Monday, July 21, 2014

For my daughters,

Grace, Patience, and Lily,

I am spilled over with love for you.  As you grow before my eyes, I see you now and at every age you've ever been.  

As I watch, I see glimpses of the women you're becoming as you challenge yourselves and this world, as you create and chase your passions.

Never worry to define what you will be when you grow up.  You are alive and here now, bringing beauty to the world.  You're brilliant and open.  Your hearts are strong and full.  You've arrived and you'll keep arriving.

What a wonderful thing to see you loving people, making new things, doing good work, filling your minds and running your bodies; living it all up.  What a mighty thing to live as a woman without fear.  That's my prayer for you today, every day.


Monday, July 14, 2014


I've spent the last week in the middle of a huge house project.  My kids at camp, I took a vacation as well.  It was a retreat full of solitude and physical work, mess and creative chaos; a labor of love.

I listened to music and my favorite books; an introvert gorging on seclusion.

I arrived at the end of the day satisfied with all the good, hard work I'd done, my mind at rest; until I'd see one more thing I could accomplish.  Rather than call it a day, I'd find one more thing to finish up.  I'd stay up late, my mind no longer clear and open, but tense and cloudy. Working too-tired, I would paint one more bathroom, or spend two hours on a fruitless internet search for something we would end up not needing in the end.

The magic gone, it was all labor, no love.  A wrecking ball of a night cap, I'd fall into bed ragged and edgy, too tired to sleep. I'm very sorry to say I indulged in this practice nearly every night.  I would wake up the next day, enjoy it completely, then ruin it in the end; like a too-big bowl of ice cream after a good meal had already filled me up.  I know better.  I know better, but still I sometimes find myself obeying the impulse to resist rest, to keep achieving, producing, racking up points.

This is the lure of one more thing.  Accomplish one more thing and you'll really be done.  One more thing and you'll feel better.  Real peace is on the other side of just one. more. thing.  Keep going.  One more thing will be enough.  It's never enough.

It's an impulse that seems to appear exactly when I am meant to close up shop for the day, to rest and be done for now. When I am sharp, I recognize it; I know it's time to quit and I do so.  When I'm sloppy, it's my undoing.

I love work.  Good work and productivity bring me alive- until they kill me.  This shift from life to death seems to occur at the precise moment when God says stop, and I say no.  He says enough for today, and I say not yet.

God is good to contrast himself with the noise so I can know his voice and follow it.  So I know what to savor and what to throw out with the trash. He shows me my limits, gives me peace when I surrender, rest, and reflect.  He promises that tomorrow we may do even more incredible things, but for now, let's stop.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Life in Work.

I've spent the last decade in full time ministry to my family.  Last year, that ministry expanded as I joined the staff of The Ransom.  Both of these roles keep me working daily with my best friends, doing challenging work I love and watching God do remarkable things.  My heart, life, and schedule are full; grateful is an understatement.

As I've spent the last several months navigating new ministry territory, I've relied heavily on what the last 10 years have taught me.  Here are a few things I've learned along the way:

Be all in.

Jump off the cliff, make an irreversible choice, and own it.  If you haven't agreed completely that this role is worthy of everything you've got, it doesn't have all of you.  And until you're all in, you'll encounter an exhausting amount of resistance.  

Life offers constant competition for your most precious resources: your gifts, your time, and your full attention.  Many of these opportunities (or distractions) will be lesser things, which are easy to spot.  It gets difficult, though, when you encounter good things that aren't the best things.  

When you've made a rock solid choice, you know exactly where you are committed, and what (and who) will get the best of you.  Solidarity in purpose is essential.  Without it, things get hazy, cluttered, overwhelming.  When you have clarity in your core roles, you're free to say no when you need to, to see which opportunities will bring life, and which ones will slowly suck it away. 

When I'm consumed by all the good work I've been called to do, I'm not anxious or irritable that I'm too busy.  I'm free to enjoy the ride; I'm right where I need to be.

Choose it every day.

These roles are a very precious gift.  Receive them every day.  Regardless of the details of the day, of what your roles demand of you, welcome it all with open arms.  This is what you're here to do, and love is the driving force.

Expect mess and embrace it.  Don't get angry when things need your constant help and attention; that's why you're here, that's why giving all of your self is essential, why it matters so much.  Don't get exasperated when you need to repeat yourself or do things over and over; you're called to teach and disciple daily.

Meet every opportunity with gratitude.  Let the people you serve know that you not only love them but want them, and there is nowhere else you'd rather be.  If you don't feel that way, be honest about it.  Whatever you do, don't take it out on the ones you're here to love.  Take a step back and ask God for fresh perspective. 

Feed yourself.

Understand who you are, how you're wired, what you love.  Incorporate these things into your daily rhythm and pursue them.  Know how you're best fueled.  This is fundamental to long-term health, especially when you're pouring yourself out to others.  

This practice is important, not only because it fuels me, but because it equips me to better love my people, and protects me from harboring resentment against them.  When people need my energy, time, and focus, I have these things to give; I'm not at the end of my rope.  I'm filled up and ready.  My acts of service flow from a place of love and health.  I'm not angry they interrupted me, that they seem so needy and demanding.  I'm thrilled to do what I'm here to do, I'm not afraid I'll fall apart.

I'm fueled by solitude and beauty, so I make it a priority to get some every day.  I know I am healthy and living well when my productive, achieving abilities are complemented by daily times of Sabbath rest, good food for my body, and for my brain.  I'm doing well when I'm carving out time for nature, art, photography, music; for books and words, for creating meals to share with the people I love.  

Regardless of how busy I am, when the beauty of life regularly stops me in my tracks just at the wonder of it, I know I'm healthy and taken care of.  If my journal isn't full, my heart is probably sick.  If it's been a while since I've stopped to just be- alone or with the people I care about- that's a red flag, and it's time to hit pause.  

These things don't come easily, remember, because the stuff of lesser things competes.  Feeding ourselves is an essential discipline.

Sleep when the baby sleeps.

Living a life of service is unpredictable.  People happen.  Need happens, and it doesn't care what time it is.  Set healthy boundaries around your time to protect what matters most to you, because ministry isn't simple and can't be packaged in neat boxes.  Your days will be full. Much of what you do will not be planned. Embrace that.  

But sometimes, you'll get an unexpected break.  It will probably catch you off guard.  And while the baby sleeps, sleep; or, do the thing you need to do.

If a meeting gets cancelled and your afternoon is free, discipline yourself to know how best to use that time.  Don't immediately jump into a project that will fill your afternoon with busy work, but don't waste your time being idle either.

When life gives you a break, stop for 10-20 minutes to do something that restores you.  Everything will be waiting for you when you get back, and you'll return filled and ready.  Then get your butt in your seat and get something done while you can.

It's everything and nothing.

I know that my influence has everything and nothing to do with the perceived success or failure of my ministry.  I will give everything, lavish time and energy and the best of myself into my family, into the places I'm called to serve- and how I do so matters very much.

I'm pursuing God, and I want him to use me.  Amazingly, he does.  I care very deeply about how things get done, that they're done with excellence and heart.  I'm invested, I'm showing up.  No detail insignificant, I want to be effective in every role I'm called to fill. 

My influence is profound, and the impact is eternal.  But I know all these things are completely disconnected from the will of the people I serve, from their individual choices and experiences that shape them, from the myriad random details of life that I cannot control or predict.  I will serve wholeheartedly.  The results are completely out of my hands.  This is all a work of the Holy Spirit; the God I surrender to is in complete control.  This means I can pour out my life in absolute freedom.

When things outside my control are not going well, it's not on me.  I'm not responsible for saving the world.  I won't fall apart.  This isn't where my identity is found.

If things are going well, it's not on me.  I'm free from any sense of pride or self-congratulation, and released to enjoy the things God is doing around me, through me.  I can simply agree that it is wonderful, and tell God again how good he is, how amazed I am, how grateful I am to be here to see it.  

Monday, June 30, 2014

Lean in.

Several months ago I was presented with an opportunity for a job transition.  I love my current job, and honestly, I wasn't all-in with the idea.  It would have allowed me to continue doing everything I love, but more.  It meant more time, more responsibility, more complications.  In the end we didn't make the transition. In fact, we decided nothing should change at all.  

That was a wise decision, absolutely the best choice.  And remember, I didn't pursue the change in the first place, and didn't even know that I wanted it.  But when the decision came, it crushed me.  I was hurt, confused, frustrated, angry.   

I spent days swimming in it.  I played conversations and scenarios around in my head over and over. The strength of my reaction surprised me.  I couldn't arrive at any logical explanation for how deeply I was hurt. It began to consume me.  My chest was constricted, my heart a knot in my throat.  I walked through my days in a fog; anxious, irritable, distracted.

One afternoon in the car, I found the words spilling out of my mouth, "It's because this hits me in my deepest wound- the one that says I'm not enough."  And right then it was like my heart split open, raw and aching.  This was exactly why.  It didn't matter that I thought we made the best decision, that I was thrilled with my job either way, that this had nothing to do with me.  

It didn't matter, because whatever logic I applied, there was a low and dirty voice inside me repeating the same lie over and over, When people see who you really are, they know you're not enough. 

It's a lie I've believed since I was a small child. God's got a book. He's keeping score and playing favorites. You'll never make it.

On that bitterly cold afternoon, God helped me name that lie and he showed me how it's shaped my life, how the knife gets twisted down deep every single time I agree with it and hide in shame, or overcompensate with performance. 

We named it together, then I let it go.  The weight of it gone, I could devour the truth that God does have a book, and it's a book of life.  My name is there and he treasures it.  He is love, and love keeps no record of wrongs.  I am loved completely, constantly, eternally, and when my Father looks at me he is completely happy.  Not only am I enough, but I am deeply known, deeply loved.  Wanted.  

If you are feeling hurt, lonely, overwhelmed, or angry, lean in.  When you feel out of control, don't react, but pause.  Talk it out with God or with a friend.  Articulate the facts- what's really happening here?  What's in my head? What is true? Who's involved, and what's my part in it?  And most importantly, why am I feeling this way?  What's the source?  It's almost never what's on the surface. 

It could be a wound from your past, a lie you've believed, or a sin issue.  If you don't know what the source could be, ask God.  He'll show you. And when you know it, name it.  Name it out loud and ask God to show you what it's been doing in your life, how it's stolen joy and broken down good things.  Ask him to show you how he feels about it, how he saw it, how he's stored every tear in a bottle and never, ever abandoned you.  

Agree that it's been a thief and a liar and choose to separate from it.  Confess the ways you've agreed with it and allowed it to affect your choices.  Forgive those who've wounded you; it doesn't make them right, it sets you free.  When you need forgiveness, ask for it.  Cut all the ties and hand it to Jesus. He'll be waiting. The work is already finished.  Taking our hurt, sin, and baggage makes him incredibly happy. 

Then ask him to give you something; to fill you up with real, true things.  With every good thing he thinks about you.  This is the best part.  

This simple practice has changed everything for me.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Gracious Eyes.

I am a creator.  Sometimes when I look back at something I created years ago, I cringe.  Perhaps I wrote a blog post that I completely disagree with now, or maybe it’s a poorly exposed photograph.  And that time I painted my kitchen red?  Mistake.

Though I cringe, I smile.  I smile remembering the joy and passion I had in creating the thing.  I’m grateful because I can see how much I’ve grown, how my work has evolved.  I can more fully appreciate the rich experiences that have brought me here.  In his book Art and the Bible, Francis Schaeffer says, “Change is one difference between life and death.”  At least I’m moving forward. 

Honestly, it’s this obstacle that keeps me from writing more.  I’d rather not press into something I might hate someday, something someone else might hate now.  I also struggle to believe I have any words of value to put out into the world.  It’s valuable to me, of course, and that is enough.  But I don’t want to write things that have been written better elsewhere.  I don’t want to contribute to the general noise, and I’m afraid I’m not good enough to rise above it.  I don’t want my writing to become a validation machine, my heart rising and falling with the tide of your opinion.  It’s safer to stay away from this space altogether, to keep it just for myself, to never work at this in earnest. 

You know what gets to me?  When someone is straightforward, honest, and vulnerable.  Vulnerability disarms me; it’s courageous and incredible and it makes me want to be brave too. Perhaps I should get some of that for myself.

In ten years I might look back on my words and cringe a little.  I will regret some of the things I said and wish I’d fleshed out my ideas better.  I hope I can look back with gracious eyes.  Time will prove what I got right and what went wrong, and I need to just do the thing

So I will work harder, write more and better.   I will write about our everyday life, our food, our moments of glory and sorrow, our dinner parties.  I will flesh out the things I journal early in the morning, and tell you about what keeps me up at night.   I will write whether I feel like it or not, whether you read it or not.

We are a family like so many others, but these stories are ours, these words are mine, and they do matter.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Happy Trails: Lewis and Clark


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Monday, January 20, 2014

A Birthday Trip.


Monday, December 23, 2013

Just Us Christmas.