Saturday, December 21, 2013

When January Comes

Even though August often feels like a time in my life for a fresh start, I’m almost always tempted to do a little goal-making in January. I mean, all the cool kids are writing resolutions or picking a word for the year. Seems like a good idea. It’s a way to be intentional. I like intentionality.

Only trouble is that when I set goals they end up being this obsession for me. I lean into tasks so far and so hard that I tend to step over the lines of intentionality and go straight to being a “I have to do this or else I will be a failure” obsession. I know this about myself. I haven’t always known it but I have for a good four years or so.

As a result, I’ve tried to scale back my expectations. One year I picked a word for the year because I sensed God was working something specific out in my life. It turned out to be a good thing as over and over the Holy Spirit whispered that word to me and I was able to persevere through the particular circumstances that year brought.

Then this last year came. I thought I went into 2013 pretty open-handed.

I wanted to set some small goals related to exercise. I’ve always had this little problem with sticking to an exercise routine. It’s not entirely my fault. Our schedule tends to change about every six to nine months and I get interrupted. One semester Jeff is running the girls to school so I have early mornings free. Then, the next semester he’s driving to Denver more so I am on drop and pick-up duty.

This has been our life. When seminary ended for Jeff last December, more time opened up.

I decided I wanted to start some cardio routines so that I could feel good while climbing up to Ruybalid Lake with my family in July and run the Run for Rwanda in August. Those were my goals. I have wanted to do these things for years. In fact, I’ve wanted to see Ruybalid Lake since I was a little girl.

In addition to the exercise, Jeff and I began talking about my possibly pursuing a certificate in Spiritual Direction. He was done with school. Surely, I could fit in one evening a week to attend classes and some other time to write papers and work on projects. He’d been doing this for years already. Now we would swap who was doing the learning.

By February I was feeling pretty good about my decisions. Until I had to go to Urgent Care twice in one week. At first the doctors treated me for something routine but the medicine didn’t clear it up so off I went to see my regular doctors a couple of times. They sent tests to the lab. Still no answers. March turned into late April and I finally saw a specialist.

She basically told me my problem was the result of stress. She told me to slow down and I had to change my diet issues that were causing some of the pain I was experiencing. (Bye, bye black coffee, by the way.)

The day after I saw the specialist, I found out I was pregnant. (cue bellowing laughter) Sure, slow down and take it easy to let go of stress. No problem now.

I started eating everything in sight and never went for a single run.

By now you’ve probably figured out that I didn’t meet any of my goals this year. I could have done the Run for Rwanda as a walker but I have been way too sick with this pregnancy to do anything other than go to work and then come home and lay on the couch.

I tried to do some teaching at church this fall but that didn’t quite work out as planned either. I’m having to let go of many, many things I thought I would be able to do after Jeff finished seminary. I dreamed of freedom and us being able to go camping and a whole host of other things that just haven’t happened. I don’t know (again) when they will.

I’m learning to grieve and be grateful in other ways. I’m uncovering new layers of sadness and healing that remain from the miscarriages. I’m discovering that I just may have to sit still and “be” in new ways come this January.

I think one of the downsides of setting goals can be that there is little to no room for surprises. Good surprises.

As I look back over this year, I feel the exhaustion and the weight of having carried this little one (thankfully, oh so thankfully) almost to term. He is due later this week.

And I have these moments where my heart feels like it just might burst from all that unexpectedly took place in the month of November when Jeff became a priest and we hosted our first service as a church plant all in the same week. (Uhhh….I guess we should talk about five-year-long goals happening that I had given up on…?)

At Jeff's ordination, Bishop Ken praying over our family with his hand on my baby bump.

I also had a baby shower thrown by some of my favorite people who prayed over me and blessed me in ways too numerous to count. These people could care less if I met some sort of goal this year or not. They could care less if I am able to teach or get a certificate in anything. They don’t say my worth as a woman is found in the number of children I have, though they certainly are there to love my children right along with me.

I couldn’t ask for more right now and I couldn’t have anticipated any of that last January.

Yesterday, I was looking at our family calendar and realized we literally have nothing written down for the month of January. Nothing.

Now, we will have church meetings to attend and services to lead. Those are a given as that is becoming our life now *tiny squeal and sigh of relief* and I will probably add those regular events in some time soon. I love being with our church family and it makes me smile each time we are preparing to be with them again.

But I also really liked seeing all those days open with possibility.

I have no idea what 2014 will bring. I have to admit I’ve told people that I kind of hope it’s boring. Though I’m not sure that is possible for the Stones.

Maybe ask me after January?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Searching for Great Women and Men in Church History

This is my second part of a post. You can read the first part here.


"I befriended a man once, an old Irish-Catholic chaplain named Paul. One day he said do you know what God’s going to ask you when you get to heaven? God’s going to ask if you found out who you were supposed to be." - John Blase, The Doubt

Turns out that when you search on the internet for “Great Women in Church History,” you find out that women are intimidating and we might take over the world. Therefore, we must be stopped.

You think I’m kidding. Try the title of this famous sermon from John Knox:

First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women

No joke. Monstrous Regiment of Women.

The page I pulled up also included misogynistic quotes from Origen, Martin Luther, and John Calvin.

Oh dear…

So, I’m thinking about what this means for my girls. For the one who declared she will be a “girl pastor” and the older one with leadership leanings.

I know this: I won’t squelch it. I want to find healthy ways of feeding into what God is already doing in their hearts, even if their little heart is only in Kindergarten.

As I think about these things for myself and for my girls, I’m preparing to read a book called Jesus Feminist. I know. The title is…interesting, huh?

I’m very excited about this book. Not because I believe in girl power. Not because I want to adopt this title for myself. In fact, I think we better consider long and hard and pray and converse with trusted people if we are going to adopt a strong title like feminist. I’m excited because the author of this book recently said this about Jesus Feminist:

“…the book is less about Christian feminism and more about the kingdom of God and what it looks like when we are all walking in fullness and freedom together. I see it as this kind of a love letter, maybe a provocative love letter, to the church that I really love to come outside.”

We need some sort of this call to the church. We need better ways of living out what God has called for all of His children, men and women. How can it be the good news otherwise? Would Jesus die for life, full and abundant, to be handed only to a select few, limited by gender, race, or age?

I think not.

As we talk about the ideas of equality and let the conversation of God’s gifting to each of His children open up, I want to be cautious of not sliding into saying this “movement” can only come from women now, given the history of what men have said and done that was oppressive.

While I want my girls to be surrounded by strong women who are confidently living out of who God made them to be, I can say the same about the men. I want the girls in the presence of men who step out in faith and trust Him with His church, all of His church. In fact, I know from my own life that I gained a lot of my own voice from a handful of respected men who saw not my gender but my place in God’s kingdom. They heard me and treated me like a human being, never a second-rate child of God who should know my place and my (man-made) roles. They opened up opportunities for me to use my words and talents among God’s people with no questions asked.

That is what I hope for in the church. That is what I dream of when I think of my son, still in my womb, growing up do too.

We can’t change the past in the church, and I believe there are still female role models in church history to help my girls discover. We have found a few to read about: Deborah (judge and military leader from the Book of Judges), Blandina and Joan of Arc (Christian martyrs and saints), Catherine Booth and Evangeline Booth (founders of the Salvation Army, mother and daughter!).

In addition, I will keep talking with Kyla about leadership and allow Kaelyn to tell me over and over about all she wants to be when she grows up. They should know what it’s like to be able to express themselves with confidence and receive respect.

I will surround them with God’s people who offer space for my little women to do the same.

I will sit them in the front row this week as we watch their daddy take some vows and put on a stole, symbolizing a yoke, around his neck to show his willingness to step into his calling as a priest in God’s church. They know this calling has taken five long years of walking through an ordination process to complete. They have walked it with us.

May we as the people of God never be a monstrous regiment of anything. May we be fully His, fully free, and fully living into who He gifted all of us to be.

What will a young mom find when she searches on the internet for that in a century?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Thoughts on a Wednesday

Here the truth of what I’m doing in this moment. Right now. Today.

I’m sitting in a Starbucks with a lump in my throat because I want so very badly to write a blog post and the tears are seconds from flowing. Today has been just such a Wednesday, which included fixing a mistake I made on a project, forgetting to leave Kaelyn’s car seat for Aunt Susie to take the girls to Chick-fil-a (heard about that one via a phone call!), attending two parent teacher conferences, finally finishing lunch at 3pm, running (running!) Kyla to soccer practice, calling the doctor’s office nine minutes before they close to make an appointment for next week, and getting ready to grab dinner on my way to a church plant meeting after I get Kyla.

There is so very little left of this lady who is also almost thirty-one weeks pregnant with baby number three.

But I’m writing. I’m making my fingers move across the keys (and telling you all of my problems with Wednesday, I guess) because it’s the only remedy I know for the lump in my throat. It’s the only way I know to loosen up my mind, and my heart, and my words stored up that need to be come out. When I’m not creating, I feel empty. I need to create. I need to write.

So, here we go…

Did you know I completed two internships in college? It’s true. I had two distinct passions and though I can see how they overlap, it required me to complete two summers in a row doing two different types of work.

The first of the internships was as an administrative assistant at my church. I took phone calls, attended staff meetings, watered plants, and transcribed my pastor’s sermons. I have fond memories of that summer. I only got paid $40 a week. But at the end of the summer, the church took an offering and I was blessed with quite a big paycheck. I remain grateful for those allowed me to share a testimony about my summer from the pulpit and who gave to support me as I returned to school.

The following year, I was gaining confidence again in my writing and editing skills. The summer before, when I worked at the church, another woman on staff told me about her daughter-in-law who worked at Navigators. Then, sometime in that year, my uncle gave me the name of a man who worked at Navigators. Turns out the daughter-in-law and the man who knows my uncle worked together! I landed an internship working in the communications department of Navigators. I loved that job! So fun.

My first cubicle job. I wore my best skirts with my cardigan sweater sets and scarves. As I recall, I could have worn jeans or dress pants but most of the time I didn’t. I wanted to be seen as professional, mature, and capable, I suppose. I am grateful for my editors and the fun team meetings we held at The Ledge in Old Colorado City. I also discovered it’s very important to proofread or else you might send out something to thousands of donors about how their money went to rebuilding a damn instead of a dam.

I look back on both of those summers with fondness. I see how God used those few months of my life to shape me into the person I am today.

I remain grateful for that as I work my current job in my cubicle. I take seriously my call to faithfully teach children and families about Jesus via curriculum and other written materials. I am looking forward to leading a growing church plant on the east side of Colorado Springs, and though I am so tired when I arrive to our meetings on Wednesday evenings, there is no other place I’d rather be. I love our people. I love what God is allowing our family to get to do in this season as we build, and pray, and listen for His leading each day.

I hope over and over for the same for my girls. I pray for that all the time. I want God to speak to them so that they are stepping into who God made them to be even now.

Gratefully, I see this happening. Last weekend, we drove past the History and Bible museum Jeff is working at temporarily. Kaelyn says, “When I grow up, I’m going to work at that museum like daddy.” I should mention this little girl loves and adores her daddy! Kyla corrected her and reminded her the museum is only in our town for a few more months before it moves to another place.

I chimed in with, “Kaelyn, you know that daddy is a pastor, right? He leads our new church.”

She replies with, “Well then, I will be a pastor too. I will be a girl pastor.”

Okay, then. She also informed me that day that she plans to open a restaurant that serves pizza, tacos, burritos, and hot-mild sauce (that’s what she calls Taco Bell sauce). It will be called the Mixture Restaurant.

Not more than an hour later, I found myself at Target with the girls looking for Halloween costumes. Kae found her outfit right away but we spent almost another hour wandering around for Kyla. She has a very specific idea in mind to be a fairy on a cartoon she watches. I was having a hard time picturing the outfit she was explaining.

I suggested we go home and watch part of the cartoon so I could see the outfit. Well, first of all, Jeff and I have both watched this show with the girls. But I had forgotten that when they change into fairies that save the world (yeah…don’t ask….), they have outfits with next to nothing on. Ummm…no kid. Not wearing that. (Besides the fact you’ll be cold!) Also, their waist size is not human.

Trying not to get flustered, I finally asked, “What do you like about this particular character?”

“She’s the leader!”

Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. So we talked about that a bit and the conversation continued when Jeff got home later that evening. He suggested we look for great women in church history and maybe have Kyla read about that some more.

Then, he tried to talk Kyla into being Queen Elizabeth.

She informed us she doesn’t like history.


After the girls were in bed, I searched on the internet for “great women in church history” and you won’t believe what I found.

(continued in another post soon….) Update: You can read the next post here.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

When Will Life Begin?

This is a follow-up post I wrote for a MOPS blog after I gave a talk to a lovely group of moms. If you'd like to read more about the talk, you can check out Part 1 here and Part 2 here.


Have you ever caught yourself unintentionally singing a song from a cartoon your kids like? My girls watch My Little Pony nonstop these days, and now I catch myself humming the theme song after one of their Saturday morning marathons. (I think the people in the grocery store are appreciative of my magical spirit when I go shopping on those days.)

Another song that often plays in my head is “When Will My Life Begin?” from Tangled. Rapunzel dances around the tower she has been locked in most of her life. She dreams and draws and cleans and does the same things day after day with no reprieve. Her life is rote and she has only been given a small window with which to see the world.

As moms it can be hard to get up and do the same things day after day. We cook and clean and draw pictures of animals for our little ones because we love them. But we also know that these things need to be done.

Beyond that, we are often given the impression that we should be at every Bible study with our workbook pages fully filled in, have our children in multiple activities, and not only make dinner but it should come with a perfectly frosted cake with a cherry on top. Every single night.

Our homes ought to be perfectly painted and organized with labels. We should pray with our children each night and memorize verses with them too.

Soon it becomes too much. Then, one evening I’m doing laundry while dinner is boiling over on the stove while asking my children for the sixth time to pick up their toys in the living room before I step on them. The phone rings with someone from church, and I shut it off because there is no way I will be able to talk with that person above the noise. Then I feel guilty for not being available…

And that’s when I start singing, “When will my life begin?” because surely this is not it. It’s out there, beyond the windows. The better way that Jesus talked about with rest and freedom? He meant I might have that in 10-15 years, right? Right?!?!

Glennon Doyle of recently suggested two things about living each day:

1. Show up
2. Pay attention

Four words? I think I can handle that.

Beyond that, I’ve been asking God what those words mean. What do they mean for me? What do they mean for us as moms and women and His daughters?

Because I see how Jesus did that when He came. We see this in the account with Martha and Mary. Jesus was able to speak truth to Martha about her expectations because He showed up to her home and her life, and He paid attention to why she felt she had to do more.

Showing up and paying attention involves being present to the moment, even the crazy ones that have us juggling three things at one time. Showing up means we acknowledge the activities for the day, and we wait for God to reveal Himself as we engage in what needs to be done. Paying attention involves seeing the world with new eyes because we are made new in Him more and more each day.

When Jesus left earth, the Father sent The Helper—the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is who enables us pay attention. Not only to our own surroundings but also to who God made us to be and what He would have us to do each day. The Holy Spirit enables us to know when it’s a good idea to say “no” to an activity that might impede on an opportunity to rest, even if we feel we should do this thing in front of us. The Holy Spirit helps us take notice of the passions and gifts God has given us because He is also the One who endows us with the gifting.

And then, during our days, we can ask, God, what are you doing here? Right here, right now? Our routine activities become an opportunity for prayer, even simple prayers, for prayer is both speaking and listening.

For years, my attitude for laundry was to toss it in the dryer with frustration while I muttered about how it never goes away. Ever. There’s also cooking dinner. I am personally not a fan. Not only do I struggle to not burn dinner each night, there is the inevitable pile of dishes waiting for me after everyone is in bed. It’s like the kitchen has a personal vendetta. It mocks me daily.

But then, for whatever reason, one day I started scrubbing a pan and muttering words to God. Suddenly I realized that the natural rhythm of cleaning and folding laundry could be something more than a necessity. I could talk to God while I did such things.

I remember one day I received a phone call from some family friends who found out their mom had breast cancer. Their mom was also very special to me. I was grateful I had made lasagna that day. I had some serious things to ask God for on behalf of the ones I cared about. This became my ministry. It didn’t come with fancy nametags and standing up teaching a Bible study. But it was important to me and to God all the same.

When I fold laundry, I ask God to bless my children and my husband. If it’s a soccer uniform, I pray for fun and safety in the next game or practice. If it’s pajamas, I pray for what my daughter calls “sweet dreams.” (Those usually involve cupcakes or My Little Pony, of course.)

God is already working in your life. Yours. The one that has begun. With the chaos and the dirty diapers and multiple minivan trips to the store to get milk. If we have to pick a checklist to live by, let’s go with:

1. Show up
2. Pay attention

Because that is where we find grace in the everyday. And the rest and the freedom. Those are the moments of grace that go beyond when we first said, “Yes, Jesus, I want to follow You.” In A Beautiful Mess, Kristin Ritzau writes, “Grace means not escaping the mess and learning to experience life amidst the muck.”

When will your life begin? It already has.

“Listen. Are you breathing just a little bit and calling it life?” -Mary Oliver

Monday, July 29, 2013


Tonight I opened my e-mail to find an e-newsletter titled “Gain Important Leadership Lessons Now.” Hmmm…now, huh? Interesting.

In many ways I wish it were that easy. Jeff and I chose the road we are on because we sense a sacred call to lead. However, I can assure you the lessons learned along the way have been anything but now. Try more than a decade of one step forward and three steps back.

In fact, a couple of weeks ago I wore a dress to church that I bought two years ago to wear to Jeff’s final ordination service, which was supposed to be last spring. I’ve given up on the plans to wear it to the special occasion of the ordination, since we are still uncertain about a timing and date, and just started wearing it. It makes me a little sad, I suppose, but then I do feel good in that dress, so I guess that special occasion is now.

Last Saturday I planned to take the girls to the library but didn’t feel great so we stayed home and went tonight instead. The girls were disappointed on Saturday but also understanding as they skipped off to play. It was quiet in the East Library today, much quieter than a weekend, and we enjoyed ourselves. Later turned out to be a pretty great now.

Last night I spent the evening organizing my bookshelf on Goodreads. Tonight I couldn’t find any of the books I wanted at the library. I ended up getting three unexpected books. This kind of frustrated me at first. Not to mention a guy stood in the exact spot in the aisle where I wanted to pick up a Eugene Peterson book about spiritual reading. Hoping the tall man with a sleeveless cut off shirt and straw cowboy hat would shift, I circled the shelves a couple times with the girls, who were being as quiet as two excited little ones with new books can be. Finally, I gave up. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be. I’ll catch you another time, Eugene.

No “now” on that one. Instead I have these others. I wonder what their pages hold….

Leadership lessons come in many ways. But rarely now and all today. They can’t all come now. Because what would we do if all of the people and experiences used to shape us showed up at the same time? We’d probably fall down on our face in amazement. Reverence. Excitement. Overwhelm. The way I would expect Kaelyn to if we took her to DisneyWorld today. The way I would expect if Jesus showed up tonight and gave me my wildest dreams and best moments all at once. I might even be a little afraid at the magnitude of the goodness He bestows.

Instead we receive our lessons and our best moments in life a little at a time. Leaving us grateful for the missed Saturday at the library and the soft teal dress that falls just right, even with a growing pregnant belly.

I wish there weren’t pain and frustration and questions and uncertainty involved along the way but there is. There always is. That is why the truest and bravest ones among us are those with decades of unexpected nows and a willingness to be patient with and for their Teacher. Those are the leaders I want to follow. Hopefully that’s the kind of leader He’s molding me to be.

There are sure to be more circles and backward steps. I’ll bring my dress. And maybe even a pair of heels to wear with it.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

When He Speaks (Part 2)

Below is the continuation of a talk I adapted into a post. You can read Part 1 here.


So, what did God have for me? What does He desire for His beloved daughters?

One of the things I love about God is that He is not distant. He sent His Son in flesh and blood to be Immanuel, God with us. Jesus experienced unhealthy standards thrown His way. He had His share of encounters where He helped His followers sort out God’s truth from the cultural expectations of the day.

One of those encounters was at the home of an ultimate perfectionist—Martha. In Luke 10:38-40 we read:

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Now, I know Martha gets a bad rap sometimes. The truth is Martha probably had a pretty incredible gift of hospitality. Beyond that, Martha was simply acting within the expectations for the time in which she lived by inviting Jesus and His followers into her home to feed them. It’s understandable that she would be running around tending to details and upset with her sister for literally sitting down on the job.

You see, what Mary was doing was scandalous. Women did not simply sit at a Rabbi’s feet to learn. Women had a to-do list to complete when guests came. This fact was not supposed to be questioned. This was not supposed to violated or defied for any reason.

But, I want you to see is that this passage is not really about Martha or Mary. It’s about Jesus. It’s about His response. It’s about His speaking truth and affirmation to good girl Martha.

In Luke 10:40, Jesus says to Martha:

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,"

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset.” I don’t know about you, but somehow I can hear the gentleness in His voice when He says Martha’s name. Not only that. Jesus saw her. He truly saw her. He understood why she felt like she had to do and do more that day. He understood why she hollered about not having help.

And He gave her the truth about the doing and the being more.

He said this: “Only one thing is needed.” What one thing? Listening. Sitting at His feet. You see, when we stop long enough to sit at His feet, we get to hear the Truth about who we are and what God has for us. When we are able to hear His voice saying our name, we find out that not all of the expectations we put on ourselves are the “better” thing. While some of them may be good, they are not the best.

And God has something unique for each of us. He made you. He knows you. You don’t have to live up to a broad brushstroke of what the world or even the church says about trying harder or measuring up to a standard.

God’s desire for your life has nothing to do with these kinds of burdens. In another passage Jesus tells His followers, “My yoke is easy. My burden is light.” Most days, those words are hard to believe. I know I have set them aside in the past.

Jesus goes on to say to His disciples, “I will not lay anything ill-fitting on you.” How can believe this now? Because He already did. He placed those burdens we place on ourselves onto Himself instead. And all of our striving to be and do more? He placed them up on the cross. He set us free—with His words and with His actions! Not our actions. Not our doing. His.

That is why we can let go of the false things we believe about ourselves and what we think we need to do for Him. We can learn to let go of perfection and all the trying to keep up. We can stop running around trying to please. We can trust Him when He says, “There is the better way. I made it for you.”

The better way includes grace. Freedom. Rhythms, not seeking balance and bullet-point lists at every turn. Eugene Peterson paraphrased Jesus this way in The Message (Matthew 11:28-30):

Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.

He says these things in a Voice more tender than you can imagine. He looks into your uncertain eyes. He holds you in His arms because of His love. You are His daughter, not a disappointment.

When Kyla came to me that day in tears, I was grateful for the opportunity to assure her that all is not lost on an imperfect low note on a recorder. I was grateful for a moment to look into her eyes and speak truth.

For many years, I didn’t know that such a moment could be part of my own story. There were many times when I was sure that I would never experience freedom from all the standards I had created for myself. But Jesus changed all of it the day I tossed out that book and came to Him in desperation. He gave me a glimpse of the better way and I haven’t been the same since.


I realize it can be hard to put some of these things into the practicality of every day living. What exactly does it look like to listen at Jesus' feet when I'm just trying to survive each day and raise a family? Later this week, I'll post a copy of the follow-up blog I provided for the MOPS group. Update: You can read the follow-up post here.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

When He Speaks

The other day, I mentioned one of the highlights of my spring—speaking at a MOPS meeting in Boulder.

I was given freedom to teach anything I wanted. I threw out a variety of ideas to Jeff before I started writing. “No, no, no,” he said. “All good ideas but I think you need to tell your story of being a recovering perfectionist and how that connects to motherhood.”

So I did.

I even added in a passage from the gospels that I have been wrestling with for many years. I had so much fun writing the talk and also sharing it among some amazing mamas on a snowy Tuesday morning in April, I thought I would take the time to adapt the story into a two-part blog here.

Here is Part 1...


My daughter Kyla is learning to play the recorder at school and a couple of weeks ago she came down the stairs distraught because, despite her best attempts, she just couldn’t get a low D to play.

I touched her hand gently and urged her to take a deep breath. I let the tear remain on her cheek as I carefully told her that she could do it. It would be okay. And it was. Within a few minutes, she had it figured out.

I hate to admit this but that was one of those moments when I could have been looking in a mirror. I remember standing in the bathroom of our house when I was about the same exact age, watching to make sure my lips were positioned correctly so I could to get a low note to play on my flute. In tears and nearly crumpling to the ground, I exclaimed, “That I can’t do it but I’m not going to stop until I have mastered it.”

You see, the message I’ve sent to myself over and over for most of my life is to try harder. Be more. Do and do and do. Be perfect. At everything.

It doesn’t help much that I grew up in a faith environment that celebrated this mentality too. From an early age, I had no idea that the weekly activities I was attending were actually working me into a faith frenzy of mastering checklists. The attendance sheets I filled out and fancy pins I wore on a uniform proved I was willing to work hard for God. I tried hard to be a good Christian girl. I was determined to be righteous and holy. That’s what God demanded, right?

I went to all the church meetings. I practically ran my youth group. I read my devotions every day. I said all the right things and memorized oh so many verses. I had a defense for every possible anti-Christian argument. I took notes in Sunday School like a crazy person. I observed mothers and internalized that the best thing I could ever be for God is a mom.

By my senior year, I actually took a class from my Christian high school titled “The Making of a Godly Woman.” We planned our weddings and took purity pledges. I was sure that this was the way, as Matthew 5:48 says, “To be perfect as my heavenly Father is perfect.”

In college I met a handsome guy. We dated and got married. I was continuing my track record of living up to what I had been told and what I believed was the way to be the perfect Christian woman.

In premarital counseling we discussed having children but decided to wait for a while so my husband could pursue a Masters degree. Well, all of the lovely plans I had got tossed aside when I found out, after two months of marriage, that I was going to be a mother shortly before our first anniversary.

I was actually quite devastated at this news. This was not what I had planned. How could I be the perfect mother when I hadn’t had time to master being the perfect wife?

We made our plans to welcome our daughter. For my husband this meant obtaining a camcorder to record our little bundle of joy. For me, this meant gathering stacks of books on motherhood so I could quickly figure this thing out before the birth. I read a few books on health and safety but I primarily read books about what God wanted for me as a mom.

The tension built, as did the internal manual I was creating for myself. There were practically volumes by the time Kyla arrived. I was overwhelmed and overcome by the expectations, by my desire to be a good mom. I was also gripped with fear that I wouldn’t do it right. In so very many different ways, I was sure I would mess this motherhood thing up and I just couldn’t fail. I couldn’t. For I believed that if I messed this up, if I wasn’t perfect, that I was really disappointing God.

And it’s a terrible burden to bear. Feeling for years on end that you are a disappointment or that you might not be measuring up in so many areas. But, you see, these standards are often lies we believe about who we should be and what we should do. We internalize the lies as truth. Then, we attach them to what God says or believes about us, when they really have nothing at all to do with what He truly desires for our lives.

A Journaling Moment:

What are some things you believe about being a Christian mother/wife/woman?

When I started out as a mother, the internet was still catching on. There wasn’t the barrage of mommy blogs and Pinterest boards there are now. But there were articles and books. So many authors have a good intention of encouragement. But there are also a host of these resources that can serve a purpose in our life of producing the kind of fear and unhealthy standards I experienced.

I read one of those books about being a godly wife, in those early years, when my first daughter was still young. I couldn’t even get through the first few chapters because a wave of panic ran over me. Even though the author was a Christian, I wondered how she could deduce such harmful rules for me to follow, all in the name of Jesus. I stopped reading. Then, I threw the book in the trash. I couldn’t even bring myself to donate it to Goodwill.

I truly believe that day was a turning point for me. I started asking God, “What do you want from me? Am I a disappointment to You?” And no, I didn’t always ask in a kind and quiet voice because I was frustrated. I was desperate for a change. I needed to know if there was another way.


I'll post Part 2 later this week. Update: You can read Part 2 here.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Meaningful Moments in February

Back in February I had a quick conversation with a near-stranger whose words linger in my heart today.

Due to the nature of my job, we often get authors and artists who visit our building and speak in employee chapel meetings. One lady was Nicole Unice. I remembered Nicole right away when I saw the announcement for her chapel because I recalled her post in the Women in Ministry series last year. It was one of my favorites.

After Nicole spoke, I went up to talk with her briefly. I try to keep from doing a strange, I don’t want to be “groupie” but I love your calling and your ministry and your heart and could we best friends and have coffee? dance. I shared my name with Nicole, told her I remembered her previous post in the series, and also shared my love for leadership in the church. She gave me an inspirational quote from Grey’s Anatomy and mentioned she could tell I must have the gift of teaching based on my background and current role in curriculum.

Now, this is not terribly big news to me. I’ve known I have that gift since high school.

The thing is I really haven’t been using it much.

I spent thirteen years doing children’s and youth ministry, and I got pretty burnt out with being in the classroom setting. I’ve been kind of lost since then.

Part of it is I don’t think I knew that I even could teach where I truly feel called and gifted. I’ve had to discover my freedom in that area. Plus, I don’t think it has been the right timing much in the last few years.

But I believe it’s time now. As I mentioned, I continue to think about that brief conversation on a February morning. Immediately after speaking with Nicole, I was grateful for an opportunity that had already been planned to speak at a MOPS group in April. I have been pursuing more teaching since that time, with plans to lead a parenting class at our church in the fall. It feels like a renewed passion.

Truthfully, I’m surprised to find my desires shifting slightly this year. I do love writing still, and teaching lends itself to preparing and weaving ideas together in similar ways. I also don’t want to abandon building relationships in any way to simply stand in a room and give information to people. My relationships are absolutely vital to how God speaks to me and shapes me so I can use my gift of teaching.

Recently, Sharon Hodde Miller tweeted:

I love writing and teaching, but I’m beginning to see that the offerings of time and relationship yielded the most plentiful Kingdom harvest.

I couldn’t agree more.

I’m interested in how this will all unfold. I’m looking forward to sharing my love for God and Scripture and family in ways I haven’t been able to in a long time.

I’m grateful for that brief conversation with Nicole when winter was preparing to turn to spring. I can tell she loves teaching and writing too. But she offered her time in those few minutes. I benefitted from the relational moments. I hope for those future moments of connection when I am able offer an inspirational quote too (possibly from One Tree Hill?) and share what I see God doing—in His church, in others, and also in me.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Women at The Well

“...and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well.” - John 4:6

I have to admit I ignored the announcement the first couple of times I heard it.

Attend a women’s retreat? I don’t think so.

Quite honestly, it’s hard for me to be in large groups of women. Even small ones for that matter sometimes.

Conversations often turn to comparison or unwanted advice giving. I was content hiding in my pew each week. Didn’t really need to meet other women or interact or even take a chance of being hurt. I also feared a scenario similar to this post. I would need a t-shirt to say I survived, right?

I don’t remember how I finally talked myself into going. I think it was the theme of the day retreat: rest. Or Jeff may have gently suggested I go. Either way, I figured I could slip into the back of the room and quickly out again before the event ended. I thought that maybe I’d at least get something out of the speaker.

Turns out I was right about one thing: I did get a lot out of the speaker. In fact, I still have my notes from that day.

But I was in for a surprise when it came to the women. They were present. Truly present to God and to one another. The day was set up in a way that we were encouraged to be patient with one another and allow each person to be who they are where they are.

I had never, ever heard of such a thing. I may have taken notes on that aspect too.

From that day on, I quickly checked the announcements at church hoping for more of these retreats. I needed them. My soul longed for them. I actually wanted to be with these women.

I learned from them. They didn’t just talk at me. They had no desire to control me, or shove me into a mold of their own image, or prove they should be respected. They simply sat and listened. They told funny stories about raising children. They helped me feel not so alone. They made me feel as if I could make it as a wife and mother.

I don’t think that was their agenda. That’s just what came out of those times. There was room for me there. Room for my passions and my questions. For my need to be alone and my need to process.

Over the years, through these retreats and through other times together, these women have become my mentors and spiritual mothers. They’ve become my friends.

They are the women who pray for me, write me, text me. They checked in with me regularly when I was away last year. They believe in me and in my calling. They are the ones who say, “I hold hope for you” when I just can’t hold it for myself.

I can say with absolute certainty that I wouldn’t be the woman I am to day without the influence of these women. And they are women of all ages. They are mothers, grandmothers, and singles. The women who told stories about their children are retirement age. They offer me so much, and I hope I’m offering them something from my life too.

We talk about women and ministry. They are reading books like Half the Church because they never stop learning. They believe in women leading out of their gifts and callings. They've traveled around the world to use their own.

They long for grace because they grew up in faith communities like the one I grew up in. They know Jesus in a way I can only hope to know Him when I’m twice my age. I want these women around me!

I’m grateful I went that Saturday in June. I was tired. I needed rest. I had no idea refreshment would come in the form of an incredible circle of women. I had no idea that God would use this group of women, who were tired and thirsty and longing in their own way, to touch my heart so deeply.

I look forward to walking with them for many more seasons of my life. Together, we are His beloved. We are the women at the well.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

In A Word

It’s been quiet here for a while. I’ve started to tell about my Spring multiple times but it doesn’t come out quite right.

In the first or second week of May, we were forced to decide Jeff wouldn’t be able to walk at graduation. He has his diploma. But I was looking forward to the event. To the celebration, where he would walk among friends and shake hands with professors after But it’s a little tough to celebrate when just getting to the rehearsal and ceremony would require more than your budget can handle these days and eating ham sandwiches on the drive home would be your lunch that day. So, we decided to stay home on that Saturday.

The day we decided this had to happen, something in my heart snapped. I’ve had a hard time putting it to words. But it doesn’t stop the thoughts of “If only…” from coming. Because he was really supposed to graduate last May. But, as you know, we went to Kansas.

And Kansas took. It took more than I had to give from the day we arrived. It took and took and left pain in its wake. My brain is still trying to make sense of it all, even when I’m asleep. Nearly every Saturday I dream about that place again and wake up in a panic on Sunday morning.

You can call it resistance. You can call it spiritual warfare. Whatever you want to label it. You can give up on me. You can even scold me for being overly optimistic about the end of seminary and for being idealistic. Fine. Whatever. All I wanted to do was see my husband graduate.

The closest I’ve come to a definition is what Emily Freeman says about cynicism—it comes when she’s frustrated and passionate without hope. Oh, yes, passion mixed with frustration. Only for the last four damn years. Most days none of what we’ve walked through seems worth it.

I am simply at my end. We are on to new endeavors. I am cautiously excited about them. Praying through each step and begging God not to allow these to be taken from us too.

Because I can’t take anymore. I can’t.

And we can say that all this frustration is working out strength in me. We can quote verses about perseverance and God never giving us more than us can handle.

But I don’t feel that strength is being worked out in me. I feel incredibly weak and hurt. And tired. Mostly tired. I can’t even express myself in many words anymore.

So, I’m going to close this post now. I’ll return to the blog when I can. Sorry I can’t be my usual God-will-work-it-all-out self. I’m not saying He won’t. This is just where I am these days.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Serves and Songs of Love

“My song is love, love to the loveless shown. And it goes on, you don't have to be alone.” –Coldplay, A Message

“Mommy, I signed up to sing in the talent show. The auditions are April 23rd,” Kyla announced when I arrived home the other day.

I gave my daughter a hug. She grinned from the excitement. We talked about what song she might sing, about memorizing lyrics, and on and on.

But then the next morning came, and she spoke up on the way to school.

“Mommy, I feel nervous. I don’t know if I can sing in front of lots of people. And what if I don’t get picked after auditions?”

“I understand why you might feel that way,” I replied.

You see, in my teen years, I tried out for Varsity volleyball. The tryouts were held on a Wednesday night and so I had to miss youth group to attend. Since my friends would be aware of my absence, I told them to come over to the school after church.

I played hard in tryouts and when the rosters were posted, my name wasn’t anywhere. Not even on Junior Varsity, which is what I had played the previous year. I mean, I had wanted to play Varsity with my teammates but I also just loved volleyball. JV would have been okay too.

My heart beat faster. As more people looked at the list, they began to notice I was not on there. I felt embarrassed, especially because my friends from church had come over to see me and celebrate by this time.

The coach called me into her office. Her words: “We cut you because of your serves. You can’t do them, and you never will be able to.”

You can’t, and you never will be able to.

Those words have played over and over in my head for so many years.

I relayed some of this story to Kyla as we talked about fear of disappointment. “But that’s mean!” she exclaimed. “Coaches shouldn’t talk like that to kids. They should want to help them.”

“I know,” I answered. “That is true. But I didn’t give up either just because someone said those things.”

“What happened?”

Oh, what happened…well, I worked hard. Played on a club team in the spring, came back to play Varsity the next fall, and ended up being the only freshman to start on my collegiate team. Why? Because of my damn good serves.

I continue to learn the value of evaluating harmful messages that have been handed down to so many of us from the most terrible of places. The lines and lies we believe about ourselves. The ones that somehow work their way into our believing that God thinks the same of us.

And there have been so many others. So many twisted phrases and broken beliefs that came from leaders, and other Christians, and my youth pastor (who made an assumption that volleyball was my idol and told me God would make me break my ankle if I didn’t quit).

I have played hard. I have tried hard, and I have loved hard.

The thing is that in spite of the fact that I have tried to serve and obey and love God to my fullest, He loves me harder. And His love comes with no conditions. He would love me if I had done nothing at all. That is the message I want played over and over in my heart and in my head and in my life.

It is the same message I hope to play for my daughters. It’s the message I hope they hear loud and clear as God meets them in their own confusing and difficult moments, where the words from those they respect, and also those they don’t respect, try to become an overplayed loop of accusation.

As our conversation in the van continued, I told Kyla, “If you don’t make tryouts for the talent show, you aren’t a bad person. It doesn’t mean you aren’t good enough. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t loved. You won’t disappoint mommy and daddy and you won’t disappoint God. You can never be a disappointment God. You are His daughter. He made you, and He loves you.”

I said those last few words with a lump in my throat. I type them today with a lump in my throat. They are still hard to believe sometimes, especially for those of us who grew up in a works-based faith environment.*

But that is the truth. And it doesn’t matter whatever else I model and share with my children. This song of Love is the foundation I will use. We will work from that belief first. In every conversation about modesty and faith and friendship in the coming years, we will begin here. As the beloved of God.

May all of us always hear and know our God loves us with an everlasting love that holds no prerequisites, no criteria to meet in order to receive acceptance, and no stupid tryouts.

Now that’s a message worth playing. And worth singing about too.

*I can't even read this Huffington Post article without a mix of emotions. Perhaps you have "brought the best of yourself" too?

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Betrayal

Sting of betrayal.
You took my hand and then yanked yours away.
Fickle liar and swift to let me go. More lies to cover your deceit.
Where is the Love?
My only comfort: the One who held the hands and touched the feet of those who denied their own.

Wet floor. Muddy towel.
“What you are about to do, do quickly.”
He did. They did. Quickly.
Wine still on lips, a kiss, and coins spilled on the ground.
A trail of blood from that red room down the dusty road that bore the grooves of tired feet and a heavy cross.

Pierced hands and side accompanied a pierced heart.
He never spoke of their denial, their hatred, their mockery,
or their sheer ignorance at murdering the Son of God.
He only said, “Forgive them. They know not what they do.” And the blood continued to flow.

His wounds became their healing. Just as they became mine.
Healing for today. Healing for years past.
Healing for when those times collide. Again.
I try to lock it away in an Upper Room. But I bleed. Sometimes I gush instead. My own painful road to the cross.

Darkness overtakes. I stand in silence.
Incredulous response to what is happening.
I look around. Fear.
How will they react when they find out I know Him,
that I loved Him all these years?
I am the one who betrays. I am the one who runs when I want to stand. I am the one who put the nails in the hands that offered me comfort.