For All the Defeated Moms {You’re Actually in a Good Place}

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It’s Mother’s Day weekend and that conjures up a million different feels depending on your relationship with your mother, your kids, or motherhood in general. Despite Consumerism’s conspiracy to convince us it’s all flowers and diamond heart necklaces designed by celebrities and fancy chocolates, we all know the truth. Mothers and kids and and mothering — it’s all downright complicated.

I have such mixed feelings about Mother’s Day {even though I love celebrating my own mom who is a saint for surviving the moodiest teenager in the history of the world.}

For me, my Mother’s Day ambivalence boils down to two things: 1.) I don’t deserve the hoopla, what with the yelling at kids and falling so short of my own standards. And 2.) I absolutely deserve ALL THE HOOPLA because motherhood is hard for this introvert mom who doesn’t love being needed and I am doing all the things for all the people and want some freaking credit. And also cake. {Which is a problem because I’m one week into Whole30, something I swore I’d never do. Give me all the sugar.}

So now even Mother’s Day lunch has become a metaphor for my ironic angst about all things motherhood.

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Anyway, you may or may not have noticed that the blog has been quiet. There’s no drama or scandal. This season of life simply isn’t accommodating to the writing life. I will weep if I write any more words about that so let’s move on.

Because I desperately miss this place and I miss all of you and I don’t want my blog to die from neglect, here’s an edited repost from the archives, just in time for Mother’s Day. It’s one of my favorites and, no surprise, I needed these words all over again. It’s as if I never wrote them. But I’m so glad I did and I think you need them too.

May you get all the hoopla and an extra-large piece of cake this Mother’s Day! You’ve earned it, despite what your ambivalent mom-self tells you. : )

Love, Marian

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Lately, I’ve been dropping my kids off at school in the morning, breathing a deep sigh of relief, and audibly saying “thank you” as I drive away in my dusty minivan. Is public school a means of grace? For me, right now, yes.

It’s safe to say that these are trying days in the parenting department. Not in an extreme, “I just bailed this one out of jail” sort of way but more of an “I’m absolutely clueless / I have no business being a mom / Everyone go away / Let me lie down” sort of way.

I never said I wore I supermom cape.

Last week I absolutely came to the end of myself with this whole mothering gig and it was really the most needful thing.

I sat at my desk, weary and overwhelmed. I prayed and cried and asked Jesus Himself to please show up with a miracle, to help me love in a way that transcends reason and rebellion and my own severe limitations.

And He did, gifting me to love in a way I’d never experienced. I had glimpses of wisdom that came out of nowhere. Compassion and real empathy sprung from a supernatural well. By Saturday I was like, “Yes! I can do this! We. Are. WINNING.”

Then Sunday showed up with more battles and stress and willfulness than I knew what to do with — theirs and mine. Just like that, I relapsed into the familiar comforts of preachiness and anger and entitlement and why is this sooooo hard?

Dealing with behavior is one thing. Caring for sick souls is quite another.

While I don’t feel I know much as a mother, I am 100% convinced that moralism and charts and systems may get the desired results on the outside, but they won’t begin to touch the inside. In fact, good behavior may be so convincing to both kids and parents that everyone ignores the heart altogether. But a sick heart will kill a person, even one that looks perfectly healthy on the outside. Ask me how I know.

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And so our home lately has felt like a triage unit with gurneys of wounded people and splayed-open hearts — theirs and mine.

On days of victory and progress, I feel like I’ll never taste defeat again. But then I do and such defeat makes me want to throw in the towel and tell everyone to please raise themselves from now on. I’ll provide groceries and find them a good therapist. I’ll even keep driving them around. But I cannot maintain a surgery ward.

Winning is a distant memory.

It’s in these valleys of defeat that I remember what carried me to the mountaintop of short-lived victory to begin with: being in a prior valley of defeat.

I face the uncomfortable truth that the Christian life is not about sustained winning. It is about sustained dependance.

When will I learn?

So I once again sink into the ground of humility and throw myself at the feet of mercy. I ask for power that I don’t have and am too tired to muster anyway. I ask for grace that is laughable. {Because true grace always is.}

I ask for the courage, companionship, and example that is Christ Himself — a gloriously scandalous God who knows that undeserved love, not lists and lectures, motivates a person to love — be it parent, child, or spouse. We love because we were first loved in such a way that it still makes us our heads spin. {Please God, let it make our heads spin.}

Always, we can shake off defeat and begin again because of the love-drenched grace and compassion we ourselves have been shown.

Dear defeated mom, motivate with love as you are motivated by love. Because love begets love. And isn’t real obedience simply an expression of real love?

At the end of a long week that followed an even longer week, I realize that being a mother is simply being a wounded healer, ministering to and interceding for sick souls with the presence and power of a loving Jesus.

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You may also enjoy these favorite posts

How a 92-year-old woman taught me the value of my right-now work

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For the Mom Who Needs a Simpler Way

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Why Safety is the Answer to Exhaustion and Overwhelm {Also? A fun announcement.}

bright office

When one of my kids wants to tell me about a dream they had, I inwardly roll my eyes and brace myself for the most tedious story ever. This is why I will never take home the Mother of the Year trophy.

So on a Friday morning at the end of a long week — well, actually it was the end of a series of long weeks, I felt especially averse to conversations that start with, “I have to tell you about the dream I had.”

Just the day before I had said truthful but ugly things that a mature and godly grown-up should not say. And then I slammed the door for added punctuation. I sped off to two different schools and then to an event for work.

I was out of gas in every way but faked that I wasn’t, telling myself that all sorts of people live very busy lives and I needed to get over it already. When I returned home early afternoon, I ate lunch on the sofa and turned on the television. It was on the Home Shopping Network and I tuned in for 30 minutes like it was my job, fully convinced that I needed the $30 heart-shaped blush baked on real Italian tiles for two days.

Exhaustion and depletion make us vulnerable like that. We convince ourselves that we deserve certain rewards because of what’s missing in our lives.

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Even though this season of my life is bursting at the seams in a way I’ve never experienced, even though there’s precious little space to reflect and process, grief still manages to chisel itself into the tiny cracks.

Busy-ness is only a temporary deterrent from unattended ache.

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Last week I took a few minutes to list the things I miss. It felt like a small but necessary step toward living more honestly with myself.

  • I miss writing so badly that I cry just typing this sentence.
  • I miss having the physical energy that enabled me to get up extra early just a year ago.
  • I miss having more time together as a family.
  • I miss my kids when they were little and the stakes didn’t feel as high.
  • I miss the dreams for my creative work that feel forever on hold.
  • I miss putting our younger kids to bed early and having time in the evening with my husband to watch TV.
  • I miss the seasons when my sanity felt slightly more intact and I didn’t live with a constant, low-grade anxiety / anger combo that I can’t quite figure out.
  • I miss relationships.
  • I miss the days when the family calendar had more margin.

 

In the whole scheme of things, this list of losses is not so important. They are a collection of small griefs.

But the sum of them all feels terribly heavy in my heart.

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On that weary Friday morning, I had also missed two weeks of Bible study and most of the lessons in between. I felt like I was languishing in every way — physically, mentally, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. I felt like a failure and a fraud. I needed nourishment and encouragement but was too tired to seek it.

As my youngest son crunched his cereal and I made my daughter’s lunch, he persisted about the dream.

I suppressed my silent scream of “Noooooo” and said, “Tell me about it.”

Well there were all of these lions everywhere. They were at the park and on our street and in all the yards. But they were in our yard more than anyone else’s yard and they were always trying to get in our house.

At this point, a thought entered my head: Marian, maybe you should pay attention.

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So there were all of these lions in our yard but there was this one really big lion. You know, the kind that has all the hair around its face? This lion stood in our yard in front of the house. 

Me: Well, was it a good lion? Were the other lions bad?

Yeah, the other lions were bad and wanted to hurt us but this lion was protecting us from all of the bad lions. And he was our friend. Like, we could ride on him and stuff.

By this point I had stopped making the lunch and turned away because my eyes stung with tears and I had goose bumps.

In the midst of bread crumbs and Lucky Charms and lukewarm coffee, I felt the palpable presence of God.

I know that plenty of people, even spiritual folks, don’t believe that God shows up in our dreams like that. Especially in the dreams of a child. But for all of my natural inclinations toward skepticism and cynicism and all things rational, God has often bypassed reason and apologetics to get my attention.

I don’t presume that most dreams have spiritual significance but I do know that we’re at our most vulnerable when we’re asleep. And just as I have been attacked by fear and evil in my sleep, I have also been ambushed by truth and beauty.

Perhaps we see truth most clearly when our eyes are closed.

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When I finally walked into Bible study that same morning, utterly worn out and tardy, having forgotten to bring change for the parking meters, I realized I’d done the wrong lesson. Of course.

Instead of Jesus’ trial, we read through Jesus’ prayers for the spiritual safekeeping of believers while we are still in the world.

Things could not have been more clear. “Dear God, message received.”

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Why am I always surprised when He breaks through the universe into my own insignificant corner of the world to show me that life isn’t up to me to get right? It is not like a quest to find the Holy Grail.

Human striving has no place in the kingdom. We live and move and have our being from a totally different source. 

My schedule, my spiritual disciplines, my energy level, my work / life management, my family — all of these things are kept by a loving God who meets me in weakness and cluelessness and utter lack.

It’s not ultimately about my resolve. It’s not ultimately about my abilities or faithfulness.

He’s got us. Period.

And this is grace.

I’m tempted to add all sorts of disclaimers right now.

Now that doesn’t mean we don’t do anything or have certain responsibilities, blah, blah, blah…

See? I’m already doing it.

That’s our tendency with grace, to qualify it, to tame it.

But doing that dismantles grace entirely.

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This is a strange post that feels utterly disconnected and hasn’t seemed fit to publish.

Here’s what I’m trying to say:

For those who are languishing in one way or all the ways —

For those who are too tired to try and get it together —

For those who just bought another life-improvement book (for the record I’ve bought 3 in the last month) —

For those who are being bullied by the busy-ness of this season of life —

For those who are holding a collection of small griefs but to acknowledge the heaviness seems silly —

For those who are trying to get their spiritual act together but keep failing —

God has you.

That means you’re safe.

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Safe to fall apart. Safe to weep. Safe to grieve. Safe to rest. Safe to ask for help. Safe to confess. Safe to have more questions than answers.

Safe to find Jesus in the dream of a child.

He walks to and fro, before you and behind you, fending off invisible enemies you may never know this side of eternity.

Your less-than state is no match for the Lion who is Jesus Himself, the One who intercedes in literal prayer and power for you and for your family.

It doesn’t mean we won’t have trouble here. We know all too well that trouble is alive and well. But it does mean we have a fierce and good Rescuer who has ultimately overcome the worst trouble.

May the awareness of his presence, the surety of his protection, and the encouragement of his intercession be your strength when you are too weary to muster your own.

 

Truth that might encourage you today:

Matthew 11:28-30

John 6:28-29

Acts 17:24-28

Romans 8:25-27

 

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You’re still here? Good. I was afraid this post about dreams and lions scared everyone away.

Here’s an extreme twist in subject matter:

For those of you who have been hanging around for a couple of years or more, you may remember The Real Pretty Shop. I had such fun opening those virtual doors for several sales. But then I got a real job. We moved. I have three kids in three different schools. And you get the picture — life has been fuller than full ever since.

But that hasn’t stopped me from tucking away little treasures in hopes that the shop might open up again. Sometimes I say to myself, “I might have a teensy bit of a problem.” And then I realize that I don’t have a problem, I have an unofficial shop. That just happens to be in a spare closet of my home.

I’ve been working here and there in the cracks of time and…

I’m opening the shop for another sale!

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YAY!!! And also, WHY AM I SO NERVOUS???

This sale will be a bit different than last time. I’m opening the doors on Instagram instead of on the blog. The shop will open at 7 am on Thursday, March 30th. Be sure to follow me on Instagram @marianvischer. I’ll do a post that morning telling you where to go and what to do.

I have twenty-something handpicked ensembles this time, all of them perfect for spring!

Want a sneak peak?

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Full disclosure: I have a disproportionate amount of size smalls. : (  Don’t hate me.

This is partially because I get excited and buy cute things for myself, but end up wearing the same jeans and boots and denim shirt 90% of the time. #Iannoymyself

If I open the shop again in the future, I promise to have a more representative selection of sizes like I had in previous sales.

So hop on over to Instagram, follow me, and if you haven’t updated to the latest version, you may want to do that because I have multiple pics of each ensemble. The latest version Instagram lets you post multiple pics in one post. {Bad when someone just took a vacation and wants to show 10 different angles of their poolside mojito. Good when Marian opens the shop and wants you to see all the fun details of the outfit you’re buying.}

Hope to see you at the shop on Thursday!

Love, Marian

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Instagram @marianvischer

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I’m all about and helping you recapture the possibility of your right-now life. Each post provides courage, companionship, and resources for life lived real.

If that sounds like something you need, sign up in the box below to receive fresh hope and possibility delivered to your inbox no more than a couple of times a week.

And I have a free gift for subscribers. : )

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How to Waste Your Life and Call it Beautiful

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There are a thousand thousand reasons to live this life, every one of them sufficient.”
― Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

 

When the baby of our family was born over nine years ago, I had a seven-year-old and a four-year-old.

With seven plus years of motherhood under my belt, I’d learned a few lessons about letting go, chilling out, and realizing that it’s all going to be okay. In light of this hard-won Zen version of myself, I decided to enjoy my third baby like nobody’s business.

I would not fret. I would not pursue unnecessary work or projects. I would bask in this last brief season of babyhood and love on my darling boy whose very name means “mercy.”

Mercy. That’s what he meant to my husband and me.

For a very long season, I assumed that I wouldn’t have another baby. My marriage had almost ended. I was working full-time. Life was terribly messy.

And then, it wasn’t.

God breathed compassion into our story. Our third child represented the underserved gift of new life for our family and I resolved to enjoy his babyhood in a way that my angsty, younger-mom self wasn’t able to do with my other children.

Today he is a curly-headed, third-grade boy with a perfect sprinkle of freckles across his nose. He’s much too big for me to carry and he talks like a teenager, compliments of his older brother and sister.

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I’m sure his babyhood seemed like a long stretch of time when we were in it — short nights, ear infections, teething, smeared pureed food in his hair. I can barely remember those episodes now. What I do remember is that I received that short season of my life as a gift.

I devoted myself to adoring him.

Much of my life’s work up to that point seemed irrelevant. My education, my career, all the books I’d read, the ambition I’d cultivated — I didn’t technically need any of those things to be an adoring mother.

Sometimes I wondered if I’d wasted the gifts I’d so earnestly stored up.

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I’ve been many different moms over the last sixteen years. Grad school mom, part-time working mom, full-time working mom, homeschool mom, stay-at-home mom, work-from-home mom, single mom.

I don’t feel like I’ve ever gotten it quite right.

As I look back across my story as a mother, the one chapter that feels most “right” to me is the one I just told you about — that one to two year season when I cherished my last baby with lavish intention. I did not call it wasteful. I called it beautiful.

Lest you think I’m someone who believes motherhood is my highest calling and the one thing I was put on this earth to do — I assure you, I am not that person. Though I’ve always longed to be a mother and I was over the moon about each one of my babies, reconciling family with personal ambition has been one of the greatest struggles and missions of my life.

Since I was ten years old, I wanted to attend law school right after college. I majored in the right things. I took the LSAT. But at the age of 22, I arrived at a painful conclusion — a career in law didn’t seem very compatible with raising a family. Not for me, anyway. And just like that, I veered from what I’d always wanted to do. It’s hardly a tragic story. Instead of law, I pursued and enjoyed college teaching.

But I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Sometimes I’m still sad I didn’t go to law school. That doesn’t mean I regret not going. It simply means that my heart continues to beat strongly for the kind of work I would have loved.

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Over the holidays I was at a retirement party for one of my husband’s colleagues. I had the loveliest time chatting with an acquaintance of ours who’s been a happily-practicing attorney for many years. I asked question after question about his work — why he loves it, if he’s glad he went into law, etc. I told him that I’d always dreamed of being a trial lawyer. He told me I should still think about it, that it’s not too late.

The whole way home and for weeks afterward, I did think about it. I’m still surprised at the way that longing can show up unannounced and just linger for a while.

But the reality is this — I have chosen other things.

Though I have worked and still currently work, I have chosen family over full-time work and my own aspirations — even though family life hasn’t {and still doesn’t} come naturally, even though motherhood doesn’t pay well, even though it sometimes feels like a waste of intellect and resources, even though others may say it’s the less than sensible choice.

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Recently I came across a story about another woman who made a less than sensible choice, a woman who “wasted” the resources she’d earnestly stored up, a woman who devoted herself to adoring someone in a way that confounded the more knowledgeable people around her.

The setting is a dinner party. And after the dinner was over, this woman took a pound of perfumed oil and anointed the honored guest, going so far as to let down her hair and wipe the man’s feet with it.

That honored guest was Jesus. The woman’s name was Mary. The imported oil in an alabaster jar was worth a year’s wages.

Can you imagine the awkwardness? An awkwardness that was quickly followed by scoff, scorn, and even contempt. Sure, it was an expression of love and honor but did it have to be so wasteful?

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Other guests made the point that the perfume could have been sold and given to the poor.

My own knee jerk reaction was that it could have been rationed out more sensibly. Surely Mary could have saved it in order to provide for herself and for others.

But Jesus didn’t say any of these things. Instead he asked the others to leave her alone and he called her offering “beautiful.”

Whether Mary realized it then or not, Jesus would die in a matter of days and this was her one opportunity to honor him with scandalous devotion.

As she was pouring out the perfume and wiping his feet with her hair, she was actually anointing her beloved Jesus for his burial.

My throat caught as I read this commentary on the story:

God’s people are expected to remember the poor … But Jesus came only once in history to die for his people. Only on this occasion would there be this opportunity to honor Him as He should be honored. 

This moment was not about the poor, it was not about Mary’s rights, and it was not about human sensibility. It was bigger than what anyone could see. Mary’s sacrifice and devotion was part of God’s purpose for her life, for Jesus’ life, and for the redemption and renewal of the world.

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receive my life bracelet

Though I’ve given up on law school, I still long to pursue full-time work that overflows from the core of who I am. And maybe one day I will.

But my real life in this season of teenagers and sports and three different schools and community and work — well, it looks like delivering left-behind lunches, supervising math homework, avoiding the laundry, lamenting the dailyness of dinner, refereeing, running a taxi service, cheering from the sidelines, teaching life lessons while driving my minivan, and giving up on any semblance of work-life balance.

At my worst or even at my average, I can begrudge all of this because a.) it’s mundane and repetitive, and b.) it can feel like a misspent life.

I really did not want to write that last sentence because it sounds awful. But it’s where my human heart can land on any given day.

And that’s why, when I read the story of Mary and Jesus and the perfume, I came a little undone on the inside. Truth and beauty lodged themselves within my spirit and I’ve walked a little askew ever since.

While I may not have Jesus in the flesh at my dinner table tonight, He is always my companion. And He tells us that when we provide for the physical needs of those who depend on our care, we’re also demonstrating love and devotion to him.

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This isn’t a post about career vs. family. It’s not even a post about motherhood. Not really. It’s about receiving our right-now lives as a gift. And that looks different for each of us.

I’m learning that in each season, I have to prioritize the roles that only I can fill. Only I can be my husband’s wife and my kids’ mom. There are other things God also calls me to do right now but I always return to this question:

Who needs me more right now? {For someone who doesn’t love to be needed, answering this question is more discipline than it is default.}

Sometimes only you can be the one to earn a paycheck or contribute to your family’s livelihood. Only you can be the one to take care of an aging parent or an adult sibling. Only you can be the one to help your grown child through a long season of crisis. Only you can be the one to love a difficult student in your classroom or a neighbor who has no one else.

I write from the intersection of my own season and circumstances but this story could be told a million different ways.

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What sacred devotion have you been given for this season? Who needs to receive what’s in your alabaster jar?

Only you and your people can answer this question.

It’s easy to worship at the altar of public opinion or even at the altar of sensibility without realizing that you’ve been taken captive. Modern narratives can be sneaky like that. I’m absolutely guilty of imbibing what sounds good instead of drinking from Truth.

I’m also guilty of looking at what others are doing and then feeling like a failure by comparison. In feeling left behind, I sprint to catch up — only to find that I’ve left my own people behind in the process.

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Straying from devotion probably comes naturally for most of us. For me, the key is coming back to the presence of Jesus and surrendering to the call of right now.

Today. These people. This season. This work. This devotion.

When we’re running hard toward our hoped-for life, we miss the sacred gifts of the right-now life.

Mary only had Jesus for a brief moment and she did the scandalous instead of the sensible. By everyone’s standards, she “wasted her gift’s purpose.”

Do you know what Jesus said in that moment?

Why are you giving this woman a hard time? She has just done something wonderfully significant for me. You will have the poor with you every day for the rest of your lives, but not me. When she poured this perfume on my body, what she really did was anoint me for burial. You can be sure that wherever in the whole world the Message is preached, what she has just done is going to be remembered and admired.  – Matthew 26:10-13 {The Message}

I don’t know what your life looks like today but I can tell you this. Jesus says your daily offerings are important even though they might seem wasteful by others’ standards.

I’ve lost many years’ wages. I’ve “wasted” years of education. But I only have this one window of opportunity to love my people well right now {while maintaining a semblance of my own sanity.} I’m learning that the teenage years require an availability and energy level that surpass the little years. I’m sorry if you don’t have teenagers yet and that sentence just ruined your day.

Like Mary, we have a brief window to overflow with the specific kind of devotion that each season requires. It probably doesn’t look like anointing someone with expensive perfume and suffering public humiliation in the process. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t costly. Service is costly. Forgoing your own desires in order to equip and love another person is always costly.

Maybe other people won’t get it. There will be days when even you don’t get it. Will you believe Jesus over public opinion and even over your own opinion? He says your right-now devotion is beautiful, that it’s a proclamation of the Gospel, that it’s a unique and sacred part of God’s purpose for you, for those you love, and for the world.

{And then will you turn around and repeat this truth back to me? Every day, I seem to forget all over again.}

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Earlier this week I was hustling out of the grocery store with bags of food that have since been devoured. The strangest awareness washed over me right there in the parking lot.

cheeseboard bfast

I get to do this. I get to do all of this. And it’s bringing me joy — not all the time, but at least for today. Dear God, only you could work this sort of miracle within my stubborn heart. Thank you. And keep doing it. 

One day I won’t be needed in this way but now is not that time.

I want to receive this fleeting season as a gift in the same way that I received the long ago baby season as a gift.

I want to look back on this one, merciful opportunity and call it beautiful.

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You may also enjoy:

How a 92-year-old Woman Taught Me the Real Value of my Right-Now Work

How to Pursue Your Hoped-for in the Midst of Your Right-Now Life: A Series


 

New here?

I’m all about and helping you recapture the possibility of your right-now life. Each post provides courage, companionship, and resources for life lived real.

If that sounds like something you need, sign up in the box below to receive fresh hope and possibility delivered to your inbox no more than a couple of times a week.

And I have a free gift for subscribers. : )

school made simple freebie header

If you’re overwhelmed by the many educational options for your kids, if you’re curious about the most important questions to ask, I have a FREE resource created just for you!


 

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