Posted in Faith

Waiting on the Porch with Strangers

I picked up some barbecue from a local restaurant this past week.

It’s a hole-in-the-wall that opens at 11 am and usually sells out by 2 pm. They make no bones about how they will close as soon as the meat is gone.

When I arrived at 10:50 am, there was already a short line. They are THAT GOOD!

At 10:59 am, they opened their doors. There were now several people behind me waiting for their goodies.

Because of this not-so-lovely continuing plague, each person entered one at a time, some with masks and others without.

That left most of us waiting outside, just fine as it was a gorgeous fall day, filled with sunny skies and warm temperatures.

One woman fidgeted. She seemed overly nervous. She asked me how long I thought this would take as she had left someone waiting in the car.

A man complained that the website had not updated and they “better have brisket” today.

Three mid-twenties “guys,” looking like they just rolled out of bed, chatted about how much they loved working from home.

I was in a good mood and thrilled not to have to be cooking for the company we had invited over for dinner. My face was filled with smiles as I waited to order.

But my mind was churning.

What made this woman so nervous? Was the person in the car a child? A demanding, abusive spouse? Why was she in such a hurry? I felt sad for her.

What was the deal with the “Negative Ned” (the name I made up for him)? Why was he being such a jerk? This is a small business in a local town and he just “had to say something?” I felt pretty angry about him.

Where did these young fellas work, the ones in their sweats with bedhead? Did their bosses know that they were out-and-about? How fun for them to be getting lunch with their friends and working from home! Are they getting paid for this? I felt pretty confused about them.

As I drove away, the smell of pulled pork and brisket wafting through my car, I couldn’t stop thinking about this group of humans lined up outside on a small porch at 11 am, all waiting for the SAME thing.

Yet, we were all so DIFFERENT.

Coming from different places.

Feeling different things.

In different spaces.

Inside and out.

And it struck me.

No matter where we go or who we are with or what we are doing, we bring ourselves.

What’s going on in our life.

What’s happening inside our hearts.

Good or bad, happy or sad, annoyed or kind, fearful or at peace (yada yada yada).

Other people, even strangers standing in line and small business owners trying to serve up some finger-licking-good eats, reap the “rewards.”

Me?

I just happened to have had a good night of sleep, a full belly from my smoothie and an evening ahead with friends to look forward to.

I was rested, fed and loved.

Maybe that’s why I was all smiles and “in a good mood,” something the porch-waiters and shopkeepers benefitted from.

But the others?

I’m not sure.

Where were they coming from?

Were they rested, fed and loved?

I emptied my wares into the fridge, my husband helping me. I chatted away about the people in line.

He reminded me of a quote by Richard Rohr, “If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it.”

Yes to that. YES. YES. YES.

That has happened both FROM me and TO me.

A few minutes later, I hunkered down in my office, thoughts continuing to swirl.

This time, something Jesus said came to me. “Out of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

Yes to that.  YES. YES. YES.

What happens on the outside comes from the inside. Always.

Always.

I said a quick prayer on my futon, knowing I could have been any of those folks on any given day.

“God, grant me the goodness that I need on the inside. Help me to fight for it. Help me to receive it. Help me to give it to others on the outside.”

Even when standing on porches in small towns waiting with strangers.

Posted in Faith

On change and letting go…

The afternoon sun glistens through the trees.
The leaves are just beginning to be marked by yellows and oranges.
I steal a quiet moment to soak it all in.

Change and letting go beat their steady drums right in front of me.
They mirror what’s happening in my own life, my own heart.

So much change.

Much of it visible to the outside world.

My kids growing and flying.
My move to the woods (#acorns) and very-far-away grocery stores.
My new and strange love of flower gardening.
My public writing.
My decision to take a sabbatical from church and ministry.
My now simple and unhurried life.

So much change.

Especially in the hidden places of my heart.

My growing ability to hold space for grief and joy at the exact same time, not trying to diminish one for the other.

My okayness with not having everything right this minute at my beck-and-call.  #thisishardforme

My settledness of soul when I’m digging in the dirt and hashing things out with my Creator.

My surprising bravery sharing my not-so-pretty parts with the world and being somewhat fine no matter what others might think.

My emerging desire to lean into questions instead of being certain of answers. 

My permission to explore long-held beliefs, systems, and what drives me to cling to them.

My switch from frantic to slow, elaborate to simple, piety to peace.

So much letting go.

Of children.
Of homes.
Of manicured lawns.
Of privacy.
Of a sense of belonging.
Of life as I know it.

So much letting go.

Of people-pleasing.
Of perfectionism.
Of patterns.
Of platitudes.
Of praise-seeking.
Of performance.

An acorn falls with a large thump.
A brown leaf floats and lands to my right.

Many already scatter my driveway.

The trees are changing right before my eyes.
It’s beautifully sacred to see.

The trees will soon let go of all their leaves.
It’s the exact right thing for them to do.

The trees need rest.

From providing.
From producing.
From blooming.

The trees are not afraid of change or letting go.
They are not afraid of rest.

They tell me I don’t have to be either.

Posted in Uncategorized

Worth the Read? October 2021 Edition

Want to know what I’ve been reading?
Want some reviews so you can figure it out for yourself?

Check out these books I’ve spent some time with (and keep doing so).


Bittersweet, Shauna Niequist (4.5 stars)

I lived my life pursuing the “sweet” side and avoiding the “bitter.” Shauna helped me to embrace all of it and she did it by telling her own stories of heartache and hope.  Very short chapters.  Easy to read one at bedtime or in the morning.  I used it as a devotional and in my women’s group.  A wonderful gift for the women in your life (any age and stage).

Inspired, Rachel Held Evans (4.9 stars)

I worked through this book slowly with a women’s group recently.  It is brilliant.  Evans, one of my new favorite authors, examines some familiar Bible stories, retelling them in new ways and drawing out ideas that resonated with me.  As Amazon says, “Undaunted by the Bible’s most difficult passages, Evans wrestles through the process of doubting, imagining, and debating Scripture’s mysteries. The Bible, she discovers, is not a static work but is a living, breathing, captivating, and confounding book that is able to equip us to join God’s loving and redemptive work in the world.”  I couldn’t recommend this more.

Sooley, John Grisham (4.3 stars)

I am a huge fan of Grisham and have read almost every book he’s written. This book is in a league by itself. It takes you on a journey into war-torn South Sudan and a young man who gets the chance of a lifetime: “a trip to the United States with his South Sudanese teammates to play in a showcase basket­ball tournament. He has never been away from home, nor has he ever been on an airplane. The opportunity to be scouted by dozens of college coaches is a dream come true.” (so says Amazon)  It is heart-breaking, riveting, hopeful, and a serious page-turner.  Definitely worth the read and if you know anyone who loves Grisham, it would make a great gift.


Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, Peter Scazzero (4.2 stars)

Looking to dive deep?  This book explores how our emotional and spiritual well-being are very closely tied together.  I went through this book with about 60 other people and it was fabulous.  It explores the more contemplative side of faith as well as working through our own wounds from our pasts.

The Next Right Thing, Emily P. Freeman (5+ stars)

I am reading through this a second time.  Slowly.  And journaling.  It’s that good.  Emily’s wisdom and ability to communicate through story about how to make decisions (which we all do about 35,000 times a day) couldn’t be more effective.  She is gentle and kind, strong and helpful.  I’ve recommended this book to every single person I’ve come in contact with.  Short, yet very packed-full-of-goodness chapters.

Reading brings me to “far away” places including my very own heart!  I am changed by what I read.  I hope you are too.
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#ad
#amazonassociate

Posted in Faith

I’m Obsessed

I am obsessed this week.  To say the least.

It’s all I talk about.
To my friends.
At the dinner table.
Via text. Phone calls. Zoom groups.

I can’t stop listening and thinking and mulling over and over and over.

I’ve been obsessed with a podcast.

It’s about the glorious rise to fame of a church and its pastor and then their spiraling demise.

Being a fierce “justice warrior,” anger wells within me over the same old story of corrupt systems and those who enable the people at the top.  Often in the well-disguised mantra of advancing the kingdom of God. I’ve seen and lived it over and over again in my lifetime.

It happens on large scales with huge followings.
It happens in microcosms like families.
It happens everywhere.

Questions loom large in my mind as I listen.

How does this happen?
Why does this keep happening?
Who is responsible?
Haven’t we learned?
How can we fix this?

Why am I so mad?

The last one haunts me.

Why am I so mad?

I know I’m mad at the pain it causes people whose desire to do good are being used as pawns in some weird game disguised as ministry.

I know I’m mad at the downright destruction left in the aftermath of shame, fear, manipulation and abuse of power.

I know I’m mad at the harm it brings to those who thought they found God and healing and life, but in the end, they realize it was all a fraud.

BUT…

As I dig a little deeper, I’m kind of mad at myself.  Not just kind of.  Really mad.

Mad that I can get caught up in advancing these systems.  I have and probably will again (no matter how hard I try not to).

Mad that the podcast could be about me. If my center-of attention, leadership-bent, late 20s, unhealed self had been put in a position that was “too big for my britches,” it certainly could be about me.

I’m okay with the mad.  It’s a bit of a righteous anger. Because it’s all just not right.

Me.
This church I’m learning about.
The much bigger system we all live under.

I dig even a little bit deeper and chatter about all this with my family.

Why am I so mad?
Where can I start?
What do I need to learn?
How can I heal?
Bring healing to others?

The answer that comes catches me a little off-guard.

Start with listening to myself.
The me who calls out, “It could have been you.”
The me who reminds, “You’ve come a long way!”
The me who whispers, “I forgive you.”
Forgive myself.
For all the ways I’ve contributed to the destruction.
For all the vengeance I now want to mete out on the “system.”
For all the times I haven’t loved myself well in the middle of it.
Because as I forgive myself and receive that forgiveness, grace washes in like a wave.
It brings mercy to my continuing-to-heal self.
It gives freedom from the past and anticipation for the future.
It breathes longed-for hope to me.

Grace.

I’m still obsessed. How could I not be?
I’m still mad. I’m allowed to be.
But I’m still going to keep reaching for grace.

Or better yet, the Giver of it is going to keep reaching for me.
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If you are curious, the name of the podcast is “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill.”  Click HERE to listen to it.

Posted in Childhood, Family, Motherhood

What was said mom to do?

There once was a nine-year-old who asked her mom for a lacrosse stick. And goggles. And to join a cute team of other nine-year-olds.

 

Which meant cleats and a uniform and driving back and forth to three practices a week and God-knows-how-many games.
 
It made sense. Her older sister played. Her two older brothers played. Lacrosse equipment littered the garage, the kitchen, the trunk of the car and the talk around the table.
 
What was said mom to do?
 


She was exhausted with all the laundry, the cooking, the driving, the homework, the music lessons, the mayhem of motherhood.


 
Said mom, who was awful at making good boundaries and had the illusion she was supermom, responded with “yes.” 


 
She loved sports. And who knows? “Maybe her final child had a chance at the big leagues” (whatever the heck that means when it comes to women’s lacrosse).
 


A fancy stick was purchased.
Along with pink goggles (a two-pack) and black cleats with a pink stripe.
Forms were filled out along with a hefty check written.

Practices were driven to, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.
Cheering happened at games and mom friendships were formed on sidelines.
 

The little girl loved it.
So did her mom.


 
Year after year, the girl grew and played and grew and played.


 
Fancier sticks.

Bigger goggles.

Straight-up black cleats (no more pink stripe).

Special lessons.

Elite teams.
 
Very very soon (like a minute in mom years), the nine-year-old was donning a nylon mesh pinnie and headed to high school tryouts.


 
After a week of running and catching and dodging and attacking, the news came. She had made Junior Varsity.


 
The not-so-little girl loved it.
So did her getting-older mom.
 


More practices.

More driving.

More special and elite this-and-that.

More money.

More time.


 
News the following tryout year was even better. Varsity as a lowly sophomore. Varsity.
The season was long. And hard.

The coach was rough. And knowledgeable.

The girl was in shape. And very very busy.


 
The big girl loved it less and less.

The couldn’t-wait-for-the-next-game mom loved it more and more.


 
The announcement came one end-of-winter morning.


 
“I’m quitting lacrosse, Mom. I want to focus on my music. I want to help in the church sound booth.”
 
Said mom gathered herself quickly and tempered her aghast look (hopefully).


 
What was she to say? To do?
 


This was not what she wanted. Or expected. This would make her sad. Very sad.


 
“Okay honey. It’s your life and you should do what you want with it. You do you.”


 
That is what she said out loud.

That is what she meant down deep in her heart.

That is what she believed in her mom soul.


 
She wanted this girl to be completely herself and do whatever it takes to find out what that is.


 
But her mom loss was big.
 


The loss of standing on the sidelines, enjoying the crisp spring air, cheering for her girl.

The loss of easy friendships she had long-formed within the lacrosse microcosm.

The loss of her expectation of what her girl might accomplish or be.


 
So said mom who was learning better boundaries and how to take care of herself just a little bit more, gave herself permission to be sad.


 
Just plain old sad.

For a while.


 
You know what?
 
She still really misses all things lacrosse. Very much.

 
She hasn’t gotten rid of the sticks. Not quite yet.
 


But her girl??
Her girl loves music. And sound-board buttons.

And her mom especially loves that her girl found that out.


 
The End. For Now.
Posted in Faith, Friendship, Health

I did a very HARD thing

I knew I had to do something.

I knew it would be HARD. Probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

I knew it was right, in fact, more than right. It was good.

When the “thing” came to light a couple of weeks ago, my stomach churned.

I cried.
I looped around and around about it.
I talked with a professional and got wise counsel.
I chatted with my people.
I prayed.

I wished the “thing” did not exist. But it did. Large and scary and awful.

It was hurting someone I love. A few people I love. Harming them.

It was ruinous. The opposite of healing. That “wide road that leads to destruction.”

This “thing” was out of control.

Actually, it probably was in control, the horrific boss, dictating thoughts, decisions and actions.

Causing shame, fear, guilt, heartache, mistrust, disunity, chaos, impatience, lashing out.

That’s why I had to do something.

A very HARD thing.

I set a plan so I wouldn’t back out.
Gathered others to help.  With the “thing.”
Chose a day and time.

I knew it was good and right, but as the moment approached, my head ached, my heart raced and I was very afraid.

Of all the bad that might happen.
Of my own inability to follow through. Be calm. Show tender and fierce love at the same time.
Of screwing it all up. Bringing more harm.

But I forged ahead, knowing the “thing” needed to come out of hiding into the open.
Remembering that I can do what’s HARD.
Trusting the process of transformation and the very God who is at the heart of it.

The dreaded hour came.

It was awful.
It was scary.
It was sacred.
It was beautiful.
It was HARD.

Darkness came to light.
Tears were shed.
Boundaries were kept.
Bravery showed up.
Love fitfully reigned in the mess.

And the most important of all…

One small step was taken down the “narrow path that leads to life.”

One.
Small.
HARD.
Step.

*items in quotes come from Matthew 7:13*

P.S.  Jonathan Puddle has a 30-day devotional book.  It combines a short message along with a guided audio meditation for each day.

I started four days ago and it’s been fabulous.  Just what I need to center myself around who God says I am and how much I am loved by Him.

There’s a Kindle version, an Audible book and a hard copy available.

I hope you give it a chance and then let me know how it’s going for you. I am excited to continue with it.
Posted in Faith, Family, Motherhood

A Much Bigger Dream

I had one girl and two boys, all under the age of seven.  I was ready to burst, my fourth baby wiggling incessantly inside my pregnant belly, leaving me exhausted and eager to give birth.  I had chosen NOT to find out the gender, but not-so-secretly dreamed of a sister for my oldest.

You see, I was the only girl in a family of three older brothers and always wanted a sister. But no matter how much I pleaded with my mom, no more babies were to be had.

A few days after an awful procedure called an “external version” to flip over my not-head-down baby, I packed my bags and headed to the hospital.  After hours of induced labor, the doctor came rushing in just in time to shout, “IT’S A GIRL!” 

My heart leapt for JOY (her middle name that mirrors my own) and, in that moment, I thought my BIG dream had come true and my earnest prayer answered.

Little did I know that something much BIGGER was on the horizon.

The birth of this baby girl became the very starting point of a now years-long journey of healing for me. I’m still not sure why.

Perhaps it was a fluke.  Or maybe God just knew that I might be ready.

Immediately, her sparkly eyes drew me close, as if she could see right into my soul.
I had never before been able to open my heart without pause.

She was unconditional love wrapped in a tiny package of flesh and bones.
I had never before been able to receive love without restriction.

As she grew, her child-like wisdom shocked me in the best ways.
I had never before been able to move out of formulaic thinking.

KNOWN.
LOVED.
WISDOM.

Three crucial pieces to a puzzle that had long been missing in my life, and that changed it forever.

As I write, this young lady stands on the precipice of a hope-filled future, one that reaches far beyond me.

BUT…

She still sparkles and I feel seen.
She still loves unabashedly and I receive it with JOY.
She still speaks wisdom and I am, again and again, moved toward healing.

My BIG dream did come true that autumn morning, the birth of a sister for my oldest.

But God had a much BIGGER dream for me, an “immeasurably more” kind: the slow, deliberate, continuing and tender mending of my own precious soul.

#doublejoy

Posted in Faith

S-I-N

Confession time.

I don’t know how I feel about the word “sin.”

I’ve stopped using it for a pretty long time.

It feels yucky.
It has been used to scare me into trying to trust a God who is blazing mad at me because of something I had no control over (“born in sin”).
It has gotten me to shame, guilt and make others afraid about a certain behavior I believed was right up its alley.

A friend of mine asked a bunch of us what we thought about this word.

Confession time.

All of us had lots to say.

It’s been in our lives for as long as we can remember.
We’ve replaced it with softer words like “brokenness,” “humanness,” etc.
It’s been misused and we’ve been harmed by it.  Gut-punch!

Yup.  I’ve been down-right harmed.

Shamed.
Guilted.
Scared.

Probably why I stopped using it.
Why I bristle every time I hear it.
I don’t want to perpetuate the madness.

After all, those are the BIG THREE that I have worked so hard to overcome with the help of God and His audacious love for me.

SHAME.
GUILT.
FEAR.

Yuck.

Or as my friend said, “EW!”

So what to do with this word, “sin”?

It’s an important word.
It’s a word that needs to be understood and redeemed.

For me anyway.

Recently, I picked up a book that has the word in the title. Might be why it’s all up in my grill at the moment.

I dove into the first chapter to see what this author had to say about it (or what I think he had to say…since we all pull out what grabs us and try to make sense of it).

Could it be this?

“Sin” is whatever we do that “goes against the grain of love.”

Small “l” and capital “L.”

love. Love.

Love God.  Love my neighbor. The BIG TWO. Or the BIG ONE.

LOVE.
LOVE.
LOVE.

The way to combat the BIG THREE.

NO SHAME in LOVE.
NO GUILT in LOVE.
NO FEAR in LOVE.

So, I’ve got to ask myself this every single day (plus ask for lots of help from LOVE HIMSELF):

How can I go WITH the grain of LOVE?

Not shaming.
Not guilting.
Not making others scared.

Building up.
Bringing healing.
Being a soft, safe place to land.

Going WITH the grain of LOVE.

Confession time.

I may be back to using this word I’ve avoided (at least in the privacy of my own heart).
We’ll have to see.

 
The End.

P.S.  Here’s the book (if you are so interested):

“Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God” by Brian Zahnd.

Posted in Motherhood

Car Accident

“Please do not drive around in this. There are trees down everywhere. And please do not take your younger brother with you.”

Those were the words I pleaded with my new driver in the hurricane aftermath.

As you might guess, curiosity got the best of him and this “I-am-trying-hard-not-to-control-you-anymore” mama said a prayer as she watched her boys skip out the door and drive away.

Needing a few groceries since we were “out of food” (#alwayshungryteens), I ventured out to the store, gingerly driving around downed branches and wires hanging precariously, wondering if I should have taken my own advice.

On my way back to the car, grocery shopping done, my phone rang.

It was Son One.

“Mom, I got in an accident.”

After saying some not-so-kind things and yelling (just a little) that this was “the exact reason” I didn’t want him going out, I remembered to ask this question, “Are you okay? Is your brother okay?”

He sighed. “Yes, Mom.”

PHEW.

“But my car is not.”

Now came the hard part. How could I get him (and his tag-along brother)? They were more than 10 miles away.

After calling the tow service, I instructed my boys to find a safe(ish) place on the side of the road, far away from all scary wires and dangling branches.

Over two hours later, groceries wilting and melting, my mama’s heart determined to reach her boys (still a little bit angry, I might add), I arrived on the scene.

There they sat, their over six-foot-tall crumpled bodies, heads down, on the grassy slope aside a busy intersection in a strange town.

In that moment, instead of two giant almost-men who had “defied” my very sound mom advice, I saw my two little boys, needing their mom.

Not needing her to yell.
Not needing her to say “I told you so.”
Not needing her to tell them they were “going to reap the consequences” and that “I was not going to pay a dime for the car to be fixed.”

Just needing their mom.

Needing her to scoop them up.
Needing her to show them grace.
Needing her to drive them home, what I want to be the safest space of all.

Safe to make choices.
Safe to make mistakes.
Safe to make “the call.”

Sigh.

P.S. I put a little money in his car accident fund jar. How could I not?

Posted in Faith, Health

I QUIT!

I quit something recently.  In fact, I quit two things.

And these weren’t just two small things.  They were two ginormous things that I had been doing for umpteen years.  Umpteen.

First of all, I loathe quitting.

I was that mom who never allowed my children to quit something they had committed to (like a sports season, those art lessons, their service project).

I am also a human German Shepherd, loyalty coursing through my veins.  Once something or someone makes its way into my heart and my life, I’m holding on tight.

I loathe quitting.

But quit I did.  Q-U-I-T.

And these weren’t just two unimportant things.  They were highly meaningful things that I had poured my heart into.  My time into.  Things that had breathed life into me.

Second of all, I needed to quit.

Even saying that out loud and penning it for the world to see makes my stomach a little bit swirly.

But I needed to take a big giant step outside my never-quit comfort zone and pull the quit trigger.

I needed to quit.

For my integrity.  Something even more important to me than my loyalty.
Because the time had come.
To put to death what was no longer giving me life (I’m still struggling writing that).

So in one week, I wrote some of the most difficult emails and made some of the hardest phone calls telling some of my most favorite people in the whole world that I quit.  I was done.

And these two ginormous and highly meaningful things ended just like that.  Just like that.

Third of all, it was awful.

I cried.  I cried more.  I talked to friends.  I met with a counselor.  I told God how sad I was.  And mad.  And that I couldn’t believe this was happening and that I was doing this.

I also reminded myself over and over and over again that making the right decision does not mean it’s easy.  Or happy.  It often is not.

It was awful.

It still is.

Especially now that the newness has worn off and I am left with the empty space that those two ginormous and highly meaningful things filled to the brim.

I still cry.  I still talk to friends about it.

I tell God that I’m never going to quit Him.  And that I’m incredibly grateful that He never ever ever ever ever is going to quit me.  We belong to each other no matter what else stops or ends or is over.

Last of all, it brought me space.  And room.

Space for quiet.  Room to listen to the whispers from the heart of God.

Space for what might breathe life into me.  And what I might breathe life into.
Room for my next right things, what I might miss if I stay my German Shepherd self.

It brought me space.  And room.

To breathe (as my online yoga instructor says, “lots of love in and lots of love out”).

BREATHE.

I have no idea what’s going to happen in the big picture.
I’m a little bit scared.

I’m just beginning to see glimmers of light ahead of me.
I’m a little bit hopeful.

But for now, I sit in this odd space between the definitive past and the murky future.  I like it here.

God is here with me.

That’s all I need to know for now.