Social media lately is flooded with firsts and lasts. There are first communions, first dances, first cars, first steps, first solid foods. There are last recitals, last awards ceremony, last graduations, last day of school, last day to pack school lunches (Can I get an Amen?). It would be difficult not to notice all the smiling faces in the pictures or the energy in our communities. There have even been some first birthdays as new babies bounce into the world and last hugs and kisses as love ones spend their last days on earth.
Joseph Campbell once wrote, “We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.” Whether you are experiencing a first or a last this month, you are probably leaving one life and headed into a new one. You are leaving one normal and creating a new one. And if you are not experiencing this yourself, simply take a look to your left and your right, you will see someone who is. As we change from one life into the next, here are some ways to help you transition, recenter, stop, or become more aware of God’s presence:
- Sit in your God space and listen. Remember that the creator of the universe (your creator) is available. Any time. Any place. If you have a God space in your house or office…sit in it. Focus on one thing that never changes…God’s love for you!
- Make a lunch date with a friend. Spiritual friends are the best! They listen, understand, advise, support and follow up. They often know what you need before you know what you need. A lunch date will provide you with a pause between all the things you have to get done before you go to bed. Everyone can use a pause now and then.
- Plan a selfie day with just you and things you love. Watch a movie at 10am with popcorn and a coke. See two movies if you have time. Pull out your music collection and jam to you favorites. Take a nap in the middle of the day without you cell phone in the same room. Read a book just because. What brings your joy? Do it!
- Name your emotion(s). Mad, sad, angry, fearful or tender. All emotions fall under one of these top five. Once you know your emotion, you are more able to experience it and control it before it controls you. Pretending that you are not deeply experiencing one of these emotions is like pretending that nothing is changing. Pretending is exhausting.
- Plan a trip. It always helps to experience a change of scenery whether it is a day trip or a vacation. Just having one on the calendar is life giving! Shop in a new store. Visit museums in your community or close by. Reconnect with a family member or old friend and drive to their town to simply spend time together. Exploring nature in small parks or big parks like the Grand Canyon can certainly be fun! And there is always camping!!
- Take a deep breath. Sometimes when I am with my mom and I take a deep breath, she says, “Is that your first breath of the day?” Sometimes you just need to take a breath and a step, a breath and a step. Find a pace that allows your soul to catch up with your body!
- Hug your family. A one-minute hug always does the trick. (Set a timer.) One-minute to connect. One-minute to freeze time and capture the moment. One-minute of peace in the midst of chaos. Your family is experiencing many firsts and lasts together. Hugs, notes, texts, and hand-holding are all encouraged in the middle of transitions.
While you (or someone you know) is experiencing firsts and lasts this month, remember one thing. Jesus is the “author and finisher” of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:3). Jesus is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last. When we see all of life through Christ eyes, we see the whole picture. There are many firsts and lasts that we experience, but in the middle we experience a full, abundant life. That is why Jesus came to this earth and why we have faith in Christ.
Keep posting those precious pictures of your abundant life, the highs and the lows. Each day and each experience serves as a reminder that we are all in this together within the loving arms of Jesus. And Jesus is ready to give us more of an abundant life!
From our Happy Tent to Yours,
Almost nine years ago I became a mother again. After rushing to the hospital, checking and settling in, I remember a text from my spiritual director. She said, “Never again will you share the same heart beat or be completely spiritually connected with your daughter as you are now.” Time stopped when I read those words and all the activity in the hospital room stopped. I turned my attention to what was happening on the inside instead of the activity on the outside.
A baby changes everything, right? And everyone! Our baby girl took center stage in our lives. Bottles, diapers, toys, little pink socks, more toys, car seats, dresses, strollers, and more toys all moved in with her. She still changes everything. Except today life is filled with school, gymnastics, toys, friends, sleep-overs, piano recitals, dance recitals, more toys and theater. (Over scheduled…I know!)
In the midst of all this (especially in the ridiculously-overly-busy month of May), I can’t help but remember that text. It still helps me to turn my attention to what is happening on the inside, instead of the activity on the outside. I may no longer share a heartbeat with my baby, but I know her heart well. We are like old friends that have moved away from each other. When we meet again, we simply pick up where we left off. Because I know her well, it is my job to be in-tune with what is happening on the inside in the midst of the activity on the outside. It is my job to make room for life giving moments, both personally and spiritually.
I know this, because this is how I experience God. In my life that is often ridiculously-overly-busy, I depend on God to show me what is going on inside, instead of the activity outside both in myself and others. I depend on God to give me peace in chaos, hope in darkness and love. Because God shares a heart with me (and you), God shows up and gives me spiritual moments like a beautiful moon, the perfect verse from the Bible for the day, and of course encouraging words from my own mom.
Remember the story in Mark 10, when people were bringing children to Jesus so that he would bless them?The disciples scolded the children and Jesus scolded the disciples. He even grew angry and said, “Allow the children to come to me. Don’t forbid them, because God’s kingdom belongs to people like these children. I assure you that whoever doesn’t welcome God’s kingdom like a child will never enter it.” Then he hugged the children and blessed them.
We are called to do the same. We are called to create ways for children (of all ages) to have access to Jesus on the inside in the midst of the activity on the outside. Once a connection is made with Jesus, never again will we want to stand in its way.
From our Happy Tents to yours,
You never know when you will hear something that makes your heart smile. I was sitting in an emergency room with a college student and visiting with the doctor. The three of us were enjoying a conversation and then the doctor smiled and said, “Follow your energy…right?” My heart skipped a beat and I know it would have registered on an EKG machine if I was the patient. My heart simply smiled…following your energy just makes sense.
Think about children for a minute, they simply follow their energy. I clearly remember one Easter season when my toddler demanded that I buy some Easter candy as we were checking out of the store. She won. I lost. As I was unpacking the groceries at home, she strolled into the kitchen with her Halloween basket full of Easter candy. (She still makes my heart smile.) Before I knew it, we were going door to door and giving our neighbors chocolate Easter bunnies and saying happy Easter. They were as surprised as I was when they opened their front doors. She followed her energy. All our hearts smiled.
Think about young adults (and I guess all adults for that matter) for a minute. They seem to have more questions than answers about what major to declare, what job to pursue, who to date or what choice to make. I clearly remember surprising my friend (who became my husband) with a cup of coffee at work one night when we were in college. Our conversation began with a recap of our day and we shared the highlights with each other. By the time our rather short visit ended, we had decided to get married! Our hearts smiled! Follow your energy!
Think about Jesus for a minute. Remember the story of the brave woman who simply reached out and touched Jesus’ robe as he passed by and she was healed? She followed her energy and it led her to Jesus. At that very moment, Jesus recognized that power had gone out from him. Their energy collided and a miracle happened. Follow your energy…a miracle might be waiting!
When we are honest with ourselves, we can identify that “thing” that gives us energy in life. That project. That person. That dream. That idea. That place. Maybe it is time to simply follow your energy to where it leads you. It may not make perfect sense right now, but you know you are on the right path when your heart smiles.
Now we see a reflection in a mirror; then we will see face-to-face. Now I know partially, but then I will know completely in the same way that I have been completely known. 1 Corinthians 13:12
From our Happy Tent to yours,
Difficult times create great legends. People that push through. People that overcome. People that do the impossible. We all know of big legends like Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King. There are big legends in the faith story like Moses, Ruth and Paul the Apostle. There are also big legends in our families. One of our legends is Ben Andrews (my grandfather).
Ben was born in Archer City, Texas in 1900. His legend moment came during the Great Depression. The Depression changed his family and in 1924 he decided the look for work in California. As children, we were always told about his journey to California from Texas. He made the trip in a Model T Ford. While driving over the desert sand, he drove over railroad cross-ties. Bump. Bump. Bump. At the end of the day, he would simply make camp beside his car and sleep in the open. He successfully made it to Los Angeles, California, found a job, met Will Rogers and later returned to Texas. Ben lived to be 101. He was a legend in many ways.
Legends inspire us by their stories, perseverance, messages and examples. Their words cut through the noise of life and connect with something deep within each of us. As their story is told from person to person and generation to generation, they become bigger and better.
Within each of our families there are people who are legends. We hear their stories when we are in diapers and all the years following. We find ourselves telling others about our family legends at dinner parties or over lunch. Their stories are a part of our story because we stand on their shoulders and continue into the future.
This weekend one of our daughters will be making a rite of passage. She will be publicly choosing to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and make His story a part of her story. Even though she has been told about Ben Andrews (and other family legends) since she was in diapers, she has also been told about Jesus Christ. The name above all names.
As time passes and generations come and go, the one legend that we cannot fail to pass on to our families is Jesus Christ. We know that sometimes life gives us our own “Great Depression” event. In those seasons, we need our faith in Jesus Christ to help us travel from home, across the desert and to new opportunities. Our faith in Jesus Christ empowers and equips us with all that we need to survive the unexpected events in life. And when we are camping outside under the stars on our journey, we can also appreciate how we are loved by the Creator of the universe.
This weekend, share some of your family legend stories with your family and friends. And share your family’s faith story…it will only grow stronger.
I will give you as many descendants as the stars in the sky, and I will give your descendants all of these lands. All of the nations of the earth will be blessed because of your descendants. Genesis 26:4
From our Happy Tent to yours,
Happy Easter Eve! A day filled with mystery in the tomb and excitement in our hearts. We know something is coming and we are anxious to roll back that huge stone. There is a lot of energy in our home this weekend and some extra time to be home. We are simply waiting for Easter morning.
But how do we wait? By doing some good!
In our tent, we have been exploring ways to do some good. Here is our list. We hope it inspires you to do some good. We thought of ways we might make Jesus smile.
Families Doing Some Good List
- Make This Weekend About Family
We had to work at it, but we stepped out of all our extracurricular activities this weekend. Does it make us less committed or passionate about our activities…NO. It simply says, “During this Christian Super Bowl weekend…the game above all games, the win over all wins…we are going to celebrate God’s team, together! We will catch back up with the other teams and groups after the RESURRECTION!”
- Kick Off 52 Weeks of Neighboring
We just signed up for this cool idea. Check it out! SoCe Life is a non-profit organization that researches, practices and teaches about good neighboring. They have so many great ideas about neighboring. We are excited to get started.
- Make Something Sweet
We are soooo excited to end our Lenten fast from SUGAR. And so we are diving into sweetness this weekend. One of our favorite sweets to make on Easter Eve is Easter Story Cookies. Ingredients are simple. Spiritual lesson is powerful. The cookies on Easter morning are magical.
- Spread Some Joy
We got dirty today planting flowers in little clay pots. It was a lot of fun. Then we took these little pots around town and delivered them to un-expecting friends and neighbors. We spread some joy and we experienced some joy. While you are waiting around on Easter Eve…think of ways you can spread joy.
- Get Outside, Together
Bikes, scooters, roller blades, tennis rackets, fishing poles, Kubb (our all time favorite family game), camping gear and so much more live in our garage. We walk past it most days…but why not get outside this weekend together and make some memories. Be spontaneous and adventurous.
At the center of the Christian life stands Jesus. Jesus who teaches, guides, strengthens and inspires us to be who God created us to be as individuals and as families. During this Easter weekend, let’s love on each other and others a little extra by doing some good. It will make this weekend a little sweeter and happier.
For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. Galatians 5:13
Happy Easter from our Happy Tent to yours,
Do you ever notice how God shows up in the grocery store? It happens to me often. On the days when I only have a ten-minute-window to buy a grocery cart full of food, I meet someone (God) in the grocery store. These encounters always catch me off guard. Usually I have my head down and my hair pulled back with an intentional look on my face that says…”Get out of my way…I’m on on an impossible mission once again.” I must have this look down because most people stay clear.
But the other day, I had a God encounter. I met another mom on a mission. She has five children. I have two. Both our husbands are pastors. She was on her mission with her own grocery cart and it felt as though our carts simply collided. Then we looked up. We saw each other. Before we even spoke, we were communicating. Compassion. Encouragement. Love. Understanding. These feeling were all floating between us. We saw our tired selves in each other. We saw our determination in each other. We saw God in each other. When we finally found our words we skipped pleasantries. We spoke directly into our worlds as working women, moms, and wives. “How did we over-schedule our family again?” “How are we going to get everything done for today and tomorrow?” “Where is the balance that keeps alluding us?” “Does balance even exist?” With a smile of encouragement and tired eyes, we went our separate ways.
This encounter challenged me greatly regarding balance. It seems like we desire balance in our lives. We talk about it and read about it. In my mind a balanced day is a cup-of-coffee, devotional-reading, lunches-packed, hugs-and-kisses, laundry-done, dinner-on-the-table, and bedtime-story kind of day. But most of the time we experience a where-are-my-shoes, hurry-to-school, grocery-sprint, cereal-for-dinner, study-spelling-words-in-the-bathtub, fall-into-bed kind of day.
God taught me something about balance in the grocery store. In order to find peace in the midst of our schedule storms we first need to be honest. Peace will not just happen and our schedules are not going to get much better. We are hard working Americans after all! BUT we need to be intentional about creating pockets of peace and balance within our days. Little pockets of peace that give us space to catch our breath and connect with God. Little pockets of peace that empower us to keep going. In my life, they look like a phone call to my mom, a back porch conversation at the end of the day, a little love note tucked in a lunch box, fifteen minutes in my prayer closet, a quick devotional read from a book in my purse, a cup of hot tea, a quick run, a one-minute-hug, reading two chapters in a book, a thirty minute nap before pick-up, or a phone call to a friend. I don’t do all of them every day, but they are all in my “I need some peace emergency kit!” All of these little pockets of peace add up at the end of the day and they breathe new life back into my self-imposed-high-expectation-chaotic-schedule.
Even Jesus stepped away to speak to his Father. Scripture tells us that Jesus would remove himself from the crowds for a little while even though they would follow him and come looking for him. He, of all people, had an over-packed schedule during his ministry, but he knew he could serve best by staying connected to the Creator.
As we head into the end of spring and into the summer, let’s be intentional about carving out pockets of peace in our days for ourselves and our families. They will fill us, calm us and empower us to keep going as people who love God and love others.
“Be still, and know that I am God! Psalm 46:10
From our Happy Tent to yours,
I know I am in trouble when I hear God speaking about obedience. God’s knows that I can be a stubborn person. When it comes to ignoring God, you can find my name next to Biblical professionals like Jonah who ran the other way and Moses who quickly asked if Aaron could be the hero instead of Moses. Like the professionals, I tend to believe that my plans are better than God’s plans. Or my calendar reflects that I am too busy for God.
This week, God’s message has been about obedience. The word just keeps popping up. I am reading The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson and chapter seven talks about obedience. A close friend recently told me to embrace a situation…obedience. We received our tax documents from the CPA today…we will obediently (and painfully) pay our taxes another year. But the clearest message came from Rabbi Marty.
Rabbi Marty is a Messianic Jew. I gave him a call recently to invite him to host a Passover Seder meal for a college ministry. Near the beginning of the conversation he said, “Tell me the perfect day and the perfect time that you want this meal to happen?” When I told him, he quickly responded by saying, “I’ll be there.” No questions, no negotiations. Just a solid yes. When I thanked him for driving an hour to be with us and he said, “No need to thank me. I serve God, I do not serve you.” This statement was factual, clear and confident.
Rabbi Marty is an example of how obedience leads to confidence. Sometimes God asks us to do something we just don’t want to do. But when we go, out of obedience, we have confidence that God goes with us. Jonah walked into Nineveh with confidence. Moses walked up to Pharaoh with confidence. Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane met the soldiers with confidence. They all knew that they served God and they were obedient to God’s call on their lives.
During this season of personal reflection, is God asking you to be obedient? Are you embracing the opportunity or resisting it? Why?
Christ humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross. Philippians 2:8
From our happy obedient tent to yours,
Welcome to Lent. Isn’t it magnifiLENT? That season that makes us uncomfortable every day. Every day for 40 days. How are you doing so far?
This week for Ash Wednesday, I spent my lunch on a college campus offering ashes to students as they walked into their school cafeteria. To say it was just magnifiLENT is an understatement. Every one was uncomfortable. Them and me. When I tried to explain what Ash Wednesday represented, you should have seen their reactions! Imagine big eyes, puzzled looks and awkward silence while they were taking steps away from the table. Dust to dust and ashes to ashes is not a hot topic for college-age students. You won’t find anything about it on their Snapchats. Just magnifiLENT!
In our tent, we have jumped into magnifiLENT with both feet, both hands and all our mouths. Our greatest temptations enter through our mouths. The Bell women have given up sugar (for real) and Mr. Bell gave up fast-food. (I had no idea that was a staple in his diet…magnifiLENT!) And so far we are doing well…3 days into magnifiLENT.
This is a season to loosen up a little. And the best way to do that is to mix things up a bit and make some room in our lives for the work of Jesus. Some people reflect, some people serve, some people fast and some people grieve. No matter how we choose to spend the next 40 days, if we make room for Jesus, Jesus will show up in ways we can not imagine.
The Gospel of John begins with “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Among other things, this verse tells us that God is a communicator. The great communicator. God communicated God’s love for us through his son Jesus Christ and God still communicates with us daily if we will give God space to send God’s message. That is what magnifiLENT does for us. It opens up God space so God can send life-giving messages.
Isn’t that just magnifiLENT?
From our magnifiLENT Happy Tent to yours,
This is a quote my guy heard this week in a Bible study and he shared it with me. You would think that he would come home from a Bible study reciting scripture or sharing how he felt the Holy Spirit speak to him. Instead, he shared how a wise friend said, “Life is like a roll of toilet paper…the closer you get to the end the faster it goes!”
It’s funny…because it is full of truth. The brilliance is placing a common roll of toilet paper next to time. All people, no matter their race, beliefs, goals, faith, dreams, failures, degrees, successes, are able to connect with toilet paper and time. And if we can agree on the truth of these two common experiences, we can find other experiences of life to agree on as well.
For instance, Martin Buber, a philosopher and theologian, gave the world a gift when he discovered the I-Thou relationship in dialogue. In this relationship, two people turn to one another with openness and respect. This is possible because we experience this relationship with God and we can share it with others. When we encounter another person, it is possible to see them through the eyes of God. By recognizing the divine in another person, they recognize the divine in us. Buber said, “Meet the world with the fullness of your being and you shall meet God.”
At the end of the day we all struggle with the same ups and downs, gains and losses, friends and family, and personal and private events that life gives us. We are more alike than different. Toilet paper and time. Wouldn’t it be life-giving to engage the people we meet (and the people in our homes) through the blessing of an I-Thou relationship? I am pretty sure that we will be quoting scripture and sharing how we felt the Holy Spirit speak to us as we meet God there. Try it.
Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law. Romans 13:10
From our happy tent to yours,
A few years ago, we celebrated a family birthday in the “Big Ball” in Dallas (also known as Reunion Tower by people over 15-years-old). The night was memorable. What I remember the most was my mother’s experience on the observation deck. From that place in the tower, you can see the site where John F. Kennedy was assassinated. She stood there for a long time just looking at the street and the site where he was shot on her birthday so many years before. She was able to see the whole picture; where it happened, the shape and height of the buildings and the road that the driver took to Parkland Hospital. Just observing the site with her own eyes allowed her to see the whole experience differently.
Recently I have been on my own observation deck. I decided to take a step back from my life, work, my chores and myself to just observe all of it. My step back is more abstract than literal. I am still living in the busyness of life, but I am seeing it differently. I have noticed the simplicity that exists around me that I often miss. I actually saw the people in my life that make life easier for me such as the grocery workers, my child’s teacher and friends. The sunsets and sunrises that come every day are breathtaking. I discovered a sacred time at the end of the day as my older daughter finishes her homework before bed. While she works, we just visit about the events of our day. I have been reminded of the power of positivity. Positive words can change or redirect any conversation into something meaningful and life giving. I have become more relaxed about watching the clock and more open to unexpected meetings with friends. My observation deck has simply shown me things that I needed to see.
I believe that we have a gift of making life more complicated than God ever intended life to be lived. So much of our stress comes from ourselves. We are often unable to say “no” to things we do not need to do and “yes” to things God is calling us to do. The result is too much time spent on too many things. Life becomes shallow instead of deep and meaningful.
I invite you to walk out onto your own observation deck this week. Spend some time to simply observe life around you. What do you see? What do you say? What is going on in your family? What is God doing around you? This little practice is sure to reveal something new.
Open my eyes to see wonderful things in your Word. Psalm 119:18