Sunday, December 2, 2012

Losing Faith


I am done.

That’s what I tell myself. Or maybe what I hear. I hear it in the early hours of the day. I hear it as I slip into sleep.

Done.

I know. You’re hoping for me to finish the sentence. Well, okay.

With waiting. With hoping. With dreaming. With believing that something will be made from the ashes. (Don’t even start with the “beauty from ashes” songs. Don’t. even.) With praying. I prefer yelling. Maybe sometimes mixed with begging.

I asked Him. Asked Him for years not to make it turn out this way. I played and replayed the “worst possible scenario,” and still it came.

I can hear the laughter in the background. Sinister bellowing.

Fine. You win! Cause, yep, you guessed it. I am done.

But here’s the dumb thing. I get paid to talk about God and what He’s done. I get paid to talk about what He’s doing now. Sometimes it sucks. Last week I was counting cursor blinks.

One, two, three, four…

What could I possibly have to say? Umm, I don’t get Him. Umm, why does He allow the wicked to prosper? How should I know? They’ve been prospering for years. Umm, yeah, I have a serious list of all my disappointments and a few complaints for Him. Can I use that?

Also, did I mention I was dealing with parables. They make me nuts. NUTS.

No, they aren’t easy because they’re stories. They’re hard. Shocking, disturbing. Yes, they mess with me.

But do you know what also happens? Somehow I start typing. Writing out silly things about God sending the Holy Spirit to do the work we can’t possibly do on our own.

In the end, there are paragraphs of words. Words I believe. Words of what is buried deep in my heart. The deepest places in me that wrestle with the mysteries of God. And I realize I would defend Him with everything in me, though I have no idea what He’s doing. I can’t make sense of what He’s done, but I love Him.

Next, I’m forced to write about Advent. It gets easier. The writing, that is. Not Advent. Because it’s mixed with groaning, and as much as I smile when I view the purple stolls across the Eucharist table, I hurt for friends lost in brokenness and uncertainty this season. For friends waiting and hoping for good news. For those feeling betrayed, by their bodies, their loved ones, and maybe even their God.

I come home and fry up tostada shells, and I pray.

I ache. I utter. I sigh.

I’m not done. To Whom else could I go?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Of Tongues And Prophecy

Photo courtesy of Heather Eure


The building sits to the north. Flags and a cross. A place I was warned could destroy my faith. I didn’t enter there.

Instead, I hid behind stained glass, beneath a cross of my own. I sat in my cushioned seat. I took notes, with my pencil and my heart. I didn’t dare believe there was truth beyond the red carpet. I didn’t dare speak.

No tongues. No prophecy.

Then, I met a man. A man who had no knowledge of these rules, and the notes I scribbled didn’t make sense to him. He slammed the top of his Bible with his palm. Not out of disrespect for its Author. But out of outrage for those who used it to bind hearts and lives and tongues.

A prophet.

She doodles in her notebook. Black and white. With such beauty. Who knew? She swirls with ink. Each stroke a prayer. She doesn’t even know the power of her gift. Her Spirit-inspired ability. All she knows is that she’s speaking and that He’s listening. If any of us dared to try to understand what she’s saying, we could not. But He does. And He delights.

Tongues.

Have you heard how dangerous it is? This prophecy. These tongues. These words I was told to avoid when it came to spiritual gifts. Yet, the prophet writes. He speaks and preaches by the power of the Holy Spirit. (What? Holy Spirit? Is that another thing you can’t handle? Neither can I.)

And I am undone.

She prays. I save her texts and e-mails because they are extraordinary. She does none of this for her own praise. She is bent on responding to what He’s doing and what she sees. Oh, what she sees with these eyes that read past pretense and bullshit. And she calls it what it is. She stirs courage in me.

I still haven’t entered the building to the north. But sometimes I wonder. I wonder what I would find there. Would I find God there?

Probably.

He keeps showing up in places I was told He would never be. He’s been appearing in places I never thought to look. And those beneath the steeple and stained glass are beside themselves, tearing up the red carpet in a desperate attempt to preserve the lies they chose to believe and feed to those of us in the cushioned seats.

I am grateful for the rule-breakers. These rebels. I’m not even sure they know they are doing it. For they are simply responding. Open to what God is doing. Living a life of tongues and prophecy.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Lessons Learned This Week (Some of Them Learned Again)


That it’s okay to be late to church, sit toward the back feeling completely depleted, and experience acceptance.

That I can get just as much done in the Denver Seminary Student Center as I do in the office, even while unexpectedly running into tons of people I know. (My boss has not approved this as a regular schedule for me, though I may try…)

That spending time with old friends is just as good as therapy. Laughter is a strange, effective medicine.

That there is little that can’t be mended in an Irish pub when you're surrounded by good friends—old and new.

That I really do love what I do with writing and drawing others into inspiration and honesty; this long-awaited calling is a gift that I hope does not end with me and my passions.

That it’s possible for a 45-minute discussion about tithing to end with mutual understanding and respect.

That relationships can come before structure and rules.

That the Eucharist brings you face to face with your most difficult feelings and you will be given an opportunity to forgive in the moment the bread is handed to you. (It also helps to have a friend put their arm around you as you walk back to the pew, because they know every emotion that just welled up you.)

That while hurt often comes at the hands of others, so does healing. If we hide after the hurt, the healing can’t begin.

That it’s probably not a good idea to stay up until 2am two nights in a row when you’re recovering from two illnesses.

That rest really is the greatest asset to creativity. I slept in both mornings this weekend and took a nap this afternoon.

That, given the chance, little girls will wear Halloween costumes and crowns every day after school. And all weekend too.

That there really is satisfaction in making something with my hands, whether it’s homemade pizza dough with my husband or braiding my girls’ hair before church.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Counting My Tears


We unloaded the truck at 9:30 on Tuesday night. Home.

The days followed with mixed emotions until I crashed this last weekend. Hard.

I lay in bed for almost three days with aches and pains all over my body, following a terrible stomach virus.

I hurt all over. And it seems impossible not to lie in bed and think things. Run them over and over through your head. Trying to make sense of what some people call an “adventure.”

I called it that once. Or twice. I think we were in the first few steps. But soon my feet wobbled. So did my heart. And the tears came. Like a flood. A storm.

I’ve been thinking that perhaps I should rename my blog “Coping in Kansas” and leave it alone. So much of the difficulty from this last year is recorded here. Yet, there are also unpublished blogs, texts saved in my phone, and memories of conversations over frozen margaritas. So much more than what stands on the screen. I forget that sometimes.

I forget the in-between. The tears not seen through a screen. The miles driven back home. The sighs and the breaths taken each day that I pull into the parking lot for my new job. I come over a hill and there it is—the entire mountain range.

Sometimes I fight back another tear.

I find it difficult to love again. To not fear. To have hope that the church will stop being so unfaithful and self-centered.

I’m weary of the tears at unexpected moments. I’m tired from the aches resting in my shoulders.

Worn out.

Last night a friend prayed with me and read Scripture over the phone. I don’t know what passage she read or what version but I remembered words about “what can man do to me?” so I searched today and came up with these words in a similar passage:

You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn through the sleepless nights,
Each tear entered in your ledger, each ache written in your book.
(Psalm 56:8, The Message)

When I am speechless, He gives me the words. He is the One who counts my tears. He counts them because He is there with me for each one.

And there will come a day when there are no more tears.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Inspiration: September, Soccer, and Such


I can describe the last few weeks to you in two words: work and soccer.

Lots of it.

Work and Writing…

I walked into a familiar building on a Tuesday, with plans of how my new job would be. (Insert laughter here at the word “plans.”) In no time, my job went from parttime writer to fulltime editor with little time to blink. Though I’m on a big learning curve right now, I am excited about this new position. I love it already.

During that time, I was already in the process of taking on another new role as the managing editor of A Beautiful Mess. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this website and the woman behind the messageKristin Ritzau. I’m honored and excited to help facilitate this safe space for honesty and inspiration. Here’s a little bit about what I hope to share with the community over at A Beautiful Mess.

Time Travel…

On Labor Day, we took the girls to Rockledge Ranch, one of my favorite places in Colorado Springs. As a child, my mom recognized my love for Anne of Green Gables so she signed us up to volunteer at this historical site. I spent seven summers dressing up like a pioneer and leading tours. I enjoyed every minute of it.

Jeff and the girls had never been to this site in the time we lived here prior, so we took an afternoon to explore the buildings. I do love the cabin (think Little House on the Prairie), but love The Orchard House even more. I’ve kind of been obsessed with breakfast rooms for decades because of this house.




Soccer…

In between all of this, Jeff has been coaching a varsity soccer team with a friend, and I’ve been running our little ones to practice and games of their own. I’m so proud of Kyla. She’s really beginning to own her abilities as a team player and is learning to be tough. At an early practice, I heard her coach say, “Kyla, way to be aggressive out there. You were tough today.” My mommy heart melted.

Kyla gettin' to the ball!

Kae is playing soccer as well. In her own ways, she’s learning to be brave. Yesterday, she fell down in the second play of the game. She hit her head, scraped her elbow, and skinned both knees. She also got distracted by the bugs. But she got back in the game. She does her best to run hard. She also doesn’t like it when the kids take the ball after she’s managed to get it somewhere. During a practice, a kid came and got the ball away from her. She stomped up the field yelling, “Hey! I had that ball!” She’s got spunk. I like it.

Kae doing twirls during warm-ups

Domestics….

We still aren’t back in our home as we are waiting for our renters’ lease to end. (One week!) I’m thinking about how to decorate our old home in a new way. Let’s be honest. I’m going to have my mommy do it. In five minutes, she can do what takes me 10 hours. I’ll provide some pretty pictures for her to get inspiration though. (Maybe my mom can even figure out a way to make me a breakfast room?)

Reading…

I’m reading Brene Brown’s newest book titled Daring Greatly:How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. I’m about a third of the way through it. Most of what I’ve read is a recap of thoughts she offers in her videos, blog, and other books. However, I’m very much looking forward to the chapter about vulnerability in the work place and also the section about parenting.

This last month, I finished Tribes by Seth Godin. A good read! I also read Dreaming of More for The Next Generation: Lifetime Faith Ignited by Family Ministry by Michelle Anthony. Highly recommended for church leaders.

It’s Fall…

I love the changing leaves, the pumpkin spice lattes, and the occasional rainy days. Taking what I can get of this season. It probably won’t be as much as other years due to our long transition back into our home. I’m not even sure we’ll make it to a pumpkin patch this year. I’m okay with that fact.

I read in the current issue of Real Simple that stress levels for women have increased 18% in the last 26 years. Perhaps it’s because I keep seeing things like “Fall Bucket Lists” online. Whatever it is, it concerns me. I hope you’re able to find your favorite thing to do this fall and not worry about the rest. Enjoy that moment and everything it offers.

“Live each season as it passes, breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.” -Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sometimes in August


Sometimes in August, little girls help their great aunt water her plants…



Sometimes in August, I ask for something odd for my birthday like guacamole and the opportunity to drive to Denver to mingle with a bunch of people I don’t know so that I can meet one of my favorite bloggers/creators/storytellers in person…



Sometimes in August, my big, beautiful, brave girl starts third grade…



Or the sweet, littlest one begins playing soccer for the first time…



Sometimes I start a new writing job and contemplate other new projects with friends.

Sometimes (usually) in August, God does something big and unexpected. He knows this is the month I can handle changes. It’s might be because my birthday falls in this month and so I am already thinking about a shift. Or maybe I am ready for something new because school starts. It might be the bittersweet memories I have of volleyball season beginning. That something good can happen when we’re surrounded by others who are on our side.

Whatever it is, August is a gift.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Putting Down (New) Roots



I’m writing from my favorite Panera, with a perfect view of Pikes Peak and the sight of hot air balloons bobbing along the neighborhood--a definite sign that it’s almost Labor Day.

It feels so good to be back in our home community. The fire this summer helped me to realize that I had not deeply invested much when I lived here prior. I think I was afraid of the pain of pulling up roots to church plant somewhere else one day. So I guarded my heart.

But then the fire…I watched in horror as the flames raged live on the screen. As a child, I played with friends in that neighborhood. I went on Kyla’s field trip to Flying W Ranch just a couple years ago. It’s gone.

Inside, I screamed, “That’s my home. That’s my community! Those are my people!”

I was ready to come home from Kansas. So ready to be part of this people who never imagined that their town could be ravaged with such destruction. In some sense we are all rebuilding from the pain and hurt that took place in recent months. From the devastation and grief we could not have imagined last summer.

As part of my own rebuilding, I’m paying attention for ways to invest in the community of writers, artists, and spiritual directors here in Colorado. Several of the directors and counselors joined forces to help individuals work through the loss caused by the fire. They have been holding weekly meetings at my place of employment. I love seeing the community work together.

For several years, I’ve been looking at national conferences on faith and writing. Each year they come and go, and I just can’t get to them with our young family, working on projects with fierce deadlines, and Jeff finishing school. At times, I’ve been discouraged because I long to build relationships with other writers. I see them talking to one another online. They have something special together.

But, I think that perhaps I have been focused on the wrong group. What about the people here in Colorado who are listening and creating and connecting to people only minutes from them? National connections are not bad but I realize I have neglected my own neighbors.

I will not do that again. I want to dig down and put roots here. Deep roots. For myself, for our family, and for whatever God wants to do through us here in the present. I’m starting a new job here in Colorado Springs, with an old group of people that I love. I’m also hoping to attend a local writing retreat next month.

Community does not burn down. I’m so glad to be part of this one.

Thank you, Lord, for all you’ve done and what you will do. Bring healing and restoration. We need it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Life Lines: Let It All Hang Out



I try to write this afternoon about my exit from the state to my east. The right words won’t come. The lines string out dull.

I walk away from my laptop and remember the laundry. I was supposed to hang it on the clothes line about three hours ago. I huff. Unsure if I am frustrated about the lack of lines or the looming laundry or just life.

Hanging clothes on a line seems like such a romantic thing. I especially thought that in my childhood. I used to run through the rows of sheets in Aunt Susie’s backyard, dreaming the spaces between the flowing fabrics were hallways in my castle.

I don’t feel much romance about it today though. I grab a towel and try to steady the wet, matted cotton next to the line while I pin. Not bad. The big gray t-shirt next to it is another story. Flop. Pick it up. Shake it off and start again. Pin by pin. Line by line.

As I move down the lines, I wonder if I have lost my words. If the state bordering my home has taken my writing from me. Do I have anything left to share with the world? How do I write without being angry or worried that someone will use it against me?

My vulnerability seems to be a liability recently. Is there really a safe place?

A few socks. Kyla’s princess panties. My favorite camisole with a couple of holes in it. I wear the camisole under my summer tanktops and can’t bring myself to get a new one. This one is so soft, even if it’s torn. I reveal the imperfection I usually hide.

It’s strange that I wonder about my vulnerabilities, yet here I am, letting other pieces of my life all hang out. For everyone on Carson Boulevard to see. I have never shown this part of myself to the world like this.

I go back to fill in the gaps between shirts with more socks. I pray. I ponder about dreams. I think there will be new dreams. Right? I wonder. And try not to feel afraid.

I think about the forthcoming wind that will do its thing with the laundry. No work of my own after all the clothing is hung. I trust that to the wind.

And so it is. With laundry lines and life lines. The work of the Wind. The Spirit. And if He deems that no words come for me on a quiet afternoon, so be it. I will trust the lines to come in another way. Or at another time. Or even not at all, if He wills.

For now, I’m wondering how long my laundry will take to dry. Will I be out removing clothing at midnight? I don’t know how to do this. How long do I wait?

Monday, July 23, 2012

This Is Not Working for Me (or Lessons Learned in Kansas)


In the past year, I’ve thrown off many cashiers when they go to punch in a phone number, beginning with area code, to connect my purchase to their club card. Nope, the area code not 913 or 816. It’s 719.

“Where is that?” they frequently ask.

“Colorado Springs. We moved here recently.”

A common response was, “Why? Why would you leave Colorado to come live here?”

Indeed.

I may wonder this for the rest of my life. Though I have inklings, I don’t have the logical answers of why we came here for a year, only to return home. But I can say I learned a few lessons while living in the Sunflower State.

First of all, it’s important to note that Colorado Springs has a unique atmosphere. The city is home to over 100 Christian organizations. It is politically and religiously conservative. It is also saturated with churches. I grew up there and moved back shortly after college. By this time I was married, and we had a little girl.

Upon my return, I worked fulltime while my husband attended graduate school. I was quickly subjected to the reminder that good mothers don’t work. I had heard this growing up. But this time it was my reality. I received off-handed comments at baby showers, bridal showers, and other gatherings.

In addition, this mentality was discussed on a daily basis in my workplace, not specifically at me, but it was a regular topic nonetheless because of the atmosphere of the city. I only knew of one other working mother in my sphere of interaction. I felt alone and rejected for years.

Kansas, however, knows nothing of these divides. At least, I never ran across it this year. That fact has been incredibly freeing for me, and it was nice to have a bit of distance as I sort out more of who I am and how I’m gifted.

Along the way, I was blessed with a wonderful new friend who happens to be a stay-at-home mom. She and I helped one another in a myriad of ways and encouraged one another, not only in our roles as mothers, but pretty much just in life. I had never experienced this, and I am incredibly grateful for my friendship with Jessica. I have a feeling we will be friends for life, no matter where the years take us.

In addition, with regard to work, I got a taste of the freelancing life when I lost my job in December. I miss collaborating with a team and being a part of “something bigger” in a corporate sense. I have leadership skills that are going unused.

While in Kansas, our family was in leadership at a church. This is the first time in my life I’ve run across women who are considering ordination. It’s one thing to consider this kind of situation as an “issue” to debate. It’s another thing when you are sitting across from a woman in a coffee shop and you know, without any doubt, that they should be leading and ministering in a formal role in the local church.

My mind raced for months as I investigated women and equality—in the church, in the home, in the work place. You may recall this post on redemption.

I read a large document about Genesis 3, written by a Denver Seminary professor and read through a paper on 1 Peter 3 written by a seminary student I know (nope, not my husband…but that’s a good guess!). I read blogs. I read my Bible. I read commentaries. I discovered the household codes in the epistles are often taken out of cultural context. I couldn’t find any place where Jesus emphasized men as the only leaders, in the religious setting or in the family. Nor could I find any place where Jesus said parenting is our highest calling, as I had been told for so long. Think of all the singles and childless couples this mentality isolates! I shake my head.

In the Bible, there are only a few pages that specifically address women and their roles in society. But we have thousands of pages about what it looks like to follow God. Why are we ignoring this fact and churning out stacks of “Bible studies” that teach us how to be the Proverbs 31 women or the next Ruth? I am a follower of God first and foremost. That is my highest calling.

I try not to think of all the years that seem “wasted” by the legalism I subjected upon myself. The truth is, I have been uneasy about all of this for a long time. Really, for decades. And I never said anything. Why take the unnecessary risk of being labeled a feminist? That’s not going to go over well in youth group, no matter how much you want to ask the questions.

And then there was the belief at Bible college that women only get degrees in case their husband dies or just so they can homeschool their children effectively. Really?! Not so that they can steward the gifts God has given them in whatever capacity they feel God is leading them to pursue?

I suspect I would have come across these truths as some point in my life. But Kansas gave me the space and freedom to explore my questions without judgment and to form some conclusions too. Kansas put faces to my wonderings. And I will never be the same. I am grateful.

So, as I ponder my imminent return to Colorado, I feel more confident as a follower of God, as a writer, as a mother and wife, and as a leader in the church. I carry hope as I return to the Rocky Mountains.

Goodbye, Kansas. Hello, home.


Possible resources:

A Week of Mutuality” posts by Rachel Held Evans (Strangely, prior to these posts, similar phrases were ringing in my head. I thought Rachel provided a well-written, well-researched summary of necessary questions and thoughts with regard to women and equality.)
Women in Ministry” series by Ed Cyzewski

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Thin Air Thanksgivings


Sometimes you wonder if your prayers go unheard.

Then, one day, almost overnight, God moves. In His own way. Not yours.

And you are, as they say on Twitter, #overwhelmed.

My life looks nothing like what I imagined between the repetitive whispers of my deepest desires. But I’m taking the changes and the answers as they come.

I’m packing boxes. Moving home in a few weeks.

I’m editing, editing, editing. (My favorite way of pretending I have control.)

I’m writing. But you won’t see any of those words here. Those words are for teachers and students and classrooms and churches.

I’m hugging. My family. My friends. A few goodbyes but mostly a “welcome home.” And their arms are like the arms of Jesus.

My soul seems to be breathing again. Who knew thin air was so good for one’s heart?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Professional Pants




Express clothing store sells a style of dress pants called Editor Pants. Many years ago, I wanted a pair just because of what they were called. Unfortunately, they are made for people with hips. My hips only came in after I had two children. And barely.

I also remember once trying to pick out a new set of eye glasses according to how professional they would make me seem. Jeff and I were still dating. I turned and asked him if the sample set on my face made me look like a writer. My encouraging man smiled and said, “Of course.”

I had no confidence in my abilities as a writer. I scribbled in journals but I hid behind my glasses, too afraid to let anyone see my writing. I kept my voice from the world and tried to at least look the part. But that didn’t get me too far.

Deep down I knew I possessed a gift that I wasn’t using. I needed to produce something.

So, little by little I learned the craft of writing by reading about it. I took some classes and chased down small writing projects. After several years, I ended up with a job as an editor.

Still, I spent most days feeling like a fraud. I thought that I didn’t deserve the title after my name when I banged my head against the desk and only churned out 300 words before it was time to go home. I dashed around drinking way too much coffee and wondering if the strings of letters on the screen made any sense to anyone other than me.

What is this gift I thought I had and why couldn’t I just fit into those special pants? That would have been much easier.

Last December, I finished a large writing project. As I fumbled toward my last keystroke, I realized that I am a writer. That fact didn’t come because of what I had accomplished on paper or screen nor did it come because of what I was wearing that day. (I think it was the same pair of sweatpants I had been wearing for three days. Perseverance at all costs, people!)

I had learned who I am in the process of the writing and creating. That process is not linear, nor can it be explained to you in a book. It’s the attitude of the one in the pants. The way you live your life. It’s in the showing up and the flipping out and the victorious, slightly-queasy feeling when you hit the “publish” button on a blog.

After several months of freelancing, I’m applying for fulltime jobs again. Some days I still worry I’m a fraud. I read job descriptions and wonder if the hiring managers will look at my resume and laugh. I worry that they are the ones choosing if I’m a professional or not.

Tonight, as I was searching for jobs, I went back to the Hallmark site. I read through some of their staff bios. They asked the individuals about their creative process.

The workers gave answers like drinking caffeine, reading blogs, and freaking out before churning out something brilliant at the last minute. Huh. That sounds exactly like me!

Best part about the bios? The pictures. Almost all of them were wearing jeans.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Surrounded


Photo Courtesy of Robert J. Ruybalid

I move around the garage with ease, fulfilling drink orders and collecting money. The smell of fresh trout fills the air. Talking and laughing all around me. Someone tells a joke in Spanish but can’t exactly figure out how to translate it for the rest of us.

It doesn’t matter. We are family.

As a child, I spend a lot of time in a valley on the southern border of Colorado, the place where my grandfather was raised. There are nine siblings in his family. I don’t have to go far to find a cousin or someone else who knows my family.

“Oh, yes. You’re Ruben’s granddaughter,” they say with a smile. 


Come join us on A Beautiful Mess to read the rest....

Thursday, June 14, 2012

When God Speaks



We close our Bibles, and I slip away from the group. The creak of the door threatens to give me away.

I just have to get to the leather chair in that corner in my room. Alone. With my journal and my God.

I read over the words of Isaiah 61 again. Familiar lines I once had taped up in my cubicle. I used them to remind myself of my mission when a difficult caller came through to me. My job: to set the captive free.

That was before Rio. Before I learned how to read my Bible in a different way. Before I began to see who God is in each page, not who I need to be.

This time I pause after the first two words: The Spirit. The Forgotten God. The One who guides and counsels and speaks.

I continue, stopping at the word “anoint.” And then “preach” and “sent” and “proclaim” and “release.” So many things He does without our help. I never knew. Never saw before this day.

I scribble in my leatherbound book. Sunlight enters the room. Warm and comforting. I lean my head into the chair. Rest in that place between awake and asleep.

Then, a gentle Voice poses a quiet question, “What if you were the captive I set free?” I smile and fall asleep. Peace.

*****

I take my seat in the back pew. I’ve been so concerned with making sure I am the supportive one. The one speaking words of life and affirmation because it seems no one else is. It’s exhausting.

I finally hand it over to God, like when Kaelyn brings me her tangled ball of necklaces to fix. She’s relieved to be done with the whole thing. Someone bigger needs to have it now.

On a Thursday, I hear Him say “Stand and fight.” And then nothing. Not for days. Weeks.

I am sure He is done with us. With me. I yell about how I had finally gotten my wish. My (safe) dream of freelancing, and it's about to be taken from me. I write out my frustrations in an e-mail to a friend. An unconventional kind of prayer I’m learning to appreciate.

Later, as I drift off to sleep, there comes a gentle Voice. The Forgotten God whom I thought had forgotten me. A quiet question. “What if I have more for you?”

More? For me? I hadn’t even considered the possibility. Didn’t know I was allowed to desire or want more. For me.


"It's okay to want more," I hear.

Just like that He speaks. And with His words I find my own voice. Steady. Ready to preach and proclaim and release.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Isn't It All Warfare?



I am allergic to checklists, prescriptions, and rules for Christian living. Come to think of it, I’m not allergic to this mentality. I downright hate it with every fiber of my being.

The Bible is not a rule book. It’s a beautiful record of God’s love for His people and His plan for redemption through His Son. His Word is living and active and cuts open our hearts so that His healing can begin.

And don’t think I can’t spot when I’m being manipulated into something other than what God intended. Don’t tell me the “shoulds” and the “oughts” of your own image of what you want me to be. I will reject them. I will scream. I will run from the trappings.

Such an instance occurred in my life a couple of months ago. It wasn’t an isolated incident. It was merely the final straw in a string.

I couldn’t get to my car fast enough that day. And when the vehicle doors shut, I lost it. Crying. Screaming. I couldn’t catch my breath. How and why do we do this to each other? How can we do it to ourselves?

Later that night, I stomped around my house until my ever-patient husband suggested I contact a trusted, wise individual in my life. So I did.

The message I sent was raw. Honest. Hurting. And she received it well.

Her response dripped with gentleness and grace, a stark contrast to what I had just experienced. I set about taking her advice in all areas, some of which I had been doing just to maintain sanity. She reminded me to keep running to God, and connecting with my husband in all ways, and laughing with our girls whenever possible.

She reminded me that my struggle with not with the men of flesh and blood, but with the principalities. She encouraged me to make and keep regular time with God, and to pray for those around me, imagining them set free in the fullness of Jesus and the Spirit.

So I did. Oh, how I did. I kept opening my book of Common Prayer each morning and praying for others, just as it prompts.  She called intimacy with God “deep warfare.” Her words tucked into my heart and became a battle cry of sorts.

Paralleled with these struggles was a quickly approaching disappointment—the realization that the reason we moved to Kansas did not actually exist. Well, didn’t exist anymore. I don’t know. What I do know is that we suffered a great loss when all was said and done.

We wrestled for weeks over this situation. I prayed. Harder than I have ever prayed in my life. I read my Bible. I prayed with Jeff, late into the night. Still, it felt like we lost in the end.

I can’t describe the pain still taking place in my heart.

This is the point when I’m prone to self-destruction. I haven’t opened my Common Prayer book in over a week. I miss it. Truly I do. But I’m angry and hurting, and I don’t hear anything God is saying right now. I tend to have an “I don’t give a flipping care” attitude in this stage, which is generally hurtful to others. It’s probably better for me to just run and hide from everyone and everything.

I’ve set aside some of those wise words spoken to me because I thought they merely existed for that season of two months, with the parallel discouragements and confusion taking place.

Turns out, I’m more confused than ever right now. And lost.

And today, as I was driving around in some fields out here in west Olathe (A place I often get lost, literally. Don’t ask.), it occurred to me—isn’t it all warfare? Isn’t every day and every difficulty a fight for our hearts and our lives?

I reject checklists and rules because the Christian community in the first twenty years of my life built shame into me with these methods, whether they meant to or not, and the disappointments in my life cause me to question if God is good or even exists. But if it hadn’t been those things, it would have been something else the enemy took and twisted, as he always does.

We are in a battle. The Spirit will equip us. We can’t afford to set aside our weapons. It’s not a prescription for me to pray each day and read the worn out burgundy Bible my parents gave me when I was seventeen. It’s a necessity, an amazing privilege to pick up my tools against the enemy as a Woman Warrior of God. Jesus is on my side, if I will have the courage to let Him fight for me. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Inspiration: It's Summer!




I love summer! Maybe it’s because my birthday is in the summer or maybe it’s because I have fond memories of summertime from my childhood. Either way, it’s here, and that fact fills me with joy!

Summer Reading…

Each year, I create a yearly reading list in January and a summer reading list. For summer, I pick a memoir (preferably with an element of comedy), a classic, and something theological or spiritual formation based. 




This summer I hope to read:

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle – I mentioned before that it’s the 50th anniversary of this book, so this one wins as my classic this year.

Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewish Words of Jesus Can Change Your Life by Lois Tverberg – I read Lois Tverberg’s (co-written with Ann Spangler) Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus. Oh my word. It changed my life. I will never read the Gospels the same. For that matter, I will never read the Bible the same. I’m excited to read this follow-up.

Let’s Pretend this Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) – Last year I read BossyPants by Tina Fey. I often took it with me to the gym and laughed so hard I almost fell of the elliptical (If you don’t ever plan to read this book, at least pick it up to read the chapter about her honeymoon, when the cruise ship caught on fire!).

I first heard of Jenny Lawson when her post about a metal chicken she named Beyonc√© flooded the internet last year. That post still makes me laugh on any given day. (Warning: do not read if you are offended by strong language) Then, Bren√© Brown interviewed her recently. I need to remember how to laugh, and Jenny’s book seems like a perfect thing to read in this season.

A couple others I hope to get to:

My girls…

This is the first summer I am not working fulltime. I’m excited to take the girls swimming, to the park, and do some summer reading together (Kyla is starting the Boxcar Children this year. Woohoo!). They are attending Vacation Bible School this week (loved this as a kid!) and next week we will go to the Farmstead to pet animals. 

Also, Kae informed me today that she plans to be a baker, painter, and gardener when she grows up. We'll see what we can do this summer to help her develop those areas she likes.



Farmers’ Market…

As a kid, my mom took us to the Farmers’ Market in Acacia Park sometimes. I’ve been dying to get to a Farmers’ Market pretty much all of my adult life, but it has never happened. Probably mostly because of working but there were also some extreme reasons too. For instance, when I was pregnant with Kyla, I wanted to walk down to the one in Old Market in Omaha. As I stepped out my door, the tornado sirens went off. No joke. I am determined to go at least once this summer!


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What are your summer plans? What are you excited about in this season?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

When God's People Testify


“The church has been planted as a paradise in this world.” -Irenaeus of Lyons

“God is telling me to pursue priesthood. It doesn’t make sense, but I can’t get away from it,” she said.

Then she added, “I’m sorry if those words hurt you. I’m sorry if it’s hard to hear what God is doing in my life right now when you feel so lost.”

“Not at all,” I responded. “In fact, it’s encouraging.”

In the last few years, there’s been a lot of talk about sharing our stories. When I was growing up, it was all about giving a “testimony.” No matter what we call it, it’s important to send our expressions into the world. Anyway we want and need to share what God is doing or what we wonder or what we question, we must be true to each of those pieces of our existence as human beings.

Quite honestly, I don’t know what God is doing in my life. I feel as if I’ve been flung into a foreign land for no good reason. I have no beautiful pictures of the church to paint for you right now. I refrain from spilling all I feel about church in this moment because I know she is the Bride. Blameless in the sight of God, even when she does not act according to her call.

With the coming of Pentecost last Sunday, we began the celebration of when the church was established. I love Acts 2. I love what the Holy Spirit did through Peter, who once denied Jesus. I love how Peter testifies of God’s plan since the beginning. It gives me hope.

Hope in a world desperate for the church to act according to its intended purpose to bring life and light in this world. I need to hear the words of my friend who can’t run from God’s call because her story helps me to remember that God is still working and calling his children to step out and be what He created them to be.

I don’t know why God placed a dream that seems impossible now into our own hearts several years ago. But I know I need to hear your story right now, if you are in a place that you can share it. Because maybe a year from now I won’t be able to shut up about what God is doing in and through us, and you will need to hear the story of a girl who loaded a truck, and then a separate trailer behind it because we misjudged the size of the truck we needed, and headed away from the mountains when she heard the words “go” and “gift.”

Maybe we just need to pass around the microphone for a while and share if we are able and listen if that is what we need to do in this season. I’m listening, and even though the same voice that sent me to the middle of America seems to be silent, I think I hear Him somewhere in your words. I hear Him saying He hasn’t given up when I read Peter stating, “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

Monday, May 28, 2012

From Eden to Egypt


I’m in Genesis again. Always in Genesis, it seems.

From Eden to Egypt. I get it. I think. Maybe a little bit.

For I started in Eden. Some of my toughest days involved a serpent as I stared and wrote and deleted and stared at a screen again. What was it I heard? What did God say? What is the difference between a whisper and a hiss? I don’t think I know.

God worked then, as He does, in the beginning of things. That’s where He starts as the Beginning of all things. And now I am in Egypt. Famine. Seeking food. For my soul and my heart so empty right now.

I need to talk with Joseph. Maybe he knows what God’s been up to. Maybe he can help me see what I do not understand as I sit and shake my head full of regret. Do I know anything about prayer? Do I really know anything about listening?

I fear I do not. I fear that my time in Egypt is a waste.

Prison to Palace? Can it be true? Did it really happen that way?

“Do not be afraid…You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.”

Good. Always good. In Eden and in Egypt. For in between He gives dreams. Small glimpses, even when we don’t understand the part about the stars in the night sky when we first wake.

What is it they say? It’s always darkest before the dawn? The sun must set to rise? Paradise in the breaking of a new day. A Genesis.

And God said, “Let there be light.”

Is there an Exodus on the next page? 

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Depth: A Mystery




I walked down the aisle ten years ago in that black cap and gown.

I smiled in that in-between time. I posed with my parents and my grandparents and brother and the man who is now all mine.

Half-packed boxes sat in my apartment. I wasn’t sure if I should stay or go.

So, I took a trip to the ocean. That place that has always held so much mystery for me. Probably because I’m a Colorado girl and I only know of the mysteries that point up to the sky, not the ones that birth the sun in the morning and tuck it in under a shimmering blanket at night.

We found our hotel, my college roommate and I. We opened the window in the morning. Water, as far as we could see.

I don’t know what possessed us to walk into the ocean. But start walking we did. Eventually, we would have to stop and turn around, right? We didn’t. We discovered a sandbar instead.

And there we sat. Water all around us. Up to our necks in mystery. Laughing and talking and dreaming. Hours went by.

When, oh when, was the last time I let hours go by?

The sun drifted downward, into the other ocean that night. We slept in peace.

We stayed out of the vast waters the next day. I have no idea why. A retired couple joined us in the pool. They had stories to share. Lots of stories about their life.

Then they told us why they were in the pool. Sharks. The day before. Where? They pointed to a place near the sandbar. Are you sure?

He had dragged his lovely wife from the water, not caring about his failing knees.

We didn’t return to that place in the water again. To the spot where we sat unaware.

But I return to it from time to time. When I think of God’s presence around me. Up to my neck in mystery. Remembering the depth of His love and care. And the freedom He gives to just be.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Pinterest And Pieces of Me


"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" -Mary Oliver

Something in me wanted sunshine, so I opened my front door and stepped onto the porch. No shoes on my feet, I could feel each pebble in the cement under my feet. I took a seat on the top step, I turned my face upward, closed my eyes, and breathed.

Sometimes I forget what it’s like to touch and feel, to experience anything beside what happens within the walls of a house or an office. After more than 40 hours behind a computer each week for seven years, I barely know life on the outside. How does one adjust? I find myself still running to my computer for several reasons—familiarity, connection, creativity—even when I don’t need to be working.

Just prior to finishing fulltime work last December, I made a list of things I wanted to do with my freedom from the five-day work week. At the top of the list, I wrote “Pinterest.”

I hadn’t spent much time on Pinterest. Occasionally a link took me there, and I could see boards and pins. The site looked pretty. Pretty like an extended Martha Stewart Living magazine.

When my job ended, I opened the site several times to create an account. With all the recipes and DIY projects I noticed, I began to wonder if it’s for me. I already steer clear of DIY articles online because I know there is about a one percent chance I will actually DIM (Do It Myself).

I left Pinterest alone for a few months, and then decided to spend an evening exploring the boards created by some of my closest friends to see if I could make a decision on launching my own.

It was kind of fun. And pretty. Let’s not forget pretty.

The more I explored the pins that night, the more I realized I already have a Pinterest. It’s in my basement, above my work area:




Yesterday, Her.meneutics hosted a conversation on the topic of Pinterest. One of the thoughts mentioned is the idea that Pinterest can lead us into creating the life we wish we had, rather than living the life in front of us.

When I realized I already had pins of my own, I considered how personal all the items are on my boards. Pictures of me with family members and items I painted with my own hands. I love the quotes and drawings because they were made by people who speak into my life regularly and know me in a way that no one online could.

I had to touch each item, feel it, pin it up there myself. Nothing virtual about it. Me and a plastic push-pin and some cork.

I have nothing against Pinterest. I may even create boards sometime in the future. 

But right now, I want to learn how to live into my own life. The one right in front of me. The one where I feel the sun shining down on my face, where I’m brushing sand off my leg as I teach Kyla to play volleyball in the sandpit. The life where I’m cleaning up playdough messes after Kae makes me another birthday cake because she asks almost every day if tomorrow is my birthday.

I want to touch and see pieces of me, without a screen. Truly lovely. Truly pretty.


Some further thoughts on Pinterest I found interesting: