And then, I returned home!
The birds are trying to out-do each other outside my open window as I swirl around the last of my coffee, dredging up the sentiment at the bottom of the mug. (Hey, I like a few coffee grounds in my coffee…) Various shades of green cascade from the trees – from the brilliant hues of the maple up close to the backdrop of a dozen trees that form the entrance of the woods further away.
It’s Monday morning, one of my favorite times of the week.
Accomplishing things makes me happy. Being able to see where I’ve made a difference is enough to get me out of bed each morning. I’m goal-oriented, competitive, and most times would rather clean the house then do something ‘fun.’
Each morning when I wake up I let myself stretch and yawn, then set my stop-watch and see how quickly I can complete my getting-ready routine. Throughout the day I find myself constantly trying to find balance as I look at the list of things that I really want to get done, compared to the things that are maybe more important to do. (For instance, relationships are much easier to ignore than a messy kitchen sink. But in reality, which has a greater eternal value?)
One thing that I often remind myself is that I do have enough time. I do have enough energy. I do have enough.
Maybe not on my own, maybe not in the ways that I dreamed of, maybe not to do what I want. But I have enough to do what God is calling me to do, and when there’s a discrepancy and I find myself getting stressed, that’s not because God has given me too much to do. It’s either because I’m not doing the right thing, or doing it the right way, or doing it with the right motive.
Having a sparkling clean house around me might be exactly what’s supposed to happen. But maybe it’s not – maybe God wants me to let go of that ideal for now and focus on other things.
I used to think – and say – things about never having enough time. And then I realized that’s a lie that society praises, not the truth from God’s Word. Subconsciously, I think I’d rather appear busy and productive than resting and at peace. It feels so…important to have a list of things checked off a piece of paper and yet still have people who need your help. Maybe not every personality feels this way, but I want to be needed. To be doing. To swoop in and save the day.
Being busy can be addictive.
And yet we’re commanded to Be still and know that God is. We’re commanded to care for the widows and the orphans. We’re commanded to love our neighbor. We’re commanded to pray. So many of these things require me to let go of my pre-conceived (and society-fed) notions of what I’m supposed to be doing with my time and ask God to lead me in the way He wants me to go.
Recently this has included doing things like leaving the counter messy to sit down and read a book to my little nieces. Or setting the milk bucket down and cuddling the kittens my nephew wants to show me. Letting go of accomplishing and taking ahold of relationships isn’t easy for me, but it’s rewarding.
At the end of the day, I’m thankful to know that God has given me enough time to accomplish what He wants me to do.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Cor. 12:9)
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. … (Mt. 6:25-34)
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. (Mt. 7:7-8)
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. (2 Cor. 9:8)
Yesterday the seven-year-old killed a snake that was longer than her (while holding a stuffed animal). Several days ago while milking with the nine-year-old the goat kicked over her bucket of milk, drenching the child and milk stand. Last week a late frost killed most of the tomato plants, despite our best efforts to cover them sufficiently. This morning the one-year-old got ahold of a folder full of important papers for one of the puppies that is being sold, scattering them all over the floor and scribbling on the folder.
When the parents had a date the other night chaos erupted around the table, complete with a pile of rib bones being pushed towards me (I have a phobia of bones for some strange reason). Squabbles take place, half-done jobs sometimes slip through the cracks and the same bib that I’ve washed four times (and have yet to see anyone wear) ends up in the dirty laundry again.
Yet my sister shoos me outside to enjoy the hammocks for a few minutes. “Take your mid-morning snack out and blog in the sunshine,” she encourages. As I sit here three of the children come over to join me. One of them places a white fluffy puppy on my arm, another one climbs in the hammock with me, and the five-year-old pulls a chair up to within an inch of me then peels an orange while regaling me with stories of how he and his brothers are going swimming in the creek later. “You can swim, too. And swing out on the rope swing!”
Yesterday the children carefully rearranged who would do what chores and when so that they could take turns swimming during their free time. The work was done eagerly and early and not one but two meals were eaten out on the picnic tables, the warm sunshine and cooling breeze creating the perfect atmosphere.
The hustle and bustle of family life on a small farm slows to a standstill and pauses twice a day as each morning the family gathers for devotions where the children take turns choosing what hymns to sing, and the evenings close with John Bunyan’s classics being read out loud.
Watching my nieces and nephews remind me of my childhood. A childhood filled with siblings, school, chores, and excitement. The children here are building a little pond complete with dikes and dams. When I was a girl my siblings and I sectioned off the creek, then each of us created our own little island. My nieces and nephews display the same joy and delight in finding where the mama cat hid her kittens as my little sisters and I were fifteen years ago.
Nearly daily the nine-year-old asks the same questions about being able to plan and cook a meal all by herself that I did when I was her age. Their mama reads them the same books that my mommy read to me when I was a girl. And the outside world is their kingdom, waiting to be explored, conquered, and claimed.
“Aunt Lydia,” comes a little voice behind me. “Do you want some of my oranges?”
I smile. Because I look back on my gardening, animal-y, books-being-read-to-me, tipi-building, woods-exploring, big-family happiness of my childhood and see it happening in the next generation.
And that is wonderful.
“Render to me!” The eleven-year-old demands and the easy-going one-year-old complies.
I raise my eyebrows and am informed by half a dozen clambering voices that that’s how the eleven-year-old always asks for something. Considering their storytime each night consists of being read to out of a tome from the 1600s, it’s not all that surprising.
“Mama, I can’t feed myself, you need to,” the three-year-old’s plaintive voice sounds at lunchtime. When she doesn’t get the response she’s looking for, she gives us a wide-eyed stare. “Mama, I really can’t feed myself because my big toe hurts.” This is the same child that informed us just before bedtime that she was Hungry! and after being directed to her papa with the request for food, quickly amended it, saying she was “Hungry for a tic-tac in the morning after she had woken up.”
The five-year-old tells me his “brothers are slightly more fun to clean the kitchen with because they just ask him to sweep the floor” and I’m reminded that I need to be a more fun auntie.
When the oldest girls (17 and 14) bring up stories I used to tell them when they were the little ones, I sigh in relief that the children do hold good memories of me.
My oldest sister and her husband have a passel of happy, loud, messy, hard-working, oftentimes chaotic, and never dull household of children. Nearly ten years ago I spent two months with them (and their then four children) high up in the mountains of Peru where they’d lived for the past six years.
The 12,500-foot elevation created a merciless environment with little air to breathe, an abundance of sickness, and a beautiful, but barren landscape. The sun was close and the wind was harsh – whistling through the valley, creating chapped cheeks, constant sunburns, and rough skin.
There’s a vast difference between Then and Now. The abundance of greenness, the quality of the oxygen, the ease with which to keep a clean house… (There’s an art form that must be mastered in order to keep a dirt floor properly swept, whereas anyone can sweep linoleum.)
Yet some things remain. When I spent two months with my sister in Peru she was living in a dirt house, on bedrest while pregnant for her fifth child. The hostile land she’d chosen to live in had been hard on her – which was one reason I was helping her in the first place. Her family was moving back to the States where good nutrients and care (not to mention air) were more easily come by. Her attitude though remained calm and determined. No matter what she was going through, she kept her voice sweet, her words kind. I was amazed and inspired.
Ten years have passed, and although now in good health, morning sickness is zapping her energy. Yet through it all, she continues to be sweet – to allow a peace that passeth all understanding to keep her kind and thoughtful even as she doesn’t feel well.
My sister went to a Bible college when I was just six, and then married when I was two weeks away from turning nine, yet my childhood memories are full of spending time with her. Of growing up sharing a bedroom (where she tried desperately to teach my other sister and I the art of bedroom cleaning), learning to cook, and being read to. All throughout my childhood, I was in awe of my big sister. She was everything I longed to be, plus more.
Things haven’t changed. Even though our lives have gone in very different directions (I would currently be expecting my fifth child and living in South America if I was her), I continue to be amazed and inspired by her. Her life shows God’s love on a daily basis, even when it isn’t easy. She thinks through what she says, remains kind even when her children try to ruffle her, and takes everything in stride.
The sun-dappled leaves swaying in the breeze outside my room fairly shout that Spring is here. The early morning hour is my favorite as I sit in the stillness and soak in inspiration for the rest of the day. A day full of scurrying, laughter, life, baby hugs, and remembering my own childhood. Earlier while folding the laundry for the one-year-old I came across a pair of purple sleepers that I remember wearing. But surely I was bigger than that in those far-off memories, wasn’t I?
I’m still at my oldest sister’s house and don’t have plans to leave. Today marks the two-month mark since I’ve been to my little home. I miss my home and life, but I’m also thankful I can be here.
And now, book review time.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Too often we lean into the wrong things and burn out. We buy society’s lie that our worth is our work, our value is our vocation, our calling is our career. Confusing what we do with who we are wreaks havoc on our bodies, our souls, and our relationships.
Called Out is a deeply personal book from Paula Faris, the beloved on-air reporter for ABC News and former co-host of The View. She shares her journey through conquering fears that nearly kept her from the high-profile, high-stakes world of broadcast journalism, and then the dangers when that world threatened to consume her. She burned out and faced public humiliation, physical breakdowns, and family struggles. But along the way, she heard God gently calling her out of that dangerous place. As she struggled to find who she was outside of what she did, she discovered her true purpose and true calling. Today, she is the host of ABC’s popular podcast Journeys of Faith.
Written with passion and conviction, this book reflects on what it truly means to be called, how to move past the fear holding you back, and how to walk in God’s path for you.
Why I Choose This Book
Quite simply because the Afterward is by Max Lucado, and he’s an author whose work I really appreciate.
Several times as I was reading the book I saw what felt like influences of Mr. Lucado’s writing style, but still done in Miss Paula’s own voice, so that was a plus for me.
WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK
I’ve watched the news, but I don’t watch the news. As in, it’s not an everyday activity for me. I’m familiar with the words ABC News, but don’t know much about them, and I’d never heard of The View. So, I really had no clue who the author was, or why it was such a big deal for her to change her job. Therefore, it took me a bit to get into the book, but once I did I really enjoyed it and learned a lot from its pages.
-The book is interesting and the author is a good communicator. She takes lessons she’s learned both from her life and the lives of people she’s interviewed at her job to produce a book full of wisdom. The stories she sprinkles throughout the book were intriguing and I was never bored as I read. She’s also honest in her approach – sharing openly where she’s messed up, which takes a lot of courage. The book is practical as well, which is always something I look for while reading nonfiction.
-There’s a difference between your vocational calling and your life calling. I grew up being taught that, but according to this author the distinction isn’t widely known, so she does a good job distinguishing the two. She then goes on to explain how they can work in tandem with each other, and why it’s so important to get this aspect of life right.
-I don’t think the book was written for a Christian audience. This can be a plus because it can reach far more people than if it had a nitch market, and I think that the message she shared was important and can help many people. She’s also open and shameless about the fact that she is a Christian – talking about how God slowly changed her heart over the years and citing Bible verses to back up what she’s saying. For the most part, I appreciated the balance, but this does lead me to my first con.
-Although the author does a fantastic job of sharing her faith in Christ, there were times when I felt like it seemed as if she gave other religions just as much credence as Christianity. For the most part, the book felt balanced, but there were times when it seemed to lean towards the “of you’re sincere, then you’ll be fine” type of mindset. I don’t think that’s what she was actually meaning to imply, but it was a bit of a gray area.
-Mostly I liked her writing style, but there were a few times where she seemed redundant, or something that was supposed to be funny fell flat for me. That’s entirely a preference thing though, so it didn’t bother me too much.
-I wasn’t a big fan of the way she formatted some of the book – with interviews from various people over the years. The interviews were great, but how they were added to the book wasn’t my favorite. But, this was a very small con for me.
I don’t agree with everything the author said and did – when have I ever? But overall, this book was a win for me. It was well-written, the message was one I’ve worked on my whole life, and the author was very real and honest which seems like it would take a lot of courage since she’s a public figure who is already a household name to many Americans.
I’m giving Called Out 4 out of 5 stars. Thank you to Bethany House for providing me with a copy of the book so I could tell y’all about it.
When I opened this package from Bethany House I’d totally forgotten which books they were sending out for review, so it made me laugh. Being in the middle of quarantine and receiving a book that says Stay seemed very timely indeed. 😉
About the Book
As women, we are exhausted. Our hearts are being wrung out to dry–squeezed and yanked in every direction. We take care of everyone but ourselves. We’ve gotten lost in bedtime routines and our Costco lists. We have lost our voices in the storm of everyday life. We need to be reminded to reach inward and heed the quiet voice whispering, Stay.
This book is for anyone who longs for a connection with God and his people but can’t seem to escape the haunting feelings of guilt, shame, loneliness, and fear. Through raw, authentic stories, (in)courage writer Anjuli Paschall invites you to stop running from your pain and to recognize that the deep end of your story is the way to intimacy with Christ. Alongside Anjuli, you will encounter a loving God who invites you to stay with him at the table of your soul, where you are free to spill the milk, to fumble through your words, to embrace the awkwardness and the joy, and to taste and see that he is good.
WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOok: 3 Pros and 3 Cons
-The writing was beautiful, lyrical, peaceful. I didn’t read the book – I soaked it in, taking time to breathe deep, savor the words, and really think about what the author was saying. I felt rejuvenated each time I picked it up and paused my crazy world to read for a few moments.
-The author had a way of drawing the reader in, sharing her deepness, her faults, her triumphs. It was like sitting down and listening to a well of wisdom be spilled out along with enough craziness to remind you that the person in front of you was human, full of mistakes, and searching for the perfect way to live life, just like everyone else. I felt like I was with the author, feeling the dust from the trailer park by the river, standing in the corner watching the strangers spin in and out of her parent’s home, sitting in her small, newly-married apartment, as she realized yet again that she’d forgotten to take out the trash. Relating to an author is something that really helps me remember the message behind the words I read, and this author pegged that feeling.
-Emotions aren’t bad, but so often I think they are. I choose the ones I want to call my own and steadfastly refuse to acknowledge, accept, or dwell on the ones that I don’t like. And while there’s some merit to this way of living, mostly it creates a battle within me as I lie to myself over and over again, convincing myself that whatever I want to be true is, when that’s not the case. This book was all about accepting and owning your emotions. Which is so important, and something I need to get far better at. But, that’s also what leads me to my first con.
-When it came to the message of the book, I felt like it was too one-sided. Yes, emotions are important and it isn’t healthy to simply push them away, but I felt like the author didn’t have enough balance in her message. While accepting the emotions and processing them, I think it’s important to also be careful with how much power you give them.
-The author talks multiple times about how her only purpose in life is to be loved by God. And while that is part of the equation, loving God is also very important (which highlights the above point about the book not being as balanced as I like).
-There were various small mentions of things that I don’t agree with.
Obviously, my cons list was way smaller than the pros because I really liked this book. I do plan on re-reading it in the future and hope to read other books by the same author.
At the same time, the things that did make it to the cons list were big enough that I’m (sadly) dropping the book to three and a half stars.
I’m giving Stay 3.5 out of 5 stars. Thank you to Bethany House for providing me with a copy of the book so I could tell y’all about it.
“Stay as long as you want – we’re so thankful for your help,” my sister and brother-in-law in Virginia assure me.
“When are you coming back home? We miss you,” my sisters back in Ohio tell me.
“If you come into Kentucky you must quarantine for fourteen days,” Governor Beshear’s website declares.
I feel lost and adrift as I drink my lukewarm coffee. It’s like my dreams – the ones that felt so real and good in January – have dissipated. Now they’re like a fine mist floating over my head that I’m chasing – grasping – missing.
What I really want to do is jump in my car and drive, drive, drive. Maybe to Florida. Then Alaska. And of course, Yellowstone is a must. Or maybe I can go to sleep and wake up on the other side of all this craziness. Or go back to January and make it last – snow and all – for twelve happy months and then magically be in 2021.
What I want to do is escape. To find my happy little nook where I’m in control, things are good, and my plans, dreams, and hopes play out before me like a happily-ever-after book.
Recently in my prayer journal I’ve been doing an exercise where I write How I Feel on one side of the page then fill it will the emotions that are bumbling around inside me. Then I flip my notebook upside down and write The Truth on the other side. I take each of the emotions that I’d rather ignore and work my way through them, figuring out why I feel that way, then remind myself of God’s truth.
Then, as those emotions pop up throughout my day, I’m able to name them, remember the truth, and conquer them. Yesterday was enlighting to say the least.
My feelings fell in two distinct categories – joy, fulfillment, and thankfulness when I thought about where I was at the moment. The fact that I could help my sister’s family as they deal with some of the same health issues I’ve had over the years made me downright happy.
But then when the future loomed in front of me feelings of restlessness, despair, confusion, and even anger took over.
When I stopped to ponder what the difference was, the answer was glaringly obvious and horrifying at the same time. What is going on now I can control. I’m choosing to be here. I’m choosing to stay and help. I’m choosing to be a good sister/auntie and make a difference. I have faith in myself to make my here and now good.
The future though? That I can’t control. I can’t change the health, the minds, the laws, and the outcomes. I can pray and wait and trust, but I can’t control. Only God knows what will happen. Only He can do what I desperately want to be done. When it comes to the future I can’t trust myself because I have no power – I have to trust God, and only God.
I’ve always thought of faith as one of my strong suits – I’ve never been overly concerned about my future because I knew God had it all under control. I work hard and prepare and God does the rest, right?
But what happens when I work hard and there’s no guarantee that God will follow through with what I’ve always thought was His part of the bargain? One thing I’ve been learning this year is that the future I thought God and I agreed on might actually be wishful thinking on my part.
So here I sit. And stand. And work. In a place where I’m learning to rest and breathe in deep with open hands. In a place where I’m learning to be still and know that God is. In a place where I’m learning that my view of the world is minuscule and His view is all-encompassing.
I want to know what the future holds. To know what normal will feel like in the coming weeks. To know what to expect and count on and look foward to. But I can’t know. And at the end of the day, that’s okay. Because I do trust. Not in myself, but in the God who holds the future.