All posts tagged Faith

Working Mom’s Devotional: Are You Present At Home?

91vCKbpQfeL._SL1500_

Some of my friends are picking one word this year.  A single word to sum up a goal or intention for 2015.  A simple way to stay engaged after New Year’s resolutions are long forgotten.

What’s the first word that comes to mind for 2015?

Here’s mine:  PRESENT

No, I’m not going to focus on this word for an entire year.  I’m way too impatient (and I have too many words I’m excited about) so I’ll focus on one word a month.  Want to join me?

This January, I’m asking myself if I’m really present – at home, at work, with others, and in my relationship with God.  Am I engaged in the moment, or am I constantly preoccupied with everything else?  More often than not, I can tell you what’s happening on my email, what’s going on on the other side of the world, or what’s on my calendar next week.  But can I tell you what the person sitting beside me is thinking or feeling?  Am I connected in real time?

This is something I’ve been thinking about for months.  So much that I haven’t been blogging.  I haven’t been writing.  And I’ve backed off considerably from social media.

But this is about more than unplugging.  Unplugging is a knee jerk reaction to something bigger.  Unplugging is about pushing the pause button so I can stop and think.  And listen.  Fortunately, I have plenty of people who are willing to give me advice.

Starting with my third grade daughter.

“Mom, yesterday is history.  Tomorrow is a mystery.  Today is a gift.  That’s why we call it the present.” (Author Unknown)

Pretty timely, huh?

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had some serious down time.  I’ve had the luxury of connecting with my family in real time.  And I’ve learned an important aspect of living in the present.  Being present means putting other people before yourself.

Several times over Christmas break, I have spent time jumping on the trampoline in our back yard.  Not by choice.  It’s freezing outside.  I get dizzy jumping up and down.  And I twisted my neck and broke my fingernails playing this crazy game on the trampoline called “Ga-ga.”  It’s much easier to be selfish with my time.  Being present requires me to engage.  It requires me to consider the thoughts and give in to the preferences of others.  It even requires me to play Ga-ga.

But my daughters love it.  They light up whenever I jump, and they say things like, “Mom, this is so cool.  I can’t believe you are actually good at Ga-ga.”    You see, when I’m jumping on the trampoline, I have a singular focus.  I can’t multi-task, I can’t take a phone call or text, and I can’t even carry a conversation.  I just jump, laugh, and try not to get hit by the ball.

Do you make similar sacrifices to be actively present at home?  How can you best engage in real time with your family in 2015?

***********

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves. (Philippians 2:3)

Working Mom’s Devotional: What Santa Teaches Us About Conflicted Faith

Santa Claus in Chicago

Abby (age 8) is at that age where she wants to believe in Santa, but she has her doubts.  So this year, she’s decided to put Santa to the test.  It’s simple.  She wants purple Nike tennis shoes.  But the manufacturer doesn’t make her size.  So she’s asking Santa to step in and make it happen.

In her words, “I’ve decided I’m going to see if Santa can do it.  I’m going to ask him to make the purple shoes in my size.  If he doesn’t bring them, I’ll just have to get a different pair after Christmas.”

In other words, I’m not really sure if Santa exists.  If he does, he will make the shoes.  I want to believe, but I just don’t know. 

It’s a perfect picture of conflicted faith.

We want to believe, but our circumstances seem impossible. And like Abby, we’re conflicted. In the same breath, we tell God we believe but we really don’t believe. How can we possibly overcome our unbelief when we can’t even make up our minds?  So we find ourselves praying conflicted prayers.

I used to feel guilty praying in the midst of my doubt.  I used to think it was all or nothing. Doubt or faith. How can the two possibly coexist?  Then I read about the young father who asks Jesus to heal his son.   In the words of a desperate man who is wrestling with doubt, he tells Jesus:

“I do believe.  Help me with my unbelief.”  (Mark 9:24)

Thank God – I’m not alone!  The young father shows us it’s normal to be conflicted.  That doubt and faith often go hand and hand.  He also shows us that we can pray for faith in the midst of our unbelief.

And Jesus shows us that he is not limited by doubt.  He is not surprised by the young father’s conflicted prayer, and he heals the son, despite the father’s unbelief.

Like the young father, I often find myself praying a conflicted prayer. My motives are mixed and my faith is weak. I want to believe, especially at Christmas, but some days it’s really hard.  I want those purple tennis shoes, and I just can’t find them in my size!  Is God really out there?  And how am I supposed to believe in him for the big things when I can’t even trust him for something little?

I want to believe God, but sometimes it’s hard.  I live in a conflicted state, and I need your help. Like the young father asking Jesus to heal his son, I confess, “I do believe. Help me with my unbelief.”

Are you struggling to believe this Christmas?  Have you asked God to help you with your unbelief?

*******

Need some gift ideas?  Check out these great books by several women I know and admire:

Expect To Win, by Carla Harris

Faith Powered Profession, by Elizabeth Knox

Work Love Pray, by Diane Paddison

(And, if anyone knows where I can get size 1 1/2 Nike purple tennis shoes, I’d be most grateful!)

Faking The Pain (Part 2 of 4)

My friend lost two immediate family members last year.  Unexpectedly. 

She’s tired of faking the pain. 

She explained to me that she used to think life had its ups and downs.  High seasons and low seasons.  Good days and bad days. 

But she doesn’t think that anymore.

Instead, she sees life as two parallel train tracks:  Joy and Pain.

Sometimes, Pain is so strong and is running so fast that she can barely see Joy – it is miles and miles away.  Other times, Joy is charging full speed ahead and Pain trails behind.  She relishes these rare moments – when she is overwhelmed with Joy and goodness and it feels like Pain is defeated. 

But it doesn’t last. 

Most of the time, Joy and Pain run in tandem.  She can feel them both.  Side by side.  Which means that she experiences great Pain and immense Joy at the same time.   It actually works well.  She doesn’t have to fake it – or feel like a hypocrite – when someone asks her how she is doing at breakfast as she says, “Fine.”

And 30 minutes later she is a mess.

That’s how Joy and Pain are.  In fact, she even believes that they are supposed to run parallel.  That life works best and grace multiplies when Joy and Pain are in balance.  Pain allows us to experience Joy.  And Joy allows us to experience Pain.

This irony became clear to me last week when I celebrated my daughter’s 8th birthday.  I was in so much Pain that my insides were crying.  Like I could collapse at any moment.

But 10 young girls arrived on my doorstep for a sleepover.  And they brought me the sweetest Joy I have known in days.  Popcorn.  Movies.  Dancing.  Looking at stars.  Telling stories late into the evening.  Magical moments that brought me back to simpler days.

And the Pain in my stomach made the Joy even stronger.  Clearer.  Richer
.
***********

Have you ever experienced the great irony of these two friends:  Joy and Pain?

Faking The Pain (Part 1 of 4)

I break from a meeting and check my phone.  A text comes through like a knife, and I learn that my friend’s illness has gotten worse.  I want to stop. To cry. To pray. To even breathe.

But I can’t.  I have to be back in the meeting in five minutes.

So I fake the pain.  I’m good at this.

After all, I’m getting paid to be strong.  Lawyers aren’t weak, and they certainly don’t cry during meetings.  And it’s not like my pain makes me special.  It just makes me normal.

For 30 seconds – before I re-enter the meeting – I argue with God.  What kind of God allows pain to be normal?

Why God do you put us in this skin and allow this charade to continue?  Is this really want you want?  For your children to wear masks.  And is everyone around me faking it too?

One in four people will suffer from mental illness in the course of a year. 

Over 40% of people will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetimes.

The unemployment rate is approaching double digits (and men are 45% more likely to lose their jobs than women).

Of course we’re not fine.  No one is exempt.  But just like me, everyone around me is good at faking it. 

I pull myself together and head back into the meeting.  I really feel like shouting, “It’s not Halloween anymore.  Everybody, please take off your masks.  Starting with me!”

But I don’t shout.  And I don’t take off my mask.  I fake it just enough to make it through the day. 

Later, after work, I sit down at my laptop.  I look at my blog.  For 18 months I’ve written about kids, family, work, holidays, cooking, and even dancing.  I’ve written about everything but pain.  If you don’t know me – really know me — you may think I lead a life of joy and bliss.  You have to read between the lines to find the pain.  But it’s there.

I hate pain.  I hate watching others in pain. 

But I’m tired of being afraid of pain.   So I’m going start writing about it – for the next three Mondays.   I’m going to finish that conversation with God and ask you to join me. 

Do you find yourself pretending like you’re fine on the outside when inside your are a mess?

Is He Here Yet?


It was Buddy’s first time in my Sunday School class.  Maybe even his first time at church.  I watched his big, blue 4-year-old eyes take it all in – the singing, the playing, the praying.

When it was almost time to leave, I pulled him aside and said, “I’m really glad you’re here.” 

He continued to stare.  Who is this crazy lady who likes to sing silly songs and play duck duck goose?

But no, it wasn’t a blank stare.  His wheels were turning — he was thinking.  So I said to him, “You know, Jesus is really glad you’re here today.”

He quickly responded, “Yeah, I know. Is he here yet?”

I (barely) held back my laughter.  Buddy wanted Jesus to show up.  Pure and simple.

“Yes, he’s here right now.  He’s everywhere.  Not just in church.” 

Buddy looked confused.  Like many of us, he had gone through the “church” drill.  But he wanted more.  He wanted a real live encounter with God.  He didn’t just want Jesus to show up, he expected him to show up.

Sure, Buddy may have a few things to learn about God.  He may be an unchurched preschooler, but I love his simple faith.  I love his anticipation.  I love his question.

How many of us have the courage to ask,  “Is he here yet?”  Or have we already made up our minds?  Not here. Not now. It’s not possible – or even if it’s possible, it won’t happen to me.  

Like Buddy, maybe we just need to ask.  Maybe it’s time we expect Jesus to just show up.