So, You’d Like to Be More Flexible?

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In the fall of 2012 our days changed forever. We officially became business owners on September 25 when Biggby Holland opened its doors to the public for the first time. God has used this business (now three coffee shops, not just one) to profoundly bless our family.  These businesses have given Mark a place to work and walk in his giftings.

These businesses have also been the tool God has used to grow this careful, scheduled, planning, reliable, quality-time driven momma to become much more flexible.

In the first months of our business being open I saw Mark only when I drove out to the store–he would be home for 5-6 hours and spent those hours sleeping beside me.  A month after opening, I was unsure if he’d be at Charlotte’s first birthday party, until he pulled into the driveway. During those months of being primarily a single parent, friends & family would regularly make comments like, “I don’t know how you’re doing this with such a good attitude,” or “I wish I was more flexible like you.”

Though the first months are far behind us, if you own a business, you understand the requirement for flexibility does not diminish.

One store is out of hot cups–Mark takes off to grab more and deliver them.

Our toaster is broken at the first store and the grinder won’t work at the second–no Mark for dinner.

Managers quit, staff is sick–Mark is working 70 hours making drinks + the hours to actually run the business.

I share just a few examples with you, not to complain, but to paint a picture for you.  If you’re anything like me, you don’t like plans changing at the last minute–especially when they involve your husband missing dinner with the family, or putting the kids to bed by yourself and explaining to them why daddy is gone tonight, or finishing the last half of a birthday party without him.

When these situations first started, I would get angry, and I’d let Mark feel my anger with my short or exasperated tone of voice.  In my heart, I was having a mini temper tantrum because things weren’t going my way. But, God loves us too much to leave us as we are.  He kept allowing the situations, and kept allowing me the opportunity to (a) throw a fit or (b) access His help by the power of the Holy Spirit and choose to respond with a sweet and gracious spirit.

Thankfully, most times, I now choose option (b).

I still get regular comments as I did in those first months, “I wish I was more flexible like you are.”  Well, if you’d like to go with the flow better, like I (usually) do now–I have good news for you!  Flexibility has nothing to do with personality and everything to do with faith.

Either I believe God is sovereign or I do not.  If I do believe He is sovereign, then I accept that the espresso grinder, broken toilets, and sick staff are not out of His control. So, when my plans change unexpectedly, and my response is to grumble, I am grumbling against the One who orders my steps and plans my days.

So, when I respond sweetly to these demands for “flexibility,” I am really just flexing my faith muscles–faith that God is who He says He is and that He loves me and is deeply invested in my good–not necessarily my temporary comfort but my eternal character.

So, mommas, whether you’re an easy-going middle child momma or a first-born planner, you can flex those muscles and be as flexible as you choose to be.

Make Room for Him

As Advent begins

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The real Christmas was nothing like the Christmas we’ve come to know, with its traditions, memories, and legends.  It was a desperate moment that occurred for a desperate reason. (Jon Bloom, Prepare Him Room)

We were the desperate reason–our sinfulness, our waywardness, and our inability to bridge the chasm between us and our Creator

They set the stage for the desperate moment. A teen mom, wrapping her baby in blood smeared clothes, and laying him in feeding trough.  No new onesies washed at home in Dreft and brought to a (clean, sanitary) hospital.  No soft hat knit by volunteers to keep that precious fuzzy head warm against the Bethlehem night & the drafts whisking through the stable.  No nurses to bring Mary ice chips and warm blankets while the baby was gently washed in warm water and Johnson’s baby soap.  The scene could have been improved, at least a bit, if an innkeeper had found a room.

It is easy to shake my head at the innkeepers who turned away Joseph & Mary, but in my heart, I know I would have, likely, done the same.  In the bustle of a busy business, I would not have expected the promised Messiah to come on a night like that, to a place such as Bethlehem, through a simple teen momma.

I was not in Bethlehem, but with the hindsight that those innkeepers may have wished for, I can make Him room.  I can choose not to turn Him away as advent begins.

If you’re like me, you’re already making lists, planning menus, and tying bows.  Our tree is up; in the dark of the early morning, I study my Bible in the glow of its twinkle lights. My Christmas cards are waiting for addresses & stamps, and I’m already planning treats to bake with my girls for our neighbors.

But, if I am not diligent & careful I can get caught up and miss making Him room.

And, mommas, if we don’t make room for Him this season, how can our children?  Notice, we aren’t to  find room, or wait for room to open up this season.  We are to make Him room–it is intentional and requires energy.

If we don’t make room to relish in God’s best gift to us, how will our children?  The gifts you’ve budgeted and shopped for are to be a tiny reflection of the greatest gift ever given.  Our twinkling trees are to remind us, “the people walking in darkness have seen a great light…” (Isaiah 9:2) I know you want your child to walk away from Christmas with more than new toys–I want my people to walk into January with a deeper understanding of God’s magnificent love for each of them.

So, mommas, in the middle of the teacher gifts, family parties, stocking stuffers, and service projects, let’s make lots of room for Jesus.  Let us diligently point or children’s eyes & hearts to the best gift and our desperate need for it.

Here are some ways to help you & your children prepare Him room:

1. Truth in the Tinsel: this is a fabulous e-book (7.99) that will help you and your children mediate on the scriptures for 24 days leading up to Christmas in a way that is designed just for them.

2. Jesus Storybook Bible: no purchase necessary if you own this Bible (free printable available, though) for this daily advent reading from the Jesus Storybook Bible.

3. Advent wreath: it may be a fun project to make your own advent wreath as a family; or perhaps you just want to find a nice spot for four candles.  I grew up in a church with advent readings and have such a love for the language and liturgy, but I have struggled with making it accessible for our children.  So, this year, I consulted a variety of advent readings and created a Family Friendly Advent Wreath reading–they are short, clear, and even have some optional (no-prep) activities.  It is absolutely free for my subscribers–if you are already a subscriber, it’ll be in your inbox.  If you aren’t, subscribe here, and you’ll have it in time to start tomorrow!

4. Visit a Live Nativity in your area–this provides an excellent opportunity for questions and discussion throughout the season.

What are you doing to make Him room this advent season?

Does it Cost You Something?

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We meandered through the toy aisle at Target as each of my girls searched for the “wow” item they would place in their Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.  By the time we had chosen those items and found ourselves choosing crayons, colored, pencils, and then toothbrushes, and soap, Charlotte quietly said, “I wish I was keeping these things.”

My firstborn, Audrey, who always works so hard to say what she believes adults want to hear, replied, “I am thankful for what I already have at home.” I didn’t respond immediately as I was still pondering my response for Charlotte; so, Audrey was sure to repeat herself twice until I confirmed hearing her.

“I’m glad you feel that way, Audrey.  You know Charlotte, it is really good that the things you are choosing are so special that you would want to keep them yourself; that means they will really bless the little girl who receives these gifts.  And, you know what else?”

“What, Momma?” she said, still quietly

“It is okay for it to hurt to give them away–it means we really are making it an offering to God.”

And, mommas, as Christmas lists are being written, Target toy magazine pages are being dog-eared and marked with circles, Black Friday ads are being released, and we’re figuring out what we will get for the teachers this year, I want to encourage my heart and yours, it is okay for it to hurt to give.

Yes, giving is a joy — watching the face of someone as they open a tangible expression of your love for them is precious.  But, our gifts to our friends, family, coworkers, bus-drivers, & mail-carriers, are really expressions of love and gratitude to our Father–the giver of all good things.  And, King David reminded us not to offer to the Lord that which costs us nothing (Read the story in 2 Samuel 24). So, be a good steward; follow the Lord’s leading as you make a Christmas gift-budget, but be willing to sacrifice and hurt a little as you present a pleasing offering to your Father who gave you His best gift.