To My Little Explorer

It seems appropriate that my blogging topic of the month is exploration since August is your month, my son. All month we have been excitedly planning your birthday and now it is only 3 days away. You have big plans for your fifth year and I have a feeling they will be achieved- because that’s the kind of person you are.

At the cusp of five-years old, your personality is quite defined. You’re a thinker, a planner, a leader, a storyteller, and an explorer. To me, you define boyhood. You are inquisitive in your thoughts; meticulous in your planning (even carrying a little notebook for your plans); enthusiastic in your leadership; detailed in the stories you create and relate to us; and bold in your explorations of the backyard or your own imagination. But something I admire the most about you is your steadiness.

Ever since you were a baby you embraced your own pace. You reached the developmental milestones but always later than the average. Initially I fretted but once I knew you were fine I sat back and enjoyed observing you. You steadily got to where you wanted to go or needed to be. This trait has become your trademark, whether it’s in walking, riding a bike, putting on your belt by yourself, or catching frogs and geckos. And once you achieve your goals, you have them mastered with confidence.

Explorers need that steadiness, Son. They need to be determined in pursuing their dream of discovering the unknown. While you may not discover an unmapped land or encounter a nameless people, there will always be something new to discover about our fathomless God. And as you discover more and more about Him, He will take you to incredible places that will require every ounce of courage you can muster.

We are swiftly entering an era where evil is being called good and good is being called evil. Your peers are going to want to remain in the darkness and will resent you for shining the light of Jesus into their lives. My prayer for you is that your boyhood ideals will mature into the character that will define you as a man: a man who will not minimize what matters nor treat the mysteries of God with indifference. Be bold, young explorer, and never forget to bring your shield.

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Explore the Deep

“Who is man that Thou art mindful of him?” This question, penned thousands of years ago, is still relevant today. I think everyone wants to know who they are, what they are and why they are. I know I do.

I am always asking myself why I hold the aspirations I have; why I’m feeling the way I do; what motivates me and what discourages me; and how I can improve. And then I wonder why I strive so hard only to fail again and again. I know the odds are against me until I’m with Christ in person. It’s easy for me to only see where I fall short, how I’m a stumbling block for others and the long list of should’s scrolling through my head. But that’s where my explorations continue.

As much as I long for perfect contentment I realize it will never happen. I will have moments of perfection but they won’t last. I am an imperfect human who will never achieve the perfection I desire in heart, home or happiness and I can see that that is a good thing. The fruit of my faith is finding God glorified in the mess:

  • feeling the pain of others’ because I’ve felt pain too
  • Refusing a critical spirit because I’m not a perfect mom either
  • Love welling up inside when I see my children in the midst of their fits
  • Learning to slow down and to embrace the slower pace
  • Accepting the shorter to-do list and recognizing that life has still been well lived today
  • Remembering I’ve been here before and will make it through again.

As I question and explore I go deeper into my faith and my God. Who can fathom “the breadth and length and height and depth” of God? It’s in my shortcomings that I’m reminded of the length of His mercy; it’s the desires of my heart that give depth to my prayers; it’s the fears and unknowns that fill me with gratitude for the breadth of His outstretched arms; and when life feels bleak my gaze reaches heavenward.

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A Fresh Look

Exploration means offering yourself opportunities to see things from a different perspective; it means admitting that you don’t know everything; it means being willing to learn something new. Explorers need to be humble because what you discover might shine light on what better ways to live or correct mistakes you didn’t even realize you were making.

Friendship is a fantastic way of encountering a variety of perspectives since every friend has a unique personality, passion and plan for life. I am blessed with friends all over the world and the United States who are seeking to live well. Through them I have learned that my way of living isn’t the only way to live.

Truthfully, I struggle with insecurity fed by pride. I feel like if someone else does something differently than I do it means I’m wrong and if I’m wrong I’m a failure. Jesus is working with me on this and one tool He is using is friendship. This summer He surprised me with an abundance of IN-PERSON visits with beloved friends. Oh! There’s nothing like being able to chat face-to-face! I have also been building brand new friendships and cultivating faithful friendships. In all of these I have discovered a wealth of wisdom for how to live victoriously.

It’s impossible to know all there is to know about teaching, parenting, marriage, loving Jesus, and living well. There simply aren’t enough hours in a lifetime! But you can certainly tag-team life together with quality friends. Here are some exploration tips to go deeper with your friends:

  • Discuss your latest reads
  • Share thoughts on news headlines
  • Swap recipes
  • Brainstorm parenting challenges
  • Be honest about your mishaps
  • Glean new ideas
  • Pray together
  • Provide fashion tips
  • Inspire healthy living habits
  • Build one another up in the faith
  • Hold each other accountable
  • Don’t hesitate to inquire

I am thankful that my friends aren’t just like me. We share similar desires, values and interests but our approaches to living are unique. This provides all of us with a sampling of life experiences that we would otherwise miss. And I’m discovering that doing things differently from others doesn’t mean I’m wrong or a failure. There’s freedom in that discovery.

How have you been enriched by your friendships?

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What? Why? How?

A new month means a new series and this month’s is a prequel to what’s coming in September: education, a theme very close to my heart. I think that a cornerstone of education is exploration: wanting to know the what’s, why’s, and how’s of existence on this planet called earth.

Children are born with an innate desire to explore. Everything is new to them and guiding their explorations can make the world a brand new place for their teachers. Every first is a new first for me with each child: the first encounter with bubbles makes bubbles all the more wonderful; the first look at the Christmas tree is more magical each year; the first trip to the zoo is greater in its excitement. And as their vocabulary grows and minds develop the discoveries do too.

“How does the soap dispenser open up in the dishwasher?”

“What makes cars move?”

“Why do bees pollinate?”

“Where does the water go when it goes down the drain?”

“How does bacteria get inside of us?”

“What is an idol?”

“Why do bad guys have birthdays?”

“How can a bad guy love Jesus?”

Each question makes me explore the world a little deeper myself. I realize that I have settled with what I already know while life beckons with greater mysteries I have yet to discover. I have an inkling that there are many great adventures ahead as the exploring continues- both in our physical world and in our faith.

Is there still an explorer within your heart?

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With Christ in the School of Prayer by Andrew Murray

This transformative read offers insight into how one’s prayer life is a plumb line for one’s faith. Unanswered prayers should not be causally dismissed with a simple, “It must not have been God’s will.” Instead, they should prompt a deeper pursuit of God in order to receive the promised answers. Abiding in Christ and immersion in His Word will enable the saint to know what to pray and therefore to approach the throne of grace with confidence, knowing the petitions will be granted.

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Freedom in God Glorified

We have that phrase memorized: “…that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” I remember teaching the Declaration of Independence to my middle school students and explaining that the right to pursue happiness does not give us a license to do whatever we want at the expense of someone else’s rights. It does mean that we have the right to seek a fulfilled life and experience the freedom that is ours as citizens of a great nation. That freedom might look differently than what we would expect.

I have observed how much I struggle to keep myself in front and center – even in my spiritual life. My prayers focus on me or matters concerning those closest to me:

“Give me wisdom (or strength or peace or joy)”

“Heal them”

“Protect us”

“Help me”

And in the midst of the trials, whether they be minor irritants or major suffering my attention is on how they are affecting me and diminishing my personal comfort. It is natural for a human to be aware of himself above all; it defines the Christian to seek God glorified above all.

The Christian will find ultimate freedom in seeking Christ’s interest before his own. Since my heart has been enlightened to this truth I have been actively raising my gaze heavenward when the demands of the temporal clamor loudest.

When I am fatigued and don’t know if I’ll last through the day I seek God glorified.

When my back is aching and there’s still dinner to prepare I seek God glorified.

When my husband and I see differently on an issue I seek God glorified.

When 5 of my 5 children are screaming or being defiant all at once I seek God glorified.

When the two-year old needs to be potty-trained I seek God glorified.

When my tongue yearns to criticize or judge I seek God glorified.

When the future is overwhelming I seek God glorified.

When I’ve been hurt and bitterness beckons I seek God glorified.

God provides the storm and God provides the blessing. Our prayer in the heart of the storm should not be for it to abate but for God to be glorified in how we weather it. The blessing comes not when the storm is over but in how our conduct throughout the storm brought praise and glory to our God.

How gloriously freeing to no longer consider myself in this life but in all things to pursue God glorified!

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Freedom in Embracing Rest

I have a thought to share: God designed pockets of rest into our daily existence. Why is this significant to me? Because I don’t slow down unless I am forced to be still. However, with this new baby I am guarding his feeding times as a chance to sneak away and savor rather than multitasking during his care. That’s what prompted these thoughts on rest and the freedom therein.

I view rest as a luxury, something I can only do if there is absolutely nothing else to do. Even when I am being still I feel I need to grab a book or pick up my phone. I save baby snuggles or playtime with the children as a relaxing incentive to get all my other things done while those restful times of fun are highlights of my day. Reading, journaling, sipping tea and seeing, sitting outside and thinking, these are all favorite forms of rest that I am always hoping to do when I have a spare moment.

But God designed us for rest which makes it as much of a necessity as respiration and food. And when there is a balance of rest and work we thrive! Take note of those little moments to be still: the bathroom breaks, sitting down to a meal, tucking children in bed, waiting in line at a grocery store, walking the dog… what can you add to the list?

There is freedom in embracing God’s perfect design. When we rest we can see beyond the surface clutter of the busy moment. Delight in rest!

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