Practice Being Present

My neighbor’s sprinklers come on at exactly 4:30 every afternoon. As I sit on the patio watching my kids ride their bikes, I can feel it spray on my face as the wind blows it over our fence.

My toddler’s favorite song to sing right now is Happy Birthday. Random – I know. After putting her down to bed in the evenings, my husband and I can hear her singing herself to sleep from where we sit in the living room. There are times when her singing transforms to belting..”HAPPY!” “BIRTHDAY!” “TO YOU!”. My husband and I exchange a look as we fail in our attempt to hold back the laughter.

I’ve been reading the book of Revelation out loud to my oldest in the evenings before bed. If I sit silently for a few minutes, the questions start pouring out of her. It’s amazing how thoughtful her questions are when I give her the space to consider and process. We have had some great (and challenging) discussions over the past couple weeks.

 

Recently, I stepped aside from ministry with the youth in our church. Afterwards, I immediately found myself asking the Lord what He wanted me to do next. What work has He prepared for me to get involved in now.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go;
I will counsel you with My eye upon you. ~Psalm 32:8

I love how the Lord orchestrates and utilizes different resources to answer our prayers. Through the piercing of His Word, through books I’ve been reading, through conversations with different people – He has given me what I feel is a very specific answer. There is a very specific work He wants me to focus on right now.

Here it is…

Stop longing for what is in the future.

Stop focusing on the “next thing”.

Instead…

Savor the “now thing”.

Practice being present.

That’s it.

That’s my “right now” work.

Be present with my husband and the work we are doing in our marriage.

Be present with my children. Be present in the moments they need me… and especially in the moments they want me.

I’m learning that it’s more difficult to be present when my plate is full. The more commitments I make, the more residents I’m allowing to occupy my thoughts. This past year I spent much of my time physically present in one place while my mind was in another.

Playing games with my son, while my mind considers that week’s song set.

Sitting at the dinner table with family, while making a mental list of what I have to bring to Bible study the next morning.

Spending the evening with my husband as he tells me about his day, while I contemplate how I should respond to that email.

I’m there – but not really.

It may sound like this is just multi-tasking – it is. And multi-tasking can be good. However, in the moments when my mind is being pulled in several directions I need to stop and consider which task I need to truly be in attendance to. This is how I practice being present.

I love what Sarah Mackenzie says in her book Teaching From Rest…

“Getting caught up in plans for what is coming next or trying to squeeze everything possible into this moment right now is a surefire way to miss the gift of this moment, today, and it is a certain path to anxiety.”

I don’t want to miss the gift. I don’t want to be so focused on what tomorrow may hold that I forget to be thankful for the treasures this moment is offering.

Thankful for the sounds of laughter as my kids ride their bikes together; and for the refreshing afternoon showers as my neighbors water their yard.

Thankful for the shared glance with my husband as we enjoy the serenading of our sweet little person.

Thankful for the questions and conversation with my oldest as we ponder and wrestle through some difficult scriptures together.

And all the other fleeting moments that sweep by so quickly.

“Your Time Serving In This Ministry Is Coming To An End”

A quiet thought begins lingering in my mind. “Your time serving in this ministry is coming to an end.”

I don’t think much of it at first. I reckon it’s the voice of fear or my own insecurity.

This is what the Lord has called me to. I’m using the gifts he has given me to encourage and build up the church. Serving in this way is according to what I’m passionate about. He wouldn’t want me to lay that aside.

About a month goes by and I begin to notice a pattern. Wednesday afternoons are spent preparing and packing dinner, gathering my guitar and music gear, waking my kids up from their naps and demanding they quickly get their things together and find their shoes.

I’m finding myself in a state of consistent frustration. My joy starts waning. My days feel frantic.

I just need to be more disciplined with my time. The Lord has called me to do this.

My irritability towards my husband and children keep increasing.

The thought rises in my mind again. “Your time serving in this ministry is coming to an end.”

But Lord, I love this ministry! I love working with these teenagers! I love serving in this way! Are you really asking me to give this up?

Crisis in my family hits and I find myself in my car calling our youth pastor. “I just need to take a few weeks off. There are some family issues I need to work on then I’ll be back!”

The time spent at home with my family is refreshing. I discover a curious contentment being home with my kids. It’s odd. I’ve always been one who prefers to be out among the crowds.

As the time approaches for me to return an inner battle begins raging. I long to go back, yet I dread having to pack up my family along with this new found joy of being home.

I should have listened to my heart in that moment. I should have to chosen to follow the desires the Lord is placing in my heart instead of following what I think I should do; or what I think others think I should do.

Lord, maybe you are calling me to lay this ministry aside, but I want to finish out this school year. I can’t just quit!

As this prayer escapes my lips, I quickly remember a Bible Study I did last year. There was a portion where the author discusses the difference of quitting and finishing in ministry.

Again, a small voice gently invades my mind. This time it gives me the confirmation I need…

“It’s not that you are quitting; it’s that you are holding on to something I’ve already finished using you for. It’s time to let it go.”

I have had the honor of leading the worship team for our youth group for the past three years.

Over the past few months, I’ve been feeling the Lord causing some things to shift in my ministry focus.

I shared previously how the Lord convicted me that saying yes means that I’m also saying no. I have been saying yes to serving in different areas and different capacities at church that I have had to say no the people and relationships closest to me.

My husband. My children. My closest friends.

Stepping aside from this ministry was an enormously hard decision, but the Lord is blessing my step of obedience and has extended His peace.

 

Why Yes Always Means No

Awhile back I discerned something quite tragic. My husband and my children were not getting enough of me.

Let me rephrase…

My husband and children were not getting enough of the undistracted, full-hearted, un-hurried, calm and rational – me.

I’m one of those people who have a tendency to over commit myself; to give my yes too easily.

And there I was again. Over-committed, over-engaged, and over-whelmed.

All my commitments were good. Absolutely nothing wrong with any one thing I was giving my time to.

But the problem emerged when I start stacking one thing after another, after another, and another. Eventually, all those good things grew to become a Goliath of obligation; threatening to steal my peace and passion and replace them with exhaustion and anxiety.

Then, one day I found myself saying no too often.

“no” to extra time lingering in their favorite book…

“no” to building block towers and singing lullabies…

“no” to packing lunches for my husband because I’m too rushed to get out the door…

“no” to letting my kids help me make dinner because it’s easier, and faster, to just do it myself.

I realized that I was not devoting the attention to them that they wanted from me, and that I desired to give to them.

I realized that, by saying “yes” to other things, I was actually saying “no” to them.

The tank that carries my time and energy was being poured out in so many places that I didn’t have any left to pour on the people that I love the most.

Not good.

Then it hit me.

This concept applies in every situation.

Saying yes ALWAYS means that I am saying no – to something or someone.

If I commit to teach a Sunday school class, that means I will not be serving in another area at my church during that time.

If I commit to meet with a younger woman or a friend once a week, that may be time I’m taking away from educating my children.

If I sleep in that extra half hour (which sometimes is totally necessary), I may not get time by myself before the kids wake up.

So, the question I need to filter my commitments and decisions through is:

By saying yes, what do I have to say no to?

Uganda Childrens Choir – The Tracks of Life

I used to think that life was a journey from one season to the next. How winter slowly turns to spring, then spring to summer – that a rhythm also existed in the traveling from the times of joy and abundance, to the times of testing and trial.

I heard an illustration recently that explains this a little differently. It says that life is like the two rails to a train track. One rail represents blessing, the other represents trial. As we move along the tracks of this life, we will always travel forward with blessing. However, with the blessing there will also be trial.

We experienced this firsthand in my family this past week.

A couple months ago our pastor announced that a children’s choir from Uganda would be coming to perform at our church, and that they would need housing for a couple nights.

After discussing it with my husband, we decided that we would volunteer to be one of the host families to have a group of these children in our home.

Then, a couple weeks ago, my daughter had her six month checkup with her doctor. It was discovered that her hips are not developing correctly. After a visit to the orthopedist, it was determined that she would need to wear a hip abduction brace for the next three months.

I was able to hold the tears back long enough to get us both in the car.

As a mom, receiving news that something isn’t right with your child, no matter how serious the situation is never an easy pill to swallow.

The choir arrived on a Sunday. We arrived at the church early to meet the three girls and their adult host who would be staying with us. Our church was packed that evening, and they gave an outstanding performance!

After it was over, we all packed into our minivan and took them to our home. Almost immediately after we walked in the front door, everyone headed straight for the room that sits next to our entryway. The french doors were wide open revealing our collection of musical instruments. My husband’s hand-drums beckoned them.

img_20170212_201108.jpg
After a short jam session we all said goodnight. It had been a long day for them, and we would have time to visit with them more the next day – but not until after my daughter had her appointment in the morning to get her brace.

Yes. The very same day we experienced the blessing of visiting with and serving our guests from Uganda, learning more about their culture, singing songs, playing board games, coloring pictures and making sculptures with homemade play-dough, was also the day we stepped into this trial with our sweet baby girl.

This may seem to be a small representation of my point, especially in comparison to the circumstances others find themselves in, but I hope it paints a picture that blessing and trial can, and do, exist together.

the-tracks-of-life

Sometimes we have to intentionally look for the blessings when the fire of trial is thick. The best way I have found to see through the smoke is gratitude.

Gratitude has an amazing way of placing our vision beyond the visible details of our reality. It helps to take our focus away from our own abilities and puts it on His.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~Phil 4:6-7

Gratitude leads to peace.

Thank you Lord that know her. You formed her.

Thank you that her doctor found the problem early in her life, when it’s more easily correctable.

Thank you for placing such a great blessing on our path alongside this trial.

 

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Begin Again

snow melting off tree

It’s been almost six months now since I’ve written a post here. After welcoming our new little blessing into the world I knew I would need to take some time away from writing. Time spent sleeping quickly took precedent over time spent blogging.

But for awhile now I’ve been longing to start again. There is so much on my heart to write about. So much has happened in the past few months.

I don’t know where to begin.

This has been the barrier blocking me from starting – knowing where to begin. And because I am prone to over-complicate things, I’ve wanted my first post to be perfect – whatever that means.

I finally decided that I need to put off my prideful requirement for perfection. To begin again simply means I need to begin!

I love writing with the purpose to encourage and inspire others.

However this post is different.  This is simply meant for me to get past that initial step of hitting ‘publish’. It is my attempt to just begin again.

Now that I have gotten this out of the way, along with my nagging desire to construct an impeccable first post, I’m hoping to get back in a routine of doing this thing I love.

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Welcoming Selah Grace – Her Story of His Glory

I sat quiet for a moment after the doctor left the room, trying to wrap my mind around the words just spoken..

“..we need to induce today.”

I had imagined spending those first few hours of labor in the comfort of my living room. Maybe watching a couple episodes of Daniel Tiger with my kids while my husband rubbed my back – or maybe taking a family walk around the block.

Induction was definitely not my preferred method of getting the labor process started.

But at this moment, experiencing my ideal plan for labor no longer held the same weight of significance. My mind was quickly refocused towards delivering a healthy baby.

“A drop this low of amniotic fluid could be a sign that something else is wrong”.

I gently placed my hand over my tummy and asked the Lord to, again, protect the child He had placed there.

This was not the first time I prayed this prayer during my pregnancy. My 9 week ultrasound revealed that there had been a minor abruption of the placenta – which basically means that a small portion of the placenta tore away from the wall of the uterus. It’s a condition that could potentially be very dangerous to the health of a growing baby. I immediately asked family, friends and my church to be praying for the protection of my child and that my womb would be a safe and healthy place for her to grow.

At my 20 week ultrasound, there seemed to be no evidence that the abruption had ever been there!

From that point, the pregnancy proceeded without further complications – until about 36 weeks.

I was suddenly measuring small so the nurse scheduled me for another ultrasound the following day. This revealed that my fluid was a little low (about 9cm), but the doctor didn’t seem too worried at this point. He scheduled me for another ultrasound and a non-stress test the following week, just to be sure.

Sure enough, it had dropped even lower – 6.8cm.

Another ultrasound scheduled for Monday.

“If it drops below 5cm, we will need to induce”.

Monday morning came – along with the news of my pending induction.

Things didn’t really start to progress until Noon on Tuesday.

thick of labor

in the thick of labor

Then, on June 28th at 1:13pm, after about an hour of INTENSE labor, my baby girl was given to me to hold for the first time.

a mothers first look

mama and baby finally meet

There are no words to describe the rush of emotions wrapped up in this moment. Nothing else in the world matters other than the fact that labor is over and my child is in my arms.

And even though I’ve experienced this twice now with my other two children, the feelings sparked by the moment seemed fresh and new.

It’s amazing – and all consuming.

Unfortunately the emotional flow was put on hold as I realized something was wrong.

“Megan, we need you to push again.”

This didn’t come as too much of a surprise, knowing that the placenta still needed to be delivered.

But after a few minutes of pushing the doctors determined that it was not going to come on it’s own.

“We are going to have to manually remove your placenta… and it’s going to hurt.”

Thankfully the removal was fast! And thankfully, there were no other complications!

Praise the Lord!

However, it was pretty clear that the placenta was the source of the problem.

Wow – it looks like someone shredded it” was my husband’s reaction.

“..yea – I’m glad you guys had her today” the nurse added.

It was torn up pretty bad.

I’m not a doctor. I don’t know for certain – but because there were issues with the placenta towards the beginning of the pregnancy, then again towards the end, it’s easy to speculate that something was wrong the whole time.

I truly believe that God answered my prayer. Her surroundings may have not been safe, yet He was protecting her. He made my womb an environment in which she could grow and be healthy. Isn’t that just like God?!?!

While she was only minutes old, her life was already a story of His glory – a story of how He can take what’s broken and make it whole; sustain the unsustainable; mend what has been damaged; and how only He can cause growth and life.

Baby Selah Grace

Baby Selah Grace

Thank you, Lord for this precious blessing you have given to my family. Thank you for the way her life has already been a display for Your glory! I know You have big plans for her future!

 

 

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These Are The Days Of…

As I count down the days to my due date, I find my mind caught between two longings. One is the anticipation of the certain near future. The other is a yearning to embrace each moment of my present position.

Although I think both of these desires are right and necessary, I can so easily get caught in that place of anxiously wishing baby would come, and I forget to look around me to soak in all this goodness. All this beauty. All this joy and love in the very midst of where I am sitting right now.

I just finished the book Simply Tuesday (highly recommend it!) in which the author, Emily Freeman discusses the importance of seeking His kingdom within the small, mundane moments of living – to embrace our smallness in light of His presence; and even though He is always with us, why it is important for us to invite Him into our simple daily routines.

She also shared one of her daily rituals that I am planning on adopting. She has a section of her journal which she has named “These are the days of…”. Each morning she prays about and lists some of the small moments which make up her current season of life.

This twinkling of space in the life of my family is precious – one that I will never get back.

In the days remaining, I want to walk the line between this anticipation and embracing with a careful balance.

I thought Emily’s little exercise would be appropriate for me to do for this in-between time.

These are the days of…

Just the two of them

  • Just the two of them
  • Pancakes for dinner
  • Allowing routine and schedules to fly out the window
  • Taking longer, slower walks
  • Serving my family first
  • Picnics in the park
    Picnic in the Park
  • Enjoying these warm summer nights on the patio with my husband
  • Teaching them to make Rice Krispy Treats
  • Reading my daughter her first chapter book (Little House on the Prairie)
  • Extended snuggles with my son, who will soon no longer be the baby
  • Consuming mass amounts of watermelon by the pool
    Watermelon by the pool
  • Preparing their hearts for their sister

These are the moments I want to envelop. These are those small moments I want to invite God’s presence into. To breathe in every ounce of sweetness they have to offer.

Because change is coming. And although this change will bring new goodness, new joy, new memories, and new love – it will be different than this season which currently surrounds me.

 

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Preparing The Hearts of My Children For Their Baby Sister

Preparing the hearts of children for baby sister

Restless nights, aching back, frequent trips to the bathroom. All these point to the fact that our new baby girl will be arriving soon!

Just a couple weeks left until her due date!

Although our family has already been eagerly anticipating her arrival, I want to use the time we have left to intentionally prepare the hearts of my children for their new baby sister.

Adding a new baby to a family is a huge adjustment for all, especially for young children who spend a majority of their day with Mommy. Much of the time that I have been spending with them will now be spent towards tending to the many needs of our new little blessing.

Here are a few ways I want to prepare the hearts of my children for the arrival of their new baby sister.

  1. Pray for her together.
    This is definitely the best way to knit our hearts together in love for her. Even though young minds may not yet fully understand the power of prayer, I believe it still forms deep impressions in their hearts and desires.
  1. Read books about new babies.
    From our multiple trips to the Library over the last few months, I’ve been able to find some great children’s books that discuss and describe life with a new baby.
    When You Were Inside Mommy
    The Berenstein Bears New Baby
    I’m A Big Brother
    I’m A Big Sister
    On The Night You Were Born
  1. Encourage them to talk to her.
    It’s never too early to begin the sibling bonding process. Both my kids have come to love these moments of talking to their sister while she is still in Mommy’s tummy – especially since she has arrived at the stage of being able to hear their voices. When we read books together, I remind them that she is able to hear the stories too. This has made them feel like she is already involved in many of our routines. My daughter has even come to love signing lullabies to her at bedtime.
  1. Work together to prepare for her arrival.
    Folding blankets, wiping out the stroller and car seat, and folding and putting away new clothes are some of the ways my kids have enjoyed helping me prepare for her arrival. Having them begin to assist in these small ways will hopefully begin to develop an understanding that caring for a new baby requires help from every family member. I want them to feel like they have an important role to play.
  2. Start practicing more self-entertainment.
    Because I’m anticipating the needs of a new baby to consume much of my time, I’ve started to create more unscheduled space in our day – time which they must find ways to entertain themselves. I recently read the book, Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World, in which Kristen Welch states..“Our children need to be bored. They need to kick their feet and wait outside of bathroom doors, unanswered. They need to be sent outside or to their rooms to play. They need to turn over the bag of tricks and find it empty. Because that’s when they will discover they don’t need stuff to fill their time. They don’t need a plan for entertainment. They can create their own.”Thankfully, I’ve come to realize that it is not my job to provide their every entertainment and activity. Building villages for ladybugs, constructing blanket forts, and creating rock collections are a few of the ways I’ve enjoyed watching their creativity unfold.

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Finding the Balance Between the “Ifs” and “Yes’s” of Motherhood

ifs and yes's

A look of defeat forms on her sweet face. The thought comes to my mind..

 …have I been putting too much pressure on her lately?

“Sweetie, do you feel like mommy has been asking too much from you?”

She looks up at me, her eyes filling mine with the overwhelming answer.

I knew instantly her reaction was genuine. I knew it because I felt the undeniable sense of the Lord’s conviction.

I had been expecting far too much of her over the past few weeks, and I had not been giving her the assurance that she was, unknowingly, desperately seeking.

She nods her head as the tears start streaming down her cheek. I pull her close as I feel the warm moisture begin to flood my own.

It’s a moment I despise, yet cherish at the same time. The emotion pierces my heart to its core, yet gratitude rises from the wound. I loathe the fact that I’ve caused her to feel this way, yet I’m thankful the Lord opened my eyes to its truth.

As a mom, I want to find a healthy balance in showing my conditional and my unconditional approval towards my children.

I’m hanging out over at the blog Me Too Moments For Moms today. Come read the rest of
Finding the Balance Between the “Ifs” and “Yes’s” of Motherhood over there!