Welcome Into Our Mess...y Home

Whether it's our messy homes or our messy lives, there is beauty when we let people in anyway.
I'm starting another round of Simplifying Home. A little attempt at Spring Cleaning, along with decluttering and getting settled into this not-so-new-anymore place of ours.

I've been taking a mental note of all the places that need work. The kids' clothes I went through a few months ago that need donated. The basement that we tried to organize, but it turned into a rummaged-through mess. The hall closet that's still a hodge podge of misfit items that I unpacked and wasn't sure where to put.

That list is growing and ever before me as I pass by each little mess, each little area begging for my attention. As I get started on Week 1: Setting Up + Entryway, I think about welcoming people into this place, as that's part of the purpose-driven goals for our home, and all I can think of is the mess.

This place has been stressing me out, all of the little piles and cluttered closets that make me lose sleep at night. (Actually, it's the 8-month-old still waking up at night that makes me lose sleep. But a close second is the messes in our home.) And, no, it's not at all helpful to know that other's places are messier than mine. Their mess doesn't bother me. It's our mess that stresses me out.

I clean our home for my sanity, but the truth is I also want it cleaned up for others.

There's so much I'd like to get done so we can invite people in more. Even if it's not perfect (I've come to terms that it never will be), at least it will be a little neater, a little more welcoming.

Does it have to be that way? Do we really have to tidy every nook and cranny before having people over?

The hard lesson of my adult life is: No. Our homes and even our lives, don't have to be perfectly Spring Cleaned to invite people in. In fact, life is better when we focus on the beauty in the mess and invite others in anyway.

(I'm not talking about the quick tidying we do before someone comes over. If I have a few minutes, I'll likely do some version of that. I'm talking about the inclination to withhold invitations because of unfinished home projects or clutter-filled corners.)

That's a hard lesson, because welcoming people into our mess goes against what our pride and egos tell us to do. We assume people will judge. They'll think we're messy or that we don't care. They'll see a less than picture-worthy reality and we fear maybe that means we're just simply unworthy. Of friendship or love or approval or whatever it is we deeply need.

Actually, welcoming people into our mess, when we're brave enough to do so, can be tremendously life-giving. It says we're human and right here in our mess is a safe place for others to be human, too. It says that we're actively living this life and that sometimes that gets messy, but we're not afraid of that. We're not afraid of the reality of imperfection, and we're not afraid to extend love and value and grace to those messy, imperfect people, like us, who deeply need it.

Yet, welcoming people into our mess is still hard. We have to fight our pride and egos in order to do so. We have to be vulnerable to the possibility that we could be judged or hurt in the process. But it also could be worth it. We could find the help and connection and beauty we long for. Even right here in the mess.

Welcoming People Into Our Messy Homes + Lives

This became clearer to me eight months ago, when Moving Day and Bringing Home Baby collided. It was never my intention to do it that way. I've had a couple babies, and I've moved a couple times. I knew better than to combine those two life events.

Yet, it wasn't entirely up to me.

We'd been on a waiting list to move into this home for months. When we finally got the call that a spot was available for us, a little thing like moving date and baby's birth possibly overlapping wasn't going to stop us from making it happen.

Friends that had just moved to town offered to help us pack--they had boxes and were willing to help fill them with our things. I knew we needed help. And I also felt a very real struggle with my pride.

Between the morning sickness, anemia, and caring for two kids, our home was more or less neglected throughout my pregnancy. So many areas needed deep cleaning, so many things needed to be decluttered, and I was embarrassed thinking of people seeing behind closet and cupboard doors into the mess.

I quickly realized: I could hold onto my pride or accept help, but not both.

Of course, for the sake of our family and our sanity we chose the help. We were so thankful for their willingness to enter into our mess. Because, let's face it, as much as we don't want others to see our mess, it can be just as awkward for them. And we're the ones to gain from it.

Baby 3 came the next week. The leasing agent met with us in the hospital to sign papers and hand-off keys. The day we were to leave the hospital, I hung out a couple extra hours while my husband, backed by a team of extremely helpful (and speedy) coworkers, friends, and family, loaded the apartment into a truck and unloaded the truck into the townhome in the matter of 2 1/2 hours.

I sat in the hospital bed cuddling my sleepy newborn. I'd feel a wave of guilt that I wasn't out there helping, then a request for pain meds would remind me having a baby is as good a reason as any to "laze around" a hospital room.

The next few weeks were less of a daze than postpartum with my other two babies. I attribute that to a little attempt at "pausing on purpose" that I'd learned throughout this pregnancy. Slowing to enjoy life is the only way to not live for moments of the past. Look around to grasp the beauty of the messy present while it's still ours to enjoy.

Slowing to enjoy life is the only way to not live for moments of the past.

That must also be a little of what kept me calm while our home was chaos. Every few days, friends, family, or Daniel's work colleagues would stop by and bring us food. We welcomed this blessing with gratitude, as we also welcomed these people into our mess.

Waiting patiently as I toss wilted produce to make room for their delicious casserole. I push aside my pride and accept this gift, that from the mess of their kitchen they would cook a loving gesture, offer a bit of hope, delivered to the mess of our kitchen.

Sharing our excitement as we show around this new place we'll call home. A mere rental, attached to the community of townhomes around us. Bare-walled rooms with open tubs half-unpacked, and laundry piled on flat surfaces. I hold onto my pride and accept their shared joy on our behalf, that beyond this mess is a place we'll make our home.

It's when I put down my walls of pride that we truly welcomed people in, making a chaotic season a joyful one. Because beyond the mess was our complete family enjoying time together. Beyond the mess were friends and family sharing our joy. Beyond the mess was the kindness of others carrying us through a stressful time.

Sure, there may be a mess, in our homes or in our lives or likely both. And that's okay. There's still beauty here in this home with this people in this moment.

Welcoming people into the mess may never really become easy. But it can become habit. Put down pride, accept help. Put down pride, make real connections. Put down pride, be a dose of grace and love in someone else's mess. Put down pride, focus on the beauty in the present.


also read:
simplifying home: 8-week challenge
week 1: setting up + entryway
purpose-driven goals for our home

It's Not About Yoga

Christians + Yoga (pants) // it's all between you and God

First things first (I'd awkwardly continue Iggy's song if we were in person): If you've never done yoga and don't plan to now or in the future, then go ahead and skip down to the "Final Thoughts on Yoga" section below or read my post Everything We Do.

It seems we're stuck on yoga and missing the point.

A couple years ago I wrote a post called “Why I Quit My Yoga Class.” And that's exactly what it was about. Yet instead of seeing the heart of the matter, people seem to misread my words as saying everyone should quit anything reminiscent of yoga. Period.

I said I'd write more in the journey, and I did. Kind of. With the posts Christian Meditation and Everything We Do.

Now, several emails, some Google hits, a few face-to-face conversations (and a whole new, unrelated debate on yoga pants) later, I'm going back to the Christians and yoga discussion. This time a little more specifically and hopefully more helpful in your journey.

Should Christians Do Yoga?

It's not my place to say if Christians in general, or you specifically, should do yoga. I can only share my own experience. And I did, including a "should Christians do yoga" section of my last post. If you haven't read it yet, I invite you to do so. I share some related Bible texts that led me to decide to quit a weekly class I was taking at the time. I still agree with where I landed in that process and all that I wrote in that post.

I won't repeat all of that here. I do have one thing to add from my own journey.

It's found in 1 Corinthians 10:25-28. Paul talks about meat offered to idols. He says to not make a big deal about it because as Christians, we know idols are nothing. So if meat is bought in the market or if it's offered by a friend, then don't worry about whether it was previously offered to an idol.

But if the person giving the food makes a big deal about it previously being offered to idols, then we shouldn't accept it. At that point it's no longer harmless. We know idols are nothing and offerings to them are nothing. It doesn't hinder our faith or stance with God. It's by the other person's conviction that we may appear to support or approve of idol sacrifices.

This seems to be fitting with the yoga decision, too. It's not about yoga. As Christians we know yoga itself is not the worship for us; we know in our hearts we are worshiping God in the calming and quiet practice.

It's the environment and what the instructor is saying and doing that might convict us to refrain. If the class and the instructor's words are covered in universe talk and using the poses as stances to worship gods, at that point it's no longer harmless. We know where our hearts stand; it doesn't hinder our faith. It's by the instructor's conviction and possibly others in the class that we could appear to support or approve of worshiping anything but the Creator God.

Just like eating food alone isn't idol worship, neither are yoga poses. (I get that some might disagree with that; that's my current belief and stance.) But if a class I'm taking makes a big deal about how yoga is Hinduism for them, then I have no business continuing as a Christian.

What Should Christians Do Instead?

Of the emails I've received in response to my original post on yoga, a recurring question I get from others similarly convicted is what should we, as Christians, do instead of yoga? What are some alternatives to consider?

I'll start with another Bible reference. This one in Leviticus 17:1-7.  Moses writes about the importance of sacrifices being made at the entrance to the tent of meeting in front of God, and not out in the field like the Israelites were in the habit of doing. This was important, because out in the field they offered their sacrifices to demons. They needed to break their old routines. They couldn't pass their old places as God-worship.

We usually need a change of habit to complete the change of heart that God works in our lives.

That was the basic application from my last post. I didn't necessarily quit the stretching that occurs in yoga. I still find health and soul benefits from it and enjoy the calming, quiet practice to pray to God and meditate on His truth.

Instead, I quit my class. The one where it seemed to be too much about the universe and traditional Hinduism. I broke that routine. And after I did and prayed for God's direction, it seemed doing yoga (or stretching, if the term yoga is too contradictory for you) following Biblical principles was possible.

That was my journey. Yours might look different.

That said, here are a few suggestions of what you could do if you too, as a Christian, decide to quit your traditional yoga class. Read God's Word, pray about it, and decide for yourself what He would have you do.

Get a DVD.

Not all DVD yoga routines are created equal. Some are certainly going to be traditional following the usual universe talk and Hindu practices. Ask around, do some searches, and check reviews to find a DVD that leaves those things out. One example is the P90X yoga workouts. Tony strictly does the exercise of it, leaving religion out of it.

Try Holy Yoga.

My first experience with Holy Yoga was at a conference a few years ago. We were all Christians, meeting early in the morning for a little calming exercise before the rush of meetings for the day. Praise music and hymns played softly in the background as the instructor lead us in stretching and read from God's Word in between.

And I cried. There I lay on a hotel towel shedding actual tears in the middle of a yoga session. The calming, quiet stretches of yoga have been a helpful addition to my life for a while. And now, the awkward parts of it that weren't Christian were gone. The universe talk was stripped away, and instead of praying quietly in my heart, we were all together in it, music, instructions, and our hearts all in the same place worshiping God.

I haven't done a Holy Yoga session since. But if you're looking for a Christian atmosphere to do yoga, that is one place to look.

Make your own routine.

If/when I do "yoga" lately, it's making up my own stretching routine as I go. Whatever postures you know is enough to do on your own. Hold them and breathe deep a few times and go onto the next. You don't have to be a pro or have a perfect flow or venyasa to make up your own yoga/stretching routine in the safety of your home. That way you're in control of the poses, the atmosphere, the music. It's all up to you, and no weird universe talk or Hindu-terminology to cause conflict.

Checkout PraiseMoves.

I shared an article about Laurette Willis at the bottom of my Why I Quit My Yoga Class post. She converted to Christianity from New Age and decided she shouldn't do yoga any more. As a Christian alternative, she came up with PraiseMoves. I've never done it, so I have no opinion. But it's an option to consider. (Reading the description, it sounds a little like Holy Yoga to me.)

Get recommendations from others.

If you happen to know other Christians who did/do yoga, then ask what they do now. Have they found a neutral class that doesn't interfere with their beliefs? Maybe they even know of a local Christian-focused class. Perhaps they have a DVD or YouTube channel they recommend. You won't know if you don't ask.

The internet makes it so you don't even have to personally know these people. There's a whole network of Christian bloggers who share their yoga experience online. Some offer online classes, blog posts that might help, or you can even email or tweet them to ask what they suggest.

Stretch and meditate.

If yoga itself bothers you, then don't do it. Just do your own stretching and quiet meditation on God's Word and in prayer to Him.

Just be warned that most “stretches” are also adapted into yoga, so you might find a crossover of the two when you search for stretches online.

God owns your body and the way it moves, only your heart, mind, and atmosphere can determine if it's being offered to God or not.

Do pilates.

If you care more about the floor exercise than the meditation, then try pilates. It's a great core-building floor exercise. Again, plenty of DVDs, YouTube videos, or gym classes to get you started.

Final Thoughts on Yoga

I'm learning that it's not really my place as a Christian to tell others what to do. I've been called to love and share what God's done for me, not call out other people based on my own convictions. Throughout history there have been prophets for that, and so far I've had no clear dreams or specific callings from God to tell me that's my place.

There were people that were great at calling others out based on their own convictions. They were called pharisees and Jesus mostly just told them to get down off of their high horse.

That said, I don't really plan to continue writing about yoga. I've shared my story and experience and that's enough. There are more important decisions threatening to hinder my growth in Jesus.

Whether it's the stretching I do at home or the yoga pants I choose to wear (even, gasp, out of the home), it's a debate that distracts from more important things. Get in God's Word and get on your knees before Him. Whatever you choose to do is between you and Him anyway.

I'll continue my stretching and meditation (yoga if you're okay with using that term loosely), and I'll continue to wear my yoga pants. Until Jesus convicts me otherwise.

I trust He'll do the same for you. On issues He chooses for you and in His timing for you.


also read:
christian meditation
everything we do
why I quit my yoga class
quit looking at the picture

Why I (Temporarily) Quit Blogging

Why I Temporarily Quit Blogging // The value comes when it reaches beyond the screen.
This post was mostly written over a year ago. Back when baby 3 was newly in my stomach throwing me into a third and final season of morning sickness and can't think or cook or clean or do anything but try to not feel sick anymore.

I was mostly only posting a monthly update and not much else. I blamed the morning sickness and pregnancy-induced exhaustion as the main culprit.

Or so I thought that was the main reason I wasn't posting much.

Then, I kept not posting much. And I'm still not posting much.

Sure, anemia and a move followed. Then a baby that's now 7-months-old and still not sleeping through the night. I have excuses for days, yet I long to write and share those words. Even so, even as I have so many things rolling around my head to be shared, there's still something keeping me from doing so.

I have no other way to describe it than: Opinion Exhaustion.

On any given day when I log into Facebook, I see countless "this amazing article will change your life" posts for every "look at my cute kids" update. Sure, personal updates get a lot of flack. Apparently, according to some articles I've read, just about anything you post is attention- or approval-seeking.

When it comes down to it, I think I'd like more of that. That's what the updates are for, right? Tell me that you're happy about a good day at work or let me congratulate you on making it to the gym or outside for a run or write a note of encouragement if you're having one of those days.

But the "this will change your life" articles? Or the "this thought/quote/text is rocking my world and it should rock yours too" posts? Or the "I'm convicted of this so obviously God wants you to change too" ammunition?

Those are wearing. me. out.

Even when I agree. Maybe especially when I agree.

Everybody has an opinion about everything (including me), and it seems with a little poignant writing it's worth 50 of my friends re-sharing to assure everyone is affected by it. Even more so lately, it seems these are used like the next rebuttal in any number of debates.

Then, it seems everybody is touched by some text or quote or some neatly created inspiring word art that it'd be selfish not to share. Right?

So, what's the problem with this?

For me, the problem with all of the non-stop opinions: It makes it really hard for me to live.

Maybe you are able to scan, browse, read and take or leave whatever you wish. I, however, can only take so much, until I'm flat out spent. Maybe it has something to do with being an introvert--the need for quiet applies online, too. Extroverts might also feel that need at times.

I'm spent on an overdose of poignancy. Life-changing post after life-changing post that essentially only keeps me from my life. Everyone's epiphanies and viewpoints and ah-ha moments running through my feed, and then my head, all day everyday. Over and over and over, until I shut down into an ugly train-wreck of autopilot that can only see my world through fuzzy eyes.

Sure, logging off, shutting down are partial solutions. I 100% believe that is healthy and essential. I try to log on only set times a day, and that seems to help.

Lately, even when I do finally log in, the overwhelming posts are still all there. The beautiful, talented, inspiring people are still all telling me I'm missing out on "the next big thing," on the best me I could be. That maybe I just need to pack in a little more inspiration, a little more thoughtful understanding to really get the most out of this day.

The truth?

The truth is that I can only get the most out of today, by being in today. Not online seeing beautiful word art or reading inspiring posts about how to be a better _________ (fill in the blank). I can only get the most out of today by being here and now in real life, in my life.

Here's a little of what that has been looking like lately:

Time in God's Word. Not to find a 140-character text to post on Twitter or ammunition for the next Christian debate that unfolds on screen. Simply in the Word seeking God.

Time in prayer. For family and friends and that God's Kingdom comes, please, before trolls completely take over the internet (and thus, the world).

Time in books. I'm so accustomed to scanning and clicking that I catch myself start jumping sites in the middle of a longer post that I'm actually enjoying. I'll even pause and think "huh, I wonder why I did that?" That's the beauty of books. It breaks my scanning and clicking habit to actually delve into a deeper topic and really enjoy the fruit of a writer's labor.

Time at home. I'm slowly learning to embrace these fleeting years of mothering young kids. Better late than never, right? Amazing how fast a scroll on Instagram can make me halt or even reverse the progress I've made in this area.

Time in quiet. I mean, real word-less quiet. I'm starting to notice the true noise volume of a revolving newsfeed of new posts across multiple sites. Even my crazy kids can sometimes feel quieter and calmer than the ruckus online.

Time in connection. This is slow coming, but so worth the effort. For all the times I thought (like Mindy Kaling) "Is everyone hanging out without me?" I wish I would have just kicked myself in the pants and extended an invitation. Because others are asking the same thing... while we all sit at home scrolling through Facebook or Instagram.

Back when I wrote most of this post over a year ago, I also included in this list the time spent on baths. I'd throw some epsom salts and a few drops essential oil in the warm water, and let my achy body relax. I'd lay there just watching my large belly (and the baby inside) rise and fall with each breath.

Oh, how truly freeing it is to have space to breathe. Space for that underrated essential of life.

And just so you know, I see the value in the online. For me, the value generally comes when it reaches beyond the screen.

When a comment turns into an invitation that gets people together in real life.
When bloggers meet in a living room to talk about the changing online culture.
When a grace-covered comment builds a bridge.
When a room full of women who hardly know each other discover the joy of vulnerability.
When an uplifting package comes just when it's needed from a relationship formed online.
When a "me too" email assures the struggle of writing was worth the effort.

And so the struggle continues. I am a writer and I want to write.

But I have to be honest and say I don't know what that looks like anymore. I'll likely continue to post bits and pieces here on the blog as I feel inspired. This isn't my fair-well post by any means. (At least I don't think it is ;)

I'm still evaluating how I use this online space of mine. And even more so, how / when / why I'm involved elsewhere online.

Even if there was something really good to say, would it just get lost in the ruckus?

And is the ruckus drowning out what I really need to hear?
I'm deaf and mute to it all,
ears shut, mouth shut.
I don't hear a word they say,
don't speak a word in response.
What I do, God, is wait for You,
wait for my Lord, my God--
You will answer.
Psalm 38:9-16, The Message


also read:
online interactions + the people they represent
replace gazing with growing
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