Sunday, November 24, 2013

Prone to Wander

I have finally figured out what tattoo I want to get.

OK, wait. Let me rephrase that: I have finally figured out what tattoo I would get if I suddenly became way cooler than I actually am. You know, that day where I cut my hair into a chin-length bob, rock dark-rimmed glasses with Converse shoes and follow at least one indie band that isn't on the radio. 

But regardless of it's actuality, figuring out my choice for a lifetime relationship with a potential tattoo still feels like an important personal life decision.

If I were to sit down in a tattoo chair today I would ask for three words to be permanently etched on my right wrist: Prone to Wander.

My right wrist is usually the one that I can see when I am holding my beautiful, nearly-eight month old daughter when trying to check my work email or jot down a story idea instead of wrapping both arms around her and waiting until nap time.

My right wrist is usually the one that is free, when I'm digging in the snack bin to find some chips or grabbing a can of Coke from the fridge out of sheer laziness.

My right wrist is usually the one that is flipping through channels when I am sitting in the quiet of my home on any given night after the kids are asleep (the glorious hour I wait for all day long), instead of  driving to a friend's house to connect with someone who needs to talk- no matter the hour.

'Prone to Wander' comes from a hymn that I grew up singing at The Glory Barn, (a palsy, dying congregation where everyone wore flower jumpers and forbade music with a beat): Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. But particularly, verse four pops into my head at random times throughout my week:

4. O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

Daily, I am prone to wander. Daily, I need to offer my heart to God. Daily, I substitute His truth for what I want life to be. I want it to be easy. I want it to look good on the outside. I want it to look like I know what I'm doing. I want it to look like I'm the one who has it all figured out. I want to look successful. Smart. Self-suffcient. Without flaw.

And life isn't any of those things. And I am not either.

Jesus' truth is what I need to immerse myself in on a regular basis because it is gritty, and substantial- it fills in the holes where the constant wash of my fickle heart has eroded the foundation of my faith. His death on a cross is unplalabale. It is rejected in most accepted circles of society. It is untidy. It is unexpected. It is love like we've never seen before or since. When we are dying. When we are dead. When we are cussing. When we are sinning. When we are hating. When we are idolizing. He is love. He is the right wrist choosing to do the right thing, when we are the ones ignoring His love story and slamming the book shut for a sugar high, for a forbidden glance, for a hit of addiction, for our own glory.

I podcast sermons all the time. I listen to Christian music all the time. I read the Bible even when I don't feel like it, but never as much as I should.

I don't do these things because I am a Super-Christian. I do these things because I am a failing Christian. I have seen the ugliness my heart is capable of and so I need to protect myself by injecting my life with His truth. I need Jesus on overdrive. On repeat. Everyday.

I don't listen to Christian radio because I like it- (Apologies, Christian radio fans, but the over production and sappy lyrics sometimes cause me to roll my eyes), it's because I forget God's goodness. I am in desperate need of being reminded of Him. I am prone to wander. I am prone to leave the God I love.

This isn't to say that I never make the right choices, but let's just say that I've had my fair share of moments where I do what I want instead of what I should.

So how come 2 Corinthians 5:17 doesn't ring true in my own life all the time? "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!"

Am I not a new creation if I fall back into my old ways? If I forget His goodness? If I'm prone to wander. Fortunately, for forgetful followers like myself who take for granted their salvation, one of God's most shining examples of a life in response to the Gospel was the prophet Paul. And even he isn't exempt from this constant relapse. In Romans 7 he says,

18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. 

Today, my pastor Brian McCormack at Reach Church in Kirkland preached on this very thing; our forgetfulness about His goodness. He made it very clear that repetition is the key to keeping what we believe in our hearts consistent with how we live our lives.

We won't get it right enough to be righteous. Sorry, moralists. We won't become Christians by osmosis. Sorry, Sunday-morning saints. We won't become more like Jesus by letting our lives remain unchaged. Sorry, fence-sitters.

We become believers by falling back into the fold when Jesus comes to find us.  Repenting and returning. Remembering and responding. 

We have not yet arrived, but we are on our way to finishing strong when we believe that He took the shame for our shamefulness.

Even when I stray, He stays. And as long as we keep our eyes open to who we really are, we will never be at risk of being truly lost; even those who are prone to wander.

We're in this together,

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Gift Gestapo

My son just turned three.

This is the first year that he understood what a birthday really was. So much so, that in the days leading up to his own party I would hear him sporadically busting out in the happy birthday song just for the pure joy of it.

He had no idea what was in store. And I loved that. I was able to plan a very Type-A Mother Lion safari party. I wanted to show him how much his spirit and passion for life (and animals) had inspired me over the last year, as well as drove me crazy. That passion had caused me to curse the ground I walked on from time to time (especiallly when I happened to step on another plastic rhino in the softest parts of my feet.)

But he is the only kid I know who cares that there is a difference between a White-Faced Saki monkey and a Mandrill. He also knows that a Bufflehead and a Spotted Towhee are two different species of Pacific Northwest birds. These oddities are something to celebrate.

From Cheetos masqueraded as tiger tails to a snake sub sandwich with a red-pepper tongue, I even hired a family friend who happened to be a local reptile man. Once the party started, it was clear that my son was having the time of his life. Every picture from that day he has a different candy or junk food in hand- a ridiculous smile across his face. And for one day I didn't chastise about candy. For one day, I didn't feel guilt for letting him indulge. I just let him be a kid.

That's what birthday parties are about: unadulterated fun. The party wasn't about how cool of a kid's party I could throw, it was about celebrating my son's loves.

Loving and encouraging our children's gifting is a natural tendency in parenthood. However, I came face to face with my misunderstanding of the Gospel when it came time to sift through my son's gifts.

I wanted to manage. To limit. To categorize.

He had a large turnout, which in turn, meant A LOT of gifts. I didn't even think about that before I noticed a ridiculous accumulation of brightly colored packages overtaking the middle of the room. It looked like Steve Irwin's wedding gift table. I found myself in a state of panic. He can't handle this many toys. He will be in complete overwhelm. It's too much.

After we got home I put a large portion of the toys away. I decided he couldn't handle all that goodness. Too much for one day; let's spread it out.

The next day I went to church. And my pastor Brian launched into this message, "God gives us grace upon grace. Insert the word "gift" whenever you see the word grace. His gifts pile up and up. Who Jesus is is completely overwhelming."

Gut punch.

And I humbly realized that I am so limited in my view of the gift of Jesus. Just like my son's toys that were hand-selected by family and friends to bless him on his birthday, I want to let the reality of Jesus' life in place of mine- that ridiculously undeserved gift into my life, little by little. I want to put some of it away for later- I just can't handle all of His goodness in one sitting. I've struggled with grasping what He's done and accepting who He is. It just seems like too much- I don't deserve it. And I'm a Christian.

Brian continued as if he could hear my thoughts, "Be in awe of the Giver, not the gifts."

And I matured in that one moment.

God made clear to me that the point of giving and receiving good gifts is not to gain more, but to give credit back to the One who gives. My son's gifts that I had stockpiled in the linen closet and in the play room to bring out on another day (when he wasn't crashing from a sugar high), were not just things that he had been given, they were physical representations of the love and generosity from people that God had placed in our lives. Stuff suddenly became sanctification.

And Brian explained that sanctification isn't entirely on my shoulders. I am not responsible for refining myself. Jesus deposits His spirit in us and then everyday from that moment on we undergo a day-by-day process that He walks through with us.

Tears filled my eyes in church. I hung my head and shook it in amazement of God's goodness and in his insane talent for perfect timing. I had missed an opportunity to lavish overwhelming love on my son even when I thought he had reached his own "gift limit". (In my defense, CPS needn't be called, he did open roughly, I don't know, 15 gifts.)

But regardless of my reasons then, it's clear now that my son and I are going to have a second birthday party in our living room. We are going to throw wrapping paper everywhere and open present after present. But this time I am going to make a big deal out of the people who gave him these blessings out of their generosity- not the things themselves. I want him to make the connection that these gifts aren't just things to distract us from boredom- they are living, breathing reminders of love. God's love through other people.

We don't always get it right as mothers. But if we leave our hearts wide open, God can use our mistakes.

Here's what I learned from what my pastor presented and my son's presents interchangeably: we aren't good enough–but he gives us His life, an overwhelming, ridiculous, way-too-much-too-handle (no matter what age you are) gift anyway.

Celebrate it.

We're in this together,

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Stop the Static

Sometimes I treat my growing faith like a one-dimensional diary.

While I make it a point to get the Good Stuff in (reading, reflecting and journaling), I still suffer from the constant static of self focus. I often find myself listening to a looped monologue inside my head more than I meditate on Christ's words. For the most part, the monologue runs along the same formulaic rails every day.

Open on a one-way street where I'm talking to myself about myself and wondering how other people feel about me and how that affects how I feel about them. And now pan out to the horizon where I stand below the constant drip of discontent and wonder if I am more or less myself as I am becoming more and more of who I really am. Then fade to a shadowy place where I'm longing to disband the stereotypes of whoever it was that everyone thought I should be by restructuring who I hope to become.

Wow. How revealing. How exhausting. How ugly. How futile.

I know I can't change a single thing about myself by trying. I can't change a single bad trait by making good habits. Pleasing man is a waste of time- not everyone will like me, believe me, learn from me, or care to come to know me.

I believe I am inherently a screw up. But I am irrevocably secured by an amazingly good God.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he[d]made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. Ephesians 1: 7-10

THANK GOD. Literally. I am so thankful to God, that I, me, the little kahuna- am not where the road ends. I am so glad that my tendency to get lost in self-talk and trying harder isn't necessary. It is so freeing to understand that my identity when riveted upon my own ability doesn't define who I am. My worth is determined by God's grace. His plan. It is determined by His ultimate love story written in the bloody scrawl of a ridiculously perfect man who hung his head in shame so I didn't have to.

So if I know all of this to be true, how come I am still so hung up on how life is supposed to look? How come I still care about the world's opinion? About how I measure up?

Well, how come we all do? Why do we let our ideals- these impossible standards of living that are sold to us at all hours of the day dictate our life decisions? Why do we think that happiness is the zenith of existence?

Happiness is a vapor. It is a 'chasing after the wind' (Ecc. 1:17). We were not made to be happy. We were made to be humbled, held, and reliant on a Hero.

But it is hard as a human to not act like a human. Our world is made to cater to our deepest insecurities. It will tell you that if you can change your marriage, if you can restructure your job, if you can lose those last pounds, if you can finally find the right guy, if you just follow your heart- then life will be perfect.

It won't.

I can say now that I am getting better at breaking up the incessant barrage of "but-what-about-me's"? I do this by intentionally taking time to read the Word and let Christ inject some truth into my mush of me-ism. His way of life, his servanthood, his giving away, his shunning of the spotlight, his compassion for the compassionless- it causes me to spin some plates; fall out of my hoggish headspace. His beauty causes me to lurch out of my internal blender just long enough to slow the blades. To stop the bleeding. To apply a grace-soaked turnacet to this hemorrhaging heart.

I will take a chance and bet that your inner monologue isn't much different than mine. We all have our own internal paparazzi. And sometimes the pictures we are taking aren't too pretty.

But the good news is that these images, these thoughts, this cycle of self worship isn't all there is. There is so  much more. I have found that in those moments when I give up trying to fashion the life I imagined for myself- I am then able to be rebuilt from the inside out. That I am able to be thankful for what I have. And I have SO much. A beautiful family, a loving husband, a job I love, and a life I couldn't have written the script for.

He knew what I needed to be drawn into his embrace. He knew that the interior walls of my mind would squeeze him out, unless I was surrounded by people who show me His beauty or cause me to crawl to him in desperation, day after day. He meant it to feel this way.

And, friends- the storyline He has for you is so much better than what you're trying to create on your own. I went to a woman's conference earlier this year and I heard something that resonates with me to this day, "If you ever feel like all you do is serve others in your life- cleaning up after them, shelving your priorities for them, and putting yourself last- then thank God. Thank Him that for one day, for a few moments-- you got it right."

We're in this together,

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

From Strength to Strength

I am coming to terms with the fact that I am an extremist. And not in the way where I have a bomb-shelter in my basement, but more so in the speaking sense.

I over state. A lot. I come from a long line of exaggerators. So, why not blame it on the gene pool?

If my daughter has a cough, I worry that it may be pneumonia and say, "I feel like she has been sick forever. When will this end?"

If my son loses his cool in public, I assume he must be suffering from severe starvation since he had only eaten a raisin that day. "I wonder if he needs a feeding tube?"

Blech. I'm so embarrassing to myself.

If I am overwhelmed, I think I will always feel overwhelmed.

Words like always and forever creep into my daily dialogue without much intentional thought. I'm just trying to prove a point, right? I think,  I do feel like I am always cleaning ketchup off the table. I do feel like I may never go to the bathroom alone. I do wonder if my legs will forever be partially unshaved since I rush out of the shower to comfort a child after his nap.

And I know that when I finally have fully-shaven legs, I will miss running out of the shower to comfort a child after his nap.

This morning I read an amazing verse in Psalms. I have had a love affair with these passages since I was young, but somehow I feel like I have never read this before:

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,  in whose heart are the highways to Zion. As they go through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools.

They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion.

The NIV of the Bible, explains the highway to Zion as a "pilgrimage". I would think that this means our lives' pilgrimage. The steps we take everyday towards missionally loving our family, friends, enemies, and strangers.  The steps we take towards solidifying the truth about who God is in our everyday lives. Becoming more like Jesus, and yet understanding that perfection was never a part of his plan.

As a young mom with two kids, I can say that my heart's highway has been speeding past at 100mph lately. New jobs, new school classes, new baby, and that some old sleep. I wake up feeling weak. And I am not very coy about sharing those feelings.

But absolutes are so very different than feelings. And God in his wisdom gave us a Spirit that can take us from strength to strength. He can lead us through a valley flooded with replenishment. A rain-soaked Savior in the middle of an insanely thirsty life.

My tendency to complain about my circumstances to the max, shows a very big tear in my faith. It shows me where I don't believe He is strong enough. It reveals that I believe my weakness is all I have in moments that try me. I let my emotions run away with my words.

Instead, I should focus on letting His words run away with my heart.

He takes us from strength to strength.

 I want my heart to hold the highways to Zion inside of it, and in order to train my heart to feel differently about my everyday circumstances I need to use my words to speak truth instead of lies.

But its not always the bad circumstances I am trying to manage, it's the good ones too.

Honestly, sometimes I am afraid to speak of the joy I feel in my life for fear that I am not "trying" hard enough for my faith. Wow, that is such an elementary Christian 'no-no' right? And yet, I still struggle with the idea of Christian hedonism (in the words of John Piper). I still wax and wane about my personal belief that God wants us to live life to the fullest- in JOY.

And not just churchy joy because of a successful altar call or a speaking in tongues translation- I am talking about life-giving joy. Joy because of great sex with my godly husband. Joy in wine tasting (not slurping) among gorgeous vineyards. Joy in eating amazing food and in seeing amazing the places He created. Joy in funny conversations and snuggles in cashmere blankets.

We aren't talking about a bland, I'll skip-the-butter-on-my-bread type-of-false-joy. We are talking about a real Jesus-drenched joy lavishly given us on the cross. Its the very joy that everyone wants, but can't find. It's that nagging dissatisfaction that is poured into buying functional gods with extended warranties that go out of style or lose their sparkle after we've lost interest.

You see, I need to relish in the beautiful days. I need to be quick to speak about the joy, and the gifts as often as I am about the struggle. I need to speak unabashedly about those moments when my heart twists in joyful pain over the laugh of my baby girl, the holding of my husband's hand, or the cuddle of my precious son. I need to remind myself that He is leading me from strength to strength.

He wants us to experience the joy of living fully in Him- which means that our weaknesses are made strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

He has the biggest tears in our faith covered. They are covered with a blood-soaked fragment of cloth that will always and forever be all we need to live in the land of plenty and resplendent joy.

We're in this together,

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Burn Out

I thought I could do this.

I should've known. I can't

Right now, in all honesty I need a shot of humility. I need a gallon of grace. And I need a good kick in the pants.

I keep hearing a voice in the back of my head asking, "Who cut in on you? You were running a good race."

That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. (Galatians 5:7-8)

I'm feeling overwhelmed. Overstimulated. Distracted. And yet, I feel needed. Necessary. I am back in the "job" saddle and I have to say it feels GREAT.

If I blatantly honest, I wonder if I am feeling the pull of improper persuasion like Paul talks about in Galatians.

Because for the last 3 years I have been a mom. A FULL TIME mom with some side-work thrown in there when I felt like I should exercise the typing muscles I used to have. 

And now, I am still a stay at home mom, but I actually have a boss on the other end of those emails. I actually have been reintroduced to the hierarchy of results-matter work. I answer to someone now.

But I can not forget who I ultimately answer to.

It's the kind of persuasion that lures me away from my kids to check my inbox for the umpteenth time in an hour or respond to an "important" email that isn't nearly as pressing as my ego makes it out to be.

It is my inner persuader. It is my sin. It is my desire to gain the whole world and lose my soul. It's the oldest trick in the book.

It's that kind of persuasion that lights up my brain when I imagine all of the cool things I am going to do now that I have a label. Now that I am not just 'mom'. Now that I have, what I call my dream job.

It's only been a week and a half.

Let me repeat.

It's has only been 8 working days.

And in that short amount of time, I feel like my heart has been run away with by a trillion stallions. And I realize that I have been in a desert and I have been spiritually thriving. I have been existing on morsels of manna from God to get through every humbling struggle I face as a mom with two little kids. And because of that, I have been experiencing the painful process of growth.

And now? I am in danger of having found a new savior. I am tempted to melt down my newfound gold to fashion calves in the wilderness. I am in danger of redirecting my worship.

Because it's addicting. This accomplishment thing. It's like "Ahhh, that's what purpose feels like. I remember now."

But it's not purpose that I'm feeling swallowed by- not in the way God intended me to be purposed anyhow.

30If I partake with thankfulness, why am I slandered concerning that for which I give thanks? 31Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

It's the hollow shell of a title that will ultimately give me glory that I'm allowing to fill the cracks in my soul. Those cracks that God gave me so I would turn to Him are now being ignored by distraction. By persuasion. By my own desire to do a good job.

And yes, I should be a good worker. I am a witness no matter if I am changing diapers or changing an editorial layout. So yes, I need to be efficient. Honest. Uphold my end of the bargain.

But my new normal means that I am over the moon and heartbroken all within moments of each other.

I make forward progress at "work" with my eyes glued to the screen, but missed my son teetering on the edge of the couch before he tumbled off. I landed a really cool product for placement, but didn't get to sit on the floor making my daughter smile without watching the clock.

This is a new balance that I need to work on. I am like a wave tossed to and fro. I need to CTFD. (Calm The F* Down) I don't endorse use of the F word, but when someone's right, they're right.)

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

I believe this new development in my work/life balance is a part of God's plan. So I need to keep Him in the middle of it. Be sensitive to where he leads. Seize the moments I need to and let the others ones go. This is a new ball thrown in the air.

In case you didn't know, my husband can juggle. Not in the metaphorical sense, but in the 'I-may-wear-shoes-with-bells-on-the-toes-and-go-to-rennaisiance-fairs' way. He can literally juggle. When I asked him how he learned to do it in the first place, he said that he had to keep his back against the wall, because his natural tendency was to follow the balls lead and that's when you make mistakes and drop them.

If you anchor yourself against something that doesn't move; something that doesn't change- you can then focus on all of the things you have to keep in motion.

Ok, swish. That's the truth I've been needing to hear. When learning to juggle I need to find the wall. The unchanging God I know and love.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Gosh, I know I am so dramatic. I know that once I settle down into this space I won't be so crazy out of it. I know I won't forget to eat, I won't forget to brush my teeth, I won't try to breastfeed while drafting an email to the publicity department at Nordstrom's. I will settle down.

But I don't want to miss this chance to learn something about myself.

I am only one great opportunity away from thinking I don't need God. We all are.

I am not strong. I am weak.

I am not qualified, I am a vessel He chooses to use.

I am not great, He is just so amazingly good.

He is trying to give me the desires of my heart- and I need to be mature enough to not bastardize that gift.

This is a warning letter to myself.

Knock it off. Go love on your kids. Get in the word. Get off your high horse. Kiss your husband. Stop drinking Diet Coke to keep your eyes open.

Relax. Have a glass of wine. Kiss that sexy man who is wearing your daughter in the Baby Bjorn on the lips. Give long hugs. And laugh. A lot.

Above all, once this transition from stay-at-home-mom to working-stay-at-home mom is complete, I want to make sure I had my priorities straight from the get go.

God comes first. Your family second. And yourself, that needs to always be dead last. Serve like crazy.

Just don't bow down to ego and the dollar because they make you feel important.

I am burnt out- thank God. Because it brings me back to Him.

And so I will smolder in thankfulness. He turns ashes to beauty. Or so I'm told.

" bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor."

Isaiah 61:3

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Bottom of the Sugar Bowl

A couple of days ago I woke up in desperate need of my morning coffee. (Okay, okay-- I am in desperate need of morning coffee every morning...and afternoon...and sometimes at 5pm).

But what made this morning different was that I quickly discovered I was at the bottom of the sugar bowl. Peering down into the crystal-flecked container that still held the sparkle of sugar lost, I felt like Winnie the Pooh in one of his fumbled attempts as snagging the lost drop of honey.

There is nothing more deflating that staring at my steaming cup of a.m. Joe knowing that in its naked form I just don't care for the taste. 

Yes, I was born and raised in the Starbucks capital of the nation. Yes, I love coffee. Yes, I love the smell. But alas, "you're not hard core unless you live hard core" and I am so not hard core. (Thanks, Jack Black). But unlike the comedian I just can't drink my coffee that way.

And in realizing that, I was suddenly hit with an unattractive understanding that I have a hard time removing all the extras in my life and in my faith that seem to make it go down easier. I am constantly trying to sweeten the pot. I am habitually trying to manipulate the facts in order to make it easier to digest.

I was lucky enough to listen to Jeff Vanderstelt of Soma church speak last weekend. He stripped down some very fundamental truths about Christian living that felt very much like a straight shot of espresso. No filter. No sugar. No pretty wrapping. Just black.

One Christian word that has always needed some sweetening for me is repentance.

I don't get it. Or, I guess I should say I didn't understand it, until it was explained to me by Jeff.

I mean how can you repent of something that you know you will do again even when you truly put your best efforts into never, ever even thinking about doing it again?

And then I heard this, "Repentance isn't a change in behavior- it's not turning away and not feeling that way anymore. Repentance is a change in belief about God."

He went on to further explain that we will continually forget about God and his good nature everyday. We will  always question whether He knows what he is doing or not. But instead of focusing on the behavior we need to address the unbelief. We need to confess that we don't believe God is who He says He is. We need to own the fact that we believe we can do it better.

We need to confess that we try to dilute the taste of truth. We don't like it straight. We want to doctor it up to meet our needs to fit into our lifestyle. I do this, everyday.

And so we need to tell Him that everyday. We need to confess. We need to cut out the fluff. We need to stop trying to function on caffeine and willpower. We need to cut out the craving for the sugar high. We need to focus on the root problem of unbelief. We need to say out loud that we doubt His loving nature towards us.

I recently applied for a job as an associate editor at a local magazine. After reading the specs for the position, I desperately wanted it. The most part-time of all part-time positions, the job also offered the ability to work from home and stay with my two littles under 3. It would allow me to dive into feature writing and work with some of the best freelance writers and photographers in my area as well as get connected to the heartbeat of my community. It felt tailor made for me.

And do you know what I did when I applied for it? I didn't think God wanted me to get it. 

Do you know how I reacted when I interviewed for the position and was waiting to hear back? I doubted that God wanted to give me the desires of my heart. 

Do you know what I said moments before the call came in that I had indeed got the job? "I just keep getting doors slammed in my face. I guess God just wants me here. I have a sinking feeling I didn't get it. I should have heard by now." On and on and on.


Master doubter. Royal doubtess. UNBELIEF about my good God.

And no, not every desire of our heart is right for us. There were many doors that I knocked on before this that swung shut immediately. Many. There have been several moments of "almost" for me-- all of which ended in an abrupt no with no explanation. But I have to believe all of that is for my good. Every no is saving you for the right yes.

So ask yourself the next time you're doubting his goodness.

WHO is my God?

WHAT has He done?

And what does that say about WHO I AM? (Thanks Jeff! Once again.)

It all boils down to identity. If our identity stems from that all-gracious, all-powerful, all-beautiful throne of God, we can't help but be thrust into the sweet life of His plan for us.

If we are looking for substitutes, trying to create something all on our own, or don't believe he truly cares about our every day lives- we make Him a liar.

And so just that one morning I drank my coffee black. I didn't truly enjoy it- but it reminded me that sometimes the truths that are the hardest to swallow are the ones that are best for us.

We're in this together,

Friday, July 26, 2013

Grace Goes on a Family Vacation (And Lives to Tell About It)

I just got back from vacation.

(Insert maniacal laugh here).

I have 2 bee stings, traveled over 700 miles with 2 children under the age of 3, and submitted myself to at least 4 hours of crying. I swear my trusty old SUV is still shaking in our garage after withstanding an emergency side-of-the-road potty break, five spilled drinks, and those DVD-player-just-died tantrums.

My eyes are sunken. My hair is windblown and frayed. (And its not in the beach-beauty kind of way, but in the 'I just stuck five fingers in a family vacation light socket' way.)

I know, I know. I shouldn't be complaining. This is a first-world problem. I just got back from vacation. 

But in all fairness, the prophet Paul who wrote Philippians 2:14 to remind us that we should do everything without grumbling or complaining didn't have children or a spouse. (OMG, did she just say that?) Yes. It's been that kind of day.

But if you've read the Huffington Post blog on "The Real Reason Parents are Always Tired", you may have a very clear picture of how I feel right now. If not, here's the truth.

Even though there is still Lake Chelan sand in the bottom of my diaper bag and a fuzzy layer of dust on my cowboy boots, (we spent our final vacation days at the family farm)-- I cannot say I feel rested. I cannot say I feel grateful. I cannot say I feel like a very good Christian.

Like there is such a thing. 

Instead, I feel zapped. Zonked. Empty. Cranky. And Desperately in need of wine.

And this makes me seem spoiled and just as bratty as any two-year-old. I wish I was one of those people who could take the highs and lows of raising little children with grace. Especially when those highs and lows take place in some of the most beautiful places in the country. But instead I feel graceless.

And I realize that that word grace runs through my fingers like water. I can't fully grasp it. And yet, I can't help but thirst for it.

Like a moth to a flame.

I know I need to burn my hard heart into soft wax, but I'm not there. I have read Give Them Grace, Grace-Based Parenting, Loving the Little Years, and am currently downing Glimpses of Grace.

So I know Jesus wants me to "get" this word, because he keeps leading me to it. But he can't make this horse drink. I know understanding and implementing grace means the difference between accepting my lot and flourishing amid a whole lot- but I'm not getting it.

I keep reading, but not digesting. I keep pouring it in, so why isn't it coming out? Or is it?

Above all irritation and inconvenience, I deeply love my family. Even in moments of fever pitch, I desperately love my husband. I love being able to have places to escape to when the beautiful weather in Washington State really shows itself off. And I hope I get to spend many years continuing to do so.

However, tonight I am fighting the urge to sleep on the couch. Or in a tree in the backyard. Or just walk and walk and walk until I get lost. Or found. Or at least feel something other than cheerios under my feet and anger sitting on the tip of my bitten tongue.

And it's these kinds of moments that I have to write. I need to anchor this unbridled temptation to tear myself away. I need to fend off the urge to separate and replace it with the glue of fellowship.


I know that's a Christian word. It's also one that can seem so very, well, mundane. Like a musty-smelling church hymnal that seems to sigh in boredom every time you crack its spine- fellowship is one of those words that have lost its weight with me. I don’t usually use it. Unless, I mean it.

And tonight, surprisingly, I do.

Isn't that a word reserved for church? Can it really apply to your family? Yes, fellowship is family. Whether you share blood or not.

And inconvenience is just one way the enemy likes to cut links in your family chain.That desire to remove yourself from the pot when the water gets too hot is a sneaky way of removing yourself from the soup of surrender.

Sometimes fellowship seems like a whisper in the middle of a thousand screams. I know it seems like a very thin veil when what you really want is a bullet proof vest.

But even when seeking fellowship with your family in the middle of discord may not seem like it's enough, it totally is.

Because you see, what I'm learning (when I can hear myself think for a few minutes)-- is that this family of mine; this crazy, some-days-I-want-to-run-into-the-deep-end-of-the-pool, family-- gives me life. And life abundantly.

I never wonder what I am doing with the days I have been given. I know. I am molding little hearts.

And in the process of softening theirs, I am forced to throw mine in the blender.

So while a family vacation with a 3-month old and a strong-willed toddler isn't something I would recommend for the faint of heart, I will say that grace is found in the fellowship somewhere if you look hard enough.

It's found when you finally tuck your babies into their own beds upon return. It's found when you rifle through days of mail and get wedding invitations and thank you cards. It's found when you inhale the smell of your own clean sheets. It's there when your daughter rolls over for the first time while you’re unpacking and your son whispers Jesus’ name for the first time during his night time prayers.  

It's found when you realize the people you all of a sudden miss the most are in the rooms next to you. And then it dawns on me: those same people you envisioned strangling with your seat-belt or at least throwing yourself out of a moving vehicle to escape from- are no longer your moving targets.

Grace has moved me to the bulls-eye.

So I am going to go crawl into the empty space next to my husband. Because in this place of absolute exhaustion- even when I still can't seem to sort out my tangled bundle of strung-out nerves, I have found one thing to be true: grace isn't gone. She's been here this whole time.

Grace is the glue that’s holding this family together. And suddenly I realize that maybe I don’t have to get grace, she just shows up when the cracks begin to show.

So tired that I may be sleeping in my swimsuit tonight,

Monday, July 8, 2013

Lost in the Brambles: Loving Our Little Prodigals

 If you have had any experience with the church you may have been exposed to a little thing we Christians call, sharing your testimony.

Much like being a keynote speaker for some of the most unattractive aspects of your own life, this open expression usually includes a series of moments when people reveal how far they fell before they came to know God. Very rarely does it not include some sordid details- and I think this happens for a reason. God loves the broken. He loves to drink some of the best wine with the worst people.(Matthew 9:11-13)

And this makes me smile.

Let me tell you why. First, I am broken. Terribly broken. I had hairline fractures that turned into noticeable cracks that ultimately became canyons so wide they could only be filled with Christ. These very same places that used to pull me away from my faith now act as the tar that wholly heals up my holes and steadies my hobble. I still hobble. I will for the rest of my life.

So will my children.

I started to re-read Give Them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick over the 4th of July holiday weekend. I read it when my son was 1, but realized it was a little soon. Obviously, we couldn't have long winded conversations about God's grace and our sinful motivations at that time because he couldn't even identify his own foot. Nowadays, I can apply some of her teachings a little better, but still not fully.

However, her chapter, Jesus Loves All His Little Prodigals and Pharisees caught me in my tracks. She basically speaks of two children groups: those who outwardly sin (prodigals) and those who inwardly sin (pharisees). Regardless, its all sin. Fitzpatrick puts it this way, 'We're all law-breaking rule haters.'

My daughter is only 3 months so I can't tell you what kind of sinner she is going to be- but I have a hunch she isn't going to be the outward one. My son at her age had already set the stage for his energetic nature- he hit the scene with a party-like persona which became evidenced in sleepless nights that turned into months which turned into lost fragments of a year I can't remember.

My son leans more towards being a Prodigal. OK, let me rephrase that. My son runs towards the path of the Prodigal while roaring like a lion at the top of his lungs. These are the types of kids that don't care what other people think when they are disobeying openly. These are the kids that throw tantrums about you giving them a box of apple juice when they just asked for a box of apple juice. These are the kids that demand your attention. Every day. Every minute.Whether that be through tears or uncontrollable laughter, these kids are either full speed or asleep. There isn't any in-between.

And so it is with his sinful nature. He is obvious about it. Sometimes he will even tell me that he ate "tandies" (candy) after I told him not to. He is open about his struggles and I hope I can have enough foresight encourage that. Not to turn him into a Pharisee that has a rule for how many M&M's it is OK to eat before it slides into sin. (Now sliding into a sugar high, that's a different story.)

But before you are tempted to believe that this is just a bitch-fest about my oft-times difficult son (and yes I did just use the B word), I want you to see clearly that this is not my intention. My intention is to prove why my son is the perfect candidate for a wild, crazy love affair with Jesus Christ.

Jesus loves the prodigals. The only times that Jesus would lose his cool was with the Pharisees- those who were hellbent (literally) on being good enough for God. These are quite often the kids who are well-mannered, but manipulative. Conversely, our children who tend to be more like the prodigals are God's favorite dinner companions. And while their lives may be more messy, more dramatic, and a lot less polished- they are the exact people that Jesus came to save and chose to share his meals, ministry and life with.

And this is where I see that I have failed.

I don't understand the Prodigal, because I am a Pharisee.

My son makes me uncomfortable when he throws tantrums in public, because I throw my tantrums in the private of my own mind-- like all good little girls do.

I just want well-behaved children who obey what I command. I want an easy life twisted around the pulsating vein of comfort.

Let me be frank, we need to love our children better. I need to love my children better.

We need to give ourselves over to the overwhelming task at hand of managing and nurturing personalities unlike ours with a wildly, outlandish grace-drenched love because that is the way God loves us. If we try to manipulate the outside we will only become a facade of faith- and no one will see something in our lives that looks any different than theirs or anything more enticing than the one they are living without Jesus.

Here we get a picture of how Jesus views clean-cut religious types who have all the right answers. You know the good little kids that know their place and recite Bible verses in their sleep but hearts are far from the truth? Jesus' rant goes like this in Matthew 23.

 25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence."


Our children can become such idols. And their behavior can become marionette strings that we decidedly flick and pull in the direction of our choosing. But thank God for the Prodigals- the ones who will learn the hard way. The ones who will shake up our ideas of control. Blessed are the mothers who have children who march to their own drummer and who openly sin without feeling the need to impress. Those children are the ones that God finds great joy in welcoming into the fold.

"What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?", Matthew 18:12.

Of course He will. And with a huge smile on his face- even when he finds them tangled in the brambles of their own creation.

So here's what I plan to do. Confess my sin of wanting to be a Pharisee to my children and to myself often. To learn from the Prodigal that outward sin isn't worse sin- its the kind that God truly loves to wash away in the bloody beauty of his cross.

I plan to confess my sin to my children in moments of flared tempers and gritted teeth. And above all, "as parents, our only hope for our children's salvation lies in the rich mercy of a compassionate God and the atoning work of our perfect representative, Jesus Christ".

By grace,

Thursday, June 13, 2013

I Am A Besieged City

I'm not much for war movies.

My husband is a veteran so I support and am completely in awe of the sacrifice that soldiers undergo to protect this country. Buuuuut let's just say, I am not the type to seek out gut-wrenching war stories with a bag of popcorn.

My husband however can't help himself if a war biopic or Band of Brothers episode happens to be playing in the same room. I've noticed if there is more than one bombing in the first thirty minutes or the title revolves around a Black Hawk going down or some private named Ryan being saved-- our evening will be temporarily highjacked. 

Me? I would rather watch Pride and Prejudice (the Kiera Knightly version) for the bazillionth time. “What are men to rocks and mountains?” Exactly.   

So you can imagine my surprise when reading Psalms in the Reach Church Summer Reading Plan that battle terminology sprung from the page like a sniper hitting me dead between the eyes.

In Psalm 31: 21-22  I found this love bomb.

21 Blessed be the Lord,
    for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me
    when I was in a besieged city.
22 I had said in my alarm,[a]
    “I am cut off from your sight.”
But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy
    when I cried to you for help.

The word besieged caught my eye. As most words do that can't be shrunk into text slang these days. I knew it had something to do with being taken over, but I decided to look it up to dig a little deeper. And here's what I found:

First, besieged is a transitive verb. This means that the word itself is characterized by or involving transition. It means:

1. To surround, so as to give up.
2. To crowd around; hem in.
3. To harass or importune, as with requests.
4. To cause to feel distressed or worried. 

Hmm, does this sound like motherhood or what? You and I have both found ourselves in a besieged city a time or two. 

Do you feel surrounded to the point of giving up? (Sometimes the mass of toys on the floor, in the yard, behind my bed, and in the toilet pushes me to the point of wanting to throw an entire bag of flour on the kitchen floor- just because I WANT to make a mess too. I am so mature.)

Do you ever feel crowded? (Our 9 week old daughter is still sleeping our room, ahem, sometimes our things are a little crowded these days.)

Do you feel harassed by requests? (Mommy, apple juice. Mommy, where is daddy? Mommy, I want honey bees. Mommy, hold me. Mommy, I want to eat my Popsicle with a fork. )

Do you feel distressed or worried? (Dear Lord, I want to protect this child was such fierceness as to protect him from everything. I worry about his health. I worry about his temper. I worry about his development. I worry about his eating habits. I worry, worry, worry...)

A besieged city.

Even then beloved, you are heard. 

Cry out, you will be heard. Pray over your children day and night, you will be heard. Share your most overwhelming joys, you will be heard. Release your darkest fears, you are heard. 


Motherhood is war. And that can be alarming. Wasn't this supposed to be an easy job? Wasn't this supposed to be all cuddles and coos? 

Conversely, being a godly parent means we have signed up for a life of service. Much like soldiers who give their lives for this country, we are called to give our lives as servants to Christ. He is intoxicated with the heart of a servant. Nothing is more beautiful to him.

So why doesn't it feel good? Why are there days when whiskey and the idea of a long vacation in the Bahamas dangle dangerously in our peripheral? Among broken crayons, chalk dust, dirty laundry, and teetering sanity-you are loved steadfastly. He will show you how much he loves you if you just ask him to.

The lie about mothering young children is that being in a besieged city is the destination. It's not. Its the transition to a life with children whom you've truly invested blood, sweat and tears into. It's a million little brushstrokes that will eventually paint the peaceful portrait of how Jesus loves us and through us.

There is a real enemy that wants to steal your joy as a mother. There is a real enemy that wants to tell you that the work you are doing doesn't mean anything- or that someone else could do it better. 

You are the most important city in your child's life- and believe it or not, being a besieged one is what the Planner intended.

 We're in this together,