Sunday, June 5, 2016


My four-year-old daughter comes running into the house, sobbing. Like, whole-body shaking, wailing cries. Like, actually take notice, something-might-be-broken-or-bleeding crying (unlike my usual, very flat “What happened (now)?” response).
“Maddie, what’s wrong?” I ask, with some alarm.
“Wooka gaaahh daaa saaah faaaahhhhhhh!” she sobs.
“Um… what?” Quick onceover tells me that nothing is broken, nothing is bleeding. We’ve got a stage 5 meltdown on our hands. Best guess is that some bastard has taken her turn. Or she dropped something precious, like a chip.
She wails again, louder, and even less coherently.
“Maddie, I’m gonna need you to take breath. Calm down, little one. Calm down. I can’t understand you when you’re hysterical. Okay. Now – calmly – tell me why you’re upset.”
Ragged breath dramatically drawn, she tells me. “Lucas got the swing first!”
(Inwardly high-five my call.) “That’s… rough, man. Sorry about that?” Pat, pat. “Chip?”
Her eyes get big, her grin gets huge, and she takes the chip to run off and happily play. Crisis forgotten. (Also, she maybe likes chips too much?)
And as I roll my eyes and mutter, “Seriously,” into my kitchen, it occurs to me – I’m her. Lately, I’ve been having a lot of stage 5 meltdowns.  Railing away at my kids for leaving dirty socks in the hallway instead of taking them two feet to the bottom of the stairs FOR THE FIFTEENTH TIME TODAY. Throwing poison dart eyes across the school carnival at the gaggle of perfectly-put-together moms who clearly have never faced a day of adversity in their lives. Driving through the country aimlessly “on my way to get milk” and pulling over every quarter mile to sob into the steering wheel.
I have a flair for the dramatic. Whatever.
Grown-up life has been getting to me, guys. I’m fighting through some very real heartaches. I’m struggling with the grind of parenting, the day-in-day-out monotony of wakeups and cooking and dishes and laundry and homework and sports and DRIVING and the seemingly endless string of arguments and whining and tattling that come with raising four little people. I battle bouts of depression, anxiety, pain, and fatigue that sap me of my energy and motivation and make every day an uphill climb. I struggle to find joy, purpose, meaning, significance, identity.
I hear the enemy’s lies and half-truths like a Greek chorus throughout my day…
“Your kids are so screwed up”
“Your husband doesn’t love you like he used to.”
“When did you become so unlikeable.”
“You deserve better.”
“You deserve more.”
“Why do you bother trying?”
And the loudest, most constant drip-drip-drip from the enemy – “You. Are. Failing.”
And sometimes, I listen. Sometimes I get so tired of the battle – of feeling constantly under attack, constantly having take my thoughts captive and turn them to Jesus. I just want to rest, for crying out loud. So I quit treading water, and I just let myself sink. I listen to those lies and I accept them as truths. And then, I live that way.  Defeated. Discouraged. Hopeless. Helpless.
And of course, I keep it quiet. Because here is another lie the enemy just loves to tell me:
"No one will get it."
I am a sucker for that lie, because I'm so afraid of being misunderstood. I'm afraid that if I tell anyone what I’m really going through, they will only see the failure. They'll smile and pat, pat my head and then turn and roll their eyes and think, "Dude, she is a MESS." They will see the struggle and not the way that I fight through it, how I show up every day and nurture my kids and care for my home and honor my husband and serve my community. Or they’ll only see the beautiful things in my life - and there are plenty of them - and wonder how in the hell I can have anything to complain about. They won't see the ways that I intentionally fix my eyes on Jesus, how I keep turning the worship music louder and keep hiding his word in my heart and the many times a day I pause to thank God for my kids and my husband and my home and the sunset and the music. Or they’ll over-react, and wring their hands and try to have me committed (which, if it involves a spa or a solid 10 hours of sleep, do it).
I want to be seen, really seen, and I'm afraid I can only be seen as perfect or a failure. So I hide behind the “I’m ok” mask and keep going through the motions, while resentment and bitterness and envy and malice grow steadily in my quietly rebellious heart.
God calls to me, “What’s wrong?” And I keep him at arm’s length. I feel so unclean, unwashed, so horribly imperfect and I’m certain that he doesn’t want to see me like this again. He beckons me to open my Bible and I resist, because I’m certain that I’ve found all the treasure I could ever find in his Word and if I open it to search I’ll just come up disappointed and empty. He invites me to talk and listen and I just harden my heart against his… because I pray, and I pray, and I pray for this mountain or that mountain to move, just an inch, and it just does not budge. I shut God’s voice outside, and then I wonder why I just can’t seem to hear him.
So this is where I’ve been for the past week or so. And this morning, as I stood under the hot shower stream and asked Jesus for the strength to do just one more day, I felt it.
The stirring of hope. The hand of the Father.
It’s unmistakable. Nothing else changed. My kids were still fighting and I was still exhausted and my schedule was still packed and my student loans were still unpaid. But I felt him, right there, with me in the shower. I heard him – “Calm down, little one. Calm down.”
I began to cry, again, but with that broken-open softened heart that only God can bring about. I poured out my heart to him, and I offered my sacrifice of praise, and I heard him singing over me. And I felt that sweet prick of hope.
I sat through church with that heart-flutter that tells me that the Holy Spirit wants me to speak, to tell my story to someone who needs to hear it. So here I am, telling you the ugly stuff.
Tomorrow, I will wake up to another Monday of chores, bills, demands, and obligations. I will face the heavy stuff that doesn't go away. I hesitate to say, "Hey, I felt this hope today!" because I know that the battle doesn't end on this side of eternity.
But I feel like someone needs to know that they have a kindred spirit hot mess.
And I know I’m not actually alone. No matter what the enemy tells me, I know I’m not the only mama who feels bone-deep weary in the trenches. I’m not the only wife who wrestles with what love looks like when the shiny and new has long since worn off. I’m not the only grown-up woman who experiences grief, loss, heartache, disappointment, disillusionment, discouragement, anger, and envy. I’m not the only one who feels like I only ever fall short.
If you recognize yourself here, please, can I encourage you?
You. Are. Not. Failing.
You are living. You’re showing up and you’re doing your thing, day after day.
Struggling is not failing. Battling is not failing. Suffering is not failing.
You are covered, from head to unpolished toe, in the gorgeous, unbelievable, perfect grace of Jesus. You are seen, right now, wherever you are, whatever you’re hiding under your pretty face. You are seen, and known, and understood, and you are loved with an everlasting, never failing, enough-for-everything love.

And by the way? You can do it. You can do every single thing you are called to in this season of your life. You are the right wife for your husband, the right woman for your job, the right friend for your neighborhood, the right leader for your ministry.

You are the right mama for your kids.

Whatever it is you are called to do right now, Jesus has every ounce of strength and stamina and energy and patience and grace and LOVE to fill you to overflowing and equip you for the long obedience. Please, dear friend, don't listen to the enemy. Jesus is enough for even you.
And believe me, sweet friend… we get it.
With hope unfolding*,
* I must plug his wonderful new book I can’t seem to put down. Hope Unfolding: Grace-Filled Truth for the Momma’s Heart by Becky Thompson. It's so, so good.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

the beauty of the wasteland

Wherever your treasure is, 
there the desires of your heart will also be.

Sometimes, God gives us a glimpse at what life might have been like if He had allowed something to change our course. He has been giving me those glimpses lately, to shake me from months of moaning discontentment. And my world has been rocked.

My husband and I used to be pretty materialistic. Ok, really materialistic. We loved Jesus, but we found our joy and hope and pride in what we had, how much we had, how much it cost, and where we could go to enjoy it. We were the perfect yuppies - loved the city, the nightlife, good food, travel, and shopping. Trouble was, we were yuppies who were not yet professionals. Ben was in dental school, I worked odd jobs until I launched a short-lived and shockingly low-paying career in teaching. But, they told us, don't worry. Don't sweat those mounting student loans and the soaring credit card debt you need to live on. You're going to make so. much. money. Three years out, you'll be out of debt and ready to live large. You'll be the elite. And we bought all of it, ate up those promises like Gospel truth. Rarely did we stop to consider what we would do if the pot at the end of the rainbow turned out to be fool's gold. We were just so excited to be living on a trajectory towards being wildly successful and wealthy, having everything we thought we'd always wanted. 

We were foolish. Unwise. Immature. Unanchored in Christ. We neglected the maturity of our walk with Jesus but expected His favor to pour out on us the moment Ben graduated.

Instead, the bottom fell out. In the blink of an eye, we found ourselves with nothing. Drowning in debt, barely making ends meet. Dreams of shopping sprees and fancy boots and exotic vacations and our kids in all the best clothes and all the best sports teams and and and... all began to shrivel up. Our expectations were violently upended. Ben's career did not take off. He started his career in a poorly run company in a recession market, and his income was nothing like the dream. Month after month, year after year, we have waited for Ben's job to turn around. For doors to open. For God's hand to move. But, six years later, we are still waiting. 

But I have to let you in on a little secret. A surprise from God. 

This season of our lives, this season of interminable waiting, of dead ends, of burdens so heavy they threaten to crush, of discouragement and discontentment and depression...

This season is the best thing that ever happened to us.


Don't get me wrong, it often sucks. It's painful to be broke. Painful to have to downgrade and downsize and pick between gas or groceries. It hurts to hear of others' trips to Disneyland and giant homes and weekly massages and to tuck those dreams away further and further until it feels pointless to even bring them up. It is humbling and sometimes humiliating.

But, in the midst of the struggle and stress and heartache, God has been doing the most amazing thing. 

He is rewriting our story.

See, somewhere along the line, Ben and I got off course. We saw something shiny down the trail, and without pausing to ask the Master if we should follow it, we barreled forward. And that became our pattern of living. And seeing that we were destined for destruction, God oh-so-lovingly let us crash. He allowed us to walk into this desert land. Wooing us, speaking to us, staying close to us until we finally began to get it. He brought us to a church family where wise men and women came alongside us to help us see what His Word had for our journey. These saints poured into us with so much love and compassion and grace and truth, and through them, God began to transform us.

To renew our minds to think like He does. To reshape our values to fall in line with His heart. To reconsider our treasures. To learn what it means to surrender, to die to self, to become satisfied in Him.

This is not to say that we don't still struggle with want. We do love things. We love nice things. My husband's brand-new BMW can attest to that. We still struggle to live within our means. Our week-long journey through Europe can attest to that. Certainly, we make mistakes.

But we get it now. Stuff is just stuff. Period. It doesn't last. Success and wealth are lovely, and I still ask God for a measure of both. But they don't produce joy. They don't produce perserverance and its sisters, maturity and completion. Not to mention that little matter of the crown of life at the end of the road. Only trials bring these qualities to life in a person. Desert places. Wastelands. Those are the places where God is doing the new things.

The past few months I found myself back in a familiar cycle of discontentment. Questioning all that He has taught me through this season, I grumbled and complained about all of the things I still don't have. May never have. That everybody else has. Resentment and bitterness became my companions. And you know they are never up to any good. 

Then one week, I had three glimpses at the "could have beens." I sat with a few people who are my version of "have it all together." Beautiful, immaculate houses. Every room furnished to the tiniest detail. Perfect nails. Perfect highlights. High-end clothes not necessarily purchased at The Rack. Makeup from Sephora. I can sniff those things out because, remember, I used to have those things too.

I sat through these conversations that week, and for awhile all I could hear was my own insecurities echoing back at me:

"You've really slimmed down!" sounded like, "Man, you were chubby before. You had really let yourself go. Too bad you don't have my freakish lack of body fat and rock hard abs, but I just have SO MUCH MONEY and a million nannies so I can work out all day long and anyway calories don't count once you reach certain tax bracket."

"I love your boots, where'd you get them?" sounded like, "Clearly, those are the boots you had to have a garage sale to pay for and still agonized over whether to buy them... at a discount store."

"Yeah, we're excited for our trip to Disneyland, but airfare is just so expensive!" sounded like, "Totally kidding, the tickets were absolutely no big. A week in a four-star resort and six Disney parks is a little tough on the wallet, but you can't skimp on Disney - it's the ultimate dream trip for little kids and yours are almost too old to enjoy it and hurryhurrytimesrunningoutohnevermindit'llneverhappensendthemtotherapy."

You get the point. But here's where God got all God-like on me again, and turned my worldview completely upside down. The more I listened, the more I began to see the cracks in the facade. Underneath these picture perfect women were stories of brokenness and baggage, heartache and hopelessness. Families that were splintering. Women who felt so much pressure to keep that perfect image that you could see the weight of the burden in their eyes. Women who would trade it all to see their husbands finally come to Jesus.

God used those women, who had stirred in me such burning envy and resentment at my life, to open my eyes to the beauty of my story. My story has a husband who chases after the Father's heart, who is passionate and intentional in raising up our children to know and love Jesus, and who is crazy about me after all these years. My story has a woman who is utterly flawed but gifted in ways that He can use, who is able to encourage and lighten hearts with words and wit, who gets on her knees in powerful prayer, who has a soft Mama's heart and a deep, intimate love for her Savior. My story has three beautiful, healthy, smart, hilarious children who love their lives and their mommy and daddy and couldn't care less if soccer and gymnastics just aren't in the budget. My story has family and friends who are a rich heritage of faith, who come alongside us to encourage and equip us in every moment of our walk.

My story is gorgeous. My story is perfect. My story, is His story for me.

My story is not better than theirs. They are also beautiful women on the inside, who love Jesus and love people and pour out their lives in generosity to others. But our stories were never meant to compete. They were always meant to complement. To build up the body. To usher in the Kingdom.

And had we not fallen from our ivory tower, I would never have seen the amazing grace of His story for me.

Monday, August 12, 2013

child. CHILD.

Well. I sit typing this after telling my children through very clenched teeth that if either of them so much as coughs from their beds again tonight they will spend the rest of tomorrow in their room, alone, without Leap Pads or toys or books or food or water. I just had my bathroom time interrupted, twice. My shower interrupted, twice. My pajama-clad body dragged out to the car to pull out the stroller where my oldest child was CERTAIN he had left his stuffed monkey and searched the entire car only to find him sitting in plain sight on the counter where I JUST TOLD HIM TO LOOK.

My day began with the sweetest, most fruitful time in the Word and in prayer. I woke up extra early - by accident - and decided to just stay up and spend some extra time sitting at the feet of Jesus. The Holy Spirit must have been speaking to my heart while I slept. He knew how much I would need the wisdom and presence and power of those quiet moments together. 

Because let me tell you, this day went off the rails. And it ended in a train wreck of seething frustration, angry words, and tears on both sides of my boys' bedroom door. 

Lucas was impossible today. There's just no nice way to say it. He was thoroughly unpleasant from the minute he woke up. Whining and grumbling and dragging his feet as I tried to sweetly and gently coax him to get dressed, brush his teeth, eat his breakfast, let's help Mommy today dear boy, it's barely 9:00 and I already don't like you. Eli put on the charming Crankypants McAttitude persona that's he's recently adopted - so darling - and my reliably sweet, easy-going baby was not. having. it. today. None of it. But we had to run a couple of errands, as much as I just wanted to stay home. Had to. So I promised them: One stop at the cleaners. Just a drop off, I'll park right in front, you can wait in the car. One stop at Safeway, and we're getting three things. Not "three things that are really ten things I forgot we needed" but an actual three items. 

So no, we're not going to ride in a cart. Not the delightful too-small-but-you-still-insist-on-squeezing-in-and-then-wrestling-and-fighting-the-whole-time kiddie cart. Not even a regular cart so that you can ride on the sides no matter how many times I tell you to GET DOWN. No cart. Luke, do you hear me? No cart. Luke? Luuuuke?? Say, "Yes, mommy, I will not ask for a cart." Ok? We're agreed? We're agreed. No cart. 

We got five feet into Safeway before Lucas gave me his first, "I want a little cart, Mama." I gently reminded him that no, today we are not going to get a little cart. We only need three things.

He shrugged, and said, "Oh, okay," and proceeded to help me find and carry our three items to the checkout and out of the store in under five minutes. The man stocking produce smiled at my cute kids and the woman in the bread aisle commented on their good behavior, and the cashier gave them extra stickers because they were so sweet and helpful to mommy.

In my mind, I mean. In my mind, that's what happened when I calmly suggested that we didn't need a cart for our three actual items.

In reality, I was Nazi Germany, and Lucas proceeded to yell, sobbing, at the top of his lungs, "I WANT A LITTLE CAAAAARRRRT!!" at least seventy-five times in the fifteen minutes it took me to drag him - yes, clinging to my leg - around the store, yell at Eli (in my best "Nothing to see here, folks!" voice) to get-two-lemons-not-limes-for-the-fifteenth-time, ignore the produce man's aghast face, the disapproving glare of the woman in the bread aisle, and the audible "Wow" of the cashier who scurried away from us as quickly as she could, and get out to the car to just about throw him into his seat and shut the door in his pitiful face. 

And then he cried for twenty-five minutes straight. Over a little cart.

The entire way home, I prayed. Out loud. For him, for me, over our car, over the kids, over the cashier, over the whole mess. I practiced speaking the name of Jesus out loud, again and again. I turned the worship music up and sang praises when I wanted to yell expletives to the back seat. And God rewarded my faithfulness with the sweetest time of making up and cuddling and with Lucas taking a much-needed two hour nap.

In my mind, I mean. :)

In reality, he didn't take well to his spanking and he snotted all over me during the cuddling and then he WOULD NOT NAP no matter what I did. And the day just went downhill from there. Eli wouldn't stop whining and arguing and breaking little rules right and left. Maddie teethed and fussed and cried and fell and apparently broke her neck because she cried like a person who has broken their neck. This week is insanely busy, with a family wedding and a trip to Idaho coming up, and I just had so much to do today. I knew I needed to stop and give them the attention they both needed, and I really tried. I set them up with the hose and popsicles and Eli sprayed the hose directly through the screen door and all over the dining room. I took a break when I couldn't really afford to and hauled them down to ride their bikes in their favorite neighborhood spot. Where Luke's tire immediately went flat and his chain fell off and I could not fix it. By the time Ben got home, I got everybody fed, and finally got out the door for my run at 7:30 with Lucas, again, wailing after me... I felt cheated. 

I had started my day the way I was supposed to. I had responded to my son's insane tantrum with calm and gentle grace. I was doing diligent work and pouring everything I had into my children and family and home from dawn. I went running when I just wanted to crash because I need to stay disciplined in my training. I did it all right today. And it went so, so wrong.

Here's the truth, girls - some days just suck. Yeah, yeah, in even the worst days we can find little moments of joy and beauty and things to put in our "ten thousand gifts" journals. But some days are just overwhelming rotten. Everyone is working against us, and no matter what we do, we end up feeling like colossal failures.

I think on those days, like this day, it is more important than ever to press in. Get alone with God. Get on your knees, on your face, in the Word, and seek Him. Be diligent when you're too exhausted to be. Be obedient when it is the absolute hardest thing to obey. Be thankful and sing praises when every fiber of your being just wants to scream and curse and run away. And I know, it can be so, so hard. Staying faithful when everything goes wrong and is unfair, when your hormones and emotions and relationships and chaos are just too much to bear. Following Jesus is no guarantee of easy days with fairy-tale endings. His work in us and through us is bigger and better than just good feelings for the here-and-now. "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all (2 Cor 4:17)."  

As I set off on my run tonight, I turned up some worship music (although really I just wanted some, like, death metal or something, to express my simmering rage). I charged up my killer neighborhood hill and spouted off my righteous indignation that I had done everything right today and wasn't He supposed to honor that? Where was the reward for being such a good and faithful servant (and a humble one, obviously)? As I crested the hill, an incredible sunset took my breath away (it may have been asthma, but go with me), and I heard the climax of a favorite song - "At the top of my lungs I will sing Hallelujah" - and heard Him so clearly. "Stop. See this? This kind of indescribable glory of pinks and oranges and blues and puffy clouds and just downright Heaven? Here's your reward for today: You get to live, and breathe, and run, and witness some of my best work. Great job today, really. Now go home and be nice to your children."

So I did. And I was. Until the bathroom thing. :)

Monday, June 10, 2013

and end and a beginning

It's been a long, crazy Monday, and frankly, I'm exhausted and ready to crash. But I feel the Spirit tugging, urging me to share my heart. Maybe there is someone who just needs to hear this piece of my story tonight.

I haven't written in so many months, it's impossible to record every struggle, every victory, every defeat, and every encounter with the living God that have colored my days. But it's been a tough season. I have struggled with a season of depression for the past several months, and there have been some very low moments. Through it, even as I withdrew and grumbled and doubted and wondered, God was there. Steady. Gentle. Constant. And speaking. He has spoken so much truth over my life in this dark season, so much about contentment, humility, strength. About the importance of His word. Of communion. Of hiding myself in Him. So many lessons that I can't wait to pour onto these pages. This is one of those lessons.

The past couple of weeks have been better. So much better. God is, as he always does, leading me out of the wilderness again. I've opened up to some dear friends about my struggles, and found His love reaching back to me with human arms (and wondered why I ever feel the need to retreat when I really need to press in). As I have begun to share these deep places in my soul, a long, quiet battle has come to the forefront. 

I've kept this one a very closely guarded secret. Because there is nothing Godly about a growing addiction to pain pills. It's embarrassing to confess that something that started out as solely a necessity had grown into something a little bit different. It feels like one of those "dirty" sins that a real woman of God would never experience. And it has been easy to justify keeping this secret. I listen to a special report on the news about pain pill addiction in America, and I can honestly say that my "problem" is nothing like what I hear. 

But it has become a problem. These headaches of mine get out of control very quickly, and I end up in bed for two days, or worse, in the hospital. I have three small people completely dependent on me. I have play dates and Bible studies and school events and family dinners. I have a husband who has seen more last-minute date-night cancellations and "not tonight, dear"s than any man should have to see. There is always something that makes taking one little half of one little pill the lesser of two evils. But my body, which has experienced pain in one way or another most every day of my adult life, has become dependent on these little white pills. I find myself running out of them a few days earlier each month. I avoid eye contact with the pharmacist because, dude, I know. I take very little each day, but, I take a little each day. 

So that's where I've been. I hope you don't judge. I hope there is someone who can identify themselves here, in some way, clinging to something that isn't good for them because they are afraid to let go and see what God will do. And if you just can't see yourself here, that's ok. Because ultimately, this is not a story of brokenness. This is a story of redemption.

Two days ago, I went to church for an ordinary service. Now, I love our church, and I think we have some of the most gifted Bible teachers in the world. I am constantly challenged and changed by the teaching I sit under. But on this Sunday, I had a most unexpected encounter with God. An amazing guest speaker was preaching, a man from South Africa with a delightful accent and an incredible gift for exhortation. He taught out of Mark 2, where Jesus heals the paralytic man. He explained to us that when Jesus saw the man, he looked directly into his soul and knew that this man's sickness was the result of sin. Instead of merely healing the man's body, he offered him living water - his forgiveness. And then he healed the man's body, because, why not? 

I've read this passage of scripture dozens of times before, and never has this idea grabbed so hold of my heart. When you get to that low, dark, ugly, sorrowful place - wherever it is that you finally cry out in confession - He responds with forgiveness. Immediately. And then - oh my friends, that you would get this part - then, He forgets it. I've always had this idea that God sort of pretends to "forget" my sin but really, He is keeping it in his back pocket to bring back out the next time I stumble. After all, I hear those accusations so often in my mind. But hear is the Truth of his word - "For I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more (Heb 8:12)." Do you know that really means? It really mean that he will forgive our wickedness and remember our sins no more! He does not remember it!

This means, whenever I hear this voice:

Why am I not surprised that you failed again? You've done this a million times.

Don't even bother trying. You'll never live up to my expectations.

I don't want to hear it again.

That is the voice of the Accuser. The enemy of our souls. The one who wants nothing more than to steal the joy of our salvation and destroy our intimacy with God.

This is the voice of the Lover of My Soul, the One who sees my sin, washes it clean, and remembers it no more: 

My child, I am compassionate and merciful.

I am slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.

I will not constantly accuse you, nor remain angry forever.

I will not punish you for all your sins.

I will not deal harshly with you, as you deserve.

My unfailing love toward you is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.

I have removed your sins as far as the east is from the west.

I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
                                                                                                                    (Psalm 103:8-12, Jer 31:3)

In the next few days I will share more about how God is redeeming this part of my story. About the people He has brought alongside to love on me and encourage me as I navigate this season. And all about how I stepped out in obedient, faith to ask for healing one more time - and how I finally heard His "Yes." I can't wait to share some of what God has been teaching me through my fight with depression and anxiety, and the ways I am learning to walk in step with his Spirit even when my feet feel like lead. For now, just remember that He will never love you any more or any less than He does at this moment.

Thanks to @chriswienand for opening the Word for me. Listen to his incredible teaching here:

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Forgive me in advance if this post is less polished, more rambling than usual. Like all of you, I am struggling to process the events of the past week. I have hesitated to write anything about it. I've read some wonderfully encouraging, wise words from others in response to the tragedy, and I have no new wisdom to share. But I need to put my heart onto paper this morning. Maybe you will recognize yourself here.

I have been wrecked by the shooting in Connecticut. I'm a mama, and I was once a teacher. I catch sight of my son's sweet dimples in the rearview mirror and burst into tears. I've pictured the face of every first grader who came through my own classroom and those of my colleagues. I remember how much I hated lockdown drills. They filled me with such a sense of dread. I would hover under the chalkboard with my precious group of little people and count the minutes until the "all clear," so thankful to know that it was all just pretend. My mind can't help but picture what came next for the students and faculty of Sandy Hook, as they began to realize the reality of what was happening there. It's too horrifying to imagine, but I do.

Like all of you, I've wrestled with the why. Why does evil sometimes get to win? I understand that we live in a fallen world, that the kingdom of darkness is in constant battle with the Kingdom of Heaven. I know that Satan is real and that he is bent on the destruction of every good thing in life - family, love, peace, innocence. All of which were shattered last Friday. And of course, I don't know why. We will never really know why on this side of heaven. And I am so blissfully far removed from this tragedy. I can't begin to imagine the "whys" that must scream through the minds of those parents and teachers and children left behind.

Like many of you, I've struggled to reconcile my overwhelming sense of thankfulness with an overwhelming sense of guilt. I am indescribably thankful to have my three healthy, whole children in my arms each night. I am newly aware of the gift of each giggle, each funny thing they say, each creative game they come up with, and each precious "I love you, Mama." And yet I feel so guilty that I still have them, and those parents do not. I get to tuck my children into bed each night and wake up to their sweet, stinky breath in my face, and it simply isn't fair that so many parents have to walk past their child's empty bed and wonder if they will ever feel joy again.

I feel guilty because my life is going on as usual. I'm Christmas shopping, wrapping presents, baking cookies, doing laundry, running errands. And my children drive me crazy, as usual. My kids still bicker, pick on each other, throw fits, whine, and grumble. They're still too loud when I have a headache. They disobey when my back in turned. Eli pulls his five-year-old attitude and Luke uses that whiny baby voice that makes me cringe and Maddie screams in the car and I still feel the urge to lock them in their rooms and drive all the way to Mexico. I want to sit with them, cuddle them, speak sweet words of love and affirmation to them and never let them go. And they need that. But they also still require training up and discipline, and it feels wrong somehow to put my child in time-out or give someone a spanking when there are mommies and daddies who would give anything to be able to hear their children throw a tantrum again.

As I've been in my Advent study this week, I've read familiar scripture with fresh eyes. In the light of this unspeakable tragedy, in the light of a world that generally seems to be out of control with ugliness and evil, the ideas of hope, joy, peace, and love seem idealistic and fake. But each verse that I've worked through has brought me new understanding of what I've always known: In this life, the only true, lasting, unfailing source of hope, joy, peace, and love is Jesus. Our hope is in the resurrection, where Jesus conquered death once and for all. Our joy overflows out of the thankfulness of being forgiven and loved by the God of the universe. Our peace is in knowing that He is the King, and that one day He will bring every single thing on earth back to order. Our love is Jesus, the One who humbled himself to a lowly human birth and a horrifying, senseless death because He just wanted to reach us so much. This is the truth. And it is why we can say with confidence that, even as we walk through the shadow of the valley of death, we will fear no evil.

But still, it hurts.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


The question was posed: "Why do you pray?"

It cut to my heart. I snapped to attention.

Why do I pray? What's the motivation behind my conversations with God? When I approach the throne of grace, what do I hope to find there?

I have struggled with prayer lately. I'm in a season of life where every prayer seems to go unanswered. I ask and seek and knock and beseech and beg and cry out and... nothing. Circumstances don't change. Doors stay closed. Hearts stay hard. Bodies go unhealed. Opportunities stay hidden. Bounty is withheld.

Sometimes, I doubt that prayer "works" at all. Do you?

Rumor has it that prayer changes things, that it moves the hand of God. But when so many prayers are answered with a "no" or "not yet," I begin to feel like I'm talking to a brick wall. I get disappointed and frustrated and wonder why my prayers are so ineffective. I follow hard after Jesus. I study His word. I listen for the Holy Spirit. I walk in obedience.

And I think to myself, "I deserve for this prayer to be answered, now."

So when the question was posed - "Why do you pray?" - I had to search my heart. If praying doesn't get me what I want, what's the point?

Then, this truth: Prayer is a place where we get to be in the presence of God.

I wonder... is that really why I pray? Is my heart oriented in such a way that when I come to God, all I really want is to be in His presence? I say that I just love to sit at the feet of my Savior. But... I am actually satisfied just with Him?

Could it be enough for me to be bathed in the presence of the living King - with no agenda, no demands, no requests, no urgency? Simply to come into his presence, and rest, and be full and content whether or not my mountains move. Could that really be enough for me?

I want it to be. I need it to be. I need to change the way I think about prayer, to lay aside my desperate expectations for new jobs and better health and sweeter kids and and and and. I want to learn to be satisfied with the gift of his presence, and nothing more.

It's okay to want answers from God. It's okay to ask for what we need and desire. In scripture we're instructed again and again to bring our burdens to Him in prayer. It's okay to keep coming back when a prayer seems unanswered. But we need to be careful when we think, "God never answers my prayers."

Because the truth is - he always answers. I forget, when I can't see the exact answer I want, that he always gives me what I need. His provision comes in so many ways. An encouraging word from a friend. A scripture. A song. A check. The comfort of his Spirit. 

Even when all we seem to get is another trial, he still blesses us with fruit: "We rejoice in our sufferings, for we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope (Rom 5:3-4)." 

When our prayer life is in step with His word - expectant and honest, making time to listen as well as speak, full of praise and gratitude - we will never, ever come away empty-handed. 

How I need this perspective, that in Jesus is the solution to every problem, the hope for every sorrow, and the fulfillment of every promise. Not in what he chooses to do for me. Just in Him. His presence alone was more than enough for Mary. How I long for that to be true of me.

Saturday, August 11, 2012


I couldn't sleep, anxieties tugging at my mind. I logged into Pinterest and got lost in a world of virtual perfection. Beachy home decor, photo shoot-ready outfits, a different messy bun and braid combo for each day of the week. I finally crashed into bed feeling inspired - tomorrow I would look amazing and work my abs like a pro.

The baby woke to eat at 4:30. The middle one poked me awake at 7 - poke, poke, poke, on my forehead. I dragged myself to the bathroom while one eye refused to open. I made an effort - blew out my hair and put on eyeshadow - but no abs. No scripture. No quick-and-delicious breakfast frittatas and power kale smoothies. No perfection.

Tonight I sit folding loads of laundry and unloading some burdens onto Jesus. I lay out my faults for Him - procrastination, laziness, envy, insecurity, undisicpline. Things that I once thought were signs of immaturity, that I was sure I'd grow out of once I hit 30 - and that I have to now admit are just parts of who I am. I lay my heart bare for Him, and wait. Listen. Gently, lovingly, He disciplines. Reminds me of a simple truth.

that when I compare, whether I come out ahead or behind, it is a foolish exercise in pride. It destroys what He is trying to accomplish, which is to transform me into the woman He designed me to be. With my own strengths, talents, and gifts. And whatever I am good at - wherever my skills and talents align with my passion - that is where God wants to use me. 

(I know, you'd think I would have understood this by now. But I'm a little slow sometimes.)

Case in point: I am not a great singer, to say the least. But I love to sing so much, and I always wanted to be an amazing singer. So now I have these friends who are amazing singers, and I feel jealous of their talent. 

But God speaks the truth to me: "I didn't call you to minister through song. If I wanted you to sing for people, I would have gifted you with a voice people would want to hear."

Harsh. But, I love to sing. Like, passionately.

"Awesome. Sing passionately for your kids. Sing songs about me all day long so they will hide my word in their hearts."

Well, that's lovely and all, but where are the accolades for that?

"I'm supposed to get the accolades, remember?"

Ouch. He disciplines. He loves us too much not to.

Then God lays out for me what I can do. Where my gifts intersect with my passions. I'm funny, and I love to make people laugh. I write well, and I love to write. I'm gifted for hospitality, and I love to have people in my home. I'm a good listener. I make a mean pulled pork. I do great animal noises. I'm reaching, but you get the picture. Figure out how God has gifted you, even in the little ways, and ask Him how He wants to use them.

So I ask, and He instructs me in the ways I should go. How to use my gifts to encourage and bless and minister to the people He places in my life. And how to seek help where I fall short - glean wisdom from His word and from others who are strong where I am weak. I may not be naturally as patient with my children as another mom, but I can watch and learn from someone who is. Not with a jealous heart, but with a humble and honest one.

And if I can't design the perfect bedroom or apply eyeliner or bake the ultimate chocolate chip cookie? Well, that's what Pinterest is for. :)