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My eight-year-old daughter, Hallie, still can’t wrap her arms even halfway around the giant oak in our yard. Our little farmhouse was built in 1930—the first in this square mile—many, many moons ago. She looks like a pint-sized ant standing by the tree’s trunk, peering up into the branches that triple the height of our home. “How did it grow so big?” she asks with a blend of curiosity and wonder. “Well. It happened a little bit at a time, every single day,” I answer. “We can plant an acorn and water it and make sure it’s positioned for sunlight, but it’s God who makes it grow.”

Growth happens a little bit at a time, every single day.

My five-year-old son, Jack, stands next to his daddy and looks up at his towering stature with a proud grin. He measures the top of his head to the middle of Dad’s ribcage and questions, “How can I grow like you?” Derek lifts Jack up on his shoulder and tosses him on the couch like a throw pillow. “A little bit at a time,” he tells him, “every single day.” “We can eat healthy food and make sure our bodies get lots of exercise, but it’s God who makes you grow.”

“It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building.” (1 Corinthians 3:7-9)

Even now—today—we’re all staring down the barrel at some kind of task: starting a project, remodeling a house, potty-training a toddler, teaching a classroom, learning the ways of God, leading an organization, breaking down walls in a less-than-ideal relationship. And we find ourselves asking, “How can this grow?” The truth is: progress happens a little bit at a time, every single day. Contrary to popular opinion, there’s no quick fix or speedy drive-thru window. We can bring our best and implement different strategies and never give up, but it’s God who makes it grow.

We can bring our best and implement different strategies and never give up, but it’s God who makes it grow.

Sometimes we stand back and look at the heroes of our faith like Abraham and Moses, John and Paul—maybe even a parent, teacher, or mentor. And we wonder, “How can I grow to be spiritually mature, like them?” You know the answer by now: Growth happens a little bit at a time, every single day. But rarely does anything happen overnight (or by itself). Instead, our lives are built moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day—by planting, watering, and allowing God to do the deep, mysterious work. God’s plan all along was for us to be coheirs and coworkers with Jesus in the Kingdom of God.

Our lives are built moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day—by planting, watering, and allowing God to do the deep, mysterious work.

Jesus told many stories about the value of investing our time, talents, and treasures wisely. He didn’t create us as robots, but as living and breathing people with divine responsibility—not to earn our salvation (he already won that battle), but to continuously bring glory to His name.

God will do His part, I promise. But let’s not forget to do ours.

 

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My summer brain has gotten a bit fried from all of the sunshine lately, so I’ve happily invited more listening and less blabbing into my life.

I just finished the book, It’s Not What You Think: Why Christianity Is About So Much More Than Going to Heaven When You Die, by Jefferson Bethke. And let me tell ya—it’s one that should be on your list. Jefferson takes relatable stories and mixes them with solid truths, while addressing some common misconceptions found in the sometimes “weird stew” of Western Christianity.

If you’re anything like me, you appreciate a tasty sampling before diving in full force, so here’s a quote from each chapter to get you started. Enjoy!

 

Chapter One: Your Story’s Not What You Think

“The creation account, the Law, the Prophets, the songs, the Gospels, the Epistles, and the book of Revelation all tell the same story—how the Creator God (Jesus) brought about (and is still bringing about) new creations despite our rebellion, sin, and cosmic treason.”

 

Chapter Two: The Temple’s Not What You Think

“The amazing thing is that God doesn’t snap his fingers and say, ‘Fine. If you don’t want me, then I don’t want you.’ He certainly could have, but instead he kept promising, kept pursuing, kept chasing. He longs to dwell with his people, yesterday and today.”

 

Chapter Three: People Are Not Who You Think

“His voice always calls us out of hiding and into intimacy because that’s God’s goal. He makes it clear from Genesis to Revelation that he wants to dwell with his people. He desires intimacy not hiding, transparency not masks. To know God and be known by God is the dance of eternity.”

 

Chapter Four: You Aren’t Who You Think

“That’s the importance of the wilderness. It’s a place where we can hear the whisper. It’s a place that isn’t drowned out by the noises of our phones, computers, and twenty-four-hour news cycle. The wilderness is sometimes the only place we can hear the voice of God.”

 

Chapter Five: The Sabbath’s Not What You Think

“For God it was six days of work and then rest, but for Adam his first day was rest, and only then could he truly work. That sounds a lot like the cross, doesn’t it? Jesus does all the work, and we are called to enter that rest.”

 

Chapter Six: Worship’s Not What You Think

“When we make another person an idol, we end up squeezing the life out of them. Only one person has the ability to sustain being God, and that’s Jesus. When we worship Jesus, we can love that person even more because our center isn’t tied to or defined by them.”

 

Chapter Seven: The Kingdom’s Not Where You Think

“Life isn’t about going to heaven when you die, it’s about making heaven true on earth in every facet and level of our relationship with God, others, and self.”

 

Chapter Eight: Brokenness is Not What You Think

“What if Jesus wants to heal the dark parts of your life, so then you can turn around and tell others just how good he really is? Only when a wound is a scar will we let it tell a story. You can then point at the scar and say, ‘Look what Jesus did.’”

 

Chapter Nine: The Table’s Not What You Think

“Part of the job of being a Jesus-follower is making other people’s pain our pain. To feel it. To absorb it. To step into that gap as much as possible, because that’s exactly what Jesus did for us.”

 

 

See? You really should check it out.

What have you been reading this summer?

 

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A few weeks ago, my kids—Hallie and Jack—locked eyes on a baby turtle who was stranded in the middle of the road in front of our house.

They did what most kids would do; they panicked. They panicked and strategized and gathered up their mama to cross the street and save the tiny fella from death’s doorstep.

“Turd the Turtle” is clearly the only proper name for such a creature, and chosen with love by two small people who were unaware of the unfortunate implications of his title. We watched as he shuffled around the backyard, ate a few juicy bugs, and finally wandered under the fence and into the field next to our house.

Ah, FREEDOM.

It’s been raining a bunch lately—drawing more friends out of the creek. While driving home yesterday, I noticed another lone turtle (probably Turd’s cousin) hunkered down in the middle of a busy intersection. Cars swirled all around while he remained curled up inside of the “safety” of his own shell.

A fatal illusion.

My tires missed him, but the car behind me wasn’t quite as considerate.

And I couldn’t help but think of how we often do this ridiculous thing: taking cover smack in the middle of a war zone. We find ourselves in difficult places, dark places, paralyzing places—after somehow losing track of our borders. But instead of being honest about where we are, we shove it all inside and ignore the fact that we’re in trouble.

We pick the wrong shelter.

Calling a timeout in the middle of a busy highway will do nothing but get us RAN THE HECK OVER. It does no good to pretend everything’s just fine, or to close ourselves off. We don’t need more positive thinking, more “me” time, more distractions, more self-help steps to a better life.

We need to be rescued.

To the person reading this who’s facing desperation. To the person reading this who feels like that turtle in the middle of the road. To the person reading this who needs a shelter you can count on…

Take cover in the One who created you.

Make Psalms 61:1-4 your own prayer: “O God, listen to my cry! Hear my prayer! From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering rock of safety, for you are my safe refuge, a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me. Let me live forever in your sanctuary, safe beneath the shelter of your wings!”

 

Let HIM be your hiding place.

 

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“He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken.” (Psalms 62:6)

 

Confession: I’ve said the “B” word a lot lately…

BUSY.

Busy is our automated response to the question, “How are you?” Busy is the cultural norm of our society—along with being exhausted, stressed-out, and overwhelmed. Busy is addictive and, sometimes, self-imposed.

But I don’t want to just be busy; I want to breathe. I want to read stories with my kids curled up in my lap, take time to notice the warm sun on my face, and slow this crazy-train down long enough to hear the gentle whispers of our Creator. I want margin and white-space and a little extra room for un-busy living.

For peace. For joy. For seeing God in the small things.

So here are 14 practical tips that are currently helping me slow down and simplify. (And remember, I am always preachin’ to myself first)…

 

  1. Deal with it. Decisions are part of everyday life, but many of us (me! me!) can be painfully indecisive—typically over nothing important. With never-ending options in our world, it’s tough to buckle down make a choice already. But here’s one simple trick I’ve learned: Write out all of the decisions that need to be made for the day or week and—wait for it—MAKE THEM.

 

  1. Condense the cooking. Maybe you’re a natural chef like The Pioneer Woman. Maybe you are The Pioneer Woman (Hey Ree!). But if you’re anything like me, you just want quick and tasty and healthy meals for your crew. Listen: There’s nothing wrong with simple goodness. So pick a handful or two of wholesome favorites… and rotate. Keep the ingredients on hand, double the recipe for no cooking the following night (or for freezing), and call it a day. The important thing is gathering your people around a table—not perfection (see #9).

 

  1. Dry shampoo. Can I get an AMEN, ladies? Also worth noting: dry shampoo’s much older, much lazier sister—the hat.

 

  1. Just say no. We’ve heard it a thousand times, but how often do we put this little word into practice? Yes, I want to meet you for dinner. Yes, I want to come to your child’s birthday party. Yes, I want to attend your fundraiser for a fabulous cause. Yes, I want to come to your Scentsy/Arbonne/Rodan+Fields/Pampered Chef/Mary Kay gathering this Saturday morning. But you know what? We can’t do all the things. We must give ourselves permission to not be at every last thing, every time.

 

  1. Just say yes. Sorry to be a walking contradiction, but HEY, it’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind. 🙂 Actually, there’s a time and a season for everything. So in place of one of the unessentials you edited off your list, be sure to add “invest in my family” back on there. Date your mate! Date your kids! If you’re not married, use that time to cultivate an important relationship—a friend, a parent, a mentor. Make time for what (and who) matters most.

 

  1. Kick the TV out of your bedroom. This has always been a “rule” at our house, and I think it’s a good one for many, many reasons.

 

  1. Online grocery shopping. Of all modern conveniences, I definitely don’t hate this one. We were out of toilet paper and laundry detergent and bananas and peanut butter—the essentials. So I placed a Sam’s order and picked it up the next morning while it was raining, without getting wet or unbuckling my precious children out of their car seats. GLORY.

 

  1. Maximize down-time. Keep a book with you. Call a friend while you’re driving. Ten minutes here and ten minutes there—in the carpool line or a waiting room—can add up fast. Also: audiobooks in the car, podcasts at the gym, and the listening feature on the totally FREE and awesome Bible App.

 

  1. Kiss ‘perfect’ goodbye. Because it’s simply not a thing. (Except Jesus.) The end.

 

  1. Take five. When you’re overwhelmed because the house is a mess, take five. Five minutes (set the timer) for everyone to make their beds or pick-up toys/clothes/clutter off the floor. When you’re feeling defeated or deflated, take five. Five minutes to open up the living and breathing word of God. Five minutes to drink a cup of coffee. Five minutes to pray. Five minutes to remind yourself that HE IS GOOD.

 

  1. Have yourself a digital detox. Close your computer, set down your phone, and walk outside. I mean it. Take a deep breath, feel the breeze on your face, and remember this life is short and it’s a gift. Make eye contact during conversations, plant a garden, twirl your kids around the yard, and get out of the box you’ve put yourself in. The world wide web is fascinating (and endless), but the real stuff is even better. Don’t forget to show up for your one actual life.

 

  1. Baskets are your friend. Baskets for toys. Baskets for books. Baskets for electronics. Baskets for blankets. Baskets for baskets.

 

  1. Rest. “Then Jesus said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.’” (Mark 2:27) This isn’t new, guys. Our bodies and minds need a day off—it’s how we were made. Just like our smartphones, everything works better when recharged (and yes, I did just compare us to our smartphones). Rest is good. Modern research continues to validate what the Bible has said all along.

 

  1. Grace, grace, and more grace. Instead of taking and giving it by the teaspoonful, we should be using giant buckets to pour out grace—lavishly! Forgive others. Forgive yourself. Let go of what you can’t control. Show up. Be grateful. Do your best. Keep going. God is crazy about you, so take the grace. He’s forgiven you, so take the grace. He is with you and for you and walking beside you. So take the grace, and have a double shot while you’re at it.

 

In what ways do you simplify your busy life?

 

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