Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 - Upon Further Reflection...Whew!

It almost scares me to stop and consider what this past year has brought. Things that I had never considered.

A sampling:

1. My baby girl is moving away from our home town - a home owner, together with her husband... all grown up. I'm thrilled for them, but sad that she won't be so close, won't be at the same church, won't be just a mile and a half away.

2. I've had to learn to let go this year. I've had to learn to let my kids grow up. To be adults. To accept that they will, on occasion, make decisions I would not make, believe things I do not believe, make choices I would not consider. That. Is. Hard.

3. My baby boy got married! Did not see that one coming! We LOVE his bride and couldn't be happier, but MARRIED, guys! My BABY!

4. Which leads me to another biggie... he's not my baby anymore. A new son entered the picture. I'm 51. And there's a new kid in the house. A teenager. Also a beautiful blessing. But a teenage. boy. Y'all!

5. Other stuff. That I'll not drag out for this tiny part of the world to hear. .. but you have a messy, beautiful life yourself, so I'm sure you can fill in the blanks.

This is too many things.

I'm sure if I took one of those stress evaluations, I'd be off the charts.

But, you know what?

It's good.

It's really, really good.

I started 2014 with wanting to love extravagantly.  You can read it if you want.

I've failed more times than I want to consider, but I've not failed more times than I thought I was capable of as well.


This last year, with all its twists and turns, has begun to teach me to DO, to BE extravagant. To accept extravagant love - to give extravagant love.

As I review 2014 with a little shock and awe at how much can change in such a brief period of time, I'm still excited. I'm anxious, eager even, to see what 2015 will bring.

Life is good - even when it is hard.

God is good - even when I don't agree or understand.



Bring it on!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Everything Beautiful - In Its Time

God has made everything beautiful for its own time. ~ Ecc. 3:11

I've spent the last couple of weeks trying to figure out if we were going to be able to decorate the Christmas tree this year as a family.  We've never missed a year. It's very much a tradition that our family loves.  They fuss and argue over who hangs what and where - I usually want to kill them all at least twice, but there's so much joy in the process. It's not looking like it is going to happen this year. Everyone together when we wake up on Christmas morning? Likely won't happen either.  I realize with children at 24, 22, 19 and 17 - with two of them married, two of them living in other towns, another soon-to-move, all but one with real, grown up jobs, I should actually just be grateful that it's taken this long to miss a year.  And I am.  But I'm also a little sad.

This is not a real problem.  My news feed has been packed full of real problems this week - this is not a real problem.  Yet, I've still been a little melancholy.

Through a series of events that I won't bore you with, yesterday took Thomas and I through the neck of the woods where my parents grew up.   
Thomas was driving. Caught up in my own melancholy thoughts, I wasn't paying much attention to where we were, when I began to have long-ago-memory flashes.  I recognized a bridge, then a house, that I hadn't seen in years and years...then realized where I was and decided to share with Thomas the place I spent many, many hours at when I was a kid - the house and farm where my mom grew up.

We turned around and headed back for me to try and remember the turns to get us's been a REALLY long time, y'all.

So many memories.

Before we even arrived, we topped a hill that brought back, "Drive over the Fun Hill fast, Daddy!" When we were kids, heading to see Dad and Granny (what I called my mom's parents), there was a specific hill that, if taken fast enough, would grab our tummies every. single. time.  We loved that and my Daddy complied every. single. time.  Isn't it funny the memories that stick?  I don't know if he realizes what a happy memory that simple act placed in my now mostly-fuzzy brain, but it's a good one.

As Thomas and I walked the property and through the now-abandoned house, every single space brought back equally happy memories.

  • The tree we climbed to sit on top of one of the out-buildings.
  • The cellar Granny marched us all to at the first sign of a dark cloud.
  • The cellar top where I spent hours and hours making mud pies.
  • The shop where Dad made the rolling pin and biscuit cutter that I still use. 
  • The tree we worked under cutting and shucking corn.
  • The garden where all of the extended family came together to harvest.

Every. Single. Room. 

  • The living room where Dad would put me in his lap to watch the Gospel Singing Jubilee and just be present with me while we waited for the next meal.
  • The phone in the corner that we had to pick up oh-so-quietly because one of three or four other families may already be using it. (That's a "party line" - ask your grandparents if you don't know what that is.)
  • The dining room/kitchen where Granny spent so many hours cooking for so many people, sitting at the window, snapping beans and watching us play on the swing set; the table where they played dominoes nearly every day.  I don't remember a single complaint ever passing her lips. There probably were some, but she was the hardest working, most gracious woman.
  • The mud room where Dad pried off his dirty work boots, after a very long day, and still took time to love, tickle and hold. 
  • The bedroom we slept in - where Dad would come in early in the morning with a cup of cold water to "pour it in their ears if they don't get up" -- even though the smell of bacon had already awakened us, it was fun to wait for him to come in.
  • The bathroom.  A funny place for a memory, but I remember my Granny saving the littlest pieces of soap and putting them together to make a larger bar - no waste with her.

For a bit, all of this increased the melancholy.  The house looks so sad - abandoned and overgrown. Some of the out buildings are just gone. The family is grown and scattered, some long since with Jesus.

But then I remembered.

So. Many. Memories.

And then I felt better.

We've built memories with our kids.  All those years of decorating, making ornaments, fighting over whose turn it is to put on the tree-topper.  All of us sitting together to watch It's A Wonderful Life and eating orange rolls on Christmas morning. Those will never leave. It's hard to make this happen because my children have busy, happy, productive lives.

And we're making new memories.  We have two new family members this year.  Dylan brought beautiful Grace to us.  We have to share him with her family now, but the trade of getting her is worth it.  We have another daughter. We have Thomas now and this is joy to me.  We have another son.

This is not a problem.  This, in fact, is a blessing.

If things aren't changing, they're probably dying.  And there is much life here. Difficulties, sometimes heartache, but also joy. So much joy. So while some of our traditions may have to become erratic, and morph into something different than how we've always done it, we'll be making new traditions - new memories.  My children will begin creating their own traditions with their new families. New memories.

This is life.  That's a good thing.

Also? Happy Thanksgiving, ya'll - because it's Thanksgiving before it's Christmas.  So, enjoy both -- in that order.  I pray blessings for every minute of both - whether you're enjoying old traditions or making new ones.  

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Musings On Orphan Sunday

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. ~ James 1:27


We're not special. Not super-spiritual. Not phenomenal parents.

We are normal, average, middle-class parents.

We made mistakes with our natural-born children.

We make mistakes now.

Some days, this is really, really hard.

It's hard for us as parents -- we doubt, pray, cry, debate. At times -- we feel like we've been abandoned by the system that promised to support us in this; we wonder if we're really making a difference; we wonder if our love is enough.


It's hard for Thomas. He's never done this before either.

He has to daily choose to trust us - when he has no history or reason to do so.

He has to daily choose to obey us - when he has no reason to trust the outcome.

He has to choose to stay, when he knows he's capable of running.

He has to choose to forgive us when we make mistakes - because we do.

He's had to learn what "family" looks like, feels like, acts like.

He's had to make new friends, start a new school, new activities, new family, new everything.


"Orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they're not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes..." David Platt

I'll not sugar coat this. Our love may not be enough. Statistics are not in his favor. But we choose to love completely anyway... And Thomas is much more than a statistic. He has a name. A face. He's my son. He's a young man, made in the image and likeness of our God. He deserves a chance to break cycles and live a life surrounded by people that love him. He deserves to belong. He deserves a family.

This is hard.

But it's one of the best hardest thing we've ever done.

We - all of us - have learned more of God's love in the last eight months than ever before. We have learned that life is about much more than being comfortable. We've seen our selfishness and begun to allow God to root it out of us.

We have cried and screamed, laughed and loved, learned and grown. Together.

We have learned to forgive and start over - as many times as it takes.

We are not special. We are not super-spiritual. We are not phenomenal parents.

We said yes.


Today is Orphan Sunday.  Please consider how you can be a part of the answer. Every child - every child - deserves a family.

You can say yes in a lot of different ways.

You can foster, as we have.
You can adopt.
You can mentor - there are so. many. kids without positive, faithful, role models.
You can support families that choose to foster and adopt - because they need it.
You can support vulnerable families that are in danger of losing their children without additional support.

We can all say yes - "Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone."

Thursday, October 2, 2014

When It Goes Quiet

If you're a blog reader, as I am, you've probably noticed the gaping hole in blogs that address raising teens and navigating the years of transition from at-home children to young adult, on-their-own children.  There's a plethora of information for singles, for moms of toddlers and early adolescents.  There's much to say about retirement, travel, cooking, crafting, home repairs, potty training, to spank or not to spank, recycling, repurposing, health and wellness, dieting, theology,...but the world wide web becomes eerily quiet on the subject of wisely raising teens - at least from reasonable, responsible people.

I am occasionally horrified at what some will share about the intimate, personal details of their teen and young adult children's lives - clearly without the permission of said child.  But for the most part, things are very quiet.  And even more quiet?  Raising a teen that was brought into your home as a teen - you didn't raise them through infancy, toddlerhood and adolescence...they became yours late.  I've googled it up (as my father-in-law would say) - there's just not much there.

I've been relatively quiet on my blog the last few months.  And there's a reason.

The last couple of years have been difficult. God brought us into some things that we had never considered would be a part of our family or life circumstances. Then, six months ago, our world was rocked again.  A 16-year-old young man moved into our empty nest and began to teach us things we didn't know we didn't know.  It has been a roller coaster ride. It has been beautiful. It has been hard. It has brought great joy. It has brought pain. We, all of us, have learned and grown. We, all of us, have been stunned at the changes we are capable of accomplishing when we are ready to rise to the challenge. In the midst of this, I'm still trying to figure out how to be a mother to adult children: grown, married, independent-thinking, opinions-different-than-mine, problems-I-can't-solve, children.  I have laughed, cried, been exhilarated, been terrified.

But mostly, I've been amazed.  Amazed at the capacity to bond as family with a child you did not have the privilege of raising. Amazed at the beauty of second, third, fourth chances. Amazed at how much a heart can hurt, both from and for other human beings. Amazed at the power of God to heal, transform and make all things new.

I've learned that everything doesn't have to be okay all. the. time. We can live, thrive even, in the midst of the mess. I've learned I can wait for things to change.  I can want them to change, know they should change, but still wait. And enjoy the process (most of the time, anyway). I don't have to fix everything. Not today, not tomorrow, maybe not ever.  Because, as I'm ever-so-slowly learning, the truth is, I don't actually have much control. That's God's deal. I can rest.

A while back, laying in our bed, in total darkness, Brian asked me, "Do you ever feel like we're in over our heads?" --- My answer? "Absolutely. Every minute of every day."  BUT...

God is so good. He is full of grace - and His grace is SO sufficient.

Before this roller coaster ride I thought I believed that. In the midst of this roller coaster ride? I b.e.l.i.e.v.e. it. It has proven true over and over and over again. This Truth is my anchor. I need forgiveness. I need do-overs. I need to know I'm still loved and accepted in the midst of the mess. We, I, need that grace - it is like oxygen to my soul.

Many, many, of the things we've experienced in this new family dynamic are deeply personal. We will never share them publically. While I've written volumes privately, I will never blog about them. I think this is the reason this subject is difficult to find from other bloggers. It's individual in the sense that what works for one family may not be right for another - heck, what works for one kid in a family, may not be right for another kid, in the same family.

We, our family, have a deep respect for one another - for where we're at and where we're going. Telling everyone those personal details feels like it cheapens the beauty of this process for our family. It doesn't show the respect my children deserve as they navigate the very difficult journey of becoming independent adults. There may come a time when we decide, together, that it's time to share our experiences in a more public platform. I've read a few that have done it well and with great respect for all involved - they have helped and encouraged me and I am grateful for their transparency. But until that time comes,

This season may continue to be quieter.  But know this - this is a beautiful, hard, exhilarating, ridiculous, laughter-filled, tear-stained journey I'm on.

I would not trade it for the world.


And by the way, Happy six months, Thomas! I couldn't be happier that you are on this ridiculously crazy ride with us!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

It's My Birthday - I'll Cry If I Want To

My birthday always makes me a little melancholy.  Actually, I'm nearly always a little melancholy, but it's usually worse on my birthday.

I spend a lot of this day every year reflecting on what was, what is, what I'd like it to be. 

So here are some birthday musings, ramblings, aimless thoughts:


Last night sent me into a bit of a tail spin and gave me an early start on the whole melancholy thing.  News of Robin Williams' death was everywhere. His death would be sad no matter what the circumstances - he has had such a huge impact on this generation and he will be sorely missed.  But the fact that a man who brought so much joy to so many died feeling sad, overwhelmed and alone just nearly crushes me.  When you love someone that struggles with clinical depression, news like this is even more difficult. I really can't put what I'm feeling into words that will be adequate, and often the words we speak on this subject are just thoughtless and painful to those that suffer, but I will say this --

Love your people.
Take nothing for granted.
You are not alone.
There is help - both for you that suffer and you that love and suffer with them.
Take a few minutes every. single. day. to breathe deep and force yourself to think on what is good.
Never, never, never pass up a chance to tell someone what they mean to you.
LOVE your people.  Have I said that already?  Love. Your. People.


This year has been both incredibly difficult and incredibly blessed.  Most of you have followed some of this journey with us. Some of you have walked hand in hand with us through every twist and turn. Much of what we've experienced I have not, and likely will not (at least not for a very long time), share publically. I can say though, that even in the midst of some of the most difficult things we've ever faced, God has been big.  God has been good.  For that I am grateful.

We tend to believe that whatever season of life we're in is the hardest season of life.  This season has been no exception. I do look forward though - believing that, as I can now look back and see God at work in past seasons, I will be able to see God at work here - doing what He does best - behind the scenes, changing hearts and lives.  His work is so often under the surface, where I can't see it.  I have to learn to trust, to let go, to wait.


I have, and am still, wrestling with doubt, with questions that never seem to be answered.  This year, I've begun to learn to settle in and be more comfortable with the doubts, with the wrestling.  God is there and He is not intimidated by my questions.  I'll keep asking. I'll keep searching for the answers. I'll keep trusting Him when He chooses not to answer.


This year, God is showing me that He is enough.  I am enough, because He is enough. I've spent my entire life trying to be good enough, perfect enough, adequate enough, to ensure that I and those I love do not fail. I've believed that if I could do the right things, say the right things, live the right way, God owed me what is good.  This is false religion. This taught me to try to manipulate and orchestrate life to go as I felt it should. This is too much. I cannot possibly keep all those plates spinning. I hurt others in the process. God is so much bigger than that. He is so much bigger than what I can possibly control. SOOOO... I'm learning to live in the middle of the mess. Hands off, arms raised, white flag flying. 

He is enough.


So, so, so, much of this year has been fabulous.  I have the greatest family anyone, ever, could ask for.  I love my kids and am so proud of the adults they are and are becoming.  I love this new kid God has placed in our family this year. I love that my married kids have chosen partners that I LOVE and that fit so beautifully into our family.  I love my husband - I cannot, simply can. not., imagine my life without him.  I have friends - good, deep, friendships - that have pulled me from the brink of insanity more times than I can count (or perhaps they're just jumping over the edge with me - and I'm okay with that).


Though this year has been difficult, it's also been blessed.

If you run into me somewhere today, and I'm a little bit's okay.  Really.  They're mostly happy tears.

And it's my birthday -- I'll cry if I want to.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

When Moms Resort To Public Shaming

I've spent the last week and a half sick, hacking up a lung and unable to exercise. Since exercise is my primary mental health therapy, I'm not entirely sure I should be held responsible for my thoughts and actions right now.

So, anyway, in light of that information, last night, in a fit of the mother-of-grown-childen blues, I posted the following Facebook status:

Okay, so.... Wow! I no longer feel alone in the world of moms-with-grown-sons-that-do-not-respond-immediately-to-their-psycho-mother's-every-whim!  I was not expecting nearly the likes and comments that I received, so thank you -- I feel like I'm in the company of many great, but also lonely, moms. :)

Also, I feel like it's only fair to update you... One of my sons almost immediately texted saying that he really, truly thought he had answered already. And because I'm nothing if not gracious... Forgiven.

The other? Apparently I've done such a fine job of raising him that he knows better than to be forced into action by passive/aggressive shaming... So, I'll pat myself on the back for at least one (and perhaps only one) parenting lesson well-learned and just try to track him down for his obligatory hug and free food  when I get there. ;)

Thanks for your support, guys!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day

I am eternally grateful for my Mama. She taught me how to be a mama. She showed me how to be a mama. She demonstrated to me the honor and privilege that mothering is.

I am also forever thankful to my mother in law. She raised a stand up man in my husband. They just don't come any better than Brian, and I know that is, in large part, her doing.

I love being a mother. There is nothing in this world I feel a more clear calling to than mothering. I adore every one of my kids. You will not see a mama bear come in defense of her cubs any faster than if you hurt one of mine. 

I love my born-to-me children. They have given more joy than I can describe or express.  I love my gifted-to-me son. He is teaching me daily more and more of God's magnificent love and our capacity to love as well. I love the extras that God had so graciously given...through my children and through friendship with some of the greatest young people on the planet.
I love that we can honor this high calling today.  We should honor those that do this well. Not perfectly, for we are all broken, but that do the best they know how to love well.

But I also am newly reminded that this day is excruciatingly painful for some.

Children with mothers lost; mothers never known; mothers that, because they were likely never loved well, did not know how to love well.

Women that ache over empty wombs or empty arms. Women that weep for children they are estranged from. Women that feel they've failed their children and do not know how to make amends.

So today...rejoice with those who rejoice. But also, remember to mourn with those who mourn.

Happy Mother's Day y'all. May we all do our best to do this thing well.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Life and Death

This tree is out near our garden. The ice storm last winter was not kind to it, but it has given me pause every time I've gone out to the garden since spring hit and leaves began to appear.

Life and Death - side by side - in the same tree.

Each time I look at it, these words of James, the brother of Jesus, spring to my mind...

No human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

I think James' point is that this ought not be.  But it so often is, isn't it?

Life and Death
Praises and Cursing

I've seen the looks in my kids' eyes, in my husband's eyes. In the eyes of some that have come to me for counsel.  

At times I've spoken encouragement in the face of their despair, I've spoken gentleness when correction is needed, I've given respect to their pain, I've spoken grace when disagreements arose.  And I see the healing in their eyes.

Other times?  I've spoken harshness in the face of their despair, I've spoken critically when correction was needed, I've made light of their pain, I've spoken with judgment when disagreements arose.  And I see death in their eyes.

Life and Death.  Praises and Cursing. How can these things live in the same heart? Flow from the same mouth?

James says they ought not.  I agree.


So what do we have to do with that tree to see it healthy again?  We have to cut out the dead parts.  This will encourage the healthy parts to flourish and will help avoid decay that starts when we allow the dead limbs to hang around there too long.  It's probably going to be awkward for a while - lopsided, out of balance.  But eventually, it will be good, right, beautiful again.

I need to handle the parts of me that speak death and discouragement with the same aggressiveness.  It needs to be gone.  

It's easy to make excuses...

"I've always responded this way."
"They don't listen unless I raise my voice."
"I'm sarcastic - it's who I am - they'll get used to it."
"Everyone has something - this is my thing that I just can't beat."
"They're just words - they just need to toughen up."

But those are excuses.  They allow decay and rot to set in.  Death.

I want my words to foster healing. I want to speak life.  

A bit later James gives us a hint on how to fight this battle...

The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

That doesn't leave much room for all my excuses.  A mentor I used to have would say that we can't just simply remove the bad - we must replace it with the good. So, instead of making my excuses, I must get rid of it - aggressively. Just. Stop. And then replace those words with those that are pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy, impartial and sincere. That won't leave much space for judgment, for sarcasm, for harshness.  

It may occasionally leave us feeling a bit awkward, lopsided, as we learn new ways to think and act.  But we'll get there.  One day at a time - to become something good, right and beautiful.  

Speak life.

Thursday, April 3, 2014


"Courageous people feel the same fear everyone else does, they just decide not to live like they're afraid anymore." - Bob Goff

Over the last couple of years, y'all have watched me journey through what it would look like to let go of my fear, to let go of my need to control my environment, to let go of the need to know the outcome before the beginning.  (Raising three kids was, and still is, a HUGE lesson in this process). You've watched me explore what it looks like, for me, to "do for one what you wish you could do for everyone."

I've watched dear friends foster and adopt.  My heart has broken over and over and over with them, with both joy and pain, as I've watched their journey...but I never felt like caring for "littles" is where we were supposed to be - as much as you people are my heroes (and you are - you really, really are).

My heart has continued to break for those older kids that are hitting adulthood with no one...that become a statistic for homelessness, trafficking, crime, abuse.  I see pictures of teenagers without a safe place to be and my heart breaks for them.  We've sent three kids out into the world.  I know how much they've needed someone that was for them -- that's gone before - even when they think they don't.  As much as my heart continued to break, I couldn't figure out what it would look like for us to live Jesus out in this arena.

About a year ago, I began to pray that Brian would want this - that his heart would beat with mine --whatever that would look like.  I didn't want to "persuade" him - this was WAY too big a deal to just talk him into it.

And ain't God funny - He did just that.  Without my persuasion, Brian started talking.  And he was talking about teens.

Six months ago, we began to talk with our home group about what faith working itself out looks like -- what it means to BE the hands and feet of Jesus.  Really - not just theoretically.  And we worked up the courage to mention this growing sense of what we were supposed to be doing to our home group.  And a dear friend, without missing a beat, said, "I know exactly who it needs to be."

Two months ago, we met him.  And now I marvel at the capacity of the human heart to open up, to grow, and to make room to love one more.  Over and over again.

He IS exactly who it needed to be.

He moves in tomorrow.  To.mor.row., guys!

It's been a long, paperwork-laden, stupid-number-of-hours classes process.  But he moves in tomorrow - Friday.

I have no illusions that this will be easy.  We honestly don't have a clue what we're doing.  But we're doing it. Your prayers are being begged-for here. And we are excited to see what God has in store for this journey.

So, that quote that I opened with?  For now, this is what deciding not to live like we're afraid looks we go!

It doesn't look like this for everyone...but consider this -- what does it look like for you?  (If you already know what it looks like for you - let us be encouraged - tell us about it!)

Love Does

Monday, March 3, 2014

Are You Winsome?

Trapped in my home today because of our recent freak winter storm, I've browsed Facebook a little more than usual.  I never cease - never ever cease - to be amazed at the things people are willing to say when they are not looking someone in the eye – when they don’t really have a relationship with that person.

Today’s never-cease moment came when a Facebook friend posted a status about – well, it doesn't really matter what it was about – so, I’ll leave that part out.  The never-cease moments aren't actually limited to any one specific topic.  The person that posted claims to be a follower of Christ and I have no reason to doubt that.  Her post in no way departed from anything that most would consider Biblical teaching – in fact, it was compassionate and defending the cause of another, rather than themselves.  Yet, someone, also claiming to be a Christ-follower, chose to jump in to comment that she and those that agreed with her were in error.  Some of those that agreed with her are, by their own admission, not followers of Christ.

This “commenter” sounded critical, condemning, and judgmental.  I don’t know this person at all.  They may not be like this in person. They may not have meant it in the way it came across in a social media setting.  But in those few minutes of expressing their opinion, they alienated a whole host of people, likely caused pain to some individuals and hurt the cause of Christ.

We are called, as followers of Christ, to be mediators – to be ambassadors – to be people that point others to Christ.  To pull out an old, seldom-used-any-more word, our speech should be winsome and full of grace.  When someone that does not follow Christ crosses our path on a level that brings disagreement, we should take all measures to be grace-filled and kind – even in that disagreement.

Many claim that we can say these things “because we’re in America”. “It’s our right in a country founded on free speech and democracy.” “If they can spout their opinion, then I can speak mine.” “The truth will sometimes offend those that don’t want to hear it.” All of those things are true.  We CAN say it, it is our RIGHT, the truth sometimes does offend.

But – and it’s a big but

Just because I can, does that mean I should?
Just because it’s my right, aren't there some things worth giving up my rights for?
Isn't there a difference in offending and being offensive?

Early on in my Facebook experience, I found myself caught up in a few of these threads.  It is easy to find yourself there before you even know what’s happened.  Misunderstandings are easy in this medium.

No more.

I have lots of opinions.  And I’ll voice most any of them to most any person.  But I will choose to voice them in the context of a relationship – where I've earned the right to speak into their lives – to disagree.  Across dinner tables and fire pits, sitting knee-to-knee in my living room, holding their hand and making sure they know the disagreement doesn't change my love for them.

When our need to express our opinion – no matter how right we think/know we are – becomes more important than the person we’re speaking to, something has gone terribly wrong.  When our need to post memes, statuses, comments, blogs and articles that scream our counter-culture beliefs becomes more important than those that will see it but will not hear it in any context of love and grace, something has gone terribly wrong.  It is polarizing and further isolates us from the very people Jesus spent most of His time with – the people He has called us to love. 

We may exercise our right to free speech, but in doing so, we may very likely push someone further from Christ rather than closer – is that right really that important?

Instead of standing up for our rights, making sure everyone knows we’re right and have the answers, let’s choose to be winsome.  Let’s decide to look people in the eye when we must disagree. 

We CAN say it on social media, but let’s choose not to. Let’s choose love.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Wrestling With God

Every other year, for the last 16 years, I read all the way through the Bible. This is that year for me.

I'm reading in Job right now. I used to just hate this book -- mostly because I didn't understand it. My thoughts vacillate wildly...

God was completely unfair, cruel even;
The words of his friends often sounded right, true, yet God rebukes them;
I hate that there are no sound answers, nothing gets answered or settled.
I want crisp, clean lines. Clarity. Definitive answers. Job does not give that.

Job's friends were like me. They needed clarity. They needed
(Dylan Black Photography)
right versus wrong. Us versus them. Formulas that leave no room for doubt, error or failure.

Just as they did, I forget - I get things twisted, I "major on the minors", I screw things up, I don't love, I'm selfish and unforgiving.  I want to be right, yet even when I'm right, I'm often still wrong.

I can get caught up in the drama. Who is right and who is wrong; who said this or that; the list making; the defending and posturing; the attacking; the quoting and misquoting.

With Job's friends, God shuts the whole thing down. And I find it ironic that He shuts down all the arguing, posturing, judgment - not with answers, but with questions. Questions they couldn't answer. Questions we can't answer.

Why? Because He is the answer.

I'm learning to lean into the doubt just a bit. Learning to rest in the unknown - in the unknowable.

I have spent my life leaning on formulas that promised clarity and blessing, but formulas always disappoint. I've spent way too much time trying to figure out who is right and who is wrong, and not nearly enough time with Jesus.

I've become angry and cynical with those who know it all (myself among them).  It's all beginning to sound like Job's counselors in my ears. All. The. Answers. Many of them sound really good, true even. But, as with Job's friends, they're missing the point.

When we make it about us, we fight all the time.  We wrestle and cast easy answers and judgements about.  We don't love enough.  We have to be right.  Always.

When we make it about Him, we can let some of that go.  We can be as patient in people's searching as He has always been.  We can love people right where they are - right OR wrong , as He always has.  We can slosh through the doubts because He walks with us in that journey. We can make it safe to struggle. Because, as with Job, God's still got this.

It's about Him.


So. Here's what I've determined to do...

I'm going to keep leaning in to my doubts, the unknowns. He is there in the midst of it.

I will look my doubts in the face and not be ashamed of them. God is big.  He is certainly big enough to not be threatened by my questions - He was not threatened by Job's and I don't believe He's threatened by mine.  I'm going to keep asking questions, searching ... knowing I will likely never have all the answers.

But I'm tired of fighting - tired of needing to always be right - and certain.

I'll wrestle with God, but I'm not wrestling with you anymore.

I will love  - without having to have all the answers.
I will love extravagantly.
I will get my hands dirty.
I will learn to say, "I don't know," and be okay with it.
I will worship because He is worthy.
I will celebrate because there is still much good to celebrate.
I will rejoice because He will one day fix all of this and make all things new.

I will try to rest. I will never have all the answers. But just as Job learned, He is the answer. That's enough.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014: Extravagant

I recently came across a short devotional about a concept called One Word.  In a nutshell, it was encouraging people to choose one word as their focus for the new year.  Rather than a list of resolutions that are likely out of reach, doomed for failure, etc., to choose one word that focuses you in on the change you want to see in your upcoming year. 
When I first began reading it, it actually kinda bugged me - just another gimmick, cliche-y, ...still just another thing to go by the wayside around mid-March.  (fyi- I'm struggling a bit with cynicism at this point in my life.)

A few days after reading it, and honestly, not giving it much thought, this word came into my head -- Extravagant.

It is a word that I've thought of frequently in the last few months - and here's why...

Back in the summer Brian and I had an opportunity to reach out to someone that was hurting.  It wasn't a HUGE, life-will-never-be-the-same-again thing, from our perspective.  Nobody's spouse was dying, nobody had just been diagnosed with a horrible disease...but it was a huge thing for that person, at that season of their life.  As we debated what our course of action would be (i.e., stop what we were doing - a planned, set-aside, fun event - and go sit with them in their difficulty, OR keep right on doing what we were doing, tell them we'd pray for them (actually pray for them), follow-up a little later, whatever), Brian said something -- "What would Bob Goff do?"

It struck me as kind of funny -- a throw back to the bracelet-wearing W.W.J.D. hysteria of a few years ago.  But here's where we went with it...

First off, as an aside, If you don't know who Bob Goff is, please take the time to follow up and do that after reading this.  Here's a link to get you started:  We discovered him after reading a story in one of Donald Miller's books and then later reading his first book, Love Does.  

I have no idea whether he is some deeply theological guy - but here's what he is... He is a man that loves - and loves big - loves EXTRAVAGANTLY.  Given the choice of loving, or doing ANYTHING else, he chooses love.  And that's what Brian said that night.  He said, "He would choose to show love - extravagantly."  I want to be like that.

And, not coincidentally, it's what Jesus did too.  

So, even though it probably is cliche-y.  It is probably a little trite, or another gimmick, I'm doin' it. 

My word for 2014:  Extravagant.




spending much more than is necessary or wise; wasteful: an extravagant shopper.
excessively high: extravagant expenses; extravagant prices.
exceeding the bounds of reasonas actions, demands, opinions,or passions.
going beyond what is deserved or justifiable: extravagant praise.
Obsolete wandering beyond bounds.


I don't say this lightly, or with ease.  I don't have Bob Goff's personality.  I'm not all "out there".  I hide.  I hole-up by myself.  I'm prone to cynicism. I pull away.  And while I've learned to accept who I am - an introvert that draws my energy from time alone - I don't like who I become when I take that to its extreme.  I become negative and cynical. It's not pretty.  I don't want to be her.

So, given the choice:  

1.  Staying in my own ordered, quiet, organized world
2. Loving extravagantly 

This year?  I want to pick number two - almost. every. time.

I want to challenge myself to invest, to participate, to love - with extravagance.

2014: Extravagant