When We Parallel Play with God

Anne Rulo When We Parallel Play with God

My children are three and a half years apart. At ages four and almost eight they have turned into quite the buddies. Their play is filled with great detail, an alarming amount of calamity (something is always flooding), and almost constant communication. “Pretend this” “Do this” “Come on, try this”. Every sentence is filled with direction or collaboration.

I suspect my son is grateful for this change. I remember the early years of my daughter’s life when he wanted to play with her but she was just too little. She was still in the developmental stage of “parallel play”. While she was content to play beside him or around him, she had little to no interest in playing with him. She had no interest because she was just a baby and babies aren’t developed enough to interact, they just play in their own little world.

To that end, you know what I just figured out? Sometimes I am a great big baby.

After any of us have been doing something for a while, including walking with Jesus, it can be tempting to turn on cruise control. I write and speak about Him for a “living” (I’ll be excited when I can take the quotes off that one!) teach my children about Him, lead a community group where we study His word, and generally hold a reputation for being a Jesus following gal. However, recently I’ve been convicted about the amount of times I get to the end of an article, the start of a talk or the completion of a task and realize that while I was working for Him I had totally forgotten to work with Him.

Like a baby, I have been parallel playing with Jesus instead of interacting like a big girl.

A lot of factors play into our tendency to try to do Jesus’ work on our own motor. The very core of our nature is a rebellious one. Eve didn’t eat the apple because she was hungry, she ate it because a sneaky little snake convinced her it would make her like God and she wouldn’t need his input anymore. Add to that a culture of American individualism, busyness and strong introversion and I am on the fast track to forgetting to involve Him. The allure of independence that tempted Eve is the same we face today. We have to work very hard not to let that same sneaky little snake trick us into thinking we can do it on our own.

And so, today’s simple call is to reengage with Him in whatever areas we may be lacking. I wander around in the Bible fairly often but usually for the purpose of work. I need to just be in it sometimes. I pray before leading studies, before meals, and as intercession with people in counsel. However, I suspect great benefit will come if, before any of that, I have been engaging in conversation with Him throughout the day. I need to remember what it is like to be with Him, not just for Him.

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5 NIV)

We are not babies my friends, knowing only how to only play on our own.

We are big kids now.

Let’s get back to playing with Him.

 

Saying Yes Is a Process. Be Kind to Yourself.

Anne Rulo Saying Yes is a Process Be Kind to Yourself

The response to last week’s post about saying “Yes!” was so much fun! I even heard from a few of you who took steps forward in saying yes to things you had wanted to do for a long time. It’s so exciting to see people stepping forward into their interests, talents, and callings. Saying yes is an incredible adventure that can change you in ways nothing else can.

However, it occurred to me that in all the talk about finally saying yes, I failed to reflect on the fifteen years before I said yes. FIFTEEN YEARS PEOPLE. That’s how long it took me to finally step forward into something that had been rolling around in my brain for a long time. Fifteen years of thinking about writing. Fifteen years of dipping a toe in it and pulling the ink-stained thing back out, yet again.

What I need you to know is fifteen years of thinking means there were also fifteen years of feeling. Thinking and feeling always go together, but not always to our benefit. When you have been thinking about doing something for a really long time, sometimes those feelings can get pretty intense.

Case in point, my feelings during those fifteen years of moving toward “yes” always landed in one of two spots:

Shame or compassion. One of these was not my friend.

When God has been working you toward yes you can bet your last dollar the enemy will do his best to sit you square in the middle of shame to keep you from moving forward. His entire job is to steal, kill and destroy and that includes our progress in anything God has for us. We have to fight to keep our minds and our hearts focused on how the Lord speaks to us when we are moving toward yes.

To that end, please do yourself a favor and plant some grace around your ambitions. In almost anyone’s yes there is a process. This process includes being open enough to receive an idea, think about an idea, create the space to try the idea and then finally following through. Each of these steps is hard work in its own right, even if there aren’t tangible results. You need to allow yourself the compassion to honor each of these steps along the way rather than shaming yourself for not moving fast enough. You are unlikely to move forward in anything with God by mentally whipping yourself. God always moves through love.

So yes, were there times when I was being disobedient by not moving forward? Sure. However, a lot more often I was probably still growing in God and trying to figure out what this thing was going to look like. Those times when I let the shame voice take over I believed God was frustrated with my pace and angry I wasn’t using the gifts He had given me. But those times when I allowed compassion to speak I was able to remember that He is a patient, loving Father who is thrilled when His kids take steps in the right direction.

Dear reader, if you haven’t yet moved forward to your yes, I need you to know I am cheering you on. Please make the choice to be kind to yourself, you may be closer to yes than you know.

A Year of Saying Yes – What I’ve Learned

Anne Rulo A Year of Saying Yes - What I've Learned

You guys, we made it! It’s been one solid year since I set out on this journey to write, speak and stay home with my children. One year of saying no to convention. One year of finally saying, “Yes!”

Before I share what this year has taught me I will offer this caveat. I know everyone can’t quit their job to pursue their dreams. In fact, many of the yeses we are called to don’t require huge life change. They require heart change. I could have said yes for years while I worked, but moving forward just happened to collide with an opportunity to stay home with my children. Don’t let how my yes happened direct yours in any way other than encouragement. Everyone’s journey into the unknown looks different. This is what I have learned in mine (so far).

What We Need to Say Yes

To say yes, we need a healthy relationship with vulnerability. We rarely feel completely “ready” to step into something new. In fact, I suspect God intends it this way. If He calls us to something He will equip us along the way. However, there is not a single shred of Biblical evidence that He ever equipped anyone fully at the beginning. (You know, except Jesus.) He very often sends His people out feeling vulnerable so He can be their strength.

You will feel scared. Learn to appreciate the sensation.

You will have “vulnerability hangovers“. Learn to move through them.

(PS – If you’ve never watched Brene Brown’s TED talk on vulnerability stop and watch it here. It’s incredible.)

To say yes, we need to be willing to suck for a bit. You will be the worst at the beginning…because you are beginning! When I look back at some of the writing I did, the steps I took, the silly questions I asked I am more than a little embarrassed. I had one speaking engagement so awful it felt like an out of body experience. Sometimes I want to erase my old work and only show the new stuff where I feel more competent. But that is a cheat. To me and to you. I never want to forget where I started or stop someone else from starting because they are looking at a false advertisement of how messy the beginning can be.

Your first work will be your worst work. Don’t let that stop you.

To say yes, we may need to dream without goals. This goes against a whole bunch of super fancy (and successful) people who say you need to have a destination in mind so you have something to aim for. However, I just haven’t found that to be true. In my case, God raised a desire to write and to speak and to stay home with my children. That’s it. Anytime I started thinking about “outcome measurements” (read: income, numbers of engagements, followers, etc.) I was adding asterisks based on what the world identifies as a success. The only goals I set were time spent toward fulfilling the call, not the outcome. Historically, God commonly asked His people to move forward without knowing what was coming. I don’t know why He would operate differently now.

Starting something without needing to control how it ends is very freeing.

Leave the results to Him.

To say yes, we must be open to unexpected mentors. “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again. There is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9 NIV) Others have, at least to some degree, done what He is calling you to do. We are not that unique and the pressure to believe we are can stop even the bravest soul in her tracks. I have spent the last year reading books by people who write for a living. You know who proved to be particularly educational? Stephen King. Yes, the man famous for horror and evil and all-things-twisted-thinking has blessed this Christian devotional writer. I learned technical gems about the craft from someone who could not write further away from my genre. I hold genuine affection for this man I’ve never met. He is a soul brother of writing. You never know, your next mentor might be your direct opposite. God loves a paradox.

Don’t limit who may prove to be a teacher.

Be willing to learn in unexpected places.

To say yes, we must be prepared for the rise of opinions and personal insecurities. As a woman, I have answered questions about why I would walk away from my career. On the flip side, when I was working I answered questions about why I would allow a career to keep me from staying home with my children. I am certain men encounter questions when they “go for a goal” but it is a slightly different road than the ladies travel. My sister, no matter what you say yes to, someone is going to have an opinion about it. People will think you are foolish. I have to fight off these voices regularly, both around me and in me. I’ve never done anything this “unknown” or unconventional in my life. It can be very uncomfortable. The world does not create a friendly space for dreamers unless the dreamer is “successful” by the world’s standards. Make sure you have people in your life who help you drown out the noise.

Figure out who your champions are and keep them close.

Clap their hands over your ears, and your heart, as needed.

Lastly, and most importantly, to say yes we just need to finally say yes. I don’t know what your yes is. I don’t know what He is calling you to, but I know this…stepping into a journey of creativity and unknown with God has grown and changed me in ways no other process possibly could. It has made me face what I put my security in. It has shown me what my idols are. It has made me face biases about income and success that I didn’t even know I had. It has increased my tolerance for risk and reduced a need for control.  It has made me brave. More importantly, it has given me a story to live alongside others so that when their invitation to “yes” comes they may draw a cup from my well.

Say yes because God tells you to.

Say yes because it will help someone else say yes too.

Dear readers, it has been a year. Some of you have been with me only a short time and some, blessed be, tolerated me dinging around for many years before I finally said yes. Thank you for everything you have been to me on this journey. I’m excited to continue forward together.

Magnify the Lord…

Anne Rulo Magnify the Lord

Hello readers! I am writing over at the Glorious Table today! See below for a preview or click here for the full post: “Magnify the Lord”

“The other day I went on a first-grade field trip. We loaded up those iconic yellow buses full of energetic children and drove into the country, bound for a day full of adventures. Between me and the teacher, we had eighteen of those wild things in our care. We dragged nets through the lake looking for critters, listened to a presentation about turkey calls, and stroked the pelts of animals common to the area.

In truth, the entire experience was a learning curve for me. While I spend a lot of time with my own children, large groups of little ones are not exactly in my wheelhouse. I was amazed by their energy, amused by their silliness, and in awe of their teachers, who wrangle this sort of organized chaos every single day.

Toward the end of the trip, we finally got to the station that included magnifying glasses. Little hand after little hand grabbed one out of the bucket and headed out on the trail. Again, being a novice with children, it quickly occurred to me that I had taken no time to educate these tiny scholars on how to actually use a magnifying glass. When the last child had grabbed one I headed up the trail and found myself in the presence of a bunch of cute little faces—with really giant eyeballs.

You see, the kids had absolutely no idea how a magnifying glass worked, so they did what made sense to them: they each put the magnifying glass up to their own eye instead of the object they wanted to magnify. The result was hilarious as they stumbled about in semi-frustration with exaggerated features, complaining, “Everything’s fuzzy!” and “Why can’t I see anything?” I took a moment to giggle and then joined the teacher in showing them that if you want to use a magnifying glass correctly, you have to magnify the thing you want to see better, not yourself.”

Full post: “Magnify the Lord”

Getting to Know the Holy Spirit

Anne Rulo Getting to Know the Holy Spirit

Oh, help folks! She’s talking about the Holy Spirit today. Or, in the tradition of my home church, The Holy Ghost. This oft-neglected member of the Trinity is going to take center stage today as we examine just one of the many roles He plays in our faith walk.

Despite the unification of the Trinity, many of us tend to have nuanced relationships with each part. The relationship with God tends to be one of reverence. He is the I AM, holiness, a big-ness that we almost cannot comprehend. Jesus is the relatable Savior, God made flesh and come to earth. He is the high priest who is able to empathize with our weaknesses, encountered temptation, yet He did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15 NIV, excerpts). But then there’s the Holy Spirit, the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of God. Just who is He?

As a young believer, I knew the Holy Spirit as a giver of emotion. He was the one who made well-dressed behatted women in my church “fall out” in the aisles. As I got older, I began to learn the Biblical stories of His Old Testament works on the saints. And in the New Testament, incredibly, the Holy Spirit becomes Jesus’ gift to us as He departed this world (John 14:15-31 NIV). These days He has become a confidant, the mysterious translator, and as always, the guarantee of our inheritance of what is to come (2 Corinthians 1:22, Ephesians 1:14 NIV).

The reason I am offering this is that I suspect many of us are doing ourselves a disservice. The somewhat mysterious quality of the Holy Spirit can keep us from calling on Him, asking for His help or utilizing His power. He is, quite literally, the presence of God within us. Thus, it makes sense that we should develop a knowledgable and close relationship with this indwelling neighbor. Here’s just a few references to Him from the Bible:

“The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and make you remember all that I have told you.” (John 14:26 NASB)

“For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:6-7 NASB)

While the Holy Spirit occupies a lot of roles, the one we are focusing on is His filtering and teaching. Consider this to be like a prism. Prisms act as filters, bending light in such a way that it separates the colors and displays the fullness of what was only a single beam on the other side. The Holy Spirit works in much the same way.

As information comes into our lives, we process it through something. If we do this through our “flesh” Scripture tells us we are literally unable to understand or respond in a way that honors God. But, if we filter the world and its messages through the Spirit we can see that information in a completely different way. Scripture says He makes us “remember” what God has taught us. He is the one who lets us see life and peace. He is the one who enables us to respond in ways that honor God. In short, He filters us out so He shines through.

A deep relationship with the Holy Spirit is key to seeing God in things. It is also the key to responding to life with God in you. Make sure to include Him in your prayers this week and look Him up in the Word. Who knows? You just might knock the dust off a treasure that’s already in your possession.

Spiritual Whack-A-Mole

Anvil

This summer, we took the family to Living History Farms. For those who may not have visited this little gem, it is a 500-acre outdoor history museum located in Urbandale, IA. They offer visitors a glimpse at the past through recreated historic communities and events staffed by historic experts. It is an expansive, impressive and unique experience.

We started our adventure with a lively baseball game, played by 1875 rules. It was fascinating to see the vintage uniforms, watch old rules play out, and wish longingly for standards like players being fined twenty-five cents for cursing and fifty for arguing with the umpire! My, how times have changed.

Following the game, we went through a historic mansion, old newspaper office, the milliner and the drug store. I deciphered for my kids by sharing that the “General Store” was the 1875 version of Walmart. We saw lots of really neat stuff and taught our kids some interesting things, but then we got to the blacksmith. And that’s where God showed up.

I don’t mean literally of course, but I just love when you are in the middle of normal everyday stuff and God plops a lesson on you just because He’s good like that. When we walked into the blacksmith shop, the historic interpreter was clearly finishing up his talk. Thus, the only part we got to hear was about how they used an anvil. I guess that was the only part I needed. Here’s what he had to say:

“There are lots of people who work in a blacksmith shop. You see here, there may be two or three people working on an anvil. Anvils are used to shape pieces of metal. The apprentice is just supposed to hit the anvil in the same place over and over again while the master blacksmith moves the metal around because he knows what shape it is supposed to become.”

He knows what shape it is supposed to become.

The faith life translation of this experience became almost comical as it formed in my mind. God is over here being Master Blacksmith, trying to shape me and my life into the thing it is supposed to become. But, instead of hitting the anvil in the same spot as I’m supposed to, I’m playing spiritual whack-a-mole trying to mold the thing into what I think is right. Can’t you just see Him standing there, holding our still-forming futures and saying, “My child, just do your job and I’ll do mine. I know what this is supposed to look like in the end.”

We are apprentices, you guys. Always. Over and over again in Scripture God simply asks us to remain consistent, to “hit the same spot” in prayer, in service, in reading His Word and continuing to learn and grow. Our job is simply to show up in faith so that He can do His job shaping us, and our situation, to His specific design.

So, whatever giant plan you had to manipulate your day into a specific thing, let that go today. Release that feeling that you need to control what something becomes. There is great freedom to be had when we return to the simplicity of our jobs, being faithful apprentices, leaning into simple spiritual practices that leave the results to Him.

We were never meant to be the Master Blacksmith. That was and is and always will be His job. Because He knows what shape it is all supposed to become.

Coach’s Wife Spotlight

Year-of-Positive-Returns

Over the course of the summer, my friend Beth Walker has done a series of “spotlights” on coach’s wives who are doing amazing things with their talents, entrepreneurial skills, and philanthropy. I am blessed to be a part of the bunch she chose but I completely forgot to post that info here until now! Thanks, Beth!

To read her spotlight and look into other coach’s wives who are chasing their dreams click here.

Debriefing Your Summer

Summer Debriefing

A couple months ago, I offered a post encouraging us to release the hope for a perfect summer. Are these months memorable? Yes. Gone way too fast? Probably. But without stress, difficulty or hard days? Nope. The beginning of summer is like many transitions in the year. Similar to New Year’s and the beginning of school, summer brings a lot of energy and hope for the months ahead and a lot of reality check once we are actually “in it.”

Most of the posts you will read on my site are inspirational/encouragement, devotionals, etc.. But, every once in a while, the trained mental health therapist in me will kick in and you will get something very practical. Today is one of those days.

In this neck of the woods, school starts next Monday. This week is the final preparation for the academic year and the final gasp of the summer schedule. That also means it is the perfect time to engage in summer debriefing.

Debriefing is an important process any time you have been through an experience you want to gain from, grow through or improve upon next time. Debriefing is also commonly used to help people transition out of intense emotional experiences to help ward off negative impacts on their mental health (i.e. mission trips, natural disasters, the work of first responders, etc.).

While I hope your summer has not had that level of difficulty, I am certain that there are parts of these months that have gone really well and others that have been more challenging. The purpose of a summer debriefing process is simply to identify what you would want to keep/remember from this summer to help you and your family do this season even better the next time! We do this to give our brain and our emotions time to process and honor these unique months. And, frankly, if we don’t do it now we will forget by the time next summer rolls around!

Summer debriefing is something I would encourage you to do on your own and also with your family. While you don’t have to be particularly formal about it, even simple questions may give you information that will be valuable when next summer comes around. It often surprises me that how I experience a season can be so different from my spouse or my children.

Here are a couple highlights we gleaned from our own process:

  • Make sure to leave a day open after every trip out of town. Planning something the day after we return seemed to be stressful.
  • Remember that you (Mom) were pretty miserable transitioning to the summer together-all-day schedule. Make sure to plan in some quiet rest time/reading time in our rooms to (ahem) get a little time apart.
  • We went on several little trips. While they were fun, the kids identified the time at home, time with friends and time at the pool as their favorite parts of the summer. Don’t stress about big vacations.
  • Being rigid about bedtimes did not work. We did better just owning the late nights and lazy mornings. You will get back on track for school at some point. Just enjoy the shifted schedule.

As you work through a debriefing with your own family you may find that your experience matches with some of what I shared above or you may have encountered the exact opposite! That’s the essential nature of debriefing, you get to figure out the what and how that makes sense for your family so that you can go into the next time better informed. I will leave you with some questions below that may help you along in the process. Happy debriefing!

Summer Debriefing Questions

  • What was my/your favorite part of the summer? Least?
  • What about this summer encouraged me to relax and take care of myself?
  • What did we do as a family that we really enjoyed?
  • What self-care practices were important to me this summer?
  • What created the most stress for me this summer?
  • What did I like about how we transitioned to summer? Dislike?
  • When did my kids seem most at peace this summer?
  • Did we (spouse) get enough time together? What did we enjoy?
  • What would I like to change next summer?

 

Spiritual Body Envy…

I am writing over at The Glorious Table today! It’s not often I get to write about the design of our bodies and our design in the Body. Enjoy! Anne

Body Image

Several years ago, I put together one of the most involved outreach projects I’ve ever done. The exceptional people over at Greatist had written an amazing article documenting the changes to the ideal body image of women over the past hundred years. They graciously gave me permission to use the images from their article to put together a life-sized display of the ideal body image from each decade. One overhead projector and more than a few pieces of refrigerator-sized cardboard later, I had a staggering visual image of how we’ve valued certain aspects of a woman’s physique more than others over time.

It was impressive to see how the curves and corsets of the 1910s gave way to the petite flappers of the 1920s. The hourglass women of the 1950s stood in stark contrast to the thin and delicate ideal of Twiggy in the 1960s. And the exceptionally tall and slender supermodels of the 1980s slowly morphed back toward a curvier and/or more muscular frame in later years. No matter when you lived, the ideal kept shifting, and inevitably, discontentment came with it.

It’s hard to be okay with who you are when who you think you’re supposed to be keeps changing. It’s also easy to envy women who have the body currently in vogue: If only I had her hips.

It can also be easy to slip into spiritual “body envy.” Long before mainstream media began its commentary on the physical body, God addressed this tendency head-on. In 1 Corinthians 12­­, he reveals the variety of gifts and purposes he created in the body of Christ. An entire chapter on this one subject? It seems he knew we might need some guidance.

To read the entire post go to The Glorious Table here.

Don’t Forget Your Sword

I have only been back a week and I miss it already. While I am a total homebody here in Missouri, two places on this earth fill my soul. Oklahoma, and Colorado. Colorado is the easy one to figure out. The mountains and rugged beauty draw people from all over the world. I came to know Jesus there. Oklahoma though? Not quite the same tourist draw. But oh, how I love it.

My sister lives in Oklahoma. She lives on the kind of property with enough land and trees to let the kids run and play with the confidence that they will return dirty, happy and exhausted. One corner of their property touches a city-wide trail. Pathfinder is 12 miles of winding blacktop that meanders its way through the trees, creating a beautiful sun-dappled retreat from the Oklahoma skies. It is a perfect place for runners, walkers, and kids learning to ride their bikes. Anytime I visit I work in as many trips to this gem as I can because, really, look at this view.

IMG_2033

Recently, my sister’s husband blazed and mulched a couple trails so we wouldn’t have to go “all the way around” to the city entrance. In the early morning, I forgot about these trails and headed out the usual way, following residential roads to the start. But, on the way home the temperature had shot up and I remembered that trailhead!

I stepped confidently off the blacktop knowing water and air conditioning were only steps away. Crunch, crunch, mulch compressing under my shoes. I had made it approximately 10 feet before I hit the first one. Spiderweb. Correction, spiderwebs. Delicate masterpiece after delicate masterpiece, woven wide through the night and now covering my sweat-stained face.

I am certain I looked like a madwoman making my way toward the house. Ducking and dodging to no avail, arms flailing, hands grasping at the invisible strings that were multiplying with every step. I was too far in to go back and too panicked to slow down. I emerged in my sister’s kitchen looking wild and indignant, “What is with all the spiders?!!”

This woman looked up at me, calmly nursing her fourth child, “Why didn’t you grab one of the sticks? You just have to put it in front of you.”

The sticks. That’s right, I had forgotten my weapon.

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:10-17 NIV, italics added)

This is a silly spider example with a real-world concept. God does not intend for us to walk through this world exposed. He gives us armor to “cover” and defend ourselves, and He gives us a stick. In this case, a sword. God’s Word is intended to go before us so we can knock things out of the way. It is used to combat what comes at us, causes us to panic, or could catch us in a sticky mess. And in order for us to use it, we must have it with us. One simple way to put that sword in our hands is to memorize verses that we can call to mind as needed. A topic search on a Bible study site is one of my favorite go-to options. See an example here: Open Bible – Trusting God.

So, before you wander any further in the woods today, please stop. Look in God’s Word and get what you need before you take another step. Tuck it in your mind, your heart, and your hand and show those spiders who’s boss.

Look out webs of the world. She’s armed today.