inner child · Spirituality

Guest blog on The Welcome Table!

I am so excited to be featured as a guest blogger on The Welcome Table!

May be an image of 1 person, child, tree, outdoors and text that says 'Embrace your inner child! WT THE WELCOME TABLE'

I love this site, which was started by the Bunce sisters, a group of four young women who have the goal of fostering the type of conversations they experienced around the table growing up. If you sign up for their weekly blog, you will receive an email that is perfect for family devotions, reading on your own, or sharing with your children. Questions for young and old are included.

From their website:

We, at The Welcome Table, believe that real conversations and community happen in the spaces where the belovedness and the voices of all are welcomed and valued. For us, this is rooted in the example of Jesus who often used food and table to bring people from all walks of life into community together. Our objective is to help facilitate meaningful conversations that lead us to re-examine our own beliefs through a deeper understanding of the experiences and stories of those around us. This can only happen when people like you bring yourself, your voice, and your heart to the table.

May be an image of person, child and text that says 'WI Embracing our inner child opens us to seeing the world in new and wonderful ways. -Millicent Flake'

Click here for The Welcome Table edition of Embracing Your Inner Child.

As always, thank you for reading and following Under the Magnolia Tree!

If you would like to receive an email each time I post, you can sign up here.

#trust · shelter dogs · Spirituality

Trust

Do you have trouble with trust?

I have been thinking about trust since Keith and I babysat our new granddog Maisy over the holidays. Maisy is a sweet lab mix puppy who lived the first six months of her life in a dog shelter. Even though she was well-treated at the shelter, she had limited experience with much outside the walls of the building.

Maisy hit the jackpot when she was adopted by Adam and Jess a few months ago, and they have been extremely patient with her as she has adjusted to her forever family. Watching her come out of her shell has been fun. She has discovered grass, bushes, and sticks, and learned the comforts of sleeping on the couch and snuggling with her new people. She loves to go for walks, runs in circles around the trees in their backyard (which they call doing zoomies) and likes to visit the chickens at the community garden in Decatur.

I enjoyed introducing her to life in the country during her time with us. She was very curious about the big dogs we call cows and loved playing in the leaves and eating pinecones. She took naps on the couch next to Keith.

Maisy playing on the pinestraw bales.

But Maisy still struggled with trusting us completely. One of her phobias is going through doors.

Each night during her stay, we went through a ritual to get her into the bedroom where she and I were sleeping. I cajoled her in my sweetest voice and enticed her with treats, but she refused to come in.  

She stood outside the door and looked in, and I could see the hesitancy on her face. She wanted to walk through the door, but something scared her. When I tried to take her by the collar, she ran from me. I finally had to corner her and gently put her leash around her neck. Then she dutifully followed me into the bedroom and happily jumped on the bed and went to sleep.

Even at her own house, she is still hesitant about going through the back door to the yard, a place she loves. Something about doors trips a bad memory for her.

I don’t know what Maisy experienced in her young life that has caused this fear, but I can relate. I’ve had my own issues with trust, especially when it comes to God.

For most of my life, trusting God seemed simple. I grew up in the church and was taught that if I loved Jesus and was a good girl, I would have a happy life. Then when I was seventeen, my sister Anne died of cancer and my world fell apart. For years I floundered, not sure what was real anymore. How could I trust a God that would let this happen?

Maybe you have been in the same place. Maybe God has let you down in a very tragic and hurtful way. Finding out that bad things do happen to good people is a hard lesson, but one that we all face at some point in our lives.

The years that I wandered away from God were full of emptiness and confusion. I came to a crossroad in my early twenties when I realized I had to either make the decision to trust that God was with me and wanted what was best for me or accept that it was all bunk. I made the decision to keep searching after God.

I wish I could say that after I made that decision everything in my life was rosy, but that would be a lie. I’ve continued to have ups and downs and times when I have railed at God at anger. But I’ve never again said God, I’m done with you!

I still have not come up with a good answer as to why God allows suffering. But I’ve learned two things about trust:  it is a decision, and it takes time.

Over the years I’ve found that I am more content and peaceful if I’m trusting God to guide me and comfort me during times of sadness and uncertainty. It’s as simple and as complicated as that.

Trust is like taking a step into the darkness and believing that we will not fall into a chasm— “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1). But like Maisy walking through the bedroom door, we are not sure if trusting God is safe.

What if we trust and God lets us down again?  

This is where the second lesson I learned comes in — trust takes time. Every day I see God working in big and little ways in my life. The more I submit all my ways to him, the more he directs my path. I can’t explain how it works, but I know that it does.

Richard Rohr, in his book Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life sums it up this way:

“It is not that suffering or failure might happen, or that it will only happen to you if you are bad (which is what religious people often think), or that it will happen to the unfortunate, or to a few in other places, or that you can somehow by cleverness or righteousness avoid it. No, it will happen, and to you! Losing, failing, falling, sin, and the suffering that comes from those experiences—all of this is a necessary and even good part of the human journey.”

            Where are you in your trust journey? I pray that, like Maisy, you are learning that good things can be trusted, no matter what may have come before.

Christmas · inner child · Spirituality

How is your inner child?

I settled myself on on my mat as the yoga class began at our local arts center. Laura, the cute young instructor, began leading us in some easy stretches and encouraged us to center our spirits. “If you are having trouble getting your mind to quiet down,” she said, “put your inner child over to the side and give her something to do.”

This idea immediately grabbed my imagination. I frequently struggle to get my ‘monkey brain’ to focus. Thoughts tend to randomly pop into my head, often causing me to get mixed up mid-sentence. It doesn’t take much to distract me — just ask my family.

So as I stretched my tight muscles on that cold morning, I could feel my six-year-old self pulling at me for attention. She was wearing a wrinkled shirt with a Peter Pan collar, a short skirt and knee socks that were falling down around her ankles. She was bouncing up and down and definitely needed something to occupy her.

I gave her a coloring book and a new box of Crayola crayons and sent her over to the side of the room. She scrunched down on the floor and was soon happily coloring away. I let out a sigh, knowing she was being taken care of, and turned my mind back to the yoga class.

Do you ever need to put your inner child over to the side in order to concentrate? Author and speaker Bob Goff said on a recent podcast that when he needs to sit down to write, he pulls up the movie Shrek on his computer and minimizes it to the corner of his screen. Then his inner child watches the movie, and he can focus on his manuscript.

For the same reason, I usually pull up music while I’m writing. Lately, my inner child has been listening to Christmas music while I’m at the keyboard. Sometimes she will interrupt me when one of our favorites comes on, but I can usually pacify her with a few minutes of attention and get back to work.

But I don’t want to always push her to the side. I love the familiar story in Mark 10 of Jesus telling the disciples to let the children come to him. In the verses right before this story, some Pharisees had come to try to trick Jesus up by asking his opinion on divorce and adultery. Don’t you know he got tired of people constantly trying to catch him contradicting the very Scriptures he came to fulfill?

I imagine Jesus, tired and frustrated, finally sitting down, when the children come barreling in to jump in his lap. His mood instantly lightens. The ever-vigilant disciples try to run the children off, but Jesus shows a rare temper and tells them to let the children come to him. Then we are told that he “hugged the children and blessed them.” (Mark 10:16)

Does your inner child need a hug occasionally? I know mine does. Sometimes she gets overly tired, and her emotions get touchy. She feels scared, sad, and mad. I’m learning that there are times when I need to take a break and love on her a little.

Other times, she needs to come out and play, especially at this time of year. She oohs and ahs over the pretty colored lights on the Christmas tree, binges on coconut pie and laughs at all the one-liners from Christmas Vacation (many which are not appropriate for a six-year-old however). I find my deep-down joy coming from her.

As we come up to the last frantic days before Christmas, I hope that you take some time with your inner child to sing ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ at the top of your lungs, shake the packages under the tree, and play with your nativity set.  And if she gets cranky, I hope you will wrap your arms around her, make some hot chocolate, and settle down to watch It’s a Wonderful Life.

Christmas · Spirituality

Check out my devotional in Refresh Magazine!

I’m published in Refresh Magazine!

I have a devotional in the December edition of Refresh Magazine, an online Christian publication from Lighthouse Christian Publishing. There are 19 articles – one for each day of December before Christmas Day!

I’m on page 43!

Here is some info on how to pull it up:

Viewing & Downloading the Magazine

Be sure to choose whether you want to view your free issue of Refresh as a magazine (seeing a left and right page at the same time) or as single pages. Click (or tap) the link below for the version you prefer.

If you choose magazine style, you can use the Adobe PDF reader on your computer to make the pages flip from the inside out (select “full screen” mode when prompted). For other PDF viewers, scroll through the issue to read articles, or simply click on the article titles on the Contents pages to view an article.

Please be sure to let the magazine load for a minute before you scroll down; it’s a large file with many photographs.

Click the links below to view the magazine:

Magazine-Style
: If you would like to view the magazine on your computer in “spreads” (a left and right page, as in a magazine), click here.

One Page at a Time: If you would like to view the issue one page at a time, which is better for phones or tablets, click here

If you would like to subscribe to the magazine, which comes out quarterly, you can do so here: 

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#wideopenspaces · Spirituality

New Skin

A crumpled snakeskin was lying on top of a hole by the driveway recently.  I imagined the snake curled up underground, giving a sigh of relief to have slipped out of the too-tight binding — sort of how I feel when I come home and take off my “going out” clothes and pull on my sweats and t-shirt.

I found myself feeling jealous of that snake. Wouldn’t it be nice if we humans could slide out of our skin and start fresh every few months?

Just like that snake with the too-tight skin, I have had times when my life felt confined, seasons when I wanted to break out of a job, relationship or responsibility. Those times have been marked by boredom, lack of fulfillment, low self-esteem. and ultimately depression. 

When my sister and I were little, my mother had two of our drawings made into plates. Mine is of a snaggletooth woman, but Anne drew a giant in a small box, pushing against the enclosure. Something about that picture has always pulled at my heartstrings, maybe because I have felt trapped like that giant, with the walls closing in around me.

Like my skin was too tight. 

The Giant in a Small Box

I did a little research and found out that when the snake has outgrown her skin, she rubs her head against a rock or tree in order to break a tiny slit in it. Then she starts slowly sliding out, leaving her old tired skin behind. This can take days or weeks.

Just like my snake friend, when something in my life has become uncomfortable, it may mean that I’m growing. I sometimes need something hard to prod me to the process of breaking free to the next stage in my development. This ‘in between’ time feels awkward and unproductive.

Another reason snakes shed their skin is because parasites can burrow under it and cause disease if the dead part doesn’t get stripped away. Anger and resentment burrow under my skin in the same way, and often come out in ways that are hurtful to me and those close to me.

When my skin feels too tight, I need to pray for discernment about the reason for my discomfort. God may lead me to let go of something in my life and move onto the next thing. He may have a wonderful opportunity on the horizon.

Or He may tell me stay in my situation and change my attitude.

I usually want to blame others when I feel stuck, but I’ve realized that it’s up to me to get unstuck. I need to bring my guilt, jealousy and discouragement to the Lord and pray for forgiveness and healing. Then the bonds that are holding me in begin to loosen.

God does not want to see me enclosed in a prison of self-deprecation. He wants to see me enjoying life in freedom and joy.

 I love this verse from the Psalms:

In tight circumstances, I cried out to the Lord.

    The Lord answered me with wide-open spaces.

 (Psalm 118:5, CEB)

What tight circumstance do you need to bring before the Lord today? My prayer is that we will all breathe a sigh of relief when we reach the wide-open space that is filled with His love and acceptance.