Finding humor in an imperfect life while
Every Sunday morning, church going families throughout the land load happy, well-dressed, polite children into their cars and head off to their favorite place of worship. The ride is peaceful as each person in the family prepares their hearts to receive the message.
They arrive at least 10 minutes early, greet everyone cheerfully, and watch with pride as their whole family sits still and pays perfect attention throughout the entire service. Finally, they greet people warmly on their way out the door as they head off to a delicious lunch (that mom had plenty of time to prepare beforehand). No one spills anything on their clothes or argues. Everyone went to bed at a decent hour the night before so no one is the least bit cranky. Their Facebook feed is filled with perfectly edited shots of the whole family in coordinating Sunday wear and everything is picture perfect.
I have absolutely no idea who these people are, but I’m sure they exist somewhere. If it’s you, God Bless. Our Sunday mornings look a little.... different.
So how do I get my family to church on time and looking perfect? Simple, I don't. NOT EVEN CLOSE. Our Sunday mornings involve pulling sleepy teenagers out of bed and threatening cell phone privileges if they don’t get themselves together and in the car. It’s performing what would seem to onlookers like an exorcism to get my daughter’s hair looking like she wasn’t attacked by a flock of birds. It’s not having time to cook a “decent” breakfast and telling the kids they can have a bowl of cereal and donuts from the welcome desk in the church lobby later. Someone, or everyone, has spilled something on their clothes or stepped in something questionable between home and the parking lot.
Our drive to church includes me turning up the radio to drown out the “aggressive fellowship” taking place between the children as they hash out who is in the other’s space and who is breathing each other’s air. Good times y'all.
Here's a quick look at my favorite ride home from church. Peace. Glorious Peace.
Our Sunday mornings usually mean rushing into the late service halfway through the first worship song hoping no one will notice. Then, it’s asking Jesus to meet me there in the middle of my hot mess, settling my heart into peace, instruction, and worship. He never fails me.
That’s the point. That’s what makes it worth it. That’s why I will continue to drag my kids out of bed and through the doors week after week. The renewal I receive, the spiritual boost I need to live my best life as a Christian is worth every moment of “mess” it takes to get there.
Sister, please don't think for one second think you need to have it all together to worship. Most of us are right there with you in that same messy boat.
So, if your Sunday mornings look anything like mine, keep going. Keep showing up...even if it’s a few minutes late, even if your kids (or likely yourself) aren’t perfectly put together.
I promise you, Jesus doesn’t care nearly as much about how you or your family look as He does the condition of your hearts and your proximity to His presence. He doesn’t need you to be Pinterest worthy. He just needs you to show up. And every once in a great while, miracles happen and we manage to get ourselves together enough for a picture...OK, I can't find one of us all together at church at the moment so here's one from three years ago. Lord, thank you for Your Grace.
I’ve noticed a disturbing trend lately, and while I am hesitant to hit a hot button I’ve got some things to say. Take a deep breath and prepare to clutch your pearls.
It’s not our business how other people are called to help or serve. There. I said what I said. What do I mean by that? Well, if Karen feels called to bring foster children into her home - leave your judgement at the door. Instead, bring over a couple pizzas and get to know those kids or, and I mean this with all the love- HUSH. If Joe decides that his charitable dollars are best spent in extra giving to his church - mind your business. And if Susan wants to spend her weekends feeding the homeless, pray for her mission. Don’t tell her how she should spend her time rescuing exotic spiders from deteriorating rain forests instead.
Lately, I’ve been seeing and hearing a lot of, “well group XYZ needs more help than group ABC. You should help XYZ first.” WHAT?!? God put Susan’s and Joe’s and Karen’s all here with DIFFERENT missions, ministries, talents, and abilities to cover more bases. When we add our judgement and condescending attitude to the mix of fear and doubt the enemy uses to discourage people from serving - well, guess who’s work we are doing then? Not God’s.
I spent several years serving as an advocate for severly abused children. People would constantly say things like, "Ew, it's just so sad. I could never do that. I can't stand to hear about it." Well, gosh Lovely Person, that's encouraging. But someone has to do it. Someone NEEDS to do it. And, with the help of God, I served there throughout the season He called me there.
Y’all, there is enough pain and suffering in this world to go around. I believe if each of us just did the works and missions that God called us to do there would be a lot less. He instilled that passion for your calling in you. Who are we to judge how another is called to work for the Lord?
Listen, we are called to help the poor, the downtrodden, those in need. The biblical instruction there is clear. But it does not say - make sure to tell others that you feel that they should not help one group or that there is a better group they could give their time and money to.
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in it’s various forms.
We don’t all have the same gifts. Hallelujah! What a beautiful creation we are as a whole, all different, yet complementary. Take, for instance, the work of those called to the immediate aftermath of natural disasters. I’m not called there, but I thank the Lord that there are people who He did call to that noble work. And while people are sitting back saying, “those people are crazy, they could get hurt”, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the victims they rescue are pretty thankful for them.
In a time when we are so divided as a nation, even in our own neighborhoods, here is one area where we can immediately get to work building bridges. Let’s do that. Let’s each make a conscious effort to lift each other up in this area. If you see a friend on the cusp of stepping out into their calling to service, build them up. Pray for them. If you can’t be an encouragement - say nothing. Then, if you don’t already know what your assignment is, ask the Lord how and where he wants you to help. If you get busy on your assignment, I have found you don’t have a whole lot of time to worry about what everyone else is doing.
There is no shortage of needs. Children, homeless, veterans, animals, on and on and on. Not sure where to start? Just start. Jump in. And if you do get any attitude, rebuke that business and keep on keeping on. He knows your heart. God is with you - always.
Love and Prayers,
P.S. Sorry I’m so sassy. Love y’all.
I haven’t always been a “Sunday morning Christian”. I grew up with praying parents, praying grandparents, and was frequently pointed towards God. However, growing up I was never more than a visitor to any given church. I didn’t “belong” and wasn’t part of the “club”. I didn’t understand the lingo. I didn’t think it was essential and didn’t even fully understand the concept of “church family”. I had never had one. It seemed a little strange, a little uncomfortable, and totally foreign. If that’s you, it’s OK. I felt that way once.
Over the last 5 years my heart on the subject has changed and it has so profoundly shifted my life that I just can’t leave these things unsaid. I found my church family and a group of people I love so fiercely it is surprising. I get it now. So, here is my “love letter” to my church family and all the things I should say more often. Feel free to share with yours.
To my Church Family,
Thank you for letting me in, accepting me, and making me feel just as at home in our sanctuary as I am on my living room couch. Thank you for never expecting me to be perfect, knowing exactly how much of a “hot mess” I am, and loving me anyway. When my daughter is running around like a heathen after service with her “tribe” of little girls, thank you for sneaking candy into their little hands instead of shushing them. And when my teenage boys are nodding off in the back, thank you for not judging them but sometimes gently nudging them. With your help I believe we are all raising the next generation of the Lord’s Army.
Thank you for giving us all the opportunity to celebrate each other’s victories and mourn each other’s losses. My heart and prayers are always with you. I pray when you travel. I grieve when you are diagnosed. I rejoice when you receive victory! How amazing and humbling it is to be in and amongst the family of God.
Thank you for a thousand prayers, whether gathered around our altar, in the lobby, or by phone, text, and messenger. Thank you for always reaching out. Thank you for the strength it gives me to know I have an army of prayer warriors to call up in a time of need. Gosh, that feels good.
Thank you for not noticing or not caring when I get carried away in worship and sing out loud- it’s not pretty. Bless you. Thanks for tons of cookouts, pulled pork sandwiches, school supply give-a-ways, bouncy house weekends, and long conversations while our children wore themselves out. I look forward to hundreds more. And I hope there’s a special place in Heaven for those who help with cold, windswept, and rainy Easter Egg hunts. You deserve it.
Thank you for teaching my kids the ways of Jesus- both in the children’s ministry and the way you live your life in front of them. Thank you for loving them and being part of the village who raises them.
Thank you for welcoming the lost. For loving on those considered “other” in our society, those that have felt like they never fit in at church before. I am never afraid or ashamed to invite ANYONE in because I know they will be welcomed by you. Thank you for always setting another place at the table for new people and families to join our family.
Thank you for shaking my hand at the door, taking up the offering, making the coffee, cleaning the bathrooms, carrying the chairs, playing the music, organizing dinners and outreach, directing the parking, and the one thousand and one other tasks that all of us enjoy. You are the hands and feet of Jesus.
Never doubt that while none of us is perfect, as long as we keep showing up for each other and growing together in God, with His help, we are unstoppable.
Thank you to all the other church families who are living this out all over the world. I thank each of you too.
You are all a sweet bonus gift of salvation - unexpected but dearly loved.
If you are reading this and don’t have a church family, please know that I believe that God has one for you. Seek and you will find.
Proverbs 31: 26 - 28
She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is kindness. She watches over the ways of her household. And does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed.
Hands down, one of my FAVORITE parts of my thirties is what I refer to as “phone therapy” sessions with my mother. These conversations give me life. Gone are the drama filled days of teen angst and the you-can’t-tell-me-how-to-live days of my 20’s. These are the days of genuinely wanting her opinion on the big stuff and the urge to share all the small stuff.
My kid has a weird rash? I’m calling my mom. Teenager going through some stuff? Calling mom. Thinking of moving/changing careers/doing something different in any way? At least an hour call with my mom - minimum. These things must be sorted, examined, re-examined, discussed, five side conversations must branch off of it, and then we must circle back and summarize.
I’m writing this after just wrapping up a ninety minute “therapy session” where we discussed a wide range of intellectual topics such as who got the best bargain on end of season outdoor decor items, the ridiculous amount of sass I got from my teenager over the weekend, and how the butts of everyone on her side of the family suddenly deflate from a shapely bubble to a wide pancake somewhere between the ages of 35-40. Like I said, a wide range of topics.
On too many occasions to count she has called me out on my stuff, talked me down from bouts with anxiety, passed along sage wisdom, and walked me through recipes, home remedies, and business matters.
No topic is off limits. Aside from my marriage, this is the safest space on Earth. We discuss possible solutions to my problems and we also dabble in solutions to everyone else’s problems too. If we know you, we have probably discussed your options and possibilities. Let me know if you want the notes. We are the life coaches you never knew you had….or wanted...or needed. Not judging, we just really like to discuss life's possibilities.
My sister and my teenagers have benefited from our unsolicited life coaching and, to our absolute bewilderment, they DO NOT take copious and detailed notes. To my sister’s credit, she does, however, nod indulgently before she does the opposite. To be fair, I think she and my mom have “fixed” me a time or two as well. That’s fair play.
During calls we have planned hundreds of trips (2 or 3 of which we have actually taken), hypothetically decorated several rooms that don’t belong to us, and once cataloged all the possible reasons my petite, prissy, seven year old princess passes an enormous amount of gas potent enough to rival her big brothers. Y’all should have been there for that one.
Did I mention she calls me out on my crap? She does. About 82% of the time I handle it gracefully. About 100% of the time she’s right. Far worse is when she gets quiet on the other end of the line. If she’s quiet on the line you better take another look at that life choice because you are about to mess up. Bad. Unfortunately, I have blown right past that red flag a time or two - much to my regret.
Far more often then she calls me out, she lifts me up. I tell you straight, this woman is an undiscovered Tony Robbins-esq motivational speaker. I have started chats feeling like a shamed puppy and ended them feeling like Mohammed Ali. For this alone I owe this woman - BIG TIME.
I know how lucky I am. If you are reading this and have a painful past with your mother, or have already lost her, please know I absolutely grieve for you. I know how fortunate I am to have this relationship and I treasure it even more so because I know it’s not one every woman gets to enjoy. Please accept my virtual hug and a promise to never take it for granted.
If you are lucky enough to still have your mom, give her a call. It may end up being the best (not to mention cheapest) therapy you ever had.
Love & Grace,