Encouragement

Out in the Open Air

typerwriter

Since December I have experienced four large rejections.

A goodbye to the work I have known for three years.

And silence.

 

I have moved from despair, sadness, feeling like an utter failure, to peace around and around again. This is what I have been learning:

  1. The stories we tell ourselves are not always true. It’s easy to go with the failure route… but deep down I know failure is not the story of any one of us, including myself.
  2. “I’m not getting what I want.” I told some friends. Afterwards, I thought about that. I’m like a toddler throwing a tantrum. Maybe, this time it’s not what I want, but what God wants.
  3. Waiting is hard. Be kind to yourself.
  4. Sometimes, we don’t know. We just simply don’t know. I have no idea what my life will look like this fall. The answer to that may be a beautiful beginning or it might be a hard space. Either way, I have learn for it to be well with my soul.
  5. Even though you know God cares for you and has a plan, it sometimes feels lonely and desolate, and that is all right.
  6. Trust your heart. I guess I never had a huge sense of clarity or ambition about my career. I just want to love people. Too simple, probably. But me… always.
  7. I’m a control freak all over my own life. This desert period… not even an option. I couldn’t control this train if I wanted to. I’m pretty sure when I meet Jesus he’s going tell me that I sucked at this part… trusting him to know what’s best for my life.
  8. I have had to admit that I’m thirty-seven and I have absolutely no clue right now. I have re-occurring dreams of packing, not being quite ready, and being in two spaces sometimes three. It has to be alright to say I don’t know. If you ask what I’m doing next, what God is doing in my life, where I am heading, I will say, “I don’t know, and not only do I not know, I haven’t the faintest clue.” It makes people uncomfortable, but maybe we need to become more comfortable with not always having an answer.

and I came across this line from Dr. Seuss

It’s opener, out there, in the wide, open air.

9. We don’t always get what we want. We don’t always get the easy path, the quick answers, the beautifully packaged clarity. And somehow we learn for that to be okay.

Out in the open air… it’s wide and expansive and scary. But, in that openness we learn to breath in God.

And somehow it is beautiful.

 

leading us deeper

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What is God doing in my life right now?

Closed doors and a lot of uncertainty.

It raises in up in me all kinds of demons of fear and not feeling good enough.

 

I’m learning to lean into the uncomfortable of not knowing.

To give myself grace when I feel completely lost.

This quote brought me much comfort this weekend, and I pray it might to you as well.

The spiritual life does not remove us from the world, but leads us deeper into it. Henri Nouwen

Be encouraged that God hears your prayers, knows you, and loves you well.

 

Your Voices

Yellow

This prayer I prayed a few months ago:

God, don’t let me give up.

Maybe sometimes it is all you have left, that tiny little plea.

If you have something to do through me, I want to show up. Very much.

 

I would rather it to be easier. Without rejection pressing up tight against me. When its hard to even kneel. When tears gather up, when usually they are tucked away.

So I keep praying, God don’t let me give up. 

I am praying that for you, for whatever is hard in your life.

 

I’m so thankful for these beautiful people who came out to support immigrants and refugees a few weeks ago. It was a good night. It’s your voices that keep me going.

BNBCOLLAGE

I’m so excited to begin planning #TalkJustice playgroups for this new year!

I’d love to hear from you!

What organization would you like to support? What activities? Where would you like to meet? What times would work best this summer?

Comment here, or send me a note aboutproximity@gmail.com

Your voices truly do mean everything.

I know no other way

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A few weeks ago, I stood outside waiting to direct participants to our playgroup. The evening was dark and cold. I took a picture of the street lamp piercing the dark. I wanted to remember the prayer I prayed that night, to not give up if God had something to do through me.

Over break I read Brene Brown, a New York Time Bestselling author. She is a researcher and spot on about messy things of the heart and how to meet them head on. In Rising Strong she says this about the messy middle:

You’re too far in to turn around and not close enough to the end to see the light.”

 

God, don’t let me give up. Let me hit my fears, insecurities, and rejections head on.

If you have something to do through me, I want to show up. Very much.

 

There is a plaque on my fireplace mantle that reads: Its hard to stumble when you’re on your knees. Ever since I read about adopting one word for each new year, mine has been the same. I wonder when I will let it go… or if it will always be a part of me. Kneel. It has to be for me, I know no other way. It all has to come from that place kneeling before God, or I am not me. I would not have the strength to show up. I would run far, far away.

My prayer for you this new year:
To not give up. You are enough. He has something beautiful to do in you and through you.

What do you need strength for in this new year? 

 

 

A Million Thanks

YouAlone

Happy Thanksgiving Week! I’m so very thankful for all of you.

This past week we participated in The Big Read, Holland Area in partnership with Herrick District Library and Hope College for a Give Back to Veterans Playgroup. We made cards for A Million Thanks and saw some things soldiers carried. The artwork of West Ottawa students blew me away.

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Once again the playgroup surprised me. Our night ended up being cold and rainy and the turn out was not what had been expected. I was sharing that disappointment with my dear friend. Later that night I had to text her, you wouldn’t believe the artwork on these cards I told her. The messages inside were even more stunningly beautiful. It’s not about the numbers, it is about the heart that goes into it. You won’t see this girl giving up anytime soon.

I know everything around us is disappointing, disheartening, and even scary right now. We don’t all agree.

But, we can still love each other. That’s really all that matters. Let’s not give up on each other. Don’t for a minute give up on yourself either.

Someday, I’m going to have a story about setting up these playgroups with my Mom, and watching a handful trickle in, and sharing my insecurities with Julie… feeling not good enough. Maybe if the person leading them were a better version of me… God saying no, it is you I need. I’m just going to use them my way, not yours.

And I am thankful, because I know he redeems. He uses us, even when we feel un-usable.

 

I am thankful for you. You are all brave.

You are strong at the things that only you and you alone can do for God. That is beautiful.

Much love this holiday week.

 

True Joy

truejoy

I’ve been struggling to stay at peace this past week.

Being a Mom, working full time, writing at night… I just can’t find a balance that I can tie up in a neat bow and declare that I can have it all together. This is my third year navigating, and I think I finally realized the perfect balance will never come.

I think I have known all along, it was just the act of accepting it.

I don’t know what it is that makes us feel like perfection is so needful in our lives. Jesus was perfect, but no one else was or is or ever will be.

 

Ellie had a fluke fall on Sunday morning and fractured her wrist. As we passed hours in the emergency room, getting her fixed up, I realized why I could accept imperfection.

If what I am doing is caring for the people God has put in my life, it is enough.

And no where in the Bible did God tell us to do it perfectly.

 

The special needs students I work with at school, don’t need a perfect helper. They need one that loves them unconditionally, and is there when they need encouragement and love to keep growing.

My kids don’t need a perfect Mom, they need one who is present. Sometimes, that might mean moving my computer to the table and working together there. That might mean I leave the writing for that night and play soccer outside instead. Sometimes, it means saying no to a game and finishing something instead. They need independence and to see me doing things I love, so they can do the same.

Anyone who reads my writing, already knows I’m terribly imperfect. But if I am using it to care for God’s people, I can be assured that God will do what he wants with it, even if it does not always align with my ambitions.

 

If what I am doing is caring for God’s people, I’m going to be OK.

I can trust God with my life. I can be at peace that he will use what I give him in a way only he can.

Know that I am praying for your peace as well.

What can you trust God with this week? 

 

 

we belong to each other

 

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We have arrived at November and enter into a glossy holiday season.

If you have one minute this week, I encourage you to watch this clip from A Path Appears, featuring Jennifer Gardner and Nicholas Kristof talking about the cycle of poverty through Save the Children in West Virginia.

The stress of extreme poverty changes the way your brain develops and grows.

Words we throw around like dependency, handouts, poverty, and inequality do not fit into little boxes. There is so much more going on.

I pray this holiday season we remember that we belong to each other in Christ~

#TalkJustice Together October Edition

 

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#BlessingnotBurden

This past Thursday, The Office of Social Justice had a launch party for the Immigrants are a Blessing not a Burden Campaign at the Holland Museum. Your family can join in too. Visit the website to Sign, Share and Wear! My family shared below, as you can see immigrants are very dear to us. Open up conversation with your kids. Immigrants are all around us deepening our lives and contributing to our communities.

#blessingnotburden

Holiday Kindness Camp

What?! How is it mid-October already? The leave are beginning to change colors here, which is beautiful and also a little bit of a bittersweet feeling to me, because I know winter is lurking. If you look at a calendar you know holiday preparations and fun will be filling our weeks soon. Join the sequel to Kindness Summer Camp, Holiday Kindness Camp. We’ll be giving out great ideas to incorporate kindness for five weeks in November and December.

Fall #TalkJustice Playgroups

If you are local, don’t forget our upcoming fall #TalkJustice playgroups, a veterans playgroup in partnership with Herrick District Library and Hope College’s Big Read, and a playgroup benefitting Kids Food Basket in partnership with Grace Episcopal Church. Join the Facebook Event Page to get updates!

Creation Care

Sit down together and look through the images in the article What Humans are Really Doing to the Environment. Ask about their thoughts on the photographs.

#GivingTuesday

Get ready for #GivingTuesday, this year on December 1, 2015. Talk about what organization or family you might like to support. Make plans ahead of time to be able to make it a reality on Dec. 1.

Global Education

Watch the movie trailer He Named Me Malala, the story of Malala Yousafzai shot by the Taliban for attending school, and later winning the Nobel Peace Prize for her activism. If you have read the book, you will also see reflected in the movie the strength of Malala’s Father. He broke conventional beliefs to make education for Malala and other girls a priority. As adults we make a difference when we talk about justice with young people.

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Read

My Teen Daughter Asked for 17,000 Pairs of Shoes: Why I said Yes about the foster care system and the basic needs of children. When we pause long enough to take statistics in; we realize how much we have, and how much we have to give.

Trick or Treat

Consider trick or treating for UNICEF! Or maybe matching the number of treats your kids collect to a family donation. $15 provides safe drinking water for a year to a child. $30 provides Measles protection to 100 kids. Just $5 provides five meals to a hungry child. I’m going to have Ant Man and Scarlet Witch this year!

October is Fair Trade Month 

Check out the Buy Fair Trade Fair website. See if you can substitute a product you use in your life with a fair trade equivalent.

Hunger

The busiest times for food banks is around the holidays. Before you take a hands-on shopping trip to donate, try calling first and asking about high need items. When we did a justice playgroup for our local food pantry this summer, they really needed personal hygiene items. We were able to gather and meet their greatest need at that time. Here is a list of high-quality items that can benefit most food pantries.

What are you all up to this month?

Open Our Hands

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I planned to share a new campaign from World Renew and the Office of Social Justice.

Immigrants are a Blessing Not a Burden.

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I didn’t plan to share this-

At church this morning, a congregation member translated for a legal worker. He stood up in his pew, hand over his heart as she spoke. He picks blueberries at a local farm. His seventeen year old son embarked from Guatemala to join him. His paperwork was not done right, and he was detained in Arizona. Documentation to prove he is a minor was provided from Guatemala, but to be released to his Dad pending trial, he needs 7,000 dollars in bond money. A father in Michigan picking blueberries. A son in immigration detention in Arizona. These stories are told daily, because our system is outdated and broken.

What struck me most, was how small the father looked, standing there so still, his hand over his heart.

Like somehow, he could keep his boy safe that way.

 

In light of stories like these, and also the pictures of despair we have witnessed from Europe, we can take a few moments to enter in conversation, to make a difference. This is so, so important.

Immigrants are a Blessing Not a Burden Website. 

Follow updates on Facebook. Invite friends.

Unlearn here. Sign, Share, or Wear here. Sign up to be a social media ambassador here.

 

The last few weeks I have been guest posting at WholisticWoman.com about being intentional.

Being Intentional: Slowing Down 

Being Intentional: Pausing for Prayer 

Being Intentional: Consumption

 

This coming weekend, I will be at The Breathe Christian Writers Conference! I will be presenting a social media for writers workshop with Amy Sullivan. I would love for you to pray with me, because I will also be pitching a book proposal for Talk Justice Playgroups (our Fall Facebook Event Page is here). I can’t wait to gather new ideas to share with all of you, and meet new people to introduce you all too.

Sometimes, I feel so small. I want to grab everything from God’s hands and try to force it to where I want it to go. I’m so afraid to open my hands. He definitely calls us to be more. He asks us to do the harder thing, and trust him.

Dear God, please open our hands when we can make a difference. 

What is new in your life? How can we pray for you? 

Small Things

#SmallThings

Sometimes when I run out of things to read, I reach for Where There is Love, There is God. It is a selection of Mother Teresa’s writings and talks to the Sisters of Charity. Her words never grow old or less impactful to me.

This past week was full of challenge. Leading me to a space where doubt and worry takes up residence. It culminated with a trip to Grand Rapids Art Prize Saturday. When we parked at my brothers house, in the gutter by the street, Ellie and Josiah stepped in dog poop. It somehow ended up on four shoes, two hands, clothing, and the interior of our car. I sat in the road scrubbing Ellie’s shoes with wet wipes and laughing until I cried. We’ve all been there, and what can you do but laugh? (The above piece is by Kelsey Montague and features interactive butterfly wings on the opposite side.)

 

I was reminded of some of my favorite words for this book.

#smallthings

dog poop.

cancer.

really wanting to give up, but not.

discouragement that takes root deep inside you.

tears after basketball.

all the mundane.

You _______________ fill in the blank.

 

She also said,

we fear the future because we are wasting today. 

 

#whatliftsyou was the hashtag of that piece of art.

May what lifts you today be that you are not wasting one drop of anything.

Offer it all to God that it may become infinite. Beautiful. Small.