Tag Archives: faith

A Habit of Faith

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It’s Sunday morning and in our house, that means we are going to church. It’s always been that way. As newlyweds, we slept in on Saturday mornings. My earliest irritation with my father in law (may he rest in peace) was with his Saturday morning drop in visits. The man just never got the hint that newly married couples 1) like to stay in bed on their day off and 2) even if they are up, they are not interested in entertaining a third. We loved our lazy mornings. We needed those lazy mornings.

However, on Sunday we were up and out the door to church. We were already serving as teachers and for you Millennials, there was also church on Sunday night. It would have been so easy to justify staying home, but we established a habit from the start.

I grew up around priests and nuns. They were easily recognized by their religious habits, the clothing that identified them as consecrated to God. The habit is an outward reminder to all  of their devotion to Christ and the church. Our faith “habits” are a regular reminder of the price that was paid for our redemption as well as our commitment to the Body of Christ, the church.

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If memory serves me well, this was her first time to church.

With the addition of a baby we were even more determined to be there. Our firstborn entered the world on Sunday and the following Sunday morning she was dressed up and taken to church. You read that right…I took my newborn, one week old into the house of God, aka the Temple of Germs. I’m sure we were warned, but we were determined to be back in our community.

This paragraph is a little disclaimer: I didn’t put my precious little in the church nursery and I let no one – not even her grandmother (I didn’t want to put her in the awkward position of saying no) – hold her while we were there. I politely declined and explained that we would love for them to stop by our home where they could cuddle to their heart’s content. No. One. Ever. Came. People didn’t want to hold my baby, they wanted to hold a baby. They were not nearly as excited about getting to know her as they were about giving their uterus a baby fix. Not my baby.

Six years later our second little girl was born, also on a Sunday. After a Lamaze birth and a couple of days of rest we set out to church the following Sunday, continuing in our pattern. I returned to work five weeks after she was born. When not at my job, I hung cloth diapers on the line to dry while my husband worked in a very physically demanding job six days a week. It never once occurred to us to use Sunday mornings to recover from the week or get things done for the following one.

Of course we stayed home when we were sick. There were vacations and other things that kept us away, but it was our pattern, our habit to get up, get ready and go. There was never a Saturday night conversation about whether we would be going. It was our routine. Just like we went to work and school on Monday, we showed up at church every week.

Lest you think I was a conformist, I must tell you that I was the pioneer who (I’m sure of this) was the first person to introduce the notion of not having Sunday night church. Don’t get me wrong, Sunday night church was awesome. It was more casual and relaxed; from the music to the atmosphere in the sanctuary, it felt more like family than Sunday morning. Almost without fail, we traded hosting casual after church dinners with another family. That was the best time, whether we adults played cards or just chatted while the kids gathered in the other room.

The problem with this? By the time the evening was ending, it was past bedtimes and we were already behind in our normal weeknight schedule. I’m not known for boldly introducing groundbreaking new ideas but one morning as we sat in a fast food restaurant with our pastor and another local pastor, I made a bold statement: “Sunday night church isn’t good for families. I think we should consider not doing it.”

WHOA….I might as well have said that pastors could wear jeans in the pulpit and Baptists should speak to the Episcopalians in the liquor store. Based on their reaction, I was sure that if the Baptists excommunicated heretics, I was on my way out.

Needless to say, I now know that my vision was clearly anointed since this new enlightened generation realizes that Sunday nights are best spent with family, friends and neighbors, building relationships and sharing Jesus over supper. And therein is true Sunday Night Church, my friends.

I pop out of that rabbit hole to tell you that I’m so glad we have a habit of going to church. Last week, one week after my husband’s discharge from the hospital, I guided my car into a handicapped space, pulled his walker from the back seat and we made our way to the elevator that would carry us to the room where the church meets.

Walker at Church

It would have been easy to stay at home. He is recovering from major surgery. There are germs in such a large group of people. But the community that is the church was there, waiting for us. They greeted us with concern and care and open arms. We were with them again as we worshiped our Jesus, the one who knows our hearts and loves us anyway. The one who has brought healing and comfort in the midst of every storm. Our habit led us back to that place of imperfection and our hearts were encouraged.

The messages haven’t always been great. Sometimes things that were spoken from the pulpit made me cringe. We’ve been let down, hurt, overlooked and overworked. People have lied about us and to us. They are all flawed, these people who love God. We are all flawed. But the one who we seek is perfect. In his perfect love, we see the hope for redemption that is within every one of us. We encourage one another in that hope.

It is because of the community of Christ-believers that we have remained married for over forty-three years. The people in our community expected that of us; we know that they have counted on us to walk with them, learn from them and share with them our struggles and our victories. We owe it to them to show up, so if you’re looking for us this morning, we’ll be in the center row, about 2/3 of the way back.

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“Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25 (The Message)

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The Lie that Says “You Can’t”

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Marathon

When I read this Annual Report provided by Word Press, I literally caught my breath. A year ago this blog was a secret little dream, one that I thought would stay hidden in my heart.

It wasn’t until our small group leader introduced me to a book by Bruce Wilkinson called “The Dream Giver” (Thanks , Josh Grosshans!) that I began to consider the possibility. I was inspired by the book; I was encouraged by my hubby, whose confidence in me is epic; and I was terrified by the voice that said “You can’t”.

It’s been just over six months. I remember sitting in our favorite coffee shop with my sweet, patient niece. Armed with nothing more than a laptop and a name for the blog, Annie walked me through setting up the page. Since, then I’ve pretty much flown by the seat of my pants.  Jesus, take the wheel because WordPress isn’t exactly babysitting bloggers!  As I write I am so thankful that I didn’t wait until I had it all figured out to start. I wish I knew more about web design and had a bigger budget but one thing I know: this undertaking is a marathon, not a sprint.

This morning my grandson and I drove out to Epcot to watch his mom, MY daughter, cross the finish line at the Disney marathon.  She didn’t train as much as she’d hoped and I’m sure that at 2:00 this morning when she ate a bowl of cheerios, hoping they would digest before race time, she heard that same terrifying voice saying “You can’t” This wasn’t her first marathon; she’s run a Goofy (that ‘s a half marathon on Saturday, followed by the marathon on Sunday – she’s her father’s child) a couple of times and she knew exactly what she was about to undertake.

C and I worked our way up to a barricade near the finish and stood anxiously on tiptoes, surveying wave after wave of finishers. That boy never looked away, his gaze intent for the face of his mom.  As runners passed, the crowd cheered and shouted out names.  In the hour that we stood there, I wept for those who obviously were overcoming more than 26.2 miles.

Before I could spot her, in spite of my height advantage, he shouted “There she is!” Her eyes lit when she saw him and she blew a kiss, then crossed the finish and collected the prize that finishers earn.

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DSC_0005As we walked to the car, she talked about the tough miles and moments when she fought hard against the voice that continued to tell her “You can’t”. She chose the only way to overcome the lying voice; keep moving forward.

This writing journey has been an emotional roller coaster, but I’ve kept my head up and my eyes forward.

I cannot begin to express how encouraged I’ve been by friends and family who have faithfully read every post. You are part of the analytics that follow.  I love you all.

Along this journey, my most faithful encourager has been my hubby.  He proofreads my posts and cries with me over the words every week. I can’t imagine any journey without him. I love you, baby!

As we stood near the finish this morning, I witnessed the joy of a stronger, more seasoned runner reaching back to cross the finish line with a novice.

One of the greatest blessings of writing has been in the encouragement from other writers. One precious momma in particular has reached back and taken my hand. The unselfish sharing of her reputation and influence in the blogging world has been refreshing and life-changing. Thank you, Jami Amerine, for your friendship!

It is with humility and great awe that I share what HE has done with the dream that he placed in my heart.  Take a few minutes to read the report. You will be amazed, as I was.  Your dream is safe with him, but you have to take the first step, my friend. The only answer to the lying voice that says “You can’t” is “Watch me!”

 

To Him alone be the glory!

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 3,900 times in 2015. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

It’s the Theater, Dahling

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homelessman2We hurried into the theater after picking up tickets at the will call window. As we made our way to the ticket taker, a line of men looking more like they were reporting for a work detail than a Sunday afternoon performance snaked in and around to the concession stand.  They  were out of place in the midst of theater goers dressed in their festive holiday attire.

We took our seats with a few minutes to spare, but not enough time to get popcorn and drinks.  Just a minute or two before curtain, the line of men from the lobby, escorted by an usher, stopped at our row.  We stood to give way to the men, and the last of them sat in the seat directly to my left, popcorn box and water bottle in hand. They reeked of cigarette smoke, but were clean and neatly dressed. I assumed they were guests of a local ministry to the homeless. Honestly, I was feeling a bit out of sorts about the whole thing, but determined to try to enjoy the performance

As the show began, there was hushed chatter between some of the men, as well as rustling of popcorn boxes. I wondered if they had any clue about  theater etiquette. What are the chances – when I bought our seats these were the only two without an obstructed view.  Just my luck!

As the lights came up for intermission, I heard a woman directly behind me speak to the gentleman on my left. She asked him to remove his hat, saying that her view was obstructed, then making the same request of the gentlemen to his left. Her tone registered negatively with me – it seemed more of a demand than a request. The men quickly and even humbly complied, even though their hats were stocking caps that didn’t add height to their profiles.

Then men stepped out of the row, presumably to go outside the theater to smoke. My date left for snacks and I was in a position to overhear the conversation that took place behind me.  “She deserves to see the show, after all. He must be eight feet tall.” The words were spoken with obvious disdain; as if he had no right to be there.  A catch in my spirit reminded me that the words were similar to the thoughts I’d had earlier.

Everyone returned to their seats and the second act began. The production of Miracle on 34th Street continued and finished strong. The crowded theater was filled with applause;  when the actor who played Santa took his bow, I heard one of the men to my left say “We’ve got to stand for this!”. People popped up around the theater in  standing ovation and then one of the actors called for quiet.

She asked everyone to take a seat in order to recognize a group in the audience.  “Please help me welcome our special guests from Veterans Outreach. Gentlemen, please stand and be recognized.

The entire row to my left stood, timid at first, but then tall and proud.  Even as I write these words, my heart is wrung right up in my chest with the thought of it.  These men, now struggling to find a life, served our country in defense of Sunday afternoons at the theater, where friends and family gather in freedom to celebrate Christmas.

I can’t say that a scripture passage flooded my memory; it was more like God quietly whispered. “I’ve called you to kindness.  When you walk with me that will be your default.”

As we walked out into the afternoon, I realized that the seats were ordained. God loves me enough to patiently arrange lessons that will lead me to truth. Kris Kringle wasn’t the only one teaching on kindness in that theater.

“Don’t neglect to show hospitality, for by doing this some have welcomed angels as guests without knowing it.” ~ Hebrews 13:2 HCSB

 

I Just Wanted My Photobook

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The irony does not escape me.

I’d been waiting for a great coupon for weeks after deciding that I would make photo books for some of my grandkids.  Walgreens was the winner with 75% off.   I decided that the first book would be for John.  He loves to recite the names of family members and he loves books.  So, a picture book of family members?  Win/Win.

 

I badgered patiently asked his mom and Nana for pictures to supplement the 2,000+ photos currently in my iCloud account.  Finally, on Saturday afternoon, the last day of this “best coupon of the year”, I had everything I needed to start designing John’s perfect (catch that word – it matters) gift.

We had a Christmas party Saturday evening with our same age friends and although we had a great time, we were home by nine o’clock. What can I say?  Those party animals were all pretty tired. I’d enjoyed a lovely libation, a white chocolate somethin-somethin martini (or three) and I was wide awake and ready to tackle the project.

Let me tell you, this is not for the faint of heart. There are lots of design choices.  I’m a scrap booker with mildly perfectionist tendencies so it took a while to settle on one, but I was committed to the “Trucks” theme because, well, John loves trucks even more than he loves books. The next step is selecting photos and I had done my homework!  Most of them were organized into a file on a flash drive and I quickly uploaded them.  Arranging them…well, see above where I mentioned perfectionist tendencies.  Adding embellishments to personalize the pages and make the pictures pop was so much fun!

I remember looking up from the laptop that was, literally on my lap, to the alarm clock past the foot of our bed. Hubby had been softly snoring for a couple of hours and I was ready to call it.  Finished at 11:45, just under the coupon deadline.  I added my labor of love to the cart, entered my coupon code and it was a wrap!  Mark that one off your list, Lorraine.  I returned the laptop to the kitchen and slept well, dreaming about the next day’s shopping trip that would move me closer to the finish line.

Then Sunday came and in the midst of shopping the phone rang with a call from someone in the photo department at Walgreens.  A slight delay, blah, blah, paper out of stock, blah, blah.  I assured him that it was all good, ‘cause this Grandma doesn’t actually need the book in her hands today. I’m rocking this gift-giving thing.

Sunday night…another call. It was ready! I jumped in my car and drove to the store. I couldn’t wait to take a look, but my excitement quickly abated when I noticed a “smudge” on the corner of every page.  They agreed to try again.  In the meantime, I had a revision or two after seeing it in print. (See above – note word “perfectionist”) The clerk was sympathetic to my plight and agreed that was fine, especially in light of all of the inconvenience I was experiencing.  In order to do that, and with assurance that I just needed to call the customer service line to explain, she cancelled the original book.  I spent another hour making revisions and spelling my email address over and over to someone in Miami.  God bless my husband who simply watches and shakes his head. Add to revised book to cart, cross fingers and wait.

On Monday the call was from yet another tech at the second store location.  The book was ready!  I couldn’t wait to see it now that it was PERFECT, exactly how I wanted it.  The problems were a blessing, actually.  Thank you, Jesus, for problems. I raced into the store, more anxious than ever to review my masterpiece.  I opened the book and there again, a smudge on every single page.  The clerk was at a loss and suggested I call the next day to speak with the daytime person.

When I called Tuesday, this new clerk suggested I try another store (third store location in case you’ve lost count). Maybe it was a problem with the printer at their store, blah, blah, blah.  By the way, in order to do that, you’ll need to add the book to your cart and reorder. Coupon code? What coupon code?  Oh that…you’ll have to call customer service and ask them to note your account.  And perhaps, just maybe, the problem is with that design.  The truck paper – perhaps choose another design?

And I complied. By now, you may realize that this book is kind of a big deal. This little guy’s adoption will be final soon.  He’s special.  This is something that will be uniquely his in a big family.  Choosing another design meant starting over.  A complete remake.  A couple of hours later, it was done. I chose a very basic solid paper design and it was all good.  I still felt a loss over the truck paper, but I was willing to let it go. Or so I thought. The fourth call to customer service was to a very nice person who credited my account with a whole bunch of 8X10 collage prints but all I really wanted was my photo book.

The email announcing the completion came around bed time last night, so I decided to stop on my way to work this morning.  Just after the store opened at 7 a.m. I rolled into the parking lot, coffee in hand. The photo counter was still dark, but a clerk quickly arrived to assist.  I opened the book and it was…..perfect.  The colors were gorgeous and while it wasn’t trucks, it was colorful and it was filled with the faces of people John loves.  My heart leaped a little as I paged through – these were my people, ya’ll.

And then it was time to pay. I explained the situation…the problems, the multiple calls to the customer service line, the call that I made explaining it all to this store when I placed the order yesterday, the reassurance that I was given that they would honor the discount….and she looked at me like, “Sure, lady” and said there is nothing here about that.  And I lost it. I forgot all about thanking Jesus for problems.

All of the frustration over four days of calling, running to the store, redesigning (and maybe a little over the fact that I started the morning searching for a stuffed rabbit that arrived last week and now is nowhere to be found ) boiled up.  I don’t know for sure what I said, but my voice was raised and trembling as I turned and walked away from my precious book, resigned to make yet another call to wait for it….”customer service”.

Then she spoke calmly “Please, ma’am, come back.” Four words, and they started a flood.  A tear-filled apology from me and a wise decision by her.  I don’t even know her name…it’s not on the receipt and she wasn’t wearing a name tag, but she should be promoted. She handled this hot mess like a boss.

I sat in my car, taking the book from its protective sleeve.  It is lovely.  But the value is not in the paper selection or the timeliness or even in the coupon savings.  It’s the precious souls whose faces fill the layouts. As I look into the pages, I realize that this experience is a peek at my anxious heart.  So, I’ll say it once more and mean it.  Thank you, Jesus, for problems.

BookStitch

I need to make three more of these books.  Anyone have a good coupon code?

 

 

A Spiritual Legacy ~ Never Underestimate the Impact of a Mother’s Faith

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“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

~ Mother Teresa~

For a few years I’ve been meeting weekly with some other women for Bible study. There is no study guide and really, no teacher. Throughout the week we read independently, using journaling to respond and make notes of key verses. It’s been amazing to camp out in a chapter for a few days, reading and rereading, comparing translations and investigating commentator’s notes. I’ve already shared in last week’s post how this has kindled a love for the Word in my heart.

Provider Journaling

Over the summer, I read Ruth and this was a great reminder of God’s provision.

I recently discovered the wonderful craft of Bible journaling. I’ve searched around

the internet and found some amazing blogs by people who have become Bible artists. I have zero talent for drawing and painting but I love to work with color and I can trace and copy pretty well. I find inspiration and encouragement from sites where others who are also not artists have taken up coloring in their Bibles. I love adding this dimension to my notes and sometimes I get carried away and end up with a bit of a mess, but I love that it encourages me to let passages simmer in my heart and intentionally respond to them.

Perhaps you are wondering why the obsession with writing and adding colorful words and pictures to the pages of my Bible. I’m 61 years old, and while I hope there are many years left in me, I’m more aware every day of my mortality and the reality that life is uncertain. I long to leave a legacy for my family. I want them to have reminders and reassurance of my faith and confidence in God and the promise of eternity. Recently I’ve discovered precious reminders, left by my mother, that helped me realize it was her who started me on a path toward my relationship with Christ.

I grew up Catholic. While my siblings and I all experienced the sacraments of first Missal 2Holy Communion and confirmation, there was a falling away from the church before I reached junior high. I’m not sure exactly what happened, but I recall that my mother was hurt and in defense, she pulled back. Going to mass as a family and observing holy days was a thing of the past, but I have very vivid memories of my mom’s continued devout faith. As long as I can remember, she owned and cherished a Catholic missal, a liturgical book containing the prescribed prayers, instructions, and chants for the celebration of Mass. When family members passed away she would slip a memorial card or obituary into the pages for safekeeping and prayer. Today that book is in my possession. It has great value to me as it did to my mother. To her, it was the familiar, the comforting words of the Mass she had grown up with. For me, it is an icon, treasured by her and reminiscent of her faith in God.

When I began dating my husband we attended church with his family at a local Baptist congregation where I eventually became a member. Only as I’ve grown older have I appreciated how my Mother grieved over my decision to pursue another denomination. However, I know (and it comforts me that I believe she realized it as well) that it was her faith that first pointed me to God. While I follow a different faith tradition today, the deep roots of my desire to know God and to be in a right relationship with Him are borne out of her example of faith and determination to lead her children to God.

My brother passed away last year. As family members made preparation for his memorial, I began to sift through a bin of photos and other items that were gathered from my parents’ home after Daddy died. As I sorted and searched for pictures of Steve, I ran across a small certificate commemorating my first Communion. It was fhc 2one of very few items other than photos that were there. With six children, stuff tends to get lost or destroyed before it fhc 1can be safely tucked away. But there it was. I turned it over in my hands, thinking of how long it had been there, waiting for the day that I would come across it and finally realize that it was my mother who first pointed me to the Father.

I love having the Bible on my iPad and better yet, on my phone! When I’m studying, one of my favorite tools is viewing the passage in side by side translations on https://www.biblegateway.com/. But as I’ve thought about leaving a legacy of my love for the Word of God, I’ve come to the conclusion that my notes on a device won’t last like they will on the pages of the study Bible that lays open on my desk, surrounded by pens, washi tape, stickers and paint. As I highlight and illustrate and record my responses to the Living Word, I pray that even when I’m gone they will encourage and remind my children of their mother’s faith. As clumsy and awkward as it is, it’s legitimate.

 My Baptism Day - my mom is on the far left.

My Baptism Day – my mom is on the far left.

Confirmation Day

Confirmation Day – my mother made my dress, but it’s hidden under the robe.

For the Love of Jen Hatmaker

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FortheLoveCoverFor the love….the whole world seems to have gone Jen Hatmaker crazy and for good reason. If you’ve not read anything else by her (for the love, why not???) you must get your hands on a copy of her latest book, For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards. I would demand that you not put it down until you’ve finished, but this is a fact…you won’t want to.

There was a song back in the early ‘80s called “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool”. Catchy tune and one that I am reminded of now. You see, I discovered Jen Hatmaker before it was cool to know her. Several years ago hubby and I were hosting a bunch of newly married couples in our home on Sunday evenings. After we spent several weeks talking marriage we really wanted to challenge the group. I went searching around the internet for something that might do. I discovered a YouTube video for a book study and there she was, in her white peasant blouse and signature long earrings, talking about giving up her prized cowboy boots and walking out of church barefoot in the freezing cold. That was the beginning of my obsession friendship with Jen, and I was all “We HAVE to do this”! And because my husband doesn’t really like to search the web for anything other than stuff to buy on Ebay trusts my discernment, we did the study and it challenged our hearts and we had many wonderful evenings of sharing how a barefoot church might look. That study was Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity. They’ve recently released a new, updated version but I can’t imagine how it could be improved. Life. Changer.

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Notice the dog-eared cover. I’ve read it more than once and I’ve loaned it out several times. This is one you will want to have in paperback – no E-book!

From there I was hooked. I went on Amazon and bought a copy of everything she had written to date. Next life changer from her heart to mine was The Modern Girls Guide to Bible Study. It was as if the woman had been riding in my car, listening as I talked to myself (and sometimes even to Jesus) about how frustrated I was with my inability to read and understand the Bible. I was over studies written by authors with contrived questions that would lead me to the same conclusions as them and for the first time in my adult life I wasn’t teaching a Bible class so I had no structured guide to exploring the Scriptures. I wanted the Word to speak to my heart. I decided to adopt her approach of reading the Bible a new way so that the words of LIFE would become my life.

That was four years ago. I’ve filled a couple of journals, and better yet, I’ve got my tribe of young moms coming with me on this journey through Scripture. I can honestly say that through this approach I’ve come to love the word of God. I spent over forty years following Christ, but never really mastering getting into the Bible and consistently hearing from Him. Sad, and a little embarrassing to admit, but true. If you are in the place that I found myself, earnestly desiring to hear from God, I recommend you read this one. I went from loving and respecting the book that’s called the Bible to loving the very words of God within that book.

Out of the Spin Cycle CoverJen, if you ever read this, can I just say thank you for that devo you did for moms called Out of the Spin Cycle: Devotions to Lighten Your Mother Load? Our little Bible study group goes all “summer book club” in June and we read that together a couple of years ago. We laughed and cried and agreed that every new mom should get this book at her baby shower…and then reconsidered and decided that might be premature. There is so much honesty it just might scare her! This is one of those that you deliver to that mom who is in the midst of the struggle, thinking she is the only one:

“Motherhood triggers something that went dormant about the time we left middle school. We’re seeded with this desire to be thought well of, to be admired, to be affirmed in our hard work as moms. We tend to report our babies sleeping longer than they do, our discipline as working more often that it does, and our systems as creating some efficient home that doesn’t exist. We are masters at propping up our lives, spinning a thread of truth into an elaborate tapestry of grandeur–when in fact, during young motherhood most of us live in what my girlfriend Loren calls a “poop storm”.”[i]

Read it, then gift it to a mom friend who is overwhelmed…and be thankful for the honesty (she confesses the time she told her son, who had just opened a sassy mouth, to grab a shovel and start digging his own grave), the humor and the truth within the pages. In these forty devotions, she shares stories from her journey of mothering along with thought-provoking questions and honest, practical steps out of the spin cycle. If I had read this back in the seventies, I would have been a better mom and friend to other moms, I’m sure of it. Of course, Jen was a baby when I was raising children, but you know what I mean…

And back to where we started…For the Love. Jen covers it all in this one, from fashion and family to recipes and the church. I love my church, but all of my life I’ve struggled to know where I fit. Jen’s affirmation of women and the kingdom is spot on:

“God is unveiling women around the world. He always has and continues to work through women and girls, who are half of His church. They are, like men and boys, His image bearers. They are also, like men and boys, gifted, empowered, smart, and anointed.”[ii]

And this…this has much to do with why I’m now posting a blog. Every. Week.

“Say yes to that thing. Work with a mentor. Stop minimizing what you are good at and throw yourself into it with no apologies. Do you know who will do this for you? No one. You are it. Don’t bury that talent, because the only thing fear yields is one dormant gift in a shallow grave. How many trot out that tired cliché—“I’m waiting for God to open a door”—and He is all, “I love you, but get going, pumpkin, because usually chasing the dream in your heart looks surprisingly like work. Don’t just stand there, bust a move.” (God often sounds like Young MC.) You are good at something for a reason. God designed you this way, on purpose.”[iii]

Are you tired of trying to live a balanced life? What IS that supposed to look like, anyway?

“Balance. It’s like a unicorn; we’ve heard about it, everyone talks about it and makes airbrushed T-shirts celebrating it, it seems super rad, but we haven’t actually seen one. I’m beginning to think it isn’t a thing.

Here is part of the problem, girls; we’ve been sold a bill of goods. Back in the day, women didn’t run themselves ragged trying to achieve some impressively developed life in eight different categories.”[iv]

Yes, Jen, a thousand times yes. So, trust me on this. You have to read it. If I cited every quote that spoke to me I’d have to pay her royalties and besides, the book has a great cover.  Just buy it and you can thank me later.

When I got to the end of For the Love, I saw that list of the 500 launch team members and I grieved. You see, 500 people were chosen to form a launch team for this book, seeking authentic endorsements from real people. I so wanted to be in that number, rather than the #4500 (the rest of the applicants who were not selected) where I landed. But grace is a beautiful thing, and I forgive you and your publishers, Jen, for not selecting me. Now that I have a blog and I’m a writer and everything….maybe next time. Because, for the love, why not?

After all of this, surely you can see that I AM her BFF. If you want to challenge me on that, I’m going to need someone to hold my earrings…..

[i] Out of the Spin Cycle: Devotions to Lighten your Mother Load – Jen Hatmaker

[ii] For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards – Jen Hatmaker

[iii] For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards – Jen Hatmaker

[iv] For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards – Jen Hatmaker

On Super Women and the Power of Love

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In the 80’s hubby and I were right in the middle of raising our daughters when the blockbuster “Back to the Future” was released. We enjoyed the movie (still do to this day) and I LOVED the song that Huey Lewis & The News wrote for it. Great music!

It don’t take money and it don’t take fame
Don’t need no credit card to ride this train
Tougher than diamonds and stronger than steel
You won’t feel nothin’ till you feel You feel the power, just the power of love
That’s the power, that’s the power of love.

“The power of love is a curious thing.”  I know that the songwriters were going down the road of romantic love, which I happen to think is just grand and I am a big fan.  I hope if those fellas ever read this they’ll grant me grace as I go another direction with the power of love.

It’s even more curious to most when witnessing the power of selfless love outside of the romantic realm.  This love is manifested in more ways than I could list but I’ve seen it in exhausted caregivers, patient teachers, parents of rebellious teenagers, widows, new parents and desperate, hurting spouses.

This love is never formed on unstable emotions. It persists through hurt, anxiety, fear, exhaustion, disappointment, and shattered hopes and dreams. It looks with hope beyond the current moment. It digs deep and finds strength and stamina for the day. It doesn’t always do it quietly, or without struggle, and at times it’s not the least bit graceful.

George MudderIn fact, it resembles a tough mudder more often than a ballet.

At the end of some days, this lover literally stumbles to the finish. This is no sprint, and sometimes she digs deep in order to make the final turn. We’ve all marveled at these “super humans” who just won’t quit.

What if this isn’t some super power reserved for a few.  Perhaps there aren’t people who have some secret endurance, available to an exclusive few. You see, they are not sufficient for the task either.

Mudder Family

I believe it might be that they’ve caught hold of this promise – walking it out in faith in response to His love:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 1Cor 12:9

Weakness isn’t the part that we notice.  We see the power of Christ as it rests on them, made perfect in weak moments and weary minds.  It’s in weakness, when the task is too big, when skills are inadequate and the call is beyond our current capacity that HE enters in. It is a powerful thing to trust God to do what is beyond our resources.

But why? Why press on?  Why be so willing to be hurt, to be disappointed, go the extra mile and give up personal comfort.  There is only one answer.  When everything else has fallen away, when every other motivation to hang in there has faded, we are left with this:

 Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that. Ephesians 5:1-2 MSG

Rest in his grace, but love with extravagant abandon. His love woos. His love is unconditional and doesn’t give up even when we play hard to get. Love like that, by His grace. And then wait for it. The power of love.

When Love Can’t Show Up

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“It is a long way off, sir”
“From what Jane?”
“From England and from Thornfield: and ___”
“Well?”
“From you, sir”
Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

Road with clouds

It’s been one of those weeks.  One of those months, really.  People I love are in the trenches and I’m far away.  They are dealing with the kind of news that makes you sit straight up from the shock of it and then the heaviness of it threatens to bring your shoulders all the way down to your knees.  They are strong people, “my” people.  They aren’t new to the arena – not some rookie gladiators facing giants for the first time.  They are people of faith.  They trust God.  Their shoulders are squared and their eyes are on the one who gives them hope. They’ve seen his faithfulness and they trust him for their future.  They are hanging on to every word that comes from the Father.  They have placed their hope in him.  I’m amazed and inspired by their faith.  So I’ve lifted my face toward heaven and will believe with them.

But I want to hold their hands and sit quietly with them when they have to wait.  Love cooks and runs errands and brings Starbucks to the hospital, darn it!  It takes care of laundry and littles.  It is PRESENT.  Isn’t it?

Yes. And no.  Distance separates us physically.  Too many miles mean there can be no hospital visits.  After a much melted chocolate bar, I’m certain that my friend almost three thousand miles away prefers that I not send a casserole.

So, what do we do with that?  Struggling with lots of emotions, I had to get honest and name them.  The first one that popped up?  Jealousy. Jealousy bubbles up when I think someone else might be doing what I could do better (see what I did there?).  It rears its very ugly head when I begin to fear that my position will be usurped.  Perhaps the person who is present will become nearer and dearer to their heart than me.  Insecurity shows up for this party, ‘cause he and jealousy are close companions.  I had to honestly deal with that in light of this:

  • Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 1 Corinthians 13:4
  • Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves. Philippians 2:3

Motive check! When my heart longs for the people I love to have every need met and I turn from my own desires, I can rest knowing that God is going to provide and that his plan for them is good.

Fear is real, friends. Allowed to run amuck, my thoughts will go to all sorts of scenarios that never end well. So far from the battle, I begin to worry and fret. This reminds me that every thought matters:

  • Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. Philippians 4:6-9 (MSG)

And finally, I had to deal with this. I’m sad.  It’s a profound sadness because I can’t connect the way that my heart longs to. I struggled with admitting this because after all…THIS.IS.NOT.ABOUT.ME.  Others are facing serious illness and loss and I have no right to feel sad that I can’t be there.  And then the Spirit of God reminded me of this:

  • Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” – John 11:35-36

I know that I have entered into the emotions of my people. And that, my friends, is holy ground.  You might want to remove your shoes and join me there.

It’s a beautiful day for a launch!

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Launches are exciting events.  I grew up in Central Florida in the years of President John F. Kennedy’s expansion of the U.S. space program.  I watched as the Friendship 7 carried John Glenn 162 miles away from the earth.  We could stand outside and see the trail of the huge rocket as it slipped away from the bonds of earth’s gravity!  We were all on pins and needles awaiting reentry. Nearly five hours later the country let out a collective sigh of relief as the capsule landed in the Atlantic Ocean.  At seven years old I had no idea where the space program would take us. There were skeptics, of course. I even heard that some didn’t believe it happened. But those dreamers…they took the first step and fifty years later there is a manned space station orbiting the earth.

For years, really since ninth grade, I’ve had a yearning to write.  A teacher expressed that I had talent, and it touched a deep place in my spirit. Fast forward many years when I began to put some words on paper.  It was challenging, yet cathartic, this process of writing. I wrote a few articles for a church-sponsored inspirational column in the local paper.  It’s a little embarrassing to admit that I read them over and over, even though I didn’t even get a byline.  Something that I wrote was good enough to publish! To be honest, it is more likely that I was willing and they needed 250 words to fill the space, but it was enough to rekindle the yearning.  Some of my favorite authors have blogs. The short posts are often humorous, inspirational or even instructional and I decided that is the arena for me to step into this venture.

Recently our small group at church studied the book The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson.  For the first time, I shared my dream publicly.  I began to pray and prepare to leave “Familiar” and begin the journey toward my “Big Dream”. The most profound realization was that God is the Dream Giver.  How foolish would I be to miss his gift to me?   With this post, I’m launching MY dream.

So, what to expect from this dreamer?  I’ll be writing from my heart about being a wife, a mother, a friend, all from the perspective of a woman seeking to know Christ in his fullness.  I’ll be sharing about my Tribe – the women who surround me with love, who allow me to speak into their lives and do the same for me.

I’m strapped into the seat and with this post, the engines have fired and I’m on the way!

Thanks for watching the sky, my friends.  I’m enjoying the ride!

“Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, the days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.” Psalm 139:16 MSG