An Invitation

cmas 18_6.jpgIf I had one Christmas wish, it would be to bottle up my four-year old’s giggles and keep it forever. It’s a rolling laughter, infecting everyone close with joy and bringing an onslaught of hiccups in the aftermath. Tonight, the car was dark, so I couldn’t see her face, but I didn’t need any light to know that her dimples were in full view. We were driving through our local park viewing the Christmas light display and for whatever reason, she found every illuminated character absolutely hilarious.

There’s nothing more magical than experiencing the Christmas season through your child’s eyes. Nothing can compare to the ecstatic shrieks when Savannah saw Santa and the way she tries so hard to pick up all her toys and be extra nice to her sister just to stay on the “nice list”. We drink hot chocolate and marshmallows until our tummies protest and our tree has become a strobe light ever since the toddler found the button that turns it on and off. We’ve made our own popsicle ornaments and sang songs about baby Jesus in the manger. It may sound cliché, but it truly is the best time of the year.

However in the midst of all the memory making I have found myself burdened to do ALL.THE.THINGS. The to-do list never ends. Presents to buy. Lists to write. Desserts to make. Cards to send out. Gifts to wrap. Stockings to hang. Gingerbread houses to decorate. Caroling. Family photos. Christmas Parties. Advent Calendars. There’s only two more weeks until Christmas and there’s so much to DO! Should we stay home or travel on Christmas? Give them only what they need or spoil them rotten on Christmas morning? Are we focusing too much on Santa and not enough on Jesus? And then, all it takes is one quick scroll through social media to be reminded of all the seasonal things we haven’t done yet that everyone else seems to be doing.

Really, just typing all this out has elevated my blood pressure and brought a tightness to my chest.  And I feel this overwhelming burden to facilitate the very BEST Christmas for my daughters, because they deserve it.

But tonight, instead of wrapping more gifts or packing for the upcoming trip or going over what still needs to be done, I found myself drawn to the quiet. The Holy Spirit was beckoning. And so, I followed. And in the silence, I was reminded of my Savior’s words from so long ago.

Come.

Come unto me…” Come away from the busyness. Away from the expectations. Away from the pressure. Away from the stress. Away from the overwhelming strain to be everything and buy everything and do everything. Spurgeon says that “come” was Jesus’ favorite word. He bids us all to come and drives none of us away.

Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy burdened…” When He originally spoke those words, He was talking with group of very religious people who spent their whole beings constantly trying to follow all the rules and be good enough for God. And yet their efforts were as futile as my daughter’s attempts to stay on the nice list. No matter how hard she tries, she can’t help but occasionally revert back to her 4-year-old ways. Trying to be “good enough” is simply…exhausting. And Jesus isn’t beckoning those perfect people, because they don’t exist. Instead, He is inviting those of us who are honest enough to admit that as hard as we try…we will simply never quite measure up. He wants the screw ups and the misfits. The ones who are just not quite good enough.

But, what I love most about this invitation is that I don’t believe it only applies to those who are exhausted spiritually. I think it applies to any of us who are weary. The single moms who are physically exhausted from working extra shifts to provide for their children. To the brand-new mom who wonders if she’ll ever sleep again. He invites those who are mentally weary – the student athletes who are studying for finals, hoping to make the grade to keep themselves eligible. He invites those who are emotionally exhausted from preparing to be around relatives who never seem to get along. Or to those who are experiencing a very different kind of Christmas after the loss of a loved one. And tonight, I find Him whispering an invitation to me, a simple mom who feels burdened to give her family the very best Christmas.

Spurgeon writes, “laborers and loaded ones constitute the great mass of mankind—and the Lord Jesus invites them all without exception—high or low, learned or illiterate, moral or depraved, old or young”. Do you see that no one is excluded?

Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you REST.” During this busy, stressful season, there could be no greater gift than that of rest. Rest that penetrates to the deepest level of our being. A rest that brings peace. A peace that requires us to do absolutely nothing but accept His gentle invitation.

Are you, like me, overwhelmed, burdened or just tired? Your Savior is beckoning you to come into His arms where the yoke is easy and the burden is light. May we remember that the very first Christmas was a quiet one and very few stopped long enough to even recognize that it had arrived. Tonight, I will remember what Christmas is really all about and silence all the things coaxing my attention from the true Prince of Peace.

it starts today

Yesterday I lied to my husband. Maybe that’s normal for you, but we typically don’t make a practice of being dishonest in our marriage. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

The other day I was scrolling through Amazon, Christmas shopping for my little girls. Listed right under “previously viewed items” was a beautiful, expensive, white, shiny microphone. My heart skipped a beat and I swallowed hard. I could almost feel the smooth, cold metal in my hand. Before I could even take a second look, I closed the ap. Call it coincidence or perhaps my husband’s lack of creative hiding spots, but I have a terrible habit of accidentally discovering my husband’s gifts for me. He’d obviously been searching for a microphone for me. He’s been listening to me mull over an idea the past year – a podcast just for coach’s wives. Ever the thoughtful, encouraging husband he is, he was probably going to gift it for me for Christmas.

But, you know what I did?

I called him yesterday and nonchalantly said, “Oh hey, let’s maybe not buy each other anything for Christmas. I would kind of rather spend our money on the girls.”

The truth is, I don’t care about spending money on each other. I love receiving his gifts. The real reason I couldn’t possibly receive that microphone is that I am scared to death of it. What if not one coach’s wife agreed to be on my podcast? What if no one listened to the podcast? Or even worse…what if that gorgeous microphone simply sat in its box for years, a horrible $220 reminder of a dream unfulfilled; a dream I’ll get to this summer…or next fall…or when the girls start school.

If you’re knowledgeable about the enneagram, you may have guessed I’m a #3, “The Achiever” – valuing myself only for my list of successes or accomplishments, with a deep fear of failure and feeling worthless. I’m scared of my dreams, because I am scared of failing at them. But, even more than that, I’m scared of never even attempting to try to make my dreams a reality.

But, that stops today.

Over thanksgiving break my Dad pulled me aside and told me, “You have to write Jeni. You have a gift.” And my eye sockets turned into waterfalls.

“I want to Dad, but I just can’t find the time. I’m up at 5 to work out, I’m taking care of babies all day and after I put them to bed, I fall on the couch exhausted, with not one working brain cell left in my head.”

A slow smile broke onto his face and he said, “Just five minutes – five minutes every day. In fact you don’t have to write the book or the blog you want to. Just write ABOUT writing. You’ll figure it out.”

So today, I opened to a fresh page in my notebook and wrote down two thoughts. Maybe they’ll turn into blog posts or maybe not. But today, my dreams stop living in my head. Today, I’m telling you about them. Today, my husband is going to read about the microphone I found out he wants to get me.

Today, let’s take step one on the path to our dreams. Don’t let your dream live only in your mind until you’re “serious” or until the “time is right”. Tell someone today. Fear comes from the enemy. The Word tells us in 1 Timothy 1:7, “For God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power”.

And, with the Lord’s help I will write that blog and that book, maybe with a baby bouncing on my knee closing my laptop every five seconds like this morning. I will figure out how to be a completely PRESENT mother while pursuing my dreams, even if its baby steps. I will write that blog. I will write that novel. I will start that podcast. I will gear my photography business towards stylized sports photos.

So there I said it. And now you all know. And you’ll know if I fail. But you’ll also know if I succeed…

Comment below and tell me what your dream is.

current photos_4.jpg

a field of wonders


The sun beat down on us through a cloudless, blue sky and our boots crunched the autumn leaves as we made our way through the field. We were searching for the perfect prize – an impeccable round, shiny, orange pumpkin. We passed all the asymmetrical pumpkins, dusted off the muddy ones, and abstained from the rotten ones. I was on a mission, but mid-search you lost interest. I saw your towhead pause and you bent down; with hands on knees, you captivatingly stared at one of the vines. You were transfixed by a brilliant yellow flower. In its center were two bees, busily working away. A smile crept on my face as I watched you squeal with delight and point, yelling “Mommy a bee! What is it doing?”

Perhaps one of the greatest treasures of parenthood is viewing the world through little eyes. Through your eyes, I’ve fallen in love with God’s creation again. I’ve looked up from my iPhone long enough to notice that the crescent moon does indeed look like a banana, that springtime is filled with an abundance of fuzzy caterpillars and what I might consider a bunch of unlovely weeds are actually in disguise, a crown of flowers fit only for a backyard princess.

I’ve taught you that it was God who created everything in the beginning and yesterday, you discovered another one of His great gems. I tried to explain pollination in elementary terms that I’m positive you did not grasp. Maybe one day I will explain how our ecosystem depends on bees and what hardworking creatures they are. I will tell you how the Designer’s fingerprints can be found all over its hive, composed of hexagons, which mathematicians have proven is the best way to divide a surface by equal sections with the least total perimeter.

God created the bee with a perfect purpose in mind. He fashioned it to complete its job in just a few short weeks, producing only 1/12 teaspoon of honey. Insignificant? Never! Because, joined together, its colony flies 55,000 miles (or 2.2 times around the world), producing 60 pounds of honey! Whether it’s the stars in the heavens or the bees in their hives, whispers of the Designer echo throughout the Universe. He created with order and with purpose. And you, my daughter, have also been created with a specific purpose. You are worth far more to Him than the sparrows or the bees. He has numbered the very hairs on your head and knows all your days.

We did find our pumpkin, but we too, were reminded of our Creator and the amazing world He gave us. I promise to try and show you its beauty. And perhaps, I can learn something from the drone bees, who may seem worthless, spending all their time feeding baby bees instead of making honey. I won’t swallow the lie the world has spread, that I am just a mom. Instead I will embrace this season and my wonderful job as your mother to feed you both physically and spiritually.