Sunday, September 13, 2015

Fourteen Years

This morning at Cornerstone, we celebrated. Fourteen years as a community of believers. Fourteen years. That's the longest I have ever been a part of any single community.  As we sang, laughed, cried, reminisced, baptized, broke bread and celebrated, many thoughts raced through my head. There are so many memories tied up in this place. Towards the end, we had time to speak of our "stones of remembrance" that have come out of this place. There is no way on earth I could have expressed what was in my heart. Here is my feeble attempt...

Our kids did most of their growing up here - Dylan was only six when we moved here, Luke, 9, Erin, 11.  Erin met her husband because of this place. My daughter's mentor - the adult that has spoken most into her life, outside of her father and I, came from this community.  Erin learned to lead worship here - her heart for worship through song was born in this place. Her voice took wings in this building. Her love for children and teens was nurtured in this place.

Luke, as he always has, lived pretty quietly in the midst of these people - but his dearest friends were in this place. These were the people he played with, raced with, laughed with. During his senior year, he surprised us all and started singing here - and it was beautiful.  It was in this place that I began to see his strong will - hidden often behind his quiet reserve. And as he moved away and became this long-haired, barefoot, young man, - breaking with all conservative convention - he has still always been loved and accepted and missed here.

Dylan came out into the open with his depression, and all that that involved, in this place. Most of these people loved him, embraced, prayed for, encouraged and believed in him. He cut his singing teeth on these people. Dylan came into this world with a roar and hasn't slowed down since - he lived out loud here and, for the most part, was accepted and loved through that process by these people.

They are all grown and moved away now, but they were shaped by these people. Being a pastor's kid is a hard calling. Some have made that more difficult for them - forcing them into a fish bowl and expecting a level of maturity and perfection that most kids don't have to live in (sometimes, I'm painfully forced to admit, those people were their parents). Others, most, embraced them - let them be kids -- normal, imperfect, emotional, immature-at-times, but amazing little humans.

The growth that brought Brian and I to the place of making our home available and our hearts open to another child, to a teenager - to Thomas - came in this place, with these people. These people have embraced him as if he'd been a part of our family, both a Black and at Cornerstone, forever. He's been loved, mentored, encouraged, scolded and prayed for in this place. He has learned family here.

I learned what I believe the gospel is truly about in this place. To serve the marginalized. To help widows and orphans. To be light in the darkness, rather than light in the light. To feed the hungry. To clothe the cold. To be uncomfortable for the sake of another. To go way beyond Bible study, to "Bible doing". To love extravagantly. To get involved in our larger community and have an impact.

Some of my dearest friendships were born here. I will be forever grateful for this. We have laughed, cried, raised kids, screamed our frustrations, prayed to our God, and loved, with these people.

Our highest mountain tops have been with these people.

Our deepest wounds have been in this place.

There have been days, weeks, months even, that I just wanted to pack up the boxes and hit the road. It was hard. It was painful. It was heart breaking. I was angry. Depressed. Lonely. I have watched my husband be lied to and about. I've held my tongue as people said painful, untrue things about him and about my kids. I've watched others leave and fluxuated between being angry that they were leaving and jealous that I couldn't go too.

But I stayed.

I stayed for my husband, honestly. Not because I'm some great, mature Christian. But for my husband. I held my tongue for my husband. He is one of the greatest men I have ever known. He is not perfect, he has made mistakes in this place, but I have watched him exercise a level of grace and forgiveness that I do not have and have been in awe of his ability to keep moving forward, to keep shepharding, to keep loving, to keep leading, during some of those more difficult years.  But he did. And because of him, I did.

And in that place, I learned the value of staying in a place after you don't want to stay any more.

I learned that it is often in that place - staying when you don't want to stay anymore - that you learn to truly love another. That is where you truly learn forgiveness, grace, mercy, faith. This is the place you grow.  This is true in a community of believers. It is true in our families. It is true in our marriages. Most of our growth comes during pain.

I'm not saying there's never a time to go. Not at all. Everything has a season and sometimes it is right to leave.  But I'm thankful that God held my tongue when I did not have the strength. I'm thankful He gave me a husband that has shown me what grace and forgiveness looks like. And I think I can honestly say now that I'm thankful for the hard parts. This is where He broke me. Where I laid down my never ending need to control everything and lay it at His feet.

These are my people. The good, the bad, the ugly. But mostly the good. These are my people. And today, I am thankful for all fourteen years.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Standin' On My Soapbox

As we are entering another (dear Lord, help me) election season, I'm already noticing some things on social media.  They're here year 'round, but they become overwhelmingly apparent during election season.  

I'm seeing memes, videos, "news" clips, personal rants - every. day. - multiple times a day - from all kinds of folks - about the upcoming campaign. 

We live in America. We get to say what we want, almost without limit or restriction, to anyone we want, any time we want. And boy, are we ever doing that. I am already at my limit with slander, gossip, ugly rhetoric, mocking... I see it from every political persuasion, from every religious and non-religious vein, from every economic category.  But, speaking as a follower of Christ, and speaking to, likely primarily, other followers of Christ, I am the most saddened by us. There couldn't be anything less like Christ than what I've already seen in the brief time since this season opened up - from us.

We get to say what we want. I get that. We have rights. I know. We are Americans. I get that too.

What I'd like to see more of is you telling me who you're voting for, who you're researching as you consider supporting them, why you're voting for them, or the reasons you're considering them.

This would be helpful.

What I'd like to see less of is who you're NOT voting for, who you're "researching" so that you can tell us how horrible they are.

This is not helpful.

We are so prone to reading something that supports our world view, our opinion, our bias, and we just hit share with little to no thought of the consequences. I'm certain that, at some point, I have been guilty of this.

True? I have no idea - but it must be true if it agrees with what I believe!  
Kind? It doesn't matter as long as it's true!  
Helpful? Again, doesn't matter as long as it makes me feel better about myself!
Slanderous? Doesn't matter. Even if it may not be completely true, they're horrible people so they deserve it!

We are followers of Christ. Truth MUST be our priority. Truth IN LOVE must be our priority. Being right is not the primary objective. Proving our point is not the primary objective. Standing up for MY rights is not the primary objective. Slandering our neighbor should NEVER be our objective. It's so easy to vilify people we don't know personally, those we'll never have to look in the eye or sit across a dinner table from. Those people we're slandering? They're people. They're moms and dads, friends, coworkers. They're broken just like we are. They need Jesus, just like we do. 

If you haven't seen these websites, consider this a little bit of a PSA - there are places that, usually within 30 seconds, you can find the truth of something before you pass it on to the rest of your world. If you don't have 30 seconds to check it, then just let it be - the world will continue to spin without one more share.

These will help all of us. Some of you may have found others that are easy to use and reliable - I'd love to hear from you on what they are. I can't tell you how many times I've used them - countless. I can usually enter the first sentence of whatever I've read into the search bar of the website and within seconds have my answer. Seconds. Seconds to know if, at the bare minimum, it's at least true. Most of the time, y'all, it's NOT true. There are times that the quote may be true, but it's taken horribly out of context (and if you're wondering, passing it on out of context - even if they said it - is passing on a lie). There are other times that it was true - 15 or 20 years ago, but it's been long since resolved. Sometimes it is just a complete, shameless, lie. And sometimes? Sometimes it is true. Then I can work on deciding if passing it on is kind, helpful, beneficial to other readers, etc.

Check your facts. Immigration? Check it. Planned Parenthood? Check it. Welfare? Check it. The Democratic or Republican candidate that you hate? Check it. President Obama? Check it. Former President George W. Bush? Check it. Minimum wage? Check it. I have STRONG opinions about nearly everything in this list and I'll share them openly if you ask me. But passing on lies helps no one. Spewing hate and ugliness does nothing constructive.

Let's be kind, y'all. Just be kind.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

And Just Like That!

April 16, 2015. Family complete (so far at least :) ).

And just like that, the gavel drops and this family has expanded to include two little boys that needed a family to love - a forever family.

Just like that.

This family's story is one of my favorites.  I have known them since before there were any children in it. Michelle (Mama) has been one of my dearest friends for most of those 23 years.

Their story started as traditional as most of middle class America's does. Married shortly after college, started their family a few years later, beginning with a beautiful young lady that was not able to be a part of today's picture.  They eventually had three more, two girls and a boy.  Home educated, raised in Church, busy, busy, busy.  Good parents, good friends. Their kids have always been, and still are, some of my kids' best friends. They are a blessing in more ways than I can express here.

But a few years ago, their lives took a turn that none of us really saw coming.  They began to be drawn to foster care and, instead of just laying on the couch and watching a movie until that feeling went away, they asked questions, they pursued, they trained...and they began a new chapter in their family's life.

Look at those cheeks!
Their "just like that" started six years ago, when they stepped out with fear and trembling and took in their first foster baby. Six years later, after:
  • many dark, night hours holding, feeding, rocking scared toddlers
  • round the clock feedings and diaper changes for newborn infants
  • washing lice out of hair and bedding
  • loving babies, toddlers and adolescents that have never known real love
  • calming toddlers with out-of-control behaviors that can be explained in no other way, other than adults can cause horrific consequences for the kids they leave in the wake of their pain and brokenness.
  • figuring out how to balance serving these babies and loving and nurturing their own children.
  • these same children pitching in time after time, serving these babies too - learning to love when it's easy and when it's hard.
  • ministering to birth parents in ways that no one expected them to, nor was it their responsibility to - but they loved these babies' mamas and daddys, so they made themselves available.
  • crying, as children they had fallen head-over-heels in love with were removed from their home to return to a home that may or may not be safe, to a kinship placement that was right and good, or to a permanent adoptive home, but it still rips your heart out to send babies you love away.
  • Countless trips to the court house, doctor's offices, social workers, schools, jails and therapists.
  • And I'm certain they would want me to add, failures, screw-ups, seeking and giving forgiveness, over and over.
In the midst of that three ring circus, (and I can tell you from experience - it is a three ring circus at their house! :)  ), they have found time to raise four phenomenal children of their own (and all the beauty and hardship that brings) and encourage other families on similar journeys. They were a big, big reason we were able to find the courage to step out and be brave instead of follow fear when it came time to bring a teenager we did not raise into our home.

After all of that, a little over three years ago, God gave them Isaiah, straight from the hospital...and two years later, his little brother, Josiah.  These two?  These two are never leaving.  Though they have been their sons and brothers in their hearts for a long time already, today, they are their sons - in every single way.

So, when we see the end of a journey, (or sorta the beginning, actually)...we sometimes just see that little snippet - that "oh, how sweet" moment that the fairy tale comes true.

But the truth?  The truth is, the journey is hard, fraught with fear and tears, joy and exhilaration, frustration and peace.

It's hard.

But look at those babies!  They will never know what it feels like not to be loved.  Their lives are forever changed.  As are their Mama and Daddy's, their three big sisters' and their big brother's.

It is a fairy tale - one that only God could write. Just like that.

Monday, March 30, 2015


Brian has been doing the hard work of getting the garden ready for spring planting. He tilled this weekend.The tiller turns the dirt...makes our hard, Oklahoma clay a little more cooperative -- at least for a few days.  We've tried to take advantage of that and pull out the weeds and grass that we were fighting, not so victoriously, at the end of last season.

I commented yesterday, as we were working at this, that it felt like spitting into the ocean and expecting the water level to rise. It is hard and it never ends and it feels like a waste of time. If we have that garden ten years from now, we'll still be fighting with weeds and grass. As the season progresses, it gets hotter and more difficult, but the weeds are still there. It feels very defeating at times... it's easy to give up and just let the weeds and grass have it -- choke out the fruit we've worked so hard on. By late July, I often don't care anymore - it's not worth it to me. "Have it," I say..."I don't care anymore." 

But then we rest, the ground rests, we rejuvinate a bit and remember the fruit - remember why...and so we start again.

But here's the truth I'm seeing as we work on this a little more each year: The older parts of the garden, where we've fought this battle longer -- they still have some weeds and grass - and likely always will, but nothing like the newer parts of the garden. We are making progress. It often doesn't feel like it, but over the long haul, I can see it. 

Each year, we pull a few more weeds and grass out, we work in a little more mulch and compost - add some of the necessary nutrients. And each year, the older parts get a little darker, a little softer, a little less grass and weeds encroaching on the fruit of our labor. Each year, the new parts look a little more like the older - and then we'll add another new section, as we did this year. More weeds to fight - but also more fruit to grow. :)


I needed that lesson this week.

I am so incredibly impatient with the hard work of rooting out the yucky my own life, and in others' lives as well. I see it, just as I see the grass and weeds in our garden. I know it shouldn't be there. I know it is gradually destroying what is good in the midst of it. I want it gone. 


Yesterday, even.

I'm incredibly hard on myself. Critical by nature - it is a battle I will fight to my grave, I'm certain. I was, and still am at times, so hard on my kids. My poor daughter, especially - being the first born, is the one we made ALL the mistakes with. I expected/still expect so much, so soon, of my children. I often failed at being thankful in the progress made, and instead, focused all my attention on what still needed to be done. I'm still prone to that.

Thankfully, God began to show me that in myself - allowed me to start tilling it up and rooting it out. It's still a battle. I can see spaces where it's better. I can see spaces I still need to keep working. 

It is easy to get tired. It is hard to look at the ugly parts. It is painful to till it up. It was/is painful to keep at it with my kids. I lose perspective. I stop looking back at the older parts. I fail to see that things have improved - that maybe where I'm tilling is a brand new spot and that's why it's so hard right now. I forget to look back at what I've been working on for months, years even, and be thankful that I'm not, we're not, where we once were.  I get angry and discouraged and overwhelmed. I'm tempted to say, "Have it - I don't care anymore." Sometimes I give up. And sometimes? Sometimes, I really do just need to stop. For a season. Rest. Rejuvinate.

And then get back out there and start pulling weeds. Remember why we started. Tilling up dirt and old, red clay - even though it exposes even more yuck that I couldn't see until I started digging. Once it is stirred up, it is easier to get it out. (Or maybe it's just less hard to get it out.)

God is in the turning. He is in the pulling, bending, back-breaking work of making it better. I want to be thankful for the turning - for the softer ground it yields - for the opportunity to keep working at getting out the bad parts, and to more easily work in the good stuff.

At the same time... at the same time, I want to look back - look back and be thankful for progress already made - fruit being born.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

When It's Hard to Give Thanks

This year, I've committed to work through the discipline of thankfulness. I am going through Ann Voskamp's Joy Dare, challenging me to find three unique gifts in each day.

This has been more encouraging and insightful than I would have ever imagined. I did not quite realize how thoughtlessly I barreled through days, not pausing to reflect on the people around me, the God in the midst of us, the beauty all around. This practice, of meditating each day on Joy and Thankfulness, is proving to be somewhat transforming for me. Something as simple as "three things green" will turn my thoughts toward the goodness of God in the mundane of life. And finding goodness in the mundane is transforming.

There are three ladies that have joined me in this, along with a smattering of others that jump in on occasion, and their input, their perspectives on Joy and Thankfulness, have been equally encouraging.

Today's challenge? Today's is truly a challenge.

Three gifts hard to give thanks for.

And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Eph. 5:20

This is much harder said than done -- Giving thanks for things I am not thankful for. To be honest, I'm not sure even what that looks like. In my wonderings, this is about all I've come to:  to learn to give thanks for the God Who is present in all things.

Having said that, here are three gifts that are hard to be thankful for:

1. The pain we have experienced in the community of the Church. We have experienced both the best and worst of relationships in this broken-but-becoming-whole community. And it took a long time, but I am thankful, even in the pain, because it has forged the stuff of life in me. Some chose to leave. Some just gave up, weary. Some felt they must leave. And I get that. If I weren't a pastor's wife, honestly, I probably would have as well. But I couldn't leave...and now I am grateful. It has taught me that life and relationship are most often found in slogging through the hard and painful parts together.

2. My children sometimes choosing paths that I do not know or understand or even agree with. It is hard to watch the ones you love the most make choices you fear (read "know") will bring them pain. But I have found a faithful God in this place. Faithful to my children, right where they are. Faithful to walk through each stage of this journey with us - redeeming our failures and never wasting an experience - even the wrong or painful ones. And sometimes? Sometimes, in God's twisted sense of humor, I get to learn that what I was sure was a horrible mistake is exactly what they should have done.

3. The "unfair" pain... Dylan's battle with depression, the pain of Thomas's past - the day-to-day struggles these unfair circumstances cause.  We all have versions of this kind of pain. We don't deserve it. It's not fair. It's not right. It would be easy to blame God for allowing such things. He is, after all, sovereign, and yet these things did happen. It would be easy to become cynical, bitter, angry.

Here's what I learned in this place: The God I used to know - the one that owed me good things because I'd lived obedient and faithful - that God had to go. But the God I found in the pain? He is faithful. He is present. He is a constant presence in these struggles.

He knew depression. He knew abuse. He knew rejection and loneliness. He knew injustice. He knew hunger. He knew pain. And He knows our pain. He lives through each of those painful, sometimes horrific experiences, with us. With my children. 

He is God With Us.

So I'll be thankful. This year. This moment.  Sometimes it is easy, sometimes it is a sheer act of obedience and faith.

Moment by moment.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

2015 - Joy


My word for 2015.

Last year, it was Extravagant. It was the first year I had tried this and I found it to be very beneficial. Laser focus. What do I want to focus my energy on? Learning to give love extravagantly... not dole it out as it is "earned" or "deserved", or when it's easy. Not just when it makes sense, but when it doesn't. When no one expects it -- especially then. As Christ does. No matter what. Go big or go home.

This year, it's Joy.

I've talked a lot about my battles with doubt and cynicism. I'm kind of tired of that about myself. Not that my doubts are going to dissolve -- because I'm just cynical enough to believe they won't. But I'm ready to do battle - to make sure that cynicism and doubt don't eat away at my soul, don't cause me to become some bitter, old, hermit, cat lady.  I don't want to be her.

So, this year, my laser focus will be on Joy.

In the midst of my doubts.

In the midst of my cynicism.

In the midst of the hard parts of life.


I came across a tool that I'm hoping will help me keep this focus. I've shared it on Facebook, but I'll link it here in case you missed it. ( The download gives you three prompts each day of the year to help you open your eyes, look around and find Joy in the mundane, in the normal, in the routine of every day life.  Some of them are a little intimidating to me - "How do I find Joy, gratefulness in THAT?" - but, hey, if it were easy, it wouldn't be a challenge, now would it?

My goal is to post on Facebook each day, or at least most days, with the simple Joys I've found that day.  Some of you have already joined me in this, and in just two days, your words have already been so encouraging to me.  I'd love for a whole bunch of you to jump on this Joy bandwagon with me -- fight the demons of cynicism and bitterness. They don't deserve to win.

2015 - Joy.

Join me?