Still Frame

{The Vision} I looked out to see sheets of green dipping into valleys where early morning shadows hovered over the moist earth, only to build up again into curved slopes where wind curled and crashed over the top. From my mind’s eye, the hills stretched up, each touching the horizon in sequence, continuing into an infinitely of wide-open space. Eyes closed, I’d take off running towards the skyline, tension in my arms and the wind at my back. {The Backstory} I spent most of my childhood, until age 13, on a single street in rural North Carolina. Summers were my favorite. I’d wake up early, pick out mismatched clothes from my beloved pickled oak cabinet, and hurry out in search of the morning. A pasture bordered one side of our house. The rusty barbed wire fence, overgrown with prairie grass, separated us from a few cattle, occasionally grazing. The pasture, though small, would not only become a backdrop for some of the first conversations I’d have with God, it would appear as a still frame on a reel of memories, long after my family moved away. God knew that certain events in my life would crush me. He knew that I’d believe things about myself that weren’t true: that I would compare myself to others. Was I enough? Was I too much? He knew that I would strive to please, and how heavy this self-made mantle would become…with anxiety, panic, and exhaustion. He knew that I would make decisions, albeit with good intentions, in order to gain control. He knew that others would betray me, and how many sleepless...

Stop And Smell The Roses – Taking Time For A Year End Review Of Your Life

  But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15b ESV All the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is coming to a close: the house is a mess, the decorations might still be up, and yet now is the perfect time to stop and smell the roses and make time for a year end review of your life.  As a matter of fact, apart from the major holidays this specific week (between Christmas and the New Year) is my favorite time of the year. Do you want to know why?  Every year I take this week to sit and review what worked, what didn’t work, what needs to be improved and what I hope to do in the next year. It’s not a complicated process, but it is a strategic process that my husband and I do every year. We started doing this about ten years ago and it’s turned into the most thought provoking and productive week for both of us. Chances are you do something like this either mentally or on paper, so why not make a plan and see what you learn in the process. I’m going to share with you what I do, you take it, then tweak it to fit you and your family. Here’s what you need to get ready; paper/giant sticky notes/notepad colored markers/pens/highlighters calendar (last year and the coming year) music (this is very important for me) – I love to listen to “Epic Soundtracks” on Pandora so that I don’t get distracted by the words in the songs. I put those giant sticky notes...

Just Be With Me

During my time in Asia, I visited this place called the Home of Hope. The name is kind of a misnomer, however, since the atmosphere seemed to suck every breath of hope out of my lungs. I remember my eyes stinging, whether from the equatorial sun radiating off the concrete slab beneath my dusty flip flops or from the literal stench of death, I’m not sure. Either way, I’m not sure anything could have prepared me for the holistic, embodied suffering I was about to come face to face with. I shuffled my eighteen year old body across the cemented field, fighting back tears as I smiled at the very bodies of dehumanization. Women literally left to lay out in the sun, crapping in their pants, and scratching the lice in their hair until they die. If there was anything that was going to strip any “savior mentality” view of service and missions away, this was it. Lotion bottle in hand, I was here to just love these women; there was literally nothing effective or practical that I was equipped to do. That sounded more romantic than it felt as I sat down next to a woman whose sun-leathered body looked older than her eyes told me she was. I motioned that I could rub lotion on her hands, if she wanted. Without hesitating, she pulled down a piece of fabric that could barely be considered basic clothing and patted her arms. Looking into her desperate eyes, I began rubbing lotion on her arms and chest, smiling awkwardly and fighting the urge to find a corner that I could lose it in. Suddenly and without warning, she...

A Season of Joyful Thankfulness and Deep Gratitude

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV) November comes with all sorts of opportunities to express thankfulness. The things at the top of my “Things I’m Thankful For” list are not surprising. They include salvation, family, friends, church, home, and career.  These have not changed in years and I doubt they will change in the future. However, the things further down my list have changed significantly as time has passed. For example, my parents’ divorce ranks high on the list now. For most of my life, I considered myself and my family  damaged beyond repair because my parents don’t love each other. Divorce broke our family. That is for certain. Divorce is NOT God’s plan…also for certain. Even so, I have grown to be thankful, not for my parents’ divorce, but for what God did in spite of it and through it and even because of it. He gave me two sets of parents who love me dearly and four sets of grandparents who do as well. He gave me siblings, nieces and nephews I’d not have otherwise. While my parents’ divorce is something that caused me pain for years, I eventually saw the blessings that God has given me because of it and, while I would love for my parents to have had  a “happily ever after,” I have become deeply grateful for the family I’ve been given as a result of their divorce. The deep gratitude I feel for my parents’ divorce is very different from the joy-filled thankfulness I feel for my family and friends....

What If Church Was More Like a Hospital?

I made several trips to the hospital with my dad while he battled cancer, sometimes in emergencies and other times for regular appointments and treatments. He received exceptional care. My mom received generous support. And I got to witness much of it. As I did, I wondered what made this hospital and its staff so special. What if the church was more like it? People are always welcome. I saw people in a variety of conditions—physically, mentally, financially, and emotionally—enter the doctors’ offices and hospital, whether it was a planned or emergency situation. Everyone received the same warm welcome. Each person was treated as a valuable person: not a project, nuisance, or uncomfortable inconvenience. People have time to talk—in plain English. Doctors and nurses rarely rush in and out of rooms. They sit down, look people in the eye, and speak in a language others can understand. They listen to questions and are patient through confusion and off-topic stories. One of dad’s doctors didn’t know dad had been admitted on a weekend, but stopped by once he heard the news and talked for a half hour. We’ve been approached by doctors we didn’t know, when we apparently looked lost roaming hallways and staring at elevator panels, and asked if we needed help getting somewhere. People followed up. Not once did we have to follow up with anybody who said they would call, make an appointment, or give more information. Many times, doctors and others went above and beyond even when they hadn’t obligated themselves to contact us. The head of a department, who didn’t even treat my dad any...

Why It’s Important To Forgive, Even When…We Don’t Want To

I can almost hear the sighs of exasperation. You are probably thinking to yourself, “seriously, she’s going to talk to me today about forgiveness? She has no idea what I am going through, what’s been done, what’s been said or how far off track things have gotten lately.” You know what, you are absolutely right! I don’t know what you are going through or have been through. I don’t know how bad it is gotten in your world lately, nor do I need to because I can tell you this, it has been a doozy of a run in my world too. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure I have stamped my foot (a lot here lately) and cried out to God that this just isn’t “fair”. This is just as hard for me to write as it is for you to read because I have been wrestling with God over this one and here’s what I’ve come up with. but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:15 ESV (underscoring mine) But. I never thought about it that way. But..if you do not, neither will your Father. But…I don’t want to. I still hurt from it. Oh my friend, you have no idea how much this pains me to write, but here it goes…we need to forgive much because we have been forgiven much. There, I said it. This is not to say that you agree with what has happened, but that you are cancelling that debt against you. When we hold on to that anger, resentment,...

Beating the Pains of the Past

When I was in 3rd grade, I was so self-conscious.  I don't know what it was.  Maybe it just the weird stage between girl and woman. Maybe it was because my frizzy hair was too big to go unnoticed.  Maybe it was because my reading skills were lackluster. It's hard to pinpoint the exact reason. But, what I do know is that I sat at a very vulnerable place of life – a place where the prick of another's words had the power to wound deeply. Today, I can't remember the majority of the words that hit those dark places, but I do remember the feelings and my actions. I remember that I felt less than, not as good as everyone else, hurt by degrading words, unappreciated, left out because I wasn't as smart, scared to go to school, made fun of, punished and angry. I remember those things. I remember sitting on the side of the sidewalk alone while others jumped rope. I remember wandering around my yard wondering if God saw me.  I remember faking sickness to get attention.  I remember others laughing at my big nose. I remember lying to gain approval from my classmates. I remember the fear of another school day. Those things I remember. The thing about the past is – it lasts. Somehow as a child, we are under the delusion that when we grow up, we grow out of these feelings.  But, what happens is these things grow up with us – and then they grow inside of us. They grow bigger and bigger in our mind as we replay events, words and circumstances that hurt us....

Get Over Yourself

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10 ESV Listen, I know when you first read the title you were probably taken aback a bit, but I hope you hear my heart on this–sometimes we really do just need to get over ourselves. We live in a world where it’s all about ourselves and what makes “me” happy. The problem starts when we live a life that is only focused on ourselves then we can become entitled, self-righteous, judgmental and sometimes downright ugly. When our thoughts and lives are filled with only thoughts about us and our needs/wants, then the rest of our relationships become strained or even nonexistent. It’s hard to have a relationship with someone who only thinks about themselves. So, what’s a person to do who is struggling with this? First, I’d say get a copy of Tim Keller’s book, “The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness”. It has radically changed my thoughts on this whole concept. In his book he talks about a gospel-humility that takes thinking of ourselves right off the table. How do we even do that? Through lots of prayer, lots of patience and lots of practice. I read this book over a year ago and it’s still been something I wrestle with daily, but something that I intend to keep on wrestling with and working through. We spend our days scurrying around trying to fill our lives with more of stuff to make us happy, but the reality is that the “stuff” we long for isn’t really going to bring us the fulfillment we...

The Power of Agape Love in Marriage

He was late, again. No phone call. No “I’m sorry.” Nothing but me pacing the kitchen, glancing from the phone to the overcooked dinner crackling on the stove. At this point, I’d do better to throw it out, grab our daughter and head to a restaurant for a nice relaxing meal, just the two of us. Just the two of us. And now we get to the root of the issue, because it’s never just about burned dinners and unmade phone calls. Rather, it’s the dots we connect between each event, the interpretations we make of every statement and one line email. To my young, tired, and insecure mind, all of the inconsiderateness spoke a convincing and heartbreaking story—he doesn’t love you. My response? To fret and fume and work myself into the teary-eyed mess that met him at the door with harsh words and accusations. I effectively pushed my tired and defeated husband further away, adding crack after crack to his breaking heart. And yes, his heart was breaking, as much as mine was: I was just too caught up in my own emotional tsunami to notice. I was convinced he was the problem, and so, rather than turning to God for wisdom, rather than searching my heart for my part, I ranted. And complained. And begged God to change him, to make him into everything I needed. This went on for some time, each of us erecting stronger walls to hide behind, filtering every conversation through a mountain of hurt and distrust, while our marriage continued to disintegrate. Until one day, one sentence, spoken by a courageous...

No More People Pleasing! It’s Okay To Be YOU!

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10 ESV Do you want everyone to like you? Do you spend time trying to make sure everyone is happy? Does it worry or bother you if you think someone doesn’t like you? Then chances are, my friend, that you are a people pleaser. Oh, I am right there with you on this one. Honestly, I’m not exactly sure when it started for me but for the most part, I can remember that most of my entire life I’ve wrestled with wanting people to like me. I guess it was one thing when I was an awkward teenager, or the constant “new girl” in school (yep, went to 3 high schools), but for crying out loud, I’m a grown woman now: what’s the deal? It wasn’t until the last few years, particularly this last year, that I’ve really started to wrestle with letting this whole people pleaser thing go. I’m sure I’m not the only one who is or has wrestled with this, so let me share with you what God has been teaching me about what’s wrong with being a people pleaser. I’m not being true to who God has called me to be if I’m trying to be something I’m not. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139) I am not perfect. (Romans 3:10) I can’t make other people like me and it’s okay if they don’t. (Galatians 1:10) Listen,...