Wednesday, July 19, 2017

I am the Child of The One True King. So, Why Don't I Act Like It?





By Emily Donehoo

My kids taught me something the other day simply by being kids.

Our family went to the beach. Of course, this is Colorado, so by “beach,” I mean Boulder Reservoir. I have three kids, and we brought a little friend who I watch as well.  We brought the kayak, the cooler, the swim bag, the folding chairs, floaty toys, and beach balls. There was schlepping, my friends, plenty of schlepping.

I slathered sunscreen on my 37-year-old self and decided it was unnecessary to reveal the body that had been sausaged into a swimsuit. I knew I was just going to sit in the camping chair, counting four children over and over again as they splashed and played, disappearing and reappearing countless times. There was no need to get sunburned when the only thing I wanted to put in the water was my feet.

Next to us, two college-aged girls appeared with their 20-year-old bikini clad bodies, smart-phones, and floaty rafts. They caught my attention as they put their raft in the water near my kids and then twisted and contorted their bodies to make their svelte figures appear more lovely, more alluring, more perfect than they already were. They rejected photo after photo as not Instagram-worthy enough. These gorgeous girls thought this angle showed a roll. That angle gave her a double chin…

I’ll be honest. I watched. I judged. I rolled my eyes at their youthful insecurity. I wished they could learn what I already know as an older and wiser person: It doesn’t matter what other people think about your body. You are loved just as you are. You are fearfully and wonderfully made by God.

Mmmmhmmmm. I got that one down. I know that perfectly well as evidenced by my sausage-suited heinie fully-covered, sitting in the camp chair counting my children while pretending to enjoy my book. I’m not comparing my body to theirs. I’m not comparing my body to the mom over there who clearly competes in Ironman competitions. Mmmmhmmm… Definitely not.

The fact that I took a million pictures of my kids playing and having fun had nothing to do with posting them on social media to make me look like the best mom ever. Mmmmhmmm...

Yes, you’ve detected sarcasm.

We are the same, 20-somethings looking for approval. We are the same, beautiful girls with an air of self-importance. I’m sorry I judged you.

The only ones who are different?

The children.

Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3-4)


When we first arrived and walked through the hot sand to get to the water, my kids and their friend were delighted.  “Wow! It’s like the ocean!” my son said.

“I’ve never been to this ocean before! I’ve only ever been to the ocean in Boston,” our four-year-old friend replied.

They were in awe, amazed, overjoyed.

We stayed all day, and they played and played. They chased each other. They built sand castles with moats. They found seashells and other “treasures.” They floated and raced and swam and jumped. They buried each other in the sand. 


They didn't care what they looked like. They were just enjoying the sun, the water, the sand, the mountains. They thought this little reservoir was as vast and amazing as the ocean. They were wild and carefree, as I scoped out strangers, attempting to assess whether or not they might be creepy sexual predators or kidnappers.

The kids have no fear. The kids don’t worry about the size of their rear-ends or the single or doubleness of their chins. The kids just get in the water and play. They don’t worry about creepers or drowning. They make mud pies. They enjoy the beauty and the bodies God gave them.

I am the King’s Kid. What if I basked in the safety of His arms and prayed my worries over to Him instead of hoarding disasters in my mind?


What if I used my body to splash and play and search for treasures? What if I enjoyed being in this incredible body that can run and jump and hike and kayak, instead of planting it in a chair because someone might realize my body is not the perfect shape?

I mean, life like that sounds way more fun. I guess I’ll let Jesus have my child-counting and body image anxiety.

I’ll be making mudpies.

Emily Donehoo is the only female in a family of five. She is a former High School English Teacher and National Trainer for the College Board. These days, when she isn’t scrubbing toilets, administering timeouts, working at book fairs, attempting to tackle dinner, laundry, homework help, dishes, and a preschooler’s incessant questions, she writes authentically about the hard stuff that really matters, hoping to uncover the truth that God has for us whether it makes us cry from laughter, pain or both at the same time. Read more of her writing here

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Unforced Rhythms of Grace

By Sarah Boonstra

Have you ever attended a party where the music was SO loud you could barely hear the person right next to you talk?  Or perhaps, like me, your house is periodically filled with loud and rambunctious teenagers all yelling louder than the other to be heard.  

Some days I feel like my life is like one of those parties. Life with three kids is loud and chaotic and I love it. Yet, I keep adding other things in an effort to prove my value to God, my family, and my friends. I keep adding stuff until the noise in my life becomes too great. Until the rhythm in our family is racing at such a pace that it becomes unsustainable. I long for less, for a slower pace. 

Maybe some days you feel like that too.  

In 1 Kings 19:12 God shows up in a gentle whisper, not an earthquake or a fire. What if, in all the busyness of our lives, we’ve made it so loud that we can’t hear Him over the noise of our lives, even when we sit down right next to him?

For over a year, God has been pruning activities and commitments from my everyday. He has been quieting my life so I might actually hear him. 


Day by day God is inviting me to sit, listen, and, hear how he loves me.  


"Unforced rhythms of grace" - these words continue to pop into this season of my life. Jennie Allen spoke of them when she came to speak at Flatirons and the same phrase has appeared repeatedly in the books I’m reading. 

But what does it even mean to live in the “unforced rhythms of grace”?  Because I am a word nerd I decided to define each word to create more manageable pieces.  

Unforced: not produced by effort; natural
Rhythm: a regularly recurring sequence of events, actions or processes
Grace: the free unmerited favor of God. 

Living a life of “unforced rhythms of grace” would be to naturally, without effort, regularly live in the unmerited favor of God. 

Is this really what Jesus was offering in Matthew 1:28-30? 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

I desire a deeper relationship with God and the contentment he promises. I also long to hear him and know I’m in his will. 


I want to sit, knowing I have God’s favor, not because of what I do, but because I’m His. 


I let go of many of the activities I did to fill my days, the things I thought made me valuable; attending school board meetings, running staff appreciation for our local school and trying to be a savior when any of my family or friends experienced life challenges. I exchanged them for small everyday tasks like watering flowers, walking my dog and actually folding the laundry as I wash it. I still support those I love who have troubles, but I no longer feel the need to jump in and be a savior. I realized I’m just not qualified. This role change and the everyday tasks have forced me to accept that I am small. 

Accepting this smallness initially bruised my pride. I want to matter, be needed and feel important. But acknowledging I am small and my value is not determined by the work I do is a bit of relief, eventually. Instead of earning God's favor, I'm learning to accept His unmerited grace. This means I can stop trying so hard.  

The fine line between being confident in God’s love and accepting that I am small is a difficult line to walk. It requires me to keep my eyes on Jesus in each new moment, rather than on myself. It also allows me to be fully present in the tasks that are before me right now. I’m learning to accept this gift of quiet and smallness and enjoy it. Being small and present has brought more joy in my every day than the hustling for acceptance ever did.  

In her book Simply Tuesday, Emily P. Freeman states “There is a daily-ness to my work, a small-moment perspective that whispers for me to connect with the work in my right-now hands, not because it's going to become something Big and Important, but because Someone who is Big and Important is here, with me, in me, today.”

This new rhythm in my life is one that is quiet and slow. It may be just for now or it may be forever. I’m not sure. My job, currently, is simply to keep my eyes on Jesus and keep the unnecessary noise out of my life. 




Sarah is wife to Brian, and a mom of three hilarious, witty and challenging kids. She’s an imperfect Jesus follower, learning to live in the unforced rhythms of grace. Also, a dog lover, just ask Nala, the spoiled golden-doodle that resides at her feet.    


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Chosen


By Rebecca Barnes

Adoption used to feel normal to me. I was adopted, so it was normal. That’s part of the reason I was so blindsided by the upheaval of adopting our own child. Her adoption has never felt normal. Our kiddo won’t let it feel normal. She punches normal in the face.

That’s because adopted kids, like biological kids, are all different. I was adopted as a baby. I never knew my biological parents. But our adopted child didn’t arrive until she was seven. By then she was already fully convinced that she didn’t belong anywhere. Abused, neglected, and abandoned by her biological family, she was geared up for a fight for survival to keep us from destroying her heart like they had.

Some people labeled all her problems with an alphabet soup of acronyms from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: RAD, ODD, ADHD, ... So when a tall police officer in a dark blue uniform stood in my hallway recently, rested his hand on his gun holster and asked me what diagnoses we had, I began to rattle off these letters. I was mumbling; tired of having to explain to complete strangers the intimate, heart-breaking issues we deal with every day. But this officer was smart—or seasoned beyond his years.

“Is she adopted?” he asked.

How did he know that? What had he seen and understood in his young life that made him connect a teenager screaming at me, and adoption? It’s common for kids who are adopted after they’ve already endured enough trauma to drown a fish, to be difficult. That’s because sometimes, traumatized kids don’t realize what adoption actually is. They don’t understand themselves as being rescued or gaining a new family. Instead, they grieve over their losses.

Even kids adopted without trauma, like me, may not realize adoption is something way beyond normal. 

Adoption is not about becoming someone’s child by chance; it’s about being chosen.


Adoption is how God chooses us, too. When we reach our small orphan hands out from the darkness and toward Jesus, God gives us a new Spirit. He makes us his kids. In fact, the Bible calls it the “Spirit of adoption.” (Romans 8:15) It’s because of this Spirit that we can cry out to God as our Father. He’s our adoptive Dad.

Maybe someday my adopted child can understand God this way. I hope she can somehow understand how amazing being chosen is. Maybe she can accept our love, God’s love, and this way of belonging. If she can ever leave the past behind, as part of her identity, but not necessarily a foretelling of who she will become, then she may start to feel normal. But I hope she can feel more than normal. I hope sometime it will occur to her that her story is spectacular. I wish she knew she was cherished—not only by us but by a God who sent his biological son down to die so that all of us could be adopted.

Rebecca Barnes is married to an amazing man, who encourages her faith and listens to her typing a lot. She has three daughters and a son-in-law. She loves to cook for anyone who likes good food, and she feels competitive about weeding her flower garden. She lives in Old Town Lafayette because it’s a little eclectic, like her.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

How Wonder Helps Me See God


By Jeannie Blackmer


Wonder | noun | won•der | a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar or inexplicable.



Do you remember being struck by awe when you were a kid? I do. 

I can recall the first time I looked, really looked, at a snapdragon. I remember staring at it for the longest time and seeing a literal dragon. I squeezed the flower pedals so it opened and closed like the mouth of a living creature. I laid down in the grass, held the flower in my hands and examined the colors, the leaves, and the stem. In my imagination, I created an entire story about a royal family and their friendly pet dragon who saved them from an evil witch. When I returned to reality I wondered how this incredible flower came to be. A sense of astonishment filled me. Even as a young girl I had a sense that God was very, very real. How else could things like snapdragons have come to exist? 

Do you remember the delight you felt when you were young and saw something amazing? That is wonder.

Sadly, as we grow older those "wonder moments" can become rarer. 


Life has a way of stealing the wonder away as we face the daily grind. 


We put our heads down, do our work, do our workouts, get used to the people around us and get stuck in our routines. We stop paying attention. We stop looking for the inexplicable. We stop being curious. We stop trying new things. We stop learning new things about the people we're so familiar with. Frankly, our senses our dulled and we stop seeing the world through the eyes of a child. We stop seeing the beauty around us. Perhaps we even stop believing God is real because we no longer see him.  

Recently, I started beekeeping and as I learned about honey bees that feeling of "surprise mingled with admiration" re-entered my life. I gained a new understanding for my friends, who have been beekeepers for a decade, and why they are so smitten with bees. The bee colony, the different roles of the bees, the importance of the queen, the communication that happens, how vital bees are to our environment, it's all incredible. For example, my first hive, which I named The Happy Campers, lost their queen. We have no idea what happened to her but she seemed to have gone missing. This little royal family was in danger. Without a queen, the colony would perish. Knowing this, the bees created queen cells which would hopefully produce a new queen. 

Eventually, one of these queens emerged and the colony survived. As I talked with my friends, read books, watched YouTube videos and learned more about bees I became more curious and enthralled with the whole deal. I can sit near The Happy Camper's hive and watch them go in and out of their entrance for hours. I want to soak it all in. Some bees are foragers, some housekeepers, some guards, and some are caretakers of the young bees. It's remarkable and it's sparked wonder in me. 

After experiencing this, I determined to add more wonder to my life. 

Brad's Montaque, the creator of the popular Kid President videos, said, "Wonder rescues us from the ordinary, and it is incredibly powerful." Beekeeping showed me this is true. I've been rescued. I still live a very ordinary life, but opening my eyes and looking for wonder have made my ordinary day extraordinary. Beekeeping, reminded me of my wonder moments when I was little and caused me to commit to living my life with this sense of wonder—starting now. 

Best of all, this has helped me see God in the most ordinary things. Watching the sun rise and set, looking at the flowers in our garden, watching a child play in a mud puddle, seeing a horse run freely in its pasture, feeling the refreshing cold water of a swimming pool on an extremely hot day, has made God very real. 

Psalm 19 explains eloquently how we can see evidence of God every day, every moment, in our world...


 "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork." —Psalm 19:1


I want others to discover this too. So, my challenge to all of you is to commit to a summer of wonder. Reawaken your senses to the marvels around you and perhaps you too will see God in even the most ordinary moments.


 "The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper." 

— W.B. Yeats 


Have a "wonder-full" summer and please share your 
wonder moments in the comments below!

Jeannie Blackmer is married to Zane and mother to three boys. She’s authored three books, including MomSense: A Common Sense Guide to Confident Mothering, contributed content to more than 20 books, and written articles for a variety of magazines. She loves her family, chocolate, scuba diving and being outside as much as possible. She's managing the blog for the Flatirons Women's Ministry and is looking for writers! And she has a new book coming this fall...



P.S. Here's a link to Ben Foote's message this week at Flatirons Community Church about magnifying God and loved what he had to say, especially the part where he talks about God as the Creator. To listen click here