Love and Berry Bowls

I left working at our church almost three months ago because as much as I loved the people I and the place, my heart was being pulled elsewhere. I felt a pull back INTO my own community. Out of offices and into a place where opportunities would arise to actually be WITH people. When the opportunity came to work at my favorite, local store with people I adored, I jumped. Okay, maybe it was more like a little kid going off the diving board for the first time (I think this is going to be amazing and just what I want it to feel like, but I’m a little scared to leave the security of this thing called land) but I did jump and it was exactly what I wanted it to be. 

My heart is happy with all kinds of people, all of the time. And, they are my people. Not because we are all alike, some are, some aren’t, but they all live in my town, my mountain community, so that makes them mine. I’m happy to be the first to say it because I know we are all thinking it – people are weird. Even my people. Some of the requests they have, comments they make, they way they look… but it’s kind of what makes my work so fun, weird people. I can’t imagine going in later this afternoon and everyone being the same. Everyone looking and acting like me. Gah. That would be awful. 

I’m reading through the Bible this year and yesterday I was in John. A repeated phrase is something along the lines of “love all.” In fact, love everyone so that they know you’re mine (Jesus talking here). Not, “love the ones that think and act like you.” Not, “love your own race but by all means disregard others.” Not, “love the ones that smell good but not the stinky.” Not, “love the ones that don’t annoy you.” None of that. In fact in John 15:17 it says this, “This is my command: Love each other.” I don’t see any qualifiers. 

Man, we are screwing this one up. 

Midway through my day yesterday a lady came in. By all appearances she was your typical Evergreen lady, put together, in style and adorable. I asked her how she was doing and her reply was “okay.” It was a response people don’t typically throw out. Most don’t want anyone pushing in so they keep it safe at “fine” or “good.” I said something like, “I hope your day can move from “okay to great” and that’s when it happened. Tears kind of filled her eyes as she said she didn’t think it would because she had just had her second child diagnosed with cancer. Not as in her second in birth order, as in BOTH children now carried that awful diagnosis. Daughter is in remission and now the son was just diagnosed. I was dumbfounded. I’m not sure what kind of response you’re supposed to have to that, but I immediately started praying that mine wouldn’t be trite. She moved through the store grabbing all the things because he loves to cook and she was just trying to find anything to help lift his spirits, he is two weeks away from turning 16. 

When she came to check out there was someone behind her but I just kind of whispered, “I bought your berry bowls for you, think of it as a ‘I’m so sorry this sucks gift’ and know that I’m praying that God would bring healing to your family.” Maybe, just maybe when she sees those berry bowls on her counter she will think about me praying for her, or maybe she will just see raspberries. I’ll never know. I just did what I could, which wasn’t much. 

When I got home last night, more conversations on the deck with my boys about events that had taken place in our nation… events that seem unfathomable in this day and age, but perhaps only seem that way to me because I’m white. My friends that aren’t will tell you these talks have been a part of their dialogue from day one. My mind raced back to John and that one simple command, “Love each other.” I begged them to love all people, ALL people, no qualifiers. And then I begged them to do something tangible about that love and stand up for all people, ALL people, no qualifiers. 

Everyone needs a little more love today. That’s what I’m learning and trying to impress on my boys as well. Maybe that love is buying berry bowls as a reminder that you “see” that person and what they are walking through, even if you can’t understand first hand. Maybe it’s having the hard conversations about race and asking friends what one tangible thing is your family can do to help bring peace and love to a very hurting community. We are running after it. We can’t sit around and pretend that things are okay when they are very much not. My heart was pulled back into my community for a reason and it’s a pretty simple one, love them. All of them. And teach my boys to do the same. 

Oh hello…

“His father and mother didn’t realize the Lord was at work in this….” Judges 14:4

Anyone been there? Just me? I wish my default in life would be “I bet the Lord is up to something” instead of “what on earth is happening here?!” It’s funny to me that we can read the Bible and be so enamored with all of the lessons that people learned and even wonder “what took them so long?” to learn them and yet…. If I’m being honest, in my own daily struggles I don’t see it and even wonder where His hand is. If someone were chronicling my life I guarantee someone two thousand years from now would wonder why I didn’t get it too. 

I’m not talking about world pandemics, though I know there are plenty of lessons we could all be learning now. I’ll let the internet tell you what you “should” be learning because we all know how trustworthy that is. I’m talking about the little mundane moments of normal life. What are the everyday moments that I should press in a bit more to find out where God is in it? In the passage above it was talking about Samson and his pursuing a Philistine woman. I don’t think I have to worry about that, but I certainly do think about the women that my men will marry one day and the choices they will make between now and then and even after. While I don’t dwell on these things, I wonder if I trust God enough to know that he loves them more than I ever could and He’s “at work” in the decisions they are making even now as they enter their teen years. We are just three years away from the age I was when I started to fall head over heels for my now husband of almost 18 years. That’s frightening. I mean it was SO obvious to this girl that he was the one… but looking back… what?! No wonder my mom was freaking out a bit! I can’t imagine my boys telling me that young that they’ve found the one they are going to marry. And yet… “the Lord was at work in that.” 

Do I think about this as I go into work each day? Homeschooling my kids when it wasn’t what any of us asked for? Making dinner? Talking with friends? Excelling? Failing? When I was walking through a particularly hard thing a couple of years ago Jesse told me that my life is like a huge timeline and God was over it all and in it all. What I was walking through felt hard and defeating, but it was just one little blip on the timeline and even though I didn’t “feel” God there, He was, and there would be plenty of timeline left with plenty of moments I would feel Him again. In essence, God was at work in that. 

I hope as you walk into today you will be able to trust that He’s at work in your life too. In the making of pancakes for your family, in getting your paycheck cut, in your longing for kids, maybe even in the searching YouTube for how to teach math to your kids. I love that it says Samson’s parents “didn’t realize” because I think that is where most of us are. We just don’t realize that God is at work in this. He loves us too much to not be. 

The Beautiful Flail

I just watched a video of a baby moose trying to cross pavement for the first time. Don’t get all self righteous on me and think that you would never get sucked into these videos because according to their count…  over 9 million views. Some of y’all get sucked in to. But getting sucked in to viral videos is hardly what whispered to my heart to write tonight. Watching the baby moose is what did it. 

Any of you that have been friends or family for more than six months know that my journey last year was gut wrenching. I’m not sure how to put into words how dark it was, if you’ve been there, you know, and if you haven’t, drop to your knees and thank God you haven’t, I’m not even kidding. Dark hardly describes what had me in fetal position, tears, and literally losing my mind for no apparent reason and out of nowhere. 

Everyone kept telling me there was another side and everything in me wanted to believe it, but some days I just couldn’t. I pressed into Jesus more than I ever have and I felt… nothing. Then I would get little whispers that he was there and I would cling even harder. 

In the video a mama moose is merrily making her way across a road with cars stopped on both sides to let her pass. It’s beautiful to watch. I love nature. After mama gets across you realize there is a tiny baby trying to follow. But the baby has never come across a road before and cars and cement are VERY scary. It can’t do it. It keeps trying over and over and it just can’t bring itself to take that first step into the unknown. 

As I watched that baby try and try to get to the other side, I knew exactly how it felt. Some things are hard. Some things are scary. There are obstacles coming towards you from both sides and it seems impossible to make it through to the other side. This is your reminder, there IS another side and you ARE capable of getting there. You might be able to see glimpses of it, or maybe not at all right now. You might have total confidence in the one leading you, or it might take a couple of times to trust that your Father knows just how to get across. I get it. One of my favorite parts is when the mama moose walks towards one of the cars almost as if to say “back off some” and the car does just that and moves slowly backwards. We have a mighty God who is fighting for us, sometimes we can see him pushing the obstacles back and sometimes we don’t because our heads are down trying to focus on that next step, but he’s there. Keep pushing forwards, even if baby moose steps. 

At the end, after the mama continues to reassure the baby that it’s safe and she’s there, the baby finally crosses. This is my favorite part. It’s not a graceful crossing. It’s the most awkward walk you’ve ever seen, kind of comical. Not at all how the baby was walking on the grass. Sometimes when we encounter the unknown, we are going to beautifully flail our way through, but… we make it, so long as we follow the one that loves us enough to not leave us and lead us through. 

I don’t know where you are on your journey right now. Maybe you’re in grassy meadows and life is good. But maybe as we enter this beautiful Christmas season you’re trying to figure out how to muster the strength and bravery to push yourself out of the safe, through the hard, and to the other side. Don’t stop friend. Beautifully flail right through that hard and keep following the one that loves you. 

You Will Dance Again

In October one of my dearest friends asked me where my picture was that Keegan had made of me dancing when he was 4. It hung in my PA house for years and this blog was birthed out of that picture 3 years ago. She thought it was time for it to come back out and for ME to be reminded this time… I will dance again. I reread this blog last night through tears…So with no further explanation… here is “You Will Dance Again,” by me, this time for me…. and the picture came out of the boxes and is up on my wall again.

dance again.jpg

 

There is a picture of me dancing that hangs on our refrigerator. It’s been there over a year now as a reminder and I don’t plan on taking it down anytime soon. It’s a reminder that I dance again.

I have a masters degree in counseling but there was a season when at the end of a lot of days I felt like I needed to be the one on the couch.

Life felt out of control, I felt out of control and I lost myself. I vividly remember going on a walk with my Love one night and he said, “How’s Vivian?” My answer was simple – “she isn’t. Vivian doesn’t exist anymore. I’m a mom now.” I hated it but didn’t know how to fix it, and I didn’t have the energy to try to figure it out. I was just treading water to get through the days.

I remember another conversation after baby number two that I said through tears, “I’m just so sad that they will never know me. The real me. The ‘full of life,’ bubbly, FUN, me. They will only know this shell who is exhausted and yells to much because I’m stressed.”

Couple all of this with the guilt and confusion of knowing I was living my dream, but all of the sudden feeling like my dream didn’t fit. That’s an awful place to be. You might be in this place right now. It might be because of motherhood or it might be because of another dream that feels it doesn’t fit. Can I let you in on a little secret? You will dance again.

It seems unbelievable right now, I know. You loved to read but now the thought of even picking up book makes you tired. You’re were a party planner extraordinaire but having someone for dinner now means you actually have to cook something. You loved to write, but the only words you get out now are mostly focused on a toddler vocabulary. You were the best teacher, accountant, massage therapist, managing partner, fill in the blank… but these days you are ready for a nap by one.

That picture on my refrigerator, it was painted by my youngest when he was 4. He knows me as a dancing mama. When he walked out of his school with that picture, I don’t know who was prouder; him because of his beautiful artwork, or me, because I kept pushing through the days. With the help of a Heavenly Father that loved/s me and poured out strength, intentional friends that listened and a husband that held my hand even when I wasn’t “me” I made it over that mountain. And now, now I’m dancing on the other side, for my kids and the whole world to see.

Keep pushing my friends. Cry your tears and never feel guilty for them, for you were created by a loving Father who insisted we come equipped with an emotional side. Find your intentional friends, the ones you can be gut level honest with and who will never make you feel less. Paint your nails. Sign up for a 5k. Bake a cake. Seriously, something small that you can do that is just for you. No one else. Something that will remind you that you are a person, not just a role.

You’re in there, and you will dance again.

Yet…

In my boxing class I was in the middle of an excruciating ab exercise so I looked up at the clock to see how much longer I had to persevere. My trainer, and best friend, said to me, “stop looking at the clock and trust me.” I yelled back at her, “you and Jesus are trying to tell me the same things!” You can yell things like this to your best friend who knows Jesus and you pretty dang well.

I just finished reading Annie Down’s new book “Remember God” and y’all, it was brutifal. As in, exactly what I needed to hear but hard as hell to see in black and white. It was as though she was living part of my life, different journeys, but a lot of the same feels. She talked about her “word for the year” and how she prays for a new word each birthday. I loved this concept and even though I didn’t exactly pray for one, I do feel like the word “yet” has been whispered into my spirit and I have started to cling to it. I know that God can heal me with one word, but why hasn’t he? The word I get back is “yet.” If you’ve been around any church long enough I’m sure you’ve heard sermons on his timing just like I have. But man, when you’re in the wrestling match of a lifetime, sometimes you just want to yell “UNCLE” and have it come to an end and my timing says yesterday would have been a good day for it to end. Anyone else?

Recently my Love and I were processing a certain wrestling match that took place a long time ago. If you grab your Bible and jump back to Genesis 32 you’ll read about a man named Jacob who wrestled (literally) a man all night long. The Bible doesn’t tell us who the man was, but it’s obvious from the context that it is a man of God or some type of angel, not a homeless man living in a van down by the river. 🙂 Some things stand out to me about this short passage after reading “Remember God” and talking with my Love.

  • The match went on all night, when it was dark. I don’t really want to wrestle anyone during the daylight, but at night, when I’m exhausted and worn down, no way. And yet, that is often when we have to get our fight on, when we are tired and worn down, in the “nights” of life.
  • The man could not overpower Jacob so he touched his hip and it “puts a wrench in it” and Jacob still didn’t give up. He continued to fight with a bad hip.
  • At daybreak, the man told Jacob to let him go because the night was coming to an end, Jacob tells him no, not until this man blessed him. You guys, he fought ALL NIGHT LONG and still wouldn’t quit until he got his blessing.
  • After all of this, when the man of God sees that Jacob will not quit, he gives him the blessing he was asking for AND a new identity, his name was changed to Israel.
  • The sun comes up, and Israel walks with a limp.

Sigh. Sometimes we have to literally wrestle our way out of things. Sometimes it feels like the night will never end and even when it does we aren’t there yet and we have to keep pressing in and pushing hard. But friends, we have to. At the end of the fight is a new identity and blessing. Sure, we might walk with a limp, how could you not after such a fight, but we’ll be walking with a new purpose, a new name and a new blessing.

Back to my girl Annie and her amazing book… she talks a lot about this wrestling match too and her current limp. I’m so glad she took the time to write it all out because her limp has helped me in my wrestling match. So “yet” has been my word and I’ve been pondering and processing the yet all week. Last week I texted it to my girlfriend and had also mentioned it to my tribe of girls that know my current wrestling match. Within thirty minutes of texting my friend I sit down to read some more of my book and this is what I read:

“Then in the quiet of my soul, He seemed to say…

The year isn’t over yet.

‘That’s awful,’ I responded. ‘Don’t do that to me. Don’t act like you’re going to show up for me at the last second and then not do it. This is not fun anymore. You’re hurting me.’ Yes, I said all those things. And then I chose to believe Him. I thought about Lamentations 3. ‘I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness, the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed. I remember it all – oh, how well I remember – the feeling of hitting the bottom. But there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope; God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, His merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left. (vv 19-24 MSG)”

I burst into tears. The World Series was on and my husband was sitting right next to me, I just looked up and said through my tears, “He sees me.”

Sometimes, in our darkest moments we just need to know he sees us. My friend, he. sees. you. And me. Let him whisper the word you need to hear this week and watch for him to show up. He will. Sometimes our wrestling matches take way longer than we want or expect, but at the end of that fight is a new identity and blessing. Keep fighting. There is a rest that can come “on every side” – Joshua 21:44. Doesn’t that sound hopeful and inviting? It does for me.

Praying for you my warrior friends. Praying that we hear and feel him with us through our wrestling and that he quickly pulls us to the other side with new blessings and rest on every side.

*The practice of shutting up: one of my biggest takeaways to date from this journey has been in my prayer time. I am learning from two different studies to pause, ask the Holy Spirit to show me what he wants me to see or change the way that I am seeing things. Can I be honest? It’s super nerve wracking. As one dear friend recently said, when you ask him to show up, you take the chance that he won’t, and that would be even more hurtful. When teaching this practice (yes, it’s a practice) to my boys the other night, my oldest said, “how do you know it’s God speaking and not just your own thoughts?” Another good question. But… every time I have invited him in, he shows up. And I’m learning his voice better and better and quite sure when it’s him over me. It’s such a beautiful moment in my day. Can I encourage you today to pause and ask his spirit to show you something new? I think you’ll be as surprised as I am with what he has to say.

In the Fire

“Tell the story of the mountain you climbed. Your words could become a page in someone else’s survival guide.” – Morgan Nichols.  

I bought a McDonald’s breakfast sandwich today. You’re might be thinking, “who cares sweetheart that’s my everyday” but it was the first time in almost 4-5 years that they have gotten any of my money and I’ve put any of their food in my mouth. We swore them off a long time ago as fake food and not worth our time or money. In fact, I’ve sworn a lot of things off in my years and I think God giggles a little bit every time I do. About 6 years ago I said I’d never move back to the East Coast. We were living in Kentucky and finally near family and had no desire to go back there… Until my husband had to move back there for work. After 8 months of living apart,  back we all went, and it ended up being a place where our family experienced true rest for the first time. I said our kids would never go to public school. I was raised in a private Christian school, I mean, I KNEW how toxic public schools could be, having never stepped foot into one, and my kids would not go there. Until they did. And we love it… maybe even more than private. I said I’d never go back on birth control. I was on it for years as it was absolutely necessary for me in early adulthood but then I had my kids and swore I would never put that many chemicals in my body again. It can lead to cancer you know. I start back tomorrow and I can’t wait.

I can be a pretty judgmental gal in my head. Can’t we all? We think we know the best way and maybe for our family it is, until it isn’t, and then we shift to make better decisions for all involved. I’m not here to preach about how McDonalds was a wise choice today. It wasn’t. I did buy the lady’s behind me and told the cashier to tell her that Jesus loved her. So maybe Jesus does show up in a sausage mcmuffin from time to time… and that IS my point exactly.

Sometimes he doesn’t show up how we expect. Wait. Sometimes he doesn’t show up in the way we want, when we want. But he’s there. In Daniel 3 we find three men that refuse to bow down to another god and their punishment is being thrown into a furnace. A FURNACE YOU GUYS WITH REAL FIRE!! For some of us, this is a story from Sunday school, and for some, maybe fake news….  But I think if we were all sitting in a room and I asked you to raise your hand if you have ever felt like you’ve been put through a “fire” every hand would go up. I believe every word of Daniel 3 to be true, and while my inner child just sees it as a super cool story where God shows up and saves them and they come out on the other side “hair NOT EVEN BURNED” as my niece will tell you, the adult me is processing something even better. Three men were thrown into the fire, but four were seen walking around in it. God shows up. God shows up in the middle of our fires and waits with us too.

Sometimes the fire burns longer than what we want. Sometimes it feels hotter than we can handle. And yet, fire can be such a refining tool. There is a reason that big ranchers burn their fields, “they are often called prescribed burns because they are used to improve the health of the field.”* They grown back replenished, renewed and better than if they hadn’t been burned. I am walking out of this fire a replenished, renewed person, better than I was before. I am already starting to feel it. I know what it is like to want to push through a fire with everything that is in you, and yet have to sit in it a bit longer. I know that even though I might not be able to “feel” it, my God is standing in the flames with me…. And I’m learning one other thing too.

People in the fire don’t want your advice. We really don’t. I was quick to let people know the choices that I had made about all the things and I’m backtracking on like a half dozen of those now due to a shift. It wasn’t my place to try to convince them of how they needed to journey through their fires. They just needed someone to come into the fire with them and be with them.I know this now. I know people have opinions on how I am handling my fire. I’ve heard them. People are just trying to help, but you guys, sometimes it lands me in my car in a heap of tears because you think my doctor is handling my “fire” wrong. I say, let’s let God be God, doctors be doctors, and the rest of us, let’s be the best damn firefighters we can be for one another. Let’s walk into each other’s flames and just be. The BEST things that have come my way have been surprise packages in the mail – so many books and beautiful things that make my heart burst. A flame extinguished. My neighbor checking in and just sitting to listen on the bad days. Another flame extinguished.The amazing texts and emails from people letting me know that this too shall pass, it’s not the end and they are praying for me. Another flame extinguished. Every hug. Every “you’ve got this.” Every “you are not fragile, you are so strong.” Flames extinguished. I’m marching out of this fire with my mouth shut and arms open… because that is what the world needs. Well, that, and maybe a few more free sausage mcmuffins in Jesus name.

*http://netnebraska.org/article/news/972396/why-do-farmers-burn-their-fields

 

Dreaming in the Darkness

A hormonal anything is not something I would wish on my worst enemy. I think it might be its own section of hell, you get there and think, “this isn’t so bad, there’s not even actual fire here” and then WHAM out of nowhere you get hit with all the hormones or lack of hormones, but not just any… female. Don’t get me wrong, I think my Father God is absolutely incredible. I think about the human body and all it can and does do on a daily basis and there is no question in my mind that we were created on purpose, with a purpose, for a purpose. But… I do have some questions about the female hormones and if in hindsight we truly still think ALL of it was a good idea. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about.

I’m learning things in this hormonal valley, and while I’d much rather just get the hell out before I have to learn anything else, I know from where I live that the valley can only last so long because there is always a mountain to go back up. As one friend recently told me, “it’s okay to be in the valley, just climb yourself back out” – and I am… it just feels like I’m crawling… but crawling is okay because it’s still forward movement. Some of my forward movement has been being extremely vocal about where I am. Friends know. Family know. Heck at this point even strangers know. I have fallen apart in school halls, on the playground and in chiropractic offices and I’ve always been met with hugs, tears, and even an unscripted prayer from my favorite Catholic in the the world who let me know that was a huge deal for her. Speaking of prayers, I have found there is nothing more beautiful than the prayers of those that have crawled through the same valley and are back up in the mountains now. Man do they know how to pray… they’ve been there, on hands and knees, snotty faced “down in the dirt” and they know how to carry you to the throne when you don’t know how to get there yourself. To every single one of you… side hugs in hallways and all… thank you. You’ll never know the impact you’ve had on me through this time and I am rising again and will be there for you like never before. I’ve also chased all the doctors. I’ve gone from PCP to acupuncture to massage therapy and this week my specialist. I’m tired of explaining the same thing over and over, but hopeful that with this team we can figure it all out. One more step to my crawling and one of the most healing ones for me to focus on is dreaming.  

When do dreams occur? When we sleep, right? When it’s dark. Dreams can’t come unless there is darkness. And along the same lines, we dream when we are asleep and therefore not in control. Does this kick anyone else in the gut? For someone that likes to be in control (and I think I speak for most of us) this is not an idea I’m crazy about but one I’m confident God has been whispering on the hardest of days. Dreams are born in a time of darkness and a lack of control. My biggest dream right now, and the one I shift towards constantly, is the ministry that will be born out of this darkness to help others know they are not alone. I don’t know what that will look like. I don’t have the specifics. I do have a 4.1 million journals, notes, Bibles, podcasts, blogs, pillows and blankets that are supporting me during this time and maybe, just maybe I can get it all out there to help support others too. Maybe even just this ole blog is the start of it.

So the days seem long and dark right now. This shouldn’t be a total surprise. The Word says in John, “in this world you will have trouble, but take heart, for I have overcome the world.”  And there is so much more good stuff in there y’all. Psalms 3 says he is our deliverer. Psalm 4 says we can lay down and sleep in peace because he alone is our safety. Habakkuk 3 (did you even know this was a book?) says he is our strength and he will enable to us to go on the heights – side note, I have this particular passage marked with 3 different dates of times that I thought life was intense. Looking back I can see his faithfulness and how he’s gotten me through each of them and I came out on the better side so… here we go again. Jeremiah 29:11 – his plans for me are GOOD. 1 John reminds me that the one who is in me is greater than the one of this world. Psalms 91 says he commands his angels to guard me. I could keep going. There is so much good. So much. I speak these words over me all the time. In the car. On hikes. At home. Sometimes with my arms up in the air declaring them. Sometimes preacher gotta preach am I right? But it doesn’t take away the pain. It doesn’t take away the fear. It doesn’t take away the bad days. Trust, I wish it would. But it DOES give me glimpses of him, what he wants for me and that he’s there in the midst of all of it. Psalm 23 – we all know this one – he is my shepherd, I shall not fear, he leads me, he guides me, he protects me.

All of this to say, in your darkness, dream a little. Exodus 14:14 will always go down as one of my favorites, “The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.” Lay down in the darkness, rest in his control, dream all the dreams and let him go to battle for you. He will and he is.