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Pray A to Z: a book to help us pray like we promise we will

pray-with-purposeWhen a friend reveals a terrible thing going on in her life, we might respond with a hug and “Oh, how hard. I’ll pray for you.”

And then we forget.

We watch the news and our retinas are burned out by the horrible things we see broadcast and we think I should pray about that more.

But we get distracted.

The church emails the really long and detailed prayer list and our eyes glaze over immediately, completely unprepared to pray for Mr. Stone’s prostate surgery on Thursday.

BECAUSE I’M NOT PREPARED TO DISCUSS MR. SMITH’S PROSTATE WITH THE ALMIGHTY, okay?

I’m just not.

Guilt ensues.

We feel guilty about how we don’t actually pray for our friends, family, and community enough, but we have no idea of how to fit that into our lives.

We want to worship and focus on God’s mighty attributes, but the children and the piles of laundry are so much louder than God most days.

Guess what. Someone saw this need coming and they wrote a book for us, and then a copy was thoughtfully provided for us for free here on the blog. It’s called Pray A to Z (***affiliate link) and Amelia Rhodes understands our messy, crazy lives. Her organized brain has categorized our concerns so we can actually pray like we want to do.

pray-a-to-z-coverFrom A (adoption, abuse, Almighty…) to P (pregnancies, Pain, Promise Keeper) to Z (zest, Zion, zeal), we can read through the simple, quick entries to direct our thoughts outward to God, seeking him.

Let’s take a peek inside Pray A to Z

Of course I turned first to the Finances entry, because that’s how my brain works. I loved how this section fits in exactly with what we talk about on this blog all the time:

Father, forgive me for where I have allowed the love of money to creep into my life. Help me remember to put my trust in You, not in a bank account, in possessions, or in what money can do for me. Let my security rest in You, not my stuff. Help me learn to be content with what I have, and not always be searching for the next great thing. Grow my desire to use money to serve You and Your kingdom… (p. 54).

I love prayers that are written out, simply because they gather my thoughts and intentions and express them so beautifully. This book is a gentle way to keep me on track and focused on the right things when I pray, instead of running my brain around like an anxious chicken.

Amelia Rhodes
Amelia Rhodes

Win a copy!

If you’d like to be more prayerful, more worshipful, and more competent to discuss Mr. Smith’s prostate with the Lord (just kidding, there’s no Prostate chapter), this book is exactly what you need. You can click the icon below to be entered into a contest to win a copy for yourself!

Pray A to Z Amelia Rhodes
Amelia Rhodes is fabulous, and I know you’ll love to get to know her. You can find her at her website, ameliarhodes.comFollowing God into the Unknown is my favorite series on her blog, and you can read all about how her family believed God was calling them to downsize and move to a new house. It’s a story of faith, contentment, and rejection of modern culture’s expectations. You’re going to love it; check it out!

Halloween Reframe: How we can reclaim the holiday for good

So, I’m sitting here in a house that’s stuffed to the gills with Halloween candy. Almost twelve pounds, to be exact. And while I’m sitting here and the smell of sugar is wafting out of the cupboard, I’m thinking deep thoughts.
Halloween candy!

These deep thoughts tend to be comparisons between the Halloweens I grew up with and the Halloween I know now. Way, way back in the 80s, our conservative church culture viewed the holiday with suspicion and fear, like perhaps Satan was in the streets gobbling up little children as they went from door to door.

One of these things is not like the other...
One of these things is not like the other…

It seemed safer to stay home and watch TV and avoid Satan all together. Oh, sometimes we could go to the school party at night, or maybe the church put on an alternative Harvest Party– a little bit of Halloween, but not too much.

I get the general idea behind the mindset. It’s absolutely dangerous to go dabbling in the dark, spiritual realm. But whether we like it or not, I think we can all acknowledge that our communities and neighborhoods are on the move Halloween night. Not only are things hopping, they’re coming right to our doors. And we’re going to right to theirs. hot pink mums

We had a neighbor move in two months ago, and I swear to you I’ve seen his face three times (at a distance) in eight weeks. There were two weeks where I wondered if he’d actually died in the house and we should send in a rescue team. I’ve looked for ways to introduce myself, but he skitters in and out like he’s afraid of the fresh air.

Guess what, buddy. We’re coming over on Halloween and we’re going to introduce ourselves.  Prepare yourself.

Another set of neighbors held a party on Saturday and we had a chance to catch up with people we usually just wave at while passing. Small children ran rampant through Josh and Heather’s home, battling with plastic weapons from their costumes. During this chaos Josh and Heather calmly chatted with the adults, watching their house being slowly torn to shreds. They just laughed and said they’d clean up in the morning. They were more interested in building friendships than protecting their carpet.

gourds and pumpkin

I’ve been watching our friends online and I’ve seen pumpkin carving parties, trunk or treat preparations, and group outings to the pumpkin farm. I love how people are coming together over chocolate and giant orange vegetables. We can reframe this holiday and use it to reach out, to grow closer, to strengthen friendships and start new ones.

At the moment I have all the candy in the high cupboard over the fridge. I like to tell myself it’s because I’m hiding it from the children, but really it’s to slow myself down from eating all of it before the trick or treaters show up. Because when the little ghosties and ghouls come begging, I’m going to be ready for them.

They might leave my porch a little bit afraid of the over-friendly lady handing out twelve pounds of candy, but they’ll certainly know I was glad they stopped by. I’ve decided this is a chance to love my neighbors, and community. And I may take a wee nibble of chocolate while I’m at it.

What about you? How does your family approach this subject?

How to find your blue carpet friends (and why you need to!)

blue-carpet-friends-3Are you surrounded by friends who get you? I mean, do you have friends who support you in all your life choices? I think they’re key to living out your calling and dreams, and here’s why.

I have this good friend, Betsy, who is also my hairstylist. Now that my hair care routine requires quite a bit of dye to restore my luscious locks to the color I remember them being at age 25, Betsy and I get quite a bit of quality time together every six weeks.

The last time I was in the shop we started talking about priorities in life, and the toll they take on our finances. For example: choosing to travel as a family and/or enrolling the kids in a Christian school. Both are wonderful options, but neither comes cheaply. We talked about making all the budget areas stretch so we could fit our priorities into our financial picture without taking on debt.

And then we really got on a roll and examined how our friendships can be the key to helping us stay on track with our life choices, or they can derail us in the most dangerous ways.

I told her about how many years ago we’d chosen a completely different preschool for Caleb, because the community at his older sister’s preschool included people who actually went to the yacht club. They drove SUVs the size of my living room. They gave birthday parties for three year olds that cost hundreds of dollars.

I was out of my league in my rusty Chevy and wee little house and homemade cupcakes. So far out of my league, that for Caleb’s preschool experience we chose a little school in a farming community to our south. I felt far more comfortable there, like my life goals made sense to them and then, in turn, to me while I was there.

Betsy understood exactly what I meant, and told me about their friends with blue carpet. “They can afford new carpet,” she said, “but they have other priorities. They just haven’t changed it yet.”

That blue carpet brings something important to their relationship. It’s a statement. A reminder that not everything in life has to be perfect. It’s okay to have financial limitations or life goals other people might not understand.

It’s camaraderie, too. When we can peer into a friend’s life and see tangible proof that they feel no need to have everything matching and new and shiny and perfect, we can hold our our mismatched little lives close together and feel like we’re on the same team. Someone gets us.

On Thursday nights I take our kids to a local youth group and pull my beat up Sienna in next to my friend Kris’s beat up Sienna. We open up our trunks together to try to locate the leaks we both have, leaks that soak our trunk carpets in a good rain. We’ve been bonding over weird things since our college days, but those leaky trunks are just one more piece in the friendship.

photo-1475027204167-3187bf798ba2

It’s not like friendships start and blossom over things like wet carpet or blue carpet or even brand new carpet.

They blossom when something in me recognizes something in you, and we feel like we’re understood. We might not have the same life goals, we might not have the same blue carpet or old minivan, but we understand that you’re picking your important things and it’s okay for me to pick mine, too.

Friends who support us while we carve out our lives are one of God’s greatest gifts. So, today, I hope you’ll take a moment to notice your friends’ oddities and quirks and mismatched life. And may you say, out loud, how wonderful you think it all is. Your words might just give them the courage and joy they need today.

Flop down on their blue carpet and tell them it brings out the blue in their eyes. Climb into that minivan and say, “Oh, no. Mine smells so much worse than this. This is fine.”

Blue carpet is a way to connect and encourage. It’s kind of precious like that.

4-decisions-banner

Four easy steps to building your authentic community

You, right there. The woman in the car, reading this blog post on her mobile phone and wishing she had a new life.

You, the mother in the living room who has 1,342 children and only two arms.

You, the man who is married to the woman who has 1,342 children and even with your two arms involved, you’re feeling like your life is 1,338 arms short.

You.

Any person who is alive, I am speaking to you.

I’ve been carefully watching everyone lately and I’m seeing a recurring theme: everyone is stressed out. Everyone.

It looks like the person next to you has everything together and they’re dancing through life like a hippy in a field of flowers. Carefree, money in the bank, and having an excellent hair day.

Meanwhile, you feel like life has chewed you up and spit you back into that same field and the hippy is about to accidentally stomp on your face whilst she prances among the flowers. But you’re too exhausted to get out of her way, so you lie there and wait for the delicate sandal to the eye socket.

But here is the truth– all your friends probably feel the same way as you. Oh, sure– they might be having a good day. It’s possible. But in general, they’re probably worried about the same things. There are no perfect families, there is no perfect health, and there will never be enough money in the bank.

But we’re not fans of giant crybabies, so we all put on our Adult Panties and go about our business, pretending everything is fine. That’s why you think your friends are fine and dandy– they’re fakers.

I said it. Fakers!

I’m a faker. Maybe you’re a faker too.

What if we tried this instead:

  1. Stopped faking.
  2. Reached out to our friends and family and shared our real issues.
  3. Asked them how they are really doing. And then listened.
  4. Repeat forever.

We might eventually have a community where all the grass looked just about the same, and maybe we’d all be sitting on it having impromptu picnic lunches. Together.

A photo by Aranxa Esteve. unsplash.com/photos/pOXHU0UEDcg

 

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The Aftermath (things I find after the toddlers leave)

Tuesday morning I sank into my favorite chair, coffee mug in hand, robe firmly affixed to my person. I was a vision of loveliness, I assure you.

I set my coffee cup down on the 1970s hi-fi we keep in that corner of the living room (because the Clemences are all about 8 tracks, if you have a stack in a closet you’d like to get rid of) and noticed a pile of crumbs. Cookie crumbs.

I plopped the mug right on top of the crumbs and smiled.

Something caught my eye across the room and I laughed out loud. An entire shelf of books had been haphazardly rearranged like some sort of toddler army had been playing library. And that’s exactly what had happened, I reckon. I didn’t actually see the stubby librarian in action, but it’s a fair guess.

They still look like this, two days later.
They still look like this, two days later.

Monday nights our small group meets at our house. When we first started we had one toddler and four babies on the way. Now we have two little girls who are two-ish and four (count them, four) one-year old boys. We also have a newborn and another one due any day. And we can’t forget the two tweens who live in this house and keep it “child-friendly” on a daily basis.

If life and God had left me to my own devices, I’d keep my home like a magazine spread. The floors would be polished, the books tidily stacked in some artsy way, the stools at the breakfast bar lined up in military precision.

Lucky for me, God and children of all types have been giving me a reason to get over myself for twelve years now.

The pile of books and cookie crumbs are proof that life exists in this home. A herd of tiny people feels comfortable here, rummaging through my tupperware cupboard and the shoe closet.

One of the children, who shall remain nameless, took to  finding the bag of potatoes and taking a bite out of one each week. I thought this was hilarious. She hasn’t done it for a few months now, and I sort of miss her once-bitten potatoes I’d find next to the shoes.

If you’re living in a potato-strewn, book-piled, crumb-covered place today, take heart. Life is messy. Relationships are messy. Toddlers are the messiest of them all.

The mess is proof of life and love and a future.

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