Tag Archives: creativity

Your (intimidating, awesome) Mama-job

Hey, Mom! You’re doing a great job — do you know that? It can be SOOOOOO rewarding to be a mom at times. And it can also be SOOOOOO tiring and intimidating and guilt-inducing if we try to live up to some outrageously unrealistic standard and perpetually feel like we’re failing. So let me ask you: Do you love your kids? Are you doing your best? Did you answer yes and yes? Then you’re doing great!

OK… glad to get that out of the way. I needed to hear that and to say that and I hope you took it to heart. Now on to this week’s topic . . . which can, unfortunately, actually BE a source of said frustration and sense of failure. Let’s talk about the faith we impart to our kids.

b.w. girls playing bike

Deuteronomy 6:5-7 charges us with the weightiest of responsibilities and the most amazing of opportunities: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

So, let’s be candid. Do I literally do all this? No. If we understand this as an exact literal directive, it’s impossible to achieve. (And, to be honest, it would make my kids very annoyed. We don’t want our non-stop God-talk to end up sounding like Charlie-Brown adults, bwah-bwah-bwah, bwah-bwah-bwah…) But if we understand it as casting a vision for us — making plain a principle — it’s so inviting and exciting and invigorating. It’s about weaving discussions of faith in and through everyday life. It’s pulling God-talk out of the van-on-the-way-home-from-church box and sprinkling it into all those other moments of living. It’s turning plain-moments into God-moments with a bit of intentionality. And one crucial ingredient to cultivating such moments? Adding FUN!

And so, without further ado, here are 12 ideas for you of ways you can transform fun experiences with your kids into meaningful faith-metaphors: Continue reading

Cease . . . Embrace

2 long days in the car with 2 adults and 3 kids. A few traffic jams. 78 Waffle House restaurants passed. And then we arrived here. P1040015

And it was all worth it.

A much (much, much, much, much) needed break. Family time. Laughter. Adventures. Discoveries. And, aaaaaaaaaah!, basking in tremendous beauties  — both big and soaring and those hidden, miniscule, beneath my feet. The beauties of breeze and bird and sea and sky. (Oh, and alligators, too. And did I mention manatees?)

It was a Sabbath of Sabbaths for me. No, not a Sunday nor a day of rule-keeping. But a family vacation. As the Brits call it, a holiday.

These were, indeed, holy-days for us. Days of rest, of play, and of being. And they remind me anew of the Sabbath-moments we all need, outside of scheduled retreats from reality and woven within the sometimes frayed fabric of everyday normality.

In The Rest of God, Mark Buchanan urges us to live within a Sabbath-attitude: “[D]o you play enough?” Continue reading

10 Advent Observance Ideas

Looking for ways to observe Advent with your kids? Or hoping to do something new this December for your own spiritual growth? My good friend Joy-Elizabeth Lawrence and I put together 9 of our favorite ideas for celebrating Advent. You can find them here at Today’s Christian Woman.

The tenth? It’s an idea we tried for the first time last year with our kids. We helped the kids make simple Advent candles which we lit at dinner each night. It was a great way to drive home the idea that Jesus is the light we await in Advent.

We made them simply, using cardboard juice concentrate canisters for molds and crayon pieces to add layers of color. If you’re new to candlemaking, find very easy instructions here.

Meet My Friend Connie Jakab

I’m so excited to introduce you to my friend Connie Jakab. Her journey of re-envisioning God’s vision for her life is just plain awesome — I love the place God has led her to. Connie is the author of a new book called Culture Rebel: Because the World Has Enough Desperate Housewives. Keep on reading for some challenging, inspiring, just-plain-awesome stuff . . . 

Welcome, Connie! Please tell my readers a bit about yourself.

Hey there! My name is Connie and I live in Calgary, Alberta—yes that’s Canada. I have a hubby of 13 years and two precious boys; ages 6 and 2. I live off of coffee because I still get no sleep, and besides writing I’m a hip-hop dancer living out God’s mission in Calgary’s arts community.

What has God been teaching you lately about his vision for your life?

That’s a loaded question! I was in full-time pastoral ministry for ten years. I’ve been on a seven-year journey since that, for awhile, involved losing a sense of God’s purpose for my life. I struggled with the idea of “calling”. Wasn’t I “called” to the ministry? I felt like I had somehow blown it. I had just moved to Calgary with our newborn and found myself terribly lonely and depressed. I felt like my worth was taken and any gifting would be limited to breastfeeding. My husband’s salary increased so I started to find purpose in the mall: shopping, facials—anything that would get me out of my depressing state. I entered the new world of a moms Bible study where we would sit around and talk about our hard life as a mother, the lack of sex, our plans for a girls trip to Vegas, our newest shopping excursion . . . and maybe pick up the Bible on the occasion to study. This “new purpose” got old really fast. Was this all there was to life? I was desperate to rebel against it and create a new ideal—I just didn’t know how if it didn’t look like full-time ministry. God had to break down my mindset so a new one could form. Perhaps being used by God didn’t have to look “big”? Maybe the small things could matter? Perhaps intentionally finding needs and meeting them WITH my kids in tow was a possibility?

As you look back over your life so far, what have been some key moments when God has led you in new directions or helped you see a fresh vision for your life?

Moving to a new city and becoming a mother were key moments in my life when God stripped me of all I knew from before to give me a new mindset of living missionally in simple things. He gave me a new perspective that I didn’t have to “go big,” I could just serve people in simple, every day matters and teach my kids to do the same. I started to see my possessions as his to use to bless people, rather than for me to hoard. (Disclaimer: This is an ongoing process!) Continue reading

Re-Envision Faith

When, recently, have you felt most alive in your relationship with God?

In Sunday morning worship? In an insightful moment during personal Bible study? During a quiet moment star-gazing on a frosty night?

There are a myriad of ways we can connect with God; the traditional spiritual disciplines, drawn from Scripture and church history, provide a great framework to help us look at some of these practices. But this is not a one-way relationship — we must always remember that God is about the business of connecting with us. As we put our souls in the proper posture to hear, to see, and to notice, we’re divinely surprised again and again. There God is! There God is in my life! In those perfectly timed Scripture verses. In those moments, those memories, those challenges, and even in that pain.

The main spiritual practice I’ve been focusing on lately is practicing God’s presence — which is a fancy way of saying making myself more aware of God’s faithful presence in my life. The discipline of noticing and of asking, over and over, Where is God in this? What might the Holy Spirit be showing me about myself or about God or about my calling or about this world?

How are you growing? Where is faith most vibrant for you? Continue reading

Spiritual Variety

In  a healthy Christian life, we need the “essential vitamins” — the main practices of spiritual growth that are usually heavily emphasized in church (such as Bible study, prayer, and worship). Like essential vitamins in our diet, we need these building blocks of spiritual life so we don’t become fatigued and spiritually emaciated.

But I also really need variety. I need more than only the basics to live a full and happy life. Too much of the same, same, same can get boring. God didn’t design us to thrive via rote, worn-out routine.

And the good news is that Scripture and our rich tradition of Christian spirituality throughout church history offers us many ways to grow and connect with God in addition to these essential basics! Variety can help us flourish! That’s why I’ve included a wide variety of spiritual practices in my new devotional series for women, Flourishing Faith. Here’s a quick overview of the types of practices included in the books — consider using this list to add variety to your own spiritual walk this week.

• Act: Apply Scripture’s challenges to your life through concrete action.

• Create: Use art, drawing, poetry, or another hands-on project to interact with God.

• Examine: Explore Scripture using investigation, research, and study.

• Interact: Connect with another person as part of your spiritual journey.

• Internalize: Interact with Scripture using Christian contemplation, meditation, and memorization.

• Journal: Reflect on your journey and record your thoughts in creative ways.

• Ponder: Read and think about Scripture, historical information, or an insightful quotation.

• Pray: Speak to God and listen to him.

• Symbolize: Use an experience or a common object as a metaphor to help you contemplate a spiritual truth.

• Worship: Express gratitude and praise to God.

Cultivating Vitality

Last week I posted about the drought here in central Indiana and the spiritual dryness we can easily fall into in the Christian life. There can be many causes of spiritual drought, but the main ones are probably spiritual neglect and difficult life circumstances. Sometimes things happen that are beyond our control — stuff in life that makes our schedule crazy, happenings that break our heart. Sometimes, no matter what we do, God seems distant.

But often times, we can change the conditions that are causing spiritual drought in our lives. Often the spiritual neglect or the vitality-sapping conditions in our life are under our control — and can be quickly changed by some simple choices, habits, and mindset shifts. We can flourish.

Consider these ideas . . .

Stay rooted: Connect with God through his Word. Dig in deep. Perhaps this may mean re-cultivating a long lost habit of daily Bible study. Or maybe it means changing things up and approaching God’s Word through a different angle such as Scripture meditation; memorizing a simple passage; singing, praying, or speaking Scripture back to God; reading Scripture’s narratives imaginatively, picturing the events and the thoughts and feelings of the people involved. Long periods of immersion in the Bible are wonderful, but I also contend that even just 5 or 10 minutes spent daily rooting yourself in God’s Word WILL make a difference in your mindset and your soul’s vitality.

Refresh: The main reason my lawn is dead-looking isn’t the oppressive heat — it’s the lack of rain. It needs a cool soaking of refreshing water. And it needs it again and again and again. And so do you and I. We need to be refreshed! Continue reading

Meet My Friend . . . Jennifer Grant

I’m blessed to know author Jennifer Grant and am so happy to introduce you to her. Jennifer’s insights about family life and parenthood will bless you. So keep on reading!
Jennifer, can you tell my readers a bit about yourself? 
I’m a writer and the mother of four children: daughters ages 10 and 12 and sons who are 14 and 16. As long as I can remember, I’ve loved to write. I was the kid who read incessantly (from The Great Brain books to Beverly Cleary to Narnia), wrote stories, and created paper dolls with complicated backstories. I studied creative writing in both college and graduate school and have been a professional writer for about twenty years. Since becoming a mom, I’ve written primarily about parenting and family. For more than a decade, I wrote columns and stories for newspapers including the Chicago Tribune. I’m the author of two books: Love You More: The Divine Surprise of Adopting My Daughter (published August 2011) and MOMumental: Adventures in the Messy Art of Raising a Family (published May 2012).
It’s summer time! So this month we’re focusing on the theme of “family.” Quick: What’s been one of the highlights of your family’s time together this summer? 
In June, we drove from Chicago to Sanibel Island, Florida. Now that my oldest is a driver, the six of us aren’t all strapped into one car as often as we once were. Although the kids moaned a bit beforehand that we weren’t flying, we all truly enjoyed the long car trip. We sang songs, confided in each other, played silly games, and practiced our best Southern drawls as we drove down to Florida. All of that time together afforded me the chance to gain a renewed sense of who each of my kids is and the people they are growing to be. I’m also aware that my oldest chid, Theo, will be going to college in two years. That reality helps me to savor our time together in a new way. It’s been a sweet summer. 
You’ve written a book called MOMumental exploring the tough realities and delightful joys of family life. What do you most hope readers will get out of your book? 
I hope that when people finish the book, they will feel refreshed and less likely to be drawn in by inflammatory headlines and news stories that aim to make us feel “less than” as parents. I hope they’ll come away from MOMumental with the knowledge that there’s no one “right” way to raise kids. We all bring specific gifts, histories, weaknesses, and personalities to raising  our children. Most of all, I hope they’ll focus more on connecting authentically with their kids after reading MOMumental. A few readers have written to me and said that they feel like the book gave them permission to enjoy their kids. I love hearing that! 
As Christian moms, we have so many ideals and goals – and sometimes the reality of parenting can get tiring and discouraging. What encouragement can you share with moms who feel burnt out, frustrated, or stressed?

Surprising ways God shows up

A few months back, I was privileged to do an interview with pastor and author Adele Calhoun. My conversation with her was so personally encouraging, and one thing she said really stuck with me: “Consider the biblical story itself and the wide variety of ways people experienced God and got to know God: Abram heard God’s voice, Jacob dreamed of angels ascending and descending, Moses saw a burning bush, Balaam heard God speak through a donkey, Samson felt God’s strength, Elijah heard God in a whisper on a mountain, Isaiah saw God high and lifted up, Daniel had dreams, Mary talked with an angel, and on and on. The Bible itself is a catalogue of people’s diverse and unique experiences with God.”

How do you experience God and connect with God’s presence?

Clearly, Bible study is a critical way to come to know and understand God and who God is. This is the starting place. We also connect with God emotionally, spiritually, and even intellectually in practices like prayer and worship. These are the “essential vitamins,” per se, of the Christian life.

But there are also some ways we can connect with God or experience God’s presence that surprise us. Continue reading

The Perilous, Exciting, Whirling Adventure

In speaking about Christian faith in an increasingly materialist, naturalistic world, G.K. Chesterton wrote about the “thrilling romance” of belief in Christ: of understanding one’s self, one’s place in this world, one’s being and purpose for existence. The exuberance of living real life and being truly and fully human. In his great apologetic work Orthodoxy, he wrote, “People have fallen into a foolish habit of speaking of orthodoxy as something heavy, humdrum, and safe.” (Pause and consider: Is my faith humdrum? Has obedience become heavy? Is my God safe?) Yet, he writes, “There never was anything so perilous and exciting as orthodoxy.” His personal journey of faith was, for Chesterton, “one whirling adventure.” Indeed!

Similarly, Dorothy Leigh Sayers (a somewhat eccentric and exceedingly brilliant and creative theologian, literary critic, and writer of the early twentieth century) described how people of her culture – familiar with Christianity in a general sense – “simply cannot believe that anything so interesting, so exciting, and so dramatic can be the orthodox Creed of the Church.” For Sayers and for Chesterton, the gospel message and all that gospel entails was the most thrilling, moving, and centering reality for humanity. Continue reading