Follow the Breadcrumbs...

treasurehunt Being a parent is hard. Sometimes it's exhausting. Sometimes it's terrifying. And then, sometimes, it's awesome.

Today has been one of those awesome days. Our daughter made a treasure hunt for us, complete with personalized maps and unique treasures for each of us. The sweetest part about the whole thing was the care she put into designing it for us as individuals. The maps were in our own favorite colors, and the clues were tailor made for us. Ben and I weren't on the same quest, we each had our own.

That's a lot like life. We are each on our own journey, and we have our own maps. Everything about them is unique to us. Who we are is written into every part of our journey, and simultaneously is shaped by that journey. It can be a temptation to peek at other peocomparisonple's maps and follow their clues. Don't do it. It's a trap.

We've all heard it said, "Comparison is the thief of joy." That goes for maps, too. If you're anything like me, it's easy to look at one person's life and try to figure out my next step-or my next 10 steps-based on someone else's clues. Our path will never make sense if we're following directions meant for someone else. When I give in to the temptation of comparing my journey to my husband's, to my friend's, or to the person's down the street, things get all wonky. I lose my way, and I have to take a time out to reorient myself, be reminded of who I am, and then find what my next step is.

And that's where life's journey looks a little different than my daughter's creation. I don't know about you, but my life's journey has looked a lot more like following a breadcrumb path, one tiny crumb at a time, than a complete plan. On the little marker-drawn maps our daughter gave us, we could see the whole thing all mapped out and everything was clear, including the destination. Wouldn't that be nice? But then again, I wonder if I would've been able to handle knowing all that's been a part of my journey so far. I wonder if part of God's wisdom is revealing to us only what we can handle, which in my case is very little. I've learned that I can only handle one step at a time, and that's ok. Sometimes I desperately want to see more, but then how would I learn to trust? That's the beauty and the frustration of the "breadcrumb path" we're following. Following each little bread crumb is not only getting us a little closer to our destination, but it's growing our trust in the one who's made the path. And I think the latter is so much more important.

Following each little breadcrumb one at a time is stretching, causing us to depend on the mapmaker instead of the map.

I think another reason I'm only given one step at a time is that speed is not beneficial. God is not rushed. God is patient with me, and knows life is best taken one day at a time. Jesus said, "...do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." I think this profound wisdom goes largely unheeded in our culture. Our society is get ahead, plan ahead, be prepared, be on top of it, and "nice guys finish last" (as if finishing last is a fate worse than death). Our world is obsessed with worry. It is completely countercultural to say "no" to worry and "yes" to trust. But part of living set apart as people of God is precisely this radical trust. And there is a rhythm of life to this kind of trust that is completely unlike the world's frantic, panicky pace. Jesus lived it, and he calls us to follow his example. He is the prince of peace, and we, as his followers, are to walk in his peace as a sign to the world of God's peaceful kingdom. But I'll never live as a person at peace if I am frantically trying to keep up with the world, trying to get ahead, trying to make progress all by grinding my own wheels. I have to trust my father and follow the steps he shows me, one. at. a. time.

Walking the path crumb by crumb is slowing us down, growing our patience, and making us carriers of peace in the world. 

Part of the reason for the slowness of the journey is that I'm being transformed. Each step God shows me is a natural outflow of who I am, and yet also a challenging move into who I will become. I'm going from glory to glory, from who I was yesterday to the person I will be tomorrow, and that takes time. Transformation doesn't happen overnight. Each step builds upon the last, so that each single move in itself is not a monumental leap, but yet when I look back at where I started, I see that I've climbed a mountain. It wouldn't make sense if you were trying to live my story, because it would be disconnected from who you are. God uniquely designs all of us, and the paths he leads us on are as beautifully diverse as the people we are.

Slowly following my own unique path is transforming me into the person I was created to be. 

So, friends, let's not worry about where God is taking the person next to us. Let's seek God and our unique next step will be made clear. We're all in this together, but we won't be able to help each other if we're trying to live each other's story. Although I can't follow your map, seeing you confidently walk the path God's laying out for you gives me courage. When you discover a bread crumb and exercise the faith it takes to move, my faith is built. And I can cheer you on knowing that God is being glorified in all of us as we follow him, breadcrumb by breadcrumb.

Sabbath Conclusion: Rhythms, Not Rules

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Friends, life is beautiful. Yes, it’s fraught with heartache and disappointment, sickness and tragedy, but it is also full to the brim of breathtaking beauty. And I’m afraid in our busy world of tasks and jam-packed schedules we are missing out on the beauty. The pain is hard to miss-it stops us in our tracks. It knocks the wind out of us. But beauty beckons softly. God speaks in a still, small voice, and is therefore easily drowned out by our busyness and noise. We’re driving 90 miles an hour down a highway surrounded by mountains and ocean, and we are too focused on getting further down the road to stop, or even slow down, and notice the awe-inspiring view. No wonder so many of us feel depleted.

Sabbath is about slowing down. It’s about putting our tasking and scheduling on pause and noticing the beauty, drinking it all in. It’s about taking the time to linger in thankfulness to God. In Sabbath, we exhale our worries and stress and breathe in God’s goodness. That’s part of what it means to follow this command:  “You and your family are to remember the Sabbath Day; set it apart, and keep it holy. You have six days to do all your work, but the seventh day is to be different; it is the Sabbath of the Eternal your God….For the Eternal made the heavens above, the earth below, the seas, and all the creatures in them in six days. Then, on the seventh day, He rested. That is why He blessed the Sabbath Day and made it sacred.”

In some Christian circles there is sometimes a great deal of religiosity associated with “the keeping of the Sabbath” (imagine those words being said in a dry, condescending voice). But Sabbath is not about formulaic rule keeping. That just reeks of legalism and is in no way a good representation of Jesus. I love Jesus' words:

"The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath." (Mark 2:27, NLT)

Sabbath is a GIFT from a kind and merciful God. It’s a practice that signifies we are God’s children, we are devoted to our Father, and we are celebrating this beautiful life he’s provided. Sabbath can look a thousand different ways to a thousand different people. For me, lately, it’s taken a few different forms.

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There is a wonderful place just far enough outside the city to be serene, and near enough to be accessible even just for the day or for an afternoon. The Knowles Mercy Center is a place of refuge for me. Every so often, I take a “personal retreat day” and go out there to be alone with God. I don’t hear a single “MOM!!!!”, I don’t get phone calls, and I have a chance to silence all the frantic activity and chaos that is my daily life. I pray, journal, read, and relax. I walk the trails, I sit in silence by the water, I recline in the hammock and stare at the clouds, I listen to the birds sing. I do all the simple, restful things I don’t have time for in my day-to-day routine, and I do it for a WHOLE DAY. It is the most GLORIOUS thing. I look forward to these days like a 5 year old would look forward to Disneyworld. It makes me giddy just thinking about it. Time stops, and I can just be. I have no roles to fill except that of dearly loved daughter. A few weeks ago I was there and it was the last cold winter day we’ve had this season. I’m not generally one to enjoy the cold (95 degrees and 100% humidity-now, that’s my jam…not sure how I ended up in Nebraska), but as I spent a day out NOTICING winter, I realized how gorgeous it is. I walked in the pure, clean snow, each footstep crunching loudly through the silence of the cold. I stopped to notice the tiny tracks signifying that I was sharing this path with other creatures. I sat beside the partially frozen lake and listened to the melting ice crack, like gunshots piercing the silence. I marveled how bright the sunshine is when it’s reflecting off a landscape covered in white. It was stunning.

A couple weeks later I had a super hot date. Yeah, that’s right, hot dates can be Sabbath, as long as it’s not the “nervous trying to impress the other person” kind. It’s Sabbath for me because my husband is my favorite person in the world to hang out with, and because I know I can let my guard down and just be me. He’s the best in the world. My in-laws are also the best-they spent time with our precious girlies so we could go out alone. That night, the weather was divine. 73 and sunny, with a light breeze. We enjoyed the drive from out here in the suburbs to downtown with the windows down and the music loud. The old market was buzzing with people because of the gorgeous weather, so we wandered aimlessly until we spotted an open table outside at our favorite restaurant. Simple, fresh, delicious food. Red wine. Conversation, both deep and silly. Three and a half hours went by without notice. We savored. We laughed. We lingered. When we finally decided to meander away from the restaurant, we found ourselves walking slowly, and wondering at the sheer perfection of the meal we had just shared. It was true Sabbath.

That’s when we stumbled upon one of those bike share stations. I saw the look in my husband’s eyes-he loves to bike. It’s not that I don’t enjoy biking, it’s just that I haven't biked for, oh, maybe a DECADE. But I’m a sucker for both my husband and a little adventure, so I yanked that sucker out of the rack and hopped on with gusto. I’d love to tell you “it all comes back, just like riding a bike” is a saying I experienced to be accurate, but I did NOT feel natural trying to maneuver that clunky bike. There were more than a few hairy moments, one or two unfortunate encounters with helpless pedestrians, but truth be told, it was the most fun I’ve had in years. Despite making a fool of myself, it was exhilarating, and I felt the heaviness of life just melt off. I felt pure, unadulterated joy. That, right there, was Sabbath.

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Sabbath is not about rules, it’s about rhythms. It’s about finding the balance of work and rest, and slowing down to notice the beauty of life and thank God for it. It can look so different for each of us, and it can vary with each season of life. What has Sabbath been looking like for you lately?

Sabbath, Part 3: Humility

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It's not that I'm under the illusion that I am limitless. I know I'm not, I just sometimes live in denial. It's like a sickness. True confession time: I really really hate feeling weak. I love that feeling when I'm getting everything done, taking care of everything and everyone, and not feeling overwhelmed by it. The problem is that feeling only comes around about 1.7% of the time. That number may even be a stretch. Most of the time, I'm running around all bedraggled and sweaty, getting every job half-way done and forgetting at least 2 important things. Just ask my mother-in-law: I never make it out of her house with all our stuff. I hate stuff (sippy cups, cell phones, keys, blankies, pony tail holders, etc). Just add it to the list of things in my life mocking my inability to be on top of everything. I NEVER have all my stuff. I hate that moment when we're at a restaurant, my toddler's getting antsy and fussy and my husband, trying to be helpful, asks, "Do you have crayons?" or "Do you have her water cup?" or "Did you bring a snack?" No. Of course I did not. Because this situation has only occurred 236 times before, and so clearly I needed 237 to learn my lesson on being prepared. I'm rarely prepared. I've almost accepted the fact that I probably won't ever be. Almost.

By God's mercy I've been spending the last few years trying to acknowledge and make peace with my limits. It's a painful process, this killing of my pride. See, I beam annoyingly when I DO miraculously remember something I'm supposed to. The ugly truth is that I love to look like I have it all together (rare and fleeting though those moments are), because I'm still working through my brokenness. I'm still waging war on my faulty identities. And through this journey of putting my pride to death, Sabbath is a gift.

My pride is a relentless taskmaster, and God gives me Sabbath as a stepping stone on the pathway to freedom. It’s a way of saying NO to the endless demands on me in a way that honors God and acknowledges my limitations. “Be still and know that I am God.” Sabbath is a way to practice this. When I’m trapped on pride’s toxic treadmill, I find myself saying, “Get it together, Katherine. Keep it together.” There are two problems with that. First, it’s rude, and God just won’t have his children being talked to that way. Second, I was never meant to “keep it together”. There is someone much bigger than I holding all things together, and I need never pretend to be that person.

"He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:17)

When I pretend I can do it all and I refuse Sabbath, I’m really saying I can play God, which is the height of all arrogance. It’s like standing in defiance to the very one who lovingly hand-crafted me, who knows me better than I know myself, and saying “No. I know best. I can do it better.” It’s refusing his perfect design and hard-wiring, and imposing my faulty ideas of myself instead.

I realize that may sound a little dramatic, but neglecting Sabbath is never verbalized that bluntly, of course. No, it usually sounds more like, “Oh, it would be nice to rest, but I can’t take a break because I just have too much to do”. Or “too many people are counting on me”. Or “if I take a break, people will think I’m lazy, incompetent, etc. etc.” (See, pride.) I can totally commiserate. I have these feelings all. the. time. In fact, I think most Americans feel this pressure most of the time. That’s why practicing Sabbath is counter-cultural. It’s subversive to the way the world works. In a world that screams “GO! WORK! DO!”, Sabbath quietly invites, “Stop. Rest. Be.”

Jesus, who is God himself in human form, showed us the true way to live, and it is countercultural in almost every way. Every part of his life showed us how we were intended to walk out our humanity. If you want an example of someone who was “too busy for Sabbath”, it would’ve been Jesus in the height of his ministry. I mean, he was IN DEMAND. He was IMPORTANT. Crowds followed him everywhere, and at times he couldn’t even get time to eat because so many people needed him. And yet Scripture’s accounts of his life tell us he frequently took opportunity to steal away alone. He recognized his need to just be with his Father, to rest and pray. He knew he was dependent on his Father, and that the divine plan would not crumble if he took a time out. If God HIMSELF practiced Sabbath, how absurd to think I’m above that. How utterly prideful and self-important.

Sabbath is about humility. It's about honoring our Creator by acknowledging the fact that we as humans have limits, and that we are not ultimately in control. The earth will go right on spinning without us pedaling our wheels. This is a shocking realization for some. For me, that realization sounds more like: "disaster will not strike if I choose to leave a dirty kitchen for an afternoon", or “impending doom will not come upon everyone if some boxes on my to-do list are left unchecked today." In order to become the person I was made to be, I have to respect my own humanity, and the limitless God who created me.

I want my life to reflect the glory of God, not my own glory. The apostle Paul tells us that in our weakness, he’s shown to be strong. We show God off when we quit showing off. I would so much rather admit to my shortcomings, and to take the way of humility and dependence, than to burn out in my foolish pride. When I choose to humble myself and admit my need for Sabbath, I walk in the very footsteps of Jesus. The world desperately needs people who will humbly point to Jesus and not their own accomplishments. Let’s be those people. Let’s take time to practice Sabbath, even when it’s killing our pride.