Friday, December 30, 2011


Goals. Resolutions. Words for the year. New Year’s intimidates me.

It’s not that I’m against intentionality. I think it’s good to have disciplines and goals. I think...

Since my job ended, I’ve been trying to write for at least 30-60 minutes a day. Mostly because I love writing, but also because I don’t want to let go of the good habits my recent job created. Because of the research and writing required to craft curriculum, I now know a natural rhythm of wrestling with words and thoughts and beliefs and faith each day.

Writing is now a way of life for me. I can’t imagine my days without it, and when a day goes by that I don’t put ink to paper or a journal or a screen, I feel a bit lost. I don’t feel like me.

However, there is another kind of lost related to writing that I’m prone to feel. It’s the one that says I need to be extraordinary. I need to be noticed and given recognition to be, well, anything. I need to hone my blog’s theme, gain a following, and pen a book to a real writer.

“You’ll never be good enough,” a convincing voice whispers. “You need a fool-proof plan that guarantees the world knows you exist. You need to be awesome. Now.”

Now. Such an ugly word. Now never allows for process and growth and wrestling and failure. With now, there is no space. And suddenly I’m claustrophobic, grasping for air. I want to live!

I experienced one of these claustrophobic moments recently after I stumbled on a blog that seems amazing. The writer struggles with perfectionism and creates art journal pages. Just like me.

I didn’t have time to look closely at the blog just then so I decided to come back later when I could soak in the message the author had to convey. A week later, I visited the site again.

Her blog that day celebrated the fact she received a book contract with a well-known company, one that I would love to have a book published through one day. My heart hurt and a familiar voice came back.

“She’s not just like you. She’s something. You’re nothing.”

I’m sorry to say those whispered words have been haunting me for a couple of weeks. It messes with my 30-60 minutes a day. It keeps me from my truest and bravest words.

Oh, I’m lost all right. Because I’m choosing to let one person’s success keep me from being me.

Upon a closer look at her blog, I see this author has been obedient to her craft for five years. I spend two weeks intentionally writing, and I feel someone should hand me a contract? Ridiculous.

And another thing…What happened to rejoicing with those who rejoice? What happened to finding my own journey? What happened to delight?

…if I let thoughts of past failures or shortcomings, successes or breakthroughs fill my mind and heart, there is little life or creativity for me in the present.

I find myself paralyzed when I let the many opportunities of the future pile up on the present moment, as though I could be as omnicompetent as the Father Himself. I can’t. None of us can. God prepares many good works ahead of time for me to walk in, but they come to me one at a time because that is my capacity.

My capacity. My life. My living.

Really, that’s what I want to do—live! Here. Now. Being present to the gifts and the words right in front of me.

I like this now. This now allows for space. It allows for joy, grace, and creativity. This now allows for me. Ordinary and free.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Color of Love

“My love is like a red, red rose.”
When Shakespeare penned these words, I think he was on to something. Only in my case of love, it is a red, red ribbon.
In the seventeenth year of my life, I packed up and went off to college. My roommate, Heather, and I sang “Wide Open Spaces” by the Dixie Chicks all the way to Omaha. We set up our dorm room, went to dinner in the cafeteria, and that’s when I met “him.”
Now, “him” doesn’t seem to recall this first encounter. Turns out we all had a mutual friend named Dean. Dean went to high school with Heather and me in Colorado. The other guy at our table, “him,” met Dean through another mutual friend who also happened to know my family and graduated from our high school more than ten years prior. Confused yet? Welcome to Bible college in the Midwest.
As we ate, and “him” didn’t utter a word, Dean explained, “This is Jeff. I’m going to hook one of the two of you up with him by the end of the school year.” 
I leaned over to Heather with my response: “And it won’t be me.”
A few days later, classes began. The second day of classes, I turned 18. My professor made me lead “Happy Birthday to Me” in front of the other students.
I had a red ribbon in my hair.
Why a red ribbon? Two reasons. First, I played volleyball. We always wore ribbons in our hair. I owned a bright blue one that I wore both in high school (Go Lions!) and in college (Go Royals!). But red is my favorite color so I had to have one of those as well.
I wore that red ribbon a lot that first semester of college. I also happened to have all of my classes with Jeff. In time, Jeff started talking to me and walking with me to class and sitting with me at dinner.
Five weeks into the school year, we started dating. Jeff liked my red ribbon. He said it’s what made him notice me.
Today, Jeff and I celebrate nine years of marriage. Last night, I saw a red ribbon sitting on our coffee table. For a moment, I wondered if it came with a Christmas package.
Then, I remembered.
It’s our red, red ribbon. I put it in Kyla’s hair last weekend when she sang in the Christmas Eve service at church.
Most of the time, it’s tucked away in the closet. But not today. Today it happens to be sitting out in our living area. Seems appropriate. Don’t you agree?
I’m thinking of putting it in my hair.
(Above picture is from one of our first dates. I have the red ribbon in my hair.)

Monday, December 26, 2011

These Are The Days...

...when hope and joy and peace reign because of a baby King.

...when giggles come from little girls as they play together and create for hours.

…when I receive a few of my favorite things and find myself more with each turn of the page.

…when I celebrate another year with my man.

…when I’m caught between holidays and a rhythm.

…when I recall the beautiful moments of the months, both the sweet and the difficult.

...when I choose trust over fear as a new year dawns.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Little Help Here

An exciting thing happened to me this week.

But…before I get to it, I want to tell you a quirky little thing about me: I love anything related to spiritual formation. The term “spiritual formation” is based on the passage where Paul tells the Galatians that he longs to see “Christ formed in you” (Galatians 4:19).

Spiritual formation is not something we do. The Holy Spirit transforms our lives into the image of the Son, in His own timing and His own way. As we wait for His work, we trust and make space for Him to move. One way to create room is by spiritual disciplines or practices, such as daily prayer, Scripture reading, or worship.

Along the way, we also need intentional relationships. Many of us have valuable relationships with close friends or mentors. In addition, it’s possible to seek out a spiritual director to help us notice where God is moving and working in our lives. Spiritual directors provide space for listening and honest connection with God.

This is where my love for spiritual formation merges with my life in a practical way. Over the last few years, I’ve sensed a “tug” to offer this kind of purposeful relationship to other people. I’m thinking of becoming a certified spiritual director. A spiritual director meets with individuals but also offers direction to groups in settings such as retreats and workshops.

Honestly, I don’t know if this is the right thing for me. I can say I want to be a director but I haven’t had much of a chance to be a directee first. Most programs, whether graduate degree or certification, require one to sit under a director at some point in the course. (Creighton University even requires their applicants to have sat under a director for two years prior to applying.)

When I was in Colorado, I considered seeking out a spiritual director. I had connections to both directors and programs there. For various reasons, it never fell into place. When we moved to Kansas, I looked online for directors but didn’t come up with much. It caused me to question if this path was just something I was making up. Did God really put this “tug” in my life? Or did I create this idea because of the ties I had to certain individuals in another place?

I’ve tried to hold those questions loosely over the last few months. A rather large feat at times, I might add. I felt kind of disappointed about the whole thing.

This week, I got an e-mail with the words “spiritual direction” in the subject line. Looks like someone in my new church is working on her certificate (I didn’t even know there was a program nearby!) and needs directees to complete her practicum requirements. I, of course, volunteered in about three seconds.

I’m quite excited about it. I can’t wait to see what this opportunity reveals. Even if this experience shows that being a spiritual director is not for me, it’s another chance to see what God is up to as He continues to work on me, in me, and through me.

If you’re curious about spiritual formation, disciplines, or direction, here are a few resources that offer more detailed information:

"A Place for Spiritual Direction" article by Jamin Goggin

Monday, December 19, 2011

Down at The Station

Jeff and I took the girls down to Union Station yesterday afternoon. The first thing I noticed when I stepped in the door was this clock:

It got me reflecting on the movie Hugo that we saw over Thanksgiving weekend. If you haven’t seen this movie, I highly recommend it. The story is enchanting, and it unfolds a powerful message about living out of who you are. Here’s one of my favorite lines:

I’d imagine the whole world was one big machine. Machines never come with any extra parts, you know. They always come with the exact amount they need. So I figured if the entire world was one big machine, I couldn’t be an extra part. I had to be here for some reason. And that means you have to be here for some reason too.

If you have time this Christmas, go see this film. You will be moved by the adventure of two young children, and you just might remember what it is you’re made to do. I could go on but I believe Ben Witherington’s words already do the film justice.

Read the review, see the movie, and then swing by Union Station for one of these:

You'll find it right by the clock!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Permission, Redemption, and Real Lies

All week, I wanted to write something that’s uplifting and encouraging and shows how I’ve grown. How I’ve overcome difficulties and am moving on to good places in my life.

I tried something fun and cutesy and flowery. It didn’t turn out because I’ve been too busy fighting anger and frustration and shame.

It all started on Monday with a post by Sarah Bessey (aka Emerging Mummy), where she states that she’s done asking for permission to speak. She’s getting on with the business of The Kingdom. She’s stepping out into what God has called her to do.

I hear ya, Sarah! Initially, my heart cheered. The conversation continued with the words from Rachel and Esther.

Then, the darkness crept in for me. I thought of my own times when I felt silenced. When the local church I attended as a child acted as if my passion was something to be bridled. I hate how the larger faith community tells women they’re supposed to be quiet little princesses sitting around waiting to be rescued, rather than provide rescue to the hurting and the lost. Dumb lies.

I thought of so many others who are silenced beyond what I can even fathom. They live in fear because of abuse or slavery by sex trafficking. All of this takes place while “good men” sit around and debate. Or worse, turn a deaf ear when they know the truth.

Honestly, at that point in the week, I was doing okay. All of these conversations simply swirled in my head. I know, for the most part, what I believe about women in leadership. I won’t allow my passion to be bridled, and I have, indeed, been in the company of genuinely good men who respect me and encourage me to live out my gifts, no matter the cost. My husband for one.

My friend, Denise, joined the conversation. She added a much-need perspective of the culture in the New Testament. More importantly, she talked about the redemptive approach of God’s law and the acts of the early apostles. The disciples acted this way because of Jesus. He broke into our world and set the example. He made it possible for all of us to live out the Kingdom. To treat one another and be treated with respect and equality.

But then came yesterday. Words about modesty took over my Twitter feed and Facebook wall in response to a piece on Her.meneutics.

I pulled up the article, and my response caught me off guard. Partway through reading the blog, I choked back tears. I remember specific instances of body-shaming language spoken to me by youth leaders, both men and women.

Sharon Hodde Miller wrote:

Shame is great at behavior modification, even when the shaming is not overt. But shame-based language is not the rhetoric of Jesus. It is the rhetoric of his Enemy.

Here we go again with weeding through lies. Only this time, I realized I still believe these ones.

I don’t treat my body with enough respect. I dress frumpy sometimes or go out of my way to cover my curves because I think my body is a disgraceful distraction to men, even when I’m simply standing in a room. That’s basically what I was told.

I don’t place enough priority on exercise or eating right. I don’t know all the reasons for that but I suspect it’s linked to the shame. Along with this, I thought that because I never struggled with an eating disorder that I somehow escaped body issues. That somehow I triumphed and this part of me doesn’t need redemption.

How the #@&% did my mind get SO messed up?!

So, here I am. A broken girl with tears in her eyes. I want so badly to know and experience Jesus’ redemption in every area of my life. My emotions, my mind, my body, and my soul.

I don’t even know what it looks like, but I want to find out. I need to find out. I long for the lies to be torn away.

I want so badly to shout, as Sarah Bessey did, about courage and love and not asking for permission. But I can’t. My voice is weak right now. Choked up. What I need most is the voice of my Father.

May He help me exchange lies for truth. May He enable me to be accept myself, every part of myself. May His redemption in my life be full and immeasureable, beyond what I have ever known or thought, so I may go forth speaking His words to others.

And when I do, you can bet I won’t ask for permission.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

(Awkward) Pause

I'm over on the Rio Family Blog today. Talking about awkward (insert Jim Carrey as The Grinch voice here) moments in Christmas plays during my childhood. Have a fun story or memory to share from the Christmas productions you participated in as a child? Do share!

Catch you here again later this week...

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Lasagna Saga

The journey of the lasagna began over a week ago. Because I’ve been using the same recipe for four years, my husband suggested we try a new kind of lasagna. You know, something different.

That’s when I turned to The Pioneer Woman. Friends rave about her. But, given my culinary issues, I stayed away until now. I mean, her website screams “I am homemaker extraordinaire!” It scares me. ((shutter))

Last weekend, I gathered my ingredients and looked at the cook time in the heading: 30 minutes for prep and 30 minutes to cook. Easy, right? That’s what it said at least.

On Monday night, I cooked the meat. We had a group of leaders arriving at 6:30pm. It was 5. My husband nervously watched the clock and suggested perhaps I just finish the meat and grab something else before our guests arrived. So, meat cooked on Monday.

Tuesday, Christmas party at church. Wednesday, let’s roll up the sleeves and keep on going. But, then, a horror. There, buried deep in the instructions, were the words “the sauce mixture should simmer for 45 minutes.” In short, we ordered pizza while I finished cooking, stirring, and layering. I completed the layering at 7:30pm and placed it in the refrigerator.

Thursday, a meeting at church. Friday, we finally cooked that layered-bad-boy. After his first helping, my husband said, “I like your lasagna better.”

You’d think I’d be upset after all that work. Instead, I threw my arms around him and kissed him. That compliment was almost worth all the trouble. Almost.

And what am I making today? Another Pioneer Woman dinner because I bought the ingredients last weekend, and they expire today. Who knew it would take five days to get around to eating the lasagna? I plan on starting my soup at noon.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

We Wait

I have to admit stepping into Advent has been hard for me this year.

I’ve been pondering its meaning for a couple of weeks while “all the cool kids” write about it. They seem to know something I don’t, and I feel like I should have this figured out by now.

I asked God to show me. Reveal what He wants me to know this year. And, instead of stepping into Advent, I kind of got thrown. Allow me to share a little about my week.

If you’ve read my recent posts, you know I’m trying to figure out what to do next job-wise. I have a possible project but no start date to go with it. There is no way to speed up the process either. It must unfold. Waiting.

On Tuesday, an organization dear to my heart took a major shift. Many people I love are affected by the change. The extent of the impact is unknown. We don’t know what will happen next. Waiting.

My best friend is pregnant and oh-so-sick. After being on bedrest for days, her husband rushed her to the emergency room this morning. As she takes new medication, all she can do is be still. And wait.

Maybe that’s why I’m not sure what to do with Advent 2011. Our family finally took a big step this year by moving to Kansas. I don’t want any more waiting. I like moving. Makes me feel like I’m in control.

Let’s discuss control for a moment as we think about what happened to young Mary. Talk with unexpected angelic presence in her house? Hmmm. Yeah, that most likely wasn’t on the daily to-do list. Give birth to the Savior of the world who is now growing in her womb? Probably not on her list of life-goals.

Yet, what could she do? Wait. Hope. Cling to her Lord. We, too, cling to what we know and more importantly Whom we know when unknown circumstances come our way.

When the news about the organization broke, I sent an article about the transition to my friend, Heather. Under it, I wrote:

I feel sad about it. But I also know God is so much bigger than this. His plan and purposes will prevail no matter what happens. I/we will be faithful to His kingdom.

Maybe that’s it. Yes, there is waiting. But there is also hope. Because we serve a mighty God who came as a small child. His purposes are bigger than the uncertainties. His kingdom is vast.

We trust in His timing. Not our own. We wait, sometimes with groaning, sighing, or tears, in anticipation for Him to come again. We don’t know when. We don’t know how things will work out now. But we wait. In the presence of lit and unlit candles, we wait.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

On Fear and Finding Courage

I’ve managed to talk myself out of a lot of things in the last 31 years.

Take figure skating, for instance. I grew up in Colorado Springs, home of the Olympic Training Center. When I was around age 4 or 5, my mom offered to get me skating lessons. I guess she figured I was in a perfect place for professional training, if I really loved it.

I refused because it sounded scary.

I didn’t attempt playing basketball in high school because I was afraid I wouldn’t be good or that I might get elbowed in the face. (Sorry, Mr. Young, you tried so hard to talk me into it!) I wouldn’t try roller coasters because of the height. Also, I didn't parasail when I vacationed in Cancun. Fly over the ocean held up by nothing but thin fabric and a couple of straps? Um, I’ll just lie on the beach and read. Thank you very much.

All of these wasted experiences because of fear.

There is one other thing I gave up a long time ago because of fear: writing.

When I was 13 years old, my best friend won a magazine contest by completing the end of a short story by our favorite author, Susan*. Not long after that, Susan came to speak at my middle school. She started asking if anyone in the class happened to know my friend because she hoped to deliver the prize to her personally while she was in town.

I came forward. And do you know what happened? My favorite author picked me up at my house that night and took my friend and me to dinner! Dream. Come. True.

Then, my friend and I became pen pals with Susan. We each wrote her letters, and Susan wrote us personal messages back.

A few months later Susan came back to town for a young writer’s conference. (Did I mention that Colorado Springs is also a mecca of Christian publishing?) For the truly ambitious (me!), they offered a way to turn in a short story ahead of time to be critiqued by a visiting author of our choice. Guess whom I chose.

Unfortunately, the critique session with Susan was devastating. She put her marks all over my story. It was bleeding. Bleeding with ink marks and comments that don’t make sense to me, even to this day.

To top it off, my friend submitted a story too. A few weeks later my fellow budding writer got another letter in the mail from Susan. I did not. In fact, the woman never wrote me again.

For the next few years, I only wrote in personal journals. Because the fear crept in. I believed I wasn’t good and never would be. I was too afraid to try again.

Here’s the thing: fear is exhausting. It makes us do crappy things, such as lying, hiding, being impatient, and feeling sorry for ourselves.

I don’t want to be afraid anymore. I know deep down that I am a writer. I’ve tried some very creative ways to get around this fact, mainly so I don’t have to deal with the possible hurt that comes with the writing life. In the end, it just leads back to my God-given path.

So, today, instead of fear, I’m choosing courage. Brené Brown tells us in her TED talk on vulnerability, as well as in her book The Gifts of Imperfection that the root of the word courage is cor, the Latin word for heart. (I'm really big into Latin these days, can you tell?) Originally courage meant “to speak one's mind by telling all one's heart."

That is what I want to do. It’s what I’ve longed to do. Tell my story with all my heart.

Writers are only human. (I suspect Susan simply may not have known the best ways to help young authors write. She was a new author at the time and had her own journey to take.) But that is exactly what makes us good. We are human. We have passion and heart and blood running through our veins. We have moments of defeat and victory, like everyone. And we want to share it with the world.

I know I do. No matter the cost.

*name changed for protection

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Way of Delight

“And now Lord, and with your help, I shall become myself.” –Kierkegaard

I’m in an interesting season of life right now. The kind where I’m asking, “What next?”

I realize this question can be asked in a variety of intonations: fear, hope, exhaustion, or frustration. Mine is hopeful.

And I’m also trying to determine what to do next with my hopeful “what next?”

A few years ago, I attended a vocational retreat with Potter’s Inn. Vocation (from the Latin word vocaré) means “voice.” To hear that voice, one must listen. At one point in the workshop, the leaders encouraged us to think back to what we most loved when we were eight years old.

I loved reading, writing, and teaching. (Well, teaching Sunday School to my dolls that is!) And I loved Anne of Green Gables. I wanted to be Anne of Green Gables. After all, Anne writes and Anne teaches. She also has a fiery passion that can’t be contained.

I want to listen to my own fiery passion. Too many times, I’ve set it aside or stuffed it down. However, it takes that delight to carve out a life of being the person God created me to be.

I’m not talking about a job. Those come and go. In less than two weeks, my job is going. What I’m talking about is a way of life that is in-tune with knowing God’s best for me. It is listening to what makes my heart “sing” and then acting out of that deep gladness.

This week, I have someone helping me work on my résumé. I’m grateful for the opportunity, but I can’t help thinking about how incomplete that document will be when it’s done. It can’t possibly hold all I am or all I may be in the future, with God’s help.

I am not alone in this season. God is with me. He saw the innocent little girl dressing up in long skirts more than two decades ago. He sees me now. Paying attention to my delights brings Him delight. He wants me to know myself more because the more I know of the self He created, the more I will know Him.

Knowing Him all of my days is the greatest life I can imagine. While the road ahead of me might not always be marked with blooming white trees, there is a Voice behind me, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

Friday, December 2, 2011

I'm No Martha

I’m no Martha Stewart. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’m the antithesis of Martha. I kill things, burn things, and break things.

Don’t believe me? Consider the episode a few weeks ago when Jeff asked me to bake a few cookies for a men’s gathering at church. I pulled out some cookie sheets, closed the lower metal drawer, and experienced a flash of light coupled with a popping sound. I broke the oven. Not kidding.

In addition, I’ve been working fulltime for the last seven years. On too many occasions, I bad talk myself because I can’t be at more field trips or class parties with my oldest daughter or rock my little one before her nap all seven days of the week.

I stumble home and convince myself I need to have a perfect dinner on the table at exactly 6 o’clock each night. Then, I snap at anyone who ventures near the kitchen while I attempt to be my own self-imposed version of Martha.

All of this adds up to guilt and shame. I feel like I am less of a mother and less of a wife because I fall short over and over. Not just that. I feel like a failure.

But is that really the truth?

Because I’m realizing more and more that beautifully decorated walls aren’t the best things I can give my family. I’m also learning it’s okay I’m not a super-chef in the kitchen. I don’t have to make amazing dinners to be loved. And, speaking of love, I love my family.

I love my daughters. We read books to each other and bake (burn?) cookies together sometimes. We have family movie nights, dress up for teatime, and take trips to places like the pumpkin patch on the weekends.

I love my husband. I believe in his calling to attend seminary and in who he is as a pastor. I believe in his gifts. And, along our family’s journey of work plus graduate school, I found some surprising ways to use my own gifts in God’s kingdom.

What this all really adds up to is being okay with who I am. Being okay with my strengths as well as my weaknesses. It also means believing that God sees me as no less than His beloved daughter, no matter what is set out on the table for dinner.

With this in mind, I’ve made a decision. I’m going to stop calling myself things like “bad mother” and “bad wife” when I make a mistake or things go wrong. Truth be told, that’s a lie. I’m going to see myself as God sees me: enough and fully loved. After all, I am Rebecca. Not Martha.