Is ordinary okay?

“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different.” -C.S. Lewis

Yesterday Jesse had a half day of school, so I drove there to pick him up at 11am only to get home some time after 2pm. What happened in between was this.

I was buckling Jesse in the car of the school parking lot when another parent came over, remarking that I had something in my tire. Well you could definitely hear the air hissing out with a thin, sharp metal object pierced in the rubber. I called Jason to see if he could come check it out and later he determined the tire needed changing.

He changes the tire then makes the executive decision for all of us to eat a late lunch at Chic-Fila (which why would anyone ever oppose that?). After lunch and Jesse playing in their indoor jungle gym (I make a mental note to use a ton of hand sanitizer afterward), we head over to the car shop.

I’m informed that they can’t even look at the tire or replace it until tomorrow morning. So, weary and with a slight stress headache, we head home to watch Frozen for the hundredth time.

This was not a normal day for us, but not anything extraordinary either. It happens every day to people. Most of life isn’t flashy and exciting and like life on vacation. We get up, go to work or school, meal plan, buy groceries, laundry, clean, etc. All to do it over again the next day.

But here’s the thing. Sometimes the subliminal message in our culture seems to be that ordinary is boring and therefore to be avoided. There is a push to be “unique” and in one sense we all are because God didn’t create any of us alike. Even twins develop different personalities (ask me how I know). But if everyone is striving to stand out and be “different”, isn’t that just another kind of conformity?

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In Paul’s letter to Titus he says, “Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives” (Titus 3:14).

We still have to work, eat and sleep. Our basic needs still apply and often this includes taking care of others too. My hope is that you and I learn not to despise ordinary living. That even being ordinary is okay even as you use the unique gifts God has blessed you with.

Because it really sums up most of our lives. The moments each day add up over time and turn into weeks, then months and years. It would be a tragedy to have wasted your one life, always seeking the next thrill and not appreciating the commonplace. Our worth isn’t calculated by how “exciting and interesting” we are is it? It’s so much more than that.

 

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So what does Paul encourage Titus and the church to do?

Do good. Live your lives.

I think this is part of “keeping your eyes on your own paper”, to stay faithful right where you are.

When we are faithful to do this, we begin to realize that we are exactly where we need to be. You and I have a different ordinary, but it doesn’t make mine or yours less significant.  Our kingdom work happens here.

 

Grace upon grace,

April

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Deep breath- it’s Monday

Part of the goal for Redeemed In Grace is to help you extend grace to yourself, as you learn to do this for others. And let’s face it, Mondays are the worst day to practice grace for most of us. The beginning of another week is a true gift, but it can also feel like the start to the daily grind. In order to help each other shift our gaze from the mounds of paperwork, laundry, phone calls, (fill in the blank), to an eternal mindset I have written a prayer for you today.

Because I believe that when our perspective changes so can our hearts. Gratitude begets a gracious spirit. So while the responsibilities and circumstances of life in general may not change, our attitude toward those tasks can. And hopefully you can discern this as a sincere effort to encourage you and not preachy. Because that is my prayer for you-  to be encouraged here in this little online space.

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Father,

May we rest in our salvation and pursue satisfaction in You.

Knowledge, love and faith are all gifts from Your Hand.

We acknowledge that our greatest gift is Jesus-

Prophet, Priest, and King.

He is worth following, worth living and dying for.

Christ is worthy of our worship at all times

from every nation.

Let us taste the fullness of joy that we already have in Jesus.

 

May we make You known by our choices, speech and actions so that this world sees the light of truth in us.

Awake us from the things that deaden our spirits and grace Your Church with zeal under the banner of Love.

Teach us to remember Your truth so that we sense Your Presence in this day.

In the strong Name of Jesus,

Amen

Life-giving community

Hi patient readers!

This summer I took some time off to focus on Jesse while he was out of school. Honestly I didn’t write much because the past few months were mentally and physically taxing. It was hard but rewarding because my goal was to invest in my son’s heart while we had uninterrupted days. Motherhood ain’t easy and part of that is because of how much it requires to give of ourselves- daily- hourly- sometimes minute to minute.

But the sweetness comes when praise songs we’ve been listening to over and over start to bubble up out of his little voice. It’s when the things I have been teaching him for so long and start to feel pointless finally click. I saw his character form more over the summer and mine too. His speech has blossomed and he’s testing the waters of independence more. We still have a long way to go, but that’s okay.

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As a mom to a child with autism I’m learning that I don’t need to assume his limits. Meaning, it just might take more time, but he’ll achieve milestones eventually. Like learning to ride a bike has been a challenge. Jason and I got him a bike (with training wheels) for Christmas. For the longest time he only wanted to sit on it. And he was even timid about that initially. Then over the summer he began to pull his bike out out more. He would sit on the bike and let me gently push him from behind as he learned to steer.

Lately he has shown interest in working the petals but we aren’t there yet. And that’s just fine because I believe in him to get there one day. His confidence in his own abilities has to click first.

Pouring into Jesse’s heart as well as working on developmental skills has been the main agenda since the beginning of summer. I think it’s like this for all mothers really; there isn’t a set time to start and stop such a huge task. There are seasons I’m focused more on these things and there are times when others (church leaders, teachers, therapists, family, friends) help take the driver’s seat. It really does take a village to raise children, special needs or not. I always seem to be re-learning this because my job feels isolating, and can be if I let it. But God didn’t create us to live independently from each other. We need helpers in the community and the body of Christ to come along side of us.

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Jesse is seven. It seems to be going by so fast on one hand, while daily living can feel monotonous. And yet I know these are the formative years I don’t want to waste. Staying faithful is the key. I’m grateful for our invaluable time together over the summer, but the school year will be good too. There is more time for “his village” to teach him, allowing me to still be a person and re-charge, hopefully to be an even better (nicer?) mom. May we learn that it is not good to parent alone, and receive help from others. Let us bless those around us, remembering that leaning on one another isn’t weakness but life-giving.

 

Grace upon grace,

April

If you are looking for an online community to help you navigate parenting a special needs child this is an encouraging space to go to: Anchored Souls: Real Hope for Real Life

 

Summer storms

I know the rain is coming. People with bad knees feel it in their bones. I get a sinus headache 12-24 hours in advance.

The water leaks out of the sky first like tiny droplets. Then rain pours down harder and harder, as if someone climbed on top of the roof with an endless bag of pebbles to drop on my back porch.

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Thunder is my favorite- it comes from the deep recesses of the earth, grumbling and booming to make its presence known. I believe God orchestrates each rainstorm like a symphony- the rhythmic order of rain falling from the heavens harmonizes with thunder and lightning.

Ping ping,

Pitter patter,

Tap tap,

Whoosh-

Boom!

Boom!

Flash.

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The wind sometimes contributes with a howl. Its a grand theatre of the dramatic right in my backyard. Then all is hushed and the show is over just as fast as it began. The musical numbers are all alike, yet never the same are they? It’s part of the allure in watching a thunderstorm- the familiar sounds mixed with the unknown of when each part takes a turn.

I smile with satisfaction at His creative genius, the One who controls nature. His fingerprints are every where to shout out the truth we all know-

God is more real than the rain He lets fall on our faces.

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Grace upon grace,

April

When words won’t come

Words matter. They carry weight to last beyond your lifetime and mine (think the Bible, classic literature, letters, etc.). Lately though all of my words seem stuck, lodged firmly in my throat. It’s twisty and there are so many thoughts swirling about but no real connection to any of it.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I’m studying the book of James right now with a friend. It’s the go-to Scripture for warning against a hasty tongue. Sometimes we are to just hush our mouths. But there is also everything right with speaking out against injustice, speaking words of encouragement to someone in need, but what about when you can’t find the right words to say anything at all?

When this happens author Emily Freeman advises to wait and listen. Then there are the honest words from my seven year old: “waiting hard!” At least he gets it. Waiting IS hard no matter how old you get.

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But it’s worth the waiting for, trusting that words will come. Sometimes we don’t need to say anything, but just be present with someone who needs you. I know it doesn’t feel that way but God really does know best. He understands the specific situation or season of life you’re in. God knows that our summer routine at home is a whole different beast from the rest of the year, so my energy is depleted more. I have less words, less time, just… less.

And there is grace for that. Grace to show ourselves as we recognize our limitations.

The truth is I’m tired and my memory is becoming more and more like the lovable but forgetful blue fish Dory. This post is just to say that yes words do matter, so we should be careful with what we say- in person or online. Sometimes it means we listen to a friend without interrupting (because a listening ear is healing for the one who needs to talk it out); or we wait before weighing in on a issue; or simply sit in the hush of God’s presence, receiving His Word.

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So when words won’t come? When the verbal strait-jacket won’t budge? Listen. Be quiet. And wait. God is the Master Wordsmith- He gives us our words when we need them.

 

Grace upon grace,

April

Fighting for slow

Some mornings the day seems to begin without me. I’m not ready to keep up with the pace it demands. My body and spirit are a little sluggish and sleepy-eyed on those days. Like the time I tried a Zumba class with disastrous results- I fall behind in the steps and can’t keep rhythm. Some days feel like that leaving me frustrated, packing up 15 minutes into the class as I awkwardly dance toward the exit.

We weren’t meant to keep a fast paced life 24/7. Sometimes for the sake of our spirit it is necessary to take a breath and turn off the noise.  Step away and bench ourselves to the sidelines, just for a while.

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I recently took a break from Instagram this past winter to reset. I wanted to make sure my priorities were in order. Was social media serving me or was I serving social media? Saints will need to fight for fellowship with God even more as busyness and distractions invade our calendars.

These devices aren’t wrong when used in the right way. But they can easily become idols as they fill a desire in us to be worshipped or noticed. I’m afraid we will forget how to be still without something entertaining us. For believers this is a serious danger because God only carries us deeper with Him once the white noise is gone.

 

We risk a shallow existence with the Lord when the culture dictates our free time. My former pastor often said we need to “go hard after God”. I’ve mulled over that phrase, trying to see how that is practically done. I think part of what it means to “go hard after God” is to fight for time with Him. The world is already against God’s ways so our culture could care less whether you have quiet time with Him or not. It’s irrelevant to the unbeliever. But it is life for those who believe. To keep our souls fed, to direct our thoughts, and whisper prayers only for His ears, we need to get quiet and alone.

 

If you still have doubts just look to Jesus as your example. He was busy after His ministry became public with thousands of people wanting His time and attention. Yet He still made it a priority to slip away and pray to His Father. It was His lifeline. And it is ours too.

Cultivating a deep-seated relationship with the Lord isn’t an option but a necessity if we want to stand firm.  And maybe your unbelieving friend, neighbor or co-worker will notice how you set boundaries for your free time, how you don’t subscribe to the fast-moving life the rest of society does. FOMO is not something that bothers you.

Stop, look and listen right where you are. You might be surprised to discover things you never noticed before. God’s wonder and message of redemption is all around us when we take time to see. Spend time nestled in Scripture and wrestle with a passage. Seek God and ask Him questions. Let’s not waste the valuable time we have here.

To quote the teenage guru Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Those seem like good words to adopt.

 

Grace upon grace,

April

Stormy Seas

As I sit on the balcony this morning at the beach a storm is about to come through. The winds have picked up and waves crash down hard as if to revolt against the inevitable weather conditions.

Last week at my church we had Vacation Bible School and I got to help lead a group around to their different stations. We learned about the miracles of Jesus and right now I can’t help but think of when Jesus calmed the storm.

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He and His disciples were in a boat when all of a sudden a violent squall overtook the sea. As the waters rose into the boat smacking against each wave, the disciples cried out “Lord! Save us! Don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”

Jesus answered their fear with a question about faith. He tells the terrified men that their faith is small and then proceeds to do the unthinkable- to do only what God can. The Lord controls nature by rebuking the winds and waves until all is quiet like it never happened.

The disciples were stunned with amazement at the miracle they just witnessed still not fully understanding Who it was they were following. Only after Jesus’ resurrection would the pieces of the puzzle start to make sense. Jesus was much more than the political Messiah they had hoped for; He was God in the flesh!

Why did Jesus choose to display His power this way? Right before He raised Lazarus from the dead Jesus said, “Father, I thank you that You have heard me. I knew that You always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that You sent me.” (John 11:41-42).  All of Jesus’ miracles are for the Father’s glory, and for the people to see His power at work, even us thousands of years later. This is why we can still trust Him, even with the storms of our lives.

We may cry out like the disciples, “Lord, help me! Don’t you care that I’m drowning?!” And Jesus lovingly responds with the same answer. More than the surface external circumstances, the Lord points to my small faith amid big fears. He addresses the storms in my heart first exposing my lack of trust in Him.

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That day in the boat with His disciples, Jesus demonstrated how to fear less and pray for faith to grow in its place. Jesus knew the storm raged in the sea, tossing the helpless men among the merciless water. But He had complete trust in His Father and therefore was at rest spiritually and even physically sleeping.

We also can rest spiritually when our trials overwhelm us. It’s part of the human existence to experience pain, disappointment, and hardship. You can’t get away from it even when we attempt to numb our feelings temporarily. The only answer is found in God. His Presence never leaves His own. We possess a spirit not of fear but of power, love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7) because of the Holy Spirit at work in us through Jesus Christ.

And even though we know God holds the stars in the sky,

sets rainbows in the heavens,

fills the ocean with salt water and living sea creatures,

grows trees and flowers and food,

raises the sun each morning to our side of the world and lowers the moon into night,

we still respond with awe and wonder like His first disciples did after witnessing the miracle of the stormy sea.

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I read this quote in my Devotional Psalter the other day, thinking it was very helpful and applicable:

“When life overwhelms us, when the bottom is falling out, this is where Scripture takes us: to God.

We do not achieve internal calm by securing external calm. We find internal calm by looking to God.”

 

Grace upon grace,

April

 

Go Deeper: Matthew 8:23-27; Mark 4:36-41; Luke 8:22-25