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Bullshit.
October 6, 2016

“You’re damned if you do, and you’re damned if you don’t. So you might as well just do whatever you want.” Kacey Musgraves

***

Even on my best hair days I’ve never felt like J.Lo before, and I doubt I will again, but there was a thirty second slice tonight when the spirit animal of Jenny from the Block stopped by.

I spun my hot mug of tea around so that the handle was parallel to the edge of the mirrored coffee table and I straightened my laptop until it was perfectly aligned with her other desktop friends and I remembered watching that scene in “The Wedding Planner” where Ms. Lopez’s character, Mary, so beautifully OCD, comes home alone and we get a snapshot of what her every evening is: she sits in the quiet, save the glow of the television, every inch of her apartment in elegant order; she even opens her delivery dinner with deftness! Every fold is creased smoothly, her TV tray was the most glamorous TV tray I’d ever seen, and as a young high schooler I thought her life looked so romantic.

Now I think, if all you’ve got at home is you, damn right you’re going to fold the napkins perfectly and spin your tea cup around! Make it pretty! There’s beauty in ever corner, but if no one is bringing flowers home to you, then cut some out of the garden yourself.

Today was going to be a day of making it lovely for me, on purpose. I’ve been in bed for days with a flu that came hard, fast, and uninvited. It’s homecoming week on this college campus where I live and work and everything is alive and buzzing. Usually I’m the loudest buzzer, but not this week. I’m quarantined and going crazy. I can’t stand the cabin fever that sinks in after about, mmmm, 43 minutes by myself, but four days?!?
No thank you sir.

Today the most I could muster was a shower, air dried hair in a ponytail, a dozen e-mails, two quick chats in the kitchen with my staff and one long chat with the girls, a trip to Costco to get a receipt reprinted for our accountant, and a stop at the local library. I picked up a movie for friends with new babies and a new sleep schedule, season one of a TV series I knew would make my brother laugh awkwardly loud, and a book. A book for me.

After dinner and an indie-flick that made me feel blue (but I guess light blue) I picked up the book and smoothed my hands over the plastic jacket slipped on by a library volunteer. Something in the slight audible wrinkle as it shifted against the hardcover made me feel just the smallest bit alive, and I hadn’t even opened the pages yet!

I’m terrible at ‘self-care’ because I think it’s bullshit. I think all this cultural conversation around ‘self-care’ and ‘boundaries’ is a really pleasant way of saying to everyone that you are selfish and not sorry. In fact, it’s basically shouting through a megaphone that everyone else should be sorry indeed if they expect anything of you or from you.

And I call bullshit!

 

As we run with the speed of a doped up panther towards success measured by happiness and self-fulfillment and happiness, oh and did I mention I just want to be happy? …well, guess what? What we are essentially hollering at the world is “I am not concerned with what you need or what could bless you if it is inconvenient for me. I AM GOING TO DO WHATEVER I AM GOING TO DO IF IT MAKES THE GOD OF ME HAPPY AND IF YOU EVEN BLINK IN A CONTRARY MANNER THAN I AM GOING TO ACCUSE YOU OF BULLYING ME! Of slut-shaming! Body-shaming! ME-SHAMING! The only way for me to be happy is to completely ignore anything BUT self. And that’s not ‘selfish’ it’s RIGHT! Don’t you dare disagree!”
(Five dollars says I’ll find the hashtag ‘happy-shaming’ if I look for anyone who dared to disagree.)

It’s true, we are overworked and exhausted. All of us.
We are connecting at the speed of light across so many social platforms that while we are ‘in the know’ we aren’t any further than ankle-deep in real intimacy. Our hearts hurt but our fingers fly across keyboards and touchpads. There’s an emptiness in our insides even though our senses are at more-than-full capacity. And not only are we clicking and texting and tweeting and talking and relating and researching, we are also going to our jobs and buying groceries and raising humans or dogs or maybe goldfish. We are planning vacations with full itineraries and yes, it’s true! We aren’t resting! The word “sabbath” is as foreign to the tongue as the word “Blockbuster.”

Real rest is different than the ideal of self-care that says “Nah” to helping a friend move or going to the hospital to relieve your mom for the fifteen minutes it takes for her to stand under a hot shower while you post up at your dad’s bedside. I wish the phrase “that’s not good for me/my schedule” was stricken from our egomaniacal vocabulary.

Windows are windows and mirrors are mirrors.
Don’t get them confused.

My eyes are tired of looking into my own eyes instead of the eyes of all the hurting and happy others. Writing a book about your own damn heartbreak can be so exhausting (and without a doubt self-focused) but you know what else? Forget the writing a book part, heartbreak itself is so exhausting. You know that. But here’s what caught me off-guard today – the soft crackle of that library book.

Why?
Because it’s been eighteen years since I borrowed a book from the library. When I was a kid, I would carry stacks out that toppled dangerously high over my bowlcut.
When I got in trouble I wasn’t grounded from playdates but from another visit to the __insert current city__ Public Library. (Specifically I was grounded from hanging out with Kristy, Maryann, Stacy, Claudia and Dawn.) Books were hidden under the bed and under the covers and in dresser drawers and stuffed in a backpack that wouldn’t zip, and almost always accruing late fees because I’d forgotten. (So sorry Mom!)

Oh the freedom of getting lost in a world where I wasn’t moving again after 12 to 24 to 36 months of trying to make new friends despite my crooked teeth and homemade wardrobe. There was such a joy of reading chapter after chapter and watching the escapades of my always-friends unfold; people that I could put in a suitcase and take with me to the next town and next school and next group of kids that may or may not like me. I read more than others ate or danced or spiraled a football, I read and read and read. It was my greatest love. And as I got older, it painted sweeping dramas of fake romance that made my bones ache for true love. And with every boy who dated another one of my best friends, every school dance I didn’t get asked out for, every cruel comment I heard while hiding in a bathroom stall after practice – those books seemed like lies. For years I would figuratively run away into the welcoming arms of words, and after all those years all those words had done was set me up for disappointment. So I stopped.

I didn’t stop reading, oh heavens no. I was a theology major, and as one of the few girls in my arduous academic program (and the stereotypical oldest of four kids) I might as well have had “something to prove” tattooed in neon magenta across my forehead. I still read with the appetite of a velociraptor, but only now it was books on the Bible and God and prayer and angelology and anthropology and perichoretic relationship. Those words were necessary for essay test regurgitation but also, they couldn’t hurt me – right?

So for the last almost twenty years that’s all I’ve read! (Once when I had emergency surgery a co-worker brought me some trilogy on vampires that you might have heard of… but besides that…)

And tonight I got nervous with that library book from the fiction shelves between my palms. I wondered if it would hurt me. But, but! I also had this teeny tiny little flicker of excitement, what if that kid with the crooked teeth and boy bangs and cobalt blue eyeglasses who loved nothing more that sitting in the corner of the couch with The Babysitter’s Club, what if some of that same happy could make it’s way into my heart again? It had been so long since I read something that wasn’t an arduous exercise for the benefit of my soul. Would it be wrong to throw on a sweatshirt and sit with my knees tucked in one of our chair hammocks and just read for (gulp) fun?

Was that ‘sabbathing’ or selfish? Was turning off my phone and doing something that had no measurable gain for someone else closing the shutters and turning back to the mirror that kept me staring into my own eyes instead of out to a world that needs constantly?

What about pedicures? What about movies? What about naps?

The constant guilt for anything that isn’t helping or encouraging or changing or celebrating hangs heavily on my chest like a vest at the dentist’s office before x-rays.  Was the guilt I felt for any attempt at ‘resting’ holier than those that freely shouted “self-care!” before leaving the kids with grandma for a weekend?

Resting makes me feel guilty.
Saying no makes me angry.
Where’s the healthy balance?

Is the answer perhaps the Irish Breakfast steam curling in my mug and that copy of “Sweetbitter” on the edge of the table? Will a few moments in someone else’s world heal or hurt me? Am I allowed to run away in order to rest? Is escape a worthy pursuit or a greedy seed that springs up rows of uncharity?

Does God get mad if I sleep more than six hours? Will He turn away from me if I watch another hour of the Real Housewives? Discipline is a beautiful (and very clearly expressed) part of the pursuit of holiness… wise stewardship… hard work… it’s all part of the package deal of pleasing the Lord. But even He rested. Right?

In what ways do you tuck little bits of lovely into a lonely life? Where do you feel we have to beware the new normal of self-everything? Of staring into the mirror when we should run to the window, and then out the door?

 

 

How do YOU sabbath with freedom?

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Sweet Vanessa
February 7, 2016

I keep telling myself that I will do it differently if I get the chance. If He repairs what’s broken and redeems what’s lost, I promise not to lose my temper. I promise to show more grace. I promise to not just love loudly but love selflessly. I cried again into my pillows tonight and screeched out “Please Lord!”

I ask Him why He won’t answer. I ask Him, like the Psalmist did, “How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?” 

And it hits me right then as more tears squeeze out that I wouldn’t do it differently – because I’m not doing it differently now!
For four years I prayed for this ministry, the ministry of being a mama, and so much of my day goes squandered to self. I would’ve sworn as I prayed for those four years that if given the chance I would not just love loudly, but selflessly… am I?

Now I have it.
And I’m not.

I prayed for ten years to have space to write. A day that wasn’t clocking in to an office and clocking out with just enough energy to crash into bed. A season with enough margin to take what I’m seeing through His gifted lens of story and put it on paper. I begged and pleaded, assuring Him that if given the kind of unique situation where I could work my job around writing, I would write with the discipline of a decathlete.

Now I have it.
And I’m not.

I feel guilty if I don’t write and I feel icky if I’m writing without feeling Spirit-led. And if I actually hit the sweet spot of writing without guilt or anxiety, what should feel so good – putting pen to paper to honor Him – feels heavy and hard because I’m writing a book about heartbreak for God’s sake! (Maybe I should just starting writing kids books about unicorns.)

What makes me think for a moment that I would love the love of my life any differently if given a second chance?
I always have the best of intentions, the highest of hopes, and the most grandiose of expectations for if, then, and when _________ but what about the just doing it now?

The putting all the laundry away so my ‘daughters’ can sit on the couch and talk to me about their heart? The pursuing others even when my everything’s tired and my calendar is full? The sitting down to write trusting that the discipline of doing so honors the Lord no matter if the words that come out aren’t perfect?

Last night my brother and his beautiful girlfriend surprised me with a date to the roller-rink. I felt a panic rise up into my ruddy cheeks as we laced up our skates. As I hobbled awkwardly around in slow circles, I could feel the lump in my throat getting fat. I actually started to cry a tiny bit. Why? Because in elementary school I cried at the roller rink every single time our class went. Because no one ever held my hand during the couples skate, ever. Because we couldn’t afford the fancy roller blades the other kids in my class had. Because I sat alone and ate nachos with my glasses pushed up high and my crooked teeth and my bad perm and my homemade clothes and I knew that no one would’ve noticed if I wasn’t there, but they sure did notice how terrible of a skater I was – the chubby girl who couldn’t glide around on long legs like Betsy and Natasha did. So I would sit with the nachos and cry until my mom picked me up and I would make a vow in my head never to go again.
Thirty-two year old me felt the same way, except worse. This time I had seven-year-olds flying by and every insecurity I’ve pretended never existed pulsed like the blaring hip-hop playlist.

I sat down on a bench and through the crowd, a little tubby ten year old named Vanessa came over with her ‘skating helper’, an aid made out of PVC pipe and wheels that lets you skate without falling over. I googled it. “Suggested for kids ages 6-8.”

“Would you like to borrow this? It helps you skate and not be scared. I am going to try to skate on my own for a little bit, so you can use it if you want. Do you want to?” she asked in a quiet lisp.

“Oh that’s so sweet of you! Thank you honey, but I’m okay.”

“Are you sure? I think you need it.”

Great. I had a ten year old telling me I needed her help.

She left me alone. For five minutes. And then she tried offering it to me again:

“My mom said it was okay if you used this. Maybe you should. Just for a little bit?”

She asked me three times before I said I would. I hunched over (Never has 5’4″ felt so tall) and in front of a packed-out rink of smooth swans, I hobbled a little bit faster in tiny circles. Vanessa cheered me on. I tried not to look directly at my brother as he held his girlfriend’s hand while they lapped by. A guy in leather pants (Really man, really?) whizzed by me and just said “Awwww nah girl, no no no no.” I kept my eyes on the hardwood.

Sweet Vanessa and I traded off a half a dozen times and after an hour I could skate twenty feet or so without holding on to the wall! I was doing it! No need for a nacho break or tears, I had a new pal and the teensiest tiniest flame of confidence.

All because I just did it. Pride be damned, I took the ten year old’s advice (and her Skating Helper) and just did it. I didn’t waste the love that surprised me with a Friday night date, I didn’t let the hurts and fears of ten year old me win. But I didn’t do it alone. If Vanessa hadn’t boldly come over to help an awkward grown-up with tears in her eyes while all the “cool kids” (Leather Pants Guy not included) crowded the rink I wouldn’t have done it at all.

So, there’s the just-doing-it that needs done, but there’s also the letting-others-help. When they ask if you need it, say yes. Most people won’t ask three times like sweet Vanessa.

The truth is that I’ll never do it differently then or if or when ______ if I’m not doing it differently NOW.  And neither will you. It won’t be easier in the morning. Or next week. Or next year. Or after that holiday bonus. Or once the snow melts. Or when the kids are in all-day kindergarten.

There might be valid fears and legitimate worries and scary past experiences that are buckling your knees and keeping you from doing, but they don’t have to win. What is the looming “it” that you’re avoiding? What timid steps forward can you take now and how can we all be a little more like Vanessa?

A friend called today after leaving a nationwide women’s ministry conference and told me that God was planting seeds for a dream so big it overwhelmed her. So I suggested she buy a blank journal and sometime soon we sit and sip tea and she can dream and I can write. That got me thinking… what are other ways I can just do that don’t overwhelm me? One sentence, one paragraph, one page at a time.

Because if we can live beautifully now, live a redeemed story now, live a life not wasted now – then we will innately find our souls whispering the same as Paul did while in prison: I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

So let’s learn by doing, and let’s DO contentment! Let’s do living! Let’s do the thing(s) we’re afraid of but feel deep in our souls! We’ll need a strength that comes from God himself, and he’s at the ready to give it. He’s a tubby little ten year old saying “I see your need, and I want to help.”

Let’s do it differently now, ok?
C’mon friends… let’s put our skates on.

Esperar
December 21, 2015

We have stopped hoping because we have stopped waiting.

 

I sat eating lukewarm Pad Thai with my beautiful friend Shannon a few nights ago as she did a really great job of gracefully slurping green curry without breaking eye contact. I cried through two fat napkins and probably looked only at my noodles. I had been in bed all that day. Not dramatically or over-exaggeratedly, I had actually been in bed all day long. I had cried most of the day with my quilt tucked up over my chin and scrunched in both of my hands. I wasn’t in pain from broken bones or squeamish from the flu, I was sad. I am sad.

After writing then deleting six excuses as to why I couldn’t go to dinner so that I could stay huddled under the covers, my brain flashed scenes it had stored somewhere of a long-ago-viewed TV medical drama where a woman died from oozing bed sores and I jumped out from the sheets immediately to put on mascara and meet her downtown.

It’s hard making new friends sometimes because they don’t know the backstory, they know the now. But to understand the now, they always need to know the before.
Shannon knew that I was lonely and burnt out, now. That the loving people is what fills me up but also what is emptying me, now. She knew that I’d had a recent history of heartbreak, now. But I had to stare at my noodles while I snottily cried through telling the before. Because now I wanted to tell God sayonara.

I couldn’t actually turn on my heels because I can’t deny His existence, but I wanted to because I couldn’t prove His love. I had nothing to hope in anymore because as I was left waiting. And waiting. And waiting…  my hopes of before and of now and for then were sitting in sealed envelopes in His big pearlescent heavenly mailbox, unanswered.

After I stole her napkin to wipe my face, she said “Did you know that in the Spanish language ‘to hope’ and ‘to wait’ are the same verb? If you’re hoping… you’re waiting.”

She’s a Spanish teacher so it’s not unusual that she’d know that little tidbit, what was unusual is how much it got my attention.

There is no hoping without waiting.
If you are in a season of hope, then you are in a season of wait.

Quite counterintuitive considering our culture , huh?

First of all, we don’t wait. Ever. For anything. Maybe in line for Adele tickets or a freshly glazed hot cronut, but really really rarely do we wait. We complain if the speedy checkout has someone ahead of us. We complain if our wireless router blinks and that People.com article about the Kardashieverywheres needs refreshed. We complain if the girl we’ve taken on two dates (one with actual food!) won’t sleep with us. We complain if our Amazon Prime free 2 day shipping has a hiccup and gets here in two and a half days! (HOW DARE THEY!?)

If everything we want we don’t have to wait for – do we give up on the deepest desires of our hearts because they require more than two day shipping?

 

I started reading some stories in Scripture with fresh eyes – eyes on the hunt for waiting. And do you know where I found it? Everywhere. Somehow we tell these tales of God’s provision and presence and we leave out the waiting.

Abraham and Sarah waiting for a baby:
“He faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.”

The Israelites waiting for God to save them:
Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”

Simeon waiting to see Jesus:
“It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.”

Hannah waiting for a child:
“The Lord had closed her womb. Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on his chair by the doorpost of the Lord’s house. In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. And she made a vow, saying, ‘Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.’ As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk and said to her, ‘How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.’ ‘Not so, my lord,’ Hannah replied, ‘I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.'”

Waiting is ALL OVER scripture! Waiting for words, cures, punishment, answers, judgment, salvation, miracles, redemption!

Joseph waited in slavery and then again in prison. Noah waited for that first drop of rain. The disciples waited for a dead Jesus to burst out of the tomb. The bleeding woman waited twelve years to touch the robe of the God-man that would heal her!

And we re-tell and re-tell and re-tell these stories, always with a laser-like focus on the end. The hope come true! The answer given! The big finale! But we skip right over the waiting.

I bet the years of bleeding with no healing were horrific. I bet the years in prison for a crime not actually committed were excruciating. I bet the decades and decades waiting for descendants while her womb dried up like the Sahara were whatever-word-is-ten-times-bigger-than-disappointing.

But they hoped! And they waited. And they hoped! And they waited.
And indeed, there was freedom and newborns and unlocked cells and beauty from ashes.

But what in the world does that mean for you today?

Today I got a text from a beautiful pal & a spiritual powerhouse. She’s waiting for her son.
They’ve raised thousands for his adoption, they’ve put together the crib, they’ve prayed and posted and pleaded, and he still ain’t in her arms.
She wrote to me and said “I had some ladies praying for a specific day and that day came. And that evening I got a call that a birthmom was looking at us. I just really believed that baby boy was ours. But now I’m wondering… was I being silly? Why would God allow me to get THAT call on the day I was begging Him to SHOW ME SOMETHING if that baby isn’t ours? Oh the waiting… and now the heartache and doubt and questions while I wait.
Was my gut feeling about God right or wrong? And if it’s wrong…”

She didn’t have to finish that sentence or end that question because I already knew. I am living that same dot dot dot …

God has cast vision and even brought wild signs and wonders into this season of my waiting (and hoping.) And people get really nervous when I talk about it (especially the Baptists.) Because what if the signs and wonders and neon arrows pointing to the big blinking “YES” to what my heart is and has been crying out for all fizzle into a terribly bitter “No”?
What if I bank on God and my dreams never come true? The promises I believe I’ll eventually be able to cash in on bounce back? What if all of this painful waiting is waiting without hope? Well. I can’t stomach any of that so I guess I’ll give up on both.

And yet… 

 

Yet there’s this teeny tiny silver sliver shining in the dark of that decision.
If I give up the heart-cries and the hoping, if I stop waiting, I’ll never know the fullest beauty of them coming true.

Right now I’m holding onto the last whispers of a big hope. A hope that looks more and more crazy as time goes on and tides turn. I barely talk about this big hope now because people look at me with pity in their pursed lips; the unspoken “Oh sweetie, you’re crazy to believe that” obvious in their crinkled eyes. I’d imagine it’s the same gaze you’d give an octogenarian still believing she’ll get pregnant. Probably the same gaze you’d give a man building a ship the size of a cruiseliner in his bone-dry backyard. Probably the same gaze you’d give a 13 year old girl who tells you that an angel told her she was gonna be the mom of God’s only son.

If I truly believe that the God of the Bible didn’t stop telling crazy stories, why am I so hesitant to believe I’m living one?
If we can see that hope & wait go hand in hand, why will we only take one without the other or just plain give up on both?
How do we keep hoping when it’s scary? Exhausting? Unencouraged? Uncomfortable?
When we’re earlobes-deep in the waiting do we even let ourselves get excited about what He must be up to? …or do we just complain and curse His name?

Smack-dab inside of Advent, “a season of expectant waiting and preparation for celebration”, I marvel at how well I’m able to wait and prepare when I can mark my hope’s big reveal on the calendar in bold red marker. CHRISTMAS IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER! I can see it! The 25th is circled and starred in my day planner!
But how can I take the spirit of Advent and apply it to the God I can’t see? The answers I don’t yet have? The hope I’m still hoping for?

Let’s take another look at Abraham…

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.”

And in case you forgot… they did have that baby. And their son had a baby and his son had a baby and many many generations later, a baby named Jesus was born.

 

Let’s see how these chapters end and what new volumes begin.
Let’s refuse to believe that the only good & crazy waiting-come-true is kept inside the Old Testament.
Let’s hold hands in a season of expectation and let’s dance on the tabletops of each other’s celebration.

 

Don’t give up, ok?
Let’s keep hoping. Together.

fingers-crossed

 

Rocks & Robots
July 14, 2015


“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead?
Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.”
Mathew 7:9-11

Last night a storm raged wild in our little Midwestern neighborhoods. It shook down trees with wind and cracked bright as shooting stars from zags of lightening. The thunder was what got our hearts jumping, it was just so loud! And at midnight, my best friend’s little girl woke up howling louder than the gusts that scared her eyes wide open.

My best friend bounded to the top of the stairs and scooped her babe up.  We quietly crept into the guest room and tucked under a quilt, snuggling that little sweetheart between us as her mama rubbed her back until she fell asleep. Comforted. Safe. No storm stronger than the heart that held her.

We talked quietly over her perfectly peaceful face for another hour, she wiggled and rumbled in her sleepy state, and the preciousness of the moment washed over me as rain continued to pour down the window panes.

Love exists because God decided that it should.
Period.

And in that late night moment of tender care, the enormity of my best friend’s love for her daughter was tangible. It was another layer of love in just a single day where she’d dressed her, read to her, fed her, giggled with her, wiped her tears, cheered her on for using the potty, and chose to love her big brother and their daddy all-the-day-long too.

People aren’t bigger than God. Not stronger or wiser or more selfless. But I’ll bank on their love time and again, because I can see it. Feel it. Witness it. Get my arms around it or get their arms around me.
I know for a fact that if any of my pals little ones were hungry, they wouldn’t serve them a saucer of gravel or a plate of pebbles. No, they’d do exactly what those words in Matthew tell us- they’d feed them with bread.  Because love is ‘taking care’ … it’s providing. For needs.

And God takes care of my needs. He has fed me. Clothed me. Put a roof over my head.
And somehow I still feel fearful that when I sit down to dine with my Dad that he’s going to turn his face from me and push a pile of rocks my way.
I feel that way because of the way He hasn’t ‘answered’ … not for my needs, but my wants.

(more…)

Why It Matters.
May 20, 2015

On Sunday night I told the little cadre of souls in the living room that I was aching to see, witness, hear, and experience the power of God. In the now.
I was aching to see our unchanging God show Himself in the now as powerfully as He is penned in the Scriptures.

By Tuesday, He answered.

(more…)

The Casket & The Manger
January 4, 2015

It’s the weekend after ringing in the New Year and we’re all bemoaning taking down the decorations, dragging the tree to the curb, and we’re wondering out loud if maybe just for a little-while-longer we can keep up the twinkle lights.

I don’t think any of us are ever ready to wipe out the magic and the glitter, especially when what’s outside is just cold and gray.

We want it to stay sparkly as long as it can, don’t we?
Because the wrappings and the ribbons put a little hope in our hearts.

From the last week of November until the first week of January we essentially hit ‘pause’ on all that’s painful and we go to parties and sip cider and turn a broken, broken world into something pretty and festive. Something to look forward to. Something magical.

But there really is no pause button for pain… no way to keep it from coming.
And this year more than any other pain rang big and loud!
Death drug it’s long dark cloak around every festive corner of this holiday.

On Christmas Day last year, my beloveds and I  were struck a blow.  And out of those sharp tears and new worries, I awoke the next morning to a voice calming me from so many miles away. That man who spoke gently to my heart on that December 26th, and every day after, proved to calm me, comfort me, and love me more than anyone ever had.
He was my gift last Christmas. He was was my gift every single day onward.
And then this holiday, he chose our separation.
The hope that had been cradled in my heart, and written in pen on the calendar, was suddenly the deepest, deepest pain I’d ever known.
He walked away as lovingly and honorably as possible, but in that moment he kissed me goodbye and called me ‘sweetheart’ for the last time, it was as though my heart was physically ripped out of my body. I could physically feel more pain that I have ever felt.
In the days to follow, as his already wrapped Christmas and anniversary and birthday presents sat on the top of the stairs, as those penned-in hearts on my calendar laughed at me, as my keen eyes saw memories of us on every street in this city, I have swung between praying God wouldn’t wake me up in the morning to praying God wouldn’t waste this pain.  I have not stopped loving him.  I can’t just stop loving him. I don’t think love works like that.
I have been shown love in uncomfortable places.  I’ve crumpled into a friend’s arms when she showed up with soup and I’ve been prayed with over the phone after I broke down at the dentist’s office.  Pain won’t stay stuffed in the shoebox where you hide the notes he wrote, despair doesn’t stay hunkered down under the blanket waiting for you to slide back under the sheets at night.  Pain and despair and fear and hurt and anger and grief braid themselves into a leaden chain and then they snake their way around your neck.  The bind your wrists and ankles and lock the heaviest of padlocks over that hole in your chest, and you feel the weight of each link every single waking moment.

People who really love you hold the weight of that chain for a little while so you can breathe, but no one friend can take on your loss in it’s entirety.

My loss pales in comparison to what some around me are facing.
In the last few weeks, my boss lost her mother unexpectedly, my co-worker lost her grandmother, and today I walked past the open casket of a friend.

On New Year’s Eve day, this little home was already full by early afternoon with fellow co-hosts of my biggest bash of the year.
As we unwound decorative gold ribbon and melted chocolates for fancy desserts, I got the news that a young beautiful former coworker had died in her sleep.
I sat on the stairs in disbelief while everyone downstairs buzzed with excitement for the night’s festivities.

We want to push the pause button on pain.
So they buzzed, and I cried and stood out in the cold to compose myself.
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Is Your Life Shiny?
September 21, 2014

It’s no secret that I have a penchant for glitter and a passion for sparkle.

I’ve the attention span of a tiny monkey hopped up on sugar when I’m in a jewelry store or craft aisle or near a fountain glistening in the sunlight, and the same can be said for the stories I try to narrate. I leap through each chapter of life with fingers stretched out to snatch the next little sparkly moment.
As I tell tales of everyday trips to the market or recount relationships, I try to draw out the details that will mesmerize an audience… with laughter, with depth, with shine.

I sure don’t like dull.
And I most definitely don’t like dark.

Distracted by the diamond on my roommates hand, we walked by the river and I asked her question after question about the beautiful season she’s in.  One that involves registry guns and gold-edged invitations and cutting keys to a new house in a sweet little pocket of town.  My stroll slowed when I went from enjoying her story to growing greedy for my own.  I mean I have a story, but I wanted a brighter one, a better one.

Storm clouds rolled in behind my eyes and she noticed the shift in my demeanor.  As we followed the path around a favorite bend, we stopped and I just spilled it all out- all the junk that just isn’t shiny.
The tired, the weary, the jealous, the unsure, the unsteady, the unshiny junk of now.
Cause I can cover it in nail polish and fill it up with Starbucks and fasten it with bows of instagram-worthy activities, but I was feeling dull, I was lost in the dark.
I jumped off the little stone bench we’d stopped at and went to keep walking, when she sat me back down to pray.
And not just to pray but to throw my listless little rough-edged heart before the God of the universe.

It’s very hard to look Him in the face and say the story that He’s narrating isn’t shiny enough.
But I already have.
You already have.
We already have.

When we ask for more and tell Him what we have isn’t enough, when we bemoan the job and home and spouse or lack thereof, we are looking at the Creator who created us just so He could write our stories, and we’re saying, no… this one isn’t good enough, and we’re flinging the pages back for editing.

We want more adventure! More money! More sex! More degrees!
We want it bigger, faster, louder, and now.
We want immediate shine.

And sometimes we don’t realize that it takes work to rub away the dull edges, and sometimes we don’t realize that everything we have is full of an eternal luster so glorious we should shield our eyes.

So when my lovely roommate sat me down to pray, she also reminded me that there is so much shine in my story of now, because there is a very good God inside this story of now, and He is all things glimmering and all things great.

I was convicted right there on the White River.

The next morning I stopped to get gas and an Indian man with perfectly coiffed Bollywood hair stood at the pump next to me with a roll of paper towel and a bottle of Windex.
With a huge grin, he stood and spritzed and wiped clean every single inch of pump 7.  Then moved on to the next. He whistled and made small talk with those of us on E, and kept intently focused on his task.
“How are you doing today ma’am? You look beautiful.”
I peeked up over my Mazda to see these kind brown eyes offering a genuine compliment.
“I’m doing really well, I’m on my way to church. How are you?”
He kept on spritzing, “Church? Well that sounds wonderful. Maybe you should pray for me.”
He turned away, I think he thought our conversation was over.
“Of course I will pray for you. What exactly should I pray for?”
He stopped spritzing. He sputtered a bit. I don’t think he thought I would take him seriously.
“Really? You will? Please pray that I find my purpose. But also, I am very happy, I have so much, so, umm…”
“I will pray for you, and I am glad you are well… may I ask, what is your name?”
Those big brown eyes got brighter. “Love. My name is Love.”

I don’t think it was a coincidence that my God, the One who loves a good story, offered me a little ray of Love that morning to remind me that sometimes things are just good, that while I am looking to find my big bright purpose, I should also be aware of just how much I have, and that it’s worth being happy… more than happy.  There’s so much good that I should sputter when I pray, and stumble over just how good it is on my way to requesting more.
I should get tangled up in thankfulness before I beg for better.

Because here was a gas station attendant with a bottle of Windex and a great big heart making more than pump 7 shiny, he was spreading shine with every sweet smile and kind comment.

I walked across the street to get my man’s blonde roast with 4 splenda’s and I just wanted to shout to every person in line “Your story is shiny! Can I hear it?!”
I was so convicted at my own stupid selfishness… and it was two-fold:
I tied my own blindfold on every morning and walked through the gift of each day, choosing not to see it’s shine.
And while shrouded in the shadows of jealous and greedy and tired, I missed the chance to see everyone else’s beautiful glistening chapters.

I want to meet more people like Love, I want to be like Love.
I want to work hard at my task, whether it’s flashy or not, and I want to make a difference in the mundane, not because of me, but because of the Light I’m reflecting.

Let’s not let the early alarms and the flat tires and the tears always win.
Because they will always be there, because this world sure isn’t perfect, and there’s more than enough of the mess and murky to go around.

Let’s pray and listen and laugh hard and tip our faces to the sun and ask to be aware of all His good and all the vivid glory of now.
Let’s roll up our sleeves and start showing a world full of dark just how bright hope is.
Let’s pull down bits of heaven and pass it around like gemstones.

Let’s be shiny.
Let’s live shiny.
Let’s love shiny.

Well look at you, you’re positively glowing.

glitter hand

That Same Old Story.
June 17, 2014

We were flying to Los Angeles for the celebratory milestone of one of our beloveds, and on the early AM flight I tucked my memory foam neck pillow tight between my shoulder and chin and reached for the plastic window shade to shut it tight against the glinting peach glisten of sunrise.

To shut the shade against the sunrise.
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The Good Kind of Needy.
March 24, 2014

It’s loud.

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love well & deeply & wholly
March 19, 2014

This past weekend my beautiful friend Kate married the love of her life, and I was asked to share something from my heart for their day. Here, along with a million congratulations, is my hope for them, as well as my wish for you.

There are some days, standing in line at the grocery store, where you have no idea what eternal turn that afternoon will take, no idea that it will be a day you’ll recount to your kids and grandkids.
Because sometimes life is a total surprise.
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