A Generous Grace

ideas on practical spirituality and loving each other

Guest Post: A Fast for Your House: The Surprising Treasures of Simplicity

I always learn something from my friend Monica.

She learned to read and write in the last decade or so, when she moved to Kampala from her village in northern Uganda. But despite my college education, she has a lot to teach me.

When I visited her shared compound on Saturday, she couldn’t wait to show me inside her house. I had to comply looking into the toothy ivory grin parting that smooth, ebony face. And when I entered, I understood why.

Monica’s new home, where she fosters various rescued street children for a local NGO, is clearly a bubbling little spring of joy for her. After years of cleaning larger homes, Monica has—wait for it—two bathrooms inside a modest, concrete, six-room house! She even cooks inside the house. The floors remain unfinished, the whole thing could use a paint job, and I believe she had six pieces of furniture, counting the four beds. But as we stood in her living room with its two unvarnished benches and modest television stand, her delight was infectious. “I never thought I would have a house like this!” she gushed.

She lives in poverty, but I always get something precious from Monica. And not just the brimming bag full of cucumbers, spring onions, and lemons she packed me from her garden. See, Monica is rich.

Today I’m writing to gift you two pearls that Africa has folded into my hands with her own mahogany-colored ones: the gift—the sheer joy—of simplicity, perhaps with a side of perspective.

On many of the Wednesdays of 2017, I’m helping my friend Barbara Rainey, on everthinehome.com. We’re exploring what she calls “prayer lessons”: ideas to pray for ourselves, our most critical relationships, our communities. This month, as we pray for our homes, I hope to share with you Monica’s jewel: A form of fasting for our homes. Hop on over and check it out here.

 

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Worry: It’s What’s Eating You

A question. What are you…afraid of?

Fear has this way of flaying us open, I think. Of laying bare what we see as bigger than us.

Worry manifests itself in vastly different ways. Some of us, for example, seek to staunch this bleeding of our hearts with intense control or safety. That is to alternatively say, some of us who struggle most with control actually are waging an inner battle with fear. As counselor and neuropsychologist Ed Welch writes, “One message is obvious: ‘If I imagine the worst, I will be prepared for it.’ Worry is looking for control….Worry has become your talisman to ward off future catastrophe.”

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…Try again: Freebie Fridays! Printable Scripture Art: Psalm 90:1

So yes. It’s Saturday.

As in, not actually Friday, like it was yesterday.

And while I have no idea why yesterday’s post actually did not contain an embedded freebie despite my embedding it, I’m going to persevere today.

Perhaps the same gremlins who last week managed to fry my computer’s motherboard (true story), knock over the birthday-gift-from-my-husband guitar and crack the neck (also true), or turn off my water and electricity supply last week for four days (indeed) have decided to try their grubby hands at WordPress. Not that I am complaining, folks. Just acknowledging that the obstacles are real. Good gravy.

For those weeks when the wrong seems strong–may God be your dwelling place.  And may His resurrection continue to characterize your life.

Happy Easter!

free download printable Scripture art Psalm 90:1

Get your FREE, actually quite pretty, PRINTABLE here. (Even if it vanished yesterday.)

 

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Freebie Fridays: FREE Printable Scripture Art! Psalm 90:1

O Lord,

You have been

our dwelling place

throughout all

generations.

Psalm 90:1

Get the FREE PRINTABLE here!

Like it? I’d love it if you shared it. Have a great weekend!

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The Three Words Our Kids Critically Need to Hear

It was a low moment in my parenting—so I’m still a little flabbergasted for the high point my then-four-year old made it.
I’d made a phone call to him as he stayed at his grandma’s for the day. I hated I even needed to make it. After shouting at him that morning, I’d done a fairly false, overall lame job of apologizing. I’d still been so stinkin’ angry—and my mind’s eye zoomed in on his own error. (That’s him at four years or so, on the right.) So I picked up my cell and attempted something more like Jesus.

What I will always remember was what he said in return.

“Mommy, I forgive you. And I want to let you know that even when you do bad things, I still love you. And I want you to know that even when you do bad things, God still loves you.”

Now I felt really bad for blowing my top.

After we’d repeated this to him over and over–I think the power of this moment was in my 4-year-old repeating the Gospel back to me. And really, him reiterating God’s acceptance of me.

In this post on Shame-parenting vs. guilt exposure, I wrote about one of the key underlying messages of shame. That has exponentially surpassed in traffic every other post on this site: I think this topic resonates strongly in so many of us. In a word, Dr. Brené Brown writes, shame is all about disconnection. Because of what we’ve done—which shame welds on to who we are—we’re rendered unworthy of being accepted; of connecting.

Last night, as I lay in bed during a voluminous thunderstorm, my thoughts blew back to another central relationship where our sense of connection had taken a turn for the worse. Here I am, 36 years old, and I realized that in a period of relational stress, I’d longed for a single vibe from this relationship: I accept you. Even if you don’t meet my standards of performance, even if your kids don’t meet my standards, even if I’m stressed—you are embraced. You don’t have to meet my standards to connect with me; to feel worthy in our house. (I still think the hard part is actually identifying the fact that we parent toxically. It’s a lot easier to identify who makes us feel that way, right?!)

There’s a critical message every child—and adult—longs to hear echoed throughout life, at every age: I accept you. As pastor Tim Keller relates in this podcast, every person’s greatest fear is to be fully known, but not fully loved. And our greatest desire? To be fully known, and fully loved.

Accepting our kids doesn’t mean we’re giving the green light their sin or weakness. Acceptance doesn’t mean “I condone your behavior.” On the contrary, like my little boy did, it reiterates the Gospel to them repeatedly: That while we were still sinners, God loved us. Romans 15 reminds us, Accept one another just as Christ accepted you. That level of acceptance is a pretty tall order for any parent. It’s also a vital truth constantly embedded—or not—in each of our kids. (I appreciated this communication in this recent post for missionary parents of LGBTQ kids.)

It makes me wonder:

  • Which of my kids is most likely to feel rejected in our family? Maybe they’re the target of most of the jokes. Maybe they’re into totally different stuff, or have a completely different personality.
  • In what mélange of circumstances am I most likely to let loose with the shame talk (a.k.a. toxic parenting) on an offending child?
  • What phrases do I use that communicate to my kids they’re beyond the range of acceptance? Not their behavior, mind you—but them, in light of how I’m treating them in their weaknesses? (Check out the chart here if you’re interested more in how this might play out.)
  • Which of my kids is most likely to feel rejected by me–whether because of stuff in our past, his or her own failures, a personality clash, my embarrassment, or something else?
  • Other than words, what are ways I can convey acceptance to my child? What habits of mine (like a relentlessly critical eye, my own perfectionism, or my own anger problem!) create static that interferes with that message?

Here’s to our kids getting the acceptance memo this week.

 

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Freebie Fridays: FREE Printable Scripture Art–Psalm 128:11

Free Scripture Art Printable Psalm 128:11

Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord,

who walks in His ways.

Psalm 128:1

I’m welcoming Friday with open arms this week!–and with free printable Scripture art of Psalm 128:11 to usher in the weekend, too. Hope it encourages your family.

Feel free to share! (I ask that you please link back to my blog, and respect my copyright. Thanks!)

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Spiritual Disciplines for Real Families: Fun Ways to Study God’s Word (with FREE printables)

Missed the other posts in this series? Check out these on Prayer, Meditation and Contemplation, Simplicity, Solitude, Service, and Fasting.

 

Okay, so if it’s not obvious—problem numero uno may be getting our kids to study anything, right?

Maybe.

Because the truth is, our kids will naturally study whatever they’re interested in. My eleven-year-old, for example has wanted to be a zoologist ever since he knew what one was. It’s why I’m lugging back from Africa no less than three animal encyclopedias; why I know the name of nearly every bird perching in our yard. Any teacher will let you know that kids are self-driven to study whatever they’ve got the bug for. (This is a key concept in this series!)

If our disciplines for God don’t lead to joy…we need to take a serious look at them.

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Freebie Fridays: FREE Printable Scripture Art, Psalm 62:11-12

free printable Scripture art Psalm 62:11-12My fridge is pretty much an explosion of Scripture printables. They’re also lining the sides of our bathroom mirror, the back of the bathroom door, and their bedroom doors. I find a lot of benefit in literally displaying verses on our doorposts (Deuteronomy 6)!

So today for Freebie Friday, I’ve got printable Scripture art for you, taken from Psalm 62:11-12.

Once God has spoken

twice have I heard this:

that power belongs to God,

and that to you, O Lord,

belongs steadfast love

May it encourage your family.

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What’s Hidden inside Your Love Story?

Let us hope that we are all preceded in this world by a love story.

–Sweet Land (PG, 2005)

I tease my husband (the poor introvert!). Because whenever I write about him—he, who washes his hands of anything to do with internet attention—readers eat. It. Up.What's Hidden in Your Love Story

But honestly, we’re all suckers for a good love story. Even if the characters are, say, a couple of anthropomorphic animated trolls with psychedelic hair. Yes, even guys, from Marvel comics to Jason Bourne.

We don’t just dig the attraction, gee-whiz-you-happen-to-be-exactly-the-Prince-Charming-I-was-keening-for stuff.  We watch (or read, or listen to the top 40) for two hours straight, or a whole TV season (or six), our spirits pressing the two together through everything life or a team of writers can throw at them.

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Guest post: God of My Heartbreak: Teaching Teens to Pray

Of the many nuggets I’ve gleaned from my father-in-law, perhaps one I am most grateful for is his response to my husband’s teen years.

A lot of people find merit in Mark Twain’s quip: When a boy turns 13, put him in a barrel and feed him through a knot hole. When he turns 16, plug up the hole.

But my father-in-law wasn’t one of them. Those tornadic years of my not-yet-husband’s were a signal to pull out the outdoor gear, summit as many of Colorado’s fourteeners as they could knock out, and tack on some decent kayaking, cycling, and snow caving along the way. My father-in-law saw the rippling strength of the teen years as a chance to explore manhood together.

teaching teens to pray

As people have forecast heartbreak for these years of parenting—and I realize my portion will come—my husband and I loved our six years of youth ministry. It was a little like working with wet cement, these textured, gravelly years of becoming. We could hold gut-level conversations about real, heartrending issues. Our faith offers unmatched answers to the question marks looming in the teen mind: unfathomable meaning and purpose for their lives, far beyond themselves.

On many of the Wednesdays of 2017, I’ll be helping my friend Barbara Rainey, on everthinehome.com. We’re exploring what she calls “prayer lessons”: ideas to pray for ourselves, our most critical relationships, our communities. This week’s post, God of My Heartbreak: Teaching Teens to Pray, offers ideas to come alongside teens in prayer.

I hope it encourages you today, wherever this finds you.

 

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