Tuesday, January 31, 2017


There is an epidemic of fear, hate, and bitterness running rampant on our globe right now. And for some reason we were momentarily lulled into the lie that America was immune.

I think it is safe to say we have had our wake up call.

And as my heart breaks over the strife and the pain, I have to shout it out: This is not the way.

This is not the end. It is not the end of our story.

It is the middle. The part where the characters try to make things right. And in the most intriguing stories I've read, usually the characters get it wrong a few times.

So I'm wondering this: since as Christians we live in the full knowledge that this is not the end of our story, are we willing to extend grace to the characters around us who mess things up? Or even admit that we could be messing up too?

Are we able to discern between those who are maliciously attempting to destroy lives, and those who simply think differently?

Are we willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that maybe, just maybe, those who disagree with us aren't the villains trying to destroy the world? Maybe we even have a bit of villainy in ourselves as well?

Maybe our battle is truly not against flesh and blood, "but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places." (Eph. 6:12)

If my battle is not against a person, but against the powers of hell, then in all of my dealings with that person I must take one course of action every. single. time.

I must pray. I must pray for them. I may even need to pray with them.

I must look into the face of the people I believe are committing the vilest crimes against humanity and I absolutely must pray for them. Jesus told me to. Jesus prayed for me.

And when I just can't take it and I want to scream at those I see as my enemies, I have to remember that at one time I was an enemy of God. What did God choose to do with me at that time? Pursue me. Send His only Son to die for me. In His love and mercy and justice, He punished my sin on His Son. On His Son. And while it is completely contradictory to my sinful nature (COMPLETELY), He calls me to pick up my cross and do the same, to sacrifice the time He has given me on His altar. To offer up myself, indignation and all, and use His time to pray for His creatures, the very people He chose to create. The very ones He died for.

I don't want to do this. I have to. Not simply because God says so, but because there will always be another battle to fight- another person with whom I strongly disagree. Another person to rouse my "righteous" indignation. And if I allow myself to give in to the lie that these are my battles to fight alone, I will be embittered and angry forever- incapable of living in the thankfulness and joy to which God also implores me. I will have forgotten that God is God and I am not, and I will place myself in the judgment seat when I actually stand just as condemned as the person I am attacking.

I must view my neighbor through the lens of God in Christ Jesus. That is my only hope for peace and wisdom. The moment I forsake those lenses for my own fallen ones is the moment I bow to hopelessness and judgmental actions. Instead, I am called to bow before God alone. To utter "Thy will be done," and keep on living like the King is still on His throne. A heart that submits to the Lord is a heart that has hope even when they are in broken relationships at a broken time.  

So what should I do? Take action- but take it in the calm confidence of grace. Stand against injustice. Speak up for those who have no voice. Love my neighbor as myself. And realize that fighting hate with hate is pointless. As a mom who listened to "He started it, she started it," more times than I can count this morning, I do have to say hateful retaliation solves nothing. (Though I did congratulate them on cooperating with each other to drive me crazy.)

We have these words on our wall and I believe they rest there for such a time as this: "Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that."- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

We can only be lights in the darkness if we choose to answer temporal trials with the certainty of eternity. 

My words will only matter if I speak truth with the absolute assurance that my words are not coming from a heart smoldering with hatred, but from a heart burning with love for the victims and the criminals.

I can only do that if I first remember where I came from, where I stand with God because of Christ. 

And I must remember that true and lasting reconciliation comes only from God. No amount of organizing, and posting, and protesting can accomplish the work of changing hearts. That belongs to God. Which means that while I am responsible for my actions, I am not responsible for the results.

Seek justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8) May I be given the strength to live this way no matter what the future holds.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Life Dismantled, Life Content

"LOL I'd love to," I texted her. "How about when I am done doing all the other things I am supposed to be doing to make my life better? If I add one more healthy practice to my life I may quite literally fall apart."

My Sister-Friend had a great idea to do a healthy regimen together that would hopefully help us feel better with our kaleidoscope of illnesses. A great idea, really. And if I didn't feel like I was a Lego mom carrying various and sundry tasks all designed to improve the quality of the lives around me, maybe I would have been up for it. But one more thing to remember, and my head could pop right off my plastic shoulders. One more thing to carry and I'd be the Venus de Milo of motherhood.

I'd like to blame it on New Year's optimism- this draw toward anything that will make us feel successful and satisfied. Maybe this year I will follow through on my Bible reading/diet/exercise/ business/schooling/etc... and then I will be happy. But I have known that feeling at other random times as well, and this journey I am on can feel like wandering in circles around the desert wilderness. I just can't quite make it to the promised land.

So maybe you have felt this way, too. Like you know you should be satisfied, but it's just beyond your fingertips. And that maybe when you accomplish this, you can take a break and be content.

Here's the thing: it's not going to happen. Not for any meaningful length of time at least. Not with that perspective.

That aching we have to be enough- that is a God-shaped, God-shaping chasm in our lives that He daily and persistently fills. And He doesn't need us shoveling whatever self-help tricks and tips the world gives us into the place only He should occupy.

If you want to believe you can achieve great things because you are awesome- go for it. You are awesome and gifted. Many impressive things have been accomplished that way. Mega-businesses, mind-boggling inventions, huge political platforms have been built on this mentality. And they have done some good along the way.

But if you want your life to contribute to something that will last long after this world perishes; if you want it to have a purpose beyond the paycheck, then Jesus gives us one answer: Take up your cross and follow Him.

God is not in the business of making us a better version of who we think we should be. Like we have any clue who we should be. Dear God, thank you for not fulfilling my 16-year-old-self's vision of who I thought I should be.

He is in the business of resurrecting a child dead in their trespasses.

When I feel like God is dismantling my life, I have to bow to the One who I know is acting in love toward me. Because God never acts outside His love for us. Ne-ver. And if He is demolishing what I keep trying to rebuild, then I need to just sit down and let Him do His work because He is working from different (and infinitely better) blueprints.

God's plans may not contain what we determine to be glamorous in the moment, but that doesn't mean He isn't working out something beautiful and amazing and one-of-a-kind.

So if you have to mop floors? Go get it.
You have to wipe poopy butts? You rock it.
You have to pay bills? Own it.
You have to put yourself out there? You got this.
You have to be nice to people who cause naughty words to come to mind? Smile like a boss.

Whatever you do- "work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men." (Col. 3:23) It is unbelievable how much more satisfying life is when we remember who God is instead of trying to invent who we are. And when we try new endeavors from the starting point of confidence in Christ rather than ourselves? That's where progress is celebrated and setbacks are just that, setbacks; not foundation-shaking catastrophes.

We can try new things. We can learn and grow and take risks in the security that God is with us and equipping us for work that is beyond all we can imagine. We can be satisfied even as we struggle.

In a world that thrives on people's lack of satisfaction, cultivates it even, we have the promise that contentment can happen here because our God gives it abundantly. We can stop clasping our hands around our things and our plans, and open them to receive His gifts. He has given us His Son. He knows the desires of our hearts. He is with us. Isn't that the best starting point for anything we try to do?

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." (Matt 5:6)

That is my 2017 prayer for us. May we seek God's righteousness first and be blessed with the satisfaction that looks at the good, bad, stinky, annoying, frustrating, feeble, failing, ugly, beautiful around us and says, "I have learned in whatever situation I'm in to be content." (Phil 4:11)

With love.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Bless My Soul, It's Christmas (An Open Letter to Battle-weary Souls)

Someone finally informed Wisconsin it is December, so she distributed the cold and snow throughout the state and for all intents and purposes it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

It is in light of this season that I step out and write my soul a letter. My soul so long hibernating needs the light of the Star. And while the world is busy in their bustle, asleep to the manger child, my nocturnal soul thirsts for the peace that can only be found nestled within the Living Water poured out that first Christmas night.

This letter is for the soul, yours and mine, that sees the words Hope Peace Joy Believe plastered on every store shelf, but is finding those entities elusive.

For you, Soul,

I get it. You are stressed. Pulled in directions you never thought possible. And the bows that wrap those perfect Pinterest packages threaten to strangle you. Parades of the cute and creative stream past you daily, reminding you that no matter how much you do, it will not be enough.

You are smothered, starved by grating expectations.

The standard is too lofty, the bar too high.

The mounds of mail, laundry, stuff, stand as grotesque monuments to the truth that you will never get it all done. You just can't keep it all together, and you can't help but see your foibles and failures as the empirical, indisputable evidence that you fall short.

You pray for elves to take over the menial, tedious, daily tasks that hamper your spirit and hinder the great things you could do if you just had the time, the energy. With time and energy you could devote yourself to things that matter. Things that bring glory to God.

You could feel sufficient. You really could. If only.

But here is the true news, the news for all people- If Christ was born today, God could lay Him in your basket of clean yet crumpled laundry, smelling of mildew because you kept forgetting to take it out of the washer (if only an elf could just perform that one task how much simpler our lives could be!), and it would be enough

God did not design you, Soul, to be sufficient without Him.

And the measure with which He determines your worth has nothing to do with your prowess with vacuums, packages, laundry baskets, gourmet meals, or craftiness.

It doesn't have a stitch to do with how well you keep the smile on your face the one thousandth time you say yes to something you don't have the time to perform.

Your sufficiency isn't wrapped up in the decorations and lights. It isn't strapped to your vehicle as you travel to every important must-see place this Christmas season.

Your sufficiency is where it has always been- with Your creator. It isn't bundled in a cozy handmade quilt, festooned with tulle and sprinkled tinsel. It is swaddled and in a manger.

If you want to know what you are worth, Soul, look only to the Christ child.

Would He have come if you were not of infinite worth to the Maker of the World?

Would your faulting, halting words so offend and grieve God that they could not be atoned for by the blood of the same body breathing in the stable?

No, Soul, it was never the intention of God to give us a Pinterest Christmas. He could have made the birth of Jesus cute. Every amazing and adorable idea under the sun has been born under His watchful eye, and yet He chose the crude, the cruel, the stinky, the inconvenient, to be the birthplace of His one and only Son. A setting that would so embarrass us, God made sufficient, holy, by stepping right into it and making it part of His story.

Just like you, Soul. He stepped in and made you part of His story. You, who are embarrassed by your idiosyncrasies and incapability, are one in whom God delights. He looks at the forgotten Advent calendar, the cookies unmade, the decorations still in their boxes, and the tears that come with unrealized expectations, and He is satisfied. Because it is not about those things. It never ever was.

If you want to know what God thinks of you, follow the wise men to the child, and the child to the cross. Follow the women to the empty tomb.

You worship a risen Savior who was not drawn in by the impressive acts of men, but by their humility.

Your faults and fall-shorts are the perfect soil to grow the joy of Christmas, if you allow it. It is the soil God chose Himself, and He will tend and see it to the end until what grows from the dirt and ashes is nothing short of His glory.

Bless the Lord, O my Soul, and forget not all His benefits.

Merry Christmas

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Owning Your Right Here Purpose

Working in the universe that is the local church, I have been thinking about Christmas since about the beginning of October. You know, just a couple months after Hobby Lobby displayed their Santa crafts in the back of the store. If you are not in the mood to contemplate Holiday cheer, I'm inflicting it on you anyway. So, sorry not sorry ;)

This past weekend I had the privilege to attend a conference for the "Belong Tour". In case you've never been to an event like this, these big-time writers, singers, fitness trainer Christian women put together a conference to speak and create a space for women of all walks of life to "Belong". Good premise, good conference. I thought of things in a new way. I was inspired. And I bonded with some amazing women. If the conference was designed to make me feel like I belonged, mission accomplished.

It was also a great avenue for children to be adopted through World Vision, for supporting families wracked from life-threatening illnesses in their children, and for us women to find our "lane" (our purpose), get into it, and do great things in the name of the Lord.

The last thing spoke to many women, no doubt. Me included. Here I was watching women do the things I love to do- write, teach, and make music. Check, check, check. Congrats, ladies. You are all living my dream.

But towards the end of the conference and in the days that followed, I have had to step back and recalibrate. Honestly, my dream is not to be up on the stage with those women. I wouldn't turn it down, but I am not making that my end goal.

Here is my end goal- and here is where Christmas comes in. (I know you've been waiting for it.) My end goal is to follow the path I am on and not spend so much time planning for the future that I miss this stuff going on right here and right now. At the end of my life I will not be disappointed that I never made it big. I will be disappointed if my life passed me by and I was so distracted by the future that I was never fully in the present.

I want to be like Mary. We look at the people that line our bookshelves or teach on stages and think that is about the most obvious evidence of greatness there could be. But here's what I think- and this is especially for you parents of young kids- your life may feel like it is in a holding pattern right now. You may look forward to those things you can do when the kiddos grow up a little, but the truth is there is value in what you are doing right now. This minute. (After all, you are reading this blog.)

Mary had a baby. One step in the direction God asked her to go. It wasn't fancy. Quite the opposite. It was about as basic as could be. But after that she was amazing simply because she continued to be present. We see it in the Gospels. She was there until the end, and beyond. What if I could simply be wherever Jesus is? Even if He is just in my living room?

I'm accepting the fact that anyone can write a book. Some will even be successful. Maybe one day I will see my book in a bookstore. Maybe I won't. But my purpose doesn't lie in the pages of a book. It lies in simple trust. One step, no matter how mundane, can be transformed by God into a life of beautiful service, and if He is the only one who ever sees it, that is enough. He rewards what is done in secret. And He has given us tasks so specifically designed for us we can't even fathom it. I am the only wife to my husband. I am the only mother to my kids. No one else gets to do that.

So I want to encourage you where you are. Maybe you do feel like you are in a holding pattern. Maybe you would like to live your life like a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book and go back and try a different path. But God has you here for a reason. All He desires is your trust. He lavished love on us when He sent His Son for us and He has. not. stopped. since then. You are precious. You are His masterpiece. Own it.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Sick, Tired, and Totally Blessed Out

It took ten minutes maybe to get the phone call from the school. We had just dropped our youngest off at 4K and made our way to pick up some coffee before a kid free morning date at Aldi when my husband's phone rang. He answered it, listened, hung up, and turned us around. Unbeknownst to us, Heidy was sick. That cold sore I saw in her mouth that morning? The one that made me think "weird"? It wasn't weird. It was Hand Foot and Mouth Disease.

And let me tell you- HFMD is no joke. We are on Day 6 of the illness.

Yet, this whole experience reminds me of what a loving God we have. It actually illuminates 4 important points to me about our relationship with God and each other.

1. Our sickness does not sway God's love. God is not disgusted by us. He is holy. He cannot be in the presence of our sinfulness, yet He loves us completely. No matter how feverish and slobbery and whiny my daughter is, my heart is full of love for her. Her chubby little legs are still adorable. Her arms strung around my neck warm me to the bones. There are times, recent times, when I am disgusted by myself. I repeat my sins. I am whiny. I don't trust God. I am spiteful and short with my kids and husband. I make myself a martyr and then resent others for not noticing. I am jealous. I am lazy.
And I am still loved. I belong to the Father, and He knew what He was getting when He bought me. His love is everlasting and unconditional. When He looks at us He doesn't see lemons. He sees His children; His sick children clothed in the sacrifice of His perfect Son. He doesn't love me any more or less than He did yesterday because He loves me completely every day. And He loves you in the same way.

2. Quarantine might be a good way to keep a virus from spreading, but when it comes to sinfulness we are way too late. Quarantine isn't an effective lifestyle. We aren't to dabble in ungodly living, but the goal is not to lead lives where grace is unnecessary. The goal is to get out there and love our sick neighbors actively and completely. And if we sin in the process (which we will because we are sick too) there is grace for that. There is a reason that Jesus said when you visit the imprisoned, you are doing it to Him too. Quarantine works for disease control, but it was never meant to be a permanent way to live. God, reveal to me the people I have avoided...

3. We should be less concerned with "catching something" from others, and more about others "catching something" from us. Grumbling is contagious, but Grace can be too. If I am more aware of the Grace I am carrying in my body through the work of the Holy Spirit, I will be less worried about the potential sickness of sinfulness around me. The words of others may sting, but they won't cling. The baffling decisions people make to ruin their lives or the lives of others will move me to action and compassion instead of judgment and division.

And here may be the best one of all: God is looking forward to our healing even more than we are. A couple nights ago my daughter was feeling well enough (thank you Tylenol and smoothies) to dance. She donned her hot pink fedora and black cowboy boots and smiled for the first time in days. I nearly cried. It was a glimpse of my little girl coming back to me.

I used to think our good works pleased God because in Christ we are His kids and He delights in the fact that we are showing His love to those around us. I still think that's the case, but now I think there is another side to it. I think in those moments where we serve and delight in God, we are a glimpse of what we are truly meant to be. Like my dancing daughter. The snapshot may be blurry, but you can see in that moment a vague indicator of the joy that will be ours when we are our fullest and truest selves. And that glimpse touches the heart of the God who alone knows who we were created to be. As much as I long to be healed and whole, God longs for it all the more. But He is gracious and patient and willing to wait for that day with us. I can't think of anything more comforting than that.
So please continue to keep my family in your prayers as we trudge through the sick season, and I will pray for you too. One day we will all be healed and we will all be together.