Only Jesus can uplift us from across a room, encouraging and teaching us without a word.

The church is meeting again, but the sanctuary feels more empty now. Our chairs are carefully measured 6 feet away from the next family’s, and we’re told to leave the room quickly after service ends so the room can be properly sanitized before the next service.

It’s different from the church I’m used to – the one where we’re packed closely together on long pews, the church where we look for those to wrap our arms around as soon as the music stops. It’s different from the days when we slowly watched others leave as we stood around talking, and looked for people to connect with.

Church may look different during this season, but one thing I am certain of: our gathering is not in vain.

Last week, I stood in that big sanctuary, swaying along to music. Under my mask, my face felt warm as I sang along to words I know by heart. My arms hung loosely by my side.

Out of the corner of my eye, movement caught my eye. I looked across the sanctuary to see a mom clapping with her young son. He was maybe 6 or 7. The lyrics continued spilling from my lips as I watched her carefully. This momma was clapping, swaying, air drumming along to the music with her little guy.

But not just her. Next to her, who I assume to be, her husband had a toddler on his hip. He wasn’t air drumming, but he was swaying and swinging her around. He was looking right at her, and he smiled broadly as their lips moved with the words of the music.

And together, this small family worshipped Jesus.

Even from across the room, their joy was evident. Each one of them were loving this moment together. They looked like they were having the time of their lives while worshiping Jesus, and I immediately thought: I hope I can be a mom like that one day.

The stream of hopes for the future came –

I hope I can teach the next generation the joy of singing to Jesus. I want to be bold enough to move for Him. I want to be that mom that sways and dances and smiles for Him too. I want my little ones to look at me as the momma who makes loving Jesus exciting, joyful, full of life. I hope, I hope, I hope. One day.

This family looked like there was nowhere else they’d rather be in the world than in this mask-filled, socially distanced sanctuary praising the Lord. And yet, here I was in awe of them, waiting for some distant day to suddenly worship in a way that reflects the true joy in my heart.

I was loving this family’s joy and counting myself out of it. My own arms suddenly felt stiff, hanging heavily by my side.

But a strange thing happened. I realized that joy is promised to all believers. No conditions or prerequisites, other than loving Him first.  

I continued singing, and I felt a smile draw on my face – I realized that I don’t have to wait for that joy. I have full permission in my Savior to celebrate Him joyously now. I don’t have to be a mom to let my happiness in Him be evident, or to encourage others. I get to live that now. I get to sway, sing, dance, air drum – if I so please – even now.

I get to enjoy worshipping Him today.

I looked around the sanctuary and saw other dads holding their daughters, sons standing on their seat with an arm around their momma’s neck – so many sweet pictures of gospel love. Our voices were lifted up to our King, and my arms raised in obedient joy. I didn’t air drum that morning, but I was refreshed in the Lord by this family’s simple desire to worship happily.

So to the moms and dads worried about making it to church during this season, I am watching from you and am learning so much from you right now. Children’s classes may be cancelled, but there is truly no need to worry what the rest of us think of your kids in the sanctuary. Your leading them in worship is leading me too. Your joy is filling the space; you’re setting an example for so many of us.

By the way, this is why we’re going to church right now. Only Jesus can uplift us from across a room, encouraging and teaching us without a word. There are challenges to meeting together, and it may feel strange to wear a mask while singing, but the joy of lifting our voices to the Lord together is incomparable.

I’m really grateful for family worship this COVID-19 season has unexpectedly lavished upon us, because we get to see love in new ways. The discomforts of the season are worth the opportunity to even be nearer to other believers, and to witness firsthand accounts of loving well.

Friend, whether you’re the mom air drumming or the shy girl just faithfully singing along, I bet your worship is encouraging others from across the room in more ways than you can see. Don’t shy away. Someone (me) draws so much strength from your love for Jesus.

It’s good to be back.

November: Writing Thanks and a Novel

That’s right,’ said Gandalf. ‘Let’s have no more argument. I have chosen Mr. Baggins and that ought to be enough for all of you. If I say he is a Burglar, a Burglar he is, or will be when the time comes. There is a lot more in him than you may guess, and a deal more than he has any idea of himself. You may (possibly) all live to thank me yet.’” Tolkien, The Hobbit

No one told me that adulthood would feel like a rut.

You wake up to the same alarm every day. You drive the same car to the same office. You swerve to miss the same pothole in road, and don’t even complain when you still bump over it. It’s happened before. You’re used to it.

You work the same hours. See the same people. Wrestle with the same insecurities. Come home with the same kind of tired. Then you go to sleep, hoping that same familiar pinging of your alarm doesn’t come too soon, just to do it all over again.

Okay, this sounds bad. But I’m not bitter about it. When I boldly asked the Lord to show me how to be faithful to where he’s planted me, I’m learning this is actually what that means: showing up to the sameness. It means being there for the same friends when they call, and going to the same Bible study every week. It’s working from that same office you’ve known for almost 2 years, and watching the kids you’ve taught graduate from one grade to the next.

The next step in this faithfulness journey, and the one I’m fumbling in, is learning how to show up to the sameness with the joy and passion that led me to ask him to bring me to it in the first place.

What I’m unsettled by is the belief that this is all there is. Like going to work and being tired is all adulthood will offer us, so we better settle in. Being stable and making money – this is the American dream, after all.

They might tell me to get over it. They might say that we live to work and pay bills, but I cannot stomach the thought. They’ll tell me that dreaming is for kids. They’ll say this is it. Work and routine, this is what I’ve waited my whole life for.

But I don’t believe it.

Jesus did not save me to a safe, planned, routine life. A faithful life to his reasons, yes. But a life stuck on repeat, no.

My Jesus is yours too; He didn’t save you to a life on repeat either.

November, You’re Special

This month, in this chilly November, I know that my heart needs refreshment. I know that even now – up to Thanksgiving and start of Advent – my heart needs to begin its preparation for December. I am not ready to receive the coming of Christ with joy; I need to reposition myself.

I am human enough to admit that my preparing the way for Christ in December begins with preparing the way to prepare his way in November.

Why? Because I don’t want to miss a single miracle that God can work this season.

I want all the grace and joy bestowed upon me as I look ahead to family dinners and get-togethers. I want the joy of Christ to radiate from me. Not because I’m special, but because he is and I’m in tune with his ways.

I want to feel deeply-rooted contentment when I’m eyeing gifts under the tree, or shopping for others. I want to believe at the core of my bones that I’ve already been given enough, and that I am not defined by things I don’t have.

I want to listen to what God has to speak and show. I want to believe that even in my every day, he is here, crafting glory and beauty in the mundane; let me not forget him. I want to know that I am not a slave to the rut and routine of adulthood. But actually, life is a miracle – and as a believer, I have full permission to enjoy it.

He knows every step I take and beat of my heart, and I want to praise that. I just want to increase in my gratefulness to him.

Starting today, even right now, I can number what he’s already done for me. I can ask for eyes to see the wonderful mercies he’s given me already, and tune my heart to receive it, while still showing up to my same circles of faithfulness.

Writing Thanks

God has already given us so much. Hello, have you counted your fingers or numbered your breaths today? Have you noticed the way the sun rises through the tree tops? Did you hear what your husband said of you, and did you feel your heart flutter?

Life is beautiful. And how much do I miss when I’m looking down?

I’m challenging myself to look up and number my thanks this month. I’m going to keep a mini composition book in my bag, and pull it out when I’m on my lunch break or sitting in traffic. When I see a kindness of the Lord, one that I just want to simply say thanks for, I’m going to jot it down. I’m going to remember that he is, in fact, my lovely king – at work in all things.

You can too. Maybe you prefer using your notes app. Maybe you want to reflect on your day in you journal before bed every night. It doesn’t matter how you incorporate it, but that you do. It barely takes any planning. Just a simple raising of the hands and uttering the prayer, “Lord, help me to be thankful. Let me see what I’m prone to miss.”

And a Novel

This month is also NaNoWriMo – short for National Novel Writing Month. In these few weeks, writers from all over will commit to writing a 50,000 word manuscript. For some, it will be the start of a great work. For others of us, it will be a chance to finish what’s been started. But for all, it will be an opportunity to share the stories that need to be told.

I’m joining the journey, and am hopeful that God will give me the words I’ve been looking for. Or running from. Whichever.

Welcome, November

So that’s where I am today, on this chilly first day. I’m taking a step deeper into faithfulness, although it looks different this month. In these weeks, my faithfulness will be tested on the page. It will show up to the pen, and I’ll get the wonderful opportunity to feeling its pressing on paper and learning how to simply say, “Thank you, God.”

This is a chance to show the rut that I will not be bound by its cruel restrictions, but actually, am going to live fully aware of joy and chasing dreams. I’m going to practice believing that God loves when we enjoy his gifts to us – whether it’s a spoken or written word. And today is a great place to start.

I can’t wait to share with you what I find on the other side of the month. Until then, let me leave you with a note from Gandalf, when the dwarves despaired that he was leaving them to their journey:

“We may meet again before all is over, and then again of course we may not. That depends on your luck and on your courage and sense; and I am sending Mr. Baggins with you. I have told you before that he has more about him than you guess, and you will find that out before long. So cheer up, Bilbo and don’t look so glum. Cheer up Thorin and Company! This is your expedition after all. Think of the treasure at the end, and forget the forest and the dragon, at any rate until tomorrow morning.”