Many moons ago, I was trained by a well meaning coach to run in a few races on a track team in Junior High. For some reason, my coach thought I could run fast. So I was told to run sprints. Lots of sprints which of course resulted in shin splints (whatever those are). During this season of my life, my prayer life grew. Every day during the spring, I would pray for rain so we would not have to practice or go to track meets.
I clearly remember one spring day when my coach informed me that I would be running the 300 meter hurdles at the track meet on Saturday. Out of pure respect and no knowledge of the race, I agreed. Big mistake.
Saturday morning came and I dutifully walked to the starting line for the 300 meter hurdles. I tightened my cleats and settled my feet into the starting blocks. Feeling like I actually had a chance to win a race, I took off running when the gun fired. There are 8 hurdles in this race. During my race, I jumped the first few hurdles. But then, I just got tired. The rest of the hurdles were kicked over by me and I just focused on the running portion of the race. I did my job, I ran my race, and I went back to praying for rain.
Sometimes life has hurdles (especially when we get tired). Even after all our Lenten work, we experience hurdles during our daily faith race. But with the cross behind us and the power of the Holy Spirit within us, there are many ways to overcome these hurdles. From someone with experience getting over hurdles, you have permission to be creative with the hurdles in your life. We can jump over, kick, crawl under, run around or even pick them up and throw them to the side.
Hurdle Handling Tips:
- When the day begins, put your feet on the floor by your bed and put your agenda down. Ask God for God’s agenda. This will help you prepare for and quickly see any hurdles that may come up during your day.
- When the starting gun goes off, run towards your goal like you will win and succeed. Kick that first hurdle of doubt to the side. Keep running.
- When you begin to encounter negative people who like to invite you to their misery party, stare that invitation right in the eyes and decline the invitation. Smile if it makes you feel better. No one has time for negativity or gossip when living for a higher purpose. Focus on the blessings around you instead. That will make you genuinely smile with joy.
- When you begin to get tired of running and jumping all day, sit down for fifteen minutes every two hours and do nothing (set a timer if you have to). Don’t worry, you will still get everything done that you need to do, but you will stay centered and aware of God’s presence while doing it.
- When the wind begins to blow you backwards, call that person that lifts you up! Tell them that you are feeling weak and invite them to run along beside you for a while. If your hurdle is really stubborn, call your pastor or counselor. Make an appointment and take care of that hurdle together.
- When you are ready to quit, remember that you are not alone. A great cloud of witnesses surround you and are cheering for you from the bleachers. There is a little bit of all of them in you.
- When you see the finish line, lean into those last few strides. All of your dedication, patience, faith, hard work, and prayers will carry you over that line and into the arms of your Coach who knew you could do it all along!
Let the award ceremony begin!
This week, take some time to ask the people you love in your tent about the hurdles they are facing. What is their hurdle? How are they handling it? How can your tent be supportive? Where is God at work in the situation?
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.Hebrews 12:1-3
From Our Happy Hurdle Jumping Tent to Yours,
Not long ago, Mr. Bell left the door to our tent open just a little too long and our furry friends, Sam and Ivy, took advantage of the opportunity. They ran for it. In their excitement and their new freedom in the neighborhood, they lost the ability to hear. Mr. Bell’s voice rose with each moment as he yelled and yelled. Sam, heal. Ivy, come here. Sam! Ivy! SAM! IVY! SAM! IVY! The more he yelled the more they ran.
As they ran, a man began to approach Mr. Bell. This man works with our neighbors to keep their yard beautiful all year long. When the man got close enough to Mr. Bell, he asked curiously, “Excuse me, I assume that Sam and Ivy are the names of your dogs.” Mr. Bell quickly said yes and explained how they got out of the house. The kind man then said, “My name is Sam Ivy.” For the last several minutes, Mr. Bell had been passionately yelling for Sam and Ivy the dogs, and a man named Sam Ivy was right there in front of him.
The pace of our modern lives keeps us running at a rate that is unprecedented (kind of like our furry friends Sam AND Ivy who just could not stop running). Even if families desire to live a simpler, less busy life, it is next to impossible in a modern world. In the book, Busier Than Ever, three anthropologists followed fourteen carefully selected families for several years in hopes of discovering the answer to “Why American Families Can’t Slow Down.” They quickly discovered that busyness is the common factor in American families. It is the new normal. Never before have families been so consumed with busy schedules and lifestyles.
Busyness becomes a problem when it becomes our identity. If we identify as a busy person, then we organize our life to fulfill that role in the community. We roll out of the garage with one door still open, we text instead of call, we panic when we are running behind, and apologize way too much for failing to achieve our unrealistic expectations we set for ourselves for the day (makes me tired just typing the words).
On the other hand, our true identity is in Christ first and always. Each of us is created by God in the image of God. Each one of us is as unique as our earthly names on our birth certificates. This is true for you and Sam Ivy. When we live from our identity in Christ, we begin to discover less is more and subtraction actually equals spiritual additions to our life journey.
The next time you find yourself in a situation like Mr. Bell. One of those days when you have more to accomplish than possible and the dogs get out. At that precious moment when you are yelling at the top of your lungs and an angel of God walks up to ask if you are truly calling for help, take a deep breath (maybe your first deep breath of the day). Because the God who created you and knows you by name is able and capable of teaching you a precious lesson through your own Sam Ivy experience. Only God can create that kind of moment.
Come near to God and he will come near to you.James 4:8
From our Happy Tent to Yours,
“Today, I just shut my mouth…and it hurt,” she said from the back seat. “I wanted to keep talking, but I just didn’t. It was so hard.” At school she engaged a person about an interpretation of the Bible that she fully disagreed with. It is no secret that we enjoy a good theology discussion and/or debate in our tent. It’s just what we do. Being the wise teenager in the family, she realized her view of the conversation and the other person’s view were so different, that it was necessary that she just shut her mouth. And she did. But it wasn’t easy. Impressive.
After we listened to the whole story, she had our attention. We responded with affirmations like, “Wow, we are proud of you,” and “How did it feel?” Then we wondered about all the conversations we experienced that day. Did we miss a few opportunities to shut our mouth? Probably. Then I remembered why I often don’t shut my mouth…anxiety.
Anxiety is a funny friend. It comes when I least expect it and takes up residence within the empty spaces of my mind. Then, some way it drops into my mouth and comes out in strong words. The lucky (unlucky) recipient of these words does not appreciate them. But words from anxiety do not have a return policy. Once they leave the mouth, we own them. Forever. A side effect of sharing our anxiety with others through words is that their anxiety increases as well. A never-ending cycle. Unless…I shut my mouth!
One way I gently manage my anxiety is to fill my mind with positive thoughts so there is no room for anxiety. Here are a few mantras that often do the trick. We chose one a day this week as we headed out the door into the big wonderful world. See if you can use one.
- Be a warrior, not a worrier.
- Be still and know that I am God.
- This is where I end and they begin.
- I am loved. I am safe.
- Wag more, bark less.
- Don’t believe everything you think.
- Always choose joy.
- Let go of what you cannot control.
As we head into the holidays, we can purposely not invite anxiety to the party and fill our tents with positive mantras, sacred scripture and the Holy Spirit. With all three of these friends at the table, we are sure to have a day full of thankfulness and love.
Kind words are like honey, sweet to the soul and healthy for the body. Proverbs 16:24
Dear God, help me to just shut my mouth…even if it hurts.
From our Happy tent to yours,
Stanton Studios is located in Central Texas…in the woods. They are an art company that specialize in wood, glass and metal, including blown glass. In the fall, they make blown glass pumpkins for visitors. I made an appointment one day and our search for the precious pumpkins began.
Driving down a country road, we talked about…about nothing really. “Minecraft passenger” was aggressively looking for Atlantis at the bottom of ocean world. “Book-reading passenger” was lost in another world. As we drove deeper into the woods, the pilot and co-pilot were wondering if this pumpkin trip was still a good idea.
When we arrived, we were warmly greeted, carefully instructed and perfectly coached. One at a time we watched our color choices melt into the hot, hot glass before it was transformed into a precious pumpkin. The experience was fascinating and satisfying. We created our own precious pumpkins with our own breath. Magical.
But it really wasn’t magic that made our precious pumpkins. It was the artist. The man in the warehouse that had worked long hours, many months, and years to master the art of blown glass. He made the experience seem effortless, but we know it took a lot of effort on his side of the experience.
Our lives are like the precious pumpkins. God is the artist. Some days life just seems magical. We enjoy the people around us, the fall colors, hope, joy, and peace. But it is not really magic that we are experiencing. A lot of effort created the opportunity for us to freely live everyday. Because we are precious pumpkins to God, Jesus made a way for us to experience “magical” days every day. These days may be available, but we often live with agendas in our tents that prevent us from the full experience of life.
If your happy tent is looking to experience a little more hope, joy, and peace, here are a few tips that helped us create our precious pumpkin adventure:
Availability: First, make yourself available for an experience…a precious life experience. This may mean that you will miss a few gatherings, games or meetings. It may even mean that you leave the dirty laundry in the hamper and the dishes in the sink a little longer (Don’t worry your friends will still love you and the work will be there when you get back). Simply making yourself available for something different causes you to hurry less and focus more on what is truly precious around you (Hint…it is not Minecraft, work, phones or books).
Show up:Talking about something is one experience. Doing something is another. We knew about these precious pumpkins for a while, but kept finding reasons to not go. What have you wanted to do for a while? Get on the road and do it…even if you have to travel through the woods to get there! Leaving our comfort zones and trying something new can be uncomfortable or even frightening. But for all that we lose, look how much we gain.
Experience it: Creative moments are full of potential. Creative moments help us experience the color and the depth that life offers. Creative moments make space for better conversations and insights. Everyone in your tent is a precious pumpkin. As long as we have breath, we have the opportunity to breathe life into the people around us that is full of creativity, hope, joy, and peace. Together, discover an experience that takes your breath away.
When our precious pumpkin patch was complete, we noticed the beauty in each pumpkin and the beauty in the pumpkins together. Each pumpkin is shaped differently and colored differently. On our dining table, they look good together. They are precious pumpkins in this precious life.
Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 1 Colossians 3:1-2
From our Happy Tent to Yours,
P.S. Stanton Studios also makes Christmas ornaments if you are looking for a way to experience your own creative moment.
Grateful. This word is constantly growing in our hearts and in our tent. Over the summer, I found a hat with the word “Grateful” written across the front. In seconds, I grabbed the hat, paid for it and left the store. Grateful…exactly! I knew it was the right word to describe the feeling in my soul. Unconsciously I had been on a search to discover the feeling reverberating within me. It was a deep, overwhelming feeling. For a while it didn’t have a name.
Even happy tents have bad days, weeks or months. Ours is no different. One day in May, just before preparing dinner, our plans suddenly changed. Before we could process what was happening, we were in an emergency room, an ambulance, another emergency room, a cat-scan, an ICU room, a surgery waiting room and then another one and then another one. Our precious daughter was in the biggest fight for her life in her thirteen years and we were there as parents. Scared, confused, loving parents.
The hours turned into days, the days turned into weeks and the weeks even turned into months. Months of symptoms, medications, appointments, healing, recovery and processing. Months.
In the midst of our happy tent nightmare, the things that we needed the most constantly appeared. The right doctor, the right nurse, the right test, the right card, the right meal, the right friend, the right text, the right diagnosis, the right family member, the right prayer, the right hospital, the right time, the right result, the right treatment, and the right place continuously began to appear. Almost like it was falling out of the sky right into our laps. One morning in the ICU room, I found myself eating a cookie for breakfast. I texted a friend telling her that I was having cookies for breakfast and I didn’t even know where they came from. She quickly responded, “Manna.” Manna from heaven.
I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. Exodus 16: 4
A grateful heart sees beyond the immediate moment into all of the moments before this one. A grateful heart swells with emotion where words disappear. A grateful heart pours out its tears of deep joy that flow back into the well of gratitude that runs within all of us. A grateful heart takes note of the smallest details in life.
As the fall leaves begin to fall and the season changes, we are grateful. Grateful for community, prayers, friends, family, snuggles, hot chocolate, warm blankets and more days together in our tent. And for the buckets and buckets of manna!
From our Happy and Grateful Tent to Yours,
In the back corner of our yard lives Roody the Rabbit. Roody is a black New Zealand rabbit. He is fat and happy. Every day he keeps the same routine. He eats rabbit chow with alfalfa hay and drinks water. Every day, all day.
This week, Roody took a field trip to the local youth expo where all the youth in the county gather with their animal friends once a year. It’s a real barn yard. Goats. Sheep. Steers. Pigs. Rabbits. Llamas. Chickens.
Roody rode into the barn with confidence in his cage. With his ears back and his tail out, he patiently waited while he was checked into the barn. He knew the routine because he has been through it before. He settled into his temporary cage and endured his pre-show grooming routine. When the time came, the judge looked him over from ears to tail. After the cameras and smiles. Roody came home with another blue ribbon. Roody the Rabbit did his job.
We each have a job to do as well. As followers of Christ, individually and as families, we have a job to represent our living faith in all that we do. The way we do this is through creativity. We creatively look for moments of opportunity at work to treat others with respect. At home, we invest in the moments of conversation that reach beyond the superficial and reach into our souls. Around town, we quietly pray for people we meet at the store, the bank or the cafe. And when that moment comes that we need to speak up for those who are voiceless, we speak truth. Our job is to set others free from darkness by sharing the light of Christ. Each day, every day.
At the end of the day, after the sun goes down we reflect on our day. We ask ourselves if we did our job. Did we come home with a blue ribbon today? God has an endless supply of blue ribbons and sees an endless supply of needs for us to meet.
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17
From Our Happy Tent to Yours,
In the early, early morning hours at the beginning of a road trip, I was asked this question, “Do you know where my white alligator is?” It would make sense if the question came from one of our younger members in the family. But this question came from my life partner and could only be answered after a period of silence. “Are you kidding me?” (I am sure he felt my hidden love in that response somewhere.)
For the past 24 hours, we have been preparing for another family road trip across part of our country. We sent numerous texts to each other about when we will leave, whose car we are taking, and what route we wanted to take. We actively took care of the to-do list. Snacks. Check. Luggage. Check. Movies. Check. Cash. Check. Children. Check. Teamwork. Check.
If the first question of the day was about the location of the allergy medicine, I knew the answer. If it was about leaving the garage door opener for the house sitter, I knew the answer. If it was about paying a bill, I knew the answer. If he needed to know the social security number of anyone in the car, I knew the answer! BUT the question he asked is one that I could not answer. I honestly do not know where his white alligator is located at the moment. Sigh.
Jesus is an expert in asking questions. The New Testament is full of Jesus questions. Why are you so afraid? Why do you doubt? What is it you want? Do you love me? His questions went beyond the obvious and invited his followers into a deeper understanding.
One of His best questions is “Who do you say I am?” He asked this question while with his Disciples. Peter courageously answered, “You are the Messiah.”
In life, we may know all the answers about our home, family, and career. We may even know a lot about faith. We probably know the location of the extra car keys or if we are out of butter in the fridge. We often pride ourselves in knowing how to answer a question when asked by others. But sometimes we are asked a question that we do not know how to answer. (Especially if it is about a stuffed white alligator!)
No matter how much we know, it is always a good idea to know the answer to this question. In the midst of all that you know, do you also know about the abundant, grace filled life that only Jesus can give us if we truly know who he is today and every day? If so, live it.
If not, Jesus is a good person to get to know for his was present when the white alligator was created, after all.
I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me. John 10:14
From our Happy Tent to Yours,
Since the day our daughter could talk, she asked for a horse. She is an animal lover. She used to say, “I am a REAL animal lover” when she was younger. A lot of animals have been adopted into our tent over the years. A hamster that liked to bite, a dog on Christmas morning, a chicken that was actually a rooster, a turtle rescued from a parking lot, a snail who had babies, another dog, rabbits that won a blue ribbon, another dog, huge stinky pigs, and a fish just so the child would sleep in her own room. But there has always been one animal that was missing from the collection, a horse.
The tent managers (aka parents) are just like all 40 year olds that end up owning a horse. We are wondering how we got to this point. Of course, we told our daughter she could have a horse one day. It takes a super power to tell her beautiful blue eyes “no.” But we always assumed “one day” would never show up. Surely, she would out grow this horse fixation. Surely, she would realize the amount of time (and money) that goes in to owning a horse. Surely we could delay this request until she is in her 40’s and has a place to board the horse. Surely, surely, surely!
As the horse requests started to come on more frequently after we moved to the country, we made a deal with our horse loving daughter. “If” she was willing to help cover the costs for the horse expenses, “then” we would get her a horse. Before we knew it, she was a Red Cross certified babysitter with business cards, a loyalty card (Every 7th babysitting job is free!) and adorable two-year-old clients.
Happy the horse (he actually came with that name) joined our family in January. Every morning for a month, we have been at the barn at sunrise and sunset, feeding Happy. Three times a week our daughter throws a saddle on Happy and they trot off together through the pastures. They are a beautiful site together. And of course, we all love Happy because he makes us happier.
The 40 year olds in the house (who now own a horse) have learned a lot in this experience.
- Children have dreams and we need to help them achieve their dreams. The spirit of youth is contagious. We all need a little more fairy dust, horse riding and magic moments in our lives.
- Animals teach us about life. Animals are loyal, interesting and social. Life with nature awakens all our senses. The more we experience animals in this life, the more we appreciate creation.
- Responsibility is good for children. Where else will children learn to be responsible Christians? Our tents are full of opportunities to teach responsibility. If we take these opportunities away, we are taking away tickets to success.
- Honor your promises. We made a deal. Our horse lover kept her side of the bargain. We had to keep ours. We all learned a lesson in this deal.
We pray our tent is always a place filled with dreams and life lessons that teach life skills. What dreams are alive in your tent? How can you help make them come true for you and others?
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10
From our Happy (the Horse) Tent to Yours,
Past the kitchen and unmade beds, I discovered (felt) the meaning of the mantle. It seems that more life lessons happen for me when the dishes are in the sink and the laundry needs to be folded. Ordinary moments. Because my responsibilities for the day were more than I wanted to handle, I retreated to my prayer closet. I didn’t have much to say. I just wanted to sit for a moment.
Then I saw a picture of an old friend. It was taped to a wall in my quiet place. My old friend, long ago, passed a mantle on to me. In his kitchen (with dishes in the sink), he reminded me of all the times we had shared together in life. All the good conversations we enjoyed about God, faith, mystery and journaling. Then he said, “It’s time for you to take the mantle. I’m too old and too tired.” With a smile and tears rolling down my face, I agreed to receive his gift and commission.
The mantle is a symbolic term for passing on leadership from one person to another. Elisha and Elijah (the great prophets of the Old Testament) set the bar for the mantle.
Elisha picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. He took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, saying, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” When he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over. Kings 2:13-14
I believe that we may be wearing more than one mantle at a time. There are many callings on our lives. Friend, sister, father, teacher, brother, mother, child, mentor, employee, employer, Christian, leader, advocate. I have come to understand there are different phases of the mantle that are always active.
Everyday training takes place. It may feel like carpool, dinner, homework and chaos, but it is really a training ground for the next mantle team. We train up children and teach them about the spiritual life. We teach about Elisha and Elijah and all the other Holy stories. We guide, correct and encourage. We love constantly. We pray, pray, pray that all these moments will grow into another beautiful light for Christ in this world.
The weight of it can truly be felt. The constant call to lead, produce, solve and understand. It calls for creativity and availability. We cast visions. We build teams. We faithfully live out our daily lives in a way that shows respect for the mantle we carry and an understanding that we carry it for a small fragment of time. We pray, pray, pray that our fragment honors and pleases God.
Passing it On
With eyes that see beyond the present moment, we look for who is next. Through a relationship, we prepare the next one. With our words, we share our story. Our successes and mistakes. We bless the them. And we send them out into the world as they cross from one side to the next. We pray, pray, pray for wisdom and joy for the new one(s).
This mantle business is guided and sustained by the Holy Spirit. I wonder where you are in this Holy business? Where can you encourage those in other stages?
From our Happy Tent to Yours,
Love is in the air. According to one company on the radio, the perfect way to show that you love the man in your life is to buy him some perfect underwear. Good to know! Another radio ad suggested that this is the perfect time to buy the love of your life a star that will be named for them and recorded in the magic book. (Honestly, I wish I would have thought of that one because you would never, ever have to worry about running out of inventory or restocking the galaxy.) And another radio ad suggests to express love by investing in a new perfect, amazing, incredible mattress that will last for years to come. (This is not a bad idea!) A third grade class that we are connected to through our tent is also experiencing love. The report is that it’s hard to know who to love these days. (Adorable!)
For Christians, love is always in the air, right? Over in the New Testament of the Bible, the Apostle John (Zebedee’s son) captured a quote from Jesus that said, “A new commandment I give you: LOVE ONE ANOTHER. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Good to know!
As we move closer to the Hallmark Holiday of Love (aka Valentine’s Day), let’s add a little more love to the world around us. By adding some love around us, maybe more people will experience the love of Christ that is experienced in the blessings of clothes (and underwear), seen in the stars, felt in the comforts of home (and soft mattresses) and celebrated in the hearts of third graders.
Happy Tent Ideas for Loving Others
- Love your Neighbor–This week, choose one neighbor to check on and see how they are doing. If you are really feeling adventurous, choose a neighbor you do not know well (even if you have lived by them for 15 years!). Be traditional and deliver a box of chocolates, a batch of cookies or a loaf of bread. If you need some ideas, check out SoCe Life and the Neighboring Movement.
- Love your Spouse–Take time to discover your spouses Love Language. It will save you lots of time and energy. Surprise your spouse by doing the dishes, thanking them of their work, holding hands for no reason, writing a love note, or preparing their favorite meal (like the duck Mr. Bell keeps bringing home!). Small acts of love go a long way in a happy tent!
- Love your Children–In the coming and going of family life, sometimes the small connections get left out. If you children are still living at home, Crafty Texas Girls gives lots of idea on how to celebrate love together. I especially love the “love notes” in the shape of hearts. I have been taping them to bedroom doors this week. 14 notes and 14 days until Valentine’s Day! If your children have left the nest, find a way to connect with a phone call, a visit or a lunch date. All children (young and old) need to feel loved. They need to be reminded that they are a God’s beautiful creation.
- Love your Friends–Can you imagine a life without friends? Can you imagine a friend who does not love a box of chocolate, a surprise coffee date, a card in their mailbox or a phone call from you? Choose 14 friends and love them to pieces this month!
- Love your Self–Have you experienced a stress free day lately? Have you personally experienced God lately? Loving yourself means many things. One important aspect of self love is to make space in your life to breath deeply from the grace of God that reminds us that we are enough. We do enough, have enough and are loved enough by God’s standards. Take a nap, exercise, read a book, dream, relax and remember that God is big enough to handle everything else.
- Love a Stranger–While waiting at the doctor’s office, I found myself loving a complete stranger who was obviously anxious about their doctor’s visit. By joking that I would take their place and offer my arm for the blood sample, the stranger began to laugh and relax. Start a conversation with a stranger, you may be exactly what they needed at that moment of their life.
From our Happy and Loving Tent to Yours,