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.