As I lie here this very normal Thursday morning, my body and mind and heart are somewhat anxious, so I spend some time talking to God.
The old, ugly, harsh, “principal’s office” God begins his normal barrage: WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? Can’t you get your act together? UGH.
I quickly step in and remind myself that this voice is not God, it’s the voices of discouragement and shame, enemies of my soul.
In its place, a tender voice speaks gently: what is wrong with you? what do you need?
I start bantering with this lover of my soul, and quite the conversation ensues.
I need Jared to start making money at this job he is working so hard at selling insurance.
Actually, you need My wisdom to know how much to help or not help.
I need our house to sell (and especially for this fledgling contract to be signed). This one is huge right now. It’s causing lots of underlying stress on our finances, our marriage, our very bodies.
Actually, you need a settledness of soul in the waiting, an abiding trust in Me. I care and I know.
I need Rachel to make a friend out there in California.
Actually, you need to feel your sadness over missing her and confront your own loneliness without her. You need to grieve.
I need Allen’s job to be more secure.
Actually, you need to live in today and from a place of provision from my generous heart, instead of that never-ending, life-sucking place of scarcity.
I NEED TO BE OKAY ON THE OUTSIDE!
Actually, you need to be okay on the inside.
(this time, He keeps going….)
My Esther, it’s not going to be having all the OUTSIDE problems solved. More of them will creep up every day. What you “needed” a year ago is completely different than what you will “need” a year from now.
What you REALLY need, however, is the same every moment, every day. You need to trust, to settle, to be in that “all manner of thing shall be well” place INSIDE, the place where I dwell. It’s safe there. You have EVERYTHING you need there.
And my God will liberally supply (fill until full) your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)
P.S. One thing I do desperately need this morning (and any of you who might grace my presence would heartily agree): I NEED A SHOWER! Warm soapy, water, here I come!
You know that moment when your “check engine” light goes on during a 3,000 mile trek across the country and you are in the middle of Kansas?
Now I do.
On Day 4 of a thirteen-day whirlwind trip, 1,700 miles in, this warning light flashed LOUD and CLEAR! Slight panic coursed through my veins as we were supposed to be picking up my daughter’s friend at the Denver Airport at 6 pm and there were 7 more hours to go and the time read 10 am.
With tears leaking out the corner of my eyes and fear beginning to creep slowly, I made a phone call to a random mechanic that Google Maps said was “along the route.”
You know what happened? KINDNESS answered the phone!
KINDNESS in the form of a young man (maybe 20 years old) who works at J & R Automotive in Junction City, Kansas.
KINDNESS in his voice that he would take care of us and run a diagnostic test for FREE.
KINDNESS as he called back and asked the make, model and year of the car so he would be able to take care of us immediately as we arrived only 20 minutes later.
KINDNESS as greeted us and asked if we needed something to drink.
KINDNESS as he spoke about what was wrong and how they could fix it in the next three to four hours.
KINDNESS as he called for the part and assured us it would be here within minutes from the local parts store and he would NOT charge a mark up.
KINDNESS as he offered to drive us to the local library where there is free WiFi and air conditioning.
KINDNESS as he did EVERYTHING he could to get us on our way again.
You know what happened? THAT PANIC, THAT FEAR, that feeling of “who is going to help two women traveling alone in the middle of nowhere?” is gone! My heart is resting in peace. My Word of the Year, Shalom, is reigning in the middle of the mess.
All because of this young man. And his KINDNESS.
One more aside! Praise music blasted in the background as the mechanics worked on the car.
God knew exactly what I would need. I didn’t need to go to the Wizard of Oz Museum in Kansas. I needed KINDNESS.
“Clothe yourselves with kindness.” Colossians 3:12
“The work an unknown good man has done is like a vein of water flowing hidden underground, secretly making the ground green.” (Thomas Carlyle)
Allen. A word that comes off my lips probably twenty times a day. A word that sometimes is surrounded by love and other times by frustration. A word like no other in my life. A word that encompasses kindness unlike I’ve known before, integrity that quietly makes a profound statement, humility that lifts others up and spirituality that is deep and genuine.
I’ve struck gold in the landscape of life. This man, who I’ve known for almost 30 years just keeps getting better and better. He’s the best gift I’ve ever been given. And he gave me four more gifts in our incredible children, as qualities I see growing in them reflect who their dad is.
Allen embodies the spirit of “being kind over being right” (and thank God for that, because I like being right just a little too much). I watch it play out in quiet moments with close friends and strangers alike. He is considerate to both immediate family and the homeless that wander the streets of New York City. Co-workers who spend every day with him and the poor who don’t have access to clean water benefit from his heart of benevolence. His gracious spirit permeates his times with his partners in ministry and the engaged couples we minister to together. As you can see, his kindness is genuine, often and without boundaries.
Integrity is the suit of armor Allen puts on every single day. He does “the right thing even when no one is watching.” I would know. I live with the guy. He doesn’t cheat on his taxes, on his expense sheet at work, or me. He is the same person in the morning at work, in a board meeting at our church, on a weekend with the guys, and our family at home. I trust him completely and utterly. What a gift!
I struggle with thinking I’m better than everyone else (#notabigsurprise). I know. I’m working on it. And one of the reasons I’m working on it is because of this man named Allen who shows genuine humility. I want to be seen and heard. He wants others to be seen and heard, including me. He’s the biggest reason why I started this blog. He wants my voice out there. He actually, deep-down-inside, believes that others are valuable and takes the role of a servant much of the time even though he is a highly successful business man with mad skills. You can find him washing the dishes, folding the laundry, performing menial, unseen tasks no one else wants to do and never expecting the notice and applause of others. I am so blessed!
My favorite thing about Allen, and probably why he’s all those other things, is that he is deeply spiritual. His inner life matters more to him than his outward persona. He seeks God with ferocity. He spends time in prayerful solitude in all kinds of places (the woods, his favorite chair in our family room, the airport as he’s waiting for a flight). He seeks wise counsel with me as we work to have a better marriage and partnership for this journey. He has a group of male friends called the Muckmeisters who meet every other week to encourage and be encouraged along their inner journeys. We share our lives with a group of couples where Allen is vulnerable and open with his struggles and successes. He voraciously reads anything he can get his hands on (at our local library because he is an accountant and keeps our money under control) that will help him on his path to becoming spiritually and emotionally whole. He is the real deal!!
Allen is not perfect by any means. No one is. That’s what makes this post even more precious to me! I spend a lot of time thinking about and dwelling on all the things he is not, the ways I wish he was different. But today, on his 57th birthday, I am shouting for all to hear the things that HE IS, the parts of him that are his truest self.
To my boys: you have a great father. I don’t want you to be him. I want you to be yourselves. I want you to see, by Dad’s example, that you can be your truest, best selves in all that God made you to be. You are already great men and a lot of the reason you are is because of the amazing dad that you have.
To my girls: you have a great father. He has been more than enough for you and shown you what a good man is. Sarah, you have chosen wisely and have two good men (one big and one little) yourself. How blessed they both are to have you as their wife and mom. Rachel, you are still to choose. I know you will choose well. Dad will be a blubbering mess when he walks you down the aisle!
To Allen today: you are amazing! You are to be celebrated! I am so grateful to share my life with you! Keep doing what you are doing! Don’t change who you are (even though at times I’m shouting otherwise)! You make the world, and especially mine, a better place just because you are in it! I see you! I salute you! Happy Birthday! I hope we have 57 more of them together!!! And even that won’t be long enough!!
“Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.” (Unknown)
Lots of things are going to creep into your life that will thwart you from staying on the path that’s only yours to take. Others (including me at times) may discourage you or steer you off. Lack of immediate success and even straight up failures along the way may cause confusion and “is this really what I’m supposed to be doing” questions. Fear may come in with its claws and try to convince you that you are “not good enough” to stay the course.
As those disheartening voices shout loudly to you, another Voice whispers cheer, comfort and confidence to you. This Voice reassures you to continue to discover what sets your soul on fire, what makes your heart come alive, what you are good at, what gift ONLY you can bring to the world. He will be with you all the way, marking your next steps and encouraging you to be exactly WHO He made you to be and what He made you to do. He is the one who set your soul on fire to begin with and He can keep that fire burning no matter what or who comes in to try to quench it!!
You don’t need to doubt. You can explore what sets your soul on fire.
You don’t need to retreat. You can pursue with your whole heart.
You don’t need to be afraid. You can be fearless.
From My Heart to Yours
PS. I am deathly afraid of heights. This picture is of me standing at the edge of a 50 foot drop. It was a huge moment!
One of my favorite parts of being a mom is when all my children are in the same room, sleeping under the same roof and sitting around the same table. I can see their huge bodies curled up in a ball on the couch, hear their voices singing in the shower, and give them hugs like I never want to let them go. I am with them and my heart is happy. Right now, in this season of momhood, sadness comes knowing it’s temporary and that I stay here and they go there.
It’s true. I am still with them. I cheer for them in their triumphs, am sad for their struggles and pain, and plop my mom heart down next to theirs during the every day stuff of life. I want them to know in the depths of their souls that they are not alone.
But this is also true. I am not with them the way I used to or even want to be. This is the hard part, the letting go part, the budding adult part, the “trusting God” part.
God is with them even more than I could ever be. He’s not limited physically like me. That calms my heart when I can’t be there in bodily mom form. He reaches them in places that I will never be able to touch. He is the only One who can do that. I rest there.
He also doesn’t have weird mom agendas for them like I do. He doesn’t lecture them to “get their act together” like I might. He doesn’t have fear when they don’t like I might. He is just with them. I rest there.
He doesn’t try to fix everything for them like I’ve been known to do (cough cough). He lets them be right where they are, in all their good and bad choices, and sits beside them in all of them, holding them close to His heart. He loves them no matter what. I rest there.
He believes in them even when they might not believe in themselves. When they can’t see their own goodness and value, He reminds them gently. He is fiercely committed to them for their whole life, actually forever. He isn’t going anywhere. I rest there.
The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
I’m soaking this into my soul today: God goes before me. He goes before them. He’s with me. He’s with them. God will never leave me. He will never leave them. Take courage, sweet heart of mine. REST. RIGHT. THERE.
Please don’t forget to “LIKE” the post on social media! I know it means you have to “go back out and click on something,” but it would mean the world to me!!!
It is our great and sacred privilege to come along side you, engaged and newly-wed couples, to share on the journey of your marriages. These past fifteen years, sitting at our dining room table, on our deck, at Paneras, diners, church lobbies, and even in online video conference rooms, has blessed our lives and our own marriage in ways we never thought possible. Friday night, our culmination final barbecue of the very first young-marrieds support group called our hearts to life and joy and beauty and blessing once again. This morning, we meet with another couple on the verge of marriage to go over plans to perform our very first wedding. It just doesn’t get any better than this for us.
When we were engaged, God gave us a short verse from the Psalms that has guided us and held us in ways we did not understand at the time and that would be a great blessing to us (plus we use it as some of our passwords for things – SSSHHH – don’t tell).
Today, we want to bestow a blessing on each one of you (and your precious partnership). Some of you have been married over 10 years at this point and others of you are just beginning your adventure. We love each and every one of you and even those we haven’t met yet. Our hearts are WITH you and FOR you!
Our Blessing For You Young Marrieds (#oldmarriedstoo)
May you be strong and courageous. May you not afraid or discouraged, knowing that the Lord your God will go with you wherever you go.
May your love abound more and more, with all knowledge and discernment so that you approve what is excellent.
May the Lord surround you with favor as with a shield. May He be your stronghold in times of trouble.
May your talk with each other be wholesome, only what is helpful for building each other up.
May love and faithfulness never leave you. May they be written on the tablet of your hearts.
May the favor of God rest on you and may He establish the work of your hands.
May you be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, as you remember how God, in Christ, forgave you.
May you walk with humility and gentleness with each other, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit.
May God give you the desires of your hearts and make all your plans succeed.
May you walk in integrity.
May the Lord instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; may God counsel you and watch over you.
May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other.
May the Lord keep you from all harm and watch over your life.
May there be peace within your walls.
May God be gracious to you and bless you and make His face shine upon you.
May you have the power together to know how high and wide and long and deep God’s love is for you.
May the Lord preserve your going out and your coming in now and forever.
Lastly, we share our own marriage verse with you, praying that this would be the cry of your hearts and the gentle guide for your life together.
Oh magnify the Lord with me, Let us exalt His name together! (Psalm 34:3)
“She was an adventurer at heart. But oh how she loved drinking this tea in this mug in this chair. Oh how she loved to be home.” (Google Images)
When you hurriedly trekked up the sidewalk with your then 10-year-old in a whirlwind house-hunting trip in August of 2002 and opened the door at 23 Cedar Hollow Drive, DID YOU KNOW?
Did you know…
the neighbor boy that walked through the door the day you moved in would become one of your son’s life-long friends and your son would share the weight of pall-bearer at his dad’s funeral eight years later?
music would fill the living room and your baby would fall in love with the guitar and piano and her playing and singing would be a gift to your soul and you miss these moments terribly?
23 Cedar Hollow Drive would be brimming with boatloads of love for and from almost every species of animal, from snakes, to dogs, to cats, to hamsters, to fish(that wouldn’t die), to every assortment of lizard and now there is only one left?
your marriage, faltering at best, would become a place of hope and healing for dozens and dozens of young couples on the verge of their own life-long journey of marriage? (in fact, you are spending time with one of them again this morning)
your nervous decision to construct a pool granted a space for family, friends, teammates, youth groups, classmates, neighbors and even strangers to rejuvenate and be refreshed? (water gun fights and subsequent peals of laughter did just the trick)
first days of school and dance pictures and phone conversations filled with both laughter and tears would mark your front stoop (and who knows, maybe some goodnight kisses by young lovers)?
extended family would gather for holidays and normal days, where sports teams would be cheered for, good food would be eaten, games (and some arguments over those games) would be played, and most significantly, unbreakable bonds would be formed?
your young daughter, struggling with severe OCD and the inability to go away even for a week would receive help through counselors and would now be a flourishing wife, teacher and mom?
an actual wedding ceremony would be performed in your living room because the bride and groom thought the church was located in your town and got their marriage license in the wrong place?
annual Easter Egg hunts (or should I say money hunts) created a place for teens and budding adults to still be kids in all the best ways?
endless art supplies and crafts from your artist would be haphazardly strewn over all available surfaces and one of those works would be still hanging proudly in your family room for your prospective buyers to see and admire?
birthdays would be celebrated in all their simplicity and sometimes complexity, giving room for sharing reasons why the one whose day it was to be honored was loved (and even liked)?
every kind of sport uniform would be thrown in heaps on your kitchen floor and not-so-carefully cleaned in your laundry room, providing a place of community and friendship for your kids? (even as you write this, two of your son’s high school teammates are asleep with your 23-year-old in the basement)
your finished basement would be filled with sleep-overs and left-overs and hang-overs and do-overs and make-overs and probably thousands of humans entered those doors?
your outdoorsy son, content to spread mulch, carefully prune bushes and chop wood with his dad, would be happiest at his job doing the same? (and he would embrace your sports teams to the full)
your family room couch would become the healing place for illnesses too numerous to count, unforeseen and planned surgeries, along with the comforting spot to take a mental health recovery day and that you let your kids skip school for only this reason (oh how far you’ve come)?
small groups filled with lasting and abiding friendships would meet, pouring over books and videos, praying through heartache, celebrating joys, living the ups and downs of life and kids and marriage and…and…and.. (one of them still met last night right in your family room)?
the pony-tailed 10-year-old around the corner and school-bus seat mate would become one of your firstborn’s closest friends, bridesmaid fourteen years later and Auntie Taylor to your grandson?
a baby in your womb would be lost yet your heart would be born anew?
your game-boy playing first-grader would help you to create your new podcast and be a regular and wise guest?
early Christmas mornings would be filled with children (and even now adults) sitting on your bed opening surprises (and not-surprises) through sleepy, yet curious and excited eyes?
a nervous breakdown would seek to destroy you but a life-long journey toward healing and wholeness would begin and continue today and that a writer’s quest would result?
homework would be finished (or not-so-much), college applications would be filled out, but most important, hearts would be taught to love and hope and apologize and respect and give and continue to learn?
your basement would be the place for a barely sprouting church youth group of eight teens and three leaders that is now hundreds strong?
warm fires would be built inside and out, where stories were shared, sleep was encouraged, s’mores were eaten, and life-giving memories were created?
fights would break out, doors would be slammed, harsh words would be spoken, yet subsequent apologies would be made and forgiveness would be granted? Love and trust would be painstakingly built brick by brick?
your two-year old would happen upon a friend in first grade and after endless sleepovers, birthday parties and bring-a-friend vacations, their college hearts would be knit together even though hundreds of miles separate them?
your glass kitchen door would be filled with chore charts and yearly memorabilia, bird-feeder and deck-flower views, and sun-soaked floors for pets to relax and sleep blissfully?
seventeen New Year’s Eves would be celebrated, some quiet with tired bodies barely making it until midnight and others loud with friends singing God Bless America on the stoop after a long-night of Bunco?
a new love would come bearing another new love?
religion would be shed over and over and Jesus would rise in its place to become the healer of your heart and the lover of your soul?
you and Allen would be more in love than you thought was even possible?
Did you know…
Thankful tears would flow because this house is a true haven of healing and that as you leave it, your prayer is the same for the next set of feet that trek up the sidewalk and open your front door and make this their home?
Yes. This you now know. You know ALL of it.
If you’ve made it this far and you like this, I am asking if you could go back out on social media where you came from and “Like” it! Makes a huge difference in how much it gets read and/or shared. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
And that’s when I heard it, “Hold space for them.”
“Hold space for them? What does that mean?” I asked God.
I sat there in my car in the parking lot of the addiction rehab I taught at and knew God was calling me to embark on a journey with these women. As I hung up the phone, I was caught by a sweep of His presence, as I felt the answer to my question settle in my spirit…Just show up every week and be there for them. Be present to their pain.
It’s been almost a year since I heard those words, “Hold space.” I’ve learned to stay present without a response. Without turning away from the pain of others. Loving without saying a word, giving each other space to feel. I’ve learned “holding space” is a beautiful way to sit with them in their pain. It’s finding the depth of love necessary to allow them to feel without judgment, without rushing in to clean it up or fix it. It’s standing beside one another offering hope without saying a word.
A few months ago, the Holy Spirit sweetly asked, “Yeah, but do you know how to hold space for yourself?”
Hold space for me? There’s no time for that.
I’m learning what this means. In a season of five active kids, a dad fighting for his life, and a husband with a demanding job I’m finding I need more time for me. Often times our own self takes a back seat during busy seasons. The thing is, we can’t afford not to take care of our own soul. This is why David spoke to his soul, “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone” (Ps. 62:1,5). We live unawakened lives when we neglect our souls.
Join as I’m a guest on The Dolly Mama and the Millennials podcast where we talk about ways to hold space for ourselves and why it’s important. Laugh and cry with us for thirty minutes as we explore the need for soul-care and how to do that during this busy journey of motherhood.