“Somebody Burned Down My She-Shed!”

Oh, the “She-Shed” commercial–you know the one!! Since we don’t have “regular” TV (the downside of living in a valley), the only time I ever hear the commercial is on the radio. When I Googled it to link it here, I decided that the “She-Shed” in the commercial is kinda glorious, you know?

I mean, just the concept–A She-Shed!!!  A quiet place, all my very own, to decorate how I want, and to do with what I want—GLORIOUS.  I think the concept of a private place that is unblemished by little fingerprints or man-boots…a place with perfect lighting and ambient music, with gentle motifs and plush carpet…oooh, okay, that sounds glorious.  My She-Shed would be devoted to crafts; the thermostat would never be above or below 65; I’d have inlaid bookcases, & no one would make me watch YouTube videos about Legos or camera lenses…aaaaaahhhhhhh….Oh, and it would smell of lavender & chocolate chip cookies. Always.

And I’d never leave. 🙂

Cue the music…”in my own little corner, in my own little world.….”

We have this unrequited need to have our Very Own Space in this world, and yes, even though our HOUSE is supposed to be that place, as we grow up we find that it’s not. No, our house gets taken over by stuff, or by the people, or by The Legos, or by the whatevers. It’s hard to maintain the upkeep of keeping your home a place of peace in a world that cranks out materialist must-haves at an alarming rate. Every time I Marie-Kondo my house, I make these wonderful spaces that fill back up again in spite of my promises to myself that it’s not going to happen. I’ve pared down and pared down and pared down, and recent events mean that nope–I’m not filling ANYTHING back up again, and it’s okay.

Learning to make do, and to be okay with making do, is an adventure. It’s frustrating, but it’s something we should all be good at by the age that I’m at (I’m not). The more we pare down or get used to telling ourselves, “no,” the more resourceful we find we are. The more we miss going and doing “the things,” the more I’m appreciating the quiet weekends at home. It takes more creativity to stay busy on the weekends when you don’t have the resources to do what you want (truth be told, we’re not really doing anything on the weekends right now. The weather is crap, and blankets are awesome. It’s an issue). In this process, I’m realizing there were a lot of ruts we were stuck in; there were a lot of patterns we were set in that needed to break. It’s not a fun process, truth be told, but the longer we’re in this boat, the more I realize we’re floating. It’s rough waters, but we’re together.

Last week, we faced some scary decisions…At one point, I was laying on the couch, and David had his head on my lap. My son took the opportunity to make a “DAD SANDWICH!” and pounced on top of him; meanwhile, the dog laid at the foot of the couch so that I couldn’t have got off of the couch if I tried.

I looked down at all of my happiness…my husband, my son, my dog…I know it probably sounds cheesy, but with these decisions looming over my head, in that moment, I felt like I could physically shove the anxiety off of my shoulders. Regardless of what happens…regardless of the outcome…this little group of 4 is everything to me. Everyone in that little circle–even the dog–is an answer to prayer and a reminder of how faithful the Lord is.

I’m choosing joy.

I’m choosing contentment.

I’m choosing to Consider the Lilies, and I’m choosing to stay in the room with this tribe.

I’m not going to lie–I’d love to retreat to my mental She-Shed and just check out. But it’s not what we do. It’s not what Jesus does. He dives in and surrounds the four of us–even the dog–and He wraps us in His arms.  He holds us. He has more of a reason to mentally check out than anyone, yet He stays involved. He’s never distant.

When I was in high school, we studied a book about world views, and one of them discussed the concept of Deism. My understanding of Deism is that God basically set everything in motion in some way–the Big Bang, Intelligent Design, whatever–and then He just steps back and watches us do whatever. He doesn’t intervene; He gives us passing interest, but He lets us live our lives while He does His Own thing. This view of God always struck me as the saddest, because why should we love a Father Who’s checked out?  Why should we care about the “will” of a God Who sits back in His Celestial Man Cave while we run around in the rat traps of earth?

It’s the same kind of philosophy that inspires us to want to hide in She-Sheds or Man-Caves or under a blanket in our bedrooms until the drama subsides. It solves nothing, it helps no one, and it’s entirely narcissistic. Granted, everyone needs some time alone sometimes. I’m not saying that’s a bad idea, and if you have the means to make a She-Shed, Sheryl, BUILD THE THING, OKAY?!? 🙂

Just don’t be surprised if it gets struck by lightning.

I’m kidding!  But seriously, we’re so inundated with noise and drama–my last blog discusses the beauty of getting small, and the appreciation for the quiet. There’s a time for noise and a time for drama, but there’s also a time for being involved and for community. Families aren’t made of individuals who hide and ignore each other. They’re made in the side-by-side, day-to-day relationships we form when we work together. They’re solidified by relationships with our ever-involved God, and with each other. They take constant work, but there’s a constant reward that it so worth it–I have to remind myself of that, because as I age I get more inclined to hide under that blanket.

If I hid in my She-Shed, or under that blanket, I’d miss the peace I found in the family picture of the four of us crowded around/on the couch. I’d miss that gentle reminder from the Lord of all that He’s done and will do, and is doing. I’d miss the reminders in church on Sunday of the people He’s placed in my life, and of the people in who’s lives He’s placed me.

He surrounds us with reminders of His love in the midst of every storm. Sometimes, we don’t see them until we’re through to the other side, and that’s okay. Sometimes, though, they’re undeniably present…as long as we’re present, and don’t check out into our mental She-Sheds or Man Caves.

Stay present. I love the cheesy saying that “it’s called The Present for a reason.” It really is a gift, albeit an occasionally frightening one. Storms don’t go away just because we find a place to hide–we have to face them. But when we face them and when we get present with those storms, we know that He is present WITH us–we’re not alone.

The world tells us to hide and to isolate; it glamorizes the concept a place of our own, but Jesus tells us to Go Out Into All of the World. He tells us to be open and to engage…He tells us He will be with us. He tells us we’re never alone, and that we always have a place of our own, in His Kingdom, in His time. Now is not the time for the She Shed or the Man Cave….Now is the time to change the world, and we do that by building relationships and by celebrating the relationships that we have.

Now, if only I could convince myself to get off of this dang couch….. 🙂

 

Mary, Martha, and the Beauty in the Small…

The world is buried in a cacophony of sound and volume.

We think everything has to be “harder, better, faster, stronger” (shout-out to Kanye for that earworm); everything has to be so much more “-er,” or it’s just not good enough.  We can’t be satisfied with “basic.” In fact, the term “basic” is now an insult! We’ve completely forgotten how to be satisfied with the “bare necessities” that our dear Baloo sang about with such sweet abandon. Everything has to be “Extra,” and if it’s not, well, then it’s “basic,” and that’s BAD. J

It’s so hard to just get quiet.

It’s difficult to get low…to get completely focused…to see the Beauty in the Small.

Last Sunday, I was privileged to be on an “abbreviated” worship team of 3 people. In a church that averages around 50 people or less, we usually have a team that includes a keyboardist/singer, another keyboardist/singer, a guitarist/singer, a bassist, an acoustic guitar player, a drummer, a bongo/cajon player, and 3 background vocalists (of which I am 1). That’s a worship team that’s around 20% of the size of the congregation.

I know that sometimes, there’s a focus on the “sound” that emanates from a team of musicians and singers. Number = volume = emotional impact. I’m not really about that (and that’s not intended to be any kind of a derogatory thought or statement). I’ve been on teams of 40-50 singers, and I’ve been on teams of 2, and one thing I’ve found is that if a heart for worship is there, the Holy Spirit moves. His heart isn’t moved by numbers or volume. His heart is moved by worship, and by a willingness to put ourselves out there to focus on Him.

That’s hard to do when you’re dealing with distractions.

Distractions come in so many forms. As a singer, I struggle with technology (anyone else hate Avioms? Or at least, Avioms that seem to have been chewed up internally by rabid mice? Okay, that hasn’t LITERALLY happened, but my Aviom is constantly going in-and-out, and that is a…problem). I struggle with understanding cues, and with knowing my place. I struggle with my age—am I still relevant as a team member in worship, at 41, when more and more kids and young adults are coming up? I don’t understand click tracks and talk-backs, and I’m not a musician, so I don’t always understand the “right” chord progression. I have this terrible tendency to switch harmonies in the middle of a song if I don’t stay focused, which is a nightmare for anyone singing with me (I’d assume—most people are nice to me about it). More times than not, I find myself rolling my eyes and thinking, “Dear God, I’m a mess. I’m TERRIBLE.” I’m distracted by my own self-esteem, and every single Sunday, I have to push past that to focus on the reason why we come together as a team to worship God: He is worthy. He is so much more worthy of our praise and our attention. He is EVERYTHING, and everything else is NOTHING, so I push it aside—as does every other musician on the team—and we unify in the single focus of worshipping our Savior.

Sometimes it’s messy…but He is always glorified, and we always have the privilege of watching a congregation join us on that journey to praise Jesus.

So, last Sunday, most of our team was at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, taking part in the final One Thing conference. The theme was, “Reset,” and David & I live-streamed as much of it as possible. So many things from the conference really resonated with me…particularly, the discussion led by Corey Russell about Mary of Bethany, and her dear sister, Martha (who is one of my favorite people in the Bible…can’t imagine why).

Martha & I have a LOT in common. Mary and my husband have a LOT in common. My sister and I are about as naturally opposite as two people can get. Mary and Martha were about as naturally opposite as two people can get. J

I identify so strongly with those two sisters.

Martha had work to do, dangit! None of this sittin’ around, listening, whatever! There’s food to make, dishes to wash, things to clean! “You got time to lean, you got time to clean,” right? All of this lounging around, listening to some Guy talk?!?! Ain’t nobody got time for that!!! DANGIT, MARY, GET YOUR REAR IN HERE AND HELP ME!!!!!!!!”  How many times have those words come out of my mouth to my husband?!?  “DAVID!!!!!!!!!!!  Put your tablet/Bible/whatever down and HELP ME!!!” “WHY can’t anyone see that I need help? Why do I always have to ASK?!? Why doesn’t anyone have INITIATIVE to come in here and do the stuff that needs to be done?!?!?!”  Oh, Martha, I love you—I’m so glad the Lord saw fit to put you in the Bible, because women like me NEED to know we’re not tyrants. We’re just the kind of people that see a need and fill it, and pour out constantly….

And we pour ourselves into exhaustion and in doing things in our own strength, because we NEVER take the time to get Small, and get focused.

We never get out of our own heads to find our rest in Him, because we’re convinced in our broken arrogance that the volume of our work, and the number of our works, will turn the heart of God and everyone else.

We break when our efforts go unacknowledged, because we strive so much, even subconsciously, to be recognized and valued.

We so often forget that when we get Small and get focused, then we can hear Him say, “I love you. Just rest.”

BUT WE CAN’T REST, RIGHT?!?!?  THERE ARE THINGS TO DOOOOOOO!!!!!!!

We are distracted, even with our good intentions.

It’s time to stop.

Last Sunday, 3 people came together in worship. It wasn’t perfect; it wasn’t bombastic or voluminous. It was simple…basic (in the best way)…and it was beautiful. It was Small, and it was intimate, and it felt like a healing balm in my heart.

When things are quieter, you have to listen harder. You have to focus more; you can’t be distracted, because then you miss the cues and there’s nothing that you can hide behind.  There isn’t a blanket of sound that covers mistakes or cushions missed cues. It’s stripped down, and it’s pure…

There is Beauty in the Small.

For us Marthas in the world, we “go big or go home.” We’re going to do what we have to do; we’re going to do it to the best of our abilities. We’re going to produce good works, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It becomes “wrong” when it becomes our focus, instead of the Jesus we say we want to serve. How can we hear what He wants when we’re so busy doing what we think needs to be done? If we don’t have those “Mary Moments” where we get quiet and focus at his feet…where we go Small and seek intimacy…how will know His heart?

We “go big,” but ultimately, in an All-Martha world, we get broken.

The Beauty of the Small is that in it, we find rest. We find focus; we find His heart in the simplicity and we are refueled and refocused to face the complicated.

The world throws volume and distraction our way….it keeps us from worship, and it keeps us from that place at His feet that He’s reserved for us.  When we reset, we find our seat with Him…where we are His, and He is ours, and the joy of the Bridegroom for His Bride is complete.

As I stated in my last blog, my husband lost his job shortly before Christmas. There’s a funny thing that happens when your finances get cut by 60%:  You stop running around. You no longer have the resources to fund things to do, so you find yourself staying home the majority of the time. Truth be told, had we done more of that prior to him losing his job, we probably wouldn’t have some of the financial troubles we’re currently struggling with. The sudden lack of income has left us reeling and has forced us to break down expenses, debts, excuses, bad decisions, and a lot of things we didn’t realize or didn’t want to deal with. Staying busy means that you can often ignore reality. Getting suddenly “unbusy” means reality comes crashing in, along with a WHOLE LOT of fear, failures, burdens, and things we hadn’t realized were quite so strong in our lives.

As a family, we’re in a bit of a “forced” Mary-Moment, and the Martha in me is FREAKING OUT. It’s a minute-by-minute process to stop, breathe, refocus, pray, and beg for peace. The conversations between my husband and I have been brutal, and outside of the death of our daughter, this is the hardest thing our marriage has been through. The anxiety is crushing, & while David tends to internalize to the point of my frustration, I am fighting to keep from exploding (to the point of HIS frustration). We don’t know how to deal with or process any of this…but we are. What else can we do?

And where else can we go? We have One place to turn with all of this.

Day by day, we look at each other…we watch our words very carefully, and sometimes, we fail. There’s a lot of unraveling…but as difficult as this is, we are taking the deep breaths and walking the path.

It’s not God’s “fault.” It’s an uncomfortable redirection, and it hurts. I don’t want to say “He has a plan,” because that phrase is so cliché. I want to say that He knows what’s happening, and what’s going to happen, so I will trust Him. We will trust Him…but to hear where He’s taking us, we have to embrace this Mary Moment, to focus, and to stay at His feet, even as everything within me wants to get up and run. “WHY ISN’T THERE ANYTHING I CAN DO TO FIX THIS?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!” It’s not in my nature to sit down and wait.

It’s time to get a new nature.

It’s time to find the Beauty in the Small…to realize the vanity of the distracting…to dull the outside noise and to take off the burden of the to-do list.  It’s time to celebrate intimacy with the Father in quiet and in worship without the vanity of volume.

It’s time to reset.

 

(BTW, if you are looking for worship songs to help you in your journey of resting in Jesus, check out my friend, Bizzy Grapperhaus. She’s written so many songs that I call, “milestone songs;” the songs are Scripture-based, and for me, have truly helped key verses get ingrained into my heart through some of my toughest times. Right now, “Drink Offering,” “Here We Are,” and “Faithful as the Son” are on repeat on my Spotify account. This is NOT a sponsored plug, if you’re wondering; it’s just truth, because she’s awesome.)

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Cinnamon Rolls, Reality TV, and a Pink Slip for the Holidays…

I’ve been baking this holiday season….a LOT. I love the “Great British Bake-Off,” “Nailed It,” and basically any baking show that Netflix will offer. I like the challenge of it, I like learning new techniques, and I like discovering things I’ve never heard of (thank you, Paul Hollywood). I’ve realized that Americans are kinda crappy at baking, embracing loud colors and crazy fillings over subtle flavors and maybe even over techniques. I’m learning to value the time-tested traditions of doing things by hand.

There is so much value in what you make with your own two hands.

So, I scour my old cookbooks (like, 1950’s), my favorite websites (Buzzfeed/Tasty), and my favorite–the old church cookbooks that I inherited from a retired pastor’s wife. You find some real gems in there that are an education! It’s always a lesson, whether it’s in the mistakes, the measuring, or in the successes.

For Christmas, I made my usual–Russian Tea Cakes, Peanut Butter Cookies, Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Sugar Cookies (which are from the pits of Hell). I also, for the very first time, made a gingerbread house THAT IS STILL STANDING!!! (Note: I am a CRAP decorator, when it comes to icing cookies. Just absolute CRAP. I accept it. Don’t judge me, Prue.)!!

The gingerbread was actually quite tasty, but the best part of all, was the fact that I got to recreate a favorite memory of mine, with my son. My mama was a single mom for a brief while, and a lady she worked with invited us over to make gingerbread houses, and I loved it. Jericho had a blast decorating the house, and a memory was made.

I also made an angel food cake from scratch; I tackled fondant for the first time; and I made a total of 4 different kinds of icing throughout the holiday season.

Man, I’m TIRED.

Baking has been therapeutic for me, for sure, although the mess has definitely increased David’s stress level!

I have some vacation time over this holiday, so I’ve been staying up a bit later than usual. Last night, I tried to watch a documentary on Netflix about memes and social media in society. It documented the hazards and the blessings of people who have made careers out of social media–Paris Hilton, some guy named Krill, The Fat Jewish–I didn’t get very far, because what they were saying was hurting my heart. They talked about “likes” being an addiction…about getting out of bed every morning, and pouring their time and attention into what was getting “likes” on social media. Paris was saying something about loving her fans just as much as she loves her family!!!! The fans are what fuels these media titans, and I just don’t understand it.

Granted, I’m HARDLY their demographic. I’m not cool, and I’m okay with that. I’ll stick to stalking my bakers on Instagram, and be on my merry way. That’s totally fine. These social media people look happy, and I guess they are? I can’t judge that. But I wonder who hugs them when the internet goes down? Who rubs their shoulders when they cry, and who plays frisbee with them on summer days? I mean, I’m sure they could post a call-out on Instagram and find 5 “friends” in 5 minutes, but who holds their hearts? “Likes” don’t fill the hole in our heart, and things sure get messy when the camera pans out.

Baking is a FANTASTIC reflection of my life right now…don’t things look pretty? Look at this gorgeous cinnamon roll! Not too bad, for my first time at this recipe! Once these babies proof tomorrow for a second time, they’re gonna rock our world!!!

I’ve posted the link to this recipe at the end of the blog. LOOK AT MY GORGEOUS PAN OF CINNAMON ROLLS!!!!!!

This recipe is COMPLICATED, to me (not to Paul Hollywood…sigh…). It takes patience, time, and some skills that I’m still working on. (BTW, if you make this, don’t use a spatula to spread out the filling. Use your hands. It makes the butter spread more evenly.)

My beautiful little pans of rolls are sitting in my fridge, and will proof for 40 minutes tomorrow before baking and icing. I’m EXCITED. And if you look at this pan, you see delectable cinnamon rolls…and that’s all you see….but here’s what’s really going on (pans the camera out):

It’s an effing disaster.

I’m a really, really messy cook…my kitchen is TINY…there were already dishes in the sink when I started…and why is my Dremel on the counter?!?!? This messy kitchen has already ruined one cake this season, when I spilled water on a 2-tiered cake and trashed the whole thing (including ganache). There’s always a mess, but we do get it cleaned up when all is said and done.

But you’d never know that, from the close-up of my beautiful cinnamon roll dough.

When we only focus on what we want to see, we are lying to ourselves. We are ignoring the mess, the process that got us to where we are, and the consequences of our actions. Social media stars only show you what they want you to see–the cinnamon rolls, which is why you love them–and never show you the mess behind the scenes. They’re succeeding based on a fictionalized, glamorized, perfect life–which we all want–and telling us we can have it all without the mess.

It’s not real.

There’s never a cinnamon roll without some flour….or without some dirty pans…or without the aching hands that come from kneading. There are messes built into our perceived perfection, and as a society, we’ve forgotten how to value that part of the process.

I’m just as guilty as the next person of only posting the “good life.” I post the cinnamon rolls–not the mess. I post the laughing–not the tears from the fight from the day before.

I just posted happy Christmas photos of my son and of my family….

I didn’t post that one month ago today, my husband lost his job, and with it, over half of our income.

I didn’t post that we’re individually and corporately gutted…that we’re in a mess, and that we don’t know what to do. I posted that God provides–He does–but not the tears and the prayers and the kindness that people have shown us privately.

I didn’t post the fears or the failures…the struggles David & I are having as we come to grips with new responsibilities and accountabilities, or the anxiety and overwhelming panic that has set in on multiple occasions.

No doubt, the hardest thing we’ve ever been through has been the loss of our daughter. This comes in second, even over cancer. We’ve looked at each other with every conceivable emotion over the past 30 days, and have struggled with keeping words in check. This is hard, and we’re struggling to regroup, even as we know God is in control and that He provides. It’s still frickin’ hard, and that’s all there is to it.

I want the cinnamon roll posts. I want to laugh, and show pictures of smiling faces. No one wants to see anyone look as awful as we feel right now, and I certainly don’t want to put that out on social media. I totally get why the social media stars paint their cinnamon-roll lives. I want to, as well..but reality is what we all deal with, so painting perfection is deceptive at best.

We serve a God of truth, not a god of entertainment. We serve a God of messy kitchens and of cinnamon rolls, a God of time-proven redemption, verses a god of microwave solutions. We serve a God that sees our messes and loves us through them. He sees our mistakes, our tears, and eventually, only He can weave them into portraits that don’t need Instagram filters or clicks.

We serve a God that is constantly reminding me that He cares about the sparrows…about the lilies of the field and the lost, the broken, the found and the repaired.

Social media, and social media stars, are visual candy in a world that is starving for steak. It’s better to take the time and effort to be the steak–to be the thing that sustains and nourishes–than to be the instant gratification of the “pretty” that we see on camera. It’s just not as easy to process or to implement.

So, that’s the truth. We paint pictures of pretty families and beautiful Christmases, and everyone “likes” it and calls themselves your “friend,” but it’s not real, and we have to understand that this faux “reality” is anything but. What’s real, is the person you call when you’re down…the person who shows up at your door, the person you stop everything to visit when they’re ill, and the face-to-face time (not the “facetime”) spent together. Real people, real prayers, real heart, and real love….even when it’s really messy.

In my last blog, I alluded to the fact that we were struggling, and now you know why. We are, though, still together, still trying to figure it out, and still dedicated to maintaining a happy household for our son. We’re so blessed that we have family, friends, and a church that is there for us–in person–to sustain us with prayer and love. We’re so, so grateful.

So grateful, in fact, that I think I’m going to have to bake another batch or two of these cinnamon rolls.

https://www.buzzfeed.com/hannahloewentheil/cinnamon-rolls-from-scratch-recipe-tips?utm_term=.rcVo9GAR9G#.rcVo9GAR9G