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.


Expect That

I rushed around the house gathering all the things.  We were headed to the pool, and I feel like the preparation is a bit endless at times.  I finally put my own swimsuit on and called the girls to the bathroom.  This day we were putting their hair up so they could actually see where they were swimming.  And then I saw them. The most disgusting, icky, anxiety-producing, tiny bugs in her hair.  I thought I was going to throw up, scream, and freak out all at the exact same time.  I may have.  No mom wants to be here. I dashed around the house trying to gather myself and figure out what I needed to do, searched my phone for undeniable confirmation, tried calling my husband for moral support (never works when you need it); all the while I’m scratching my own head uncontrollably and trying to keep my heebie geebies at bay. UGH!

To spare you all the details, the house was turned upside down. I spent my entire day washing EVERYTHING I owned in the hottest water possible, and in between I eradicated those little suckers one by one in my daughter’s hair (THE MOST DISGUSTING THING I MAY HAVE EVER DONE!). I treated all of us (except the baby).  My mom came over and performed hair-ectomies.  We conquered these little beasts with every fiber of our beings.

We didn’t make it to the pool.  Yes, the pool will be there the next day and the next and the next, but I couldn’t help but be disappointed.  I actually had a moment of wanting to ignore/pretend that the little beasts did not exist…because this wasn’t how the day was supposed to go.  I really was very angry.  No part of me wanted to surrender to THIS change of plans. Seriously.

I thought a lot that day in between my angry outbursts, a tearful phone call to my mom, and endless paranoia.  Expectations for my day were ruined.  Expectations for the summer felt a little bruised, and I’ve completely forgotten what I expected and dreamed about for the year.

Expectations, assumptions, even dreams and desires can all get a little jumbled and distorted in this world ~ broken world. Having children has absolutely ruined any idealistic expectations I’ve ever had.  I don’t say this harshly. Honestly, I am grateful.  I am an idealist at my very core and sanctification is necessary in this area. Valuing how things ought to be in the perfect world comes naturally to me. Some ideals are shared among the general public ~ ideally you wouldn’t have a car wreck, have to work, break a bone, burn your finger, miss a sale, pick bugs out of your daughter’s hair, etc, etc, etc.  I have my own personal ideals too.  A cup of coffee alone in the quiet of my home, a wrap-around porch, a made bed everyday, children getting toys out one at a time, quiet time and exercise before my children rise, date night every week with my husband, eating a peaceful dinner as a family, being a meal-planner extraordinaire, being a gentler mom, etc, etc, etc. (See, I’m an idealist.) Some expectations can’t be qualified as even ideal…they are lofty and unattainable ~ children never fighting, no spills in my house, clean floors, world peace just to name a few.

I have a tendency for my ideal expectations of others to expect that they not sinners or even just DIFFERENT than me. While Christ’s blood washes us clean and makes us righteous, we are only human, and we still reside in a broken world. AND we are also all DIFFERENT. Others are definitely going to destroy our expectations simply because they are living and functioning in this same broken world differently than us.  We will inevitably disappoint others, and others will disappoint us.  I have learned over the years to truly meet people where they are at.  This may mean that I need to ask a few questions to understand where they sit, but expecting them to be where I am is ridiculous and dishonoring. While this lesson began in my dating life, it has continued through friendship, marriage, and motherhood.  Expecting everyone to be exactly where I am is in that category of unattainable expectations.  Yet, it’s where I camped for many years.  It was not only life-sucking but also incredibly degrading to others and unfair.  Trying to get others to sit in my same perspective, life, convictions destroyed and bruised many friendships.  I am grateful for many that walked through this season with me and still call me “friend” on the other side.

Realistic expectations are hard.  It means that we have to set aside our ideals and look at circumstances and people for how and who they really are.  This can feel just as life-sucking sometimes, but I have found that it is indeed the opposite.  When we take a moment to step back and see things for how they really are and accept that, we are able to give freedom to circumstances and to others that allows life to happen and Jesus to reign.  I would venture to say that our expectations of circumstances and others and our fight to meet them often represses the work of the Spirit and what Jesus would like to do.  Our expectations put Him in a box that He was never intended to fit in.  When I choose to be in the moment and expect only what they moment is offering, Jesus will indeed meet with me in that moment.

Choosing to be in the real moment is an invitation for the Lord. JESUS becomes the realistic expectation, and He then guides your heart.  Grace (Jesus Himself) can then be given to others and to the circumstance.

In The Liturgy of the Ordinary Tish Warren quotes Dallas Dillard when he profoundly writes in The Divine Conspiracy, “God has yet to bless anyone except where they actually are.”

Jesus can touch me and move through me and bless me when I can be in the moment of picking tiny, disgusting bugs out of my daughter’s hair instead of still hustling to make my ideal pool day happen.  The thing with ideal expectations is we end up hustling to attain them and all the while missing what is REALLY happening.  Often we don’t only miss the real, we rally against it. Realistic expectations are only hard because you have to be okay with the real world, the real moment, the real person.  You have to have the faith to believe that His intention was always to meet you in the real not in the ideal.

This moment is the real.  This is the moment that you can expect something.

What is the moment or the person offering? Expect that.

Page Turner

I am in the middle of writing a book all about story, so I am a little timid about sharing thoughts about story here.  I’m new to this “formal” author gig, and I’m learning things every day. Craft, proposals, and pitches are words I’m soaking in lately.  I’ve been working on a pitch for my book or what most call an elevator synopsis, and it’s not as easy as you might think.  I don’t want to give too much away (and this is not my pitch), but the book is about my story and your story and how all stories are for His glory.  And while I would like to stay away from writing much about story and glory, the recent events of my story have got my heart in all kinds of knots.

This year’s chapter of my story has proven to be a page turner, and we still have more plot twists coming soon.  I’m tempted to skip ahead. That’s the funny part about life though; you don’t get to skip ahead.  I’ve spent the better part of adulthood learning to be okay with some hard parts of my story.  I’ve come to know deep in my soul and my spirit that all parts are indeed beautiful and glorious.  It used to take getting on the other side of the story and several years of processing for me to be able to see the beauty, but my perspective has changed. I sit in a much different place than ever before.

When I used to spend time wondering and fretting about the next season or how to move on from a hard season, now I sit KNOWING that the Lord will be near and His glory will come ~ His beauty and goodness will shine through. This I know. Don’t get me wrong. The unknown is still anxiety producing and often confusing; but what is known is far more essential and beautiful.

So when I think about what is written in this last chapter and what will be written in the months to come, I am confident my God is near me.  He knows and has always known.

This year has been full of surprises for me and my people. I started a new schedule (which will be changing again). I never dreamed that Ross would have a new job or that I would have 2 months plus of severe myopathy.  I never considered how deeply my family would be affected by all of it (a house full of intensely emotional little women). It never occurred to me that we would be struggling with the way we meet with the Lord and His Bride.  That is just this year so far. (He wrote other stories during other years that are still unfathomable to me some days.)  This Fall will bring some more plot twists that I honestly would not have hand-picked to be a part of my story.

But this I know ~  I love and trust my Author and He is good.  He has never failed, never forsaken, never hurt.  He is full of love, goodness, beauty, kindness.

I’m pretty sure that no one get to dictate most of their story.  And I know from experience that when you try to write it yourself, He will do a red-pen lettering job that will embarrass you to your core.  (If you have never had someone take a red pen to your writing, it’s worth the brutal experience.)

There’s something else in all of this that is really important.  Not only are you a poor author of your own story, you are also a poor author of other’s story.  Their story has glory and goodness, too.  Their story is intricately woven into His glory too. I am so much more comfortable with other’s stories than ever before.  I feel little need to intervene. (Side Note: Remind me I wrote this when I have teenage daughters. Every time I say something like this, I think about having teenage girls and I want to take it all back.) I feel little need to influence anyone’s story further than what the Holy Spirit leads.  This is HUGE growth for me.  I spent most of my college years trying to write my own story; I then felt the need to control other’s so that mine would work out as I planned.  BIG fail. HUGE.  The Lord was mighty and kind to make it all beautiful, but I sure hurt a lot of people along the way.  The days are sad when I think about the parts of their story I wrote that ended up being some of their hardest parts.

I am much more content allowing Him to write this story than I’ve ever been.  Enduring pain and watching my family endure life with me is not a chapter I ever want to read again, but I know Him to be faithful and good.  The intimacy we have all known with Him and one another is something I could never craft on my own. Just thinking of the next plot twists make my heart ache, but I know that there is a story being written far beyond my own understanding.  It’s not just my story either. One of the most humbling heartaches is knowing that the Lord is writing your children’s story as He writes yours.  I wish I could spare them some of the plot lines and twists, but their story is being written by the same award-winning, best-selling Author.

I think I’ve decided that being present in the story may matter the most. Isn’t presence what produces intimacy? When I think about Paul and all of the affliction that he suffered, I am always struck with how present he was not only with the story but also with the Lord.  Have you ever driven home and not remembered how you got there until something scary happened or read a book so fast that you’re not sure what you just read until you get to a really good part or hard part?  Yeah, I’m not doing that any more.  I’m showing up for this story.  I am embracing it as much as I know how.  ‘Cause I know the Author, and He’s the best in the business.

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

Is there a part of your story that has been made beautiful by the best-selling Author of life?  If you are willing to share, I would love to hear your story.

Kindergarten Tears

We took a couple of pictures this morning, finished wrapping up teachers gifts, and prayed the Lord’s Prayer on the way to school like we have done every morning this year.  The girls wanted to play on the playground before school.  I told them that we could play after school. Another mom heard me and said, “We have to say yes on the last day.” She has said “yes” a lot more than me this year.  I’ve hurried my girls past her and her little boy more times than I would like to count as she said yes to play and I said, “We need to go.”

My oldest doesn’t love transition. She likes to be prepared for everything. But, if I was going to be honest, she gets it from her mama.  Today was the last day of kindergarten. We chose a sweet Kindergarten that is a part of an early learning program here in town. It is four days a week from 9am – 2pm, but she is totally ready for 1st grade. I loved that she wasn’t gone every day, all day.  Neither of us were ready for that. However, she begged me for months to consider Stay and Play.  This gives them an extra hour of play at school.  I told her she could do it for one day a week the last month of school.  The last Stay and Play was Tuesday, and today was the last day. I wasn’t prepared.

The last week or so I’ve been feeling like the Lord was finally gentling something in my spirit.  Like I said in my last blog, I’ve been waiting for six years.  There is a grief that is coming with this gentling, though.

I wasn’t prepared for the tears that flowed as I stood on that playground.

I cried for all the times I was hurried and overwhelmed.  All the times I said “no” to playing.

I cried tears of gratefulness for the teachers that have loved my little girl this year.  They have seen the BEST in her.  I cried for all the times I’ve missed it.  I also cried for the way these teachers have taught me.  They have taught me to chill out, and they’ve reminded me as I have wrangled all three of my beauties that I will miss it. Today I really understood what they meant.   I cried for my gratefulness of the preschool teachers that have walked with me at another little ELC and continue to. They prepared me for Kindergarten and continue to love me well and give me grace.

I cried for the guardedness I feel towards the other moms ~ all my insecurities.  I’ve wondered for years why I feel so vulnerable with other moms.  I have been so fearful of not being liked or accepted or understood. I cried thankfulness of the other moms that have pushed past my boundaries this year and made me feel loved. I cried because I wish still that I had tried harder and not kept a distance.

I cried behind my dollar floral sunglasses for all the distractions I have surrendered to just to cope. Netflix, Facebook and all the other junk I waste my time doing.  I cried because the days really are long and the years really are short.  You really don’t get these days back.  I cried because it’s taken me six years to take that breath and see that.

I cried because I will miss that place and those people.  I cried because my daughter will miss her friends and teachers, and I remember hating that feeling.  I cried because it all went so fast.

I cried because you never know if what you are doing in parenting is the right thing, but we have a God who always knows.  Thank you, Jesus, that you KNOW.

Last night Ross and I were talking about parenting.  A walk and scooter ride turned into a lesson for my oldest last night. I told him that lately I find myself asking, “In the end, what do I want them to know and walk away with?”  This morning one of my writing friends posted on Instagram about her latest blog.  Her youngest is graduating, and she posted the same question: “What do I really want them to know?”

In the end, I want them to all know that Jesus is the only true way and that He is always with them.  I want them to know that following Him will always be for their good and His glory. I’m glad this is what her teachers wanted her to know this year also.  I feel like this is a stake in the ground for her and for me.

I finished my second year of kindergarten today.  I feel like a little girl all over again.  I feel vulnerable and sad and full of emotion.  I really hate good-byes, and I still hate change.  I also feel proud.  I’ve learned a lot…more than I ever thought.

There’s been a lot of tears this year.  Tears from a precious kindergartener and tears from her mama more than once ~ some days walking away from her kindergarten room.  But today’s kindergarten tears are not cried in vain.  There is deep purpose in these tears today.

The Most Effective Communicator

A good friend texted me the other morning.  She told me she was feeling frazzled with life.  She felt disorganized, and she was frustrated at how she responded to her kids over and over with snappiness, irritation, and yelling.  She texted, “You seem so organized and with it.”

Little did she know that less than 12 hours before I was huffing and puffing to get in the car and head to Trader Joe’s leaving my husband with one crying baby, one sad kid, and one angry  kid.  I just couldn’t seem to communicate without screaming, and I needed to breathe.  I was frustrated with myself and my kids.  I can’t seem to be an effective communicator, and my kids can’t seem to listen.  I started to have it out with the Lord. “For SIX years I have asked you to grow gentleness in me! SIX YEARS Lord.  Seriously.”  He listened attentively and then just spoke, “The most effective communicator has been and will always be the Holy Spirit.”  I pulled into Trader Joe’s and googled what I had just heard.  That had to be a quote of someone’s.  As an author, I’m not really into ripping off someone else’s quote; it’s kind of illegal.  The idea was certainly out there, but no one had quoted that before.  So I wrote it down.

The most effective communicator has been and will always be the Holy Spirit.

I texted my friend back the next morning and told her about getting in my car like Trader Joe’s was my first vacation in six years.  I told her about how NOT with it I really am.  I told her I had been praying for SIX years for the Lord to change my response, my tone, my spirit.  I told her I was with her in this thing. I told her I will pray for her, and I asked her to pray for me.

The Holy Spirit is more dear to me than ever before.  I pray the fruits of the Spirit over my girls and myself in the van almost daily.  I highlight gentleness and patience for me ~ kindness and self-control for my girls.  I will never forget almost 13 years ago when a precious mentor gently reminded me, “You are not the Holy Spirit.” No, I am not the Holy Spirit.  He is the one moving and compelling and changing people.  I remember this more than anything throughout parenting.  I am not the Holy Spirit.  I will not move my children, save my children, compel my children.  The Holy Spirit will do that.

The Holy Spirit is going to do His thing whether we want Him to or not.  I was talking with a friend the other day. I was worked up and passionate about what I was talking about, but midway through talking my voice changed and I began to “preach.” I could hear what I was saying like I was listening to someone else, and I wasn’t sure what the next sentence was going to be.  I knew it was no longer me speaking, but the Holy Spirit had something to say to her.  Probably not even 10 minutes before that conversation, I had yelled or been snappy with a kid in my house. He still spoke through me.

The beauty of the Holy Spirit is that He can take over whether you surrender or not.  If this weren’t true, I’m not sure that I would still be here. Too many times He has protected and led me even when I wasn’t walking near Him.

Which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. 1 Corinthians 2:13 (NASB)

Have you ever been listening to someone talk and their voice and tone change?  If you were nodding off, you look up and start to listen.  We have a gentleman at our church that has a distinct Holy Spirit voice.  It is always so interesting to witness. He will be preaching and the Holy Spirit voice will speak, and more often than not, he ends up tearful.  He is moved by what the Holy Spirit is speaking through Him.

I am moved that the Holy Spirit uses ANY of us. How great is our God that He uses broken over and over for His glory and for our good.

It’s significant that He so often uses broken, because we tend to not trust the Holy Spirit could speak through certain people at certain times.  When my husband and I are odds about something, it’s more difficult for me to believe that the Lord could use him or he could be a vessel for the Holy Spirit.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  In the same way we often feel like people in authority over us are always hearing for us and what they say we tend to take as gospel.  However, it is important that no matter what we hear from someone else, we petition the Holy Spirit to confirm or speak to us regarding this.

It’s an interesting balance between listening and questioning.  Ultimately it results in what we all need to walk in this faith: abiding.  The Lord has spoken to me in and out of obedience.  When I am abiding in Him, though, the communication is often and most clear.

If I can remain in the Lord (abide) while parenting and throughout my days, the words and actions that come from me will be that of the Holy Spirit.  My blood pressure rises even as I type this.  When I was in college I read Andrew Murray’s Abide In Christ.  From then on I had this deep grasp on what it meant to abide, and at the time abiding became natural.  Then life happened.  Abiding feels like this thing I used to know how to do before I became intensely distracted by all of the life that moves around me.

My abiding journey began my senior year in college.  It was a precious year that was a stake in the ground in my walk with the Lord.  I was not in any kind of ministry.  No one was leading or dictating how my life would look any more. I was not leading anyone else (officially). There were no rules.  It was just me and Jesus and some beautiful Jesus-loving people that I loved like family.  It was simple.  And I could hear Him at every turn, and I felt that I was moving with His heartbeat.  Now I can barely hear what I’m saying out loud.

Yet, I know His voice.

 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. ~ John 10:27

I am so glad that nothing can snatch us out of His hand (John 10:28). I know His voice, and even now, though sometimes He has to yell, I know when He speaks.  And I know that what He is speaking is the BEST option.  And I know if I let Him speak through me, what needs to be said will actually be spoken.

Jesus left us with a Helper.  He did not leave us alone.  We do not have to rely on our own ways or pull up our bootstraps.  We can call on the Helper and petition for His move, His voice, His heart.  And when we remain in the Source of the Helper, the Giver of the Helper, we can truly rest in Him.

More often than not, we (our ways, our affections, our dreams and our desires) get in His way of moving.  We hustle to make all of the things of our heart happen and, yet, the Helper knows.  And He’s here.  And He loves us deeply.  If we abide, He will indeed lead us into our good which is ultimately His good.

There was a summer in college that I had the opportunity to work at a summer camp back in my home town.  The draw was not that the summer camp was a Christian summer camp that was at home.  The draw was indeed a boy. I would get to be with him all summer if I worked there. I asked the Lord for wisdom.  I heard a clear “NO,” and moments later picked up the phone and told them I would be there. I called the boy and told him I would be there.  This was the beginning of a horrible summer. Yes, there were good moments, but I often wonder what kind of amazing summer that would have been if I had obeyed.  Here’s where the sovereign God thing can be a bit much…He knew what I would choose before I chose it.  And He was with me the whole time, y’all.  Lots and LOTS of convicting that summer.  He still used me to love on some sweet 6 and 7 year olds.  I learned a ton of Scripture.  He was there the whole time.  But it was not His best, because I chose my “best.”

Right now I often find myself hustling for the kids my heart desires, but this is not the only place we hustle for our worthiness (as my close sister often says).  I think one of the places we do this most is within church and ministry.  We feel the need to help Him move.  Just reading through Acts will remind you that there is nothing but the Gospel and the Holy Spirit that builds the church.  Preach the Gospel, love one another and be subject to Christ in everything…The Holy Spirit will do the rest.  As a communicator, I often think that it might be my responsibility to present Jesus in a certain way for people to see Him and know Him.  But you can build all the on-ramps in life you want to for people, and the Holy Spirit will ultimately be the one that steals their heart, and He will most certainly get all the glory. We do not draw people to Jesus; the Holy Spirit is who does that.  We only need to be willing to surrender to Him.

You are not under the law, with its inexorable do, but under grace, with its blessed believe what Christ will do for you. ~ Andrew Murray

So I want my words to be His, not because I want a changed kiddo, but because I am abiding in Him and fellowshipping with the Most High.  I am so glad that He shows up and uses me as a vessel more often than I deserve.  He even uses me sometimes to communicate Himself to my kids.  Most of the time I feel like I am stripping them of the Gospel because of my brokenness.  But the pressure is indeed off.  He wants to use me. He chose me as their parent, and being a parent is most certainly a privilege that should not be taken lightly.  But the Holy Spirit is not trusting in me…He wants me to trust Him. 

We do not have to demand His presence or His holiness.  We don’t even have to work for it. We must just believe Him, and surrender to Him. He is already here. He is moving, active, and very, very effective.

Carrying their spirit

As Mother’s Day approached I began to think deeply about what I consider motherhood to be.  I posted on Facebook that motherhood is about carrying someone else’s spirit.  You don’t have to be a biological mom to do this.  It is a privilege and an honor to carry someone else’s spirit, but definitely not always easy.  It can also be overwhelming and exhausting.

What does it mean to carry another’s spirit?

One of my mentors often reminds me that we are living in a spiritual world.  There is a physical world, but the spiritual world is functioning too.  There is a depth to this life that cannot be seen, but it can be engaged.

1 Thessolonians 5:23

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 6:12

12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

My oldest has been struggling deeply the last 2 months.  It shouldn’t have taken this child life specialist long to recognize that she was struggling with my health difficulties the last month and a half.  We were sitting in the parking line at school. I had just hobbled my way back to the van and groaned as I climbed up into my seat.  I am over the pain and exertion of energy that just getting in the car is expending.  She says, “Mommy, my mind is telling me that you are faking it.”  “Why do you think your mind is telling you that?”  She replies, “Because it has been SO long…”

Yes, it has been SO long.  My husband and I processed how she is so used to us getting sick and getting better in a few days time.  Also, mommies are just not supposed to go down at all.  We have got to SUCK IT UP.  People need us.  The only other time that I have been down for any amount of time and it affected the order of our life is when I had another baby.  My oldest showed similar signs of intense struggle about 6 months after my third daughter was born.

The controlling mom in me wants to say, “Suck it up buttercup.”  This is how life goes.  But her spirit has been entrusted to me not to control but to carry.

Control – determine the behavior

I’m not sure if you have tried to determine the behavior of a child before, much less your own children. I can tell you from real life experience that determining the behavior of a child is futile and ridiculous.  You will most definitely have to continue to determine more and more and more behavior for them ’til you end up crushing their spirit.  Unfortunately, I can say this because I often do this.

Carrying a child’s spirit is a much different thing.

Carry – Support and move someone or something from one place to another

When you carry a spirit, you bear the weight of the spirit.  You do not determine where it needs to be and tell it how to get there. Instead you pick it up in all of its heaviness and move it to the next place.

This is hard, yet deeply personal.  It says I am WITH you in this.  It means that you have no desire to force someone to the next place or expect them to be there. When you carry a spirit, it also means that you look deeper than what meets the physical eye.  It is the part of someone else that you can’t see, but it’s functioning. It means that you are choosing to be with them in whatever they are in and bear their weight as you get to the next place WITH them.  There is still a goal of movement, but the movement requires strength and servanthood rather than a sideline and enforcement of the rules.

Luke 15:

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.  

He joyfully puts that lost sheep up on His shoulders.  He carries it.  It has run amuck and not listened to the voice of the Shepherd.  This sheep went and got itself lost.  Jesus doesn’t leave it to teach it a lesson or whip it all the way home. He joyfully picks it up and carries it home.

This is the kind of mother I want to be.  I could be angry at my oldest for telling me that she thinks I’m faking it.  I could completely ignore what her spirit is telling me and just tell her to get over it.  However, I want to joyfully carry my girls’ spirits and help them find their way to truth. Even in the midst of all the hard and wayward times, I want to help them and find their spirit with them.  This is indeed hard.

This takes me letting my Savior carry me.  You won’t know how to shepherd someone else’s spirit ’til you have had your spirit shepherded.  And while the shepherd often leads from the back, we know he also carries sometimes.

I think about this is relation to the leaders, elders, pastors, teachers, friends, mentors…not just moms and dads.  You are going to encounter another spirit in your daily interaction with people. You have a choice to try to control their physical and determine their behavior, or you can choose to carry their spirit.  It really is the difference between the Kingdom way and the world’s way.

In the Kingdom, it’s not about rules.  It’s about boundaries.

In the Kingdom, it’s not about enforcement. It’s about guidance (from behind).

In the Kingdom, it’s not about counting your losses.  It’s about leaving the masses to shepherd the one.

In the Kingdom, it’s not about power.  It’s about laying down your life for another. You may never be powerful.

In the Kingdom, it’s not about controlling. It’s about carrying.

Rose-Colored Glasses

Sometimes it’s hard for me to jump on the positivity bandwagon.  Positive thinking, positive outcome. I would really like to believe that this is true, but I can think of story after story where no amount of positive thinking would change the outcome of the situation at hand. And honestly it may take a while before a positive viewpoint could change how someone felt about the situation.

When I was in high school, my girlfriends and I had these really cool matching sunglasses.  They had rose-colored lenses.  I wish I still had them.  Back then I was convinced that the color really did make me feel happier, and we were clearly super hot wearing them.  Maybe it did make me happier to look through rose-colored lenses all the time…  My mom painted my room yellow during that same time period.  I remember reading how happy the color yellow could make you.  When Ross and I first got married, we had a red wall in our living room and red accents in almost every room.  After our first year, we moved into a new house and as time went by Ross would often request “calmer colors” for our home.  We finally remodeled and switched our passionate, fiery red for teal and yellow tones.  I can’t deny that it feels more peaceful… However, I can also say that our peaceful colors don’t change that we have three very passionate, fiery girls that fill the space of our home.  It doesn’t matter what peaceful room they walk into; things can become very chaotic, very quickly.  And I can confidently say that when looking at crap through rose-colored lenses, it’s still crap on the other side.

As I have walked through suffering for the last couple of weeks, I’ve realized that I would have loved to have had some rose-colored glasses lying around just to give them a try.  I would have tried ANYTHING to make the pain go away or for moving my body in the midst of pain to be comfortable.  I have often wondered why one verse from the Word of God and meditating on it wasn’t touching the pain.  Pain is an interesting beast.  I am someone who becomes very internal while coping when the pain is high.  I just don’t want to talk about it.  Ross always tells people how quiet I am in labor and through transition of childbirth.  (I know it’s surprising.) But it’s the only way I can cope.  I have to concentrate.  And it’s not positivity that gets me through it…it’s the acceptance of the pain in that moment and creating some kind of plan to move through it.  The last few weeks I’ve almost beat myself up internally that I couldn’t seem to get my spirit into the presence of the Lord enough to meditate on Him or a Scripture through the pain.  It was never going to happen.  BUT, I’ve been so grateful for the BODY OF CHRIST that has done that for me in the midst of my pain.  The people who text every day still and ask how I am doing or offer prayers and encouragement or just plain statements of sadness with me.  The Church has pressed in when I couldn’t.  Because all I’ve been able to do is surrender…surrender to the pain, the sadness, the grief, the fear at moments, and then to the HOPE of Jesus and His Cross.

As I watched another family lose their precious child the other night, I can guarantee that no amount of positive thinking was going to bring a positive outcome.  There was no earthly positive outcome waiting for them at the end of their horrific night.  But Jesus.  He was THERE.  He was with them in the hospital room, He was with them when they stood in front of the surgeon. He was with their precious child as he came and went from life over and over.  He was there. And the hope and the joy of the cross…the reality of eternity…that…that was THERE WITH the family.

If someone had been wearing rose-colored lenses that night, they would have taken them off. Those rose-colored lenses would have fogged the reality of Jesus and life and death…reality.  Sometimes the positivity gospel can fog up seeing things as they really are…

The Tenth Avenue North song I Have This Hope (emphasis added):

As I walk this great unknown
Questions come and questions go
Was there purpose for the pain?
Did I cry these tears in vain?

I don’t want to live in fear
I want to trust that You are near
Trust Your grace can be seen
In both triumph and tragedy

I have this hope
In the depth of my soul
In the flood or the fire
You’re with me and You won’t let go

But sometimes my faith feels thin
Like the night will never end
Will You catch every tear
Or will You just leave me here?

But I have this hope
In the depth of my soul
In the flood or the fire
You’re with me and You won’t let go

So, whatever happens I will not be afraid
Cause You are closer than this breath that I take
You calm the storm when I hear You call my name
I still believe that one day I’ll see Your face

And I have this hope
In the depth of my soul
In the flood or the fire
You’re with me
I have this hope
In the depth of my soul
In the flood or the fire
You’re with me and You won’t let go

In the flood or the fire
You’re with me and You won’t let go

You can sing this song differently if you KNOW the fire and the flood. If you really believe He is “closer than this breath I take,” you know this HOPE.

He’s NEAR.  So very near.  And there is joy and hope in that, but it’s not always happy or positive.  And it doesn’t necessarily feel good.  It may feel holy but not good.  Sometimes it just sucks.  I don’t believe in wallowing or being negative about all things.  It’s important not to take sin and confuse it for pain or trials.  Sin can definitely lead to pain and trials, but there are some trials and pain that come just because we are on this side of eternity. We have to take them for what they are, and while wallowing or playing in your own mess that you made is not my favorite thought, I do believe in being real.

The positivity gospel has no hope, no Sovereign God attached to it.  It’s all up to you.  If you are positive, good things will happen.  There is a hospital full of people wherever you are that will tell you that is a lie from the pit of Hell.

I know so many people suffering right now.  One in particular is a friend of a friend.  She has been battling cancer for a LONG time.  Recently it has just gotten harder and harder.  It is devastating to watch even from afar.  But my friend and her group of friends that are loving on this beautiful woman make me so proud.  They are not at ALL afraid of the hard and ugly.  Can I just tell you that it is very HARD and ugly?  And this beautiful community has wrapped their loving arms around this family and been so willing to go to the depths of awful with them.  They have been willing to remodel their kitchen, make t-shirts about bravery, share her story to prayer warriors and sit with them in their darkest moments. This group of friends celebrates with her when things are getting better, and they travel with her to depths of despair. (***As I finished editing this post, I texted this paragraph to my friend to tell her how proud I was of her. She responded by saying her sweet friend went to be Jesus this morning…***)

I truly believe you can really only celebrate with the people who have gone to depths with you.  You want the people who pull you out of the pit to be the same people who were willing to sit in the pit with you and who really know what the pit looked like. 

The only positive thing I can always say is Jesus is here.  He is with me and you in ALL of it.  You can wear your rose-colored glasses if it makes you feel better. Big earrings help me.  But at some point you have to be willing to strip off all your trying and big earrings and rose-colored glasses and just sit with someone in the crap they are sitting in and say “This is really, really crappy. I’m sorry…And He’s here with us and He’s never leaving you.  I also brought some cookies.”

Positive thinking sounds really good, but it’s not what gets people out of the pit. What gets people out of the pit is the people who come and sit with them in the pit and help them make the plan to get out.  I think about the fire and police shows I watch (guilty pleasure).  It’s not often that a rescue out of a pit or sewer or well happens without someone going down into the depths to get the victim.  And rarely do you see them go down and just rescue.   There is some amount of identifying, looking in their eyes, validating, encouraging and being with them in the moment of fear.  Then a plan is put into place and a rescue happens.  But no amount of cheering or encouraging someone from the top of the pit is going to get them out.

More than the rose-colored glasses or positivity classes, I think the Body of Christ is crucial in helping our perspective, helping shift the tides of hearts, and giving us the Joy we are looking for.  It is the people who come around you, sit in your pit with you, and then offer you a hand and help you see the light.  It is the people around you that share the same HOPE as you.  They know that eternity is coming and this side of it just sucks sometimes.  They are the ones willing to say that this is not the best.  They are the ones that KNOW He makes all things beautiful but are okay saying that this (whatever this is in your life) is not yet beautiful.

All the self-talk, speaking it out, or faking-it-til-you-make-it won’t make the hardest thing you’ve ever experienced better.  But the Hope of Jesus and the Truth that He is with you will make the pit bearable maybe even beautiful, and the people who sit with you there and offer a hand out are the most precious, holy parts of it all.

I would challenge you to not downplay another person’s experience.  I would challenge you to experience it with them.  In the emergency room, we can literally go from a death in one room into a room with a kiddo with a broken arm.  The families reactions may not be identical, but there are some very emotional responses in a room with the broken arm that needs surgery.  My co-workers and I are often tempted to remind them to be thankful that their kid is alive and that surgery is really not a big deal compared to what they could be experiencing.  But to the family with the kiddo going to surgery with a broken arm, this may be the worst, scariest experience of their life.  We have the opportunity to sit with them in that and the reality of the fear.  I guarantee they will hear our hope more when we empathize with their pain.  You miss the opportunity to offer the Hope and Joy you possess when you downplay someone else’s experience.  You lose the opportunity for people to really see and feel the hands and feet of Jesus.  If you can’t sit in the pit, then don’t expect to be part of the rescue.

It says in Proverbs (17:22),  “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”  I think it would be easy to interpret this as positivity being good medicine. But joy is far different from positivity.  Joy is what Jesus looked at on the cross knowing what was coming. “…for the JOY that was set before Him, He endured the cross…” Hebrews 12:2. It also says in Romans 12:12 to “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Joyful in hope…Our hope is in Jesus and the Cross. You also see time and time again in the Word that joy is birthed out of trials and mourning. It says in Psalm 126:5 “Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.”  There is holiness in the hard all throughout the Word of God.  When you look at Jesus, it was by His STRIPES that we were healed (Isaiah 53:5). There may be pain in the night, but the joy comes in the morning… (Your Love Never Fails, Newsboys) 

Earlier today I was listening to a close friend and sister repent for always wanting to drag people into the “kingdom,” but realizing that she missed a lot of life and friendship in the midst of going for it with people.  She didn’t miss it all, but her heart was grieving what she had missed today by always wanting to get people to the next place.  It’s not our first choice, probably, to share in someone’s pain and hard.  It can feel like too much.  Three weeks ago, before steroidal myopathy, when it was just my shoulder that was hurt and my husband was out-of-town, a precious friend of mine (who is going through her own pain and hardship) loaded up her family and brought me a meal.  It was so precious to me. I pray that she felt so much joy in serving from her own place of pain.  There is something about putting yourself out there and being willing ~ getting in the pit no matter where you are in your own life ~ that is so incredibly holy.

It is in the pit and the pain that we can tangibly see Jesus in the face of the Church.  Bride of Christ, we have a calling not to be positive, but to offer the joy of the HOPE OF CHRIST.  He is our hope and the hope of the world.

May we be people who know when to take off the rose-colored glasses and climb into the pit…  May we be people who offer THE hope in the midst of the pit.

Positivity has got nothing on the Joy found in Jesus.