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When No Really Means Yes

Welcome to the Overflow!  Whether you’re an old friend or a new one, I’m glad you’re here. This is a place where faith is spilled and souls are filled. I hope you’ll pull up a chair and stay awhile.

I’m over at Proverbs 31 today talking about a birthday girl, a surprise party, and  how sometimes God’s no today is simply protecting His yes for tomorrow. If you haven’t had a chance to read it, you can find it here. But before you go, I’d love to tell you about a crazy little holiday we used to celebrate when we needed a break from our ordinary life, and how learning to “talk backwards” taught me a surprisingly sweet lesson about God…

 

They knew what day it was when they woke up to cereal in the bathroom sink, silverware in the toothpaste drawer and pajamas  dangling from the coat hooks in the entryway. They knew when they heard Christmas music in July and found Easter Eggs in their underwear drawer that they’d be eating under the kitchen table instead of on top of it and greeting the sunrise with a noisy “Good Night” instead of a grateful “Good Morning.”

They knew they’d be wearing pajamas when they went out to play and slipping into play clothes when they climbed into bed. They knew that they’d be allowed to wash their hands in mud puddles, to savor dessert before dinner and to eat candy corn instead of asparagus.

And though my kids may not have known how every moment of the day to come would unfold, they knew for certain that the minutes would be long on laughter and short on structure. They knew that absurdity would reign and boredom would flee.

‘Cause that’s just how life worked on Backwards Day!

Honestly, I’m not sure when the crazy tradition began or exactly when it ended, but for several years while my children were young, we tossed “normal” on it’s head and created our own in-house holiday.

On Backwards Day, we did all things backwards and upside down. We outlawed the humdrum and predictable, the common place and conventional, and we embraced twenty-four hours of pure goofy gala.

Of course, learning to talk “backwards” was confounding at times. Because for one day out of the year, our yes’s meant no and no’s meant yes…

“Mom, may I have another popsicle?” my preschooler asked as he sat cross-legged in the steamy sunshine, his pink lips framed with a bright purple ring.

“No, I think one’s enough,” I said as I dabbed his face with a washcloth.

“Okay, thanks!” he answered with a green-eyed grin, his voice unusually cheery for a kid whose mom just shot down his plan for another round of shameless snacking. He gave me a one-armed hug and hopped off the deck. But instead of running to play in the yard with his siblings, he made a beeline through the garage for the freezer.

Next thing I knew, my four-year-old was back on the deck slurping another frozen treat.

“Honey,” I said as I watched a dribble of melting blue ice zig zag down his chin. “I told you no more popsicles.”

“I know, Mommy,” he responded as he swiped at the sticky drizzle with the back of his hand.  “I heard you. And that’s why I got another one. ‘Cause it’s Backwards Day. So whenever you say no, it means yes, right?”

I laughed out loud at my son’s inverted logic, yet I couldn’t argue with my cunning kid.

It took me hours to get the hang of it, but eventually I learned how to dialogue in reverse. I turned affirmatives into stop signs and negatives into bold green lights. I said no to whimsy and yes to endless work. I said sure to downers and no way to delight. And just when it seemed I’d finally mastered the art of  Backwards Day discourse, our self-construed holiday ended, and I had to shift back to colloquial conversation.

Sadly, as the kids have grown, our annual Backwards Day has slipped quietly off our calendars. It’s been several years since we’ve spooned cereal from the sink or dined on dessert beneath the table. We haven’t said yes to crabbiness and no to craziness for a while, either.  But not long ago I was flipping through my prayer journal, and I realized that God doesn’t need a Backwards Day to practice the art of “reverse dialogue,” too.

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One Way to a Full Soul

Even before I’d met my friend, Katy McCown, face to face, I counted her as a sweet gift from the Lord. She is kind. Honest. Witty. And oh, so beautiful- inside and out. When we were finally able to meet in person and linger long over a cup of coffee, I immediately declared that Katy was my long lost twin. Never mind that she already has a twin sister for real. Or that I happen to have been born a decade before her.  I knew I’d found a kindred spirit in this truthful and radiant mama of six.  Katy understands what it’s like to have someone sit on a melted chocolate bar in her dirty mini-van or what it’s like to feel poured out and worn from the juggle of motherhood and marriage, ministry and monotony. She understands that deep longing in a woman’s soul that cries, “I was made for more!” And she understands what it’s like to live with open hands and an open heart.

Katy’s desire to help women live with overflowing souls, her selfless love for her family, and most of all, her passionate pursuit of Jesus inspires me. And I’m absolutely delighted to share the gift of my “long lost twin” with you here today. May her honest and hope-filled words meet you right where you’re at today and encourage you to run straight into the arms of your Savior. Here’s Katy…

“Women live like a cup tipped over on its side. They give and give and pour out everything they have until there’s nothing left.”

I stared out my front door, listening to the raindrops fall as I absorbed what my friend had just said. All I could think was, Nailed it!

But as we talked more, another image surfaced. The same cup, but this time not empty at all. This time it’s upright and full. So full, the goodness inside breaks the rim and spills over, covering everything it touches.

“That’s what we’re going for,” my friend said. “That’s what God wants.”

On a side note, I imagine my cup in this little exercise full of coffee … But really, all too often I feel like the first cup. Empty – or at least on my last drop.

I want to love more, do more and give more, but eventually I run dry.

Then I read a verse like this one in John and wonder, What am I missing?

“The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.” John 7:38 (HCSB)

Streams of living water … Moving, rushing out from the depths of my soul … and I don’t know whether to end that sentence with a period or a question mark. Because could that really be a statement of fact? Surely that’s reserved for only a few people, in a much slower season of life.

But that’s not what Jesus says. No, Jesus says these streams of living water flowing deep from within are available to anyone who believes in Him.

If we believe in Jesus, yet still feel like a cup tipped over on the table …

Maybe we just need to unclog the stream.

I’m well acquainted with the struggle to stop and fill up the gas tank in my car. It pains me to pause, but eventually it puts me in a pickle. I’m desperate to fill up and there’s not always a station in sight. So I’m left sweating it out.

I find my soul tank isn’t much different. I always think I can go further only to find myself on the last drop, anxious for a moment to pull over and fill up.

In the hustle and bustle it can be hard to find these soul stops, so I want to share with you three things I’ve found that help me keep my soul tank full.

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When Jesus Asks for More

Welcome to all who are stopping by from Proverbs 31 Ministries today. I hope you’ll make yourselves at home. If you like what you find, feel free to subscribe to my monthly posts by signing up on the side bar. Or if you’d rather, we can connect on Facebook or Twitter.  Better yet, I’d love to meet you in person! I’m still scheduling speaking engagements for the upcoming year, so let me know if you’d like me to bring a message of encouragement to an event near you.

Over at Encouragement for Today, I’m sharing about that one small thing that has changed my life in a great big way. It’s a little prayer I learned when I was sixteen years old, and nearly three decades later,  I still pray it every day. Because I’m learning that in order to experience all of Jesus, I need to give Him all of me…

“I think Jesus is asking me for more…” my friend admitted as we lingered over steamy mugs of earth-brown java in the balcony of our small town coffee shop.

Her slender fingers broke her blueberry muffin into bitesized bits and she held my gaze as she fumbled with her food.

Our lives had been twined for years. We’d shared maternity clothes and potty training woes; carpooling schedules and marriage tips. We’d shared bleacher seats and book recommendations, prayer requests and parenting concerns. But just recently we’d begun to share the wee morning hours of our Saturday mornings.

Desperate for sisterhood in a season of diapers and discipline, short nights and long days, we hauled ourselves out of bed in the dark before dawn now and then and shared an hour of coffee and conversation before our children woke.

We were sleep-deprived and weary red-eyed, but we were learning the simple joys of bedhead beauty and yoga pants, unfiltered honesty and unbridled tears. And little by little, we’d  begun to share more than motherhood’s steps; we’d started sharing our strides of faith as well.

“What do you mean?” I asked in response to my friend’s forthright words.

“I don’t know,” my friend hesitated, her lips pursed into a soft pink question mark as she fumbled to explain the burden on her heart. “Lately I’ve been feeling like Jesus doesn’t just want just a part of my life; He wants all of my life.” 

I sipped slowly and pondered her words. And for a moment, I let my mind shuffle back to when I was  a sixteen-year-old girl lying beneath the stars at church camp.

That was the first time I’d been challenged to make Jesus my greatest dream, and the first time I’d had to admit that He wasn’t my defining desire.

I’d given Jesus my heart as a little girl, and I’d fallen in love with His lavish mercy and constant kindness. I’d valued His friendship and treasured His Word. But when the adventure of life had stretched before me like an undiscovered road, I’d wanted to blaze my own trail. I was content to have my Savior to travel beside me, but I wasn’t interested in inviting Him to lead and guide me. I wanted Him to fix me when I was broken, but I didn’t want to follow Him along the broken way.

I wanted all Jesus offered, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to offer Him all of me.

My friend squirmed in her seat and swatted a strand of hair that had slipped from her messy ponytail. “I don’t know if I’m brave enough to give Him all the pieces…”

Her honest declaration dangled over those muffin crumbs between us, and the first rays of morning light slithered through the dusty window beside us.

We peered beyond the smudgy glass and watched the sky alight with the pink-hued promise of a new day. And finally I asked in a raspy whisper, “So what are you afraid of?”

Quiet tears welled in my friend’s eyes; then she exhaled a jagged sigh. “What if I don’t like the life He’s dreamed for me?

The aroma of warm bagels and dark espresso beans wafted through the air, and I reached over those muffin crumbs and wrapped my fingers around my soul sister’s trembling hand.

I knew that flavor of fear. I’d drunk from that deep well of doubt for years.

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One More Time: An Invitation and a Give-away

share-9-go-deeper-300x300I still remember exactly where I was standing when I turned those Hillsong song lyrics into an earnest prayer–Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders. Let me walk upon the waters wherever You would call me. Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior. 

I was leaning over the kitchen sink as tears drizzled down my cheeks and dripped right into the soapy dish water stacked with greasy dinner plates and shiny silverware. I’d just celebrated my fortieth birthday, and I as I stepped into a new decade, I was acutely aware of the fact that I only had one shot at life in this dust-draped world. And when I slowed my feet and took time to listen to the cries of my heart, I had the nagging feeling that there was  more. Not more stuff to buy or more titles to secure; not more places to visit or more goals to reach. Just more of Jesus to discover. More of His Kingdom to build. More life that is really life to experience.

And though I didn’t really know what it would mean to go deeper than my feet could ever wander, I knew one thing for sure- I didn’t want to look back someday and regret the fact that I’d never mustered the courage to live the life Jesus had dreamed for me. And so I prayed those bold words, and I told Jesus I would follow Him wherever He called.

And you know what? That prayer began an adventure that is still unfolding today. That prayer prompted my family to say yes, we’ll follow youeven when it meant pulling up deep roots and moving away from the comfortable life we’d established in our sweet little hometown surrounded by family and friends. That prayer led our family to say yes, we’ll follow you even when it meant stepping into a messy and miraculous international adoption and trusting that God is big enough to bring our little one home some day.

That prayer has driven me to my knees and tugged me to my feet in praise. That prayer has stretched me and shaped me and satisfied me in ways I could have never imagined.

Maybe that’s why opening Suzie Eller‘s new book felt like finally finding a friend for the journey. A friend who understands. A friend who isn’t content to wade in shallow waters. A friend who knows what it means to follow into the deep and find Jesus there. A friend who is ready to reach out her hand and pull me along with a gentle word of encouragement and a generous heaping of faith.

Come with Me:Discovering the Beauty of Following Where He Leads made me want to walk on water or at least grab the hand of the One who can!

Suzie’s new book isn’t really just a book. It’s an irresistible invitation to transformation.

An invitation to say YES to deeper faith and deeper joy.

And today, I’m delighted to have my dear friend and P31 teammate, Suzie Eller, here at the Overflow extending that invitation to you…

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One more time

I had my Bible in my hand. My purse nearby. A car would soon take me to the airport.

It was time to go, except I knew the Lord wanted me to share one more thing.

People were still sitting in their seats and talking. The Holy Spirit had sweetly swept over the meetings and people lingered. I walked to the microphone, knowing the words I would say before I spoke them.

I had read them in the book of Luke earlier that week.

One more time.  

Those were the words.

Throw out your nets one more time. 

When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.” Luke 5:4-5 (NIV)

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Simon was exhausted. Casting the heavy nets into the water, and lugging them back in over and over was a chore. When the nets came back empty every time, it was disappointing.

But he did it.

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When You Wonder if You’re Beautiful

d6.16Welcome, friends! I’m so glad you’re here.

If you’re stopping by from Encouragement for Today, I hope you’ll stick around for a while and make yourself at home. I pray you’ll discover this is a place where faith is spilled and souls are filled.

If you like what you find, feel free to subscribe to The Overflow so you won’t miss a single post. You can sign up on the side bar under the heading “Newsletter” or connect with me on Facebook or Twitter. I’d love to get to know you more. Leave me a comment and introduce yourself. Let me know how I can pray for you. Life is just more fun when we do it together!

I’m also scheduling speaking engagements for the 2015-2016 school year, and I’d love to be a part of your next ministry event! Don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like to know more about my speaking ministry or if you have questions about the topics on my speaking page.

At Proverbs 31 today, I’m talking about daddies and daughters and the one thing that could set you free to dance. It’s a story about refusing to settle for less than your Father’s lavish love and grace.  I hope you’ll take a moment to read it here.

But before you go, I’d love to tell you one more dancing tale.

Think of it as an invitation to become the woman God’s always dreamed you to be…

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I noticed the change in her eyes the moment her Daddy handed her that red rose and told her she was beautiful.

I’d told her, too, of course, as I was helping her get ready for the Father-Daughter Dance. 

I’d told her when I’d zipped up her brand new dress and listened to her chatter about disco balls and dancing shoes and the lyrics to her favorite song.

I’d told her when I’d smiled at her gap-toothed reflection in the mirror and wound her fine blonde hair around the steamy silver curling wand.

You are the prettiest six-year-old I know.

I’d told her when I’d dotted her puckered lips with light pink gloss and dusted her wispy bangs with a poof of hairspray.

You look like a beautiful ballerina.

I’d told her when I’d watched her practice her groovy moves on the living room floor and when I’d snapped photos of her posing like a pop star on the back deck.

Your smile is going to light up the dance floor.

But it was her Daddy’s words that made my girl cheeks glow with ruddy radiance; her Daddy’s words that made her eyes sparkle with confident joy.

It was her Daddy’s words that made my daughter stand a little taller, her Daddy’s words that made her hold her head a little higher.

It was her Daddy’s words that trickled truth into my daughter’s heart and shined contentment through her  smile.

 A mother may instruct her daughter in beauty, but it’s a father who calls it out.

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Hannah handed me that red rose before she grabbed her daddy’s hand and skipped gleefully to his waiting truck.

“Put it in water, okay, Mommy?” she said as she waved one last time at me over her shoulder.

I nodded and watched my dancing duo pull out of the driveway and disappear down the hill for their special night.

And then I sat on the front step and remembered how I’d felt when I’d first heard those words, too…

You’re beautiful.

I wasn’t wearing a fancy dress, just old pajamas covered in spit- up.

I wasn’t heading to a dance, I was just heading into another day with screaming children and dirty dishes.

But for some reason, on that day long ago, my Father’s words had stirred something deep within me–

“You’re beautiful from head to toe, my dear love, beautiful beyond compare…” (Song of Songs: 4:7, The Message)

I’d read His whispers on the wafer-thin pages of my Bible that morning while my baby snoozed in my arms and my saggy-diapered toddler stacked blocks at my feet.

I’d known my Father’s voice since He’d captured my heart as a little girl.

I was familiar with His gentle kindness and His saving grace.

But these words… they were new to me.

They were like water for my parched heart.

“You’re beautiful…”

The baby woke and the block-tower collapsed, and I scribbled that holy writ in my journal with a bright red pen before the day unfolded in sticky spills and angry wails.

And over and over again, I read them aloud–in between diaper changing and toddler chasing, face-wiping and baby burping–and slowly, my Daddy’s declaration seeped deep into the jagged cracks of my aching soul.

“You’re beautiful…”

Oh, how I wanted that to be true.

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