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Deliberate Dolls

What a children’s book and our faith have in common

One evening I was reading to my six-year-old before bedtime. We were reading The Doll People by Ann M Martin & Laura Godwin. This children’s book tells a story of a doll Annabel and her family. They live in a dollhouse but can walk and talk. They only move about when their human owners are asleep or not home.

In the first book of the series, Martin & Godwin informs us how the dolls are created and made “real.” The dolls decide if they want to be a regular doll (giving up human abilities) or a doll person (can walk and talk). If they choose a doll person, they must take an oath.

Annabel is informed right before taking her oath that being a doll person is harder, it comes with great responsibility. It also comes with fun and adventure.

This reminds me of our faith journey. The Christian life is not easy. Although we don’t take an actual oath, we do commit our lives to Christ. We promise to live for Him instead of ourselves. This is no easy task.

In the book, if humans catch the dolls moving, they are thrust into doll state where they can’t move or talk for 24 hours. There are also rumors of a permanent doll state for serious offenses.

As Christians, when we mess up, thankfully we aren’t thrust into a paralyzed state like Annabel. Instead, we repent of our sins to our loving Father in Heaven. He doesn’t reprehend us, but rather washes our sins away. He doesn’t chastise us and shake His finger in our face. He accepts our burdens and mess. He cleans us off, and helps us get back up again. What an incredible Father we have!

Just as Annabel forgets, or chooses to ignore her oath on occasion, we sometimes forget who we are living for. Or we choose to go our own way knowing it’s not God’s plan.

Being a Christian comes with responsibility and risk. It also comes with a great reward.

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Keenly Knocking

Little girl shown in picture not actually Charlotte

My joy-filled six-year-old daughter Charlotte awoke one Saturday morning excited about her first horse lesson. She walked down the hall and knocked on Madelyn’s door (her older sister) asking what she should wear to her lesson. 

Charlotte’s enthusiasm was not matched by her older sister who did not appreciate being woken up at 6:00 am on a Saturday. Madelyn rolled over and tried unsuccessfully to return to sleep.

This reminds me of our faith journey. Jesus will come and knock at your door. He won’t force His way in, although He could.

He comes offering a better way, help, and peace. Most of us roll over and ignore Him thinking we’ve got this on our own, we don’t need help.

For those of us who rise, open the door, and invite Him in…. oh, the wonders that await you. You can ask for wisdom or knowledge or anything your heart desires. (Psalm 37:4)

If you open that door, put your seatbelt on because you are about to embark on an unbelievable journey. You are not guaranteed an easy path, but He promises never to leave you alone. (“God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9)

God will always be there to offer assistance, wisdom, discernment, courage, comfort, and more. Even when you turn your back on Him, He’s still there, patiently waiting.

My daughter’s enthusiasm for her horse lesson does not compare to God’s enthusiasm for you. He desires you to know Him. He has blessings to pour upon you, peace to give you, and an unforgettable ride to take you on.

Don’t roll over anymore at His knocking. Get up and open the door!

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Rest for the Weary

Last year I had a medical procedure done to treat the varicose veins in my legs. Genetics and three pregnancies had taken their toll.

I was on day two of my four-day treatment. The physician assistant Katherine told me to lay back on the bed, I agreeably listened, delighted to lay still for the next hour.

She chuckled as she noticed my enthusiasm at the idea of laying down. Katherine told me they have noticed how moms come into the office and are so elated to lay down and put their feet up. The fact they are getting poked and prodded with a needle is inconsequential.

I was paying for someone to poke my legs with needles and strip out the dead veins (gross, I know). Yet I was thankful to have a reason to rest. You would think I was at the spa.

This speaks to our weary state. We tend to go, go, go not paying attention to our internal barometers. Some of us are physically tired, others are emotionally drained, the rest might be spiritually empty. Or if we are really lucky, we feel fatigued in all those areas.

If you are like me, you put undue pressure on yourself. You wear yourself out from self-inflicted high expectations.

Jesus says “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28)

Do you feel burdened and tired? Thankfully God is there to receive the heavyweights we were never meant to carry. Turn them over to Him, and He will provide rest and freedom.

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Diving In

I recently took my kids for swim lessons. With summer approaching and swim team on the cusp, I figured it was the perfect time to refine their skills. It had been a while since they had been in the pool.

I looked up to see one of my kids diving in. The first dive of the season is always a little awkward. By the end of the season, she is a diving fool. The first dive is full of reluctance. It’s more like a jump with her head tucked and arms arched forward. She lands vertical, feet hitting the water first.

You can see by her form she’s intending to dive and after a few more practices, she enters the pool headfirst and exudes more confidence. The jumping dive is quickly replaced by a real dive.

This reminds me of our faith journey. When we ask Jesus into our lives and start reading our Bible, we nod our head at what it says. We agree with the words. We understand what to do, but when it comes to diving in, we are kinda like my daughter diving for the first time that season. We are awkward and not sure how.

We have our heads tucked and arms out, but we can’t plunge in headfirst. We do the same thing my daughter does, some kind of dive/jump. Or we don’t get in at all and just stand there reluctantly on the sideline wanting to get in, knowing we need to, but not able to take the plunge.

One dive at a time we get more comfortable. As we continue to seek God through prayer and Scripture, He continues to fill us with His plan, His courage, His will. Our first jumps are uncomfortable, but we do them anyway.

As we act in obedience, we see His presence with us. The dives become easier. We don’t stand on the sideline anymore; we dive in knowing He will take care of the rest.

The first time I sent out my first blog (in obedience to Him). I closed my eyes and cringed as I hit the publish button. It seemed so official. I hope I wouldn’t get rejected.

Now I hit submit, knowing if I mess up, I can go back and edit. If people don’t like what I wrote, they can delete it.

It’s not about me, it’s about Him. The more I practice obedience, the easier it becomes and the more I can be a vessel used by Him in this world.

Oh, our loving Father is so amazing.

Don’t stand on the sideline anymore. Take the dive! God won’t push you in, but He will show you the way once you take the plunge.

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Quizzical Questions

My six-year-old daughter is full of curiosity. My favorite question she asks she has been repeating since she learned how to talk.

At various points during the day, she will ask me, “Can I tell you something?”

I never know what will follow this question. She could spit out something totally random, or ask me questions about an activity we have coming up. It could be something profound on her heart. Or it could be a funny story about an incident in her kindergarten class. The topic always varies and so does the seriousness. As Forest Gump would say, “it’s like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.”

Although her thoughts are never the same, my response remains consistent. When she asks this question, I respond with one word… always. I always want her to come to me and feel comfortable discussing any topic. No matter how absurd, profound, or random her questions are, I want to hear whatever is on her heart.

This reminds me of our communication with God. He is always available, always interested, and always ready to listen to us. He never thinks our thoughts, desires, or concerns are ridiculous. He doesn’t want us to hide our joys, feelings, and worries from Him. He welcomes our voice, as often as we will share it.

Just like we embrace our children’s thoughts, God welcomes ours.

I communicate with my children to maintain a healthy connection. That same philosophy applies to our Heavenly Father. The more we commune with Him throughout the day, the more we can feel and recognize His presence. The more we share with Him, the lighter our burdens become.

Can we all go to God with the questions like my daughter asks me and say, “God, can I tell you something?”

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Finding the Fun

We recently went away on a family vacation to celebrate my father-in-law’s 70th birthday. The weather was cool yet sunny and we spent a good deal of time outdoors. Before our trip ended, my daughter wanted to check out a hay maze.

As we reached the maze, instead of walking through the hay, she climbed atop of the bales. She assured me she had seen others doing this earlier that day and encouraged me to join her.

I hesitantly found my way on top of the hay bales and started walking around the perimeter getting my bearings and footing. The rest of the family soon joined us, and we all had a blast walking, running, or jumping between the hay.

I’m not sure why this spontaneous activity was so enjoyable. Maybe it was because we followed the prompting of a child to find the fun. Maybe it was because it put us out of our comfort zone.

The more time we spent atop the hay, the greater confidence we gained. My youngest daughter started off timid and scared. By the end of the activity, she was jumping, falling off, and cracking up at herself as she got back up. It was encouraging to watch her fear and anxiety be replaced with conviction and delight.

This reminds me of our faith journey. We start off slow with much trepidation. Can we actually believe there is an unseen powerful God in heaven? Does He really love us the way the Bible proclaims?

We take one step at a time believing this knowledge, unsure at times where we will land when He asks us to jump. We learn to do it anyway. When we fall, He helps us get back up.

Sometimes we find ourselves running gracefully along the journey He has set out for us. Other times we stand in between two options not sure which route to go. Either way, He is with us and for us cheering us on, delighting in our attempts to glorify Him.

We could have sat and watched from the perimeter as our kids enjoyed the maze, but we would have missed out on an opportunity for adventure.

Are you standing on the perimeter? If so, jump in and see what God has planned for you.

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Missed Moments

I wish I always hit a home run when it comes to parenting, but the reality is, I don’t. If I’m lucky, I make contact with the ball. My dad was a baseball player so pardon the references. We spent a large portion of my childhood at the little league field cheering on my brother, visiting the snack bar, or attending a Philadelphia Phillies game where I knew most of the players’ names.

One evening, my daughter was having a rough time. With three girls in the house, we have many moments where emotions get the best of us. I gave her permission to be excused from the dinner table, asked her to take a shower, and get ready for bed. She was tired and needed some space to gather herself.

I tend to be a very focused person. This proves effective when getting tasks accomplished but can prevent me from being present in the moment. I get so focused on completing the task, I shut out and ignore everything else around me, even my family.

At that particular moment, I was lasered-focused on getting the kids to bed. I headed to the other room and saw my daughter, who was supposed to be showering, sitting at the bottom of the stairs. Instead of asking her what she was doing, I got frustrated and reprimanded her for not listening.

She tried to explain she had stopped to look at her baby book, which happened to be sitting at the bottom of the stairs. She was engrossed in the note I had written to her during pregnancy. I wrote one for each daughter. The letter highlighted the good and challenging times of their pregnancy, but also the special moments like when I felt them kick, or what was unique during the ultra-sound.

In my selfish desire to have the kids in bed, I overreacted and missed a tender moment God had teed up for me to connect with my daughter and remind her how special she is.

This reminds me of our faith journey. God loves us even when we strike out. Yes, I blew that moment, but I gained an opportunity to ask for forgiveness and share a loving embrace.

Even when we blow the perfect pitches He throws our way, He’s not giving up on us and He will give us another chance.

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Water for the withering

These impatiens have been sitting in front of my home for the entire summer and fall. Their longevity might have something to do with an overdose in plant food. I may have neglected to read the instructions and instead of diluting the powder, I sprinkled it directly onto the plant. given Regardless, I love how the flowers welcome me home.

The intensity of the sun, combined with my occasional lack of watering causes the flowers to wilt. Their delicate little petals droop and appear lifeless. They seem damaged beyond repair, however; when I douse them with water, they magically rebound back to life. They stand strong and healthy as if their struggle to survive never happened. It’s actually quite amazing.

This reminds me of our faith journey. Some mornings I wake up looking a lot like that plant. I am unmotivated, tired, and lifeless. I drag my sagging petals to the couch with my journal, morning devotional, Bible, and a chai tea.

During this time, He nourishes my soul. After my much needed time with the Lord, I leave my quiet time more awake, renewed, and reminded of His love. His living water helps me stand a little taller.

In order for the impatiens to share their beauty with others, I have to continue to provide the necessary water.

In order for us to love others in a healthy way, we need to be filled with His truth over and over again.

As each day closes, I am like that flower scorched by the sun. The great news is we get to return to God to be strengthened. His mercies are new every day. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

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Computer Cleanup

As summer ended, my three girls headed off to school after a very long summer. Let’s call the summer of 2020 sprummer; the never-ending spring that merged into summer. I sat down one morning to begin the herculean effort of organizing my life. After six months of girls talking non-stop throughout my day, my house was silent. The non-stop chatter and fighting had made it almost impossible to complete a thought or task.

I sat excitedly in front of my computer; my to-do list at my side. I was ready to tackle as many items as humanly possible. As I flipped from website to website sending emails, ordering supplies for kids, or filling out activity registration forms, my computer couldn’t keep up. Its lazy pace was making me frustrated and stunting my productivity.

I decided maybe my computer needed to reboot, so I shut it down. When I powered the computer back up again, its speed was significantly improved. Whatever was causing the sluggishness had been cleared up.

This reminds me of our faith journey. Every morning is like a reboot.

Lamentations 3:22 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

God’s mercies are new EVERY morning! Not some mornings, every morning. What fantastic news!

We can experience a reboot every day. What does this look like? It means taking our good and bad from yesterday and giving it to God.

“You have been set free from sin.” (Romans 6:22). He gives us a new day, a second chance, and the ability to walk in all the ways He commands us with freedom. Because of His sacrifice, our sins are forgiven.

This glorious news means we don’t have to walk around carrying the burdens from yesterday.

Have you had a reboot lately?

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Silence for the Steady

I am an introvert. I discovered this knowledge just a few years ago. It was extremely insightful in understanding why I get overwhelmed during the day while caring for my kids. One-third of our society are introverts. Susan Cain shares these details in her book called Quiet, the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Introverts get recharged in silence and in our own thoughts.

Females tend to speak approximately 20,000 words a day and I have three precious girls (you do the math – that’s a lot of words being spoken). I relish the laughter, the conversations, and even the rollercoaster of emotions, but the last six months has proven extremely challenging.

I used to feel guilty and believe I should be able to force myself to handle the constant noise. However, when I ignore who I am, I end up exhausted, overwhelmed, and in a bad mood. I recommend Cain’s book even for extroverts because most likely you are married to an introvert, or have introverted kids. The awareness can guide you in making wise decisions.

For example, with my girls, I have two extroverts and one introvert. I make sure to encourage my introverted daughter to get some alone time during the day. If not, she gets overwhelmed and lashes out at her sisters. 

In the past few years, I learned techniques to prevent myself from becoming depleted. This spring and summer have proven especially difficult as most things were canceled. After Months and months of continuous noise, I found myself unable to concentrate and feeling anxious.

This past weekend I found a quiet space outside (thank you God for cooler weather). I read, wrote in my journal, and had time in reflection. I felt reinvigorated. The alone time did wonders towards restoring my overall mindset.

Sometimes we push ourselves to the limits thinking we can will ourselves to be someone we are not. Instead, God gently reminds us who we are. He made us this way and He loves who we are. He gently reminded me this weekend that I need to carve out more space for quiet so I can hear myself think and hear Him.

When was the last time you found quiet in your life?