Author: accidental devotional

I live and work and love in the city of Atlanta. I am trying hard to follow God as a mother, teacher, wife, speaker and writer. Sometimes, there are moments when I get it right. And when I don't God's grace is sufficient.

Modern Parables: The Kingdom of God is like the Toys at the Pool

I am really excited about this next series. I started thinking about it at the beginning of summer and put out some feelers. The two responses I already have are so good I am sort of jealous I didn’t write them. Also, I am way open for submissions, so if you have a modern day thing that reminds you of a Spirit thing, send it my way. I would love to host it.

The kingdom of God is like the toys at the pool.

I found the pool toys in the bottom of my pool bag at the beginning of the season. It was on my list to do, to buy pool toys, but there they were, already waiting for me, I only needed to look to find them. This was not because I had been intentional last summer, or because I am well-coordinated or well-organized. I did nothing to deserve these pool toys, and yet here they were, waiting for me if I only had eyes to see. They were there, waiting for me to discover them.

I took the toys to the pool feeling as though they were a gift from God, but that didn’t even last a day. Pretty soon these toys were mine. They were mine. I spent the next two days trying to protect these things that were once gifts as something I needed to protect. I hugged them to my chest and told the girls to keep track.

Leave it to children to better understand the pool toys, they are after all like the kingdom of God. The girls handed the pool toys to anyone who wanted them. “What mom? We aren’t using them!” The pool toys were pretty soon all over the pool. How would I ever get them back?

The yelling didn’t really change the girls behavior. Nor did the stomping and threatening. It did make the other mothers at the pool give me a knowing and sympathetic look. I just had to let it go. I did, but I was annoyed about it.

And they all came back to me. They always did. When the kids were whistled out and it was time for adult swim our toys would be waiting for us by the sides of the pool, or patiently at the bottom easy for me to pick up in the silence of the waiting water. Often, our toys would come back to us with new friends attached. What good is a pool toy if you can’t play with someone else with it? A grateful mom or a girl or boy about our size. Sometimes Priscilla would make friends with older girls when the pool toys slipped into the deep end. I was afraid they would be annoyed, but having something to retrieve and being able to impress a three-year-old these are fun things to do at the pool.

A few days I did not trust the way the pool toys managed to come back to me and I hoarded them in my bag. I would not let them out of my sight, and my possession rendered them completely useless. What good is a pool toy if you will let no one play with it? Rendered useless because I believed there was one right way to play.

Sometimes we don’t come home with the exact kind and number of toys that we left with. We lose a squirter and gain a ring. And I could be mad that we lost our fish squirter, I could be annoyed that things were different from what I had originally. But that would mean forgetting that all of this was a gift in the first place. And if I am too annoyed that we have lost the fish squirter, I do not recognize the gift that the yellow ring is. We don’t need the squirters this year. My girls have taught themselves out to swim and we really could use an extra ring. But I can’t see that until I loosen the group on what I lost.

The kingdom of God is like the toys at the pool, it is a gift, but one that I must not hold onto too tightly. A kingdom of God that I do not share is completely missing the point. One that I hold too tightly is one that I am hurting. The yelling and screaming about the right way is not going to do anything. The kingdom of God will come back to me, and with friends, if only I will let it do what it is designed to do.

if you would like to participate in these modern day parables email me accidentaldevotional @ gmail dot com. They will be happening every Thursday until I run out. 

Meet Laura Leigh: A Noonday Interview

I have a christian-lady-blogger confession to make. I was really really skeptical of the Noonday collection. Even when someo fo my favorite ladies were reppin’ for Noonday I was like….I am not so sure about this. But when my friend from church invited me to a party I decided I could at least hang out with the ladies and drink some wine. What I found was a company that mostly had the answers to the questions I had been harboring and a woman who was deeply passionate about what she does. Also, the stuff is just really really cute. There is a goat leather bag that I am totally coveting. So, without further ado, meet Laura Leigh! I will let her tell you about Noonday and why it matters. You can shop from her right here!

In case you are wondering what to get me for a back to school gift.

Why is selling Noonday important to you?

My husband and I have had the joy of going on missions to several different countries: Haiti,South Africa, China, Romania. Each time I come back from the trip and wonder what can I dohere in US to show love to people like I just met, who stole my heart. You can’t see poverty likethat and not be moved to want to change it. It’s tempting to stay in my American bubble, letthose memories fade and become complacent. Noonday is my way to stay active, to rememberbrothers and sisters who are battling poverty, and come alongside them as best I can.

For me, it comes down to the Golden Rule that Jesus commanded in Matthew 7:12, “So ineverything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and theProphets.”What if it were me who couldn’t afford to feed my children and were about to leave them at anorphanage? What if it were me who was infected with HIV and ostracized by relatives? If it were my children who had no hope of receiving an education or medical care? What if I was woman in India and told that I was of little value because of my gender and physical violence from my husband was acceptable? If prostitution looked like the only way out of my circumstances?

Wouldn’t I want someone to help me? Wouldn’t I want someone to give me a job so I could provide for my family? Even better – a job that allowed me to care for my children and earn livable wages? Wouldn’t I want someone to offer me hope for a better life?

It’s what Jesus did for us. He came to dwell among us, to understand us, and to offer us hopefor more, for a better life than we could ever dream of.

So it seems bizarre that selling beautiful jewelry is a way to do that for me, but for me it’s morethan that. I don’t sell this stuff because I want to make money (although I think it makes for a better business model). It’s a joy and thrill to get to come into women’s homes and tell them how they can be connected with people around the world. How they can play a role in alleviating poverty and providing dignified jobs. How they can cherish children and empower women simply by purchasing a stunning necklace or scarf. I love that Noonday provides a long-term solution of jobs, not just a temporary handout, a Band-Aid on the gaping wound.

What is your favorite piece from the collection?

Wow. It’s like trying to choose your favorite child. My most often worn piece, especially during summer, is the Dainty Paper Beads Necklace. It goes with pretty much everything in mywardrobe, you can double or triple it, or layer it with other pieces. In my mommy life, it’s an easy go-to. Plus I got to meet Jalia and Daniel, the founders of African Style, our Noonday partnership in Uganda, this spring and was so inspired by their story and passion.

The Ethiopian artillery pieces, like the Emebet necklace and Metallic Pearls Earrings, are a pretty close second. But I’ve also found myself surprised by some of the pieces I thought were scarier and then I come to love them. Noonday has made me brave in my accessorizing…and in other areas.

How can we pray for the artisans?

This a tough question for several reasons. Our artisans are in 13 different countries, and each one has their own stories and struggles. Our women artisans in India and Afghanistan face opposition to working everyday simply because they are women. Our Nepal artisans are still recovering from the earthquake that hit there a few months ago. Poverty is such a complex issue, but it’s certainly a spiritual battle. The more educated you are about those issues, the more specifically you can pray. We have a great impact section on Noonday’s website that provides information on specific countries and artisans. Our Flourish blog has even more information, here and here

From the artisans in Nepal

If there is one thing I’ve learned from working with Noonday is that we are more similar than different. They want similar things for their lives and families as you want for yours. So the things you pray for yourself, you can pray for our artisans.

The prayer request I hear conveyed often from our artisans is “pray for more work.” They want more business! They want more opportunities for their community, for their neighbors and friends. So you can pray for their physical needs, that God would provide for their needs. But also that God would give them hope and joy in their circumstances. That peace and love would reign in their workplaces. That they would be protected from exploitation and injustice.

Another way I pray is for American hearts to be opened to how their purchases matter. How they can purchase intentionally and convey life with their consumerism. Cheap fashion often comes at the expense of the quality of life at the end of the product chain, so that Americans, who have a disproportionate amount of the world’s wealth, would be convicted to shop more ethically. We all have a role in this!

What is your favorite story from Noonday?

Again, it’s like trying to choose your favorite child! Jalia and Daniel, who I mentioned earlier, are one of my favorites. I had the joy of meeting them a few months ago, while they were in the States, and hearing their story. Both are college-educated, had degrees in art, and had a desire to serve as missionaries. But at the point they found Noonday, they were living in other people’s houses and barely had enough money for food. Both of them shared about the experience of poverty, how it is steals your hope and your dreams.

They began with an order for 50 necklaces, and now they produce more than 140,000 pieces of jewelry. They went from just the two of them to now employing more than 300 people in a country with an unemployment rate of 86%. They provide a daily meal, uniform and Bible study for their workers. Personally, they now own a car and a home. Local law enforcement visited their business to let them know that they attributed a decreased crime rate with the success of African Style and the jobs it was creating in the area.

Their business recently opened a daycare for children of workers because they found that the majority of women working for them were single mothers. Unable to afford child care, many of these mothers were leaving their young children unattended during the day or with incapable family members. Now their children have a safe, nurturing environment in the day time! I also enjoyed hearing about how Jalia and Daniel partnered with Noonday to grow their business. They were artists making beautiful pieces, but they didn’t know all the ins-and-outs of running a business. Noonday taught them how to price their jewelry, factoring in overhead costs, as well as how to use Excel for their business. Noonday also helps provide scholarships for several of the workers’ children.

What are your working mom challenges this summer?

It’s pretty funny because my children are having an extravagant amount of Minecraft time while I write this article. I think it’s the same as most moms – how do I balance work needs with my children’s needs? My boys are older this summer (5 and almost 8), so they can entertain themselves more easily, but I also want to balance that with intentional time with them. Thething I love about working with Noonday is that I do have flexibility. I can work while my children are sleeping or at school. My trunk shows are normally at night or on a weekend when my husband can watch the kids. My big challenge lies ahead: we are expecting a third child at the end of September! That will be a lot harder to find balance in that stage of life. I’m planning my first few trunk shows post-partum with people who I know won’t mind passing around a

newborn! Overall, I think it’s a positive thing for my children. They know what motivates me in thisbusiness, and it’s made them more aware of worldwide poverty and the privileges they experience.

If you want to just take a looksy, you should totally just check it out!

Scarcity of Time: Enough is Enough

It is 7:09 on a #wholemama Monday and still I have not blogged about scarcity. I suppose I could blame it on all the other things, the book project I am considering, the secrect project I am woring on, the in person writers group I started, the blog series I am starting, the compost bin I started or the casseroles I am going to attempt to make before going back to school, but that isn’t what this is about, not really. This is really about the thing that it is the absolute hardest for me to believe there is an abundance of. This is about time. My time, and whether or not there will ever be enough.

I am in my last week of summer vacation. We start school early in the south, but we are out by the end of May. If I am being totally honest as a mother, I am ready for my oldest to go back to school. She is ready too. As a teacher I am going to need another month or so to finish all the things I spent all year saying I would do this summer. It seems like summer vacation always comes up short.

Like weekends. How are weekends burned through as quickly as that? Two work days, it seems to me, are at least twice as long as a weekend. It seems to me there is a never ending list of things that need to be done and a very very short amount of time to do them. How is that possible? I get freaked out when I think about time, it is probably the most precious resource at our house. With me writing a book proposal and my husband beginning his dissertation, how is everyone going to get writing time is a near constant conversation we have.

To top it all off I am sick. After waking up and working on art, running a secret project errand and taking the girls to the pool I am lying in bed unable to do anything more. I think it is a sinus infection. I am unhappy. I feel like something has been stolen from me, part of my last precious week.

The sermon was on sabbath this week, about why we needed it and how to do it well. The sabbath is almost always the first thing I cut when I am feeling short on time. But really that is probably when I need to do it. At the end of the sermon the metaphor we use, about spending time and time is money came up. My husband raised his eyebrows at me.

My man is into metaphors, as a rhetorician he talks about how our language helps construct our reality and how we have to be careful about the boxes we draw ourselves into with our metaphors. I wasn’t sure about all of it until we stopped thinking about arguments as war and started thinking about them as a dance. We don’t have losers anymore in conflict in our marriage, we instead make sure no one is stepping on anyone elses toes. Metaphors, they matter.

And time is not something I own. I don’t get to hoard it, save it, spend it. It just is. It just goes, and there is a time for everything. Maybe not as much as I want all the time, and certainly not at the times I want all the time (like getting up two hours before everyone else to write totally sucks. I make the dog get up with me.) But I am learning to trust an abundant God when I am told there is a time for it all. I am learning about radical enough as it comes to my time. Even summer vacation.

I am learning that abundance has nothing to do with me and what I can and cannot control. I am learning to lean into enough time. Even when that enough is running out.

Love Bombs are back to their regularly scheduled program! (Sorry I was a little late on the email last week.)So drop me a comment that you are in and I will email you her twitter handle so we can all tell her  on Friday how great she is!

I am writing again for the Mudroom. I really love that space, and if you are thinking about contributing somewhere I can’t reccomend it highly enough. The theme we are accepting for is authenticity and coming out of hiding.

My nails were wet and half finished when I started ugly crying for seemingly no reason. The poor man who was painting them simply asked me if there was anything he could do. There wasn’t really. This wasn’t about the manicure. It was just that his chair was the first place I had sat down long enough for my feelings to catch up with me.

I had ended up in this poor man’s chair because I had a weird two hours to myself. I live too far from the school I work at to go home between the last final and the graduation ceremony. By the time I got my grade book done it was closer to dinner then lunch, so I decided to wait on the eating and instead get my nails done.

I was getting things squared away with my sister as far as babysitting was concerned. While I was in the chair I was not still. I was clumsily answering my phone until the details and my nails were squared away and all there was for me to do was sit.

You can read the rest here

The Kingdom of God is not a 1700 square foot house.

The kingdom of God is not my 1700 square foot house. It just isn’t. And it isn’t Esther’s Yurt or the two bedroom apartment I moved into when I got to Atlanta. The kingdom of God does  not have walls, because the kingdom of God is not limited to a certain amount of space.

It is my sixth week writing about scarcity and I am not even close to running out of things to say or people to love bomb. (In fact rumor has it the love bombing is CATCHING! I don’t have to lead it y’all, you can totally love bomb people anytime anyway and it is always, ALWAYS this much fun.) I think I could talk about scarcity forever because I need to shout down the lies. Scarcity is in the air we breathe and it is really important that I keep on checking my air filter or that crappy stuff gets into my brain.

This summer I have spent a lot of time thinking about space. Over and over again I have heard people talking about space. Space at theĝrdð table, space at the pulpit, room for other people. Sometimes loudly and sometimes quietly I head the people who were already inhabiting these spaces, the table, the pulpit, the room, wonder if the space for others would come at the cost of the space they had. How do we make space for others without losing the space of our own?

Sometimes the person doing the questioning was me, loudly in my own heart. If people are making space for other people, does that mean I get pushed out? Sometimes making room for others does mean you give up something you had. Sometimes it means changing roles and transitioning places. But it  almost always means gaining something way, way better.

Some of my stuff got displaced at the beginning of the summer. A friend needed a space to stay for a couple of months so we moved him into our guest room. If I am honest it is inconvenient sometimes. The junk that I kept in there and only needed occasionally I had to move, or I no longer have access to whenever I randomly decide I want it. I literally have one less room in my house that is mine right now. But sometimes him and his girlfriend make dinner and drinks for us, or entertain the girls. We have become much closer because we all hang out together a lot more. I have less physical space, but I have a lot more room to be Abby in our relationship. This is the way abundance works, whatever you have given up is replaced with something far more valuable.

As I am writing this my girls are arguing about what kind of party they are going to have, right now with just the two of them. Juliet wants a pajama party, but Priscilla wants a princess party. I suggested they throw a princess pajama party. Princesses wear pajamas too and Lord knows we have enough princess pajamas in this house to host about six more girls. Sometimes making room for other people means you hate to give up absolutely no room for yourself. It just means everyone gets what everyone wants.

Scarcity tells us that letting other people in means we have to move and crouch and cut off bits of ourself, that there is only so much space and other people are going to crowd you out. Y’all the kingdom of God is NOT like the back seat of my sisters car when I was a freshmen in highschool. We do not all have to heap in and barely breathe for there to be room for us all to come. The kingdom of God is like the tents in Harry Potter. As much space as we need on the inside, regardless of what the outside of the tent look like. There is so much room, an abundance of room, and we are all invited.

Love Bombs are back to their regularly scheduled program! This week we are bombing someone who makes a lot of room. (I know so many people like that!) So drop me a comment that you are in and I will email you her twitter handle so we can all tell her on Friday how great she is!

Saying the Says: Don’t Let Scarcity Steal Your Encouragement

I didn’t know what to say. I just didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t. How do you tell someone who has had a profound impact on your thinking, on your theology, on the way you walk around this earth, just what exactly they mean to you? How do you say this to them when this is the first time you have met them in person?

I think we have all been there, we are meeting someone in person, we are finally launching out of a place and we want to tell the people who have shaped us before we go. Just because we have grown out of yearbooks doesn’t mean we don’t still have need to mark things down, to let people know.

Just watching you navigate the world make me braver and stronger

I see the way you quietly love people, that is important and does not go unnoticed.

The day you brought me dinner I was at the end of my rope, you made it possible for me to hang on.

I think you are beautiful, inside and out. 

Thank you. Truly and deeply, thank you.

These are things we do not say. It isn’t that we don’t want to, it is just that the things seem to get stuck in our throats, they get all the way almost out, but before our tongues can form them, before the breath makes them alive we swallow hard.

The timing is wrong.

They will think I am stupid.

I don’t matter enough.

I am busy, they are busy.

I might cry and embarrass both of us.

So we swallow instead of say and move along without anyone knowing. We don’t want to say the wrong says at the wrong time in the wrong way. We don’t want to be weird, so we don’t say anything at all.

Scarcity. We are afraid that there is only one right way to tell someone just how awesome they are, how much they mean to us. We are afraid there is only one chance to say the says, and we don’t want to mess it up.

This may be the dumbest scarcity lie I have ever believed. Y’all, when was the last time you gave someone a compliment, encouraged them and they were like “dude, STOP IT!” Rarely is ever. That isn’t actually a thing. There isn’t just an abundance of space to encourage people, there are an abundance of says to say. But scarcity would like us to shut our face.

BUT I WOULD LIKE SCARCITY TO SHUT HER FACE!!!!

And it that spirit I am going first. Esther Emery is at my house today. Like not her words on my blog, but her body is in my house. We agreed when we became writing partners that the first person to get a book deal would visit the other. Esther’s words will be in your hands in April, and we have been hanging out for almost a week.

And I haven’t toasted to her. With all the meals we have shared I have not raised my glass and said, “Here’s to you, here’s to your influence on my life, here’s to keeping crazy promises and here’s to your beautiful beautiful words.” But I will. Tonight. Over veggie pasta, with cheap champagne in mason jars I will say the says that need said. Even if she would understand,  and not even mind if I didn’t. I mind.

Say the says.

This week we are love bombing just a little bit differently. Choose someone in your life that you need to say the says to, and then say them. Don’t make this too complicated. all too often scarcity tells me a facebook comment isn’t good enough, that I should send a hand written letter, but my life doesn’t allow for that. #wholemama is about getting it in where you can fit it in. Think Text message or Facebook. Then, link you saying the says in the comments and we can all go encourage each other in that act! I love LOVEBOMBING SO MUCH! This has been a highlight in an incredible and beautiful summer. Thank you.

There’s no such thing as too many feelings

I am right now, writing this to you from a hotel room outside of Roanoke in my bra and pants. my hands are covered in pepermint oil and I accidentally touched my eyes. All orifices are minty fresh and my eyes are watering. This is Priscillas fault. My eyes were watering this morniing. That too was Priscilla’s fault.

I am currently in my predicament because my dear child had an accident of the #2 variety when she fell asleep. The second we got to the hotel she woke up and admitted it. I cleaned her up the best I could, but her pajamas were beyond help. I donated my t-shirt to the cause and she is currently crawling into bed in her mom’s t-shirt while we covered the residual poo smell with the peppermint oil I found floating in the bottom of my purse. The making my eyes minty fresh is totally on me.

This was the easier mess to clean up today. The other one I kind of had to let lie. You see, my three year old inherited her big feelings from me, and today we did something that always makes all my big feelings show up in full force. We left The Lake. Through some foresight, financial luck and a ridiculous amount of generosity my grandparents bought a couple of lake cabins on a completely private lake in the Adirondacks. I grew up going to that lake every winter and summer, and in typical Grandpa fashion, he put them in a trust so that we could continue to enjoy this generous gift even after he was gone.

There is only one problem: leaving always makes me cry. Apparently it make Priscilla cry too.

I love the lake. I know I am so lucky to spend over an entire week there every summer. I am even luckier that so much of my family coordinates so we can all hang out together. I am lucky that we all like each other at the end of that week. It feels silly to be sad that I have to leave it all, but there I am crying with my youngest as she fights through the tears to tell her Gram she loves her, and goodbye. It feels selfish to grieve no more time in the “wooden house” when people are grieving actual real problems in the world.

Early in the week my kids and nieces were sitting in the motor boat waiting for their turrn to go tubing when they all began seeing “A hard knock life” from the musical Annie. The incongruency of it all was just too much. My husband began making up a parody.

“So unfair I just might flip! Only got one Icecream trip! No one cares about your fits, when you’re a Lake Trust kid. It’s a hard knock life.”

We were having the very first of first world problems. While I think we need to keep it all in perspective, but I have also had to learn to give myself permission to feel whatever it is I am feeling. And right now I am deeply sad that my time at the lake is over. And I am proud that my three year old could name her feelings so well, and I am so so so glad that I was blessed with the week I had. (I am also glad that I got an awesome tan and can still wakeboard.)

The world (and Twitter) has tried to tell me that there is only so much caring to be done. If I am sad that we have to leave the lake, I can’t lament for my brothers and sisters dying around the world. If I express frustration that my three year old pooped I can’t also be frustrated that the public education system is so freaking unfair. If I am thrilled that my kid started kneeboarding before kindergarten I cannot be thrilled that South Carolina voted to take down the confederate flag. Now, do I have different levels and expressions of all of those feels, of course. BUT they can all co-exist just fine, if I let them.

If I let them.

In fact, the more I allow my feelings to just be, when I dedicate myself to feeling them, the wholer and stronger I can feel the giref and anger, the joy and elation that may just lead to action that will change the world. Even just a tiny bit. Just becaue my feelings only come in extra-large doesn’t mean that they crowd out any other feelings that may be more important. There is no such thing as a scarcity of emotions. Feeling all your feelings only leaves more room for other feelings, for other people’s feelings. There is enough room for all the feels. I promise. In fact, there is a need for them.

This week’s love bomb theme is APPRECIATION. I am enoucarging you to feel the feels AND say the says.

The Short: Leave a comment here, I will email you the persons contact, say something nice.

The Long: So WHAT is a LOVE BOMB and how will I COORDINATE it? A love bomb is when we all come together to lavish a deserving someone with Tweets, Facebook likes, Blog comments, emails, and general social media shout outs. Imagine waking up to the amount of Birthday notifications only they are nice things about you for seemingly no reason. It would make you feel pretty good, huh? Yeah!

And if you want to email me people to be bombed I would love that! I have  four more slots to fill.