right and good and everything we raised him to be: a strong, independent, smart, loving and Christ following young man. But for tonight, I am not consoled by what I know. I am raw and inexperienced with this phase of parenthood and my mind keeps wandering backward to the comfort of all that I have known, all that is familiar when you have been a mama almost 19 years. Tonight I simply sit in the strange empty newness of releasing a child into adulthood and trust that God will bring comfort and joy tomorrow.

The Power of I’m Sorry

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Welcome to my Wednesday! I was startled, then pleased, then shocked by all the new readers who dropped by yesterday to read about depression. If you are new to Millinery, welcome! You can read my “About” page to decide if you want to get all tangled up in this adventure. But, I hope certainly hope you do, and I welcome the comments and conversations.

We leave to take my son college in 3 days. (2 1/2 to be precise, but who’s counting?) Last week we were talking about his high school years, some of the struggles he has worked through, when I asked him a loaded question:

What do you think was a main cause of that struggle in your life?

I sensed his hesitation, and when he finally answered, I understood why.

It was some of the ways you and dad dealt with it.

It’s like someone handing your spirit a load of the heaviest bricks when you realize you have failed a person you love. You feel yourself sinking under the weight of sadness and guilt. Regret is painful. As your mind rewinds time to find a way to undo and make amends the reality stings.

I cannot go back and change what has been done.

Sometimes, the only way out is through. We talked some more, but I knew what we both needed would take me a day or two to offer. Not because I wasn’t willing to offer it, but because he needed time to be ready to receive it and I needed time to process all the feelings that might tempt me to alter what needed to be said.

“I was wrong. I am sorry. Please forgive me.” -Derek Webb

I was thinking yesterday about all of you who read the post on what NOT to say to loved ones with depression, and something hit me: a whole lot of you reading that message were being handed a giant load of heavy bricks. You’ve already said the wrong thing. Messed it up royally. Not because you wanted to hurt your loved one, but because in your fear and concern for them you reacted.
I know you love them and it stings to know your very sincere attempts to make it better, have made it worse. But, there is power for healing for you and for them. When there is no way to undo what’s been done, no way to take back words spoken, no way to unhurt anothers heart- there is I’m sorry. I was wrong. Please forgive me.

It is a starting place for change. It is acknowledging your brokenness and how it came crashing into theirs. It is taking the weight of your wrong squarely on yourself- which really might undo us all if not for knowing Jesus already took all of it on His shoulders so we could be forgiven. Romans 8:28 teaches us that “God works all things together for the good of those who love Him…” which means even my failure God can, and will, miraculously work for good in my life and in my son’s.

I pulled him into the laundry room as I was sorting and folding a few nights ago. I offered my apology. He accepted graciously. We hugged and I cried. It’s painful, this process of failing and fixing. It’s the messy underbelly of relationship. And it is freeing. I have said many times, and will continue to proclaim, Jesus came for messy, broken sinners like me. And you.

This is the Good Life

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I was mindlessly watching TNT last night (I’m into a few shows on there lately) when a commercial for 50 Shades of Grey the movie came on. I don’t know why I was startled, as any book series that generates so much money and controversy will logically be parlayed into an equally lucrative film in time. It’s the way of our world. But, for whatever reason I felt gripped with some emotion that is hard to put my finger on- part sadness, part alarm- and my immediate thought was,

this is not what life is about.

I am awake in my messy house with three children still asleep at 9:30am. Teenagers love the summer! I have loved it too this year, maybe more than ever before, simply for the time I have been able to spend with these kids. We have watched a billion movies and gone to the local pool and eaten on the back porch (I insist upon it and they complain it’s too hot, but they’ll thank me later). We have had a lot of conversations that have been good, and just as many that have not felt like anything close to brilliant parenting. I have apologized for impatience and over reacting. They have apologized for attitudes. We have complained talked together about not going to the beach this year. My oldest and I have both been moved to tears by God’s work in our church and his life over this summer. We planned to paint a bedroom, but ran out of funds for that project. We went dorm room shopping and had so much fun! We went grocery shopping every 3 hours. (okay, fine it was twice a week. But it feels very much like I have been at Kroger 672 times already this summer) We survived a month long grounding of the middle and actually saw some positive moments in it. We have missed my beloved terribly as he is holed up studying for a gigantic test and we see him rarely right now. My garbage disposal is broken. My mailbox saga continues. There are doctor appointments and orthodontist appointments and eye appointments.

And in the middle of all this there is life. Beautiful, messy, difficult, thrilling, mundane and extraordinary.

The life Jesus died to give us- abundant, free, purposeful, joyful- is not found in our circumstances. It does not come to us through striving to create it. It is not about how things feel moment to moment. It is found in Him. Jesus did not say he would show us the way. He said he is the Way. And the Truth. And the Life. I see all around me the way this world tempts me to find life outside of Jesus. If only my house could be updated- then I’d be happy. If only my kids would always be respectful- then I’d be content. If only my bank account could have a little more in savings- then I’d feel less worried. If only I could lose these 7 lbs around my middle- then I’d feel excited. Lies. Every one of them. Because every time I achieve one of these goals, a brand new one will pop up and I am back to the hamster wheel- racing to get the next thing that promises life. These are temporary fixes for an eternal problem. I was created, you were created for something bigger than momentary happiness and quick breaths of relief. We were created to love and worship the One who loved us first. In Him, we find meaning in all things. In Him, we quit striving to make our lives about our own story and get swept up into His big beautiful story.

An exciting sex life is fun. But it is nothing to build your life on. A big, fat savings account is nice. But it could change in a minute- there is no security found there. Well behaved children are a relief. But they will give way to their own sinful natures at some point and your emotions will be tied to a roller coaster of their behavior if your hope rests on them. There is only one solid Rock my sisters. Health, money, beauty, relationships, careers, homes and feelings- they are all shifting sand. They cannot hold the weight of your life.

My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.

All other ground is sinking sand.