An Invitation to be Tended

 

I haven’t done much in the way of self-care this semester. My days are filled with teaching, managing, and serving while my evenings filled with practices, games, and meetings with a date night thrown in here or there. My personal rhythms for my soul and body haven’t kept pace with what my schedule says is the next thing to do.

 

Somehow by canceling two different meetings and arranging rides, I was able to get to Holy Yoga this week. Sometimes getting what you need takes a lot of work, communication, and the help of others. I came to my yoga mat feeling worn and frayed. I prayed before I walked in, “Jesus, would you meet me on my mat?”

 

I felt relieved when the instructor (that word doesn’t describe her though…she is more a kind + bold guide for body + soul) said that the evening would be a slower flow than usual. Gentler. I sighed a deep prayer of thanks. After some beginning stretches, she read from the end 1 Peter 2 in The Message:

 

He used his servant body to carry our sins to the Cross so we could be rid of sin, free to live the right way. His wounds became your healing. You were lost sheep with no idea who you were or where you were going. Now you’re named and kept for good by the Shepherd of your souls.

 

As we breathed and moved our bodies, Jesus kept whispering, “Aimee, you have been the shepherd of your own soul. This is an invitation to let me shepherd you, your mind, your emotions, your desires, your tender places. I shepherd and delight in those soul places in you. You have no idea who I know you as and where I want you to go. Let me call you Beloved, keep you close, and tend you well.”

 

As these verses were repeatedly read, my heart was kindled and vulnerable. By the time we reached the end when we lie on our mats under a blanket in silence for about fifteen minutes, I had a steady stream of tears leaking down the sides of my face. I hadn’t felt that near and seen by Jesus in so long. It was as if He were sitting cross-legged near me saying the Truth about Himself and about me. The Good News is that Jesus doesn’t only care about what we do, where we go, and how we obey in this world, but He wants to tend our souls, the hidden places of ourselves, as a Kind Shepherd tends vulnerable, confused sheep.

 

His wounds became our healing. Our wounded Savior wants to come alongside each one of us and heal, ridding us of stubborn sin and setting us free, naming us and keeping us for good. If there is one thing I am learning this Fall, it’s that intimacy with Him can happen in the busiest of seasons as we make space to be open to Him as we sit and as we rise, as we go out and as we lie down.

 

I don’t have hours of solitude, quiet, or time alone. I have minutes as I drive, as I wash dishes, as I shower, as I wait at a practice. I have stopped using these times to get on my phone and have begun using these small moments to choose openness, listening, being. I have stopped bringing an agenda or ideal of what spending time with God looks like, and instead, I am wasting time with Him. I am learning to be a daughter, a friend, a companion of Christ. It is simple but not easy. I can’t see any “growth” or “fruit” or measurable outcomes that my production-oriented self craves. My soul simply is becoming quieter, less scared, more peaceful, more at ease with Presence than Quiet Time Production. 

 

As we walk deeper into October, may we recognize that all of our crazy thoughts, mixed-up feelings, and the creative ideas of our souls have a Shepherd that wants to tend them. He’s as close as our breath, as near as anyone can be. His Spirit has made a home within us, has tender access to it all, and promises to keep our souls for good. Amen.

 

linking up with Coffee for your Heart and Salt & Light and #HeartEncouragement

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When You Feel Unseen

 

Do you ever feel hidden and tucked away?

 

My first experience of this is when I had two small children. I had stopped doing full-time ministry, lived far away from family and friends, and was trying to figure out my identity. I have never forgotten a Bible Study I attended at that time where the teaching leader spoke from the book of Matthew and reminded us that we didn’t know much about Jesus before the age of 30. He had been “hidden” away, growing in stature and wisdom. She encouraged us who felt like we were unseen by reminding us that God was with us, growing us, and building our character. These years were not wasted.

 

We all go through these seasons throughout our lives where we feel hidden, usually many times over the course of a lifetime. As a mother-of-many whose schedule is fuller than it has ever been, I recently began struggling with these same feelings again. Am I noticed? Am I known? I know that my work matters and that the investment that I am making at home is good + worthy, but do I matter?

 

I have been sitting with these questions. And when we sit in vulnerability and allow ourselves some self-compassion and not shame ourselves for these questions, God begins to quietly answer. He cares about our hearts, our insecurities, our fears, and is always, always patient. He loves to shower us with identity and specifically sent us the Holy Spirit to remind us over and again of whose we are and who we are.

 

I turned on a worship playlist last Wednesday, my parched soul crying out for connection with Christ. This was a Spotify playlist that they curated for me based on the music that I had listened to in the past. The first song that came up was “You Know Me” by Steffany Gretzinger. One of the lyrics is “you know every detail of my life, you are God and you don’t miss a thing” and then at the end she sings the precious three-word phrase: you memorize me.

 

I also began reading the book Unseen by Sara Hagerty and am still in the middle of it. She and I have walked similar journeys in that we both received identity from being in full-time ministry but then received children (we both have 6!) and life became quiet and hidden which makes us question our worth, our belovedness, our meaning. She reminded me of Psalm 139 where we were not hidden from God when we were formed in the secret places. He made us to be seen, to be known. This is a legitimate need, not a selfish or narcissistic one. And the good news is that He sees us and He knows us. We are never ever hidden from Him even though we may feel hidden and tucked away from the world, from notoriety, from accolades.

 

If you are struggling right now like I have been in feeling unnoticed and unseen, you can know that Jesus has prepared a table for you. In Luke 14:17 He says, “Come, for everything is now ready.” We have a daily open invitation to come sit with Him, to be known, fed, loved. He offers us eye-contact, warmth, empathy, and connection. He offers us Himself and wants all of you.

 

No amount of time with friends, likes on social media, date nights, or parties will fill the deeper places that long to be seen and known. The One Who formed us, knitted us, knows those places, loves us tenderly, and invites us to healing, intimacy, and unconditional acceptance. Jesus has memorized you. This is Tuesday Good News!

 

linking up with Purposeful Faith and Coffee for Your Heart and #HeartEncouragment and Salt & Light

 

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What I Learned This Summer

 

Emily offers a quarterly link-up to share what we learned in the last season of life. Small or large, quirky or meaningful, it all counts!

 

Here is my summer list of 10 things I learned in no particular order:

 

1. Summertime is the best time to repair the foundation of my life.

 

Having six children of many varying life stages can take its emotional and mental toll. There are so many needs and so much to give! This summer I committed to a season of deep rest and repairing. This included both my health, my home, and personal management. As I am at the beginning of a very full Fall, I am feeling so thankful to my past self for filling the well, learning new systems, and getting the house clean and decluttered.

 

 

2. Having a perpetual Netflix TV series makes me so happy. 

 

Of course there are great series like Parenthood, Gilmore Girls, Downton Abbey, The Office, and Parks and Recreation, but this summer was watching the ever-so-delightful Father Brown and now, The Great British Baking Show. I am a big reader and read a lot of books, but sometimes even that brain-engagement can be too much. Having a lovely series to watch periodically in the evenings gives me rest and space to connect with my husband in a low-key way. We both anticipate and plan for watching new shows, and I am so glad that my old idealistic self stopped rejecting a TV in the bedroom years ago because it’s the best for us! We love escaping at night from the fullness and noise of our home and settling in with a show.

 

 

3. Geneologies are fascinating and put me in good company with Jesus.

 

I got sucked into the vortex of Ancestry.com this summer and spent two full days in a time-warp. I have a lineage of Southern farmers, Native Americans, circuit-riding preachers, prostitutes, English/Scottish, and a murder of a husband thrown in too. I have some cousins who have done extensive geneological work on my mother’s side, and the photos and authentic stories they offered me were like unexpected Christmas gifts. As are all family trees, mine is broken and dysfunctional, full of colorful characters, and I am reminded that when I read Jesus’ geneology, He had the same thing. Our stories are all alike and all of us need Him to enter them.

 

 

4. Costco is my new best friend.

 

I asked many of you on Facebook and Instagram for your favorite products, and you came through! Women are passionate about Costco! I am finding my weekly shopping rhythm there, and love the quality choices of meats, dairy, and non-perishables. I was even motivated to do some freezer cooking, and froze 6 lbs of taco meat, 4 lbs of spaghetti sauce, and 4 quart-size bags of shredded Rotisserie chicken meat for soups, Mexican meals, and casserole-style dishes. I discussed how I meal plan with a bullet journal and try to keep it simple.

 

 

 

5. Social Media Time Blocking helps me stay focused and less distracted. 

 

I did several Facebook Lives this summer on planning and productivity. Reading David Allen’s book Getting Things Done helped me manage my paper, my time, and my daily outlook. I still found myself distracted by my phone. I recently began using a highlighter in my planner to mark of times during the day that I would be phone-free. Some blocks are as small as 15 minutes and larger blocks are 2 hours. It’s easy to be all or nothing with our management of phone usage, but the key is to find sustainable practices that allow for engagement and retreat. Choosing to block off phone times is giving me more control over my social habits and less impulsivity.

 

 

6. The Marco Polo app is great at connecting far-away family.

 

It’s a bit like Voxer with its walkie-talkie messaging system, but it’s so much better because it’s video. My sister and her family live in California, and although we keep up on social media and yearly visits, we miss out on the dailiness of each other’s lives. Enter this app, and now we have an ongoing thread where we can see each other, show off the kids, give each other input, and just be silly. 

 

7. A total eclipse is 1000 times better than I thought it would be.

 

We live in the “path of totality” and so the hype on the traffic, tourism, and where to find eclipse glasses inundated my life for months. In the week leading up to the eclipse, I felt OVER it. I wanted it to be done, and was tired of the low-level anxiety of whether or not my young boys would obliterate their retinas. But as with all weather-related events, I got super excited about it the day before, and we dove head-first into all the joy of it on the day of. When we finally passed into total darkness about 2:40ish pm, I was like a giddy little girl jumping around and breathless by the wonder of it all. Thank you to the makers of NASA-approved eclipse glasses for making this tiny moment of life super-cool and unforgettable.

 

 

8. Getting school supplies early means great choices + zero crowds.

 

Every year I procrastinate on buying our supplies, somehow believing that by doing that, it makes summer longer or sweeter. Nope. It only means buying other people’s leftovers, that the aisles are a disorganized mess, and I have to end up shopping at a few different stores. This year I have been determined to wean off adrenaline and to work my lists in timely, proactive ways. My list got bought in July, and August was still spent at the pool!

 

 

9. The Wunderlist app is great for sharing shopping lists with Mike.

 

We text each other things we need and invariably, those items would get lost back in the thread. Now we both use this app and it makes shopping and grabbing last-minute items a breeze. We also share a list of home projects that we both add to regularly, and it notifies the other person when we complete a task. (No more nagging!) We even keep a list of movies or shows to watch together!

 

10. Older teens make life better.

 

I didn’t know how happy they would make me, but they do. Celebrating their milestones, laughing together, and getting a peek into their budding identities is worth all of the diaper changes, tantrums, and sleepless nights of long ago. Motherhood can feel like a long slog at times, and when you get a tiny taste of the fruit of investment, it makes the marathoning all worth it. 

 

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