Creating Space

My client of 5 years, John, drives to Tulsa to train with me from Norman once a week.

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He attended my indoor cycling classes at least twice a week in 2011 but was shocked to learn his nagging back pain was caused by blockage in his heart. He underwent a quadruple bypass shortly after. John faced life differently after that. He stood taller, but more humble; grateful for each breath. He does not back down from a challenge. He changed his nutrition drastically, stopped drinking, and he’s active more hours of the day than not. John has lost about 80 pounds, maybe more…I lost track and he doesn’t let me weigh him anymore.

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It wasn’t uncommon for him to ride his bike from downtown Norman to yoga on the west-side about 10 miles away, then up to Moore another 10 miles to train with me at Next Level, then back home. I told him I wouldn’t train him anymore until he bought a helmet. John watched me struggle through my pregnancy with Finn from the back row of my spin class, where I was oftentimes wiping tears along with my sweat. He’s one of Finn’s biggest fans and created a website for brave, imperfect people to share their stories: Courage Endures.

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Courage Endures dudes: Eddie and John. They live bravely.

He and I had a conversation this morning about creating space in our lives for creative thought, spiritual inspiration, revelation, and meditation. We decided it was repetition that provides enough rote, automatic, flowing movement to allow the mind to wander and dream.

Activities like yoga, cycling, swimming, painting, crocheting, running, playing an instrument and fishing are repetitive in the most therapeutic ways.

When we busy our minds with television, radio news or surf social media, there’s too much “noise” to give our minds rest. We’re thinking, sure. But maybe we’re overthinking. [What’s she doing these days…Who is that with her?…What makeup does she use?…I didn’t know she…We’ve got mutual friends…She has more friends than me by like 500…He’s got a new job…I wonder what happened… ] My mind becomes mush with too much unimportant information.

I love the books, The Power of Habit and The Compound Effect. They are life-changing for me because they’ve changed my mindset. Simple habits, repeated over time create massive waves in the sea of our lives. Our days are made up of a collection of habits and the seemingly small, mundane routines are its foundation. Collect the right habits…create the right life.

Kissing Joey goodbye as we head off to work.

Praying over my kids, singing songs before bed.

Exercising–sweating–daily.

Reading Bible plans, devotionals, the Word.

Putting lotion on after I shower.

Brushing my teeth.

Making coffee e v e r y  m o r n i n g.

Thanking God for the day as Finn and I turn left out of our neighborhood.

Roasting vegetables in a hot oven.

Washing dishes.

Watering plants.

Buckling seat belts.

Folding laundry.

Wiping butts.

These are the stuff of our lives. Although I appreciate spontaneity and I’m a sucker for change, repetition and routine have great value.

“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Luke 5:16

“…Daniel got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.” Daniel 6:10

I think monks would argue (okay, monks probably don’t argue) that ritual may be one of the best opportunities for spiritual enlightenment.

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Go do something boring, repetitive, and let your mind free.

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In the Palm of His Hand

We celebrated Joey’s grandma’s 93 years of life today at her funeral.

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My father-in-law, Terry, led the service. He has this unique gift of performing both weddings and funerals with warmth and ease. He honors the moment, the people and the Lord in joy and in sadness. He makes us laugh and cry at once. It’s a craft.

Joey and his cousin, Blake, played the guitar and the mandolin skillfully, singing three songs to celebrate Grandma Davis.

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The lyrics of one folksy hymn got to me:

And He will raise you up on eagles’ wings,
bear you on the breath of dawn,
make you to shine like the sun,
and hold you in the palm of His hand.

(On Eagle's Wings)

I envisioned myself sitting, cross-legged, safe in the palm of His hand, like a ladybug trusting the Gardener. My mountains are but speed bumps. My lofty goals, little. My self-importance seems silly. Perspective. Funerals offer perspective.

And somehow, despite my smallness, I matter to God. 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast your anxiety on Him, for He cares for you.” He cares about my pocket-sized life and I think He can even make it big. I can be influential and impact not only my community, but the entire world because of Him.

It’s like Antman. (I know this seems off-topic, but we watched it last week and it’s fresh in my mind.) The Marvel superhero can diminish to the size of an ant, access keyholes and pass through microfibers, etc., all for the sake of his mission.

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He’s microscopic, but powerful when he wears his Antman suit. Maybe he’s powerful in the same way Scripture says “faith as small as a mustard seed” is powerful. Even in minuscule doses, faith infiltrates our lives, sneaking into our thoughts, flavoring our words and enriching our relationships.

Grandma Davis’s life was ordinary, small in the grand scheme of things, but today I was reminded that little lives can have a big impact in the palm of His hand.

 

How to Be Brave

Some people are born brave. Some people are forced to become brave. And maybe there are some people who will never be brave.

Yesterday Finn woke up from nap time at school with blood dripping from his mouth. He had bitten through his bottom lip, was lethargic and his skin was splotchy red. The teachers assumed he had a seizure, though no one saw him shake or go rigid. We took him to the ER and ran a shunt series (IV, blood work, head and chest x-rays, and CT scan) to be sure his shunt was working properly and that his brain wasn’t swollen. Praise God all his tests came back normal!

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Apparently this was his first seizure and most likely not his last. We’d appreciate your prayers against them. They’re so scary to me, and yet another thing to worry about/watch out for.

As Finn was wheeling away from the CT scan room, wiping tears from his eyes, he said through swollen lips, “I was so brave, wasn’t I, Momma? It wasn’t so bad. Where are the Popsicles?”

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Nothing terrifies Finn more than being strapped down and shoved inside that spinning CT scan tunnel, but he was forced to do it (not the first time; not the last), and he emerged braver. He was an over-comer, and he knew it. He was brave.

Since I was a child, I’ve been a risk-taker, dangling my legs over the edge of the canyon, asking bold questions, and pushing boundaries.

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But I’ve been fearful, so  O U T S I D E  my comfort zone, in the past two years because of various life, friendship and career changes. I’ve had to remind myself daily:

“God did not give [me] a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, love and self-discipline.”   2 Timothy 1:7

So if I entertain fear, it’s not from God.

 

How to Be Brave:

1. Feel the fear, but do it anyway.

-I tell my clients, “Don’t think, just do it.” Box jumps. Pull ups. Meal planning.

2. Remember what you’ve already overcome. Think back to the struggles. Many of us have endured some scary stuff. Stand tall; you made it!

-Parenting is tough. Wear your supermom/dad cape with pride, knowing this is perhaps the most difficult job you’ll ever have.

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3. Make a commitment and stand by your word.

“A commitment is doing what you said you’d do long after the mood you said you’d do it in is gone.” -George Zaluki

-Faith in God. Marriage. Jobs. Ministry. Taking your kids to the park. These are commitments we stand by whether we feel like it or not.

-I love the phrase, “Because I said I would…” There aren’t many characteristics I admire more in people than those who do what they said they’d do, when they said they’d do it.

4. Instead of shrinking from that which you’re afraid of, go toward it. Run! Now.

5. Put yourself in situations where you’re uncomfortable.

-Comfortable faith and comfortable lives don’t transform us or inspire others. Get to the point where you’re actually uncomfortable in your comfort zone.

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6. Surround yourself with people who are bolder and more courageous than you are. They’ll rub off on you.

7. Dream bigger.

-I’m a realist, so I’m guilty of dreaming small. I dream only for what I think is attainable. That’s boring, and it doesn’t involve faith or big thinking.

-Write those dreams down somewhere and share them with others. It makes them more real and you’re accountable for them.

8. Pretend you’re brave.

-When I first became a personal trainer, I had no idea what I was doing. I just knew I liked people and I liked movement…so I made people move. I faked it. When they’d ask why we were doing a particular exercise, if I didn’t know the answer, I’d say something semi-intelligent then let them know I’d research the answer. And I did. I got better.

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9. Practice being brave.

-Talk to your cashier. Ask them a specific question like, “Do you work all evening? Has it been a tough day?” Look them in the eye.

-Invite someone to your church. Or your gym. Or your play date group.

-Order your own food. I listened to one of the top-earners in Arbonne say she used to be so terrified of being in front of people that she actually couldn’t even order her own food at a restaurant or in the drive-thru.

-Ask your family and friends questions. Be in control of the conversation.

-Voice a complaint or a compliment–in person–at a local establishment.

-Discipline your kids. They’re kids; you know best. Be the boss.

-Ask for a raise and articulate why you deserve it. But be sure you deserve it.

 10. Ask God for courage. He commands it.

-Mary and Joseph, Ruth, Rahab, Joseph son of Jacob, Paul, Moses, Abraham, Solomon, David, Peter…these imperfect people trusted in a perfect God for their courage and strength.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Be braver, friends. I’m right there with you. 

 

He Did It For Me

Jesus dragged that splintered cross toward Golgotha’s hill for me. Burning muscles and tearing flesh. Spirit broken.

I can’t comprehend love like that–love that loved me before I loved Him. Love that accepted me at my worst but expects me to be my best. He became my sin and was punished for it.

Jesus stretched out his arms and was pierced for me. Pain for me. Spat upon and mocked by angry men, foaming at the mouth with hatred and fear. He was thinking of me with His face to the sky; a resilience that was not of this world. He cried bloody tears for me. His soul must have quivered at the hell that was encroaching. Thunder booming, lightning electrifying the sky.

The Lamb died for me.

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But then…He came back for me…so I could know the mystery of His living presence. So I could live fully, with hope. I can’t explain it, and I don’t need to, really.

“You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.” Acts 3:15

If He did this for me, He did this for you.

 

Duct Tape

Joey and I are sitting in a time-share condo in Branson, MO. Onyx coffee brewing. Pistachio shells in styrofoam cups.

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A kind couple from church offered this place to us as a retreat. Our Little Crazies are spending a fun weekend with my parents while we sleep in past 7:00am, read for pleasure, and rest our weary parenting muscles.

We ate at Grandma Ruth’s Cinnamon Rolls restaurant this morning, and a Roy Rogers doppelganger serenaded us with his cowboy tunes while we indulged in sticky toffee cinnamon rolls–our first breakfast post-Daniel fast. A true “break-fast.” Grandpa Milt would have loved every minute of it.

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My grandparents come from the era of “fixing it.” If something breaks or wears down, you don’t drive to Target for a new one. You fix it. Patch the jeans. Duct tape the broom. Get under the car yourself.

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Gram and Gramps playing Play Doh with Finn at Big Cedar over Christmas.

They are resourceful and enterprising; making whatever they have last. Their era was one of scarcity. WWII raged while they were just kids on the farm, the Great Depression had rattled the American Dream, and the men worked hard to put food on the table for their housewives and children. I respect and admire their industrious, conserving qualities. “Waste not, want not.”

I cannot, however, apply these principles to my spiritual life. The Kingdom of God is not one of scarcity; it boasts abundance. When I uncover ugly parts of me–embarrassing weaknesses, habitual sin–my tendency is to patch them up. Slap some duct tape on them and hope they don’t burst open.

Pastor Craig said something recently that stuck with me like super glue on my grandparents’ broken vase:

“Jesus did not come to make us better. He came to make us new.”

Whoa. There’s no patch large enough to cover my insecurity and sin. When it comes to our lives, betterment without the grace of Jesus is silly; futile.

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Eph. 4:22-24)

We get to trade in our old, scuffed-up self for a new self. A fresh start. Stop patching yourself up. Let Jesus make you new.

Rooted

“Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:7

Sometimes I’m more like a dandelion than a tree. Shallow and fragile, coming apart at the slightest puff of wind.

I want to be an oak. Roots planted deep; grounded into Jesus. I know I have yet to reach His mysterious depths. Firm identity and foundation. Unshaken by my circumstances. Immune to the approval or disapproval of others. Adapting with life’s changing seasons. And the result, according to Col. 2:7, is an abundance of gratitude. I’m in.

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Rooted. My word for 2016.

http://www.life.church/

Good Company

Joey and I get excited about checking on our kids before we go to bed. They’re splayed out silly in their beds, covers thrown off and long, dark eyelashes resting on their chubby cheeks from a hard day at play. Last night I prayed this over Paisley: that someday she’d have the kind of friends I found in college at OBU.

OBU 10 yr college reunion

OBU 10 yr college reunion

Yesterday we celebrated our 10 year Oklahoma Baptist University reunion back on Bison Hill. We are old.

The Name Tag Maker (whoever you are, you are funny) played a prank on Joey and made his name tag pic a picture of him sucking a baby bottle at Barnyard Olympics. :)

The Name Tag Maker (whoever you are, you are funny) played a prank on Joey and made his name tag pic a picture of him sucking a baby bottle at Barnyard Olympics. 🙂

Jane and Lindsey couldn’t make it, but it was fun to relive some of our favorite memories with some familiar–albeit 10 years older–faces. We missed seeing so many of our dear friends and wish you all could have been there.

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Micah, Joey and Matt

Micah, Joey and Matt: buds.

Joey, Micah and Brad reliving their epic team triathlon victory.

Joey, Micah and Brad reliving their epic team triathlon victory.

These four girls (below) are the kind of friends my mom prayed for over my sleeping form many years ago.

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They are the love-you-for-better-or-worse kind of friends. The friends who recognize you’re not the immature self-centered 19 year old you once were because Jesus has done some work on you since. They expect more out of you. They love your kids. They sacrifice (because it truly is a sacrifice) two weekends a year for the past TEN YEARS to spend time with you. Usually it involves shopping and pedicures and yummy food.

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Jane taught us how to make a delicious, traditional Indian dish.

But always it involves tears, and the kind of laughter that makes you pee a little. One of us is always pregnant…this time Lindsey and Jane. Well, every time it’s Lindsey… 😉 These girls are a blessing. A good and perfect gift from a good and perfect God.

A couple weekends ago it was Jane’s turn to be showered.

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Intimate brunch at Brennan’s

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Taylor used her rad calligraphy skills to make the invite and place cards.

The Roomies and Kay, Jane's sis, and mom, Mary Ann

The Roomies and Kay, Jane’s sis, and mom, Mary Ann

Her first child, a baby girl, is due on Christmas Day. We had so much fun partying in her honor in Houston.

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Alicja composed the sweetest poem for Jane.

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Kay gave Jane the prettiest earrings and an even prettier story to go along with them. Jane comes from a long line of beautiful (in and out) women.

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Writing

Writing “wishes for baby…”

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“I hope you ignore those voices inside that tell you you aren’t worthy, good enough or less than. You are enough because He is enough…”

And it was so much fun to finally meet Ralph, her husband. He is the beautiful Indian man who pursued her and showed her what love looks like in human form.

Jane is a special one.

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Her closet is full of designer shoes and her heart is full of Christ’s love and redemption. She has been Jesus to me so many times over the years. She sent me flowers “From: Jesus” when my heart was broken, sent money when the medical bills were stacked high, and sent texts when I needed them most.

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Our book, God Loves It When...

Our book, God Loves It When…

Jane, I love you. And that baby girl in your tall, tiny belly will be a beacon to the world: the hope of Christ. She will represent beauty and kindness. She is destined for great things, simply because of who her parents are and Whom they serve.

“Do not be misled. Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Cor. 15:33)

Thank you God, for my good company.