Please Don’t Travel Alone

Anne Rulo Please Don't Travel Alone

“As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.” (Exodus 17:11-13, NIV)

This week has been an odd emotional sandwich. I spent Tuesday on “cloud 9” celebrating a dear friend. This sister spent to the ends of her finances, pride, and comfort to establish Sseko Designs. Now, ten years later she is running a huge, amazing, purposeful company. Her dream became a reality and she is literally changing the lives of women all over the world. I’m so happy and proud of her I could bust. She has “made it” in all the ways that really matter because she is loving people and changing lives.

But on Monday and Wednesday? I cried. I cried deeply and fiercely for two young men in neighboring communities who took their lives. We knew one. We knew the coach of the other. Babies. Sweet teenage baby boys who found themselves with such a loss of hope that no longer living seemed better than the pain. There’s been too many of them in the years we’ve done this work. Too many.

We have to keep fighting.

I want you to look carefully at that italicized sentence. The word that probably stands out is “fighting.” It stands out because it is the big word and the active word. It is the word that commands all the attention. But, it’s not the word I want you to see. The word that actually matters is little and you may have glanced right over it.

It’s the word “we.” And it applies to the entire spectrum of the human experience.

If God calls a woman to an incredible adventure like establishing a shoe company in a land-locked country in East Africa so girls can go to college, she cannot do that alone.

And if a teenage boy has reached the point he would take his life, he cannot handle that alone.

And if (insert your biggest dream and your greatest heartache), you cannot handle that alone. You weren’t designed to.

From top to bottom, end to end, life is meant to be shared. God is relational to His very core and we are designed in His image. If you are to get anywhere close to reaching the tippy-toe tops of His call and design on your life you better get yourself some Aarons and Hurs to hold up your arms and maybe a Joshua to help you fight. And if you are to resist the temptation to despair, end things, and cope with the really freaking painful things everyone sometimes endures? You better have some Aarons and Joshuas and Hurs there too.

So, just for today, we are going to pretend your name is Moses.

Hey Moses? You can’t do this life alone. You can’t win your greatest victories or manage your greatest tragedies alone. You are going to get tired no matter if you are headed toward the top or the bottom of life. So please, don’t travel alone. You never know when you may need to take a rest on a rock, have your friends hold your hands, and let someone else take the sword for a while.

 

Being Thankful for Our Scars

Being Thankful For Our Scars Anne Rulo

The other day I went for a run. Now, don’t get it in your head this is a regular occurrence. I’m super high-maintenance when it comes to running. It can’t be too hot, it can’t be too cold, I need to have my headphones with the right music and of course, someone to watch my young children. And yet, by some miracle, all these things came together so off I trotted on a gorgeous fall day.

Feet pounding on the pavement, music in my ears and surrounded by nature, I spent practically all my time looking at the trees. This is the most incredible time of year with the leaves changing, giving us new beauty almost by the hour as the colors shift from green to crimson, yellow and brown. It got me wondering what makes the leaves change color and what makes them fall. So, I did what any high-quality researcher does…I Googled it.

As it turns out, in the spring and summer, leaves are green due to the presence of chlorophyll. Then, when the season changes, the tree does not need those leaves (or the chlorophyll) anymore. The green pigment breaks down and the leaves change color. Additionally, in order for the leaf to fall away from the tree, a special layer of cells develops at the end of the stem. The tree then seals that area, cutting the leaf off from the tree where it eventually falls away.

Here’s the cool part. That spot where the leaf falls away? It leaves a mark. And it’s called a leaf scar.

Now, that’s just beautiful.

You guys, we are covered in leaf scars. There is no way to exist in this life, and certainly, no way to serve Christ, without getting moved in and out of seasons many many times. I’ve always thought of scars as something that results from a wound. The product of a hard or painful season. Turns out God also “leaves” scars where there was life. Where there was beauty. Where He dropped leaves out of our lives just because it was time for another season. They are reminders of His love and faithfulness.

A great leap happens in our faith when we become grateful for every season, no matter what kind it is or what scars it leaves behind. We develop this gratitude by believing in His love for us in all seasons, difficult or abundant. By this, we come to appreciate every scar because we know He was in it all.

Remember, it was Jesus who used scars to help a doubting Thomas recognize His resurrected body. It is this same Jesus who uses our scars to help us recognize our resurrected lives. Thankful for the scars…

(All rights credited to I AM THEY)

Trust in God’s Grace

Here’s a piece I wrote over at The Glorious Table

Anne Rulo the glorious table grace filled reminder

I’m not sure how the tradition started. When my children were young, we did not co-sleep. I am not against co-sleeping; it just wasn’t something that happened in our family. My son was a super noisy baby (read: laughed out loud in his sleep) and my daughter was particularly independent. I didn’t want to sleep with the giggler, and my daughter simply wouldn’t sleep with us; she preferred her own space.

Many years down the road, we are now a co-sleeping family once a week. My son is now a sweet, sentimental seven-year-old, and he cherishes his “Monday nights with Mommy.” In fact, this November his birthday falls on a Monday and he has been reminding me for the entire year. Since he now sleeps quietly, this arrangement works out well. It is on these Monday nights that we get to read, talk, and snuggle in a way I am sure I will miss years from now.

It was on one of these Monday nights a few months ago when I noticed he seemed particularly quiet. He’d been at Vacation Bible School all evening, so I assumed he was just tired from all the activities. We were reading beside one another when he turned to me and asked, “Mom? What do I have to do to go to heaven?”

My eyes widened. This is the question all believing parents wait for. We nurture and love these little people in the deep hope that someday, they will ask us these very words. And then we have the incredible privilege of sharing the good news with them.

The only problem was, something was off about my son’s question. He sounded worried. An unusually precocious child, he has known and understood about Christ’s love and redemption for a long time. I quickly realized he wasn’t asking me about salvation through faith. This child was asking me what he had to DO. As in earn. As in how to work his way to heaven…

To see how I answered him and read the full post go to The Glorious Table here.

Learning to Grow Love Plants

Love Plants

This week I am growing love plants.

(That’s gotta’ be the best way I have ever started a blog post.)

Last weekend we left a town and people I love to visit another town and people I love. Due to our ministry as a coaching family we are, and perpetually will be, in “the wedding years.” No matter how old we get, we always have former players reaching that precious time when they fall in love with their forever person and we get invited to the ceremony. It’s one of the coolest perks of the job to watch these young men grow up, get married, have kids, and live out the seeds you hope you planted in them years ago.

It’s an odd sensation when we go to this other town. We are so very happy in our new place. We have friends and community and events that are becoming traditions. But when we get to that old place our hearts bust open as we hug people, relive the memories, and somehow miss them, even more, when they are standing right there in front of us.

It really shouldn’t surprise me I guess. When you plant your heart among people and places it’s bound to happen. As my husband says, we “spilled a lot of blood in the mud” in that other place. I guess blood makes for some pretty good fertilizer as it seems a piece of our heart is permanently planted there.

I wanted to share this for two reasons…

1. Because I know some of you who live in each of those places will read this. I need you to know that we love you and we ache when we are away from you, both of you.

2. And because some of you have it in your head that “bloom where you are planted” means that you can’t have blooms planted anywhere else. That’s just hogwash. I have exactly zero knowledge of horticulture, but even I know you can divide plants. A little bit of what was once one thing can exist beautifully in two different places.

One of the most incredible qualities of God is that He is omnipresent. That means He is fully present in all places at the same time. We can’t do that, obviously. But you guys, we are reflections of God. And we can do things in our lives that reflect His character because we were designed in His image.

God can allow for our hearts to be in many places at once without painfully cutting it into pieces. Rather than being made smaller, love can just divide and grow again in that new place, and that old place. Your heart can live in multiple places.

You. Do. Not. Have. To. Choose.

If you have lived in a place, worked in a place, loved a person, lost a person, gone on a mission trip, served a people, had an experience, cherished a home, created a memory, created a baby or just had your heart raptured by a sunset…you can let part of it stay there. In fact, I encourage it. We are less likely to withhold our hearts when we’ve learned how to give it away.

Remember, God’s greenhouse is the perfect environment to let Him split your heart and plant it again somewhere else. It will always regrow there.

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.