Monday, April 24, 2017

Making Space


These are our babies, my sister's and mine - all spectacularly unique and still so little that they only know how to be - and make space for exactly who they are. My mom, in fact, overheard an interchange between Emily Ellen and Marilee a few months ago that still gets us tickled. They were coloring happily together until someone did something that escalated into the exchange of ugly words. They paused and Emily Ellen said to Marilee, "We should probably say we're sorry," to which my Marilee quickly replied, "I'm not sorry." At which point Emily Ellen responded, "I'm not either." And it was over. They went back to coloring. And while they may have some things to learn about apologizing when you don't feel like it, they also have some things to teach us about making space for each other. They had their tiff, said their junk aloud to one another, and then moved right along in their relationship with one another. They are so, so good at making room for each other's ugly, and I am just about smitten with it.

Can we just talk, for a minute, about how challenging it is to become the person we want to be? But seriously, I was just looking through my Evernote Notebooks (my husband just did a herkie because he has a SERIOUS Evernote crush) and found a note that I wrote in January. Not that many months ago. That I forgot existed. At all. It is a list of my goals for this year. It reads like this:
Bible
  • Read through the New Testament with Calvary and journal via the FB page and Insta.
Prayer
  • Pray daily with purpose and passion - but most of all with persistence.
Writing
  • Write daily for one hour.
Bellwether
  • Pray and watch for next steps.
Exercise
  • Jog 1 mile 3 days/week. 
  • Work up in ab exercises 3 days/week.
  • Work up in pull ups 3 days/week.

Lumpkin.

I have managed to sort of mostly keep up with the Calvary reading plan. The end. That is all. 

I'm so good at list making and dreaming and feeling all the feelings. I'm so bad at list doing. There is more to this issue than just, "I mean - nobody keeps their New Year's resolutions." I am easily distracted by too many dreams, and I get all wrapped up in all my feelings. So many feelings and desires and passions. 
"Sometimes I have big feelings where big feelings are not needed." - Michal Lynn Tweedie
And so this becomes the issue for us dreamers. To step out of the dream world long enough to live in the real one. To put the feelings aside in order to take up the task at hand. But lists like that one up there - they are valuable, because now I remember. I remember what I set out to do in 2017, and 2017 ain't over, baby. Maybe I'll go for a jog tomorrow. Maybe you can ask me about it? Maybe I'll journal a little better about what God is teaching me through personal Bible Study. Maybe you can ask me about that, too?

Together is, in my experience, the hardest and also the most sure-fire way to get to the place you want to be.

If you're married - or really even if you are not - chances are God has put someone in your life who is the opposite of you. The very, exact opposite. I hung out with a new friend last week who expressed how very not-feely she is and how it slap wears her out when women pour out and swim in all their feelings. I giggled and shared with her that my propensity is, in fact, to BE one of those women - except that I have learned that my feelings can either be drowning agents or tools for growth. The first is what they are when I let them guide my life. The latter is what they are when I choose to look for what (or who) they are pointing me to. She later shared that sharing her "junk" in front of people is a hard thing for her. I love, love this about both of us. Can you see it? How our struggles and strengths actually complement each other?!

I have to tell you that Josh and I are struggling to muddle through how we can complement and not crush each other. We've been married for nearly twelve years, and we are so different than we were a decade ago. But our personalities are the same as they were - different as ever. Last night we had a big word vomit fest where we just laid it all on the table - everything we're muddling through. And apart from Jesus, it seems impossible to love each other well. That's the truth. But with Jesus, with Him - only Him - He can lead us both to Evernote (herkie #2) at the same time to sort out what we are thinking and feeling. Me in a coffee shop. Josh in a meeting room. And we can giggle wildly when we share our notes because his is in detailed bullet list form and mine is in the shape of a very pretty, wordy few paragraphs that reads half like a prayer and half like a journal entry.

My point is this - God has all sorts of ways of refining us - and I've come to learn that it's almost entirely through relationships. When we run into a person who challenges us, who forces us to think a little differently, who asks hard questions, who disagrees with us - what do we do? Do we run? Do we shut down? Or do we bravely, boldly say, "You. I choose you because walking alongside you will make me more like Jesus, more whole, more changed." Do we dare to be exactly who we are while blending lives with the ones who are not like we are, but are seeking to love Jesus like we are?

Gosh, I hope so. Because this is the body of Christ. Saying it hurts when it hurts. Asking about the run or the sin or the dream. Making space for feelings even when they aren't needed but loving a person too much to let them be led by their feelings instead of God's loving, disciplining Word and guiding Spirit. Making space for bullet lists even when they're boring but loving a person too much to let them be led by their doing instead of God's gracious, freeing Word and guiding Spirit. This is part of the richness of following Jesus alongside all the other ones who are following Him. It's messy and hard but He's using us to move each other toward wholeness, friends! Let's not miss it.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Roots


Something in my chest today kept me quiet. The wind blew steadily through the azaleas and the oaks and the not-yet-green crepe myrtles, moving branches and leaves, sending bees scurrying. The old white steeple stood high peeking from behind the pink flowers. It was balmy and a little overcast - and extraordinarily beautiful. I've been there before, of course. My Paw-Paw is buried there. He went to be with Jesus when I was 9. We went a few times after that, and I always remember how green it was. Maybe that's partially because I knew the town was actually called Evergreen - I don't really know. Regardless, I remember it as abundant and lush. And going back as an adult, I can tell you that it did not disappoint. I can, in fact, tell you that it took my breath away.

I feel very nearly on the verge of tears typing this out, and I can't quite put my finger on why. There is something so deeply magical about deep roots. Family lines full of good people with good hearts and good stories - mess-ups and mistakes, to be sure - but mostly good and mostly people who followed Jesus with their lives the best way they knew how. Every time I pause to remember this, I find myself a little choked up, overwhelmed with gratitude and something that really does feel very much like I imagine magic would - pricking and warming, whispering old stories and new. Because I know what a rare and unusual thing it is to have such deep, grounding, good, healthy roots. Again I say, flawed of course, lest you think I am riding my high horse.

It makes me consider all those names listed in the Bible - the ones I just skip over because for-the-love-of-all-the-land, must I try to sound ANOTHER one out? It makes me think about how each of those names represented a whole life - lived either well or poorly, and how that life influenced the one after that and the one after that and the one after that - among all the ones that it influenced as they walked alongside one another.

In my world, family is a big, big deal. It always has been, and I am so glad about that.

But I want to say something to all of you that maybe feel like your roots don't run deep or if they do, they're not healthy and nourishing. I want to say something to those of us who think that our roots are the best roots. I want you to hear that Jesus gives us new roots. That He specifically says that the people who decide to follow Him, they are His true mother and brother and cousin. And if we are adopted into the family of Christ, it must follow that we now share in His lineage! What a gift, y'all. What roots we have! Abraham and Moses and Rahab and David and Peter and Paul and Timothy and Martin Luther and C.S. Lewis and my Paw Paw and the person who led you to Christ. What an amazing, incredible gift - new roots, wider roots, deeper roots. Roots of faith and returning when you leave and of saying what you mean and of praying enormous prayers and of making mission fields out of every piece of ground you stand on and of hanging on when everything says to let go. Good, healthy, rich roots.

Friends, this is no small thing. And it overwhelms me that God grafts us in - that whether our earthly roots are solid and grounding and good or not is really of no consequence in His kingdom, because when we say, "Yes," to Him, we get new, immovable, sustaining veins that steady us as we grow up, up, up toward the God who planted us in the first place.

We are held steady by up-from-the-grave roots, friends. Let's be grateful for that gift!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

In a Million Ways


"Can I just tell you that your pictures radiate happiness? I get the feeling that it is an accurate portrayal."

I received this from a dear and sweet friend just yesterday, and I quickly responded that she is correct. We are happy in a million ways. But also that really is only half the story because nothing is ever only roses or thorns. 

I have been quiet about the hard places in my life since our move, broadcasting all the ways moving back home is a gift, a truly extravagant gift. And it is. It has been, in some ways, like taking a tranquilizer - restful and without worry. Most things feel more doable, less overwhelming because my people are here. The people who already know my flaws and love me anyway. The people who love my kids like I do. The places that built the foundation of my story. That is a grounding, good thing, friends. Adelle rides her bike to my parents' house at least once a week just to bake cookies or visit for an hour. Josh's parents drop in for spontaneous visits. We do real and true life with my sister and her family. We get to see Josh's siblings far more often than we ever have before. When we go to church or to the store or to the bakery, we see people with whom we share genetics and history and unconditional love - and aside from Jesus there is little that is more comforting and restful and grounding. 

And also this move has been hard, too. We ache for Colorado almost daily. We miss the mountains, our church, our friends, and our neighborhood. We miss Jack's, daily walks to the bus stop, snow in the winter, and hammocks in the summer. I miss Ralston Creek Trail with everything inside of me. I miss Jill and Jennifer and Abby and Laurel and a million others. I miss walking through the doors at Storyline, exchanging "Hellos" and weekly updates among a church family that God allowed us to help build with our time and hands and prayers and tears. We had built a home and a life there that we loved very much. My oldest has struggled mightly to find her place. We have all struggled with insecurities and unsurety about where exactly we fit as new people, molded and changed by different cultures and places, back in a place that is largely the same as when we left. Just as wonderful and warm as ever - but different because we are different. 

I knew this would be the case, of course. I didn't expect to arrive home and have all my struggles and fears and doubts and insecurities be healed. This is not the way of God - to heal us with circumstances. I tell it to my single friends and those aching for a baby - and I tell it to myself. God heals us when we draw near to Him for healing. 

Just today I was reading the story in Mark 1 about the man with leprosy who approached Jesus and said, "If you are willing, heal me." And it says that Jesus felt great compassion toward the man and said, "I am willing." And He healed him.

Friends, we are all broken to pieces in a million ways - and I want you to know that while moving to my hometown has been good and wonderful in a million ways, too, it hasn't stitched up all my broken places. In fact, some pieces have split wider since arriving, and for that I am grateful because when I become aware of those broken places, I know I can run straight to the One who is willing and able to stitch me up whole again.

Circumstances will not make you whole. Only Jesus will. Are you running to him with all your yucky today?

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Nothing Left to Prove


Wading into potential blindspots so God can do some (often scary) work there is a significant part of following Jesus. I believe that God's Word is the best place to go when you can't quite sift through what is true and what feels true. Lots of times we really want to go to the Bible so that it can confirm what feels true, not to challenge it - but often, challenge our comfortable is exactly what it does! This can make reading the Bible feel like a verbal beating - if you don't understand that its words are meant for healing not beating.

I'm reading the New Testament with my church this year. We started in Matthew on January 1st, and Matthew has always been one of my favorite books. I never can put my finger on exactly why, maybe because its every word shouts "Jesus was really, real - and His words are really true!" But this time - y'all - Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. Phew. It's all sorts of bringing the hurt - and also the healing. 

I'm not going to tell you about all of it because I'm still wading through a lot of stuff that comes with a year like our family has had, stuff that I can't quite tell yet what should be shared and what shouldn't. I've found that the best policy when that happens is just to sit quietly. But as I was reading in Matthew 6 and 7 today, I noticed that Chapter 6 begins with a lot of business about what not to do loudly or publicly, about "Do not worry," and "Don't be a Judgey-von-holier-than-thou," and such. While it does certainly sound like a lot of "Do not's," Jesus flows right into this tender and empowering moment of - "Sweet friends, just ask for what you need. When you feel like you are not good enough, instead of making a performance out of our relationship, just ask me for what you need. You are enough in me. When you feel like you don't or won't have enough, just ask me for what you need. You have enough in me. God is wildly in love with you - do you really think He won't give you everything He knows you need and more?" 

Jennie Allen says it best here.

"Something about the ability to say who we are and whose we are causes humility to come out of us. We can get on our knees and say our junk and do the humble, lowly task because we have nothing to prove and nothing protect. When you have nothing to protect and nothing to prove, you get so dangerous! When you have nothing to protect and nothing to prove, you will taste freedom for the first time in your life. If you wanna be free, stop trying so hard. See, the idea of the Christian life is, 'I'm going to invite myself into your life. I'm going to exchange me for you.' Honey, you've got nothin' left to prove."

She's right. When you are all wrapped up in Jesus, you don't need to perform or worry or judge because He really is enough.

What is God teaching you right now?

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Why Noonday?


If I am going to tell you about my journey to Noonday, I need to go way back. Before babies and church planting and home ownership - basically before any real adulting started for Josh and me. Radical by David Platt came sprawling across the American church culture - sending us all spinning and chewing and wrestling and running. Some of us ran way too far with the whole thing, exalting him and his words to near Scripture authority - which he never demanded from us, but I digress. 

I read Radical, and I was deeply convicted. I was also deeply shamed. There is a difference. Conviction is for healing. Shame is for crippling. I had just bought some new curtains. Curtains I'd saved up for - for like, a year - because of the part where we weren't really adulting yet and therefore didn't have a lot of money at our disposal. 

I remember lying on the couch next to Josh, tears honest-to-goodness sliding down my face, and saying, "Do I have to take my curtains back now?"

And so it has gone - on and on through my growing process - this battle with consumerism. Do I control it or does it control me? Am I terribly selfish because I like pretty things, and I like to buy them for my house and my kids and me? What kind of person does it make me that there are people literally dying from lack of food and clean water while I whine about curtains?

And also God is gracious and kind and loves to see me enjoy that which I love to enjoy, within the bounds of what is healthy for me. So what about that?

Back and forth we go.

Fast forward to two babies later and I participated in Jen Hatmaker's Seven. Not because I felt guilty or because I was looking for a big, crazy change your life thing, but because I had learned that choosing to wade into what looks suspiciously like a mess of blindspots is a really valuable thing in following Jesus more honestly. And my eyes were blown open to the idea of social and consumer responsibility. And instead of thinking, "How can I spend less to give more," I started thinking, "How can I spend more wisely to empower more broadly? How can I better see people as people rather than charity cases?"

And it changed me. It changed the way I saw the homeless, the very, very different than me, the rude, the arrogant, the judgmental, the whiny pants - I started looking them in the eyes and my heart started growing tender, soft, and pliable - open and curious. 

Then I moved to an area of the country where we were the "poor" ones - and we were not poor. This was an interesting twist. Three babies in I took a job as a lifeguard which required me to pull hair out of drains - AKA the form of humility just above wiping grown-up's hineys. I didn't rub shoulders with people who had less than me for the most part - always people who had more. This changes your view point, slowly and surely.

But then we moved back to my hometown, and Josh took a job that puts us neck deep in visible, tangible brokenness along with spiritual brokenness. And I found myself face to face, once again, with my extraordinary privilege and selfishness. I strolled down the sidewalk of one of the strip malls in town and found myself face to face with a very dirty man digging in and eating from a trash can on the sidewalk. His eyes - friends - I was struck sick with all of the people, myself included, strolling in and out of stores buying what they didn't need while he ate scraps from a trash can. I didn't have any cash or any food to give him, and so I walked by - headed into one of those good ole' poorly-made-clothing warehouses, my gut still lurching from what I'd just seen.

I stood in the aisle fingering a necklace that I was considering buying (please know I hear your shout-y thoughts at me right now - I was delivering them to myself as well). I needed a new on to replace the last cheap gold number that had finally turned an awful shade of green. I flipped it over to find the price tag and discovered that it was $28. Twenty-eight. For a necklace I would have to replace in less than 6 months, that was likely made by severely underpaid employees - twenty-eight dollars that would never have anything to do with putting actual food on a person's table, or allowing them to keep and raise there own children. 

And then I thought about Noonday and what I had heard about it through social media and the IF:Gathering. I thought about how it actually is possible to, for not too much more money than the "cheap" stuff, buy pretty things AND affect change - about how we live in a day when that is a real thing. So, I began researching what it would look like to become part of this new thing called ethical fashion through Noonday.

I love that I can know the stories of the people I'm buying from - that when I buy form them I'm not contributing to another needless fundraiser or money for the sake of money - I'm contributing to the actual livelihood of a person that would otherwise not have the same opportunities to thrive. I can know their stories and sometimes look into their eyes. The truth is, people usually want the opportunity to use their hands more than they want a handout.

And also - the jewelry is SPECTACULAR! I mean truly - each one is a statement piece, and I'm a girl who likes to make a statement.

So in the end, the becoming a Noonday Ambassador was an easy choice. Click that link over on the right (you might have to scroll down a bit) and you can peruse our Fall/Winter line - and maybe buy a few things. You'll love some of it and the rest of it one of your friends or family will love! 

Follow me on social media - Facebook and Instagram - for more updates about the beauty of Noonday, how to host a trunk show, how to become an ambassador, how to get in on my Noonday launch party - about creating a flourishing world where children are cherished, people have jobs, women are empowered and we are connected. 

Let's take our privilege (because if you have a computer or phone and the internet at your regular disposal, you are already more privileged than most of the world) and leverage it for good, friends. Let's change the world!

But most of all, let's be kind and generous and conscious as we move through our days. No one should have to eat from a trash can while we buy cheap, fake comfort.

Love y'all like crazy!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Down and Dirty Truth about Homeschooling


So, we're homeschooling. I've mentioned that I think, but I don't think I've told you about how we arrived at that decision, about how it's impacted our life, and about how it hasn't.

Before we even knew we were leaving Arvada, circumstances began to align in such a way that we felt led to homeschool. Adelle was in a public school in Arvada, and our experience there was good. Truly good. We did not choose to homeschool because we thought the public school system was failing us. But the more I studied the classical education model, the more sense it made to me - the more it sounded like a thing that would produce thriving, free-thinking, life-long learners - capable of having and defending their own thoughts and opinions in a thoughtful, respectful way. Homeschooling would also allow us to introduce our kids to certain ideas on our own timetable - all things sex, evolution, etc. We are not afraid of our children learning about those things, but we would like to decide when it's best to explain those ideas to them.

So, we began to pray about the idea, and after a series of events tripped over each other and fell at our feet, our answer seemed very clear. We would take Adelle out of a school she loved, and I would teach her at home.

Now, let me say that this was not the easy answer for us. Adelle and I, um, find ourselves at impasse at least once a day. We love each other a lot - and also we drive each other crazy. So, the thought of us being together all the day every day again made me nervous, real nervous. Throw in a preschooler and a toddler - and lawsy, I was terrified.

Fast forward to our move, to the fact that we didn't know what school district we would find ourselves in for the short term or the long term - and not enrolling Adelle in a school that she would just have to leave when we got settled, well that seemed like some pretty spectacular forethought on God's part.

Now, there are a few things that, 6 weeks in, homeschooling at my parents' house while we try to find a home to live in, etc, etc, etc - that I thought might be helpful for anyone that has ever considered keeping your kids at home for a year:

  1. It's not that hard. I want to be careful here not to give unrealistic expectations. I am a semi-organized person who has been working with children in some capacity for most of my life. Even so, I'm not a trained teacher, and it's legitimately not that hard. The planning and teaching part, at least. So, don't feel like - oh gosh, how will I ever teach my kids? I'm not a teacher! You don't have to be. Seriously.
  2. It's crazy, super hard. For this first year, at least, I have lost my ability to do much beyond be present with my kids all week. I feel like that might adjust a bit once we are in a space of our own, but for the time being - during the week - I am basically interacting with one of my kids at all times, which can be exhausting for all parties involved. The whining and the shouting and the neediness - I'm only one person!
  3. You get to modify the plan. We are not a lifelong homeschooling family. We are a year by year, child by child family. And as we have moved into this year, we are finding that my middle one, Marilee, who hasn't spent much time in an organized classroom, is excelling in everything I'm teaching her - to the point that I can't quite keep up with her - and the best thing we can do for her is put her in a preschool experience - to see what might be best for her next year. So, Adelle and Jude will be home with me in the mornings while Marilee is in preschool. And next year, Adelle might just go back into public school. Or maybe private - but prolly not because of the dollars.
  4. Life is school. We've had to adjust our thinking. We are still trying to adjust our thinking. It's school when we read a story or count to 100 or measure out flour. It's school when we talk about what day of the week it is - what day it was yesterday and what day it will be tomorrow. It's school when we look at prices of items in the grocery store and determine whether or not we have enough left in the weekly budget for the ice cream or not. It's school when we drill our math facts while racing across the swimming pool. It's school when we learn manners during a tea party. Life is one grand learning experience - it would do us all good to remember that once in a while.
  5. Yesterday, I wanted to quit. Again, let me reiterate that our current experience is not the norm. We are in schooling in transition and will be doing so for a good month more. And yesterday, Adelle felt defeated, Marilee felt overlooked, Jude felt - loud, and I felt like the worst mama ever. Tired and all wrong - but then I remembered why we chose this for the year. Because of the slow - because we want our kids to grow up good and slow. And so if for a year, they are bored out of their minds (which I am learning how to combat), that's okay - because life is slower than it would be if she was in school. And it wouldn't be all bad if she was in school - honestly - but God said to go this route this year - and so we are sticking with it - trusting His sovereignty. 
  6. I am learning as much as they are. While I am learning/re-learning all sorts of fantastic facts and concepts, I am also learning a great deal about myself - about my weaknesses, and my strengths. About trying too hard and not hard enough. About harsh tones and gracious touches. About each of my kids - how they learn - just how different they all are. That I need Jesus again and again and again all day long if I'm going to have a fighting chance at doing this well. About how much it matters that they see me needing Jesus.
I'll try to stop in every six weeks to give you an update - for anyone who is curious - about our homeschooling journey. I don't feel like I have a lot of concrete advice to give you right now simply because we are just beginning to make some good, concrete decisions. Ask anything you want - and I'll tell you what I have and haven't learned so far!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Cartwheels and Collapses

13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29)

A few months, ago a reader approached me concerned about my happiness based on my social media presence. This forced me to step back and examine what I'm putting forth - how I'm writing, and the image I'm giving everyone. 

And what I want to tell you is that I am happy - and some days I'm not. There are days when the visible grace around me overwhelms me to the point of tears. There are days when all I can see is the endless one-foot-in-front-of-the-other path that spans ahead of me all the way up to forever, and I have to strain hard to see the grace around me. But I do strain to see it - and God just keeps heaping enough of it over me to be able to do that.

Life is such a grand, complex gift - and I'm not one thing or the other all the time. There are pieces of me that are still broken but there are others that are overwhelmingly full of joy and glee. Is that true of you, too? The deepest desire of my heart is to let you see my ache - the pieces of my that are still broken - that I'm still watching for Jesus to stitch right up. And for you to know that I believe Him for that. I believe Him for the healing. Because I was healed. I am being healed. And I will be healed. This is what it is to follow Jesus into eternity. 

So, friends - today, if you look out on your life and you can't help but swell up big with gratitude - that's good, so good - and true. But if you are sad and exceptionally aware of those still broken pieces - that's good, too, especially if you are looking for Jesus to put them back together again. If all you can find to be grateful for today is Jesus Himself, that is enough. That is, in fact, all there is. And it's just as true, sweet friend. Don't think that you're all wrong because you're not cartwheeling through life like your neighbor. Whether you are cartwheeling or collapsing - if you are doing it toward Jesus, you are doing it right. So, so right. And I want you to know that you are seen. He sees you where you are, as you are.  
 
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