Posted in Anxiety, Faith, Family, Friendship, Grief

Comfort, Comfort My People

US: We’re all a little afraid, God? Ok, some of us a lot afraid. Most of us are somewhere between freaking out and totally Zen, depending on the day, the hour, the moment. What are we supposed to do?

GOD: COMFORT, COMFORT MY PEOPLE.

US: You mean we’re not supposed to tell them not to be afraid?

GOD: COMFORT, COMFORT MY PEOPLE.

Don’t tell them not to be afraid. HELP them not to be afraid!

US: How should we do that?

GOD: You already are in so many ways, and I’m so grateful for that.

When you answer the phone and cry with a friend who has lost her job, YOU ARE.

When you drop a roll of paper towels off in mailbox for someone who is running short, YOU ARE.

When you hold your kids close who are now having nightmares, YOU ARE.

When you order a pizza from a restaurant who wonders if they are going to make it (and add a few dinners to go), YOU ARE.

When you pray for your coworker whose mom is in the hospital (and tell them that over and over and over), YOU ARE.

When you put stuffed bears in your windows for kids to see as they walk by, YOU ARE.

When you drop a note for your elderly neighbor, asking if they need anything, YOU ARE.

When you keep your distance if you’re out and about, yet greet people kindly, YOU ARE.

When you have a video conference call with your family to celebrate your son’s birthday, YOU ARE.

When you listen to your spouse’s rant about all the scary things that are going on inside her, YOU ARE.

When you collectively gather on the internet with your faith community and remind each other of God’s tender care, YOU ARE.

When you hold another’s heart carefully and tenderly, allowing for all the feels, YOU ARE.

US: Really? That will HELP them? That will HELP me? Not to be so afraid?

GOD: Yes. Yes. COMFORT, COMFORT MY PEOPLE.

Posted in Celebration, Faith, Friendship, Thanks

A Beautiful Mess

I’m headed to a place this morning where pain is shared, joy is celebrated, grace is abundant, hope is plentiful and love looms large.

This is a place I can’t live without.  Everyone should have one of these.

It’s my refuge, my anchor, my lifeline.

You see, where I’m going, there’s…

…one who is wisdom that makes my “self” smart.

…one who is joy that brings a laugh to my heart.

…one who is gentleness that reaches deep in my soul.

…one who is peace that guides me to be whole.

…one who is light that counsels my spirit to shine.

…one who is faithfulness that connects me to the “Vine.”

…one who is grace that keeps me looking “Up.”

…one who is generosity that fills up my cup.

…one who is goodness to help me feel truly blessed.

…one who is kindness that allows my spirit to rest.

This place is going to look a little different this morning, but it’s going to feel exactly the same.  Warm.  Safe.  Love.  A Beautiful Mess (#ourfancygroupname).

This morning, we will share our pain, celebrate our joy, grant grace in abundance, muster our hope, and lavish our love.

I can’t wait.


P.S.  There are some who have scattered and I miss you terribly.  You will always belong to us.   Never forget that.  You are light and love and hope and joy and peace right where you are today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Celebration, Faith

I Arise Today

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.

 

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me;
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s hosts to save me
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a multitude.

 

Christ shield me today
Against wounding

 

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

 

I arise today
Through the mighty strength
Of the Lord of creation.

 

–St. Patrick’s Breastplate–

Posted in Celebration, Faith

The Stripping Away

The stripping away.

LENT.

A time for giving up.

Chips, chocolate and cheese?

Yes. Those three.

But so much more.

A much bigger three.

FEAR, GUILT AND SHAME.

Three that destroy me from the inside out.

Three that have a stranglehold on my heart.

Three that I want banished from every fiber of my being.

LENT.

A time for giving up.

BUT, also…

A time for making room.

For the biggest three.

FAITH, HOPE AND LOVE.

Three that heal me from the inside out.

Three that bring freedom to my precious heart.

Three that I want infused into every fiber of my being.

LENT.

Posted in Celebration

Redeeming Mardi Gras

Images of Mardi Gras swirl in my head.

Debauchery.  Excess.  Lewdness.  Abandon.  Sensuality.  Revelry.  Beads.  Licentiousness.  Drunkenness.  The pursuit of pleasure at all costs.

I’m not sure about you, but I have a super complicated relationship with pleasure.

At times, I overestimate its value and seek it with abandon at any cost to my own demise, still unsatisfied and longing for more, kind of like what will be happening today in New Orleans.

In other moments, I squelch it, deeming it unnecessary, and certainly not “Christian” and even harmful to my wellbeing.   I swing from feasting to fasting, just trying to figure it out this complex partnership, never quite landing anywhere.

I need pleasure.  You need it.   It’s really good for me, especially when it’s in its designed space, as my kind and faithful servant and not my harsh and self-seeking master.  It’s a straight-up gift from God to remind me of His goodness.

When I think about it, I’ve been given five senses to experience joy and delight for just this very reason, the immense freedom to enjoy the goodness of God.  It’s no wonder the Psalmist says,

“Taste and see that the Lord is good.”

  • I taste delectable flavors (potato chips and milk for me…I know…super strange), savoring each sip or bite.
  • I hear sounds that excite and both calm my soul and levels unreached in other ways (my favorite is the garage door closing when my budding adult is home after a night being out).
  • Through the sense of touch, I know comfort and bliss (warm sunshine on my face after a long winter), and also experience love and intimacy with the people I love (a long hug with my hubby).
  • My sight allows me to capture the untarnished beauty of the world (butterflies fluttering in my garden brings me personal joy).
  • My sense of smell gives me a completely unique experience of the life around me (lilacs in May and peonies in June for this New Jersey girl), especially and uniquely mine, a true gift in a world of billions of people.

I am reminded I am one-of-a-kind and God does some things just for me!  How amazing is that?!?

Today, take a minute to think about what brings you pleasure.  You may have just forgotten because of all the overwhelming “duties” on your plate.  What is your favorite thing to taste, see, touch, hear and smell?

Hopefully carve out just a few moments on this Mardi Gras to experience even one, savoring it as you do, bringing your senses to life and reminding you that “Yes.  God’s creation is good” and He’s gifted it to you to declare to your heart His unending goodness and unfailing love!

TRULY ENJOY.

From My Heart to Yours

Posted in Celebration, Childhood, Faith, Third Culture Kid

“You Better Watch Out” God

“Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.”
“That is because you are older, little one,” answered he.
“Not because you are?”
“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”
(Prince Caspian, Chapter 10)

I lay on my bunk bed at boarding school in Ethiopia. I am just nine years old. My bunkmate stirs below me. I wind my musical Raggedy Ann doll over and over, hoping to get some sleep. Sleep does not come.

I rehash the day. Thoughts swirl: “I did a bunch of wrong things. Maybe that’s why I can’t sleep. I should confess my sins. Hey God, I’m sorry for all the bad things I did today. I hope you can forgive me.”

Still no rest for my eyes and tired body.  I go into a bit of a panic. “Maybe I didn’t mean it for real when I prayed the magic prayer asking God into my heart. If I did mean it, I would not be so naughty.”

I whisper the same thing for the umpteenth time, “Please come into my heart. I really mean it this time. I will be better tomorrow.” Still nothing. I lay there wide-awake.

My mind happily drifts to earlier in the evening, my dorm mother reading us another chapter in the story of Narnia. The image of Aslan, a loving lion who makes everything good and right in a strange land, and seems to adore children and even play with them, floods my mind. “I love Aslan. I wish God was like Aslan. Why can’t He be?”

As I finally drift off to sleep, resting in the comfort of the lion who loves children, I have a flicker of hope: “Maybe He is.”

*************************************

For decades, Santa has flooded the Christmas season. A jolly man with a jolly heart. A man who rewards good behavior with toys and naughty behavior with “a lump of coal.” My friend “prayed to Santa” all year and confessed her sins, much like I did to God as a young girl.

It makes a lot of sense. “He (Santa) sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake. YOU BETTER WATCH OUT! Santa Claus is coming to town.”

Sounds eerily similar to a song from those little girl boarding school days: “Be careful little eyes what you see, for the Father up above is looking down below, so be careful little eyes what you see.” YOU BETTER WATCH OUT.

Recently, Santa’s Elf (on the Shelf) has stepped in to “help Santa.” This Elf is dispatched from the North Pole at the start of Advent. He or she enters homes to keep a watchful eye on the children, ensuring good behavior during the rough parenting patch when kids are over-sugared and over-excited for Christmas. His or her “job” is to make sure they belong on Santa’s “nice” list. YOU BETTER WATCH OUT!

Santa. God. Elf on the Shelf. YOU BETTER WATCH OUT!

*************************************

Fast forward 30+ years. I’m a mom of four littles who loves celebrating Santa (in fact, my seven-year old just opened her letter from the North Pole). We don’t have an Elf on the Shelf (only because he/she is not invented yet). But me, this “desperate-to-please-God” young mom, believes wholeheartedly in a this YOU BETTER WATCH OUT God.

I’m stuck in my grown-up mom body as the little nine-year old girl on her bunk bed. God is no different than Santa or Elf on a Shelf. He’s up there watching my every good and bad behavior, ready to reward or “smite” me for each one, his main goal to get me to behave, to be good for goodness sake.

You yelled at your kids today. BAD!

You taught Sunday School. GOOD!

You told that white lie to your best friend! BAD!

You helped your twelve-year-old with their homework. GOOD!

You forgot to pray! BAD!

My relationship with this Santa/Elf on a Shelf/God is a little topsy-turvy. I’m filled with and act from the stranglehold of fear and guilt. Am I good enough today? Is God happy with me?

I hide or at least try to. Why wouldn’t I? I avoid Him. Who wouldn’t? I struggle to feel close, spending all my energy keeping my external, visible behavior under control, hoping it’s enough, trying to avoid that proverbial “lump of coal,” God’s utter disapproval of me. UGH!

My internal craving for love and belonging is completely sacrificed on the external “behavior management” altar. YOU BETTER WATCH OUT!

*************************************

In the middle of all of this, the stories of Narnia reenter my life and I have a reunion with Aslan.  I find three-hour-long radio theater dramatic renditions (absolutely a must-buy if you have kids) of these tales that I loved as a child. I kill two birds with one stone: share this amazing lion with my own children and at the same time, keep them quiet on long car rides (keeping it real people).

As I reconnect with Aslan, I find again that he is wise, playful, generous, kind, mysterious, terrifying, magnificent, beautiful and unconditionally loving all at once. He is the one I long for and need so desperately, my grownup heart still fragile from the many years of trying to keep myself in line.

That hopeful thought I had as a child flickers again in the darkness of my soul.

God is not like Santa.

God is not like the Elf on the Shelf.

God is not ultimately concerned with “behavior management.”

God is like Aslan.

God is wise. God is playful. God is generous. God is kind. God is mysterious. God is terrifying. God is magnificent. God is beautiful. God unconditionally loves and He unconditionally loves me.  Period. End of story.

No more YOU BETTER WATCH OUT!

My soul settles slowly (I’m talking years of retraining my brain) into a place of love and belonging. Yes, God sees me. He really sees me. He sees that little girl in the bunkbed, fearful, yet hopeful. He sees the young mom who longs to be known fully, and loved completely. He still sees me, the real real me. But instead of “setting me straight,” His beautiful, tender, kind heart sets me free!

My flicker so long ago, “Maybe He is,” burns brightly as a fire of hope that shouts, “YES. YES HE IS.”

****************************************

P.S. I have told people that, as a child, I loved Aslan more than I loved Jesus. I found out that a concerned mother once wrote C. S. Lewis on behalf of her son, Laurence, who, having read The Chronicles of Narnia, became concerned that he loved Aslan more than Jesus.

In his response, Lewis offered this relief: “Laurence can’t really love Aslan more than Jesus, even if he feels that’s what he is doing. For the things he loves Aslan for doing or saying are simply the things Jesus really did and said. So that when Laurence thinks he is loving Aslan, he is really loving Jesus: and perhaps loving Him more than he ever did before.”

 

***ONE MORE NOTE:  If you liked reading this, please go back out and “like” it on social media.  Means the world to me!***

Posted in Faith, Family, Marriage, Motherhood

I Looked In the Mirror

I looked in the mirror and what did I see,

I saw an older woman looking at me.

Not a young mom who hasn’t had sleep,

But a grateful heart whose love runs deep.

Not a girlish grin that laughs at today,

But a strong soul who still longs to play.

Not a budding wife still in a hiding place,

But a life-long partner who lends a safe space.

Not a stubborn spirit who’s boxed up her God.

But a settled self no longer a fraud.

Not a sprite face with delicate lines,

But warm eyes with a smile that’s mine.

I looked in the mirror and what did I see.

I saw a tender warrior looking at me.

 

*****************************

Please feel free to sign up to receive my blog posts directly into your email box!  I would be so honored if you did.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Celebration, Clean Water, Faith, Family, Homeless, Marriage, Thanks

Happy Birthday Allen!

“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!!

Posted in Faith, Thanks

I HAVE THE FREEDOM TO…

I do not take this day lightly.

My heart swells with thanksgiving that I live in a place where my innate need and hunger for freedom is met.

This framework of outer freedom bestows a space where my many-times trembling, but just-enough-times brave heart fights for my inner freedom, a sacredness no one, no thing can touch.

***********************************************

I have the freedom to be kind.

I have the freedom to enjoy beauty.

I have the freedom to learn, grow and change.

I have the freedom to be generous.

I have the freedom to be trustworthy.

I have the freedom to love my neighbor, period.

I have the freedom to take risks.

I have the freedom to be gentle.

I have the freedom to walk with integrity.

I have the freedom to be filled with respect for all.

I have the freedom to show compassion.

I have the freedom to journey with humility.

I have the freedom to forgive.

I have the freedom to shine my light.

I have the freedom to be patient.

I have the freedom to be authentic and vulnerable.

I have the freedom to don the mantle of courage.

I have the freedom to open my heart to an abiding faith.

I have the freedom to work with all my might.

I have the freedom to always hope.

***********************************************

These freedoms, similar to the outer ones, must be fought for on the battlefields of my heart, my soul, my body and my mind with great strength and courage, every moment of every day.

HERE’S TO BRAVING THE FIGHT OF ALL FIGHTS TOGETHER!

 

 

Posted in Faith, Family, Motherhood, Sabbath

God, Weird Mom Agendas, Fixing Stuff and a Resting Heart

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.

Deuteronomy 31:8
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!!!