Tuesday, September 27, 2016

I BECOME LESS


The farther I wander down the road with Jesus, the less room I have in my life for the stuff that doesn’t challenge me, call me out of sin, or wring me inside-out. I want to grow, even though I know it’s probably  going to hurt. I’ve tend to live in a comfortable cocoon, wrapped carefully (tightly) in the bands of scripture that make me feel warm and safe and comfortable, while conveniently ignoring the parts that squeeze too tight, sometimes even rejecting them outright, for the havoc their impact will have on my conscious. I’ve molded scripture to suit my liking, and lived beneath it, foolishly thinking I was living in the fullness of God, while feverishly trying to re-write my life in a way that wouldn’t cost me too much.

More lately than ever, scripture has grabbed me by the neck and wrings me out again and again. With every twist, I become less, and it’s exactly as it should be. I’ve grown in gratitude for the ways God brings me to the edges of myself. Not because I like it, but because it means I am closer to Him. I don’t love to surrender, but I love Jesus and the only way to get closer to Him is to let Him have His way in me. The only way to be full of Christ is to not be full of me.




Monday, September 26, 2016

EASY BAKE MEXICAN CHICKEN


INGREDIENTS
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Sunday, September 25, 2016

YOU DO THE TELLING

We don’t need another person denying her story in favor of living another’s. We don’t need another story to go untold because of doubts or swirling thoughts that someone else’s story is better, funnier, more interesting, or sure to make a greater impact.

The story of your life is yours alone and if you don’t live it, no one else will.
So turn your eyes away from the stares or the stats  and the likes and the follows.
While it’s true that someone could have similar circumstances and life experiences, no one can tell the stories that you have to tell because no one else sees the world in the same way that you do.
We need you to live and love like your story matters, and then we need you to tell it. We need your words, your stories that declare that God is good and God is God and how He plays a role in your life.
There are those who will walk where you have walked and stand where you have stood and they are desperate for your story, for your truth and honesty, for your declaration that God is there every step of the way.
Maybe your life is nothing like what you expected. Maybe you’ve been bruised black and blue, you’re drowning in the dark, or you feel too small to be noticed at all. Maybe you’re living in the in between and you don’t want to be there. But these days, they are part of your story. He has given you these chapters to live, He has authored these pages, and every single one matters.
He’s the One writing but He needs you to do the telling.
Tell your story here in the comments if nowhere else.


Friday, September 23, 2016

GLEAN, GIRL! OWN IT!

Our current culture would tell us that we have to go big or go home, that we have to be the chief and not the Indian, that we have to be the starter and no the backup. Whether we mean to or not, we sometimes send the message that we value flash over substance, that we prefer the spotlight over behind-the-scenes, that we crave fame over faithfulness. Just look at our girl Ruth, though. She wasn’t on the front lines. She was a gleaner, not a reaper. – Sophie Hudson

In the Old Testament, especially in the story of Ruth, when it was time for harvesting the reapers would gather the majority of the crop and then the gleaners would come behind and pick up whatever was dropped or left over. Each person had their role in the story and ultimately, gleaning showed God’s provision.

Gleaning today looks like faithfulness in the ordinary. Gleaning is accepting the idea of being small. Gleaning may be behind-the-scenes. It might be quiet.

Gleaning doesn’t pave the way, but it plays an important role in the harvest. It doesn’t mean that you’re poor or less than or that all you get are scraps and leftovers. Gleaning means that you trust God’s provision and are perfectly content to play second fiddle in the band — because you trust He is writing your story for His glory and your good.

Ruth gleaned in a field of barley. My field looks a little different. My field feels regular. Ordinary. Small. But it is the one He has given to me, the one He has called me to, and so I will glean.

Maybe yours looks ordinary, too. Maybe you are parenting your children, serving at church nursery, going to school, or taking care of your aging parents. 

Some will pave the way. Some will write words that you’ve thought yourself and it will go viral. Some will always seem just two steps ahead. But there is a place for the gleaners.

Glean, girl! Own it! Walk faithfully and work in the field you’re called to.


99 PROBLEMS AND CANCER ISN'T BUT ONE OF THEM


One of my dearest friends moved to another country recently. Sadly. She’s the overachiever, full-time working super-mom who always, always made time for me. She’s got a gift for making others feel important and worthy, despite her very busy life.

She texted me the other day, asking how I was. Adding “the hubs and I are having problems, but small compared to everything you have going on…,” to the tail end of the text. Implying that I am too preoccupied or overwhelmed to receive her complaints. As if I cannot care for a friendship when I apparently have too much to think about already.

Damn you, Cancer! Damn you for stealing everyone’s spotlight. You are not the center of our attention!

***

In the 16th century, Michel de Montaigne published a book of “essays,” which consisted of a series of writings wherein he attempted to discover the nature of the things he was thinking about. For Montaigne, essays were a way to think about a topic on paper; a way for him to hash out his thoughts about an idea or a topic; and a way to communicate those thought processes to others.

I am no Montaigne, nor do I pretend to be. But I guess I use this blog to journal my thoughts. And lately, I’ve been wracking my brain for a way to explain that cancer doesn’t define us. That illnesses of any kind do not define who we are. I want to help everyone make sense of it all: the struggles of dealing with life outside of a diagnosis STILL EXIST, people. I’m just as human as you are, with the same stresses you deal with: the struggles of raising kids, the challenges of marriage, the violence of aging; the wrestling with life…the fight with death. In the same vein, I share a lot of the same blessings: date nights, kids’ school accomplishments, job promotions, home renovations, new friends.

***

I’ve got 99 problems and cancer isn’t but one of them. I’m going through the motions of life; just like you. I’m still me. I can still cry with you, celebrate with you, laugh with you, drink coffee with you. I can still relate to what you’re doing and/or going through. In fact, my spirit and compassion for others has never been stronger. Friends, don’t be scared to veer towards the mundane details of everyday life. Let’s not give cancer that kind of power over us -- to cast a shadow over everything else -- there’s life that goes on. People need people.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

COMMUNITY


It looks like breakfast at a friend’s house after church, bible studies and babysitting little ones.

It looks like gathering around a table for a meal.

It looks like showing up with wine and cheese to talk about marriage.

It looks like hard conversations laced with grace and truth.

It looks like handwritten notes and secrets kept and more hugs than I can count.

Community has come along and has shown me that love looks like walking each other home.

Scripture tells us that although we plant our roots and love deeply on this spinning globe, we’re only somewhat home. 1 Peter 2 calls us “temporary residents” of earth and Hebrews 13:14 says it plainly:
For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.

We’re all living in the in between, trusting that there is purpose in today while looking forward to a glorious tomorrow in the Kingdom. If I’m being honest, most of these in between days find me somewhere in between darkness and light, questions and answers, loneliness and community. I’m holding onto what I believe to be true and I have faith that He will remain faithful, and yet my life often feels chaotic, relationships are difficult, and my to-do list is miles long.

GOOD MOM


I had a lot of ideas about what kind of mom I would be before I became one.

I had visions of myself blissfully nursing my sleepy babies. Content and happy. And in later years, having a relatively perfect American dream.

This idealized version of myself is a far cry from reality. O the whole, motherhood has been punctuated with moments that are like heaven. But too, I have faced long, never-ending days and many sleepless nights, and I have wondered with despair, “Why is this so hard for me?”
For me being the operative phrase. Because motherhood appeared to be easy for everyone else. It felt as though I was the only one struggling to find contentment in this new season.

I’ve talked about this before, but I remind you that I’ve dealt with postpartum anxiety twice. Once after my 1st child and again after my 4th child. And though I quickly overcame those tendencies without medical treatment, I remember that when my mind was tempted to walk down that path, my saving grace was face time with moms who can keep it real. They reminded me we are all struggling, because being a mom is actually hard work.

We have to take a step back and remind ourselves that our worth is not wrapped up in how good a mom we are. It’s not in how well we’re juggling being a mom. It’s not in how good a wife I am. Or how many hours my kid sleeps at night or whether I can manage to feed him or her something green every day.

The truth is I am worthy because I [we] am loved by God. I am created by Him to be loved and to love others. And I do not have to do anything to find my worth. I can struggle and cry and be weak because His love covers all those things.

Ironically, it can be hard to claim that because I have not made space for my relationship with God the way I used to before I was a mom. But I know in my heart it is true. I also know that God understands me. He knows where I’m at right now and He knows my heart.

So in each day, and sometimes moment by moment, I make the choice to say that I am a good mom. 

Not just good enough. But good. And so are you.



Friday, September 16, 2016

LIFE LATELY




Tuesday, September 13, 2016

SEPTEMBER


I worry about repeating myself here, the way my heart wants most to write the hard stuff, skewing my reality and what filters out to you. Pete and I have cycled back down into some kind of emotional low place. Part life with teens and part life with cancer, but mostly because we’re human and messed up. At least know we know to expect it from time to time. Please remember, so much goes unwritten, the beautiful mundane that holds us together.

Just yesterday, a colleague showed me her broken finger. Definitely a metaphor for life. I mean, that’s what we are. That's what we do. Sometimes I'm the broken finger. Sometimes it's you.

Here's what I know today about love - it demands every cell of me. It requires long stretches of wandering through the parts of life that have had the color sucked out of them. It means losing sleep over children who call me "Mom," adults who call me friend, or people who don’t call me anything at all. It means almost giving up - almost - before remembering the heart truly does not choose who to love, and my heart loves folks who might fall into early graves, who might not appreciate me, who might not even like me, who might not even know I exist. It might happen. It might be happening.

Love means sitting together in sadness, in a friend’s sun room that I dearly covet, openly sharing our sinful tendencies.

Love means powering off the phone.

Love means burning the food and making oven pizza - this is all I have to offer. It means you'll heap it onto your plate, tease me, and talk to me about what's real.

Love means hearing, "I'll do anything to make it up to you. Anything," and realizing the only thing I want is to feel his touch, to have him near, to know he believes in us.

Love is visiting a friend in the hospital on an exceptionally busy day.

Love is a back-rub. A pile of tear-stained kleenex.  It's telling the hardest truth and believing we'll survive. It's answering the phone after midnight. It's asking the complicated questions.

Love is holding back the "I told you so's" and criticisms. 

Love means being willing to be lonely. It means feeling out of place so others can feel known.

Love means having little but offering it anyway. It also means having a lot but realizing it's not helpful in the first place.

At first glance, my September offered little opportunity to love and be loved. I hate feeling ordinary. I miss the days when life buzzed with double-shots of emotional espresso. It made for good stories. It made me feel useful. It made the days fly by.

Then I took a second glance, and I notice that love often lives somewhere in the making of school lunches, the whir of lawnmowers, the calendar reminders, the timer on the stove. Love also loves the slow and quiet places. Where we cannot be distracted by the bustle and where emergencies show up small.



Sunday, September 11, 2016

WORDS OF LIFE

Dear sister, I don't where you stand in life today. I don't know if you're feeling like things always work out for you, or never do. I don't know if you're living under some negative words spoken over you or if everyone's always told you you can do anything and will conquer the world. 

But I know God's word is stronger. And I know that you're blessed. And I know that He's drawn pleasant lines for you. And I know that He's mighty in you. And I know that ANY PAGE can turn and every untrue word spoken over your life can and will be reversed by the blood of Jesus. 


Stomp your feet. Hold open your hands. Put your eyes on Jesus. You already have plenty, in Jesus' name. And things work out for you when He wills them to because He has a GOOD PLAN for your life and His love is strong and mighty. I think what shifted Esau's life the most was HIS perspective, his response, his OWN declaration over his life. And that's the one thing we have control over that no one else does. 

Let's speak life and truth and hope with abandon, over ourselves and all those we encounter. Let's speak words of life, just like our Father would. 



Wednesday, September 7, 2016

GRATITUDE IS...


That first sip of coffee I drink in the morning with my journal and Bible next to me.

Taking my kids to school, and the little talks.

Prayer time with my Jesus on the drive to work.

Having a roof over my head.

Oxygen in my lungs.

Food in my cabinets.

The physical health that allows me to live in and tromp around this world.

Legs that work, a body that is able to walk, yoga, paddle, snuggle my babies.

My office mates and the love they poor out to me.

Playing the pop-pop-popcorn game with my Littles.

Getting to say if my siblings weren’t related to me I’d still want to be friends with each of them.

Dad being there.  When I was sick, and when I was well, and even now to give me pep talks when I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing with my life.

The redemption story that God has given me since losing my mom and grandmother and going through a massive rebellion.

Sneaking chocolate and popcorn into the movies.

Movement.

Stillness.

This blog.

The moment I get to witness as a wedding photographer when a groom sees his bride for the first time.

When the father of the bride sees his daughter in her gown for the first time.

Grabbing drinks with two soul friends that I haven’t talked to in ages.

Feeling known.

A good red lipstick.

Slow mornings in Hawaii.

Letting go of the attachment to where I thought I’d be right now, and embracing the present.

Being.

Laughing.

Did I say laughing?

Laughing some more.

Crying tears of heartache in my best friend’s lap.

When my daughter and I share our hearts; when she tells me things she doesn’t tell other people.

Discovering I have a new favorite song and knowing I’m gonna love it from the first few chords.

Today.  Because we weren’t promised it.

Each season, day, moment, mistake, breathe, step, laughter, tear, kiss, sip of red wine, is a gift.

It’s all a gift.

And I’m so very grateful.



Monday, September 5, 2016

DISAPPOINT MUCH?


I am not a morning person. I don't even pretend to be. Getting up before the rest of my family, for quiet time with Jesus is more than challenging...it's near impossible. Between a snoring husband and a toddler who wakes multiple times, I average 5-6 hours of sleep at night. So, what's a working gal to do but savor her Holy time when she gets to the office. I admit it -- I do. 

A few weeks back, my morning devotional was about how Jesus, our perfect Savior, really often disappointed people. It was a quick read, but it outlined just a few of the significant times He really let people down. The devotional covered the times when His ministry was really thriving and there were lots of hurting people who needed Him, but He drew away. It talked about when He let His mother down and she even doubted His sanity.

Over the last several days, I've pondered this. Jesus disappointed people, but Jesus never sinned.

I think of how many days my actual whole life is aligned towards not disappointing people. I feel it in my gut and I say it out loud only to myself in the most frustrating of days. "
I FEEL LIKE I'M JUST HERE TO MAKE EVERYONE ELSE HAPPY AND I'M STILL NOT DOING A GOOD JOB." Or maybe when I have a really good day of making others happy, I feel the opposite. "I have done good today because I've met or exceeded expectations. Hooray for me."

Jesus' life goal was so far removed from meeting the expectations of the people who He really, really loved. The question wasn't whether He loved them, the question was HOW He loved them. He didn't love them by doing what they wanted, He loved them by doing what He was called to do. He loved them by completing His mission, even all the way to the cross.

Now? Let's take it a step further. Jesus disappointed people, but Jesus didn't sin. Could it be that we might be able to disappoint people without sinning either? Don't get me wrong - a lot of times when I've disappointed people, I HAVE actually sinned. But sometimes? I haven't. Sometimes I've disappointed people because their expectations were too high. Sometimes I disappoint people because I am making the wisest choice and it's not the one they'd have me make. Sometimes I disappoint people because I'm trying to be defined by my Father's Kingdom and not by this world.


Might we disappoint people without sinning either?

Could we take it even one more step further? Could we say: Not only is it possible that I might disappoint people without sinning, but sometimes when I live in such a way as to not disappoint others - I AM SINNING? 

Anytime our lives are pointed and moving towards the approval of men and not God, we've gotten off path. We've forgotten our call and our commissioning. We've made the people our masters and their approval, or lack of disappointment, our treasure. I think that there are times when our worshipful obedience to God will turn into the joy or approval of others, but I don't think that overlap should be our goal.

So here's my first big gut check for myself and for all of us this holiday season: Are we ok with disappointing people when we are faithfully obeying God? Is our aim the approval of men or our Heavenly Father? Do we need to accept some grace and walk in freedom for times when we've let others down but haven't actually sinned at all?

I'm going to come back later in the week with some more fleshed out thoughts about really actually dealing with the disappointment of others.

I'd love to hear below in the comments though, does this resonate? 


Sunday, September 4, 2016

HAPPY BIRTHDAY


Pete, you can pitch me the craziest plans and all the dreams. I'm in. For life. Happy birthday to my bae!


Friday, September 2, 2016

NOT THE YEAR FOR FLOWERS


Almost immediately upon my diagnosis, I received flowers. I have the most generous friends. They were some of the most beautiful flowers I've ever seen. Almost immediately I saw different areas of my life sort of filtering into categories of house plants: flowers in vases, house plants, and big trees. The flowers - they bring excitement and color and comfort and they're quick to develop. You buy the flowers, cut the stems, arrange the vases! Done! But they don't last long. They die. It's not wrong to have them or spend time on them, but to spend hours and hours and months and months thinking on them - not the wisest. I see relationships for me that are a lot like flowers in vases, I see hobbies, social media, television, getting my nails done, and lots of little daily in and out rhythms that I have that are a lot like that. They're not all bad, but they're not making much of an impact, and they really shouldn't take a lot of my energy.

As for house plants. Like my Snake plant and my Ivy. They're semi-permanent. Depending on how much of a green thumb you have - they're going to be around months to a few years. They bring life and a little bit of oxygen, and they take some daily care. But still it's important to remember that their impact is contained to their physical location. Houseplants don't grow roots. You rarely take special trips to visit houseplants the way people might journey to see significant trees. They're good - but they're not eternal. And I could see areas of my life that are for sure houseplants: relationships that are life giving, but I know aren't lifelong. I see particular commitments and/or hobbies I'm involved in that I'm called to tend to and shepherd, but I question their shelf life.

And lastly - for the first time in my adult life, I think I'm discerning some big old mighty oaks in front of me. This marriage. My kids. Our church. My health. These things? They're not going anywhere and if they did, if they died, the impact would be devastating. And they're growing, the fruit is there, but man - it's slow. It can take months or years to notice change. But if I ignore the oaks, if I spend all my hours playing with flowers - I'll have a serious problem on my hands.

So I am asking God to give me wisdom about each and every area of my life - my hobbies, relationships, rhythms, endeavors: what is a flower and what is here to stay? Where would He have me put my time and intention and passion? Can He give me the grace to appreciate the temporary, even interact with it, but not put all of my hopes or energy into it?


God would you show me what's a vase full of flowers, what's a house plant, and what's a big old tree? 


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