Flash 15: The Waiting Place

“For people just waiting. Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or waiting around for a Yes or No or waiting for their hair to grow. Everyone is just waiting. Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite or waiting around for Friday night or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil, or a Better Break or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants or a wig with curls, or Another Chance. Everyone is just waiting.”

Oh, the Places You’ll Go! By Dr. Suess

I walked up the stairs in my house this morning, looking for the umpteenth time at the stain in the carpet. “Oh right, gotta call the carpet cleaning people,” I reminded myself. I’ve been reminding myself of this task for so much longer than I’d like to admit. And I’ve written it down, it’s been on my list before, and somehow slipped off the list and then made its way back on. The problem is, I feel like I do this with most things in my life. I am a procrastinator by nature. And, uh, that needs to change. After I looked at that stain on the stairs, I remembered this passage from Dr. Seuss, and then I asked myself, “what are you waiting on?” I’m talking about the carpet, but also, my life? Why do I always assume that there will be a “later” when I’ll get to the task? And “later” is always a moving target. And the next thing you know, a year has gone by and I’m looking at the same dirty stain in the carpet. Let’s take some action today, Whitney. Let’s take some action today, people. Now let me go find that number for Stanley Steamer…

Flash 15: Faithfulness is Fruitful

Last week, after reading the story of Ruth, I tweeted this:

What would happen if we were faithful to a person, an idea, a dream or to our God? Ruth teaches us that faithfulness is fruitful. May we use this day, and every day to be faithful and fruitful.1

This sentiment has been swirling around in my head ever since I wrote it. In some ways, the notion of never giving up on a thing seems outdated. That really isn’t how our culture moves. If something’s not serving you, then let it go. And while this statement certainly has its place and purpose, I think we do ourselves a disservice if we fail to recognize that life is nuanced, and not every mantra applies to every nook and crevice of our existence.

There are some things worth tending to–slowly, gently, patiently, and consistently–because the fruit is worth it. Things that can be, at times, puzzling, frustrating, and stress-inducing end up producing the sweetest moments of satisfaction when we finally see end result of our efforts. Parents know this firsthand. Most parents are faithful in the task of raising their children, even though it’s one of the hardest things ever, with the goal and the hope of producing good “fruit”– people who are equipped with the skills and character to make a difference as adults.

I’m grateful that our heavenly Father takes the same approach. I’m grateful for his faithfulness to me. I get it wrong so often, but he never gives up on me. He is faithful. That consistency, that willingness to cover and care for me each and every time inspires me to be better and to cultivate my own faithfulness.

This life is short and we live with a sense of urgency that may or may not always be warranted. But here’s to the moments of waiting, of quiet cultivation, of consistent caring. Here’s to faithfully tending to a vision, a goal, a relationship, whatever it is. May you be reminded that faithfulness is fruitful and worth the wait.

1If you’re not familiar, check out the story of Ruth, and how she refused to leave her mother-in-law, even after her own husband died. Her faithfulness eventually brought provision and security for her family.

What is Flash 15?

Flash 15: Do It Like Me

Last night I was out on the back patio hurriedly typing away on my laptop trying to finish one work task or another. Even though it was evening, it was still pretty warm outside, and as I worked away, I had intermittently shed my sweater, baseball cap, and purse that I had on when I initially plopped down on the outdoor sofa to start working.

As I worked away, I was half paying attention to my daughter, age 9, popping in and out of the house, until finally she jumped through the patio doorway and yelled “Tada!” I looked up from my screen and saw her standing in front of me wearing my hat, my sweater, and my purse–across the body just like I always wear it. She started snapping selfies with my phone. “Just like Mommy!” she proudly beamed as she continued snapping photos. I smiled and half-laughed, though fully amused at this spectacle. After she took her fill of photos, she sighed. “Whew, it’s hard work being Mommy.” I laughed again. And then she pranced into the house to show her brother.

And of course, this whole scene sent me down a rabbit hole right there on the patio, lap top open and humming on my lap. My daughter wants to be just like me. What am I showing her? Who is the woman she tries so very hard to emulate? What does she see daily when she observes me? I answered these questions for myself, and to be honest, I didn’t like all of my responses. But, that little introspective exercise served up a heap of motivation. I want my little girl to know that she had a mommy who went for it with all of her heart. I want her to be able to say that she had a mom who lived life fully, taking every opportunity to fill in the space on this earth that her potential carved out for her. So, as Robin Arz√≥n says, “decide how bad you want it, and proceed accordingly.” Here’s to our future, Baby Girl.

What is Flash 15?

Flash 15: To Be Known

I think one of the most important things for a person is that they be seen and known. Everyone deserves to have at least one other person in their lifetime look into their eyes, look into their life and actually see them. And maybe what I’m talking about is intimacy. Emotional intimacy. Everyone deserves a place where they can be exactly who they are, even if that sh*t makes no sense in the moment, and have someone else just accept them for where they are. Everyone deserves to feel worthy and significant just as they are. Not judged, evaluated, or told they’re wrong. Just affirmed. Plain and simple. That feeling, that affirmation, is home. It is refreshing, comforting and intoxicating. When someone sees you and understands you, you feel a little less alone in this world. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what we all want? Don’t we all want to be affirmed and accepted for who we are? The tricky part, though, is that I don’t think we can get this from someone else until we are totally willing to give this to ourselves. Can I affirm me? Can I accept my feelings in any moment as valid and affirm myself…even if my feelings require self-regulating later? Can I accept who I am and where I am even when others don’t? Or will I forever second-guess myself, judge my thoughts, and criticize? Intimacy and emotional closeness with another can’t come until we are willing to extend the type of grace and admiration to ourselves that we are looking for from another. The Lord created me and the Holy Spirit fills me. That alone makes me worthy. Only when I affirm and embrace myself do I prepare for this same kind of love from another.

What is Flash 15?

Flash 15

If you know me, you know that these days I’m all about Peloton. I love it. On the Peloton App, one of my favorite instructors, Jess Sims, teaches a class called the Flash 15. It’s 15 minutes of weights and cardio combined for a quick workout session when you don’t have a lot of time. Guess who doesn’t have a lot of time? This wife-momma-attorney right here. So, I’ve created a Flash 15 of my own. 15 minutes of writing each day. This is my attempt to squeeze in a daily 15 minutes of doing what truly brings me joy. Some Flash 15s may be scripture-based and some may not be. They may have some typos–I mean, I’ll try my best. What Flash 15s will be is 15 minutes of my honest thoughts flowing from my brain down my arms, through my fingertips and onto this screen. So we’ll see what rolls out of my brain for 15 minutes each day. Here’s to writing it down and here’s to trying and trying again. (This little blurb took me 15 minutes with editing, so times up! This will be interesting…)

The Notion of the Impossible

We know the God who parted a whole sea. He has made donkeys talk to people (Numbers 22). We know a God that caused fortified city walls to crumble at the marching of feet. (Joshua 6). We know a God that caused leaping flames to descend from the sky at the piercing prayer of one of his chosen. (1 Kings 18). We know that God. We know the God that choked up that same sky, withholding rain from the land for three years at the request of the same prophet. (1 Kings 17). We know the God that emboldened a little shepherd boy to defy the enemies of God’s people, bringing them to their knees with the throw of a single stone. (1 Samuel 17). We know the God who made prison walls quake without lifting a finger, cracking the shackles from the ankles and wrists of his apostles. (Acts 16). We know the God that called Lazarus, stinking and decomposing in his tomb, back to life (John 11)–the God who did the same for his Son. (John 19-20).

Nothing is impossible to the God of Impossibilities. Nothing. There is absolutely nothing that God cannot do, and that gives us reason to hope.

When we want to give up, and think a goal is out of reach, or that a particular thing won’t ever happen for us, we must remember Jesus and his power that is in us to do exceedingly and abundantly above and beyond all that we could ever ask or think, according to His power in us. (Ephesians 3:20). It’s so easy to be distracted by what’s in front of us–to be distracted by how we feel. It’s true that age brings wisdom, but if we’re not careful, it can also bring cynicism. We tell ourselves things like “I’ve struggled with this for so long. My parent has struggled with this for so long. My grandparent has struggled with this for so long. It will never be different for me. I can’t escape this. I can’t reach this goal; no one in my family has done this.” And on and on. If we don’t pay attention, our life experiences and personal history become the fertile breeding ground for constant lies that we feed ourselves. We serve a God who can do all things. Period. We only need to open the pages of the Bible to be reminded of what He can do with a willing and open heart. That is all he needs from us.

Let’s forget about what we don’t have. The time we don’t think we have to devote to a thing. The energy we don’t think we have. The money we don’t think we have. The knowledge we don’t think we have. The actual physical capacity that we think we lack. Let’s put all of that behind us, forgetting what’s behind and pressing toward the mark, the thing calling us forward. (Philippians 3:12-14). It is difficult to constantly and consistently believe in the Lord’s ability to do the seemingly impossible. This belief requires a daily washing of our thoughts and a daily reminder of who the Lord is and the power that he possesses. Maintaining this belief is a difficult task, but not an impossible one. It is a task that Jesus calls us to daily. Let’s answer His call and watch Him turn the impossible into a reality.

Lord, this thing seems impossible. I feel like everywhere I turn I see walls that stop me and block me from doing the thing I know you have called me to do. Help me to hear your whispers of reassurance over my screaming doubts. Help me to focus on you and your power to do all things, even this seemingly impossible thing I’m asking for right now. I know that you are a God who sees me, who loves me, and you are a God who guides me. Make a way for me, Lord. In your unmatched power, make a way for me so that I can once again see your glory, and proclaim your goodness. Amen.

In Need of Alignment

Sometimes I really don’t get the heart, mind, body connection–or should I say disconnection. I feel like most of the time these three things are out of whack–like, rarely do my heart, mind, and body all agree with one another at the same time. I feel like the only time that my heart, mind, and body agree is when they all say it’s bedtime. Outside of that, good luck.

For example, when I am supposed to be working, my mind says, “Let’s scroll Instagram!” When my mind says it’s time to clean the house, my body is like, “Ha, you tried it, Sis.” Even when it comes to starting on, working toward, or completing some long-term major life goals, my mind then does some Jedi mind trick and tries to shut down, leaving me feeling stuck and paralyzed with fear. I mean really, mind? C’mon.

So what do I do? Even Paul, who lived so many thousands of years ago asked this very question. “The things that I hate, I do,” he said.1 I mean, that’s a loose translation, but you get what he’s saying. “Who will deliver me from the body of this death?” he seems to almost plead.2 And it’s funny because he never straight up says “Jesus will deliver me.” Depending on the Bible translation, Paul just says, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”3 Like, what? It’s a classic non-answer, answer. I mean, the answer is obviously Jesus, but Paul doesn’t really come right out and tell us how Jesus delivers us from this body that won’t do what it’s supposed to do. Paul goes through such intricate detail to tell us how messed up he is and how conflicted he feels, but then gives a short, almost glib, answer when talking about the solution that we all need.

One thought I had about this mind/body conflict and Paul’s presentation of the solution is that the interplay of these two things represents so much of our lives, generally. Like, we know the answer to our problems is Jesus, but trying to figure out how or when He will work out the problem? Forget it. Who knows, right? This sometimes fitful and uncomfortable certainty keeps us coming back to Jesus again and again–searching and asking for help and ultimately receiving it, sometimes in the most incredible and unpredictable ways. And that seems just about right, because isn’t that what God is wanting from us after all–our desperate, undivided attention? Unless our heart, mind, and body are daily surrendered to Jesus, then they won’t (easily) align.

Only when we acknowledge that it is the Holy Spirit who gives us power to live with heart, mind, and body aligned, that’s when things start clicking and moving and going along as they should. Maybe Paul’s answer to this problem is short because in so many ways, it is indeed a mystery and beyond our own power. Ultimately, the answer is Jesus. He is the one who pours the oil of his Holy Spirit into the squeaky, rusty gears of our hearts, minds, and bodies, and somehow gets them to smoothly operate as one well-oiled machine. The answer is Jesus and it has always been. Let’s not waste anymore time and get aligned right away.

1 Romans 7:15 New King James Version

2 Romans 7:24 New King James Version

3 Romans 7:25 New King James Version

This Life

I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]

John 16:33 (Amplified Bible, Classic Edition)

Sometimes I just sit back and ask myself “what is this life?” The hours that we spend pouring over our work, fretting over our children, standing over the stove (that’s not too many hours for me, but in any case), picking up toys and clothes, watering flowers, hanging shelves, caressing faces, and kissing lips.

This life is the very thing we cling to, the very thing we fight for-to live it on our own terms–how we want, when we want, and in the fashion that we choose. This life is the very thing that we grieve when we see another young brother die at the hands of the police, or multiple people die at the hands of a stranger or disgruntled co-worker.

This life is both beautiful and terrible. Joyful and painful. Awesome and all-consuming. It is filled with uncertainty and predictability, all at once. And the sheer weight of this reality is what draws me to Jesus each day.

It is comforting to know that Jesus acknowledges this daily tension that we experience. He told us that we would have troubles and challenges. He never shied away from that reality. But he promised to be there through it all, and give us the peace and confidence to walk through that tension, to both yield to it and mold it and bend it and make it all our own.

Jesus’ assurance to us that he has deprived the world of its power to harm isn’t a promise of a pain-free life. That would be in direct contradiction to what he said in the same breath–that we would face hard times. But belief in Him and his power and glory snatches away this world’s ability to take our hope. And if we remain hopeful, then our harm is never permanent.

I worry about my son and my husband as I watch them leave the house. I think about their potential interactions with police and am so suddenly aware of the striking fragility of their existence. But then I rememeber the promise of Jesus’ peace. I think about the work emails, phone calls, motions and briefs and wonder how it will ever all be done. But then I remember the Lord’s peace. I think about the huge responsibilty I have been given in raising these little humans, and being the best life partner I can be to my husband.

When I think about all the things that make this life so beautiful and hard all at the same time, I get anxious and worry. But then I remember Jesus’ peace– one that stills all fears, calms all anxieties, and quells all doubts. A peace that is promised to us, and one that I intend to grab hold of with all of my might, each day that I live this beautiful, amazing, terrifying, wonderful life.

Acting Like a Child

“Why aren’t these kids listening to me,” I wondered aloud, as I marched up the steps to figure out why, after being told ten minutes ago to put their pajamas on, my son was running around with his underwear on his head and my daughter was twirling around in nothing but her pink ballerina tutu. “My night would be so much smoother if they listened to me,” I thought.

And then the thought struck me: how many times had God thought the same thing about us? The answer is clear if we take a look in the book of Psalm:

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
    I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
Do not be like the horse or the mule,
    which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
    or they will not come to you.
                                                                           ~Psalm 32:8 – 9

Here is God’s promise to give us direction for our lives–if we are willing to be obedient. This scripture reminds me so much of my kids. Like, why I gotta ride you like a horse to get you to do what I’ve been asking you to do? And I get so frustrated with my kids sometimes, but in reality, I know God has felt the same way about me so many times over.

So why don’t my kids listen? (This is as much therapy for me as it is talking about God).

  1. They want to do things their own way. Even though their parents know what’s best for them, and, in fact, want what’s best for them, they think they know better and want to do it their own way.
  2. Their way is easier and takes less hassle. Why neatly place toys in the toy box when it’s much easier to chuck them halfway across the room and see how loud of a sound they make as they hit the wall? It makes more sense to do it their way. And if they can do less work, then it will take them less time to get back to the stuff that they really want to do. So they take short cuts, or half do the job instead of taking the time to do the job right and in the exact way their parents are asking, or in the way it should be done.
  3. Mom and dad don’t understand how taxing the thing they’re asking them to do really is. And surely if they understood how hard it actually is to pick up all of the toys and put them back in the toy basket, then surely, mom and dad wouldn’t ask them to do such a thing.
  4. They’re afraid. How many times have they pleaded not to have to go upstairs by themselves at night because it’s dark? They can’t see in the dark so they’re afraid of heading in the direction that their parents told them to go.

Need I go on? How many times in life do we act like our children, or younger nieces and nephews, or other young kids we know? What has God been prompting you to do that you have just been absolutely dragging your feet about? Do you think you know better than God? Is it easier to do it your way? Are you afraid?

And I’m not even talking about some big life-changing event like leaving your job. Let’s be clear: I am not telling you to leave your job. The Lord didn’t say that–at least not through me. Don’t put that on me. What I am saying is that each day presents opportunities to follow God’s prompting in the small things: helping someone carry something heavy, stopping to talk to the one co-worker you know nobody really likes, calling that relative or friend with whom you’ve been trying to improve your relationship. Whatever it is, don’t ignore God’s prompting and direction. Let’s let others see a little of God in us each day. We do that by obeying God and obeying his promptings. Please, for the true love of God, don’t be like my kids.

The Start Doesn’t Start ‘Til You Start

White and Brown Wooden Box

All hard work brings profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.

~Proverbs 14:23 (New International Version)

I credit my husband for the title of this post. He said this phrase to me the other day while were talking about goal-setting and planning. He explained that goal setting can kind of be a trap sometimes because we can spend all this time and energy setting goals, and feel accomplished. But then when it comes to executing the plan and achieving the goals, we’re fatigued or bored with the idea from mulling it over during the goal-setting phase. I agree with him; I have totally done that very thing. To be clear, goal setting is a good thing. We have to know where we’re going. But sometimes we get stuck at the start.

And then I happened upon the above verse. When I read this verse, the first thing that popped into my mind was the chorus of Rhianna’s song “work, work, work, work, work.” Now, whether one can really relate Rhianna’s music to Jesus, I’m not here to debate. I’m just telling you what came into my head at the time.

But this verse and my husband’s phrasing did make me think about my progress on my goals for 2019 as we move toward the end of January (already!). At the end of 2018, I sat down and made some goals for myself and figured out what I wanted my year to look like. And even as we inch toward the end of the month, I feel my goals slowly slipping away from me, snatched away by too-full days and the demands of everyone and everything around me. This may be a little dramatic, perhaps, but the the point is I’m not making the goal progress I want to make.

And I’m betting that I’m not the only one who feels this way! This verse serves as a timely reminder to get to work! We’ll always have stuff to do, right? Our goals should be priority because stuff will always get in the way. Work brings profit, so let’s work, people!

I’m pumping myself up as much as I’m trying to pump you up. I have to confess, I’m good at talking about something and not following through. A Friday night conversation with my husband might sound like this: “yeah, tomorrow I’m going to get up, fold the laundry, wash the dishes, probably take the kids to the park and then come home and cook dinner.”

Cut to Saturday mid-morning, and you may or may not find me in my bed, scrolling through my Twitter and IG feeds, hoping my kids don’t call my name. Why does my body seem so averse to productivity? Yes, I’m a wife and working mother with lots of responsibilities, but I’ll admit, I also have a lazy streak. If there’s an opportunity to avoid doing the hard or challenging work of meeting a big goal, I will take it. If I have a choice between sitting at my laptop and writing or watching another episode of The Office, Michael Scott wins out nearly every time. (If you haven’t seen The Office, you’re not living, by the way). And surely, I can’t be the only one who does this!

But alas, Jesus ain’t havin’ it. We have to work to see the results we want. It’s a simple principle, but it’s so hard to execute at times. Sometimes we need a little jolt to get us moving. Write this verse on an index card and stick it in your car, or write it in dry erase marker on your bathroom mirror. Whatever we have to do to keep moving toward our goals, let’s do it! Let’s work, y’all. We have goals to meet and better people to become! Let’s get to work, work, work, work, work!