Friday, December 18, 2015

A Very Messy Christmas

Dear Everyone: 

I feel you. Through the screen, I feel your stress. I see the strained smiles in your Christmas pictures. I hear the sound of hands tangled in tape, wrestling that cursed foil wrap and crying angry tears. 

'Tis the season. 

And I've been anxious about Christmas, too. It's a warm winter in the Bluegrass, and I'm sweating under my scarf and humming Christmas music like a prayer for snow, always wondering if it's enough.

Then I turn on the TV and see the perfect Christmas for for sale. My rational mind knows it's lie wrapped in a shiny bow. But then something tells me Christmas shouldn't feel like this, like pressure and comparison and never, ever having enough. 

Like never, ever being enough. 

And isn't that the point of every perfect Christmas on TV? We wonder if maybe we can buy the dream, finance it if we have to - if that's what it takes to finally be enough. 

But then. . . maybe not.

Maybe shopping and diamonds and dollars were never part of the perfect Christmas - that one perfect Christmas:

the pregnant virgin and her betrothed, 
their long walk to a common town, 
her unplanned delivery in a drafty stable,
the angels singing birth announcements to, 
of all people, 
a crowd of third-shift shepherds.

You know how the Son of God made His entrance, 
wrapped only in plain cloth, surrounded entirely by plain people - in utter, complete perfection on that first Christmas night.

This is the story, and all its parts read like an accident. It's dirty and noisy and smelly and, to be honest, a little scary because this was the plan all along. This night that looks like oops and smells like a barn, this Christmas that would literally be the worst commercial ever and would sell no toys and would inspire no spending - this is the perfect Christmas. It was no one else's plan - not Mary's or Joseph's. Not yours.

But it was this:
Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven

And if the perfect Christmas should come to our home this year, I'm sure it'll come that very same way: unexpected, messy, and absolutely enough. 
God with us.

Have a Merry Christmas, 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The End of the Story

So this is the end.

Palm Sunday is here, with Good Friday on the way and Easter on its heels. My 40 days are finished today. 
Good Friday. I was going to say I used to get it confused with Black Friday, way back when I was a kid. But the truth is I got them confused a couple weeks ago.

It's not that I think Good Friday's the ultimate shopping day. It's just that crucifixion doesn't seem like a good day. 

Of course it was good, but it was also a seriously hard day: the night before, sweating blood and the kiss of death. Abandonment, jeering, and beating. Brutality, vinegar, and finally - finally - the release of death.

All of that, for all of us.

And as Lent is coming to a close, and so is our fast. I'll write when I have something to say, and you'll drink a cup of coffee or log onto Facebook or eat a king-size chocolate bar. And we'll smile because we did it.
Some of you did Lent perfectly, and I'm giving you a digital high five for it. Me, I did it imperfectly - 40 days give or take, minus Sundays and a Friday here and there. And that's enough.

It's enough because my kids have seen me writing, and they're writing, too. Princess scrawls notes in her kindergarten script, and Little Man keeps a journal. It says, "Private! Stay out!" on the cover. But he reads it to me and wonders if it's too harsh or if it sounds ok.

I tell him it's great.

I love that they're writing, and I don't care about the spelling, and they picked it up without being told. They picked it up because they saw it. They saw me typing, and they decided to write.
Full disclosure: This is an old picture.
Part of me thinks it's terrifying to raise writers. (How do you know which stories they'll tell?)

But then most of me knows it's a miracle to raise writers. Stories only survive if they inspire a storyteller.

For me, Lent has been stories. The good, the bad, and the ugly - they all live because they've been told. This is a small space, and these are small stories, but they're told, and this is the thing:

They matter because Easter is the season for stories - yours and mine and Christ's together. It's a story of sin and sacrifice, of grief and resurrection. 

And that story doesn't end with death, but with life -
the life we live to tell it again and again.

Ready for Easter,

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Living Tradition

Yesterday the kids and I did some of our Easter traditions, maybe a little early. We dyed hard-boiled eggs, and I hid plastic eggs in the house since it was so cold it snowed. 

A dozen plastic eggs held symbols of the resurrection.
As we opened our story eggs, we read about the crucifixion. The kids were horrified, of course. They're children, and stories open their emotions. 

But adults are different. I told the story routinely, numb to the shock of what Christ did - until I saw it in their faces. 
Each Sunday, we take Communion. We confess our sins and humble ourselves, and we accept the huge grace that comes with it.

But if we're not careful, we still forget. 
Some people say tradition is the problem, and repetition just makes us numb. And maybe it can. 

But then God seems to have a thing for memorials. In Communion, we revisit Christ's table, and our senses encounter the reality of what He did. We remember as we experience, and tradition isn't the problem.

The problem is us. Whether a routine is dead or alive depends entirely on us.

As we tuck our kids into bed, do we consider the precious gift they are? When we take a deep breath, are we glad for healthy lungs? As we stand at the stove cooking dinner again, are we amazed at the bounty of our homes? Not usually, right?

Routines can make us numb. But then routines can also wake us up. 

In the routine of Communion, Christ asks us to recall the price He paid, to remember the life He gave -  and to see with confidence the new life we already have. 
As Lent draws to a close, Easter beckons us to new life. And we're given a choice:

Dead tradition or childlike wonder   

Resurrecting the awe, 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Considering the Lilies

Not long ago, I repotted the hardiest plant in the world. I know it's the hardiest because I've owned it eight years, and it's still (mostly) green.
See it there, happy in the book corner? It loves books.
My grandma gave it to me when I taught in a classroom with tiny windows. I set it on the bookshelf, and it grew long and lush like it lived in the rainforest. When I moved to a classroom with no windows at all, its vines stretched even longer.

It was thick and heavy, and it rode in our U-Haul truck three different times. In each home, in every lighting, when it was forgotten and when it was remembered, it grew. No matter what, it thrived. 

After its third ride in the moving truck, I set the plant on a wicker bookshelf.
Happy, even with the brown spot from its night spent outside.
A few months later, I was vacuuming our little apartment when I bumped into that wicker bookshelf. The plant fell in a hailstorm of soil and roots. 

I cried while I cleaned up the mess. I thought it was hopeless.

But I remembered something my mom had said about this plant - that it could grow roots from nothing. So I put one of the leaves into a glass of water and waited.

And of course, Mom was right.

When the root was puny but the leaf was still green, I planted it. And now it has seven leaves.

Or make that eight.
See the sprout? That's a new leaf.
I'm amazed at new growth when I remember the struggle this plant's had. It once spent a night outside. It's lived without any sunshine. It's been forgotten and abandoned for weeks at a time. And it's still growing like a weed - like the tough little vine it is. 

One little leaf started a whole new life. And she looks happy now, doesn't she?

Sometimes a little light. . .  

and some stretching space for our roots. . . 
are just what we need to grow strong. 

And we'll discover the secret to thriving is trust. We trust the One who gives us all we need - because He is all we need. He's light and water and food and vine, and He gives us room to stretch ourselves long. 

And from our weak little root comes something unexpected: multiplication.

Considering the lilies (or the philodendrons),

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Free to Grow


After tonight, that's how many blogs I'll have left before Lent is o-veeeerrr. (I wrote that in the Pauly Shore voice. Did you catch that?)

At the moment, I have 50 ideas in the five-sentence stage, and I'm running out of words.

Plus I have an interview on Tuesday, so my brain is basically Animal trying not to think about drums. 
Photo credit
When I interviewed for my first official job at a school, the principal saw my Bible college degree and had a few questions. He wanted to know my intentions; I told him I didn't plan to teach Sunday school at work, and he laughed. He was a warm-hearted Presbyterian, and he was relieved.

Thinking back on that, I wonder if I could've answered better.

The truth is, the life of the Christian should be fruitful. And things like joy and patience, kindness and faithfulness make great employees. It's totally cool to be peaceful and self-controlled, even at work. 

That's the deal with fruit: It can go with you. 
But most of the time, I don't look much like love and joy and peace. Most of the time, even my strengths are weaknesses.

I'm a natural editor, for instance. Need someone to notice the tiny spot on your shirt, or to fix your church bulletin that says, "Your welcome here"? I'm on it. And that's good, but it means I'm a critic, too. 

I'm task-oriented. But I can be demanding. I'm focused, but sometimes I miss what's important. I'm logical, but I can seem cold.

And those things aren't the fruit of the Spirit. They're the fruit of my own life - the desire to do things for myself, and the drive not to ask for help. 

They're what happens when I won't admit my need. And good fruit doesn't come from us, anyway. Branches only bear fruit when they're connected to the vine. 

And when we know that, we're finally free just to grow. 

Leaning in harder,

Halfway Home: A Love Story

I'm obsessed with thrift stores. I don't know if it's the treasure hunting or the being cheap (or um, frugal), but the only thing better than thrifting is shoe shopping (not the same thing). And I don't buy shoes often.
Batman's awesome red coat? Thrift store!
Today Princess and I walked to a thrift store in our little town, just over a mile each way. At the start of the journey, she was running. She squealed and skipped and bounced (which just goes to show five-year-olds have more energy than 36-year-olds). 

But halfway there, that changed. Her energy ran low, and she said she was tired (which just goes to show 36-year-olds have more endurance than 5-year-olds). So we stopped on the sidewalk, and I asked if she wanted to go home. She shook her head, and we kept going. 
Cute blue dress she wore the day we spray painted this chair red? Totally thrifted.
At the store, we found her a dress, a shirt, and a pair of shorts. She was thrilled. And the whole time we shopped, she made her usual commentary: 

"Mommy, look at this beautiful shirt! It would look pretty on you." (It was a sequined half-shirt tank top.) 

"Why do they have so many baby shoes? Babies don't need shoes."

"Aww, this book has a cat on it! Oh. . . never mind. Looks like someone tried to eat it."

And she literally announced, disappointed: "Everything in this whole store is used! All the stuff we buy here is used.stuff."
The Christmas elf's dress: Thank you, thrift store.
I explained the idea of giving and receiving, using instead of wasting. But the dog-eaten corner of that book had done her in. The thrift store lost its sparkle.

On our way home, Princess's legs got tired again, and she sighed when we climbed the hills. She'd see one in the distance and ask, "Why do we have to climb these hills?" (Two miles is a big job for little legs.) I told her we were halfway home, and we had to keep walking if we wanted to get there. She kept moving.

And as we walked down the last little hill, she saw her daddy's car pulling into our neighborhood. She squealed and darted ahead, shouting, "I got my energy back, Mommy!"

Princess ran for home, and she ran for Daddy, and her secondhand jacket went right with her. 

She forgot about used stuff and tired muscles, and she just flew home.

Love is powerful like that.

Not stopping halfway, 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Coffee and Peace: Or What's Not a Sin

(Yesterday, the Preacher was working on a new blog layout for me, a little simpler and with more room for, y'know - words and stuff. So this is yesterday's post. Not that you're counting, but I'm a rule-follower. Now back to your regularly scheduled Lent.)

Fact: I was in middle school when I realized drinking coffee wasn't a sin. 
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When I was little, my grandma was the only person I knew who drank coffee, and at the time she wasn't really a church-y person. I adored her. But kids are black-and-white, and I thought coffee was wrong because my parents didn't drink it, and my grandma did. 

I'm so glad I was wrong. 

It turns out I was wrong about more than just coffee. Over the years, I've found that feeling bad doesn't always mean I've sinned. Sometimes I'm just fighting pride, and sometimes I'm breaking away from a wrong message.

And maybe you can relate to these:

5 Hard Things That Aren't Actually Sins: 

5) Accepting help. I'm Appalachian at heart, and the first rule of Appalachians is this: Do it yourself. And the second is like it: If you can't do it yourself, ask your family. But don't accept a hand-out.

When we pastored in Ohio, one of our board members was a silver-bearded sanguine with a wide smile and a generous heart. He and his wife immediately became our family. One day, our friend wanted to buy lunch for the Preacher, but he declined. Our friend said, "Pastor, why won't you let me bless you? You're keeping me from a blessing." We didn't need help, but we learned to accept a gift with grace.

If the God who made everything with a word brought friends to pray with Him in the Garden and asked for a drink from a Samaritan woman, why are we so determined to go it alone? We can give and receive, both without sin.

4) Feeling sad or angry. Sometimes in faith, we confuse joy with happiness. It's hard to grieve or admit we're struggling, as though God created Stepford Wives instead of sons and daughters.

But the truth is, we're made in the image of a God with strong emotions: Anger. Grief. Sorrow. Jesus upended tables and made a scene. And of course He wept

Sometimes anger is sinful, but not always. God is infinite and perfect and also has shades of emotion. We can reflect Him in that.

3) Being honest with God. There was a time in my life when I only said safe prayers. I was sure if I spoke my real thoughts - my fears and questions and even my doubts - God would be shocked.

I guess that was before I read David's words, though. Or even Jesus's. As it turns out, I'm nothing new - and neither are you. God can handle our questions and our pain, and incredibly He wants to hear from us.  

2) Wondering about the time during church. Years ago at the end of a long service we attended, the speaker scolded the crowd. He said we'd been looking at our watches, and we were putting God on the clock. He told us to repent. 
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And for that service, maybe he was right. But is it really a sin to check the time? Maybe people needed lunch. Maybe they were up late with babies. Or maybe they were just people who liked to know the time. It might be annoying.

But annoying me isn't really a sin. And neither is annoying you. So maybe we could just give each other a break? 

1) Making a mistake. Churches often define sin to kids like this: Sin is when we make a mistake. Then we list some possibilities to limit the field - lying, stealing, maybe cheating on a test.

Most kids don't take the limitations to heart, though. They're built to generalize, and they know a lot about mistakes - broken plates, lost glasses, chipped front teeth. They grow up thinking accidents really upset God. 

But a broken plate's just a broken plate, and declaring the wrong college major or driving a lemon or moving to Chicago when you wish you'd gone to Dallas. . . those are just mistakes. (Unless you're Jonah.) And God doesn't seem nearly as discouraged by our humanity as we do. 

He loves us in the midst of our questions and mistakes, our sorrow and our scrapes, our weakness and our overwhelming need. With grace, He opens pierced hands to offer peace. 

And peace is what all our rules could never give us.  

Free from not-sins, 

Friday, March 20, 2015

To Write or Not to Write

Tonight we watched Harriet the Spy with the kids. Little Man seemed to enjoy it, and I think he got the point. . . if the point is that mean kids deserve what's coming to 'em.

Maybe he didn't catch the finer points. But he'll probably have to write a paper on the book someday, so it'll all work out. 
Photo source
Now what Princess got from the movie was a little different, and pretty straightforward: a list of things she wants. She asked for a cat. Lots of cats. And she asked for a typewriter. 

Ahh, the typewriter. So nostalgic. So romantic. Such a terrible pain in the neck. And after looking at the price tag on nostalgia, I'm sorry to say a typewriter's not happening. 

As for me, Harriet reinforced this truth about stories: They can hurt, or they can help.

I've often thought about writing our story, telling a little about what happened in the churches we pastored. I have so many great stories to tell - tales of sacrifice and hospitality. I could write books about people who gave and people who served and people who worked without credit or applause. 

But they'd be upset if I told you how awesome they are. 

And then there are the other stories, the ones that aren't so easy to tell. I'm sure master writers could pen them without hurting anyone or casting aspersions - or maybe they wouldn't have cared about that. But as often as I've tried, I've never published those stories. They're too messy. (You know about messy stories.)
Most of all, I want to tell our stories - all of them - with wisdom and not with spite. Our wounds are long and well healed, but wrong words are a blade. Good stories don't make healthy skin bleed.

But then a story without a struggle doesn't tell the truth, does it? Nothing is beautiful without truth. (That's Keats, via Golly.)

So maybe Harriet said to tell the story sometime. And she's right. 

Another day. 

Thinking about stories,

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Fighting the Green Monster

At some point in my younger life, I decided not to have any kids after I turned 30. But then I was 31 when I had Princess, so that whole Plan B thing? I have a copyright on it. 

I'm always telling my kids I'm old, and they're finally starting to believe it.

This afternoon I said I needed a break because I'm an old lady. Little Man (who's inheriting everything in my will) said, "You're not old, Mommy." Then Princess piped up, "Yeah, you're not an old lady. You're just an old mommy!"

Such a funny little thing, that one.
But then sometimes I do envy young moms with their whole lives and most of their mistakes ahead of them. I'm not over the hill or anything, but I have a lot of decisions behind me at this point.

So I fight jealousy. We live far from family so the Preacher can finish his degree, and I'm jealous of people with their families next door. We're 3/4 of the way through our homeschool year, and I'm jealous of parents with kids in public school. I'm jealous of the girl with cute shoes at the store, the blogger with the paid-off mortgage, and anyone with anything at all.

I've been petty, shallow, and ungrateful. (It's impossible to envy and be grateful at the same time.)

So I'm fighting a battle for my heart here at Lent, and I stand my ground with this: 
I am enough. 
I have enough. 
I've been given more than I could ever deserve. 

And those people who seem to have it all together, the ones who ignite my inner green monster? Well, they struggle to remember they're enough, too. 
They fight to be grateful for what they have. 
They know they've received more than they ever deserved. 

They're a lot like me. 

As it turns out, perfection is the end of the rainbow. When we finally get close enough to touch it, we see it was an illusion all along. 

It's when we get through that illusion and love people the way they are - smudged faces and dirty fingernails and all - that the battle turns. It's the gift we give in friendship. And if we're lucky, we receive it, too.

We push aside envy and choose to love, 
and grace bursts through the weeds and takes over. 
And grace wins, every time.

Betting on grace, 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Checking the List

Today marks a month since I started writing for Lent. Yesterday I wrote five posts and didn't publish any of them. And this month, I've learned two things about myself:

1) Sometimes I have something to say, and
2) Sometimes I don't.

When I don't, it's impossible to pretend I do - just like my normal pattern of conversation. I either say everything, or I say nothing. This afternoon I talked to a dear friend, and it was a say-everything kind of day. But she knows how I am; she's an expert listener and talker both. 

I told her my kids were frustrating me today, bickering about everything. When they helped me dry dishes, they literally fought over who would get to dry which dish. My friend mentioned at least they were helping, and she was right. It could've been worse. Soon enough they'll be running away before I can ask for help (if they take after me, anyway). 

While they were working today, Princess asked Little Man to hand her a dinner plate. He said the dish was too heavy, and she fired back, "I know what I can do!" So he handed her the plate, but he muttered, "Yeah, but do you know what you can't do?" 

Thinking about it now, I'm not sure which of those lists is harder to write - what we can do, or what we can't. We all have things we're capable of doing. But the list of things we're not? I don't know about yours, but mine is a mile long. 

And I write that list in ink - yellow for things I'm afraid of (um, holding snakes), red for things I thought I could do but found I couldn't (hello, crocheting). Green for things other people can do but I can't (oh, jealousy). And black for things I'm just sure would kill me (like touching a bug).

As Princess leaned that plate on the counter and scrubbed it dry, I thought about my long, long list. I considered the things I'll never be able to do, like walking a tightrope or wrestling a bear. But then they aren't things I want to do, so they don't bother me much.

It's those "can'ts" I want to do that make me wonder:
Where am I saying, "I can't," when I really mean, "I won't"?

And if that little sprout found a way to dry her plate, what makes me so determined not to push myself?

With just a splash of water, colored ink dries into a prism of color. 
Checking that list twice

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Goodbye to the Bully

So I have this mean friend, one I've known my whole life. Every time she visits, I feel the hot shame of my mistakes, the burning fear that she'll tell someone.

The cold truth that she's going to.

When we were both in third grade, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. Leading up to that, I was thirsty all the time and could've drunk the water fountain dry. 
Photo source
My friend never lets me forget the day I went to the bathroom too many times, and finally our kind, experienced teacher told me to wait a little longer. And I waited too long, if you get my drift. I waited too long, and it was third grade, and I was at school.


Back in the classroom, my friend snickered at the lie I told: "Um, the sink splashed me, and it exploded everywhere, and my pants are wet." I was desperate.

But my friend still grins about it. She says it's our little secret.

A few years later, I decided to find new friends. I was a good kid - the girl with her homework done and her pencil really sharp and the straight A's on her report cards. (Once in the fifth grade I got a D, but it was in handwriting, and we all know that's not a real thing.)
Photo source
For my new friends, I chose three girls with the biggest spiral perms and the coolest pastel jackets. It was elementary school, and they were caking on the mascara. I gave them my math homework, and they finally passed a class, and it was good. My mean friend left me alone.  

And then the Friday before Christmas break, they wrote me a note. It was folded neatly and marked, "Private," in colorful ink with big, loopy cursive. It was a friend breakup note, and it ended like this:

The Three Musketeers (not four)

It was my first real heartbreak, and in the end it was so what I needed before middle school, but you know what? My mean friend came back with a vengeance. And she loves that story.

She laughs that I'm failing, and I'm not enough, and I'm just going to embarrass myself again. But it's not true. I'm not failing, and I am enough. I'm definitely going to embarrass myself again, but don't we all?* That's not even the point.

The point is this: The person who's closest to me in life, who's been there the longest, who has the most power to bully or to bless me -
is me.

I'm the perfectionistic mean kid with the taunting memories. And I'm the vulnerable nice girl with something to lose.
I'm both.  
Photo source
And so are you. No one knows your mistakes like you do, and know one knows how you want to make a difference, how you love so deeply and get injured so easily.

You're your biggest fan and your worst critic. Join the club. 

It's David's club. And Peter's. It's a club for people with a rough track record and a bright future. A club for people who've lived with the bully for too long.

Maybe she says you're not worth it, or you can't do it. Maybe she tells you you're stupid or poor or lame. Maybe she says no one listens to you. Maybe she says no one loves you.

But she's wrong, guys. And we have something to say to her, too:

Shut. Up.

This club has room for more than three, and we never listen to liars who say otherwise. (We're exclusive like that.)

Saying goodbye to the mean girl,

*A little proof: Last year I tried to give my single male neighbor a Women's Fitness magazine, an issue with a bikini-clad athletic goddess on the cover. I insisted he take it because I thought it was his girlfriend's, who didn't even live there. He blushed when he saw the cover and mumbled that it wasn't his or his girlfriend's. And then I blushed. So yes, I'll embarrass myself.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

If You Give a Princess a Braid

If you give a Princess a braid, she's going to squeal, "I'm Elsa!" and run to her room. She'll come out wearing the fancy Elsa dress she got for Christmas. 
She'll pose like Elsa and pretend to build ice castles in the living room.

When she's finished, she'll ask you to take a few pictures.

(Hopefully she won't be a perfectionist about it. If she were, say, 30 years older, she might be distracted by those winter clothes on their way to storage but still in the living room. But since she's not. . . moving on.)
Then she'll want to look at her pictures to be sure she got the Elsa pose just right. Which, of course, she did. 

When she sees her pictures, she'll notice her bare feet. She'll start looking for shoes. She'll look all over the house for play heels since Elsa doesn't wear regular shoes. Elsa only wears ice slippers. 

She'll get carried away and search everywhere for the slippers. Then she'll remember they're in the storage unit. She'll ask you to go outside and find them for her.

You'll sigh but find them anyway, and she'll put them on and dance around.

When she finishes dancing, she'll probably be tired. She'll want to relax on the couch. You'll have to turn on Netflix so she can watch My Little Pony and rest her sore feet. 
She'll relax for a minute then ask, "Mommy, can you bow down to me now?" 

And you'll say, "No way, kid. The queen doesn't bow to the Princess."

She'll look at you like you've finally lost it. 

And then she'll ask for a cookie. 

Living the dream, 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Forget Not

I'm not a big fan of Christian radio. I don't know why. Maybe I'm just more of a folk/Southern rock girl than a jumping-up-and-down, pop-bop, Jesus-is-so-cute girl.

Call me crazy. 

Seriously, do it. (That was fun, right?)

So today we had a bump in the road that involved calling people and fixing things again. And again, it wasn't so much a big deal as a time-consuming one, and the Preacher (who has patience and perseverance) fixed it. He solved the problem while I was flapping my arms and fussing.

So he told me to go shopping, and I left to buy a new pot for my philodendron. I've had this plant maybe eight years, and it was given to me by my grandmother. A few years back, it was thriving as usual when I knocked it on the ground while I was vacuuming. It was decimated, roots torn off everywhere.

But philodendrons are hardy, so I saved a leaf just in case. I put it in a glass of water, and it grew a root. And when I planted that root, wouldn't you know the leaf sprouted another one, and now there are seven? When it grew another baby leaf last month, I decided it needed a new pot. Off to the store I went.
The new leaf! With a little fresh dirt.
All the way there, I was shouting like Yosemite Sam (but just as family-friendly). I felt powerless, and that is my absolute worst nightmare. When I feel powerless, I'm crazy and irrational.

(Oh, what's that? You say you're not here to talk about my issues? Oops!)

I was upset. But I bought a pot and some soil anyway, and on the way back to my car, I started humming that old Potter's Hands song. (Does your brain do that? You buy a pot and start singing a song about it?) 

When I got into the car, 10,000 Reasons was playing on the Christian station. The thing is, it's a song I actually do like. But today it brought something else to mind - and that's what made the difference. It's Psalm 103, and it starts like this:

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all who are oppressed.

David's song reminded me what was so easy to forget: His benefits.

I'd been neglecting them.

So I started remembering them in the car, like:
"Forget not how He delivered you from a life built around yourself.
Forget not how He set you free from lies and curses.
Forget not how He gave you two children - TWO - when you wondered whether you could have one.
Forget not how He blessed you with a family that loves you.
Forget not how He gave you friends who forgive you for not answering the first call, or knowing what to say, or being at every party.
Forget not that He gave you a husband who's patient with your weaknesses, and who just says, "I"ll take care of it," when you're panicking.
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Forget not all His benefits.

The benefits are infinite, but David just says, "Forget not all." That is, don't forget all of them. Remember them as they come to mind.

We remember this huge grace from the God who knows we're really dust.

We remember because the God who knows we're dirt also,
knows we're something more.
In our powerless moments, the breath of life reminds us of His benefits.

And in weakness, life sprouts from the ruins. 

Glad for a new pot, 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


Dear Princess: 

The day after we found out you were on the way, we announced it to the whole world. They say you should wait a few weeks, but I absolutely could not contain myself. I remember what I wore that day. I remember it was your cousin's birthday. I remember like it was yesterday. But it was more than six years ago now. 
A few months later, the doctors ran what I thought was a routine test. But it turned out to be a torture device, breeding anxiety like I'd never experienced before. The test thought you might've had spina bifida.

Now, let me give you some counsel, child, for when you're a mother yourself: Never, never, never research a medical condition your child may have. It's like taking an Anti-Prozac pill, like trying to kill a fly with a machine gun, like taking your already-cracked heart and driving a semi over it.

I Googled it, and I was paralyzed with fear. Tears kept falling, but I didn't notice 'til they blurred the papers I was grading. At the time, I worked with a group of godly women who lifted me up and cried tears right there with me. They believed and knew you were fine. 

They believed for me when I could not. 

That ultrasound was the first time I got to see your hands, your feet, your little nose. (It looked then, like now, just like mine.) You modestly hid your gender, but you did show off a most miraculously perfect spine. Never had I seen a more beautiful curve. 

The test was wrong.

And sometimes tests are, little one. Sometimes tests pick up something and name it wrong. Even cute toys cast scary shadows, right?

But tests don't have to paralyze us. We can be brave for them - all the tests in all their forms. (There are more than just blood tests in life, baby girl.) And the thing that makes us brave is this: 

Tests don't know the whole story. And they don't get to tell it. 

You see, when you live through the test, you're the one who tells the story. 

And telling your story, child, having the power to speak it yourself - that was a hard-won privilege.

So don't be afraid to tell it - when the test is raging and long after it's over. Nobody else could tell it the way you could, anyway. 

Getting ready to tell some stories, 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Love Your Neighbor

(Psst: Read to the end. Ok? Ok.)

Dear Friends, 

It was lovely to see you on Facebook today. I've really enjoyed being part of your life. When I think back on all the fun times we've had - the times you've been there for me, the times we've laughed and cried, the times you've helped me not flunk my classes - I can't help but smile. 
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I'm grateful for your friendship. Or at least, I was.

But now it's time to part ways. We're too different. And by "different" I mean you're not exactly like me. We can't be friends anymore. 
Photo Credit
You see, you're 
and happy in your own skin. 
You know who you are, and you're cool with that.
(Do you see the problem here?)

You're committed to your causes, 
and you're willing to fight for them. 
You live out your convictions, 
and you have strong beliefs. 
But even if we agree on those things, I'm sure we disagree about other important things, like whether people should own striped socks or only white. So you can see how different we are now. 

You're fit and trim;  
you make me feel puffy. 
Or you're not a hardbody, 
but you love to run or do yoga or drink green tea.
Plus you think chocolate ice cream is better than vanilla, and that's really not ok. 

You call Easter "Easter," 
or you call it "Resurrection Sunday," and why do we have to have fancy names for everything now? 
(I'm opposed to names.)
You wear dresses to church,
or you always wear jeans (copycat!). 
Maybe you don't attend church at all, 
or just not the one I attend. 

There are just so many ways to you upset me. 
You wear flip flops. 
You wear sandals.
You hate to wear shoes. 
Ok, so those things are me, too, but it frustrates me that your feet are smaller or bigger than mine, and that you have that nice glitter nail polish, so just forget it.

We just can't get along. Even if you always agree with me.

We're too different. 

And I know about that whole love-your-neighbor-as-yourself thing. But I think it applies to neighbors who are just like me. Don't you agree? (If you don't, you're not my friend.) 

(Just kidding. I love you guys!)

Using sarcasm font,