Bound To One Another

There are no words for the deplorable way that our current United States President allegedly spoke of other countries and people groups during a White House meeting last week. It is quite honestly one of the most excruciating things I have read about in a long time. I have friends, family and brothers and sisters all over the world residing and serving in some of the hardest, yet most beautiful countries of the world. Lately, loving my people and the people God places in front of me has been at the forefront of my mind. I have written before that knowing what to say is hard (Cause I Don’t Know What to Say)…I still don’t know exactly what to say.

I know that I have thoughts, emotions, feelings about all of it. So much of what is happening is not the way it ought to be or was to intended to be. And lately it’s been sickening to think that people’s words are less and less considered before leaving their mouths or being written in whatever place. We certainly know more of people’s hearts, and we are all being held accountable for what we put out there. While often my silence comes from basic life happening (kids, home, work, etc), it is important as people with a voice that we listen to the Holy Spirit and ask Him what our place in this mess is ~ what words would He have us speak and share. I humbly come to you with the words He has shown me…

Jesus was clear that He created all. He was clear that He came for the freedom of ALL. He was clear that there are no lines, and that least will be the greatest. His Gospel is overwhelmingly clear that the last will be first and that putting others before yourself will always be His way.

I read through I Have a Dream again last night. I am always overwhelmed at the presence of God in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words. When you read them, it is clear that his dream came from a deep yearning and profound faith that things CAN change, and that there is hope. It is evident that his faith was in a God that created all. The words that struck me at this reading were this:

“We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protests to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone. And as we walk we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in I Have A Dream

Our destiny is tied up in each other’s destinies. Our freedom is bound up in one another’s freedom. Yes, my freedom is bound up in EVERY other person’s freedom that has EVER been created. It was never just about one person, one people group, one class, race, or religion. It was always and forever about a God that created us ALL in love, for love, to establish love with one another and Himself.

We have all been called to this same dream, same faith, same hope. This is not for a time back then. This is for now. This has to be real, though, not only on Facebook and Twitter. It has to be real in my life and through my life. So much of that is wrapped up in what I teach my children, how I shape the next generation.

I teach my children not to ignore people. We acknowledge people and look at them.

I teach my children that ALL people matter. We care about the man that surprised us as we exited our car at CVS the other day. We care about his story (true or not). He belongs to God. God is with us in our moment of surprise, and He is with this man asking for anything I may have to help him.

I teach my children that even though we DO NOT tolerate the bullying that my eldest experienced earlier this school year, we LOVE the little girl that bullied her. We want to know her and her heart as far as we safely can.

I teach my children that we embrace and experience different people’s cultures and ways.  We honor people and their stories and places of origin.  We celebrate with them and grieve with them.  We stand up for them.

I teach my children that America is NOT the only country, best country, etc. We live here and experience this freedom because of NOTHING we have done. We are grateful to have freedom and we are grateful to the men and women that fight for our freedom, but living here and knowing freedom should celebrated only to set others free.

I teach my children that it is okay to be uncomfortable. Comfort is not the Gospel. We put ourselves in places that make us uncomfortable so that we can love others and know them better.

I teach my children that ALL people have a place in this world. We all have a story that God is working out. We don’t believe that our story is better or greater; it is part of much bigger story that is unfolding in God’s great mercy.

I teach my children that this is not it. This is not the end. Eternity is coming and people and their souls will be there. (I loved when Dr. King wrote “soul force!”) People matter.

So as God is working this out in me, may He meet you in your spaces and places. May He give you the bravery to swim upstream against the status quo of what you have always known. May each day that you encounter people, may you remember that their story matters in your story. Your freedom is indeed tied to other’s freedom. Let’s usher freedom into each other’s lives!

Life Here Is Fragile {no. 2 of 3 in a series}

This post has been brewing in my spirit for a while.  I told you all about it months ago.  It’s been a busy season as most holidays are, but the fragility of life has been ever-present. I began with the post The King Is Good, and this is the second of three parts to share my heart in what has been a heavy season of grieving. I pray that the Spirit of God speaks to you as He has me. 

“Life is a vapor!” she powerfully said as she owned the stage at her own husband’s memorial service.  Our eyes were all glazed over with salty tears that had been present for days.  My heart skipped a beat as she spoke this truth with intensity and poise.  She described the day and the moments leading up to her husband leaving us and moving into Eternity.  I tried to catch my breath.  I was all kinds of overwhelmed and weak.  But what she spoke was true. I had told her just the week before we are not promised tomorrow.  The Spirit was moving.  He still is.  I am still blown away at the poise and shear ease that my precious friend preached at her husband’s memorial service. Yet, she knew ~ and it was made perfectly clear ~ that God had a message to speak through her…and He did.

This fragility of life, the reality that it can come and go at any moment, is sobering to say the least.  I have said in conversation with some of my closest that I feel like I am always waiting for some ball to drop…some part of life to fall right out from underneath me simply because I know it can.  I work in a profession where I see balls drop every shift…terrible diagnosis, life-changing moments, grieving families one after another.  For a long time, I have been able to separate my life from these moments. If I am honest, brutally honest, I treated the possibility as something that could only happen in that realm, to those people… I emotionally and mindfully didn’t let it touch my life, my people, my heart. Yet, the Lord has made it abundantly clear this last year that it absolutely can touch my life and my people.  He reminds me daily that this fragility touches everyone. Fragility is not reserved for one group of people.  We are all subject to life on Earth in ALL of it’s beauty and brokenness.

I was reading a post of a friend whose daughter is fighting cancer for the second time.  She was reflecting on the last 15 years with her husband and how she never could have imagined this story…this fragility, yet deep beauty of life.  But it’s real. And she is hanging in this tension of fragility and reality balanced with an omnipresent, real, good God. (She is doing it beautifully and authentically.)

It’s funny how we are taught here on Earth to hold tightly to fragile things.  I often tell my girls to wrap both hands around breakable plates and glasses. Yet, holding tight doesn’t always insure safety.  I think I prefer “handle with care.” Every moment really is a holy moment and should be handled as such.

How do we honor every moment, live life to the fullest while not worshipping life itself, yet always worshipping the Giver of life?

The hardest thing to me is to hold loosely to this life in hope of the next while also valuing and honoring this life.  It is fragile because it was always meant to be. There is a peace that comes with knowing that there is more, that our story matters in a bigger story, and that God is with us.  Yet, the grief of life ending, people suffering, hearts breaking is too real. And it’s tangible ~ making people and their lives the most fragile things we encounter on a daily basis.  And grief ~ the way we pick up the broken pieces and restore what is lost here ~ matters in the story. It’s essential that we mourn over the pieces, sweep them up, and envision restoration.  But it is a process that takes time and respect.

I want to find the place, the sweet spot, where I can honor the moments while also honoring eternity. If I live like there is nothing more after this, I may not honor God or others with my life.  I may be spontaneous and fun and honor only what I consider the best thing for me.  If I always live like today is the last day, I run the risk of fulfilling a bucket list instead of fulfilling my home and the hearts of the people around me.  These people, their hearts and spirits, they are what are eternal and going with me to eternity.  I want to nourish hearts whether it’s a bucket list day or a laundry day.  I want to usher in peace whether I’m climbing the highest mountain or loading the dishwasher for the 1000th time.  I want to honor people and their hearts over the things of the world on the best day and on the hardest.

I want to remember that God always created and intended this world to be fragile.  And He told us to enjoy it. But it is a vapor, y’all, and it’s not all there is. This life matters, but only really in the light of God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and Eternity.

The ball will most definitely drop.  It has, and it will again.  I want love well and deeply while knowing that the pain and fragility will indeed touch me.  I want to be fully woke to the realness and fragility, and still fully aware of what is coming.  One day fragility won’t be a thing, because brokenness won’t be a thing.  Until then, though, we embrace the fragility that is here, honor and respect the deep grief that it brings, and land in a space of Hope for what is coming!

The King Is Good {no. 1 of 3 in a series}

“Don’t forget to button your top button,” she said. Our pastor had preached years ago about the goodness of God.  If we don’t button our top button of our shirt first, the rest of the shirt can end up all caddywhompus. If we don’t believe He is good, the rest of life is just a mess. 

This friend was reminding me of this truth as I questioned His goodness in the midst of deep grief.  We lost a friend, a brother, a fellow believer.  He was young. His wife and daughter are precious to us.  He was precious to us. His death was tragic and untimely.  And yet, our God ~ his God ~ is still good. 

My parents just moved overseas and there is a hole in our lives and a gap in our hearts. Our dog of 10 years has just been diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer, and we honestly don’t know what that means.  We just grieved a scary experience with my bout of myopathy.  Everything feels like we have no control. It makes us want to shut down the part of our hearts that allows us to feel anything good so that we don’t have to feel all the bad too.  We feel vulnerable to all of it.

Just like Lewis reminds us in the midst of Narnia, the King is not always safe, but He is good. He’s the King.  I can honestly say that I haven’t felt safe in the midst of this grief.  Nothing feels safe.  I will talk more about the fragility of life later, but all the questions have come and the ground feels shaky.  Nothing of this world feels safe or trustworthy.  We do feel its holiness, though.

Thankfully the Lord has slowly let us see things, feel things, and experience Him in the midst of reeling and grieving.  Stories were told of His goodness in and through our friend.  There were holy moments that captured the Lord’s goodness.  I had sat on a porch, less than a week before his death, with this friend and talked about the Body of Christ and serving one another.  The Lord was good then, and He was still good as I loudly begged Him in my living room to spare my friend’s life.  I kept screaming, “C’mon Lord! You can do this! This is your deal.”  And in the moment that my begging turned to weeping, the Lord was still good.  He is still good even though a precious 5 year old doesn’t have her daddy here.  It feels unsafe and vulnerable, and it is.  But He is good. 

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. Psalm 23:6

His goodness is not because of this world or because of us.  He is good because of Him.  Our God is the very essence of good. He is a good King. And He is far more wrapped up in the big picture.  There is a bigger *good* story happening around us.  Goodness goes beyond what we can understand.  Goodness is eternal, as is our friend’s life.  Goodness goes on far past what we know or experience here on earth…Honestly, the Word tells us it’s BETTER.

One of the most profound things that the Lord has solidified in me during this time is the depth and height of the spirit world and the reality of eternity.  That may sound weird to some and maybe even creepy, but I’m understanding deeply that far more is happening in this battle than what meets the eye.  It looks bad from our perspective some days.  We can feel like Job, and think there is nothing good about a God who allows all this bad to exist. And yet, He put the world into motion and He invites us to participate. When the Word says His ways are higher and His thoughts are loftier, there is so much we don’t see.  He is on a fierce mission to bring the Kingdom here.  He most certainly fights for His Kingdom coming. We only have a snapshot of all that God is doing and all that He has already done. 

If we believe in this God, we have to trust His goodness.  We may not always feel good, but He is always good.  We may feel unsafe and exposed to the darkness far more than we know how to handle; yet, He will still always be good.  We have to trust that His way, His plan, His motion will always be good. 

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 (emphasis added)

His good is ultimately always our good. 

His goodness is a stake in the ground.  It’s the top button of the shirt. It’s a belief and truth, without it, nothing makes any sense at all.  God may not allow bad things to happen.  He is most certainly grieving much of what He sees.  But because He is a good King, He will use ALL OF IT for our good. 

THAT is a good King. 

My life verse has always and forever will be:

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end…I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. Ecclesiastes 3:11, 14 


His order… not mine

This last week was a disaster.  I literally had no idea what I was doing from one moment to the next, and when I did remember what was next, I would literally forget.

There was something about the holiday Monday coupled with ANOTHER road trip that made everything wonky.  I had no meal plan, no cleaning plan, no laundry plan, NO PLAN.  I completely forgot a play date with a friend and her girls… her grace was refreshing, and we made it there…just very late.

I kept telling Ross that I was trying to figure out my rhythm. (I’m pretty sure he was ready to write a new song for me.) I really needed to find my rhythm, though.  We’ve entered into a new season from preschool drop off time at 9:00 am to real school drop off at 8:00 am for the oldest.  The middle still has preschool 2 days a week at the preschool time. The youngest is still napping, but no one is sure when at this point because she has to fit into the rhythm.  My newest work schedule (which changes often) affects two weekdays instead of one. Ross is taking the oldest to school the mornings after I work, but the oldest desperately wants time with me and struggles that she doesn’t see me until she gets out of school.  So I am trying to plan nap time around making space to spend time with her when she gets home. AND MY HEAD IS SPINNING.

On top of all of these logistical, practical rhythms of life, my heart rhythms are struggling too.  After a long stint with myopathy, I’ve gained weight and can’t seem to get it to budge.  My parents are moving across the ocean in less than a month, and everyone is pre-grieving at some level. My youngest turned two this weekend. (My mama heart has finally caught up with that reality…no more babies over here…) We are spending a lot of time adulting and having adult conversations about future, money, investing (what?!?!?) and all the things. The Lord is moving in our hearts about church and communing with the saints.  And we just need a breath.  Even as I write this, my body is yearning for a deep breath.

I have found over the years that I need a system.  For years I have done laundry on one day, cleaned bathrooms and floors on another day, washed sheets and towels on another, and done the girls laundry on another day ~ the same day every week. This system works for me and gives me a rhythm to my day.  If I don’t workout first thing in the morning, it is super difficult for me to do it any other time of day. Since working two weekdays, though, I’ve had to be willing to move that at a little because school drop off has to be first thing after waking up from my 4.5 hours of sleep.  I also have a huge desire for everything to be done before I leave the house (i.e. bed made, clothes and makeup on, house fairly picked up, etc.) However, the reality of that means getting up much earlier and takes me getting used to a whole new plan…system…rhythm.  Honestly, the plan is what brings me freedom even though it doesn’t sound like it.  The system helps me to have space and freedom to hear and move with the Holy Spirit.  It creates space because I know where my space is each week, and then I can ask the Lord how to use that space.  It’s been discipline for me.

But, just like everything else in this world that is not Jesus Himself, systems and disciplines can become our idol. My rhythms and my systems are great for creating space and helping me function in this broken world.  However, I prayed for two sisters today, and over both of them, I felt the Lord speak.  All these systems and rules will fall and all that will remain is the Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  If this is true (and it is true), then we must be able to move in a rhythm that does not stifle, squelch or supersede the Holy Spirit and His ultimate plan for our days, hours and moments.

Systems and rhythms ~ plans ~ are not bad. Like many things in this world, though, (all things outside of Jesus), they must be held loosely and surrendered often to His authority.  God is not a god of chaos, and He orchestrates order in all of creation. What we must remember is that His order is His divine, perfect, sovereign, and complete way.  We are NOT Him or the Holy Spirit.  Our ways must be laid down for the glory of the Lord!

So I am sitting with Him today asking Him what He thinks the new rhythm should look like.  I am inviting Him to orchestrate the order and the space.  The pressure is off. He’s got this, and it’s gonna be good.

The Eclipse of Glory

He came in with four pair of eclipse glasses after what was supposed to be a quick trip to Lowe’s.

“SO…We should totally drive to see the Total Solar Eclipse.”

“We should? What day is on?” thinking in my head that I’m not super interested in seeing this phenomenon, but he seems excited, almost giddy.

“It’s like a once in a lifetime experience…and it’s covering the whole United States. It would be amazing…”

“Yeah, we could probably do that” thinking that we should do more spontaneous, fun experiences. What day?”

“August 21st.”

“That’s a Monday, and I work. And it’s the first day of school for Emilynn. We can’t go.”

Thus the beginning of many, many conversations about experiencing the eclipse. Ross was determined to make it happen.  There were several side conversations over dinner or the random morning bathroom conversation. All of them ended with me saying, “But it’s Emilynn’s first day of school…” Even Emilynn’s kindergarten teacher let me know that she was Team Ross…It’s a great experience and what is the first day of first grade compared to seeing the total solar eclipse.  Ross advocated for himself on our vacation with his mom telling me stories of him seeing an eclipse as a seven year old and witnessing Haley’s Comet.

When we finally had the serious talk that needed to happen to either kill this idea or bring it to life, Ross asked me if I could get off of work.  We found out that I was actually already moved off that day due some scheduling needs for my team.  Fate. A sign. Ross was convinced it must be Jesus.  So that conversation brought it to life, and we booked a hotel in Kansas City with credit card points.  We talked about driving the 9 hours there and back and being back in time for school on Tuesday.

Much to my dismay, my oldest didn’t blink an eye at the news of missing the first day.  I spent the next several weeks in denial.  Ross would most certainly see the error of his ways…a cross-country trip with a 2, 4, and 6 year old in two days, two very late nights, multiple reports of the dangers of viewing the eclipse (especially with children), the first week of school, if-y weather reports and ridiculous traffic reports…I mean, this really just didn’t seem like the most logical decision.  Guys are supposed to be logical, right?

The weekend finally arrived.  My closest friends were Team Ashley and shared my mommy heart and thought processes. I attempted to gain sympathy at work from co-workers and didn’t get very far. We were going, and I was either going to choose joy or frustration and anxiety.

Our bases were covered.  At Meet the Teacher we let Emilynn’s teacher know she was going to be out.  I spent Saturday making road trip books for the girls, packing a special snack basket, organizing and cleaning the car, charging all of the electronics for sanity, and trying everything to GET EXCITED!

We got up early on Sunday morning and headed out.  We had an uneventful drive up to Kansas City.  We bribed the girls all along the way with the pool that awaited them at the hotel.  They were so excited.  We pulled into the hotel and a feeling came over me…Something wasn’t right.  Ross came back with a long face and the look of “be prepared for what I am about to tell you.”

“They lost our reservation didn’t they?” I said convinced that we had no where to stay…

Ross went on to tell me that someone broke a glass in the coveted pool and that it was closed for the night at least.

OMG. Mama bear rose to the occasion.  “You go in there and tell them to get on their handy-dandy computer and move us to another (insert hotel name here) that has a working pool!!”

About 15 minutes later, I decided to insert myself into Ross’ conversation at the front desk.  Because for 15 minutes I kept the girls tears, whines and complete depths of despair at bay and I was OVER IT.

The lady proceeded to tell me it is actually not as simple as switching us to another hotel.  I looked at my watch realizing that we really should be heading to bed soon anyway. Just forget it.

“Can we swim in the bathtub, Mom?”  “Absolutely, girls. Sure.”

The next bump of the trip came when I got up the next morning to call the school and let them know that Emilynn was going to be absent.  I read the handbook and this was the process….Just not on the first day of school as it turns out. I was met with an unkind office worker letting me know that my daughter would lose her place in the program she was in and may not be with the teacher she had met the Wednesday night before.  After FREAKING out, I talked with another lady who was able to calm my fears. Emilynn was a “no-show” and had to sit with me, her delinquent mom, on the bench outside the office on Tuesday morning, but she did in fact get back in her class and program. Navigating this whole public school realm has been a bit of a learning curve…sometimes I feel like I’m failing…

After my blood pressure went down from that phone call and my anger towards my husband (whose fault ALL of this was), we proceeded to check out so that we could drive to the little town where we would watch the eclipse.  We walked outside to dark, thundering clouds and a bit of a downpour.   My blood pressure shot back up. Deep breaths. “This better be good!”

We drove east to the town while the clouds followed us the whole way.  We kept driving east and then south and decided to end up at a park we scoped out in Jefferson City, the capital of Missouri.  We were tired, but excited.  We picnicked and got settled watching the moon come across the sun.  People were thrilled.  We became a little park family as we all waited together and watched as dusk fell at noon.  We began hearing crickets and birds singing nighttime songs.  The temperature began to drop and the breeze picked up.  As the sliver of the sun disappeared, our glasses came off and a roar of cheers overtook ~ cheers from all of over the city.  It was unbelievable and glorious.  Tears began to roll down my cheeks…

That day I wasn’t certain why I cried.  Maybe I was crying because the morning had been so hard and I needed sleep.  Maybe I was crying because we had a 9 hour drive (at least) ahead and this was the moment.  Maybe I was crying because the roar of the people all gathered together was a taste of what Heaven will sound like.

 For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts! 2 Corinthians 3:10-11

While I was tired, I think that my tears were holy tears.  Glory is a gift, but it’s not without a cost. Choosing glory, fostering glory, waiting for glory all take a huge amount of glorious sanctification.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Romans 8:18

There is so much glory yet to be seen and experienced.  Ross and I talked on the way home a lot about the eclipse.  We talked about how darkness can never truly eclipse light…The corona of the sun that was left shining was so bright and pure. We talked about beholding glory here as a picture of what is to come.  We talked about the intricate ways that the Lord set this world into motion and the ways He chooses to display Himself through it. We knew, no matter what, we had tasted glory.

We call it the Marriage Eclipse of 2017. Marriage eclipsed every ounce of denial, every frustrated thought, every moment I was convinced we would all regret this crazy endeavor.  Glory remained, as it often does when we die to ourselves.  

Just a few days after the Total Solar Eclipse, Hurricane Harvey struck landfall and devastated cities and towns all over the coastal region of Texas and Houston.  Again, we have watched a natural phenomenon (unfortunately, a disastrous one) bring the multitude of people together. In the moments of the sun disappearing and a great cloud of witnesses cheering, Heaven touched the earth.  And now, in the midst of heartache, fear, and unfathomable aftermath, we once again see Heaven touching earth.  He is indeed an amazing God, and He is most amazing in and through His witnesses. 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross,scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12: 1, 2

First Grade Jitters

As parents there are endless choices and decisions to be made.  It starts with what you feed your children, moves on to what you are expose them to and eventually you have to decide how you will educate them.

There were unexpected tears at the end of Kindergarten last year ~ not from my oldest daughter but from me.  First grade starts tomorrow, and the jitters have come and gone for weeks.  We are headed into the public school realm, and I’m not sure which way is up or down.

Fortunately, there are so many that have gone before me.  A sweet friend has a daughter my oldest’s age, and her daughter did kindergarten last year at this school.  I have never been so grateful to have had someone go before me.  The amount of Voxer messages I’ve sent her with questions is embarrassing.

Part of our decision just doesn’t make sense. The school we chose is not in our neighborhood.  We have a great neighborhood school less than 3 minutes away. The school we chose is public not private. Many of our friends are doing a private co-op Classical Conversations school where they will see their kiddos 3 days more than I will see mine.  The school we chose is Title I, and our feeder school is not. However, my daughter was accepted into the applied learning program at the school we chose. There are smaller classrooms in this program with more freedom in the learning environment. It is beautifully diverse and represents unity that my heart longs for.  I fully believe it is where we are supposed to be…yet I have some real jitters.

Will my daughter make new friends? Will she be safe? Does her teacher love to teach and can’t wait for this next year? Will I connect with other moms and feel connected to the school?

A few weeks ago my sweet friend (the one that has gone before me) asked me if I would be interested in helping her with a teacher luncheon for the PTO committee she was heading up.  I’ve known up to this point that I was going to have to be intentional and put myself out there this year to be involved in my daughter’s education. For whatever reason, though (like I’ve mentioned before), I tend to crumble when building relationships with other parents.  I have an instinct to lay low… I don’t want to compete or compare AT ALL about anything. So I knew when she asked me to help it was the perfect opportunity to put myself out there, and I needed to respond eagerly. It is my desire to be more engaged with school, but navigating all the other people, their thoughts and expectations, feels vulnerable and overwhelming. Serving in this capacity is my passion, though…this is a place of comfort for me.  I love a good theme, decorations, and making something feel special.  A teacher luncheon was the perfect place to start and get my feet wet.

The luncheon went great, and my friend did a fabulous job (and worked her tail off!).  I met lots of other moms and PTO members and made some fun connections.  It wasn’t nearly as scary as I thought.  The highlight was meeting the new principal, who immediately stood and hugged me upon introductions. Her spirit was precious, and she is most certainly a light. My spirit was able to breathe a sigh of relief…

We’ve bought school supplies. (My oldest shares my JOY and importance of this event.) Uniforms are organized and have been modeled. 🙂 I’ve helped with a teacher luncheon. I’ve filled out a volunteer application for the school. We have met our teacher whose spirit is also precious. My excitement and anxiety reminds me of childhood. I want my girl to have a fabulous year, and yet I have very little control over what and how that happens.

But I do know that God is with her all the time ~ the Holy Spirit resides with her. He cares deeply about her and ALL the children at that school. I want wherever we are and whatever we choose to be a place of sanctuary and sanctification.  As I move through this parenting journey, I find myself caring more about the heart of my child than I anticipated. Yes, I want her to be successful and have skills that take her through this life with opportunities that use her giftings and bless others. But at the end of the day, I want her to love people well, put others before herself, and find the value of other people no matter what.  Straight A’s, top of the class, and perfect attendance are far secondary to my girls having Jesus-eyes.

My heart still feels jittery and anxious, but I am realizing part of that is my heart dying to my ideals and expectations. The jitters are actually sanctification. Motherhood challenges and changes me more than I could have ever expected or projected. I am not the same woman my husband married 10 years ago, and I’m not the same parent I was when I started this gig 6 years ago. I am grateful.

Here’s to first grade! (And all the other beginnings for everyone!) God is with us. God is with our kids. God is moving. May we move with Him. My prayer for this school year for my daughter is that she is part of bringing the Kingdom to Earth.  May she be an instrument of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness and a LOT of self-control. 🙂

P.S. There is more to this story that will come next week. Part of my anxiety is centered around the Total Solar Eclipse of 2017… Talk about dying to yourself…

10 years, Baby! and a whole lot of whittling…

My six-year-old talks about the New Earth daily.  While we have tried hard to drive eternity home in her heart, we find ourselves often having to remind her that the Kingdom is coming in and through Jesus-followers.  She has a part in bringing the New Earth here.

E: “Mama, don’t you want to go to the New Earth now…like today…”

(She often goes here when things get hard.)

Me: “No, Em. I actually kind of like it here. I believe that you and me being here together right now was always part of God’s plan. Remember, we are here {for now} so that we can be a part of the Kingdom coming now.”

E: “Yeah. I guess.”

She is often disappointed by the things of this world. Just the other day she reminded me once again that there would be no hospitals, no police officers and no firefighters in the New Earth. “You and Daddy won’t have a job, Mommy.”  AMEN, sister!

I don’t know if other families talk about Heaven and eternity as often as we do, but it’s a daily (sometimes multiple times a day) conversation over here.  There is a longing for Kingdom, but we are indeed here {for now}.

Several years ago I saw this incredible couple in the Target parking lot.  (This story was always going to be in my book, but I’m going to tell you part of it now.) They were probably in their mid-eighties.  They parked and walked in hand in hand.  I remember telling the Lord that I wanted to grow old like that.  I want that to be my story.  I want to live as long as possible with my husband right next to me. I want us to experience life and death simultaneously, really. I’ve wrestled with that moment off and on for years now.  What is God’s will? Will that be my story?  There are so many other ways that story could go.

Ross and I celebrated 10 years of marriage on the 4th. I have always thought that marrying upped the risk factor of life by a ton and having kids is just about the riskiest thing you could ever do in life.  The amount of love and life poured out for other people is overwhelmingly scary and risky.  If my heart spends too much time thinking about it, I will cry myself to sleep.  But how does the saying go? “It’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.”  I don’t know…the jury is still out. (just kidding)  But it’s HARD on my heart.

The night Ross and I went on our first date, it was unlike any first date ever. I cleared the air and broke the ice at the dinner table by asking Ross his intentions. There was much at stake for me in even being there, and I wasn’t messing around. He clearly stated that he wanted to date to me. The night was full of deep, full, and giddy conversation.  I left that night knowing that I was going to marry him. We hugged goodbye and the Holy Spirit fell. We both lost our breath and knew that this was the beginning of a holy journey.

Ten years later, it has been just that. A holy journey. Sanctification is ultimately always producing something beautiful.  But it would be foolish to say that it always looks or feels beautiful.  It reminds me of whittling wood.  You know something is happening…the finished product will be a masterpiece; but the shavings and the in-between state are uncomfortable and frustrating at times.  The difference in today and ten years ago is that I feel like I have a vision for the masterpiece.  I used to have no idea what the hell was happening.  It used to feel like sharpening a pencil over and over again and it keeps breaking and the lead falls out.  (I HATE THAT!)  In the beginning marriage felt like we were traveling the same mountain road, dying there and getting back up and traveling it again.  It was exhausting, and I could not have told you that for sure a masterpiece was being produced. Again, it felt like a crappy pencil. But now, I feel like I have tasted and seen the masterpiece, and it is good.  I could literally whittle all day.  Bring on the whittling!

Honestly, I’ve simply learned to savor and hold tight the moments.  I feel like, when I take a moment to breathe, every moment with Ross is a holy moment.  It is righteous, sanctifying, and beautiful. And it’s sobering to think that the moments don’t last forever…

We spent our 10th anniversary on our last full day in Lake Tahoe.  It began with a melt down from our girlies that lasted all morning and consequently made us late to lunch and missing beach time with the family.  It was hard. It still brings tears to my eyes. Whittling is hard work and now we have added other pieces to the masterpiece that have to be whittled too. But there was something deeply peaceful and holy about those moments.  I wasn’t disappointed that we spent our anniversary morning like that, just sad at the intensity of brokenness in the here and now.  I was honestly honored that the Lord chose us for this risky business of parenting and grateful that we could do it together that day.  Deeply grateful that I’m not alone in it.

When I told my six-year-old that I kind of like it here, I do.  These moments are making masterpieces.  We are all a work in progress and I can’t think of four people (and a dog) that I would rather be in process with.  Cheers to 10 years, 1 dog, 3 girls and a LOT of whittling!!!

He is indeed making diamonds out of us.




Calling on Daddy

It felt like a scene from a movie or an intense medical drama. It wasn’t a romantic scene or even a little hope-filled. It was the scene of trauma, heartbreak, and fear. It felt heavy and sad, and everyone was just moving around me as I took it all in.


I am a child life specialist in the ER at my local children’s hospital. My job is to prepare and support patients and families throughout their healthcare experience. I also provide emotional support to patients and families through trauma, grief and bereavement. Everyday people ask me how I can do what I do. I always answer that I can’t do my job outside of knowing Jesus. I am in the midst of some of the thinnest moments where eternity mingles with the here and now ~ the Kingdom coming. I have a front row seat to His glory every shift I work. I get to see the holy moments when laughter breaks in through tears, when the beauty of the moment is realized in spite of the pain, when Eternity is comforting and makes more sense than the hardest experience. I witness these moments.


Yet some days, my front row seat can be so very uncomfortable. This precious little guy rolled through the door after being hit by a car. His mom and dad were not far behind him. He was awake and alert but definitely struggling. I stood by the mom and dad with my hands on their shoulders explaining what was happening and what we were doing to help their precious little man. Then I hear a sweet, “Mama? Daddy?” I made my way to the head of the bed, leaving the mom and dad to cope alone while I reassured this little guy that his mom and dad were there and were not leaving him. Things went from bad to worse as the medical team struggled to keep him stable. Before I knew it, I was the reporter of pain and responsiveness; he was no longer responding to pain. He had JUST been calling for his mom and dad. The trauma surgeon made his way in to perform one last option. They stabilized the little guy and rolled him out to get pictures of his body and make a plan.


I stood in the room with trash, medical equipment, and needles all over the floor. My chest was tight, and I couldn’t catch my breath. I looked down the hall and saw the nurses rolling the crash cart into the CT room. I knew this was a grave situation, and the possibilities of us saving this little guy were disappearing quickly. The lump in my throat is still there as I write this.


We weren’t able to save this precious little boy that night, and all I could do was pick up the trash and needles covering the floor and talk to Jesus.


It is a humbling experience to witness these stories, to see the doctors, nurses, and medics mourn, to watch the family crumble. All I can do is call on Him ~ Daddy, come. I must call on Him on behalf of the patients, the families, and my co-workers. Holy Spirit come, be near. Early on in my career, these events would ruin me, and it was difficult to see Jesus or His glory in any of these experiences. Now I know and believe He is with us in every moment. My job is to call on the Holy Spirit, ask for His mercy, pray for a miracle, and surrender to His almighty ways.


I have learned not only in my job but also in marriage and motherhood, even in the surrender, He is always near. We must acknowledge His glorious presence. He is not unaware of the moments or watching from afar. He is intimately present and aware of all our moments. Just like the mom and dad who never left their little man’s side, He is indeed always with us.


Father God, may we KNOW your nearness and feel your touch even in the most difficult and desperate moments. May we call on You in everything. Thank you for never leaving us.

Deeper Still


I was standing at the edge of the diving board looking down.  Five feet to hit the water and another 11.5 feet of water. My heart was beating fast.  My family was lined up sitting on the wall watching with anticipation. “Oh gosh, I hate diving boards!” I exclaimed.

My 6-year-old and 4-year-old had just finished their 5 ceremonial end-of-the-pool-time jumps and begged for one extra.  Here I was seriously about to back up and get off the diving board, and my girls could not get enough.  I had a moment of asking myself what was wrong with me?  I jump off the dock at Lake Tahoe every year, and it’s cold and much higher than our neighborhood pool’s diving board.  But I was really hating every minute of being on that diving board.  “Go, Mommy!!!” was echoing in my ears.  I had to jump.  OH MY GOSH…Fine.

I jump and get water up my nose and in my ears and ugh. I climb out, and we round-up the troops.  “Why didn’t you want to jump, babe?” my husband asks (who had just finished flipping and diving himself and been the leader of the peer pressure).  “I just don’t always love that deep water…I’ve had some bad water experiences.  That’s why I want the girls to feel totally comfortable in all water, but I want them to be safe. I want them to swim well.”  We pack up, take a picture and head out.  Once we’re out to the van I ask him, “You don’t ever get nervous at the end of a diving board right before you jump?”  “No, why would I get nervous? I can swim…”

“I can swim, too,” I thought. So what was wrong with me?

Sometimes this walk with Jesus can feel a little like swimming in the HUGE neighborhood pool.

The beauty of the shallow water is that our feet can touch the bottom.  We can move around freely, but it’s safe.  We choose what participation level we prefer.  We can keep our heads out of the water lest we mess up our mommy top-knot.  We also have more control in the shallow end. This looks like control over the littles that are just learning the deeper waters.  I don’t totally trust them, and I’m a bit of a helicopter mom.  I control best in the shallow waters where I can also keep my footing.  I know how to swim, but these little people need me to hang back with them while they discover their freedom.

My oldest has the water skills to survive given trouble, but I am often worried about her endurance.  If she keeps doggy-paddling in deeper water, she will eventually run out of steam.  I find myself often yelling, “SWIM! Put your head in the water and swim!”  My middle has NO fear or respect for the deeper water.  She just knows she loves it, but she truly a maniac in the water…yet she has far better form than her sister.  When she actually swims, it is beautiful. Then there’s the littlest.  She has just met the requirements to graduate out of a seat floaty into puddle jumpers.  She was crawling out of her seat floaty, ready for more freedom; but for several days, the puddle jumpers provided a bit too much freedom for her little body and heart to handle.  It took her time to adjust to the deeper water even with her safety floats secured. Yet now she is convinced she could do ANYTHING with those puddle jumpers on.

Swimming has felt like knowing Jesus lately.  When we really know how to swim, freedom is tangible.  There are some disciplines that are important to swimming.  We must put our heads under the water at some point and learn how to come up to get a breath.  Kicking is ESSENTIAL to moving through the water.  Like my husband taught just this week, we should blow out when we hit the water. Yet, when we are not practicing these disciplines, we develop bad habits and form.  The spiritual disciplines of prayer, confession, solitude, worship, etc, are essential to walking with Jesus. Without practicing these disciplines, we can completely miss Jesus.  They are how we discover Him and enter into relationship with Him.

Much like my oldest, some of us know how to swim, but somewhere along the way we learned some unhealthy practices.  Depending on where and what our background is, these certain additions to the Gospel can seem helpful, but often end up being the very practices that burn us out of ministry and make us want to run from faith all together.  These practices are often known as religion.  Doggy-paddling, while still keeping you alive in the water, will be the very thing that wears us out to the point of no return.  If you do these practices too long, they become second nature.  You begin to feel like you can’t “swim” without doing these things when in reality they have become your crutch, and you have completely forgotten how to swim.  The Gospel is no longer primary.  Your bad habits are taking over in the water leaving you utterly exhausted.

Similar to my middle love, there are those with a lack of respect for what is required in deeper water.  These people just jump in to this Christian life with glitter eyes believing that all will be better in Jesus.  They flee their secular life and jump in with a faith that is very attractive and beautiful…yet very, very scary.  They heard the Gospel, they accepted the Gospel and that is all they really needed. They tend to think discipline will seriously hold them back from following God whole-heartedly.  And these people often ignore the discipline so much that, even though they know how to swim (and honestly they know how to swim beautifully), they miss Jesus because they are so distracted by their freedom.

Then there are those who are like my littlest that believe, within the safety of some truth, they really can explore all the deep waters.  These people sadly have never experienced the Gospel at all.  They don’t know how to swim, but their flotation device of morals and good deeds is keeping them afloat. They have no real freedom.  Some can explore more depth, but often (like most neighborhood pools), you can’t jump off the diving board into the deepest waters with a flotation device on.  It’s pertinent that you know how to swim. The floatation device provides a false sense of security.  When jumping into deeper waters, it could truly fail you. Morals and good deeds will eventually run out or you will mess up, but with Jesus, there is a steady Source that will never leave you.

As I stood there on the edge of the diving board, the deep waters just seemed like too much.  But like my husband had reminded me, I know how to swim.  I do know how to swim, but over the years I’ve developed bad habits, had bad experiences, and forgotten that I actually know how to swim.  I know Jesus. I know His Truths, and I have relationship with Him.  As I exercise the spiritual disciplines, I can trust in my freedom that Jesus is WITH me.

Not only do I not need to fear the deeper water, I have been invited to fully experience it.  

He is calling us deeper still.

Process to Peace

I was leaving a Voxer message for my dad while trudging through Costco with just my littlest love in the cart. I was about to wrap up my thoughts on surrender and hanging in the tension.  I just finished telling Dad that Jesus just hung there on the cross, and that I believe, while the ascension is primary to the Gospel, the Cross is the most sacred part.  Jesus hung there.

Then I saw her ~ this precious little girl around 8 or 9 years old.  She had a look of sheer horror on her face.  She was whispering to herself, “Granny, where are you? Please help me find you, Granny.  Where are you?”  Her face was all that was distorted at this point but her fear was visibly rising.  She was looking all around and beginning to pick up her pace.  I tried to stop her in the midst of the Voxer to my dad.  She wouldn’t stop.  I put down my phone and looked around for the whomever this girl could possibly be missing.  I started asking Holy Spirit to help me help this little girl.

I saw a random woman walking out of the cold room with her hands full of grapes, lettuce and other large items.  She didn’t appear to be missing anything or looking for anyone, but the Holy Spirit prompted me to ask.  “Ma’am, do you have a grand-daughter with you today?”  “Yes, I do.”  At this point the little girl was in an all out sprint in the bread and wine section.  All the people surrounding saw her and a few of the intuitive ones were beginning to put the pieces together.  “She is looking for you and she is pretty scared.  She went this way…”

I began to look for her pushing my basket leading the grandma.  Someone said she ran back towards us but on the other side.  I dashed away from the basket hoping to catch her because Grandma had her hands full.  I realized I darted away from my littlest.  I turned around and this precious grandad is standing next to the basket.  “I thought I should probably stand next to her so she wouldn’t be alone.” “Yes! Thank you!”

At this point the grandma and little girl were reunited in a huge embrace.  My heart was racing, and I spent the rest of my Costco trip blinking back tears and swallowing the lump in my throat.  I could feel her fear deep in my bones.  I know what it’s like to be lost.

Peace is a gift.  You know this if you have ever been without it.  It’s a deep feeling.  It is unexplainable when it’s from Him. Peace that passes understanding.  I have definitely had peace bestowed instantaneously in a time of chaos, but often my experience is that peace involves a process.

We have been in a space lately where we have felt no peace in regards to one part of our lives.  Our hearts have been jumbled and heavy and at times numb.  We had a moment just recently where were sitting together in church.  Just getting to sit together is a part of the process because for over 9 months one of us has been out of the sanctuary with our littlest. Ross looked at me, and I looked at him.  We were feeling the same thing ~ peace.  We were a little confused because peace has been such a foreign feeling, and we were beginning to think that we were never know this peace again in this space. There was a sigh of relief in the moment, a breath of Heaven touching our souls.  We didn’t say anything in the moment, but the minute we got in the front seat of the van, we looked again at each other. “I felt peace today,” he said.  “Me too. Deep peace.”  We really didn’t have much else to say other than to acknowledge its presence. We were grateful, but cautious.  Our hearts have been grieving, and grieving hearts are cautious.

I have felt like that little girl in Costco so often in the last year.  I have been composed just begging the Lord to show His face. “Where are you, Lord? Help me find you, Lord.” I have been the one in a panicked, full-out sprint looking for Him and grasping at all the places He could be.  I have ignored the help and comfort along the way that may get me back to Him.  I have been completely unaware of the community that is surrounding the others that are a part of my process (like the grandfather that stood next to my basket with my littlest).  And now that I’ve found Him, my heart is beating so fast from my panic, that I can’t believe that he is there and really meeting me.  It’s hard to believe I’ve found Him.  And if I really have found Him, will I ever lose Him again?

This is grief.  It’s a process.  You aren’t sure where you will land once the peace is found again, but you know the cycle to be so intense that you can’t imagine that you will ever let this happen again.  Then you remember we are in this world; in this world, you will have troubles.

I teach and talk to people about grief a lot.  A little while back, a dear sister shared this particular image with me about grief.  It is by far the most accurate image I’ve seen.


Grief is just this.  It is not linear.  The moments loop around, and you can experience them over and over sometimes.  This process can be quick just like the little girl in Costco, but this process can also take much, much longer.  Honestly, life is just one big grieving process if you think about it, but He is promised to us. He is here, and there is more.  Eternity and perfect peace are coming in full.  Just like that Grandma was there the whole time, He is always with us.  Peace is here.  It’s just a process to experience it.

I am embracing the process, believing that the process is just as holy as the peace itself.

2 Corinthians 5:

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.