on rolling out welcome mats for divine work

She sat across the table from me, reminding me a lot of my younger self. Her pen was poised over a notebook, and I could see she’d already been making notes and plans. And so, this was it. After seven years of founding and developing The Bridge of Storm Lake ministry, I was handing over the position of Communications Director, a role embedded into my heart – and the role to which I knew she was called. Although the past months had been an awkward scene of passing the baton, it would be official now, I told her. Of course, it would sound nice to say “it’s always been God’s ministry” and “He can do with it as He pleases,” as if my feelings were exempt. But the reality for this mama was that it felt like my baby. I had dreamed of it and named it. I had labored over it, drawing up plans and tucking away dreams in drawers, like neatly folded onesies and receiving blankets. Eventually, the vision was birthed into reality. I cleaned it up and swaddled it with human words, making it presentable to onlookers who received and celebrated it. Together, Jay and I loved this vision-baby, amazed at what God had laid in our arms. We held on through disappointments and failures because we shared this passion to see it grow and develop and be all that God had intended. We cared for it, nurtured it, protected it, sacrificed for it, as any parents would do, through long days and sleepless nights. Sometimes Sacrifice calls us to hang on. But, other times it calls us to...

Why it Matters that Jesus Wept

I stopped on the story of Jesus and Lazarus the other day. Stopped right at the part about Jesus weeping. He wept. Fully. Compassion poured from His eyes and ran into His hands, hands which would soon enough be torn up on a bloody cross. Maybe He bent over in grief, pressing those hands to His mouth, without words. See, the God of the universe did not simply blink extra and ignore the well of emotion coming to His holy eyes. Didn’t choke it back and cough gruffly. Didn’t mumble out something about how everything happens for a reason after all, and what a beautiful life this one lived at least. I couldn’t get over that scene of Heaven’s Glory grieving long and hard over His friend, Lazarus. Why? Because certainly Jesus knew He would raise Lazarus from the dead. Certainly He knew that death would never keep this one: not this time. Certainly He knew it was within His perfect power and awesome sovereign ways to fix this situation. Yet, for the moment or maybe for many moments, He wept. He grieved. He entered into the loss with compassion. He stayed there silently and let His human heart break with the brokenness of sin and death, for which He alone had the capacity to redeem. Jesus wept – willing to feel what He knew He could fix. And that’s where I stopped because I’m not sure we know what to do with that. How often we’d rather fix something than feel anything. We’d rather give a hand than grieve. We’d rather move on than mourn. It feels better...

The art of unraveling

I told my daughter, Maggie, the other day that I need to sit down and unwind. After a few minutes, she came close and whispered, “Are you unraveled yet, Mom?” I didn’t correct her. She’s asked me it twice since, and each time I melt a bit. I don’t plan to tell her the word is “unwind” not “unravel” anytime soon. I suppose I’m still unraveling anyway. And, what have I been up to exactly? Summer. Another Bridge ministry summer – a marathon of days stuffed tight with knocks on my door, activities, late-night suppers, kids falling asleep on couches instead of their beds, and a front porch swarming with candy-coated, sidewalk-chalked kids. Each summer is like living and learning a year’s worth of ministry. Kids are engaged in the Cultivate Training Garden, we have weekly Neighborhood Nights, activities at the Neighborhood Centers and Sites regularly, a daily lunch bus route, special trips for different age groups and summer camps, and on and on. Ten weeks of all-hands-on-deck, all day, until late night hours. It’s like taking a fast-track college course or drinking from a fire hydrant – or doing them both simultaneously. And, for me, it includes balancing the proper care, feeding, and cleaning of 5 kids as well. But, summer is over now,  so the unraveling begins. And, unraveling is an art. It really is. Unraveling well prevents crashing and denial-powered momentum (which leads to more crashing). This I know, with my scraped up elbows and knees, exhaustion, compassion fatigue, and ministry burnout. Yes, over the years, I’ve crashed a good many times, and the pain is just fresh...

On rescheduling contractions & sorting out rice & kite-flying (why I write, part 1)

My husband, Jay, says it’s like a mid-life crisis. He’s usually right, so I’ll believe him. This is the point in which a geared, passionate young woman, well-marinated in busyness and purpose raises her head and wonders, “Why? Why am I doing this again?” This is about writing. It’s long been my companion, both feared and loved. Feared, because I don’t know what to make of it, what it will become, or what it will require of me. Loved, because it’s my way, my safe place, an undeniable and otherworldly process that guides me, grows me. And yet, why exactly am I doing this writing thing? The question is like a fly in my eyes and ears, as I tap out late-night words to satisfy a deadline. Fellow creative souls, risk-takers, and air-breathers can likely relate. After all, no one knocks on your door and passes you a note with your life’s purpose and detailed plans of which steps to take on the road toward becoming. Do you ever lift up your head, adjust your glasses, squint at your surroundings, and say, “Wait a sec. Am I seeing any of this clearly? I am in the right place… right?” Writing guides say I should write to share information, that I should determine which is my area of expertise and establish my platform based on credentials and experiences. And, I should meet a need for my audience, helping or informing or inspiring you all of something. And, that’s precisely why I let this blog sit for a couple months. I got stuck on the bit about having something profound to share...

when loving Jesus more means loving ministry less

“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:4-5 Months ago, we sat around a board table, alongside faithful souls who have been in these trenches with us for over six years, and we faced a challenging reality. And, for the first time in years, I wasn’t anxious at the propositions. Truth is, I have come to care less and less about the actual work of this ministry.  But, not in a cynical, unhappy way. I’m just coming to a certain realization lately: The less I love the work, the more I love Jesus. The work of this ministry has broken us, inflicted us emotionally, inspired us, moved us, and fueled us. It’s been fulfilling as well as frustrating. It’s been beautiful and enough of a blankedty-blank mess that I’ve been mercifully forced to allow God to reframe my thinking. Maybe you know what I mean. Maybe you, too, have zeroed in on the serving while the Who went out of focus in the background – and have then felt the enormous, exhausting burden of it, so much so that you too have embraced an aha moment: there has to be a better way. Yes, there is a better way, and it’s always choosing devotion to Jesus over doing for Jesus. But working for Jesus can be a sanitized distraction, can’t it? It can be...

why you should just be you & I should be me (because who are we kidding anyway?)

I grabbed a shopping basket and headed to the produce. Note: I grabbed a basket. I have no idea why, other than I had a brief lapse of identity – which led to this post. I’m a mom of 5. I haven’t used a grocery basket since college. In fact, once upon a time, I had two 2 year-olds and a new baby, and I finagled two carts – pushing/pulling with one cart for the baby in the car seat and another for actual groceries, with one two year-old in the front of each cart. Those grocery trips inevitably ended in tears and meltdowns. My tears and meltdowns, that is. So anyway, there I was, with a cute little grocery basket on my arm. And, I was wearing a white coat, a lovely, tailored-looking thing with big buttons. I should mention it is a hand-me-down, as I’d never spend money on a red juice stain waiting to happen. And, suddenly, I feel quite put together and professional – and, well, not like a mom of 5. But. Then, I saw the kids’ favorite snacks on sale for 3 for $5.00. I just couldn’t help myself, shoving them all in the basket. Then, my heart warmed at the popcorn, after all, it was a cold day and we could have a family movie night. (Always more ideal and smiley in my mind’s eye.) And then, well, Maggie just loves bagels in the morning, which called for cream cheese as well. And, Samuel, yeah, he’s had  rough spell and strawberries always make his day. Not to mention, I’d need to feed the tribe...

As it turns out, parenting is tough (& why being foster parents is good for us)

One of our children hid under the table the other morning and threw her shoes and socks at us. No words, just grunts and whines. “I’m guessing you’re a little frustrated,” I said, as my husband, Jay, pulled her out, kicking and flailing. Connected parenting, connected parenting, connected parenting my mind shouted at me. I attempted. I asked for eye contact, cradled her like a baby, talked about the “big feelings” and how to handle them next time. But later on, I lamented to Jay that I had probably handled it all wrong. It’s hard work to change one’s parenting style from more traditional to this connected style necessary for kids from hard places. Maybe demanding eye contact wasn’t all that connected. Maybe I should’ve just gone to her, under the table even. “Hey, we are learning at least,” he said. “Yeah, I guess,” I muttered, “and at this rate, maybe we’ll at least be helpful grandparents.” Because, as it turns out, parenting is tough. See, I thought we were A-OK when we had one child. But, never trust a one-child parent. Don’t read books or blogs by them either – or their husbands. Our first-born is one of our biological children as well. And, we thought we understood a few things on parenting. Not so. Then we adopted internationally and dove into topics of attachment and bonding, semi-survived, and figured we then understood a fair amount about having both biological and adoptive children. Not so – for they grow and start talking (back). Then, we started to foster. We were blind-sided by trauma and its effects on children. Words like...

finding Purpose | a poem

I can see her – my dear Purpose, bobbing franticly in blackened waters as I skip rocks on the shore. I’m afraid to care so I settle in to pass time with empty lungs, aimless hands. After all, here on the sidelines without her it’s safer and more safe, really.   But, I still see her – my dear Purpose, hanging on out there, straining because she believes there is meaning in it all. Minutes or days or years wear on but I don’t count and don’t define because without knowing, it’s simpler and more simple, really.   And then this Lifeline – too powerful to dismiss, too gentle to dread – speaks Himself into existence beside her where He was from the beginning.   And Purpose breathes again, breaths that move me to my knees and startle my heart into belief. For she has found salvation and will not drown. Or, I should say, it has found her and does not let her go.   I can see her – my dear Purpose, rising up, stronger now than the waters that afflicted her, stepping out of the pit with grace that defies her past disaster and muddied dress.   I can see her – my dear Purpose, lifting up her arms in victory, face, once filthy, now sanctified in the light.   She turns to gaze fully at me. And I recognize her, finally.   She brushes away my skipping rocks, dusts me off, embraces me – “You never lost me, Child,” whispers Purpose. “In the presence of fear and despair, you abandoned me.”   I feel her...

Stuck in the mud or head in the clouds? Either way, this one is for you.

Last week, I turned thirty-three. Still young enough to not know what I don’t know, I suppose. Yet, lately, I’m feeling oddly old-ly. (It’s not a word; don’t look it up. It just sounded nice as an adverb.) It’s a time of closing some chapters and opening some new ones. For instance, at The Bridge, the ministry is officially moving beyond us; we suddenly have a younger staff, and it’s put us in a position of mentoring and training. Gulp. Not to mention, we have middle-schoolers. Two of them. So here we are in this awkward dance of raising up the next generation of leaders. Have you ever looked around and realized you’re the supposedly the mature one in the group? The result is a bizarre mix of responsibility, humor, and horror. It’s that point in time when you’d like to join in with the group of young’uns, full of passion and ideas, but that pesky voice of experience keeps mumbling remarks in your head like, “well, that’ll never work,” and “tried that already,” and “seriously, did he just say that?” and “boy, does she have a lot to learn.” You start to quote familiar monologues about making good choices and taking responsibility and walking uphill both ways in the snow carrying books and a lunch pail. These mini-sermons (which can be easily expanded to full-length, depending on how often they are punctured with eye-rolling) used to make you want to slam doors and stump away but suddenly they are your friend, a perfect script for diagnosing all societal ills. And before you know it, you’ve become the dreaded...

when you really thought you knew how to do this thing

My oldest daughter saved up money for months. She read countless articles online, visited the library for how-to books on raising puppies, and made notes in her special notebook. She deliberated over the perfect doggie name and analyzed hundreds of breeders to find the perfect fit. And, we let her handle it. She had begged us for her own puppy, so we let her take on this responsibility, armed with months of learning and notes. Her puppy turned out to be in every way, a real, live puppy – unlike the still pictures online or the excerpts in the books. Each day became a growing tension between what she expected and what was actually happening – the nights, the walks, the potty training, the obedience training. And then, one day, her confidence tumbled. Her sweet little friend had barked at her through a string of nights, had worms, and was not potty-training according to schedule. Broken, with mop in hand and puddle on the floor, she cried. “You know the worst part, Mom?” she asked. “It’s that I thought I knew how to do this. I really did.” All I could do was open my arms, let her rest her tired head on my shoulder, and welcome her into the world of grown-ups – where we prepare ourselves, take lots of notes, and plan hard, only to face days of total vulnerability and lack of control. If only this thing called Life were conquered by reading a few books, making some notes, and doing some research. But, what happens when it doesn’t happen? How do we cope when our...