Why summer makes me go UGH

If you don’t know me personally, here’s one thing you should know about me: I’m not one of those amazing, hands-on moms who fills her summer with trips to the pool or the zoo or neighborhood parties. In fact, I’m so NOT a Pinterest-worthy parent that I probably won’t even have time to LOOK at Pinterest all ...

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GRAPHIC time off

If you don’t know me personally, here’s one thing you should know about me: I’m not one of those amazing, hands-on moms who fills her summer with trips to the pool or the zoo or neighborhood parties. In fact, I’m so NOT a Pinterest-worthy parent that I probably won’t even have time to LOOK at Pinterest all summer. Today is the last day of school. I have approximately an hour and forty-five minutes left of my last solitary, quiet day. And I am not going to spend it making a list of all of our family goals for the summer.

I love my kids. A lot. But ever since I have been working from home (which, incidentally, is the complete lifetime of all three of my children), summers have stressed me out. Everyone who knows me is probably sick and tired of hearing me complain, but here’s the deal. I still have just as much work and just as many deadlines. But in the summer, I have to do those things with a house full of people and the clutter which they bring with them. Yes, I know I chose to bring those people into the world. But what I didn’t know then? That their summer schedules for sports and honors classes would include things like three-times-a-day practices and three-chapters-a-week reading and discussion questions and three classic books complete with papers that need to be written.

In. The. Summer.

I thought summers were supposed to be time off.

If you’re a teacher who assigns such a thing, please know I probably like you very much in person. I just don’t care for this particular approach to summer. At all.

On top of my resentment about other people imposing on my schedules, I find that warmer weather reveals some things that aren’t so pretty. And I’m not talking about jiggly, white thighs. (Although I have those, too.) I’m talking about jealousy.

I believe whole-heartedly and fervently in protecting your skin from the sun. The more tan you are, the more we probably disagree on that issue. And yet I envy all of the smooth, sun-bronzed legs I see. The beach photos. The skinny bodies in bathing suits (I drown out my jealousy by eating more junk food). I’m jealous of all the vacations people go on, because Tim never has much vacation time available, and we can never seem to find more than a couple days at a time to do things as a family. We may go one at a time, but rarely together, and I constantly struggle with resentment for people who have lots of time off.

Then again, wasn’t I just complaining about having to have so much togetherness during the summers?

I’m hopeless.

But really, I know that summer’s not the problem. I am.

Because I have everything I need. And so very much more. I guess my attitude all comes down to this mistaken belief I have that I should get everything I want. That I deserve time off. That I deserve alone time. That I deserve to indulge myself.

Funny, I don’t remember seeing verses about that in the Bible.

True, Jesus insisted on some alone time. But his goal wasn’t to run to Target, to veg out on the couch with a new book, to post perfectly-filtered pictures of his vacation destination on Instagram, or to spend some time at a friend’s pool. When he went to the pool, it was to heal the lame man.

When he went off by himself, it was to get ready to do the next thing God asked of him. If anyone deserved time off, it was Jesus. But it didn’t even come automatically to him. He had to actively, single-mindedly pursue it.

He caught a quick nap in the boat in the middle of a storm. At dinner, alongside the road, when he came down from the mountains, even when he stopped for a drink of water—always there were people with all kinds of needs. He withdrew by boat to a solitary place and the crowds followed him on foot. And he had to ask his disciples specifically to keep watch for him while he prayed in the Garden. He doesn’t get what he asks (or deserves): they fall asleep.

My soul longs for peace, for a sense of calm, for rest. No matter how much I want that, it may not be mine to have. At least not in the way I think it should work. I can absolutely have it—but it doesn’t come from a wide-open calendar or an afternoon off. It comes from him. The sweetest of gifts, offered without reservation:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-29

So the one thing I need to do to find rest has nothing to do with events on my schedule and everything to do with how I fill my time.

As I mentioned earlier, I won’t be making a list of summer adventures for my family to cheerfully pursue. But I will set some priorities, because I’m headed into a season which is always a challenge for me. Just skimming through the Gospels to make sure I have my references right in this post, I feel comforted. So I will find—no, make—time to read the Bible. To complete Seamless: Understanding the Bible as One Complete Story, a new Bible study by Angie Smith that I’ve started and already love. I’m on day three, and I’ve already uncovered a profound truth about myself by seeing an old Bible story in a new way. I will read Untangled: Let God Loosen the Knots of Insecurity in Your Life, a new book by Carey Scott, which in just the first two chapters has already begun to soothe my soul. And I will write, both here and in my journal. And I will pray, and I will reach out to friends and answer emails from strangers and let loose the love God has given me, spending it freely and widely whenever the opportunity arises.

And in those moments, I will find quiet. In those words, I will rest. In those stories, I will find focus and hope and everything I need to take my next steps, whatever they are. Even if they’re just steps to and from the car as I drive to sports practices and nag remind my son about his summer assignments.

And I will remember that Jesus took himself to the mountaintop to pray. Nobody did it for him, and no one forced him. He knew what he needed, and he put forth serious effort to make it happen. Because without that time in prayer, he wouldn’t be equipped for his work. Without a strong connection to the Almighty, he was nothing. Until his soul could rest, his body could not.

Oh, how I long for my soul to feel rest. I already feel a stirring of possibility. And instead of collapsing on the couch, suddenly I want to run—straight towards the hope I see on the horizon. I give thanks for what I know is waiting for me. And I’m going to do my darnedest to help myself find what I know I need.

And it’s not going to be in the pile of discarded folders and broken pencils dumped out on the floor next to my son’s backpack.

What if?

I chose “one word” last year—just so I could say I’d done it. It turns out that really, the word chose me. And God proved faithful in my unfaithfulness. Still, though, I saw no reason to choose a word again this year. There’s only one small flaw to this plan. It’s not one word, but ...

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I chose “one word” last year—just so I could say I’d done it. It turns out that really, the word chose me. And God proved faithful in my unfaithfulness. Still, though, I saw no reason to choose a word again this year.

There’s only one small flaw to this plan. It’s not one word, but it’s one phrase, and it keeps rising to the surface, pushing its way to the forefront in everything I write. Whether I asked for it or not.

What if?

What if we challenge the precepts of our faith? Will it wobble and fall or will it be strengthened with new supports?

What if we ask questions? Maybe we’ll discover the questions don’t matter as much as the process of discovering answers.

What if we strive to build a faith that isn’t precariously balanced on “facts” that are too easily disputed by science and reason? Perhaps we’ll discover new dimensions.

What if we pray as though God is going to say yes?

What if we accept that the flaws in the church as a whole are flaws of man, not of God or of faith? Would we then have more tolerance and inclination to come together?

What if we respect the beliefs of those who disagree with us? Could we maybe have a meaningful dialogue, possibly learn something new?

What if we quit acting like one sin is unforgivable and treat same-sex couples with dignity and love?

What if we set aside all of the “thou shall”s—whether they’re written in stone or catchy lines shouted by televangelists—and ask God to show us which ones matter? Allow Him to rebuild our faith in an authentic, new way?

What if we quit hiding our secrets and our doubts and open up to one another?

What if we’re inadvertently limiting the depths of our belief, the intimacy of our relationship with God, or the power and magnitude of who God really is because we’re not giving Him a chance?

This question may not be the driving force of my year. I may not make an official declaration to seek God’s guidance regularly about this phrase. But I feel it, in that place down deep, in the sacred, secret center of my soul, that it’s time for these questions. Whether you explore them with me or not. Whether I find answers or not. Whether it’s simple or messy, clear or confusing.

What if is rife with hope. Possibility. It implies change, the belief that something else might happen. Perhaps we could change things. Maybe He will reveal things. To some of you who have spent a lot of time within the church, it probably makes you nervous. Feels a little disrespectful. Daring, even. It’s not a statement, ending with a period, finality. It’s not an ellipsis, fading into the unknown. It’s not an exclamation point, shouting the news. It’s a question. Which means that, somewhere, there is an answer. A response is required.

And that’s what lights me up inside. The idea of doing something. Or at the very least, refusing to remain stagnant. Of pushing through the unknown to find something I can, at this moment, only imagine. Because what if I’m on to something? What if He’s simply waiting for us to ask?

What questions do you have? What facts, practices or ideas make you nervous? What precepts of your faith feel wobbly, in danger? What words have people used to push you away from church or make you feel unwelcome? What are you missing? If you’re not comfortable commenting publicly, send me an email (kellyostanley@me.com). I’ll explore some of these questions in upcoming posts—and I welcome guest posts, if you have a topic you’d like to explore here.

Palette of possibility

Today I’m posting over at Internet Café Devotions. You may have read this before, but if not, I hope you’ll click the link below to visit us there. But he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God. Luke 18:27 ASV I started looking at this photo and could barely pull ...

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Today I’m posting over at Internet Café Devotions. You may have read this before, but if not, I hope you’ll click the link below to visit us there.

But he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God. Luke 18:27 ASV

160121049 smallerI started looking at this photo and could barely pull my eyes away. Look at it a minute, really look. Let your eyes wander across the colors, dwelling on the ones that catch your eye. Notice the watery mixes and the one empty white square.Do you see what I see? Yep, you got it: Possibility. Potential. Old and new, pure and tainted, bright and dark, viscous and dried, vivid and dull. I see… [click to read more at Internet Café]

Palette of possibilities

But he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God. Luke 18:27 ASV I started looking at this photo and could barely pull my eyes away. Look at it a minute, really look. Let your eyes wander across the colors, dwelling on the ones that catch your eye. Notice the watery mixes and ...

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But he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God. Luke 18:27 ASV

160121049 smaller

I started looking at this photo and could barely pull my eyes away. Look at it a minute, really look. Let your eyes wander across the colors, dwelling on the ones that catch your eye. Notice the watery mixes and the one empty white square.

Do you see what I see? Yep, you got it: Possibility. Potential. Old and new, pure and tainted, bright and dark, viscous and dried, vivid and dull. I see experimentation, someone playing with how the colors will mix, creating something new from the limited materials provided. As much as I appreciate the raw materials, though, that’s really all they are. What captivates me is not what I see, but what I imagine it could become. There’s no way to predict that ahead of time, though — oh, we could study the artist’s previous work, her subject matter, and her sketches. But even then, the best we could do is make a vague guess. Even if we know her plan, she may have to react to happy accidents (or unfortunate mistakes), taking the painting in a very different direction than planned.

One person, with the best of intentions and lots of passion, still might fall very, very short. This artist might create something bold, graphic and contemporary; that one a delicate, carefully rendered, lifelike portrait. The next person might manage, in a few careful strokes, to evoke the stormy sea at night or a field of wildflowers or a dense, rich wash of color so beautiful we wish we could dive into the page, into the beauty, letting it surround us on all sides, overwhelming our senses.

It all depends on the abilities, vision, and talent of the one doing the painting.

But put this palette in a skilled master’s hands, those of a competent craftsman, one who can see the potential, who can imagine things we cannot — and these simple colors will be transformed into beauty, transparency, dimension, delicacy, boldness. Symbolism, representation, accuracy, truth. Depth and nuance, shadows and light.

Like prayer — endless possibility. Go ahead, study the palette again, but this time view it through this lens. Hope and promise, beckoning to us — ready and waiting for what could be.

It’s all about the artist. Put the watercolors into God’s capable hands, and let Him figure out the best way to put them all together. The exact mixes, the ideal placement on the page, the contrast between elements, how much water and pigment are needed and how the colors blend — it’s all up to Him. The best part? We’ve already seen His work. We can relax knowing He doesn’t make mistakes, and trust in His abilities and His vision.

We just need to yield the brush.

A blank canvas

It can be a bit intimidating to get started. That may be true in whatever it is that you’re doing, but especially if you’re creating art. That blank canvas… So much possibility. Possibility — or pressure? Depends on why you’re creating it, I suppose. If someone hired you to do a masterpiece, if you had a ...

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It can be a bit intimidating to get started. That may be true in whatever it is that you’re doing, but especially if you’re creating art. That blank canvas… So much possibility.

Possibility — or pressure?

Depends on why you’re creating it, I suppose. If someone hired you to do a masterpiece, if you had a large commission depending on your success, or if people are actively watching you — yeah, that can be intimidating. If you have to complete something specific and you have exactly one canvas, or a limited amount of paints, I suppose that could cause some trepidation.

Lucky for you — and for me — this blog is one place where the pressure is off. You are not here to perform or to achieve. Just to do. If you want to paint something, be my guest. But I’m really here to talk about prayer. It’s amazing the similarities between prayer and art.

During the next several months as I prepare my book (The Art of Praying Upside Down) for publication, I’ll be exploring countless other connections between prayer and art, hoping you’re willing to walk beside me as we search for more of God, for deeper intimacy in prayer, and for individual ways to strengthen our prayer lives.

Your prayer style will likely be very different than mine. That’s what makes art interesting, too — the individual styles, the variety, the differences. I’m excited to see what each of us will create. One thing is certain: we will get God’s attention. He’s waiting, as anxiously as we are, to see what we can make together.

Because the possibilities are endless.

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