Monday, August 10, 2015

Name the Feels.

If you're around young children for any length of time, you'll see some big emotions.  Kids experience a wide range of feelings and reactions, and because they're so young, they have trouble understanding and articulating them.  They're working out life in a world that can be tough and confusing.  There's a language barrier, and so much gets lost in translation.

When my kids were young, I was always encouraging them to use their words.  Don't keep it inside!  Use your words.  Even now, my mature sixth grader needs to be reminded to do this.

We say kids are resilient and recover quickly, but more often than not, with few tools for working out their stress, they internalize, repress, and move on; not because it's resolved, but because they have to.  And you can bet that anything internalized and repressed will come out later in out-of-proportion reactions to stress or disappointment.  Kids can grow anxious, angry, or insecure, and it can color their interactions with family and friends.

If we don't grow in our ability to see, understand, and process our internal world in healthy ways, the effects last into adulthood and can really break us down.

If you have a child in your life, they either just got through a big reaction, or they are approaching one!  Sometimes these reactions seem so sudden, so out-of-proportion to the moment, that we get exasperated as parents or teachers.  Right now?  Really?

But here is the crucial point:  any time we have a big reaction, it needs real attention.  Right now, or as soon as possible.  

When a child in your life lashes out or grows incredibly quiet and goes "inside themselves" in reaction to something, picture Jesus holding out a big, red STOP sign.  This is your cue to pause, breathe, and connect with what's underneath it all.  Take five, connect with them, and work through it now, because if they "put it away" and we just wait until it blows over, we're really just making a reservation for a future meltdown.

Because left to it's own, it won't go.  It'll grow.

When your child hits a "moment", help them pause.  Get on their level, and connect.  Encourage them to stop, breathe, and focus on you.  Validate their feelings, because they're real.  Give them some words to describe what's going on.  Let them cool down for a moment if they need it, but be sure they know you aren't going anywhere.

Encourage your child to give their big feelings a name.  Start by asking them, "Do you feel sad, mad, or bad?"  

Sad and mad are both ways we react to pain from outside sources.  We've been hurt somehow so we react.  We cry, we feel low and crushed.  Or, we get angry.  We rage and lash out.  If your child says they're sad or mad, help them backtrack and find the catalyst, where it all started.  Let them explain it with their own words, then explain it back to them so they know you heard and understand.  Validate them if they've got a good reason to feel sad or mad, and if they don't, take a minute to explain the situation from another point of view.

When we're sad or mad, there's a good chance another person could be involved.  Maybe you, or a sibling.  In that case, you might need to help them forgive, or get forgiven yourself.

Bad is a bit different.  Bad usually means I feel bad about me.  Maybe they've done something wrong.  Perhaps it was a while ago, and they tried to hide it, but it's been eating them up.  Maybe they feel like they are doing the same wrong thing over and over and they just can't stop.  A young child doesn't have big money words like guilt, shame, or condemnation, but they do know they feel bad.  Help them talk it out, get forgiveness and give it, and then fill them up with good things.  Let them know how you feel about them, how God feels about them.  Tell them true things.  Let them see that even at their messiest, you don't go anywhere, and you love them and want them just the same.

Once you're in a good place, then work out some simple action steps for how we can handle a situation like this in the future.  But wait on that until love has won it over.  When love is anchoring them down, those helpful words can take hold.

And most importantly, when you feel the feels, when you overreact, stop.  Learn the practice of pausing. This is how God cultivates a healthy and strong heart in us.  Give words to the why you feel this way.  Work it out with God, with others, and don't put it off.  Get forgiveness right now, connect right now; don't shove it.  When you get messy, let your kids see you model how to be imperfect and healthy.  Let them know real and messy is good, and we're here to stick together.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Transparent Devotion

Not long ago I found myself in a discussion about journaling as a method of spiritual discipline.  One of the men in my class immediately rubbed at the idea of writing honest, uncensored thoughts on a page, leaving the ugly in print; concerned his wife or children would find it one day.

Cultural and generational differences between us, I do understand his point, and there are practical reasons behind his argument.  But there's something deeper at work there.  There's no shame in working out our salvation honestly with God, and no shame in confessed sin unless that sin is treasured, not fully given over.

My heart hurt for him; I'd love to see him free to pour out truth on a page, to get cleaned out, to be able to leave it unashamed on the grace-filled floor.

I wrote this on March 28, 2011:

I feel tired and lonely.  I feel unimportant and unpleasant to be with.  I feel irritable and wasteful, out of control, and turned away from You.  I can't stop on my own.  I am so tense, angry, frustrated, alone- desperate for a fresh, new change.  So alone, so disgusted.  There I am.  Desperate for relief.  I absolutely do not feel fully alive right now, not at all. 
I have a longing, it's not filled.  I know You fill it.  I know You are here, so where are You?  I don't know where I am.  You do.  Just fix it.  Stop the torment, free my mind, my body, my spirit.  My soul is downcast.  Lift up my head. 
I know a lot of things, I feel very little of the truth.  Everything is overboard, in the wrong direction.  You could toss it all over to the other side of lost.  I'm lost in flesh and the world.  Get me lost in all You are.  I'm tied up in knots.  I am a low psalm, I feel no good.  Turn it up.
Over the last two decades, I've archived dozens of journals, and scribbled through stacks of books and Bible studies.  Thousands of pages full of raw, honest vulnerability written just between me and God; but I've always kept them safe.

Someday I'll be gone and they'll stay behind.  My daughters and my son can pore over the pages, read every word.  They'll paint a picture of the everyday working of the Holy Spirit, a mysterious and methodical arc of transformation, shaping me up and cleaning me out. A lifetime of renovation.

I imagine them as adults, tall and mature, their own hands gliding over the pages, and I don't blush.  Grace, Patience, Lily, and Hudson, you can know I wrote them for me, but I saved them for you.  It is a vulnerable, weighty thing, but I want to live an outward life of such transparent devotion that when I'm gone, you will not be surprised to discover that your mother had dark nights of the soul.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015


The last two years of my life have been intense and rich;  life has expanded higher, wider, and deeper than ever before. It's been wonderful, and it's meant incredible change for all of us.  These seasons prove what is essential, and what can be missed.  We bend, stretch, move, and let go when needed.

Some of the things I used to enjoy daily needed to shift back for a time.  If it did not have a soul, a voice, or a deadline, it fell behind.  Experimental cooking, writing, reading as much as I'd like, hiking trips, and photography took huge hits.  I've slowly brought these things back into my routine, rightly placed; everything but my camera.  It's been packed away for months.

Yesterday while on retreat at an empty monastery, I took it out for the first time this year.

I held it in my hands, it's weight familiar and right.  All my muscle memory was there and ready.  I looked her over, apologized briefly, and began.

My camera does not have a soul, a voice, or a deadline, but the discipline of seeing expands my own soul, and so for me, it is essential.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


Last week I left work on a hot day, and arrived home to a long list.  My kids headed out to the sprinkler- and wanted to invite a friend to play too.

I had a split-second choice to make:  keep working, or drop it?  I dropped it.  The bills aren't actually due for another month, and no one cares if our house is clean anyway.

I shoved the dishes over, filled a kettle, and made iced tea instead.

A warm and lazy hour stretched out before us,  simple and stable.  I sat with a good friend while our daughters played, unexpectedly telling her things I've not dared to say to almost anyone, for fear of being misunderstood.  There were no answers or resolutions, but I was heard and she understands; that's enough.

I left that afternoon feeling light and clean, energized and ready to finish the day well.

We will be a family that pursues smallness and slowness.  We won't run from hard work.  We'll engage it with all we've got, free to obey when life's rhythms say rest.

I'm resolved.  I flatly refuse to be busy and I'm bringing my family with me.

We will live a deliberately unhurried life.  We will breathe and not suffocate.  We will work with a clear, determined will set on excellence, not quantity.

We will live alert and savor the good, wide awake and entirely free from the shadow of frantic, false productivity.

We will move motivated by our First Love, and not by fear; arms wide open, inviting you to join us.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Holy Week.

Jesus Christ is a bright tomb.
Heavy joy,
deep debt of love.
Blood-soaked sin,
perfect food.
Happy burden,
better-than-my-life surrender.
Anchored peace.

Monday, March 16, 2015


My heart is a battleground, and sometimes I'm my own worst enemy.  I wonder if you can relate.  Are you a repeat offender like me?  Do you have a savored sin?  It could be an addiction to approval, money, or cake.  Maybe for you it's outbursts of rage or an impulse to hide.  Perhaps you tend to obey fear, not God.

Favorite sins are a comfort food, poisoning us from the inside out.  It's what we default to under stress, where we shelter when we feel anxious, tired, or exposed.  We fall, confess, repent, then turn around again.

It's where we're most likely to fall and we know it; a stumbling block, a nagging voice we hate- but occasionally let win.  You might call yours a thorn in your flesh, a cross to bear.  Everyone's got issues, this one's mine.  I'll never totally get over it, but I'll keep fighting.

Think of yours right now- what is it?  Give it a name.  Like me, I'm sure you know yours well.

It's a thief and a liar.  It wrecks relationships and smothers you.  It clouds your connection to God.  It makes you feel dirty, defeated, worthless.  You've grieved over it, you've surrendered it, but the battle to give in is still there.  Maybe it's just once in a while, or maybe it's every day.  Keep surrendering.  Keep choosing to obey; take the light over the dark.  

But I have a question for you:  Do you think it's possible to forget this sin?  Do you really believe you could go a day, a month, or even years without falling back into this pattern?  Could even the voices that tempt you go quiet?  If you bristle at the idea, I understand- but consider how the subtle agreements we make might be cutting God's power short.

You don't have a thorn.  You have a Healer.

Jesus had a cross to bear, and it's finished.  When he talks about his disciples taking up their cross and following him, he does not mean carrying the weight of a sticky sin struggle as a burden on your back.  That's not for you.

Who told you you'll never get over this?

Who knows what we could be missing?

I'm challenged to believe the truth that God's grace is sufficient; not only to help me modify behavior and get through the day.  I'm challenged to believe that his power is made perfect in my weakness, ready to completely deliver me, restore me, and transform me into something entirely new.  Jesus took the full weight of all my sin and shame, but he didn't stop there.  The cross still stands as an invitation to wide open life; to get holy right now in the mess of everyday living.

Holiness isn't a perfect score card or a finish line.  It's a person to consume me.  

As we orient our hearts toward Jesus, he follows through with us.  He is not holding out on you.  Ask him to become your obsession; work him over in your mind again and again, let him overwhelm you. Every lesser god pales in comparison.  In that kind of light, old desires shrink and fade; we begin to forget.  They disconnect from us altogether.  When we talk about them, the weight, sting, and heat are gone.  Out of your healed heart Jesus speaks.  He presses into the lives of people who need him.  You'll trade cycles of sin for uninterrupted grace, life that multiplies.

There's more than one way to slay a dragon.  Sometimes God heals in an instant, one mighty swipe. I've seen it for myself.  But I know him, and I know he loves to work things out in moments and choices; perpetual motions of love, obedience, and surrender.  Working like that, we starve that dragon together, one day at a time.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Thank you.

For Jim.

Years ago I fell into a trap.  Somewhere, somehow, I believed the lie that if I'm strong and bold, I'll tear you down.  I had a fire in my bones and God wanted it to rage- but not too much!  Be amazing- but not too amazing!  You'll be too much.

Remember- he leads, you follow.

Speak with passion- but not too much passion!  People will think you're pushy.  It might be better to stay quiet.  You've got a bomb inside- hide it a little- or a lot.  Don't ever overpower your husband.  He leads- you follow.  Tone it down.

It was the undercurrent of countless books, some sermons, and not a few conversations with women and men who truly had my best interest at heart.  It took us years to get honest about just how much those subtle lies handicapped me, to begin pulling back the layers to uncover the truth.

No one partnered with those lies more than myself.  No one could have pulled me out like you.  The truth is, we are all meant to lead, to influence, to find what is excellent in one another and fan it into flame.  And we are all called to follow Jesus.

Strong leadership is not a dictatorship, but a partnership.  A joining together to move us all higher and deeper.  Jesus-centered leadership does not diminish the strength of others, but provides definition, refining, an environment ideal for growth.  Leaders see what others do not, and call that excellence out of hiding.

No one has imitated Christ to me like you- no human has had a greater impact on my knowing of Him than you.  Your servant heart cut me loose.  You never let me settle.  When I wanted to pull back, you stepped in to remind me there is so much here I've refused to see.

I think we've both known- always known- that a part of me was buried alive.  You knew one day I'd break out.  You never held me back, and always held me up.  When I had passion, you told me to pursue it.  When I backed off, you called me on it.  When I- a year before I'd speak of it to anyone else- said out loud that God might be calling me to be a pastor, you said, "Do it."  When I couldn't carry it on my own yet, you held it for me.

You know me; the brilliant and the ugly.  Where I saw caskets, you saw cocoons.

Monday, February 9, 2015

He's wise.

One lazy afternoon I sat with Hudson on the couch, telling him I can't believe I get to be his mom, and how in the world did I ever end up with such a cool kid to get to know?  How did we get here?  This is amazing!

I said I was so full with how awesome life is that I had no idea what to do about it.

"Just say thank you," he said.  Then he walked away.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Coming Clean.

Honest relationships require intimacy.

Intimacy is endless hours of nothing, together. A quantity of choosing the other.  These hours are marked by spontaneous moments of connection, made richer for the long walk that got us there.

These moments move, weave, and stitch shared garments.  Fitted and worn-in, no one else gets to wear them but us.  And now the world is not so cold, so we venture out, boldly.

Yes, we make a mess of things; mud on my jeans, blood on your shirt.  We take them to the spin cycle together, where it's a bit chaotic, but we come out clean.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Monday, October 13, 2014

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Light Expands.

I'm on staff at a church that exists to set captives free.  All the power required for freedom, healing, and restoration is found in Christ, and we are resolved to communicate this through every thing we do as a body. Naturally, these things find their way into many of our conversations throughout the week.

Nearly every Sunday, I hear things like this:

I want to step up and be a leader, but every time I do, all I can think about are all the ways I failed in the past, even if I know I'm forgiven.  I know Satan wants to keep me focused on my old junk, so he's really stepping up his game.

I want an amazing marriage, but every time we disagree I get so angry and blurt out hurtful things to my husband to cut him down, just like my mom did to my dad.  I know the enemy wants me to do the same thing, so the closer we get, the more he brings those thoughts.

Every time I walk into church, no matter how badly I want to be here, I just want to run in the other direction!  I can't sit here without thinking about all the ways I was hurt by the Church as a child- but I know that was wrong and this place is good, so I'll keep coming anyway!

As I talk with Christians struggling with the presence of warfare in their walk with God, I find myself encouraging them with a few key things over and over.  Here are some ways we can encourage one another in the face of enemy resistance:

This is a battle.

We are in a battle.  We have an adversary, we are opposed.  Sometimes that opposition is from the outside; but often the war is within.  The enemy does want to remind us of every way we've failed, every insecurity and struggle.  He wants nothing more than to steal, kill, and destroy in any way he is able.  And Jesus prayed not that we'd be removed from this, but that we would be protected from the evil one (John 17:15.)  As we obey God, as we pursue him and choose him and let his love transform us, we will notice these kinds of attacks.

Light expands.

We will certainly face opposition of many kinds, but know that to be made clearly aware of the presence of darkness in your own heart and life is a work of the Holy Spirit.  This is God opening your eyes and allowing you to see the methods of the enemy, the places you're broken down or wounded.  It is evidence of your growing sensitivity to the voice of God and the voice of a liar.

Dark devices want to stay hidden in the shadows, but you are a child of light. You were bought with a price.  Jesus brought God glory on earth by finishing the work God gave him to do (John 17:4) and now he is seated in heaven, the work to set you free completed on the cross.  Jesus Christ is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being.  The same power that raised Christ from the dead now lives in you (Eph. 1.)

With that kind of light in you, how could the darkness possibly hide? That perfect light expands, exposing and driving out every presence of darkness as we choose to walk in the truth.

When we say yes to God, his love moves freely in us, bringing to light any thing that contaminates the connection between our heart and his.

Love is winning.

Your holy heart is a supreme threat to the enemy.  As we pursue God, awareness of opposition is not an indicator of the enemy's increased strength, but of his growing weakness.

When I hear Christians talk about warfare, the discussion is nearly always framed within the presupposition that as we pursue God, the enemy steps up his game to stop us.  This is where we need to be wise and discerning, asking God to give us clarity.  Many times, increased temptation to sin, or increased struggles with old feelings of worthlessness, anxiety or fear are not a sign that the enemy is advancing stronger than ever in our lives, but rather that love is winning. The darkness within us is being driven to the surface where it's exposed and ready to be called out, cancelled, and cleared away.

Don't assume this is the enemy gaining ground.  When God reveals weak spots vulnerable to attack, it's an invitation to get healed, whole, and free.

As the Holy Spirit lovingly reveals those sharp, sensitive places, take those hurts to him. There very well may be places in your heart that are not yet completely healed.  The enemy attempts to keep us stuck in those places, avoiding them, afraid to ever bring them into the light.  These are the places in our lives where we know the truth, but just can't break out of old cycles or habits, where we want to forgive and let go, but just can't somehow.  Satan would love for God's children to stay trapped there; saved and knowing the truth, but not completely free from entanglements.  

If you resolve to walk with God, the enemy would like you to walk with a limp.  But this is not your inheritance.  It is for freedom that Christ has set you free (Gal. 5:1.)

Awareness of the work of the enemy in your heart is not the power of darkness, but the power of light!  This is an invitation to rest safely in the arms of your Father, to bring him every wound and splinter, and to let love set them right.


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