Look back, remember, abide

Two years ago, after nearly a full year of juggling the idea in my mind and praying that if it was to be part of our story God would make a way, I quit my part-time church staff writer/editor job. The reasons my husband and I discussed were many, and they were complicated. But more than anything else, I missed my kids—one finishing up first grade and one having just turned a year old. Logic told us that I needed to keep working. (Our bank account agreed.) But there was no avoiding God’s persistent nudging on the subject: I needed to give up my job, which I had slowly allowed to invade my off-hours, stealing my joy and my ability to be emotionally and mentally present. And we needed to trust Him to meet our needs. Two years later, despite the curveballs that more than once or twice tempted us to doubt, I can say with gratitude that He has met our family’s every need, and then some.

When I look back over my writing from these couple of years—both what I’ve shared with the world and what I’ve saved for myself, sacred—and remember, all I can do is give honor and glory to God for His faithfulness. I read my own words and shake my head, realizing He loved me too much to let me remain unchanged as my life shifted from one season into the next.

I recently came across a draft I’d written one year after leaving my job. I felt like a mess and a failure at the time and was struggling with whether quitting had been the best decision after all. Today I feel like like someone else out there might need the words. For me they are evidence, a reminder of God’s goodness and the fact that even in times of transition and even with all of my shortcomings, He has never abandoned me. He won’t abandon you, either. Be encouraged.

Continue reading “Look back, remember, abide”

Remembering hope when everything feels wrong

He called me out to the backyard. Chin in hand, sitting at the kitchen counter, hunched over my phone, I sighed and looked up. “What?”

“Just come.”

Usually I’m the one dragging my family out back to appreciate particularly good sunsets with me. But this time he led me out and faced me away from the sunset, where the light was hitting a band of white clouds over my neighbors’ roofs in such a way that the giant puffs—sure sign of a Florida thunderstorm developing in the distance—were glowing. I held my breath as they in slow motion grew larger and drew closer, turning from white to peach to pink against the deep blue sky. Some portion of the moon hung in the sky above us. I stood motionless and stared, inhaling and exhaling slowly.

I looked at Dan. He asked if I was okay. What is okay, really? I’d been fluctuating between ends of the spectrum—deep gratitude and joy swinging to sorrow and confusion, and back again. It was a wisely cautious question on his part. I shrugged, knowing tears were close to the surface. He stayed close for a couple of minutes, then turned to go back inside where the kids were playing, leaving me to my thoughts.

The wind was warm after a record high day for April, the air refreshing on my skin—that perfectly sweet and smooth kind of breeze that you want to relish a little longer. Warm. Comforting.

A 3-year-old boy from church left earth for heaven less than two weeks ago. He is safe, whole, and well there. He is good now, better than good, but I keep crying. I think of him when my own preschooler drives me crazy. When she whispers love in my ear with hot little breaths. When she squeezes her arms around my neck so tight and plants wet kisses all over my face. When she practices a song in her class, where he is missed: “He’s got the whole world in his hands…”

When I lock eyes with her, she says, “I love you too, Mommy,” even though I haven’t said anything.

The breeze feels like life, beautiful and soft. And at the same time I am weeping for the pain it brings as it moves over my skin. I feel alive, and it hurts, and so I stand in my backyard and stare at the sky and let the tears come.

Continue reading “Remembering hope when everything feels wrong”

Charlotte’s Web and The Broken Way

I don’t know why I didn’t get it until that moment in the little theatre, sitting in the dark with the rest of the proud parents and grandparents, watching our 8- and 9-year-olds act it out for us.

It’s not sad. It’s beautiful. It’s gospel.

I’ve read the book. Seen the movie—the old animated one—dozens of times. Was in the play as a middle-schooler when my school put it on.

The spider dies in the end. We all know this. Our beloved Charlotte saves her friend Wilbur, the pig whose days were numbered unless someone intervened.

And then her time is up.

As a child listening to my teacher read the story for the first time, as a 13-year-old acting it out, as a mom listening to my husband read the E.B. White classic aloud with the baby draped over one shoulder and our then 6-year-old on his lap, I got the sadness of Charlotte’s Web. 

That’s what it was—sad. Books about animals always are.

But then last week, that little girl who once curled up with her dad to listen to the tale became Charlotte in a (highly anticipated) 3rd-grade, 30-minute version.

I sat there perched on the second row of that little corner theatre, camera in one hand and phone in the other, and watched her intently.

And my heart broke all over the place, because as she spoke her last lines in her little voice and the lights dimmed, I—for the first time—fully wrapped my mind around what Charlotte had just done.

I finally got it.  Continue reading “Charlotte’s Web and The Broken Way”

Before we click Unfollow

I noticed earlier this week that at some point—I have no idea when—I must have accidentally hit the “Like” button for the Facebook page of a certain political figure as I scrolled through my newsfeed. When I discovered what I’d inadvertently done, I laughed because of who the figure was and how that blue thumbs-up might have been interpreted. (I’m not going to name the figure because it’s not relevant to this post.)

But then I started putting two and two together and I realized some people had likely unfollowed or blocked my posts as a result of that “Like.”

That was sobering. Suddenly my accidental click didn’t seem funny anymore.

Since the election, I’ve seen well-meaning, kind-hearted people posting instructions on how to block certain friends/pages from being visible in our newsfeeds when we don’t agree with the content they’re sharing. I’ll admit, I use this tool myself and will say that there are times when it is useful and even necessary. I block junk, fake news, posts with foul language, and over-sharers (sorry!), among other things. Sometimes I need to step back from a certain feed for a season, for the sake of my own heart. You likely have your reasons too, and I think that’s all ok. Too much is too much.

But I regret my own haste to “block” and “unfollow” people lately based on the sharing of views and opinions that don’t line up with my own. I am sorry for it. For someone who requires so much grace, I sure am stingy with it. 

I’m challenging myself, and I’ll encourage you, too: Don’t cut people out—of your newsfeed or your life—just because you have political or ideological differences. Don’t create a bubble for yourself that only includes likeminded folks. Take a deep breath, step back for a moment, and remember there’s a person on the other side of your screen—a human being, just as loved and cherished by God as you are. Let that sink in for a minute.

Let’s be better at acknowledging each other’s humanness and the fact that it’s not only good to have relationships with people with whom we disagree, it’s necessary.

I think we are all capable of more kindness, compassion, and empathy.

My first step was to take a peek at the people and pages I had hidden from my Facebook feed. From a computer, you can do this by hovering over the News Feed header in the left column. Click the gear that appears to the left of the words “News Feed” and then select “Edit Preferences.” A new window should pop up. Click on “Reconnect with people you unfollowed” and see who’s there. You might be surprised. (I was.) From there you have the option to re-follow people from your list.

As I looked at mine, I prayed for God to soften my heart toward friends with opposing views, and then I added some back into my bubble.

One step at a time.

Who’s with me? 


For an insightful analysis on this topic, I’d recommend this article.

Reflections on a messy room

I’m a grown-up, and I don’t clean my room. 

Not on a regular basis, at least. I’m more of an emergency cleaner. (Think: annual termite inspection time, or the plumber is coming.)

I try to keep the rest of the house at minimum, picked up—toys back into baskets at the end of the day, counters wiped down, clutter categorically shuffled off to wherever it belongs. Sure. But the master bedroom, the one I share with my husband of 12+ years? Well, it’s another story.

I get away with this because 1) my hubby is extremely tolerant of my bad habits and 2) it’s a given that visitors understand master bedrooms are private spaces. You might walk into someone’s home and wander around their living room or kitchen, eyeball their bookshelves and admire their artwork or photos. But the master is off-limits. You just don’t go in there.

So when people are over, I simply close that door and pretend like that part of the house doesn’t exist.

Except… I know what’s in there.

And it’s not just piles of unfolded laundry. It’s clutter. It’s dresser tops stacked with books, ponytail holders, crumpled receipts, jewelry, candy (chewy Sweet Tarts are my current vice), clothespins, hairbrushes, old to-do lists, those little plastic tabs used to attach price tags to clothing, and all forms of junk in between. It’s an unruly stash of old shopping bags I keep stuffing behind the full-length mirror because they might be useful at some point. (They won’t be.) It’s a closet exploding with old shoes and bags I do not need and have no room for but haven’t been able to part ways with yet. It’s stacks of books on the floor and an out-of-control dust bunny infestation.

You can guarantee our guests don’t see this sweet, sacred space unless they’re particularly nosy (you know who you are). But I am keenly aware of the embarrassment sitting just on the other side of my living room wall. And no matter how surface-clean the “public” half of my home looks, I know the truth. It’s a sham. I’m a fraud. 

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The past week has been heart-wrenching in what feels like a million ways. I’ve witnessed shock, panic, fear, thrill, grief, cruelty, meanness, hatred, disappointment, hope, kindness, resolve, love, and anger coming at various times, in waves, from different people from all angles from all of the circles I find myself part of. People are feeling right now, and their feelings are big. My feelings are big, too. I haven’t slept this poorly or cried this much since we were in the newborn stage of child-rearing.

By Sunday, I felt like I might implode.

So I did what any rational person would do. I went to my room.

And then I cleaned it.

I folded and hung the laundry that had been sitting in baskets for weeks. Yes, weeks. I weeded items out of my closet that should have been dropped at Goodwill a long time ago. I got down on my knees, vacuum in hand, and attacked the dust creatures beneath the dresser and bed—some of them rather large. (At one point I shut the vacuum off because I thought for sure I’d sucked up one of the girls’ stuffed animals. Nope. Just a prehistoric dust bunny.)

At first I laughed at what was becoming obvious—my sheer lack of discipline when it comes to cleaning. (There are people who think I’m very “type A” but I’m really very… not. My brand of perfectionism takes on other forms.) Amusement-slash-embarrassment gradually turned into disgust as I watched the vacuum fill with the nasty stuff that had been lurking on the floors, in corners, behind and underneath furniture.

In all the yuck, I saw how much I’d neglected this one room, the room my husband and I share, a space that’s supposed to be a safe haven and retreat.

And there on the floor, as I reached and stretched the vacuum hose into hidden spaces where filth lurked, I also saw my anger, my short temper. I saw resentment. I saw grudges I’ve stubbornly been unwilling to let go of. I saw pride. And it was gross. 

A fine layer of dust, when not promptly wiped away, grows into something that takes on a life of its own. [Dust] bunnies do what [dust] bunnies do.

I can close the door and pretend like it doesn’t exist. But eventually it’ll get under my skin, because I know it’s there and that at some point, something has to be done about it. Eventually “out of sight, out of mind” will fail me.

Oh, and cleaning my room isn’t a one-time event. (Wouldn’t that be great though?) Within the week surfaces will need dusting again, trash will need to be tossed, and fresh loads of laundry will need to put away.

Daily maintenance. Ugh.

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I’m restless and frustrated by what’s unfolding in the world around me. I want to do something. Take action. (Perhaps you feel it too. We need to feel it.)

But first I need to stop acting as though my own mess and brokenness don’t exist. I cannot pretend that I’ve never been part of the problem of sin in the world just because my dirt is behind a door that I keep closed. The pride, the anger, the resentment—it’s all gotta go.

So I have to open the door and red-faced, invite Jesus into the room. It’s laughable to think I’ve kept it a secret anyway—He knows full well what a slob I tend to be. The amazing, unfair thing about grace is that He’ll come right in and get to work, even though I’m the one who made the mess and allowed it to get to this state. 

He will wipe everything clean and clear away the dust. Take out my garbage. Pop open the window so that a fresh breeze can blow through. And in doing so, He will ready my heart so that I am prepared to listen, to care, to step into a story other than my own.

Grace, Freedom, and the Rules

I’m a girl who actually likes following the rules. (A lot.) So for my Write 31 Days challenge, I’m taking the month of October to look back at snapshots of my life, finding the places where those stories intersect with ideas about rules, grace, and freedom.

The unpredictability of a summer schedule with kids home from school and no routine to depend on left me feeling a little bit crazy one week over the summer, so I resolved to create consistency elsewhere. I somewhat randomly chose a passage of Scripture to dwell on every day for one week. The same passage, every day. No hopping around elsewhere in my Bible or pulling out a devotional—just reading my selected passage, thanking God for the words, and asking him to show me something new each day about himself and myself. These are the verses I selected:

For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. —John 1:16-17 

I frowned at the page after the first read, puzzled by the words despite their familiarity from years and years of church attendance and Bible studies. I’d heard that first sentence a lot. It’s pretty and flowy, and on its own, sounds like a nice place to sit and rest, you know? After all, it’s grace upon grace—not just grace, but more grace on top of that! Okay, great. But what do I do with that? I moved on to the next sentence and began to focus on the bigger story—the eternal perspective.

“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

God gave Moses the law to give to his people. It was rigid to say the least, and as we see in the Old Testament over and over and over again, the punishment for disregarding it was severe. Yet it was God’s grace in the form of rules to live by. It was a gift.

I think of one of those things parents love to say that kids loathe: “I’m doing this because I love you.” We want our children to stay safe from harm, so we establish rules; they have to eat their veggies, look both ways before crossing, and keep their seatbelts buckled. We’re not trying to make them miserable—we’re trying to keep them alive, for Pete’s sake.

God does this for us, too.

But there’s more. We also get Jesus. Grace upon grace. Another translation phrases it “grace in place of grace.” Jesus is God’s grace to us in the form of a person we can know and relate to, fulfillment of his promises, the One who stood in our place and took the punishment we deserved—death—so that we could truly live.

We have the Word, rules to live by. We have Christ, fulfilling the law and taking the punishment for the rule-breaking we will inevitably do—grace, mercy, and forgiveness. And we have the Holy Spirit to be with us always, intercede for us, and help us discern the hard places.

This was big for me to grasp, and in the moment understanding began to dawn on me, I reached over from where I’d been sitting in bed and shook my husband’s shoulder, startling him awake, because I needed to tell someone this thing that had never really clicked for me before. It’s gift upon gift upon gift—and as much as I like to convince myself I’ve somehow earned it by doing the right things, I couldn’t be more wrong. I don’t deserve any of it.

God’s rules and his grace work together. They don’t limit us. They set us free. 

Mug from Life Lived Beautifully.

This is a challenging concept for a girl who actually likes following the rules. (A lot.) So I’d like to take the month of October and look back at snapshots of my life each day, finding the places where those stories intersect with ideas about rules, grace, and freedom. It will probably be a little messy, which makes me uncomfortable. I might struggle some days to hit “publish” on work I know is unfinished and on thoughts I’m still processing. But I’m feeling expectant that this exercise will be a good one—both in writing and in better understanding God’s love.

Click here to see all posts from the Grace, Freedom, & the Rules series.

{This series is part of the Write 31 Days challenge.}

Who tells your story?

My sis and I made a slight detour to Savannah on our drive home from the Influence Conference last weekend to stretch our legs and soak up some history, wandering around the cemetery and various squares, reading plaques and admiring statues. We also listened to the Hamilton soundtrack in the car… for the second time that weekend. It was quite the educational road trip.

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If you’re not familiar with the musical Hamilton (I wasn’t before my sister introduced me this weekend, but you’re probably cooler than I am), it tells the complicated story of the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton—set to R&B and hip-hop. It sounds a little crazy, and I was skeptical, not going to lie. But I was captivated from the first track, and for the next three hours got lost in the tale, the non-stop lyrics, the rhythm of it all. (I have to step into mom mode—or maybe just Rebekah mode—here for a sec and give you the PSA that this soundtrack does have some explicit lyrics and is labeled with a warning. If you know me personally, you know I can’t stand foul language. But I love musicals, and this show is phenomenal. Please don’t judge me. Thank you.) 

After listening to this production twice in two days, I haven’t been able to get one song in particular out of my head, and it’s the final number. The chorus repeats: “Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?” It’s haunting and powerful.

Who tells your story? 

I’m in the midst of a season where this theme of storytelling feels like my pulse, repeating everywhere from the conference I just attended, to the ministry of Shama Women, to our current sermon series at church (it’s titled The Story—okay God, I’m listening), to, well, Hamilton (yes, God spoke to me through a Broadway musical).

IMG_7219Here’s the thought I can’t escape from, and it’s really all I wanted to say here right now, as much as I would love to keep talking Hamilton with you:

Our stories matter, whether they seem big and dramatic or small and insignificant. I’ve lived a good chunk of years thinking that no one wants or needs to hear about my life because it’s not exciting enough. That’s a lie. Don’t let the enemy tell you that your story isn’t interesting enough to make an impact. On the flip side, don’t let the enemy tell you that your story is too crazy or too much for people to handle, either! God is writing your story for you specifically, and nothing He does—and I mean nothing—is without purpose.

Your story is a gift to someone. It might be a gift to a lot of people. IMG_7214

I think I read that C.S. Lewis defined friendship as the moment when one person says to another, “You too? I thought I was the only one.” (I hope that’s a real quote and not just something someone stuck on a meme.) The point is, our stories show us we’re not alone, if we are willing to share them. They connect us to each other. They inspire and encourage. They teach. Most importantly, they point anyone who will listen (or read) back to the Author of them all, who deserves all the glory.

Will we be brave enough to share them?