Monthly Archives: November 2015

Hoping for More


Ya’ll, I am tired. It’s been really good, but I am done. Except I can’t be done. We’re only getting started.

It all began on Wednesday of last week. The cooking frenzy that produced our Thanksgiving feast commenced late in the afternoon. I was supposed to have “early release” from work, but I worked from home. That means I was sitting at my laptop long after the release time, conveniently jumping up on occasion to do a little something toward meal preparation…you know, like hoisting a twenty pound bird into the brine that would transform him into a culinary masterpiece. (Alton Brown is my hero.)

As we headed to bed, I grabbed my phone to double check turkey roasting times. Our feast was set for 1:00 and I never want to relive my heritage of Thanksgiving meals not yet served well into the evening because the huge bird was still in the oven. Back in the day when we celebrated Thanksgiving at my parents’ house, by 7:00 p.m. the obligatory relish tray had been devoured and it was always closer to 9 when we finally ate. When I realized that in order to cook and carve that bird and still have time to do the last minute meal preparation I would have to be up at 6 a.m., I was mad at the turkey.

Fortunately, I woke after a good sleep with a better attitude toward the dead bird that was soaking in a salty sweet bath in the fridge. It WAS Thanksgiving after all. And as it turns out, it was a day that I won’t soon forget.

Our family, like many, has experienced divorce. It is the hardest, most gut-wrenching experience of my life. I’ve buried my parents and three siblings. I’ve been bankrupt and lost my home. I’m not speaking from a soft life.

I’ve also, through this devastation (and don’t let anyone tell you there is not physical, emotional and spiritual fallout – they lie), experienced the grace of God in ways that I cannot explain.

Thanksgiving was simply awesome and I have no idea if the food was that great. They said it was, but they are after all, my family. The best part of the day, the part that made my heart the only muscle on my body that wasn’t aching at the end of it all, was the part where two of my children – the one born to me and the one who married into this family, filled our home with grace and peace.

ChristmasTreeWhile I would have loved to just pitch a tent and bask in the glow of that all weekend, I had to move along. On Saturday I returned home after running from event to event the entire day to find that my dear hubby had unpacked the brand new Christmas tree, a floor model purchased on clearance last year after Christmas…cause that’s how I roll. There it stood, naked and with a strand of lights refusing to shine. I spent the next hour “fluffing” the branches, changing bulbs and trying to get that dark strand to shine to no avail. I fought the tree and the tree won. I bought a strand of lights. And as I write, I’m staring at that naked tree, and wondering when I will find time to decorate it. If I’m not careful, I’m already over the holidays. I am mad at the tree.

It’s November 30th, my friends. Something is wrong with me. I’m already hopelessly behind; hopelessly worn out and hopelessly insufficient.

I close my eyes. Forget the pile of pumpkins just over my shoulder, waiting to be stored away until next year. Don’t mind the naked tree or the to do lists. It’s all distraction.  This is the beginning of Advent.

Advent. And the first candle of advent? Hope. Hope moves us forward. advent-551970_1920Hope comes over anxiety like a weighted blanket, soothing and reassuring as a hug. Yet hope seems lost in the news, in the doctor’s office waiting room, in the bank balance, in sorrow, in the demands of life.

In the quiet of my mind’s eye, I try to picture the first Christmas, the beginning of hope.

Mary and Joseph no doubt encountered heavy traffic and grumpy people as they walked the dusty road to Bethlehem. Mary rode part of the way on the back of a donkey, I suppose. I’m sure that was spiffy. It was so crowded that the teen mom gave birth in an animal stall (apparently Joseph failed to reserve the birthing suite at the local inn); she wrapped her infant son in cloths. I assume no one gave her a monogramed Aden and Anais blanket, either. As I think about that night, I imagine the smells and the sounds that surrounded the birth of our savior. We like to picture an angel choir and that is glorious. The black sky was filled with tiny stars, the air in that barn was filled with the pungent odor of animals, and there was a fire burning for light and warmth. Most likely people all around were cooking meals and managing the mundane as Mary pushed the savior king into the rugged hands of Joseph. That was the first Christmas. Unpretentious, natural and even gritty, yet the heavens were filled with the songs of angels as hope entered the scene.

I open my eyes and look around again. The lights on the unfinished tree cease to mock or accuse me. Instead they remind me of the Bethlehem sky that night when in the midst of the mundane and the routine, the keeping of mandated schedules and ordinary activity, heaven opened to announce the birth of Hope.

I have a three year old grandson who always wants to share in the good stuff, and trust me, nothing gets by him. Whenever anyone has a snack or a drink he chimes in “Me-ah Too-ah!” “Me have it!” This Christmas season, I’m going to take a lesson from him. In the midst of grumpy people, well-traveled roads and mandated schedules, I’m reaching up for my share of hope. Me-ah too-ah, Jesus, Me-ah too-ah.

May your Christmas season be filled with the hope that is found in Christ alone.



Earth, Wind and Fire Alarms


alarm-304042__180The fire alarm sounded, horns blaring and strobes flashing. Thankfully I was in the ladies room when they tripped it, else I might have regretted that big mug of caramel colored yumminess I drank on my commute.

It was an alarm test – not even an evacuation drill, but it droned on forever. Just keep working. My brain knew it wasn’t an emergency, but in the instant that it sounded, the rest of my body reacted with adrenalin. There is no danger of anyone remaining unaware of an alarm in that building.

As I headed back to my seat, I noticed that everyone was at their desks, trying their best to endure the noise, going on with their work. Protect your hearing. Focus on the task at hand. It’s just noise – today it requires no response. Another day, we will quickly and efficiently exit the building and gather together, accounting for one another…but not today. Today we are aware of the alarm, we consider a response, and based on reliable information we stay the course.

Words. Everywhere. I’m being bombarded and I’m overwhelmed and I’m trying to work through and assimilate them but the assault never stops. They come at me so quickly I lose the current thought to the next and what in the world was I thinking ten minutes ago? I read them everywhere, words spoken by people I admire or at least respect. In the name of my Jesus there are at least two schools of thought on the everything. I see merit and truth in both, and then wonder what is wrong with a grown woman (me) who can’t take a stand?

I find myself responding to words just like I did to that siren. I’m in the middle of something perfectly normal,  when they come loud and insistent, startling and alarming me:

“Surgery is scheduled.”
“More tests are required.”
“Terrorists attacked Paris.”
“The teenager is in a funk.”
“You are clenching your jaw in your sleep.”
“Still no answer on that job interview.”
“The diagnosis is in – it’s cancer.”
“The deadline was just moved up.”
“Your application has been denied.”

Sometimes words are like that alarm test – loud and persistent, but no response is required other than coping with the noise. Other times, a response is not only warranted; it’s beneficial. Wisdom is knowing the difference.

Many days I drive the forty minute commute from the office to home in silence. It’s a chance to be still; it gives me time to think about and sort through the words; some that I’ve spoken and others that I’ve heard. It’s in those quiet moments that clarity and conviction come; I decide whether to respond, react or, in the words of a famous princess, let it go.

The noise has reached a crescendo recently, though. I feel like I’m surrounded by people who are zealous for the Lord. They are passionate and they are convinced that they know exactly what Jesus would do. They are often loud. And I love them. I just wish some days that they would stop talking.

Where are you in all of this, Jesus? In my earnest quest for quiet and calm, I welcome these words:

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord,
for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
(I Kings 19:11-13)

The law. It is a voice of terrible words – harsh and accusing, like earthquakes and fire to break the rocky hearts of sinful men. The Gospel is a still small voice, more like gentle whispering than roaring. Soft, easy and lyrical, it is a gentle voice of love, grace and mercy.

That is the voice I long to hear. That voice tells me to find a bench and sit with a widow or an overwhelmed mom. It’s the same voice that tells me to say no to the guy who approaches me for money in the parking lot but urges me to buy peanuts for the homeless man dozing against the wall by the produce market. It’s the voice that reassures me when I’m lonely. That whisper reminds me in the wee hours of the morning that his eye is on the sparrow, and that he records every tear.


So, as I enter this week of Thanksgiving, I’m looking for a quiet place. 2015 has not been the best year for me; perhaps you’ve had your share of trials as well. Even so, when I find a quiet spot to listen and reflect, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for blessings that came as surely as the hard places, sometimes in the middle of those hard places. The only way this wounded heart can truly come to a place of gratitude is to look past the shaking earth, the heat of the flames and the ferocity of the wind to hear the still small voice of the One who is delighted with me, renewing me in his love. And there, in that place, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude.



Tangled Love


Thankfully, I’m pretty good at untangling things, whether fine gold chains or shoelaces. I have a good eye for it, I suppose. Once everything is laid flat in good light, patiently and methodically I look over the whole of it. It’s the reverse of the tangling, you see. Backing out every twist and turn until it is free. It’s tedious but required.

Hearts1Recently I borrowed garland for a baby shower, pink and gold hearts perfectly sewn together in long strands. During cleanup I discovered one strand, bunched in a heap rather than carefully wrapped for return.

As I surveyed the tangled mess, the complexity was obvious. Fine threads wrapped and twisted around heart shaped paper were a significant challenge, but I got right to it. For almost an hour I stood over the bar in my kitchen, at times holding all of it up to the window to get a look in better light.

The work of caring for our souls is a bit like that; it’s difficult to unwind the tangled places. As I worked, I remembered a recent tangle in my soul.

It started with a few words – exchanges via text. I have no reason to believe it was the intention behind them, but they landed hard, the wounds painful. Powerful emotion rose up in me and I felt as if my chest might burst from its incredible force. Even as I reread the words, I couldn’t put my finger on why the strong reaction.

strawberries-300913_1920The swell crested when hubby unknowingly added one more twig to the pile. Tears flowed. It was the sort of ugly cry that happens rarely, but when it does I bury my head in his chest and the words tumble out of me. (Followed by consumption of a quart of ice cream.) After all of that, I can begin to untangle the messiness of it.

My spirit was fragile because of a load of circumstances. The weeks leading up had been rough – with moments of helplessness, grief, anxiety, disappointment and exhaustion. As clarity came, I realized why rereading that conversation was fruitless; these words were not there:

“Daddy loves me more.”

A pronouncement I felt in my heart, “heard” in my mind, but it was never actually spoken. She never said that God, our father, loved her more than me.

It was days later, in Chapter 8 of Romans, that I began to understand why I bought the lie.

For weeks before the encounter, prayer was hard. There was nothing new to say, nothing that I hadn’t spoken through tears for weeks. But I had forgotten that when words won’t come, when I’m too tired and worn out from the waiting, the Holy Spirit of God takes my heavy sighs, my tears and my literal groans and He transforms them into prayers that He speaks on my behalf.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” – Romans 8:26

There it was, the first bit untangled. It’s okay when I can’t come up with the right words; when I don’t even know what to ask anymore. He writes them for me and speaks them to “Daddy” on my behalf – just as if I had prayed them myself.

Near the end of the chapter there is an amazing promise. Check out these verses, quoted here from The Message translation:

“God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself. And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun.” – Romans 8:29-30

He called me by name. He knows MY name, ya’ll! He has a plan and it is not random. The book goes on to say that he and I are SOLID, nothing can separate me from God’s love. What is true for me is true for all of his children. He’s on our side. Jesus is in the presence of God every minute, sticking up for us. Another tangle gone.

When I forget the truth (or don’t know it), I’m so vulnerable. But I remember now! He loves me, and he loves you. His capacity is not limited and he is working out a plan that is unique for each of us. Mine won’t look just like yours, but we can both be certain that He’s got us.

Believe in yo“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to

I have a visual of the Spirit of God blowing the cloud of sin and condemnation away like wind sending dark clouds out to sea. What a beautiful reminder that even in our imperfect bodies of flesh, the Spirit is always at work.

I’m Seeing Red and It’s Not What You Think


Mom, do you remember when you were awaiting the arrival of your babies? There were months to prepare and everyone was waiting with excited anticipation. Showers celebrated the impending arrival of your blessing; new clothing was washed in that amazing Dreft detergent and folded and placed at the ready in a lovingly prepared nursery. The arrival of a child is a blessed and joyous event that should be celebrated.

When the call comes, foster parents have little time to prepare. Until that moment, they have no idea of age, gender, size or situation. In a matter of minutes or hours the child will arrive, likely with nothing more than the clothing on their backs, sometimes in the middle of the night, confused and possibly fearful.

May I share the arrival story of my second granddaughter? A case worker called – this is the official announcement that you’re “expecting”. The baby was being discharged from the NICU. In a matter of hours, a very sick, very tiny baby was delivered to her new home. There was no time for preparation except in the heart of a woman who heard the specific call for this child and said “yes”.

Foster moms go into nesting mode from zero to sixty with that call. And often, they are on their own. If they’ve been at it for a while, they likely have a network they can mobilize. Sadly, that network is mostly other fostering families.

It’s not the same. I get that. But what if we, as a community of believers…the CHURCH, got serious about this issue? What if we said ENOUGH? What if rather than getting bent out of shape about a disposable cup we took up the cause of the orphan?StarbucksCup

In the United States over 250,000 children enter foster care each year. That number is staggering. While not every family can or will foster, the statistics tell that if one family in one church out of every three churches were to welcome one child into their home, there would be no child waiting.

I wish I could just lay my heart bare. Words are supposed to do that, but I am better at telling a story than championing a cause. As best as I can tell it, this is what I want you to hear, dear reader. What if that that one family out of those three churches had an army of people around them? What if when a mama posted a status update about needing a toddler bed, instead of sending links to beds for sale on Craig’s List that same team of people found a bed and delivered it to that home where everyone is in prep mode?

I never knew. I had no idea. I thought those people were super heroes and I admired how they had it together and managed so well. I ignored the fact that I could should be a part of the story. I freely admit that I only became part of this amazing story because of my daughter and son-in-law.

But regardless of my failure to walk in it, this was not written for one family in one church out of three, my friends:

Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their misfortune and to keep oneself unstained by the world. James 1:27 NET

So, dear reader, if you are still with me, and if that verse is speaking to your heart, let’s get on with it.

There are ways to touch the lives of children in foster care even beyond becoming a foster parent. I was going to give you a nice, neat bulleted list, but I just deleted all of it (I hope I don’t regret that in a minute!). What if we got to know them by spending time, asking questions and then reacting and responding as needed out of our abundance and with the conviction that these children ARE our responsibility?

Further, what about the church? What is her role in supporting fostering and adoptive families? It’s not enough to celebrate Orphans Day one Sunday in November (if your church even did – mine didn’t but that’s my fault).

Under the authority of the very Word of God, churches must provide tangible support for families who pursue a calling in fostering and/or adoption:

  • Put in place supports that will allow the families to maintain their current level of involvement in the church
  • Make sure you are ready to welcome special needs children into the various ministries for babies, children and teens
  • Make church the easiest place to navigate with a large family
  • Grief counseling (fostering involves loss)

Fostering is a delicate dance. For good reasons foster families take lots of things one day at a time. And ironically, that’s how love grows. One day at a time. And sometimes, that little girl who was discharged from the NICU becomes my granddaughter.


The Book says it more than once. I’m only sorry that I am so very late to this amazing dance.

Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.[
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.
Isaiah 1:17

Relationship Status Update


girl-925284_1280I was having coffee with a friend. We were sitting outside, enjoying a beautiful fall evening and one another’s company. In the course of conversation, I mentioned a picture and grabbed my phone to share it. I was immediately distracted by notifications and actually lost my train of thought (what WAS I looking for?). I wish I could say that was an isolated incident. Not even close.

Riding in the car with my hubby, the radio is always loud. His philosophy is that if the music is too loud, you are too old. While he is always willing to turn the volume down and listen to my chatter, I have recently taken to pulling out my phone when we are riding together. Before I know it, I’ve been perusing status updates, checking email and twitter and browsing Pinterest far too long and I have no idea where we are or have been. Next to reaching our destination, my favorite part of any trip is the journey. Lately I’ve been missing too much of the journey.

Sunday mornings are the best; coffee at home from a real cup and leisurely breakfast with my hubby before church. Recently we slept in. The extra rest was much needed but we were a bit rushed. After a quick breakfast I hurried to get ready. In record time we were on our way. Settling into a chair in our small group, I reached for my phone to turn the volume off. It wasn’t in my purse. My chest tightened—I was anxious. I learned later that I was suffering from nomophobia – the fear of being out of mobile phone contact (really, it’s an actual thing now). If you think I’m exaggerating, try separating from your phone, even for a short time.

Hubby quickly offered to run home to retrieve it, but I declined. Honestly, it is rare for me to get a call or text on Sunday morning. And my children know that the parents are together, so they would reach out to dad if mom didn’t answer. But what if there was a need to research a term during class or locate lyrics from a worship song (I actually do this)? What if something in the service was awesome and I wanted to share a picture on Facebook or Instagram? I felt the anxiety of losing connection – to my people (although a lot of them were in the room with me) and to information. The truth is, absent that instant connection to the WORLD, I was actually present in MY world—100% engaged, fully focused on the people and happenings aound me that morning. It was refreshing.

AdultBinkyAll of this led me to an article in the Huffington Post referencing a study from Iowa State University. You can read it here but the key for me is the scientific test attached to the article. I took it. I am embarrassed to share my score, but I will admit that I have a problem that implies serious FOMO. I am a smartphone junkie and as a result, I am distracted in almost everything I do. Reading a book? Phone within reach. Having dinner/coffee/walk with friends or family? Phone is a third wheel. Even at work, my phone is in my sight, although I don’t take it into meetings (don’t get me started on the madness of people in a meeting checking their phones). Watching TV with the hubs? Phone right next to me.

Worse than my constant connection is the tether (implied and perhaps more me than them) that gives everyone I know instant access to me, with an expectation of immediate response.

I was a child in the 60’s. We had one phone in our little home and it hung on the wall in the living room. Most of my married life was the same. When we were away from home, we were out of touch. When we took a vacation we made sure the people who NEEDED to know had emergency contact information and we truly “checked out” for a period of time.

Today we have information at our fingertips and instant access to people. We follow “friends” on Facebook (I have almost 600 and I bet you have lots more), most of whom we would never take the time to sit with over coffee. Why? Because we don’t have that much time! And yet, I scroll through status updates and see the highlight reel of their lives, and often get the feeling that I’m missing something. All the while, I’m likely sitting with or near a real, live person with whom I desperately need to connect. I recently took one of those Facebook tests, this one to analyze how many hours I spent on Facebook in the last year. I have no idea the accuracy, but I was mortified when it returned 907 HOURS. That’s an average of two and a half hours a day. Lord help.

I am struggling with this, friends. There are so many things I love about social media. But I am feeling and hearing this more and more from others: I have hundreds of connections but few I can count on. Sobering, but for many that is reality.

I have been thinking a lot about Jesus and his friendships. He had a few close friends…three to be exact. Those were the men he poured his life into – they hung out a lot and they worked together. I imagine that on any given day, they knew one another’s whereabouts. They knew about the struggles and the triumphs of one another’s lives. They were in the trenches together and had each other’s backs. They were tight.

Then there were the twelve, and even among those he had a doubter, a denier and a double-crosser. Jesus’ life and ministry touched the masses at times, but he spent his time with a few. He poured his life into even fewer.

I’m beginning to think these last ten years of my life, as I’ve added to my friends list and spread myself thin among relationships, that I’ve been totally off course. While I hope that I can occasionally touch the masses, I’m looking at his example for friendship. I want a few friends who will show up; friends who come in my back door and know the sodas and water bottles are in the garage fridge. I want to be the friend that will change from PJ’s to clothes to meet you because you really, really need to talk. I want to be the friend who takes the time to sit with you in the ER, and cries with you when tragedy touches your life.

And the thing is, we have limited capacity: physically, emotionally and spiritually. I know this because I’ve been disappointed and I’ve disappointed others. I’ve grieved lost jobs and lost kids alone. I’ve known there was a need in a friend’s life but I just didn’t have anything left in me to join them.

Perhaps this has resonated with you. Did you sense a little anxiety as you read? I wish I could tell you I’ve got this, but I am working on it. I’ve begun intentionally spending less time with my virtual connections and intend to return my focus to the people who are part of my inner circle. I’m putting some distance between myself and my smartphone, especially when there are “real” people in my vicinity. I’ve already left home without my phone again, and I’m happy to report the anxiety was much lower!

If you made it this far, here’s a treat for you!  Isn’t this just gorgeous? It was last fall, on my cousins pontoon boat. The only thing we did with cell phones that evening was take some pictures.  Precious time spent with people I love.


I would love to hear your perspective and insight. Talk to me by leaving a comment below.