Releasing the Perfect Summer

Releasing the Perfect Summer Anne Rulo

Summer is just around the corner! In our little neck of the woods, the school year comes to a close this Friday. After an unprecedented number of snow days, this week marks the beginning of months of warm weather, long days and a very different schedule from the usual.

You can sense the anticipation of the summer months. From stores and commercials to summer programming, the influences are everywhere. Smiling children splashing in the pool. Happy families on vacation. Leisurely evenings around the firepit. It all looks so idyllic. In truth, the advertising and anticipation we have around summer reminds me a lot of the pressure that can exist around Christmas. There is the excitement of all we are looking forward to and hoping for and yet, there often seems to be an underlying worry about the days ahead.

As summer approaches we start to wrangle our summer schedules. We worry about who will provide childcare if we are working or worry about the stress of too much togetherness if we are home. We bust out our three-month calendars and begin to fill in vacations, day trips, and the summer sports schedules. We consider if the kids are going to go to this VBS or that one, if art camp is worth the cost and then try our level best to leave in some downtime because, after all, isn’t relaxation what summer is all about?!

Plan

We all plan for this transition to summer. We plan because it makes us feel better. Don’t get me wrong, it is smart to plan for your summer but it is also silly to think that is going to alleviate every problem. And so, in an effort to save our summer sanity I wanted to share two thoughts I hope may provide some freedom and direction for the months ahead. Here we go.

Step 1: Repeat after me. “This summer will not be perfect.”

Sweet Mom or Dad or Grandparent, I release you from planning the perfect summer. These days are not magic and they do not hold any more weight than any other days of the year. Some are going to be wonderful and some are going to be a mess. Some days everyone is going to get along and some days folks are going to rub each other the wrong way. You are going to go to the zoo and every animal will cooperatively show up and your child will be delighted and you are going to go to the fair where your kid will lose her balloon and drop her ice cream cone. Your job is not to craft the perfect summer. You are not a hero if your summer is great and you are not a failure if this summer is a bust. Your job is to love people in the middle of whatever this summer becomes. Plan to be present in all of it.

Step 2: Ask Jesus what He wants for your summer.

This is, literally, the first time I have ever stopped to ask Jesus what He wants for the summer. For my children’s summer. For my family’s summer. It’s not as though I intentionally ignored this concept before I have just always thought about the summer as “mine.” It is my time to relax, my time to do what I want with my schedule, my kids, my family, my precious summer days. I somehow forgot the summer is His too. I have absolutely no idea what He will do with our summers when we ask but I do know it will be better than anything we could have manhandled ourselves. Invite Him into your summer vacation, look at your calendar with Him by your side, consider the plans for your children with His guidance. Include Him. Ask Him. See what a summer with Jesus is like.

This summer your job is to embrace the idea that you are human and flawed, and your summer will be too. And to remind ourselves, once again, that any perfection that comes is from Him and Him alone, the giver of all good things. Happy summer dear reader.

“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.” Proverbs 16:9 (NIV)

 

 

When We Don’t Have Much to Give

Anne Rulo When We Don't Have Much to Give

It’s before daybreak on this Mother’s Day. The pieces of my heart who will later celebrate with me are still sleeping, sideways tangled in their blankets. I’m up because I know this is the time my soul rests. We all do this. We find spaces in the early morning, the after bedtime quiet, even the middle of the night. We find spaces where we make deposits into our energy, into our spirit, into the space that we will be soon pouring out to others.

We do this because we know that loving our people can be a very expensive hobby.

There are days when we wake up with plenty in the bank. These are the days of hot breakfasts, easy yeses, and the evening activity we are happy to attend. The days when everything aligns and we are somehow able to take care of others, take care of ourselves, and have enough left over to put toward planning for another day of general awesomeness.

And then there are the other days. The days when, by the time we brush our teeth, we know we are running on reserves. We are tired. Impatient. We have very, very little to give and stare into our reflection on the edge of tears wondering how what we have to give will ever be enough.

I want you to soak this story into your soul for those days.

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” Mark 12:41-44

I need you to see the widow. I love this woman. I love this woman because she is all of us. She is surrounded by the wealth we are sometimes unable to bring and yet, she still showed up. She showed up with her coins, walked her solitary self right up to the treasury and dropped them in. She is aware of her poverty and she showed up anyway. She is beautiful and brave. Be her.

Plink. Plink. Even if it’s all you’ve got.

 

Anne Rulo When We Don't Have Much to Give

The other person I need you to see is Jesus. Jesus sees the crowd too. He sees the same crowd you see. The crowd all around you who, on those hard days, seems to be giving so much more, doing so much more, being so much more than you. And He doesn’t care. He doesn’t care that you don’t have much to give that day. He doesn’t care about everyone else’s wealth. He only cares about you showing up. In fact, He celebrates you showing up. He brags about you. “Look at her,” He says, “look at her giving everything she can.”

So, thank you. I know it may come from many other people in your life today but I wanted it to come from me too. Thank you for showing up. On the days when it is easy. On the days when it is hard. On the days when rubbing those two coins together in your pocket is the only sound of hope you have, thank you for showing up and dropping them in. He is so pleased with what you bring. Hear Him bragging on you today.

Sometimes the bravest and most important thing you can do is just show up. ~ Brene Brown

 

The Asterisks of Faith

A piece published on The Glorious Table

I was embarrassingly old when I finally realized how asterisks work. I was probably even older when I learned they’re called “asterisks,” not “that star on the keyboard.” I’m certain some well-meaning teacher taught me about that cute little mark, but for whatever reason, I missed the lesson. You know when it finally all came together? With prescription drug ads.

Sometime during my high school years, advertising laws changed so drug companies were required to list all the possible side effects of their prescription drugs as well as promote the desired result of taking their drugs. TV commercials depicted pleasant scenes, like a woman running in a field with her dog, clearly able to enjoy the blue sky above and flowers below because of her helpful prescription for allergies. Then, as the happy duo took a seat on a rock at the edge of a hillside, the woman scratched behind the dog’s ears while a kindly voice overlay said to contact a doctor if a rash-headache-earache-toe ache-blurry-vision or hives-nausea-ulcers-amnesia-hallucination-spontaneous-combustion developed.

Okay, I’m being a little extreme, but the lists can be simultaneously terrifying and hilarious.

This very same law extended to print. This is where my asterisk ignorance finally lifted. “Ah-ha!” I said. There it was, that cute little star from the keyboard, placed neatly beside the desired intent of the prescription. My eyes then traveled down to where it showed up again, now preceding the long and unwelcome list of possible negative side effects. Oh, I realized, the asterisk is all the stuff we don’t want to talk about. The stuff we would rather leave in small print at the bottom of the page. The stuff we really hope never happens, but sometimes it does.

So today we’re going to talk about one more asterisk—the one we never put in print but at times exists in our minds: God is good.*

Ouch. It was hard to even type that.

My dear brothers and sisters, sometimes, in our humanity, “God is good” doesn’t end with just a period.

Head on over to The Glorious Table to read the rest.

The Goodness of God’s Discipline

A piece published on The Glorious Table

The other day I wrote something I was really proud of. Then, because no adults were around to share it with, I decided to read the piece to my children. At the ages of three and seven, they’re a little young to really understand, but I hoped a little bit of what I thought God had given me to share with others might bless them as well. It was kind of a neat moment as I started the process of sharing this “new writing thing Mommy’s been doing.”

You know what I did about an hour after that? I yelled at my kids.

Ugh.

We were getting ready for bed when that all-too-volatile Mama is tired and the kids are squirrely combination resulted in two sharp-tongued shots across the bow. The words were common, but the tone was not: “Brush your teeth, and get—your—pajamas—on!” Their tiny faces crumpled immediately, and tears flowed along with a double assessment: Mom is being mean.

After a bit more stomping about (mine, not theirs), I cooled down and apologized for using my “grumpy voice.” I kissed their little heads, told them I loved them, put them to bed, and then fell in a heap of regret on the couch, where eventually I drifted off to the sound of some forgettable movie.

I woke a few hours later, alone in the lamplight, and I figured I ought to wander to bed. Since it was after midnight, I realized a new “verse of the day” would be up on my Bible app. Somewhat absently, I opened it on my way down the hall. To say it was timely would be a drastic understatement.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Corinthians 13:1 NIV)

Ouch.

I stood there in my bedroom, illuminated by the light of my phone, mouth agape in awe of how directly I was being disciplined. It didn’t matter how eloquently I had written only hours before. And it definitely didn’t matter that I had shared it with my children, because any beauty that might have been in those words had been wiped out by the clanging cymbal of my tired, impatient mouth.

Head on over to The Glorious Table to read the rest.

Solomon’s Fall From Grace

A piece published on The Glorious Table

In every generation are giants in the faith who fall after years of service in the ministry. Whether local pastors or major television personalities, their stories are splashed across the media, and their circumstances, secrets, and salvation are debated.

Our reactions tend to vary. Some of us quietly turn our heads, hoping to be polite by not drawing further attention. Others of us are intrigued by the circumstances and eager to know the details. Still others are sad, angry, or feel betrayed. Regardless of how we react, one thought is particularly dangerous—looking down at our fallen brother or sister and thinking, That would never happen to me.

Let me be clear: we are never in more trouble than when our judgment takes the form of perceived immunity.

Someone recently put the book of 1 Kings in front of me. For those of you who are as ignorant about this section of Scripture as I was, it covers the change in rule from David to Solomon as well as a heaping bunch of details about Solomon’s reign as king.

Solomon has always sat in one of those “favorite biblical character” spots in my mind because he penned the wisdom found in Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon. As the beloved son of David and Bathsheba, he seemed to be the nicely bow-tied answer to the mess David got himself into the generation before. God chose Solomon to build the temple at Jerusalem. Solomon received two in-person meetings with God. And he was blessed with the distinction of being the wisest man who has ever lived and will ever live. In addition to giving him this exceptional gift of wisdom, God also saw fit to bless Solomon with wealth and honor that had “no equal among kings” (1 Kings 3:13 NIV). Both inside and out, he was fully equipped to be the best king Israel had ever known. And for a good long while, he was.

Head on over to The Glorious Table to read the rest.

Silence & Stillness are Not the Same

A piece published on The Glorious Table

This Christmas season has been different from every other. Every previous December, I have focused largely on the hope that comes with the birth of Christ. I get excited that the Savior is here and we are headed on an incredible journey toward Easter, when we get to celebrate a victory chant because of the resurrection. Christmas has always been a “look forward” sort of holiday rather than a “look back.” However, the events of the past two years have changed the way I will experience the season forever.

Last Christmas, I sat in our living room staring at a tree that I knew would not be in the same place the following year. Not long before that, my husband was informed that he would not be rehired in his position as a head football coach. No scandal, no drama, just a casualty of the sport culture that befalls many a coach over the course of a career. It meant we had a paycheck for a few months from his teaching salary, but we would be moving, I was sure of it. And so, as with any other challenging time in our lives. we got to praying. But strangely, we heard nothing. Not even “Wait.” There was just—nothing. I have never experienced anything like it.

Thus began the first in a series of silences where we heard nothing. Where do we move, God? Nothing. Who would you have us serve, Lord? Nothing. We drove to schools around the state and prayed about colleges as far away as Maine. You know this paycheck is going to end right, Lord? Nothing. We put our house on the market. Nothing.

In a moment of great relief, my husband finally got a new job. But strangely, the trend of silence continued. Our home did not sell, and we struggled to figure out where we would live in our new town. I drove down every street in our new town in tears, asking out loud, “What are you doing here God?” But God remained silent.

I want to be clear about the difference between silence and waiting. I have waited with the Lord before—many times. Tragedies and difficulty have befallen us just like every other family. In 2015 we almost lost our daughter days after she was born. The looks on the faces of the people in the hospital made it clear. We were in dangerous waters with the infection she had contracted. However, those hours sitting in a hospital chair never felt void of God’s presence. I felt his love during every step of those difficult days despite not knowing my daughter’s fate. He was not distant.

It is a very different thing to wait with the Lord than to wait on him in silence.

Head to The Glorious Table to read the rest.

Glorious Table “Ketchup”

Oh, how I giggle at myself. I am still so new and green to this whole world of writing on the Internet. I discovered today that I have not posted any of my guest pieces in this space. I am going to post them all here in a series to get caught up and I will know better in the future. Happy reading readers!  Anne