What can a donkey teach you? Oh, just lots of stuff.
Last week, Heather MacFadyen, host of the God Centered Mom Podcast, asked me a few questions about balancing work and home life. HA!
"IS THERE A BALANCE?" I ask.
No, seriously. Is there??
Since this is something I have struggled with over the years, I guess I was a good candidate for offering some practical advice. You won't be hearing "get up an hour earlier" from me, I can assure you.
It's more like: "figure out how to take more naps."
I love the way Heather sets up her "That's Me!" series: a mom will ask a question and they will discuss it together. Then, Heather brings in an "expert" to bring in their perspective. This episode features a young mom named Annette, who wants to be at home with her small children but whose husband would like her to work part time. She is trying to find some kind of balance between parenting, marriage, and work.
Annette is a sweetheart, and I hope I was able to encourage her in some way. These are hard, very real issues, and I know she is doing a great job in the midst of it.
You can hear the entire conversation here: God Centered Mom Podcast
Here are some of Annette's questions (disclosure: I didn't get to read them until after our conversation):
I wish I'd spent more time on these specific things, but maybe in a round about way, we hit them all.
What do you think? How would you answer these questions? What advice would you give?
(Click the play button at the top of the post)
Be sure and scroll through Heather's post for links to resources mentioned in the podcast. Here is a better link to my "Real World Housekeeping Schedule." (with .pdf included)
And HEY! Subscribe to God Centered Mom Podcast so you'll never miss an episode! Listening to Heather is like having a conversation with a friend each week. I just love her, and I know you will too.
Life is about to get a whole lot of crazy, what with Thanksgiving, Christmas, Black Friday, Parties, Shopping and Decorating. Whew!
BUT BEFORE ALL THAT GETS UNDERWAY.....
I want to invite you to two events on the same day! You can even stay in your jammies for one of them, so it doesn't get much better than that!
On Tuesday, November 24, I will be a guest on the Marcus and Joni show on Daystar!
The show airs live at 12pm EST, (which is 11am Dallas time (CST).)
I hope you'll tune in to see me talk about how interruptions (mine had long ears and a loud bray) might be the very things God uses to get our attention. Knowing you're watching will help me STAY CALM, because I'll imagine y'all in your bathrobes, holding coffee cups, cheering for me. I hope to postpone my hyperventilating until AFTER the show.
Later that same day, we'll have a chance to meet each other IN PERSON at a book signing at the Barnes & Noble at Firewheel in Garland.
This event is at 6:30 pm, so come on in and get your book signed and take a selfie with with me!! Let's have a latte from the Starbucks together.
You can also get a hoof stamp in your book. :)
Hey, do you notice the new book cover on that graphic above? It has the Publishers Weekly Review on the front! Our little Flashy has moseyed his way into a THIRD PRINTING...which means that people are buying the book and recommending it to their friends. I can't tell you how thrilled I am about that. Whaaat?
So, mark your calendars!
Tuesday, November 24:
11am CST for the Daystar appearance,
6:30 pm at the Firewheel Barnes & Noble store.
See you there!
PS I'm very excited for the upcoming Christmas season, because I think Flash is going to make a great gift for people to give. If you are looking for a book that is heartwarming and funny–with a thread of faith running through it–then this is the book for you, if I do say so myself.
It's not just for the "animal lovers," but for anyone who is likes a true story that makes ya feel good. I can't tell you how many people have told me "I bought five to give away!" That's pretty cool. And this is a chance to get your copies signed....bring your own, or purchase in-store.
It seems like you probably ought to know by now. Because technically you've been a grown up for awhile now. :)
It seems like everyone else got it figured out in their twenties, or at least by their mid-thirties.
But you're still waiting on that epiphany that tells you, "This, THIS....is what I'm here for!" (There will, of course be a beam of light that will shine down upon you and there will be angelic choirs singing at that very moment. You will fall to your knees and open your hands to the heavens, releasing butterflies that will flutter around you in a magical dance.)
I've actually never known anyone who has had that kind of experience, but somehow we all kind of think that we will have "A MOMENT" in which all will become clear, even if it only happens in the Starbucks line.
Last week, I finished writing a devotional/workbook for Women of Faith, on discovering your life purpose. It really challenged me to work through my presuppositions, and ask questions, and truly think about what purpose is all about.
I realized something important:
Those epiphanic "MOMENTS" rarely happen.
Mostly, we find our purpose by bits and pieces. You might even say, by fits and starts.
And sometimes, we bump into it without much of a plan. One day we might look up from something completely unglamorous and say, "Huh. So this is what it's all about. Cool!"
And that's perfectly okay.
Because you don't need an epiphany to be operating in your purpose.
In fact, you are probably already living it, even as you're waiting for that "other thing," that thing that you think you're supposed to do that's really remarkable, to happen.
Your greatest purpose in life is right in front of you, today.
Purpose is not for tomorrow. It's not for someday.
Your purpose is for today.
It's for the hours you're given today, for the decisions you face today, and for the moments that make up your life...today.
Your purpose is to do what's before you, to the best of your ability, for the glory of God.
This is what I know: Your purpose is to do the right thing, which is to show up today.
Show up for the laundry, and for the job, and for the people who depend on you. Show up for your art, or that volunteer clean up crew you signed up for, or that blog you think no one reads, or that marriage that feels lifeless. There aren't any shortcuts, and there aren't any get-rich-quick schemes that will put you on the road to "success."
There is only faithfulness in the small things, and trust.
You can trust that God is working to bring about his purposes in you each day.
He sees you.
He knows you.
He has you in his hands.
God's got you.
So if you're still wondering what you're supposed to be when you grow up, just relax.
Because you're already who you're supposed to be.
So live it.
GREAT NEWS, EVERYONE!
You people are AWESOME! As of this morning, we have raised over $1700 for Tonita and her family, and we've made a big dent in the furniture and household items she needs!
We are so excited about how many of you simply stepped forward to help a complete stranger, someone with a need. Tonita said to me last night, "I want to meet every single one of the people who have helped me, so I can say thank you."
This feels like grace. This feels like love.
It feels like such kindness.
Thank you to all who have helped with your gifts, and thank you to all who have said a prayer. You've made it possible for Tonita to move into a cute little house this weekend, with enough to get started.
You are WONDERFUL!! The absolute best.
I'll keep you updated....
PS I adjusted out GoFundMe goal to $2500. The needs are great (like car repair) and I did not want anyone to not give if they saw we'd reached our original goal. All donations will be put to use, if not immediately, then kept in reserve for an emergency cushion. This will help immensely.
A few weeks ago, an email from our son-in-law landed in my inbox. It was a request for help for a family needing a temporary place to stay.
We knew the family through our daughter, Meghan and her husband Nathan, because the two of them befriended them several years ago and have somewhat "adopted" them along the way.
A single mom and her three kids, struggling to make ends meet, had simply come up short and had no place to go. Could anyone help them?
Tom and I looked at each other. I was behind on a writing deadline. He was behind on his work. Every minute of each day felt spoken for already...and yet somehow we both knew this was something we were supposed to do.
We said yes to the "interruption."
The mom, Tonita, works weekend nights. She has always been willing to take difficult jobs, even those with low pay and poor hours, to support her family. A country girl from Arkansas, she dreams of one day having a house for her family.
The oldest daughter, age 16, is sweet and helps her mom as much as she can. She was born with Spina Bifida, something I'm just now learning about. It's a birth defect that brings a host of side issues: learning challenges and balance problems are a couple of them.
The boy is eleven. He follows his favorite sports teams (Dallas Mavericks and Dallas Cowboys) and likes math and science.
The youngest girl is ten. She is a born actress, and loves to read books aloud with great expression! She simply sparkles.
Our "empty nest" has become home to four extra people this month, but already we've seen this "interruption" become a huge opportunity for miracles.
A home, within walking distance of ours, went up for lease on the very day we gave up looking for an apartment for her. It is within Tonita's price range, and has enough room for everyone! She will be able to move in next week.
That was the first miracle.
The next miracle happened when we found assistance through a local charity organization that helps families get back on their feet. We left our initial meeting with them with a trunk load of groceries, a bag of much-needed clothing, and an offer to help find furnishings to get settled.
Now, we are experiencing the third miracle.
Tonita will have just enough resources to maintain her new house once she is in, but the start-up costs of moving in are not possible without help.
She is in need of furniture, clothing, a computer, dishes...everything a family needs to begin a new life. In addition, there are deposits due on utilities that make this an extra challenge.
I sent a quick email out to my local friends, and Meghan shared the need with her friends last week...and many of our friends have begun to donate items and money to cover the costs. We are so excited for our dear little family!
Today, I thought I'd share the story here.
Our eyes have been opened to the very real struggle families face, when things like job loss and medical bills force you out of your home.
When the only jobs available have such low pay that you have to work weekend nights to make a tiny bit more per hour.
When your kids don't have the basic necessities that every parent wants to provide, like toothpaste and shampoo and extra changes of clothes.
This "interruption" has become our opportunity, not only to bless this one family with provisions, but to make a real difference in their lives. The kids are so delightful and have such a bright future....all they need is a little bit of help to get back on their feet.
If you would like to help in any way, we have set up a GoFundMe account to take donations.
There is no pressure to give whatsoever. I simply put it out there for anyone who feels a tug on their heart to do a little something. Our goal is $1500, but I'd love to go above and beyond so that she has a small cushion for emergencies. As of this morning, we are almost half way there!
UPDATE: We reached our $1500 goal! WOW!!!! THANK YOU!! But don't stop giving, if you feel led to give. The needs are great, from car repair to shoes, so I've changed the GoFundMe goal to $2,500, simply to encourage people to continue to donate. None of it will go to waste.
Tonita and her kids will move into their new house on Nov. 1! We would love to have it filled with enough furniture, beds, and a full pantry that they will feel loved and cared for. I know God is watching over them, and I'm so grateful for each bit of help along the way. If you're in the Dallas area and have household items you would like to donate, just drop me a quick email.
If nothing else, I'd love your prayers today! It's going to be a busy, full week of preparation...another OPPORTUNITY for something great to happen!
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 don't many of them hate Christians? 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