On playdough, Daniel Tiger, and being right where I belong

Image courtesy of the Schuler Family 😊

This post goes out to all the sweet mamas who allow playdough in their house. They have my kuddos.

But now, O Lord, you are our Father;
    we are the clay, and you are our potter;
    we are all the work of your hand.  (Isaiah 64:8)

Midweek is back in session at church, and while I’m excited to see the faith growth it will bring to my children, it also means something else…Daniel Tiger night. Judge me if you will, but I really love this one and a half hour time slot when I get to curl up on the couch with my smallest child, snuggle it out, and hear life’s problems solved from the vantage point of a 3-foot-tall talking tiger and his family.

Last Wednesday, Zeke and I were happily watching Daniel Tiger pick multiple kinds of fruit in an animated garden when the show switched to a montage of a live action family on the screen to drive home whatever lesson of the night. This was all well and good until…wait for it…the family on the screen started mixing play-dough colors.

I kid you not, there was serious color mixing going on, with parental approval. They were making some kind of pizza with a pink bottom and green, red, yellow, and white bits of toppings. The preschool- aged child was happily pushing the colored bits as far into the play-dough crust as you can get it, and all I can think is “AHHHHHHHHH, it’s never going to come apart! Don’t do it. Just don’t do it. You are well on your way to molding brown play-dough. Who wants brown play-dough? What are these parents thinking??!!”

At that moment, Zeke looks at me and says, completely unaware of my inner dialogue of judgmentalism , “Ooooo – they’re making rainbow play-dough.”

Perspective opened.

These children, this family was making something. They were making something pretty, something that felt good, something crafted by their own two hands, their own six hands together. That’s what Zeke saw, when all I saw was a mess.

So often, this is the way our life is with God.

I look around and I see mess. He sees molding and shaping and crafting and creativity.

Please read Isaiah 64:1-8 in your Bible, or select portions below, v. 1,4,7-8-

Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down,
    that the mountains might quake at your presence—

From of old no one has heard
    or perceived by the ear,
no eye has seen a God besides you,
    who acts for those who wait for him.

There is no one who calls upon your name,
    who rouses himself to take hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us,
    and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.

But now, O Lord, you are our Father;
    we are the clay, and you are our potter;
    we are all the work of your hand.

Imagine God, coming down from the mountains to be part of your life. He doesn’t have to engage. He doesn’t need us. He is God. But He values relationship in a way that I’m not even sure we can fully comprehend. One of His primary attributes is omnipresence. He can be everywhere at one time. Many of us know this as a nice theological idea, but don’t forget the personal context of it. He is present. He comes down.

He deigned to create the universe and walk in the garden with Adam and Eve. He came down from heaven to walk our soil as Jesus Christ, God made flesh. He is present. He sent His Spirit to live and dwell among us, God in our hearts and lives and homes. He is present. He will come back and restore this Earth and me and all Creation to perfection. He is present.

The message of our passage in Isaiah 64 is not only are we made and formed by God but this…

We are held by God.

Read Isaiah 64:8 again,

But now, O Lord, you are our Father;
    we are the clay, and you are our potter;
    we are all the work of your hand.

Often we are not looking for Him where He is found (Isaiah 64:3), because He is right there holding us. We want a bright neon sign with solar panels and flashing lights to show us God. We want trumpets and angel choirs, and something bigger and better than our current situation. But that’s not His style. He can do that, but instead, He holds us in His hands. He holds us in His tight grip of grace.

What has God shaped in your life? How has He used ordinary to bring you closer to Christ and to guide you in His paths?

This week, as we discover how we ourselves are clay held in the potter’s hands, being shaped and formed, we will also see how God teaches as Potter, how He instructs us in our purposes and forms us as His vessels, and what glory there is in essentially being mixed up like play-dough, God forming rainbow beauty when we thought it was all just leading to muddy brown.

For today, know this, from Isaiah 64. God being our Potter, means He’s holding us in His hands.

“We are all the work of your hand…”

means we are all currently the work of His hands. Not we were His work when he created us, or we will be when we are in heaven.

We are the work of His hands. Each and everyone of us. Held, everyday.

See you tomorrow, you beautiful lump of rainbow-colored-playdough you. Until then, be held.

 

Exploration:

Tell us about something weird that gets to you. I revealed my mixed play-dough anxiety…your turn!

What has God shaped in your life?

How has he used ordinary to bring you closer to Him and mold you in His paths?

Clay Scripture Engagement Tool

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3 Things I can learn from my 8-year-old

This is Jyeva. (Pronounced Yay-Vuh.)
 
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If you look up the definition of “free spirit” in the dictionary, you will likely find her picture.
Jyeva has a fresh way about her, a caring and affectionate nature, and can offer up intercessory prayer with the best of them.
 
Jyeva teaches me something new every day, but there are three lessons that God weaves continually in my heart as I parent this precious girl.
 

1) Be yourself.

 
If you notice in the picture above, Jyeva has her own sense of fashion and style. You say rainbow butterfly leggings, lacy shirts, and athletic socks do not go together. Jyeva says, “Why yes they do, kind sir.” The year that Jyeva was 3-years-old we called her Boca because she insisted on wearing only bedazzled velour track suits every where she went. She had no taste for dresses, especially for church. She believed and still does that Jesus was meant to be honored in converse with purple stars.
 
Another year, I battled that girl to try on an Easter Sunday dress to match her sisters. All three of us huddled into a dressing room, the light bulb finally went off, when Jyeva looked at me, eyes wide open, “Why would I want to wear a dress to match Macee’s? I’m not Macee, am I?” She intended no disrespect, her tender tone cut right to my heart, “Nope, you’re not Macee. And I love you just the way you are.”
 
How often have I needed to set aside the expectations around me and embrace who God made me to be? Who am I trying to be most days? Someone who could pass for having it together on some commercial, or the broken but beautiful me that the Savior has fully redeemed and pieces together into His masterpiece, each and every day?
 

2) Embrace life.

 
Jyeva runs at life full throttle. You ask her to give you two laps, she does four. You ask her to give it her all, she gives it 150%. But the lesson she teaches me isn’t about giving it my all and being bold. Jyeva’s lesson is simpler.
 
When Jyeva was 5-years-old, we almost lost her sweet self. I remember clearly rushing her down the side of a mountain in Haiti, to get her to the medical care she needed in America. Five days later, lying in a hospital bed, the nurse tentatively took all of the needles and tubes out of her little body. Jyeva looked a me, smiled, and said, “Look, Mom, it’s me, Jyeva…Unplugged!”
 
And she’s not joking. She knows full well that life is short and your time here is like a blink, a half second, the length of a dandelion flower in a strong breeze. Jyeva’s passion is that not one person be homeless. To have a passion at age 8? She’s my hero. I want to be Jyeva when I grow up.

How often are we uncomfortable diving into something passionately? How often do we take for granted the day that God has given us today to do His work and love His people?
 

3) Allow others the same – be yourself, embrace your life.

 
As is also evident from Jyeva’s outfits, she highly values creativity. But more than her outfits, Jyeva thinks outside the box. The best way she expresses this is in the way she regards other people. Jyeva honors each and every person as a full unique individual in the Body of Christ, in the world around us. She expects no one to look like her, speak like her, think like her. In this, she is always willing to give someone else the benefit of the doubt. She’s always willing to ask a question, instead of jump to an assumption. God created each of us unique, with a unique path to walk. We are all on the same Emmaus road, trying to understand the Word and the work of Christ in our lives, but we may all do that in very different ways.
 
So often I am quick to judge, quick to assume. Praise God for a Savior who is quick to forgive. Quick to love.
 
I wonder if these lessons are useful at all in your own families, or even in our churches. The more I look around me, I wonder if we fully accept the Jyeva’s of the world in our spheres. Do we greet those who dress a little different from us at church with the same comfort we offer those who look like us? Do we invite people to share their joy and passion and ideas openly and wholeheartedly in our families and our churches? Are we careful enough with people’s testimonies, honoring their walk as valuable and interesting, worthy of sharing, even when it doesn’t look like ours?
 
Matthew 16:18 has one of my favorite nuggets of Scripture that can easily be skipped over because of the depth of the rest of the passage (emphasis added below).
 
And I tell you, you are Peter…”
 
You are Peter.You are Jyeva. You are you.
 
God gives each of us personalities and ideas. I’m so thankful for the unique journey God gives each and every one of us. I’m so thankful when these journeys cross and our lives are made better by one another. Let us honor who he made us to be today, by being ourselves, embracing the life that He’s given us, and allowing that same precious gift for one another.

 

40 Date Night Ideas to Spice It Up

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Recently I wrote a blog for Everyday Faith, over at Concordia Publishing House – 

Spicing Up Date Night (check it out here!)

Here I’d like to offer the list of fun and spicy date nights contributed by young and old alike at Sammi and Craig’s wedding. See photo of them above… #seriouslyadorable.

So, are you ready to Spice Up your date nights this summer? Dave and I are planning on using at least one of these ideas a month for the coming months. Which ones would you choose? What ideas would you add? 

                  40 DATE NIGHT IDEAS
  1. Rent a limo or car just for fun
  2. Paintball or laser tag
  3. Dance at a country hoedown & eat BBQ
  4. Take a mime class together
  5. Date night at home
    1. Grill pizzas, it tastes like wood oven pizza
    2. Have a bottle of wine
    3. A good movie or a card game
  6. Make homemade ice cream & watch a Disney movie
  7. Go to the farmer’s market & cook with your finds
  8. Go back to high school
    1. Go out for ice cream
    2. Go putt putting
    3. Go to a PG13 movie
  9. Drive In
  10. Take a sleigh ride & drink hot cocoa
  11. Roll in the hay #literally
  12. Muddin with an awesome off-road vehicle
  13. Make a dish from a cooking show together
  14. Zip line together
  15. Do a factory tour, especially any place with samples
  16. Try new candy bars and walk them off together
  17. Create your own cheese of the month club – buy 3 new and creative cheeses to share together each month…enjoy with wine! 
  18. Board games & local microbrews
  19. Go to a coffee shop one morning & get a beverage to share
  20. Ride a tandem bike & eat ethnic foods
  21. Go camping & eat s’mores
  22. Explore hiking areas or metroparks
  23. Recreate the first date you had together
  24. Go to a museum
  25. Pottery/painting or stained glass class- create something together!
  26. Sushi rolling class, followed by dessert at a restaraunt
  27. Breakfast Date
  28. Beach day on Lake Huron (or your nearest body of water)
  29. Taco Night with homemade sangria
  30. Shop for ingredients and build your own creative martini bar
  31. Build a birdhouse together
  32. Do a progressive dinner, try a few new restaurants
    1. Do one restaurant for appetizers
    2. Another restaurant for a meal
    3. Another restaurant for dessert
    4. Lastly a different restaurant for drinks
  33. Go fishing
  34. Go for a moonlight (or daytime!) canoe ride
  35. Go to the theater & watch a movie with popcorn, candy, and a giant pop! Try doing a double feature.
  36. Go to a concert & don’t leave until your feet hurt from dancing
  37. Find a magazine with the best restaurant list, see how many you can visit in a year
  38. Get some pillows, blankets and snacks for a midnight picnic & watch the stars
  39. Get a green screen & take pictures of yourselves in front of it. Then Photoshop really cool stuff in behind you. Like the Eiffel Tower, the sinking of the Titanic, a car crash, or prehistoric dinosaurs
  40. Create a Chopped basket for each other and get creative in the kitchen
 
*photo by Melissa Sue Ripke at http://www.melissasphoto.com/ 

Scattering gifts…

For the body does not consist of one member but of many.

                                                     1 Corinthians 12:14

One day during Holy Week, my children and I sat around the school table, talking about plant classification (exciting stuff!). Someone was probably lamenting the heavy burden placed on them by Mom, the homeschooling tyrant. Someone else was probably demanding a snack. 
 
My husband innocently pops his head in the door and sweetly says to me, “Hey, were you planning on singing for Easter? I’m just getting the bulletin organized.” I glanced up from my work, and I’m not sure the look on my face, but I know the turmoil inside –
      One more thing, Lord. Really. 
      How am I going to manage?
      Where is the time going to come from?
      Maybe I can practice while the noodles cook….
      No, I need to return that phone call.   
      How about during quiet reading time?
      I need to get Bible study ready for tomorrow. 
 
And so on and so on. We all have the internal dialogue. Mine tends to range from organized files to harried and discombobulated. 
 
My husband looked into my face and gently imparted timeless wisdom for every pastor’s wife –
            “You don’t have to use all your gifts at one time.”   
 
Good call, dear. I’m going to sit this song out. I’m going to praise the Lord on Easter morn from the pew. 
 
I so often want to seize every opportunity, meet every need, heal every hurting heart, but not only is that God’s job, I was placed in a body to serve together. A wise person once said, “A need does not constitute a calling.” Sometimes it all seems so overwhelming, so many hurting people, little things to be done here and there and everywhere. God knows. He has a plan. Even this is in His hands. Sometimes His plan for me is to say, “Thanks, but not this time.”
 
God gave each of us many gifts to use for His glory. I’m sure you have so many ways and places to use them. He is so creative with each of us! Rest in this, sister…
      Use them, bless with them, but remember –
      You don’t have to use them all at one time. 🙂