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All I Ever See is this Manna

24 Jan

The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat!  We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.  But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!”  Numbers 11:4-6

Most Judeo-Christian believers know the story of the manna and the quail.  While the Israelites were wandering in the desert for 40 years, nourishment was scarce.  Conditions made it impossible for them to cultivate anything for themselves. God, in order to prove to them that he sees and sustains, fed them every morning with a miraculous wafer-like substance they called “manna.” The whole thing exhibited His limitless power over nature, all while repetitively nourishing them.

And in just a few paragraphs, they are over it.  This wasn’t a quiet objection, either.  It was a complete uproar: “Moses heard the people of every family wailing at the entrance to their tents.”  Wailing.  “We never see anything but this manna!”  Paraphrased, they thought: miracle or not, this food is so boring and monotonous that we would rather regress.

This story has always stumped me!  They had come out of Egypt via spectacular, supernatural, showstopping miracles.  On top of that, God performed a DAILY feeding miracle for them.  And here they are objecting?  His sustenance was delivered to them without a drop of individual or collective effort, and they are not impressed at all.  This is preposterous!

What a picture of humanity.  What a picture of me.


The physical story of the manna represents a spiritual reality.  Manna each morning sounds familiar… sounds like our daily bread, from the bread of life, Christ, who taught that man does not live on bread alone but from every word that comes from the mouth of God.  In a great mystery, He himself is the Word become fleshChrist even calls himself the Manna.   

HERE IS WHERE I AM THE ISRAELITE.

When I wake up in the morning, I look at my Bible and my prayer journal and think, “Meh.  Blah.  This again? I know all about it.  The Word, your love, and the security of salvation?  Bo-ring.  Yawn.  You know what would be interesting?  Fixing the thing.  Getting me out of this dang desert even if it means going backwards.  I am totally fine with backwards in this case. 

I have been in a dreadfully long season of pain and disappointment in a certain area.*  Emotional desert.  I have years of built-up head knowledge to rationalize every emotion that I experience in this wilderness…but all the knowledge and striving in the world doesn’t extinguish even one drop of the heartache.

I know everything I need to know to overcome all of this.  I know God works everything for the good for those whom he has called.  I know he uses the pain to shape us into His creation.  I know He will be faithful to complete his good work in me.  I know that in this world we will have trouble, and that these fiery trials come to prove our faith to be genuine.

I know all these things; I have the manna in my hand.  But I crave other things…glory, prosperity, significance…elusive stuff I had in the past and stuff I see all the other people enjoying.  I have to move through my day in these disappointing circumstances…and THAT’S IT.  No change in events.  New day, same feelings, same Lord. 

This manna is boring!  I want more.  I want the thing.  

The Israelites decided they were bored with the manna, but they could not have gone long without eating it.  Even though it was boring, it physically sustained them so they ate it anyway.  In my own desert, I can willingly go for ages without taking my daily bread portion, but at what cost to my spiritual health? 

There is a sermon in that.  Eat it anyway.


So, this is an impasse.  What do we do with this?  What do I do with this same ol manna? 


Humble yourself.  Who the heck do I think I am?  Look at the words spoken to Job: Brace yourself.  Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?  Does the shorebreak of the ocean obey you?  Can you trace the path of light all the way back to its source?  You wouldn’t dream of approaching the nest of a simple cobra in the wild—but you sure seem to have enough courage to question its Maker.  Do you think you are going to get out of the consequences of living in a sin-shattered world?

Bad things happen.  Yes, even to you.  Not exactly a devotional Sarah Young would include in Jesus Calling, yet helpful to maintain correct perspective on dreadful circumstances.

Acceptance.  Acceptance isn’t natural.  It’s equated with quitting/giving up, but it’s not.  Americans in particular have a hard time with the concept of “there is nothing we can do about this.”  Acceptance is hard, it’s a personal journey, and some arrive sooner than others.  Still, try.  Go through the motions of saying you accept it.  Be willing to say, “I can’t fix this, but HE can.  I am willing to step out of the way and let Him work.”  Improved feelings will eventually arrive.

Ask this question: If Jesus comes back tomorrow, does any of this matter?  We are so bad about living in the future, and getting so bummed out about that notional hypothetical possibility.  (I am 100% stuck on this right now.)  Let’s keep our head down and eyes on today.  Is His bread of love and salvation enough for you if the sun doesn’t rise tomorrow?  If He comes back tomorrow, His bread feels a lot more significant and valuable right now.

ID what is not boring, and thank Him for it, because all those things are from Him too.  They are part of the daily bread.  This goes back to mindful thankfulness, healthy distractions, exercising your creativity, and the myriad of other things that He puts in front of us day after day.   

Then abideEat it anyway.  Sometimes the Word is exhilarating and we come away supernaturally recharged.  Other times we open and close it with no change in feelings…but it never goes down without taking root.  Lysa TerKeurst said it best just this week: Scripture, like rain, brings us immediate nourishment and refreshment for our present circumstances (Psalm 19:7-10), but it also plants seeds to sustain us in the future (Isaiah 55:10).


It is okay to admit the manna is boring, we are human. But just because something is boring, doesn’t make it irrelevant.  Just like bread, we can’t go long without it.  Take and eat.

 

**Don’t worry your pretty little head about me.  It’s not any of the big four D’s: death, divorce, depression, disease. 

5 Green Lights for 2020

16 Jan

My husband asked me this past weekend if I had made any recent purchases from San Francisco.  I was really ticked off and impatient with his question…which reveals something about my purchase amnesia.  I could not confidently answer him yes or no.  Racking my brain and trying to remember really hard whether or not Sephora or is based in San Francisco, I insisted someone must have hacked our card.  Then I backed away slowly, and retreated to my Happy Endings reruns on my iPad. (With a hacker’s VPN running in the background to trick it out of the United Kingdom’s programming restrictions. Not to mention it.)  #imissbravo

Quietly he did more research and uncovered the mystery charge: WordPress blogging fees. (Thanks, WordPress, for the super cryptic account statement name, btw.) Oops. I inadvertently re-upped my blog for the year 2020, even though it was the absolute last thing on my mind right now.

Since we paid for it—here I am.  New year same me.  I am not here for New Year’s resolutions.  I really am only able to live my best life by the……..day.  Sometimes by the half-day.  So in lieu of resolution announcements, here are my green lights for 2020.

1. Podcasts.  Hands down, my number one most enjoyable healthy distraction.  Levity.  Maybe I am late to the party, but I’m astonished at how many people are not tapping into podcasts yet. There is so much amazing content out there!  I can also get lots of housework done instead of giving into my temptation to scroll.  I have done 18 months of field research for you, and you only really need this one: The Popcast with Jamie and Knox.

Their show wins the contest by a MILE. It’s everything popculture, and it’s a laugh a minute. This is just what I need to offset my mood-a-minute.  It’s clean humor, you can listen to it with the kids around, 99% of the time.  (Note: The green lights/red lights at the end of their episodes inspired my title.)  Also, the Urban Dictionary episodes keep my slang fresh, hundo p.  

Runners up are: Conan Needs a Friend, The Sunday Sitdown with Willie Geist, Armchair ExpertSchoolhouse Rocked.  I listen to others but these are my five favorite.

 

2. Dresses. When I am in a mood, I don’t want to get dressed, but I am not one who can go too many days in my stretchy pants.  Enter big dresses.  Dresses are the new athleisure, ladies.  Leggings are over. (But don’t throw away those Lularoe Leaning Tower of Pisa Leggings if you have them.) Put on a dress, pop your favorite jacket/hoodie/cropped sweater over top of it, and you’re done. I wear my big ol dresses with my sneakers or ankle boots…and I feel so much more pulled together than when I am in my gym clothes, and it is just as comfortable if not more. Breathing room. Bonus: sometimes I get compliments!  Here are a few pics for inspo:

10 ways to wear sneakers with dresses

don’t you want to be her?

10 ways to wear sneakers with dresses

this one probably doesnt count cause she def. did her hair

10 ways to wear sneakers with dresses

graphic tee + skirt + sneakers, who dis?

dress + leggings works too @frannfyne

3. Skin Care.  When I tell people my age, no one ever reacts with any disbelief whatsoever.  How offensive is that?!!  Maybe that is why I’ve had R&F people chasing me down for years now, and I have always run from them.  Because I didn’t want to pay those prices. Or sell it.  Then I would make it worse by telling them I am a soap and water girl.  Well, PopCast Jamie finally sold me.  Not on R/F–but on taking better care of my skin. I did some research and purchased a few products…some from the drugstore and some from Sephora. Whoa, not only can I feel a difference, I can see one.

Okay I admit: I get why R/F are so gung-ho about their hustle.  Because once you start seeing the difference, it becomes a hobby for sure.  I am like giddy to go do my face routine, AM and PM. So, for what it’s worth, I now officially recommend beginning a skin care regimen, not only for results, but to have something to do. Remember, healthy distractions.  Favorites: Dennis Gross Peel Pads, Ole Henriksen Vitamin C serum.  

 

 

also this

and this

4. Morning Time. This one is a little more serious, but the morning time routine I have with my kiddos is a HUGE green light. I come away from it feeling so encouraged by them as people, by our family situation, by God.

It’s the anchor of our day, and it’s just as much for me as it is for them.  On the best of days it takes about 90 minutes. We open with a bit of music to set the tone; we share prayer requests and pray together; we go over memory work; we read a bit of scripture aloud; we close with a missionary story/novel/poem/whatever.  When time is short, we do just the five minutes of scripture and a quick prayer.  I could blog a LOT about this…there is also a ton of content on the internet/podcasts about it.

The small amount of time we spend together is redeemed exponentially. Fun fact: 5 minutes of reading aloud per day amounts to 30 HOURS in a year. You can cover a LOT of content by reading aloud just five minutes at a time.  Try it out–set your timer and start reading.  See how far you get.  When reading the Bible with kids, stick to the 5 minute rule.  That’s it. It’s a lot and not too much all at the same time. Everyone wins.

Morning time is something you can do whether you are homeschooling or not—when my kids were in school, we did it before they left for the bus. (A 10 or 15 minute version.  Still so much ground covered.)

5. Shopping my home.  When I feel down, my heart is pulled toward retail therapy. It feels soooooooooo good. I don’t even realize how much I buy!  See story above.  Wanting a refresh isn’t necessarily wrong.  So, sometimes I shop inside my own house.

I do it in two areas: house stuff and clothing.  Shopping my house means I am redecorating/rearranging with what I already have—serveware, art, lamps, house plants, etc. All decor and furnishings tend to fade into the background over time. Having a re-do with all of it is a fabulous alternative to hitting up HomeGoods and TJ Maxx when the urge to shop looms. It really hits the refresh & makes me remember that I have a collection of wonderful things that can be featured in all sorts of combinations!  Consider restyling a bookshelf, china cabinet, corner of a room, or bathroom.

Second area: clothing. I will go in to the closet and create outfit combinations from what I already have on hand. I’ll hang them all together with the accessories.  My cleverly coordinated ensembles are set aside and waiting for the times I have no time/energy to think of an outfit.

Bonus to shopping my house: It doubles as an opportunity to declutter. 


 

Thanks for reading, friends!  I hope you all have a wonderful January and I can’t wait to hear if any one has any other newfound loves in 2020. xoxo

Two Truths to Fight off Mom-Guilt

9 Jun path of grace in parenting

mom guilt

Not enough exercise.
Their/They’re/There still stumps my 12 year old.
We move them around too much.
I let their pet bunny roast in the Texas sun accidentally.
In a rush, I threw the bunny’s corpse into the garbage in front of them.
Not enough time spent reading.
Too much yelling.
All their food is either beige or neon orange.

I delegate every request to play pretend.
They never see our other side of the family.
They don’t like team sports.
Too many empty threats.
Allowing too much screen time.
Not allowing enough screen time.
Not enough Easter egg hunts.

You read right.  I cried this past Easter, because we didn’t do an egg hunt.  To be fair, it’s not that much of a thing in the UK…not to mention they don’t have those convenient, plastic, fillable Easter eggs.  But still—the parenting anxiety that I even might have deprived my children of a candy-centric holiday custom brought out liquid tears.  I had to go check my Glow App just to see where I was in my cycle, in order to rationally categorize my Easter-onset distress.

Mom-guilt.  I have taken every trip!  Times five kids, there have been many!  You’d think I would see that guilt-trip train rushing toward me from a mile away and avoid it.  But I still get on board, after all these kids and all these parenting years later.  So many nights I crash-land into bed, ruminating over the coulda-shoulda-wouldas.   

Some of the guilt is warranted–and the conviction leads me to say I am sorry, and restore the relationship.  (Great opportunity to model the art of apology!)

But most guilt is useless and cumbersome.  It’s all self-doubt which throws me sideways and strips away my confidence.  (By the way, tripping on mom-guilt is a huge indicator that I need to rest from social media.)  This luxurious and modern American culture causes us to overthink the definition of success in parenting!  The truth is that parenting is hard, but we don’t need to get cynical or discouraged.   

Here are two thoughts that refocus me when the negative thought train comes barrelling through:   

  1. The path of grace in parenting is very wide.
    .
  2. The gospel of parenting is this: if they know they are loved they have everything.

First of all, your commitment and desire to raise children well means that you are on the right path.  No matter what side of the aisle you are on, your viewpoint on screen time, whether you stay at home or go to work, breast or bottle feed, homeschool or send them to the brick-and-mortar school.

The path…the right path…is graciously wide enough for everyone! You’re on it.

Secondly, and most importantly.  If you stripped everything away until all they had left is your love: they would have everything.  Strip off everything. Everything you consider good, bad, disappointing or super advantageous in their lives. Take it all off, and imagine their life without any of those conditions and circumstances.

Sit on that for a minute.

If it all went away, and all that remained was a tent, rice, water + your love, they would have EVERYTHING.  Everything they need to become high-functioning adults, contributing members of society, and capable of spreading this love to others.

This is old news, but it’s all we need to parent entirely guilt-free.  You can check off every box, and your children could be a total success on paper.  But if they don’t have love, they are nothing.  This is a simultaneously simple yet somehow monumental challenge!  Maybe it is just me, but I have to continually recenter on this over and over.  In this way, parenting is inherently a spiritual practice. 

Since love is action and not just a feeling–here are a few, off-the-top of my head ways to demonstrate your love to your children on the daily:

  1. Hug and kiss your children as often as they are fed.
  2. Tell them you love them–may as well be when you are giving them that hug.
  3. Listen when they share.  It is possible to disagree with them without voicing it the moment after they share with you. They need to be heard, and this is central to their feeling loved.
  4. Encourage and point out every good thing.  I have even created handwritten lists of the good things.  Because, sadly, I am much much better at keeping track of their shortcomings–such an unloving tendency.  We are not supposed to keep a record of wrongs, but we definitely ought to keep a record of rights!
  5. Discipline from a place of peace.  When it’s time to give correction or consequences, ask them to go to their room and wait for you.  Take five minutes to collect your own emotions, and even say a prayer before you approach discipline.
  6. Be quick to forgive.  We are often much harder on our kids than God is on us!
  7. Find every easy yes.  There will always be so many necessary nos.
  8. Create spaces where they can express themselves in a healthy manner.  This one is hard because we are territorial about our living space.  They want to cook, dance, make messy art, create potions, dig holes in the garden.  The home should be their haven for self expression See #7.

After all this, you have permission to sleep well at night because you gave them everything.
Let that be an encouragement to you.

Leigh

 

 

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