What can a donkey teach you? Oh, just lots of stuff.
On Tuesday night, I had the pleasure of working at another Awaken event here in the Dallas area. My dear friend, Priscilla Shirer, (maybe you saw her in War Room recently?) does a few of these events each year, and I absolutely LOVE. THEM.
First of all, Priscilla Shirer. Can I get an "amen" in the house?
Second of all....
They let this old lady be on their young, hip creative team.
And third? Well, hop over to GoingBeyond.com for the rest of the story!
Are you on a journey? I sure am.
My life has never taken the "easy roads." Oh, there have been some grand views and great adventures along the way. But there have also been deserts and thickets, some big boulders and steep mountains.
I've wondered sometimes if God was such a great leader why He'd take me on such a meandering, difficult path.
And yet I believe that He has always been there, helping me along.
Even in those times that seem so dark, there is something in my heart that tells me to keep on going, keep pressing on.
It's His voice, telling me that HE knows my destination.
I love Psalm 84, because it talks about a journey. It's an ancient song that tells of longing, even fainting to see and experience the courts of the Lord, which was His temple in Jerusalem. And as the writer describes the beauty of God's sanctuary, he pauses to talk about the trip to get there, in verse 5.
Here are a few "Travel Tips," taken from this little jewel of a verse:
Nothing slows you down like unnecessary baggage. Why struggle along with the burdens of guilt, anger, and bitterness over the past? Let those things go.
Right now, today. God is fully able to handle anything you give Him. You'll be amazed at how much easier it is to travel when you aren't lugging big old bags that don't have anything in them but stuff you don't need.
Pack lightly, but pack some heat.
The trip will take you through some dangerous territory, so you need to carry some protection. Keep your Bible (sometimes called a sword) handy, and don't forget the power of prayer. You're never a victim with these weapons, my friend.
Stay with the group.
Find some good traveling companions, the kind that help you along, not bring you down. Why, how about some Company Girls?? It's important to have people in your group that are familiar with the way, because they've been there before.
We need each other. Let's stick together.
Hang on to your ticket.
That means: know where you're going. When you set your heart on something, it means you have decided on it. You aren't changing your mind. You aren't turning back around. No matter what happens or how discouraging the trip may be, you've set your sights on your destination and that's where you're going.
And you WILL succeed.
Finally, know where your strength is.
Strength for the journey doesn't come from your gene pool. Goodness knows, I was BORN a quitter! Strength comes from the Lord, and this verse tells us that there is blessing in that very fact.
When you are feeling weak, just remember that He has all the strength you need to keep going.
God has an incredible plan for each of us, but sometimes we don't see how or where is He is taking us.
Just keep believing, just keep trusting.
Keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Eventually, we'll get to a spot with a panoramic view that will blow our minds.
We'll say, "Look where He's brought us! Look how far we've come!"
My friends, the trip will be worth the view.
I have such exciting news...I've been busting at the seams to tell you about it!
Flash the Donkey is becoming a children's book!
My wonderful publisher, Tyndale, will publish the book next fall so it will be in stores well in time for Christmas 2016.
I am both writing and illustrating the picture book, geared for children ages 3-7 or so.
And, I probably don't need to mention this, but this is an absolute lifelong dream come true.
Flash will come to life as an homeless donkey who is taken in by an engaging group of barnyard friends: a chicken named Ruby, a goat named Jed, and Carson the pig. Together, they have adventures, learn life lessons, and have a fun time doing it.
The story is really cute, and fun to read...and you'll find wonderful lessons to share with your child. I cannot WAIT to read this aloud to my granddaughters, who love nothing better than to sit on someone's lap and read books about animals.
What a coincidence, because I love nothing better than to hold them on my lap and read books about animals to them!
If I've been quiet around here, now you know why. (Confession: I'm also deep into another writing project, with a looming deadline...and truth be told, that's the REAL reason I've been holed up for the past several weeks.)
Beans: officially spilled.
Arms: black and blue from pinching myself
There you have it, my friends. All the beans.
Well, most of them anyway. :)
With a grateful heart, Rachel
PS You can find out all about Flash the Donkey–the true story version–right here.
The late summer sun has scorched the pasture, leaving it barren and dry. Oh, it still has scraggly weeds and thistles, but the grass that Flash and Henry need for daily sustenance is long gone.
This is the time of year that we have to supplement the donkeys' diet with hay.
A section of hay for each, morning and night.
And hay brings out the best, and the worst, in these two.
Henry was adopted to be a companion for Flash last year, and really...he's been just great. He was found wandering the countryside with a group of about 20 stray donkeys in Henderson County, TX. Logged in as "Henderson #10," it seemed fitting to name him Henderson–Henry for short.
Now, I don't know Henry's past, but I can tell a lot about it from the way he acts when the hay comes out.
You see, Henry wants ALL of it.
He wants his pile, and he wants Flash's pile.
Henry doesn't want Flash to get any of the hay.
He'll run back and forth between the two servings, kicking, biting and bucking to keep it all to himself.
In response, Flash lays his ears back, and tries first to get at one pile, then the other. He grunts his displeasure at the little donkey who is bound and determined to keep him from it.
Henry is so intent on keeping Flash away from the hay that he can't even enjoy it himself.
It's a classic move by someone who has known scarcity.
When you're not sure when, or if, you'll get to eat again, you try to hoard what you have against the possibility of going without.
"Henry, Henry!" I call to him. "There's plenty for both of you!"
I set more out, more than they can eat in one feeding.
Finally, Henry chooses the biggest mound of hay and begins to eat. He moves his backside toward Flash in a defensive posture to guard his portion.
Flash hangs back, then approaches his hay with eyes on Henry. Ears up, alert. Somehow he knows that Henry's still got a few tender spots left inside that haven't healed yet. He lets Henry settle in to eating before he starts to nibble from the far side of his pile.
Henry has a scarcity mindset.
He is always afraid that there won't be enough.
He's afraid that if he doesn't fight for his share, he won't get any at all.
He's afraid that if he lets Flash get hay, then he might go hungry.
Henry would rather do without, by running back and forth to keep Flash away, than run the risk of Flash eating into his portion.
He is so busy keeping Flash out that he can't enjoy the bounty before him.
A scarcity mindset keeps him from experiencing the abundance all around him.
You know what? I see myself in him. Maybe you can see yourself, too.
I see the ways that we hoard blessings, rather than risk giving away too much.
I see how we withhold love, just in case there won't be enough to go around.
I see how we can't be generous with our ideas, our resources, or our time, because we fear others might get ahead of us in the race for significance or importance.
We can't enjoy the abundance because we're worried that someone else is getting more than their "fair share."
A scarcity mindset keeps us from experiencing the abundance all around us.
It keeps us locked in a defensive posture, afraid to open up to others.
It keeps us from living freely in grace.
It takes a week of consistently setting out more hay than they can possibly eat, before Henry figures out that there will always be enough.
After several days of receiving generous portions, he is actually able to relax. He can leave leftover mounds of hay, open for anyone to take. He comes back to snack when he feels like it. He takes a nap, and lets his guard down.
He even lets Flash eat from his pile.
Henry is learning that there is always enough.
It's simple, really.
It's adopting a mindset of abundance that makes all the difference. Abundance believes:
The more we give, the more we receive.
The more we allow others partake of the goodness around us, the more we can enjoy it, too.
The less we try to protect "what is ours" the less we need "what is ours" to find significance.
The less we worry about others getting more than their "fair share," the more freedom we'll feel to live generously, openly.
Listen. Can I share this with you?
There is enough for you, my friend.
There is enough grace for today. More than you can possibly use up.
You can lavish it on everyone around you, slop it all over the place and give it away....and there will still be enough.
You don't have to worry about what anyone else is receiving. You don't have to compare. You don't have to protect what's yours.
Simply receive the abundance set before you, and let others do the same.
There is freedom in that. There is generosity, and life.
And there is joy.
Always enough joy.
And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. 2 Corinthians 9:8
The photo of little Aylan Kurdi's dead body, washed up on a Turkish shore, broke my heart last week. Surely you saw it, too?
Aylan, his brother, and his mother all drowned when the small, overloaded boat sank as they desperately tried to flee Syria for Europe.
The photo, and dozens of others, made me realize that I could not ignore the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II.
Over four million people have fled Syria alone. That's one-fifth of the population there.
It's not hard to understand why Syrians are fleeing. Bashar al-Assad's regime has targeted civilians ruthlessly, including with chemical weapons and barrel bombs; ISIS has subjected Syrians to murder, torture, crucifixion, sexual slavery, and other appalling atrocities; and other groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra have tortured and killed Syrians as well. (Vox)
Oh, I've been watching the news. I've been moved by the plight of the Syrians over the past year or so. I've donated online to relief organizations a couple of times. I've prayed for the refugees when I've thought of them.
But mostly, I've hoped that someone else would solve the problem. It's just too big, too overwhelming. And the whole Middle East thing looks absolutely hopeless.
And maybe, I thought, the people are getting what they deserve in some way. They are Muslims, and they hate Christians, right? Sooooo....they might have brought this on themselves. Maybe the world should shut their borders, turn their shoulders, and let them bomb each other to bits.
Because, hey, we can't even solve our own problems, let alone theirs.
The thing is, I wasn't really thinking about the actual people living there.
The real people. The mothers and fathers who want their children to go to school and grow up to live peaceful lives. I wasn't really seeing the children who want to play soccer and make-believe, and go to birthday parties and attend a school that hasn't been destroyed. I wasn't thinking about the shop-keepers, the doctors, lawyers, teachers, taxi drivers, and everyday people whose lives are shattered by all the war and hatred.
I didn't see Aylan.
But now I do.
I've been asking myself: how will I respond?
And I just keep thinking: I will respond with love.
Because love is always what we should do.
This post by Ann Voskamp gives some ways we can show up for this moment: Why Now is The Church's Moment and It Will Take All of Us Not to Miss It.
I'm opening my heart to the refugees of the world.
I don't really know what that will mean. I don't really know what that is going to look like.
All I know is that I....we....have to say "yes" to love. This is beyond politics and race and differing faiths.
This is about people in need, period.
And whenever we don't know what to do, or how to do it, or what it's gonna involve, we should just show up.
We should always say "yes" to love.
Because LOVE is how we should do everything.
I encourage you to go to WeWelcomeRefugees.com to find out how you can help. Take a photo of yourself holding the words, #WeWelcomeRefugees and post it to social media, as a simple place to start.
Lastly, think about the opportunity we have to change the world, here.
Jesus said that the world would know us by our love....not by our political stances, our doctrinal points, or our views on issues of the day. As important as we think they may be, they pale by comparison to the one thing he told us to do: love others.
With that same love,
PS Here is a good explanation of the European refugee crisis, and how it got to where it is now. Europe's Refugee Crisis, Explained
Every summer, just like every January, I vow to get organized. I promise to clean the windows. I am determined to stay on top of the laundry.
But life is so hard.
And Netflix starts the next episode of my binge series before I can find the remote to stop it. Oh well, I'll just watch one more...
If you've just gotten the kids back to school and you're looking around at the aftermath of a fun summer of hanging out, or if you're like me and you have no one to blame but yourself because the kids have moved away, it may be time to pull out my easy housekeeping system.
I know the value of having a "reasonably clean" home. I may never win a Martha Stewart award, but I've learned that I need a certain level of orderliness to function well. Also, my husband is a neatnik and the truth is, I value him. I love that guy to pieces. And that means I want to "up my game" a bit, and be a little less haphazard in my personal approach to housekeeping.
Does having a "whole system" seem hard? It does to me, too. That's why my techniques (once called "laughable" by a commenter) work for me. I use the term "system" very loosely.
Having a bit of structure to your efforts means that you can allow yourself time to pursue personal goals, live generously, and love freely. You don't have to feel chained to an overbearing system. Simply walk through the easy steps to figure out what works best for you...and voila. You've got it!
I've put the best of my tips in one, free, downloadable PDF. If it still seems like too much to handle, skip on down to page 17 for my Minimum Maintenance routine.
Really, Minimum Maintenance all you'll need to survive. Trust me on that.
You can download the full PDF here - for free!
Recently, I learned that just because something works for a season, it doesn't mean it will always work...for all time. A simple moment in my kitchen helped me see this.
So, I've made some small changes....with big results.
I'm guest posting over at (in)Courage today. Please stop over and see me!
(in)courage is a beautiful space in the blogosphere, and I'm honored to share there today. I hope you'll sign up here to receive free daily encouragement from the writers of (in)courage, right in your inbox!
Today, I'd like to introduce you to my friend Emily Wierenga.
Emily's newest memoir, Making it Home, releases on September 8, and I've invited her to post an excerpt from her book here. I know you'll love her story about finding finding peace, identity and purpose...and you'll also fall in love with her along the way, just like I did.
“I don’t know how to tell you this, Emily, but—they said no.” I’m on the phone with my agent two weeks after giving birth to my nearly nine-pound Kasher and I’m crying before she starts because I know.
“It’s been so long,” I whisper. It’s all the breath left in me.
“I know—I’m so sorry,” she says, and we’re silent together, except for my hiccupping sobs. An editor has been courting the manuscript for a year, and after three hundred and sixty five days of waiting, the publishing board has said no and I have nothing.
Forgetting how doctors had said I wouldn’t be able to have children, forgetting about the miracle that lies in my arms and the other one that’s coloring a picture at the Ikea kids’ table. Forgetting about the man who lives to make me laugh, who’s making wine in the kitchen, forgetting the sound of Mum’s voice on the end of the line, the voice of a woman I’d thought would die now lives, healed of her brain tumor.
Forgetting that a book deal is not what gives me a name, but it’s all I hear: the sound of rejection on the other end of the line, the sound of me, being made a fool, for all my waiting and hoping.
The champagne bottle unopened in the fridge.
“Everything okay?” Trent mouths the words at me. I shake my head. Kasher asleep in my arms and my agent telling me I should spend some time writing what I want to write. To put this book aside and just do something that brings me joy.
I don’t know what that means.
I don’t know how to do anything for joy and then I remember dating Trent. I remember that kiss in the rain outside his townhouse; I remember hours on the carpet with my head on his chest, talking, listening to the radio and I remember midnight bike rides to Rundle Park, playing Frisbee golf and watching movies just to hold each other’s hand.
A joy that writes what it wants to.
“Alright,” I say, and my agent prays with me and we say Goodbye.
I wonder how long she will put up with me. I haven’t sold anything yet and Aiden’s showing me his picture. It’s a scribble of green marker—his favorite color—and he’s got green on his lips and he’s smiling but his eyebrows are raised. He’s wondering if I like it, and he’s only two. His mommy’s fears course through him and I kneel down and hug him, tell him, “It’s magnificent, son, I can’t wait to hang it on the fridge,” and his small body relaxes.
He knows in this moment that I love him because I said I like his picture but I want for him what I want for me: the long-lasting sense of self in spite of what the world tells him. I want him to be so at peace that he can sleep in the boat while the storm rocks and I want him to know without a shadow of a doubt the confidence that makes a person walk on water.
And maybe if I learn it, he will too.
This excerpt is taken from Emily Wierenga’s new memoir (the sequel to ATLAS GIRL), Making It Home: Finding My Way to Peace, Identity and Purpose. Order HERE.
What does it mean to be a woman and to make a home?
Does it mean homeschooling children or going to the office every day?
Cooking gourmet meals and making Pinterest-worthy home décor?
In Making It Home: Finding My Way to Peace, Identity, and Purpose, author and blogger Emily Wierenga takes readers on an unconventional journey through marriage, miscarriage, foster parenting and the daily struggle of longing to be known, inviting them into a quest for identity in the midst of life’s daily interruptions. Get your copy HERE. Proceeds benefit Emily’s non-profit, The Lulu Tree.
Get FREE downloadable chapters from Making It Home HERE.
Hazel Marie made her debut on August 3! One week old today, she is healthy and beautiful.
I had the privilege of being with Lauren, Robert, and Ivy (age 2) for the first five days of Hazel's life.
I have almost no words for the wonder of this new life, brought into the world by my daughter, but I'll try today.
You see, there's this feeling.
I've experienced it three times now, with each new grandbaby, as I looked at both of my daughters with their pink bundles in their arms. Perhaps it's because my girls have had daughters that I've felt this way, I don't know.
Maybe it's a rite of passage.
But I look at Lauren. It's like I'm seeing her through glasses with magic lenses: I see her as the beautiful, grown-up woman that she is, while simultaneously seeing her younger self - the child who loved to draw pictures, and whose hands were always creating something out of found objects. Bits of string, shoe boxes, paper and tape...always lots of tape.
Somehow, I feel her little arms around my neck and remember the stories we read at bedtime and the kites we flew in the field behind our house. Cookies and milk after school, the piles of dishes and laundry that I could never really get control of.
The years of work and love, and confidence and doubt.
I see it all, images overlaying images; some faded around the edges, but still vivid and full of color.
I see myself, too. I see how I obsessed about whether I was doing a good enough job as a mom.
Was I serving enough vegetables? Was I teaching the right life lessons? Did I lose my patience too many times? Making the right educational choices? Allowing her to wear mismatched socks way too often?
My magic glasses fade away, and here is Lauren, holding out her new baby for the two year-old to kiss.
And I know all the years of work, and love, and confidence, and doubt are ahead of her, as well.
I kiss the top of MY baby's head. My beautiful girl, this young mama.
And I press her close. I want to say this, but I can't speak:
All of the wonder is ahead of you, too, honey.
Hold on tight for the ride.
It's wonderful and messy and hard and good. You'll question yourself a million times along the way. You'll stay up late praying. You'll be overcome with joy a million more times.
It will feel like a spinning tilt-a-whirl sometimes.
But listen, don't worry.
Motherhood is supposed to be this way.
And one day, a couple of decades from now, you'll find a pair of magic glasses in your pocket that lets you see the past, and the present, all at the same time.
You'll see how Hazel and Ivy grew into beautiful mamas, and how they invited you to spend the first few days with them and their new babies, because they needed you to help them settle in. You'll marvel at their patience, their ability to watch Daniel Tiger with toddlers for hours, their kindness and generosity and love.
And you'll still feel their little arms around your neck, and be able to see the kites and the cookies, and hear the sleepy whispers at bedtime.
You'll remember your doubts. You'll remember how you sometimes worried, and you'll see now that you shouldn't have.
Because now you see how it all turned out, and the sheer beauty of it catches you, holds you, and leaves you breathless in its wake.
You'll feel so very proud of those kids you didn't ruin with the mismatched sock thing.
You'll see just. How. Amazing. They are.
And you'll feel simply...grateful.
Thank you to Heidi Thaden-Pierce, Lauren's wonderful doula, for the gorgeous birth photos.
If I seem a little bit giddy, it's probably because every other minute I'm thinking about the imminent arrival of my third granddaughter, Hazel Marie. Lauren is my oldest daughter, and she is READY for this baby to come!
Hazel was "due" on Monday, but of course she will come when she's good and done in there.
She will be joining sister Ivy Grace (age 2), who talks about her constantly.
Last year at this time, we were waiting (and waiting) for my daughter Meghan's first baby to arrive. Two and a half weeks past her due date, Heidi finally arrived on her mama's birthday, August 2.
Heidi is almost one year old!
The past two summers have brought baby girls into my life.
It's only right that they should meet up with their moms at Target, for a little retail therapy. Being a toddler is tough, man.
And as I look forward to this new one, I'm filled with excitement.
Another little girl to read books to, be silly with, and have tea parties together. We shall play in mud puddles, learn about nature, watch clouds, and chase butterflies. I will teach her how to take naps in forts, which is one of my specialties.
We'll get to make memories for life.
I can hardly wait!
I'll be taking a break from blogging so I can focus on this special time....I'll keep you posted, though, on Hazel's arrival.