Blueberries.

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I sat down in front of the heavy-with-fruit blueberry bush, thinking I would just make myself at home in the midst of the blueberry patch. This particular bush was loaded with sweet blues and i figured I would just focus on this bush and pick it clean. Handful after handful landed in my bucket with satisfactory ‘plunks’. The beautiful blueberries were complemented by a gorgeous day, the quiet of the rural and the voices of my kids and my friend. It was a great morning. A caterpillar on the arm of my son became our mascot as we picked the berries, dreaming of muffins and crisp.

I picked the generous bush over well, determined to get every little ready-to-eat blueberry into my bucket. My friend came over and helped me relieve the bush of all the ripe berries. We determined it was time to move on to another bush as we were sure this bush was ‘done’.

We moved down the row of blueberry bushes and picked more sun-warmed blue goodness off of the branches. We swung back by the bush that we had picked clean and my friend said, “It’s amazing! I thought we had picked every berry on this particular bush, but there’s more!” We couldn’t believe how many we had missed on the bush.

It makes me think of how so many times I think I have life figured out. Think I have received all that I can from a section of scripture. Time to move on. Believe that I have grasped enough to understand what it means to be the hands and feet of Jesus. I’ve got this. I walk around with my bucket half full, thinking I have harvested all that I can and yet the truth is, I’ve left fruit on the bush. I’ve gotten bored, lazy, complacent. I sometimes go through a day, not consciously saying this, but acting as if I have gleaned all that I can and leave truth tucked in the pages of the greatest story ever told. There’s still joy to discover, still truth to be revealed, more mercy to grasp as mine. There’s more and more! And so often, I leave it there. I walk away and look for truth elsewhere, perhaps some simple substitute will do.

I always come back. Sometimes it takes longer than it should. Sometimes I make the road harder than it has to be. I turn back to the one who loves me the most and am surprised to discover that I will never run out of fresh understanding. Truth will continue to present itself to my heart when my heart is receptive. Joy will continue to fill my life. New mercies will be mine. But. I have to sit and be open to receive. I have to to be willing to learn. To be wrong. To be challenged. I will pursue every bit of goodness. I must make myself at home here, sit down, content to be led to the fruit that is always ripe for the picking.

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**Pictures by  Jennifer Botzet**

A prayer for us.

Today, God we are a people in mourning. We mourn the way sin has infected justice. We mourn the way sin has turned your image bearers against your image bearers. Meet us here Lord. We mourn that we have ignored  issues that keep resurfacing with more and more vigor. We mourn that we have failed to follow your edict to love others as you have loved us. We fail in this daily Lord. Please forgive us. We mourn the lives that have been lost in the past weeks, around the world and in our own country. We know that the circumstances of our world must break your heart. Help us to mourn with you. Break our hearts for what breaks your heart. In our mourning, bind us together Lord.

Thank you that you are with us in our mourning and even in our righteous anger. Lord, I ask that you would grant peace and hope to us. As we take shelter in you, help us to remember that you have overcome the sin that runs rampant. I pray that your peace, the peace that is greater than our understanding, would invade our hearts. I ask that your peace would walk with our mourning and anger because our mourning and anger still have a place in our hearts. We need your peace Lord. Walk with us. As we seek peace for our hearts, bind us together Lord.

We come to you, in need of you and in need of your perfect love which drives out fear. You have not called us to be a people of fear. I ask that you would remove fear from our hearts for fear makes us choose sides. Fear gives us permission to turn our hearts and eyes from the things we do not wish to see. Fear maintains the status quo. I don’t have answers, but there is one thing I know. God, you have called us to be a people of love. Bind us together with your love, love that is bigger than all of our concerns and larger than our fear.

Lord, I plead that you would give us strength to be people of love. People of your love are people of action. Jesus was our example – he was unafraid of being contrary, unafraid to take a stand, unafraid to lead. And it was your love and power that that made that possible God. And that same love and same power is available to us today. Thank you for that. Your Love steps into suffering and pain and makes way for healing. Give us what we need to offer comfort from the depths of Your Love. Your Love fights injustice. Make us warriors of truth. Your Love breaks walls and mends bridges. God, help us to use our words to mend. We ask for Your Love today because we can’t love well on our own. Give us your love so that we may love with a love that is not of us.

You are a great God and you will make a way even when don’t see one. You are bigger than all that overwhelms us. I praise you that even when the weight of our burdens is too much, you will make a way. Lord, please make the path clear for us that we might be your hands and feet. I pray we would seek and find opportunities to be image bearers that reflect you. I ask Lord that your ever present Spirit would go with each of us. I pray that your people would come together to represent your way and your will on this earth. Please go before us. Bind us together Lord, that we may reflect you well.

Amen.

Change.

Frustration.

Seeping into dinner and conversation.

Tainting our body language.

Knotting the simplest of things into a tangled mess.

My vision clouded by struggle and angst. That’s all I could see ahead. Angst. Struggle.

What if he just changed?

What if the the things that drove me to distraction could change?

What if he changed?

Wouldn’t everything be simpler…better?

We would be one of those couples always posing for a picture, holding hands, faces close.

Then we could have a meaningful conversation composed with notes of harmony.

We could work to make each other’s dreams a reality.

Perhaps we could be a team again.

If he would just change.

The internal conversation flip flopped with a thought that was not my own.

What if for each trait you want to change you had to trade in something you love about him?

 

 

What?

Trade a frustration for something you love about him.

Frustrated by his impatience? Fine. Let’s make a deal.

Trade his encouragement of your writing and chosen profession (mom) for some patience.

Back up. Back up. Back up.

No deal.

How about this option?

Frustrated by his plentiful opinions? That can be fixed. Just trade in his generosity.

Oh.

I’ll pass.

How about this one?

Trade in his commitment to his family and you’ll get help more help around the house.

What kind of deal is that?

It’s what you want, isn’t it?

Is it?

Or maybe I actually have what I want and what I need.

Maybe imperfect him is perfect for imperfect me.

Maybe I can appreciate the man before me instead of wishing things could change.

Maybe this is more about me than him?

About contentment. Grace. Forgiveness.

Perhaps my demand for change is focused on the wrong person.

What if I just changed?

Could everything be simpler…better?

What if I led with grace instead of a pointing finger?

We could be one of those couples posing for a picture, holding hands, faces close.

Then maybe we could have a meaningful conversation composed with notes of harmony.

We could work to make each other’s dreams a reality.

Perhaps we could be a team again.

If I could just change.

 


 

The Proverbs 31 Online Bible Study (OBS) is so timely…they are doing The Husband Project by Kathi Lipp. Want things to change? Take 21 days to begin to change the way you love your husband. Join the OBS here. The study begins on June 20. Want to win The Husband Project book? Comment on the blog or on my Facebook post about one of your favorite traits your husband possesses. Drawing will be Friday at 5pm!

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A prayer for summer.

FullSizeRender 3 copy 2It is summer, Lord. I love the season of summer. I see your creativity and love all over summer. The taste of fresh picked strawberries. Fire flies that dance in the dark. Flowers in bloom. The sun that warms the earth. Picnics in the park. Swimming, ice cream, and fireworks. There’s joy at every turn. Thank you for that.

The long days of summer spectacular are filled with blessings and require more patience from those of us who are parents. The days are full, the hours seemingly endless and yet, I know that the weeks will fly. So Lord, please grant me an abundance of patience to coordinate with the fabulous joy. I don’t want to inhibit joy and yet I know there are days that I will feel like I am not enough. I want to guard against the frustration and weariness that may try to steal joy.  Please help me get time with you. Get me up early. Help me to see you and sense you at every moment – when I am overwhelmed, when I need space, and when my cup is so full that I can hardly contain it. Walk with me this summer Lord, as I walk with my kids through full days.

Could you teach us all this summer how to appreciate each other? Remind us how to recognize the good in each other. Help us to remember that gratefulness is fuel for joy in every circumstance. Capture my children’s hearts with the experiences they have this summer. Show them yourself as they create, read and enjoy the world you have made. I pray they may know you better by the time school starts.

I pray the same for me, God. I pray that I might know you better by the time fall comes around again. I pray that I might see you in their laughter, in their delight in the world you have made. You created the the sun to coax flowers to erupt in bloom and I pray that you would do the same to my heart – that it would blossom with love that comes from you. I ask that you would use me to show the kids your love. I pray that I would be expectant and yet also have reasonable expectations. I pray for patience. Lots of it. I pray that I would know when we need structure and when we need to have an impromptu water balloon fight.

You give us the gift of time with the ones you have given us. I pray I would not squander it or wish it away. I want to be present. I want to be fun and have fun with my kids. There are still things that will need to be done and I ask that you would help me find a balance. Help me to remember to be consistent. Help me to praise. Help me to be kind. Help me to choose joy when I feel like I want to climb the walls. Remind me Lord that its okay to take time for me so that I might recharge my batteries.

Lord, honestly, I am excited and yet a bit overwhelmed at the thought of a full summer. I know you can meet me there. Thank you. Thank you for being all that I need to mother these babies well. Thank you for the gifts that await us in the sun-kissed weeks ahead. I pray we would unwrap each day with expectant hearts. Go before us Lord. I give these weeks to you.

Amen.

An invitation

A friend is beginning a new Bible study. She said she is planning on the study to step on her toes and make her run to Jesus. Well that’s novel. It strikes me as novel anyway because I don’t typically enter into things looking for a race with injured toes.

I don’t hope for my toes to be stepped on. I like for things to feel good to me, not too easy and not super challenging (because what is fun about that?). I am not one to look for a race. I would rather cheer someone else on than actually be putting forth the effort to run. I want ease. I value ease. I am all about a great short cut. And pretty toes with an intact ego to match.

I want ease in parenting, in marriage, in friendship and in writing. I want to find what I want as simply as possible in the grocery store and I would really like it if dinner made itself. “Why is nothing simple?!” is my constant refrain and so to seek out a race, to seek out something that might challenge my status quo is the opposite of what I want.

At least one part of me.

There’s another part of me that is tired of the spot I am in. There’s a part of me that yells, “Just grow already!”. There are ideas in my head and they are disgusted by my manicured toes and my spot as a spectator. There is a little bit of Bethany who is weary of feeling winded at the slightest exertion, weary of sore muscles after the smallest bit of heavy lifting. It’s time to get stronger. There is a pull, a tug to pursue more, to challenge myself in ways I’ve not been challenged before.

What will I choose? What do you choose? If you see me limping – this is progress. If you hear me say, “I don’t know,” it means I am seeking answers to questions I thought I already had answered. If I see you striving for your best you, I will call that out and send lots of encouragement your way, (it may include banners, a megaphone and a cheer…or perhaps just a note and some chocolate). If you see me lacing up my sneakers, please play some great music, say a prayer and offer to run with me for a bit.

I can grow with good company. I can do hard things with friends encouraging me along the way. Thanks friend for being brave and hoping for a race and a challenge that includes sore toes. Thanks for the invitation to join you.

We can be this for each other.

Cheerleaders who drop off chocolate.

Encouragers who encourage by stepping into their own brave.

Sisters who drop a ‘keep up the good work’ note in the mail.

Friends who sit at a coffee shop and walk through tough things together.

We can do this. We can become all that we are meant to be. The joy is that we get to do this together.

The care and feeding of a mother.

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I love Mother’s Day. It’s a bit of pampering and sweet crafts from my babies. It means I don’t cook at all that day and I really love that. Mother’s Day is a major emphasis on the love and work of a mother and it comes just once a year. Once. A. Year. The work and love of a mom is 24/7, just sayin’. There are thank you’s, hugs, and moments of recognition throughout the year, of course, but THE day is just once in May. I appreciate the day, don’t get me wrong, but I need a bit more.

The truth is my kids aren’t going to make me a craft every day and they aren’t going to praise my mothering at every turn. My husband is not going to give me a card every day thanking me for being a great mom. The sweet little notes and treats that I received leading up to Mother’s Day is not going to be a year round thing. My children and my husband are not responsible for the care and feeding of me – I am.

One of my responsibilities as a mother is self-care. Is it selfish to pursue self-care? No. You feed your kids so they can grow. You wash the clothes so they have clean clothes. You instruct and teach to develop them into the people they are meant to be. You clean the house so that germs and dirt don’t take up permanent residency. You practice self-care so that you can mother well. It’s really that simple.

The care and feeding of you is one of the most important items on your to-do list. Here’s some things to include in your self-care regimen.

-Feed your soul.

I can’t mother on my own and when I try I fail. I can’t end up on empty because I lash out and frustration seeps into e v e r t h i n g I do and say. I must stay connected through prayer and scriptures to the one who made me for this job. If he made me, surely he knows what I need to do this job well, with a joyful heart. I can trust him and lean on him. He is there every day of the year, at every moment, encouraging me with his unfailing love and all that is required of me is that I take the time to feed my soul.

-Pursue that which fulfills you.

What do you love to do, outside of mothering, that fulfills you? Are you an artist, a gardener, a seamstress, a chocolate connoisseur…wait, that’s not a real thing?? Oh. Do you enjoy crafting, cooking, accounting, shopping, learning? Whatever it is, find a way to pursue it. Pursuing fulfillment will look different at different stages. In an intense mothering stage pursuing art looks like coloring in your adult coloring book, painting with the kids or going to the museum for date night. At a less intense stage, maybe it means taking an art class, setting up an etsy store or teaching an art class. At any and every stage you must pursue that which fulfills you. I once said that a well-crafted paragraph is more important than a clean kitchen and there are days when this must be true. There are times when you must buy the pastels, you must dig in the dirt or you must write – don’t ignore those promptings.

-Take time for friendship.

One of the ways I take care of me is by pursuing friendship. There’s something about being understood that melts my stress. There’s something about laughing with friends and finishing sentences about grown up topics that fuels me. I need other people. It’s a nice reminder that I am funny or that I have valuable things to say other than mediating the argument over legos. I am a better mom when I make time for friends. Time with friends helps feed the parts of me that get overlooked when I am full-on mothering.

-Love your body.

Motherhood is tough on a woman’s body. Long days and long nights. We are on our feet a lot. Some of us gave birth to our babies and some of us adopted but either way our bodies take a beating. Love yourself well. Exercise. Eat well. I realized at one point that I had told myself that the fruit I bought was for my kids. That is a lie! So now I eat fruit too. Take a walk, do yoga, take a long bath, get a pedicure, take a nap, and buy the yummy smelling lotion. It’s all good for you! Your body has done and continues to do amazing things so be sure to love your body.

Every day needs to be a day that you find a way to practice self-care. The days will come when the house is a disaster, the principal calls, the little one is sick and you just burned dinner BUT if you are practicing self-care you will have a bit of a reserve. You won’t be on empty. If you are caring for your whole self perhaps a full on melt-down won’t be necessary. Here’s the important thing to remember – When I practice self-care, I care not only for myself but my children and my husband. When I am not disciplined in caring for my whole self, it effects us all.

Guest blogger: Shelley Lee

 

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Shelley with Westley (l) and Trevor (r), two of her four sons, at the top of     Mt. Dana during a Yosemite trip this past year.

Allow me to introduce you to someone I have known since I was about 10 years-old. Shelley Lee is brave, honest and a seeker of truth. She has many roles: wife, author, mom to 4 boys, and grandma to one sweet girl (with another grandchild on the way!). I have crafted with her, laughed with her, learned from her as a student in her Sunday School class, taken gymnastics classes from her and one time we got really crazy and she cut my hair!   We decided to add more to our list of fun and do a blog swap! I am thrilled to have her guest post on my blog and to give away her book. What an honor!

Enjoy this read from Shelley and be sure to enter the giveaway!


 

The Bottom                                                                                                                                                      by: Shelley R. Lee

My run along the river was therapy as chirping birds and bright green blades of grass welcomed me out of the darkness of a northwest Ohio winter. Damp brush and sticks that I had to get through to step up on the road for a time of stretching at the bridge reminded me that flowers were on the way. Breathing into my stretch, a rich earthy aroma filled my senses at this quiet spot closed to motor traffic for construction.

When I continued running I could only go a few steps and had to stop to get what felt like a small pebble out of my shoe. A few more strides told me it was still there. I repeated the process, this time turning my sock inside out to find the irritation. Again, my steps told me I had not gotten to the source of the problem.

Thinking now that it could be coming from underneath I picked my foot up to look at the underside of my shoe. I expected to find a small thorn or nail, certainly not the five-inch long thorny branch that was there. The one-inch protruding thorns explained the discomfort in the ball of my foot. I pulled it out, laughed with surprise and was quickly off and running with instant relief.

As I ran thorn-free I couldn’t help but ponder what God was trying to show me. Every day metaphors are His go-to to teach me (if I’m paying attention). I spent some time open to hearing Him.

There were things God had been shifting underneath my feet, so to speak, in recent months. Things in my marriage, family relationships, finances, my job, my physical body (shifting is one word!), and my writing, to name a few. What God showed me on my thorny run was that the irritations come from standing on the wrong things. I needed to stand on the solid ground. It didn’t mean the thorns would never touch my life, but it did mean they wouldn’t have to affect me quite the way they do when I let them support me.

In effect, I need to stand in the security of God and who He made me to be. My identity and worth come from there. Turns out, getting to the bottom of things brings me a crazy ton of hope!


Shelley and I have a giveaway! Two winners will receive her book, When Jesus Speaks to a Mother’s Heart and a fun printable from me that will look great framed on your desk! The quote for the printable is “Each day I have a decision to make. To choose expectation and turn to the sun or choose despair and ache in the dark. It takes courage to choose the sun.”

 Here’s how to enter to win Shelley’s book and Bethany’s printable. Visit Shelley’s Facebook page and comment in the post about her blog. You can enter again by commenting on Bethany’s Facebook page and/or sharing her post (doing both counts for 2 entires). Shelley and I will both draw a name on Friday, May 6.

 

 

In response to: I want all the perks of maternity leave.

I posted an article to my Facebook page and there was quite a conversation that followed. I shared the article about Meghann Foye who believes that she should get a maternity leave even though she doesn’t have kids. She thinks that women without children should get the opportunity for space and time for self-reflection just like the moms who take maternity leave. You read that correctly. She thinks that parenthood offers flexibility that women without kids don’t have.

There’s a lot I disagree with in the article and for me it centers around categorizing the first 6 – 8 weeks as a new mom or a mom again as weeks that provide time for self-reflection and “a whole new lens through which to see their lives.” Sometimes this occurs, but women don’t sit down and take stock of their lives and write goals while sleep deprived, healing from delivering a baby and feeding baby around the clock. It just doesn’t happen quite like Foye thinks.

Here’s where I agree with her – we do need to take time to understand who we are and our purpose in life, however, this has nothing to do with maternity leave. This is basically what she was after: if I am not my job, then who am I? Am I more than the role I fill at work? Moms ask these kind of questions too – am I more than a cook, the launderer, the cleaner, the educator? The trader on wall street looks up at the tall buildings and wonders if this is all there is to life. The father exhausted from a 45-50 hour a week job comes home and plays with his kids, even though he is running on fumes, and wonders as he tickles the three-year-old if pursuing the next level in his career is what is right for him. We all wonder.

We all wrestle with self-doubt, as did Foye when she took her year and a half ‘meternity.’ Did you catch that? We all wrestle with self-doubt; the new mom, the single man chasing his dream, the corporate executive about to close a huge deal, the single woman spinning her wheels trying to be everything she is supposed to be, the college student about to graduate, the retired gentleman who wonders what is next. All of us wonder and no one will take maternity leave and use it for self-discovery and few will take a meternity leave, but we still must wrestle until we find the answers.

People everyday seek to understand their purpose on earth. We contemplate in the carpool lane, while flying to NYC for a business meeting or writing a song. Is this what I am here for? What am I meant to do on this earth? What am I supposed to do that only I can do? These are questions that moms, the career-driven single woman, and the factory worker approaching their 30th anniversary need to ask. We owe it to ourselves and our families and our communities to be the best we can be and so these questions must be asked – and answered.

I believe we can support each other in this. When we start comparing and listing the advantages to someone else’s life and set of circumstances, we turn away from the very question we are trying to answer. If this is self-discovery then it really has nothing to do with anyone else’s circumstances. We can find ways to encourage each other when we feel overwhelmed whether you are a working mom of 3, a homeschooler of one or a single woman with career ambitions. It’s not that hard to identify with someone who is asking the same questions I am. I can sympathize as you wrestle with tough questions as a career driven, single woman because I am still figuring out purpose in this new chapter with three kids in school.

I also believe that when you search for yourself – that’s what you will discover – yourself. It’s kind of like self-discovery in a mirror – what you think and feel is simply reflected back to you. It’s great to be tuned in to your own dreams, desires, and needs but I don’t think that I will find my purpose within myself. Here’s the danger: as a mom of three under the age of two there were draining days and hard weeks. I didn’t always like where I was and if I attempted self-discovery I would have looked in the mirror and said “This is too hard. You need a long vacation. This isn’t for you, maybe you aren’t meant for this.” However, I believe in all my heart that I was right where I was supposed to be – my purpose was clear to me – I am a mom and even when it’s hard (like yesterday), that’s a huge part of my purpose. My purpose is found through my relationship with God. He directs my steps, he knows the future and he knows me better than I know myself – he even numbers the hairs on my head! He has plans for me and so I go to him – outside of myself – to learn my purpose. This is where my confidence comes from.

We were meant to walk beside each other in this thing called life and sometimes that’s a challenging thing to do but I believe it is part of our purpose as humans. We can’t allow our differing circumstances to get in the way of being an encouragement to each other. We can reach out to people who differ from us. I like to think that if Foye and I sat down to coffee together we would realize that we are more similar than different. I believe we could encourage each other in the pursuit of the answers we are all looking for.

I see you.

Sometimes I fight the thought that who I am and what I do is not so special, not significant and not enough.

Do you fight that fight too?

When I am feeling less than, I am happy to stand at the back, to be the one behind scenes, to sit and wallow a bit. I close in on myself because I don’t really feel like talking to people and wearing my insignificance around others.

Is that what you do?

How do you get out of this spot? I mean I would like to know how you dig out of this.

Here’s something that speaks to me.

Five days out of the week I drive the kids to and from school. There is a crossing guard that we see just before we get to the school. She wears a reflective vest and gloves, a hat and has a stop sign that she uses to help parents and kids safely cross the street. She waves to every single car that passes her. She stops traffic for runners, dog walkers and parents who are walking their kids to school. I wave to her four times a day which equals 20 times a week and sometimes more if someone forgets a lunch, book bag or worksheet. I love her. She doesn’t know my name but I love her. I love her because every car that passes gets a cheery wave; every parent, child and dog that walks past her gets a friendly smile and hello. She rocks this gig as a crossing guard. But that’s not exactly why she inspires me.

She shows up every day. She waves. She smiles. She says, “See me.” I am here and though some may say what I do is insignificant – I am not insignificant, there’s no way they can think that. Acknowledge me. Stop and chat and I will hand your kids a piece of candy because who I am and what I do matters. That is why she inspires me. She stands at her post every morning and afternoon, rain or shine, stiffling hot or crunchy cold and says, “See me.”

It takes courage to repeatedly step out and be you. It is also one of the best ways to encourage others who are tempted to hide their significance. We are each individual masterpieces. Sometimes I forget. And when I do my friendly neighborhood crossing guard reminds me. You don’t take a masterpiece and hide it. You don’t throw a shroud of insignificance over a fine work of art. A fine sculpture takes center stage in an art museum, in the kitchen, at the office or at the crossroads that lead to the school. We are each sculpted with love, created with unique talents, and the breath of God is in us. You are breath-taking – even on the days when you feel less then fine art. So stand tall. Stand confidently. Use your talents and abilities because the world needs significant you. Don’t stay behind the scenes, content in the background, step out and take center stage in your life. We need to see you. I need to see you.

Impatient

I am not perfect.

I muddle, I trip, I fall.

My imperfections are obvious to the

one I call mine.

He strives to overcome

the struggles that are uniquely his,

while I trip over the hurdles in my own life.

We are sometimes impatient with the progress

that the other is not making.

I see the mud on you, I see the skinned knee,

I see your bowed head.

But I don’t really see it.

Because I still ask you to jump up and

do this, accomplish that and say,

“Why aren’t you at the finish line already?”

But if I really stopped to see you –

if I stopped to hold your heart and

not be consumed with our place in the race

then I would notice

that there is

mud all over me,

I am bleeding

and I can’t lift my head.

If I stopped to hold your heart

I would wipe the mud off of your face.

And then you would see that I am bleeding

and you would put salve on my wounds.

You would lift my head and

I would take your hand

and we would

be a team

pursuing each other

and the finish line,

together.