How to Find Holy in the “Offensively Ordinary”

 

This morning I read about Nadia Bolz-Weber’s story about being stretched to fit a mold of herself she didn’t recognize. A story of how God challenged her to be something she didn’t think she was, in order for Him to use her to reach a people who needed God’s grace–akin to a story many of us know of Jonah going to Nineveh, but not before a struggle.  For Nadia, Nineveh was speaking at a youth conference, when she saw her audience as sarcastic and skeptical adults.

This morning I read her words about an offensively ordinary God, who uses “offensively ordinary things,” to reveal Himself to us. Yes, Nadia and I agree “that this God has never made sense.” But even more, I love how she reminds me what this means for me too:

“And you don’t need to either, because this God will use you, this God will use all of you, and not just your strengths, but you failure and your failings. Your weakness is fertile ground for a forgiving God to make something new and to make something beautiful, so don’t think all you have to offer are gifts” (Bolz-Weber, Accidental Saints, pg 38)

This leads me to ask myself (and God), “Why aren’t you stretching me like this God?” because, if I’m honest I feel a little bored with my life. My stay-at-home mom existence certainly doesn’t look like Nadia’s challenge of speaking to thousands of difficult teenagers. For a minute, I stubbornly challenge God, “You aren’t stretching and challenging me to do great things God.” Then my mind returns to my own life challenges–I notice the sag of my tired body, kept up all night by a nursing toddler gymnast. I release a guttural noise, a confused half-breed of a cry and a laugh. In this ripe place of pain and uncertainty, of fatigue and resignation, God challenges me to be present in the places I don’t want to be either. In such a time as this, God is stretching me, my ego, my assumptions, and my patience. 

My older daughter, Bree, really wants to share a room with Elyse. She doesn’t think its fair that the three of us, and the dog, pile into our queen sized bed, while she sleeps alone in her room. Every night we pray together, “God please help Elyse to wean and start sleeping through the night so she can share a room with Bree.” 

I believe that there is power in prayer. I believe that prayer unlocks a Heavenly shift in our earthly reality. But this doesn’t mean it shifts in the way that we envision. God is moving in my present circumstances of nursing all night, and bed-sharing. He’s moving somehow in and through my sleep deprived body and is present in my addled thoughts and resentful reality. I had to chuckle when one morning Bree shared her dream with me. She dreamt God was raining down milk on the Israelites. They were drinking the milk until they turned into ghosts. I wish I had a Joseph to make earthly sense of what this dream could mean.

“Maybe Elyse will just nurse for her entire life?” Bree asked, smiling brightly.

“Lord help us!” I said with thick sarcasm and exasperation.

“Amen,” she responded with passion and enthusiasm.

I don’t have any qualms about a mom that wants to nurse her 28-month-old toddler through the night. Power to you sister. But I was never going to be “that mom.” No, for me, my cute baby would be healthy and ordinary (tongue in cheek). My cute baby would wean at the appropriate time–and sleep through the night too. I believe every mother should choose the path of motherhood, feeding, sleeping, nurturing, that works best for the whole family. I believe that in a theoretical way, like, “you do whatever works for you.” But for me, I’d rather not challenge the mothering norms. Yes, in my mind, nursing my 28-month-old and co-sleeping, challenges my own assumptions of what my mothering journey should look like. As my reality scrapes against my ideals, I see God using “offensively ordinary” things to challenge who I think I am.

In the past I’ve seen the things that others see as “shameful,” as opportunities to connect and stand in the light. This morning as I wrestle with my messy and imperfect reality, I want to hide it. I want to pretend my mothering journey is all the things beautiful and “normal” that fit squarely into a photo on Instagram. But then I feel God nudging me, whispering to me that this is where he wants me to stand in His light.

So here I stand. I stand here in this area that feels grey. I feel the thick seeping darkness beckoning me, to hide in the shadows. I’ve started thinking how I can hide from my friends the fact that I’m still nursing, because I feel embarrassed at this point. I feel like I’ve failed to help my daughter reach the next milestone. But for some reason, like Nadia, God is challenging me to stand in the bright lights, on an unfamiliar stage, to use my shame and weakness to usher in His love and grace. I really want my challenge to look much more glamorous, like speaking in front of thousands of sarcastic teens. But my audience is through this little blog, lit up on computers of stay-at-home moms, working moms, grandmas, dads, and grandpas, old friends, and new ones I haven’t met yet. My prayer is in this messy reality God stirs the contradictions and doubts in your mind. That God can use your “offensively ordinary” circumstances to move mountains that you don’t even know are there.

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Brave Means Taking The Very Next Step

We think brave is shown in a big defining moment. But what if brave is something more humble? Sometimes its easiest to muster all our brave for the big earth shattering blow, but its the days that follow that sometimes take the greatest courage.

Putting on that cap and gown, saying “I do”,  getting the first glimpse of your baby’s face…these are the milestones that forever change the fabric of our lives, but its the ordinary days, after days, that layer together to build a lifetime..

As a teenager with social anxiety, my family was so proud that I had the bravery to go out on a stage and perform as Dorothy in Wizard of Oz. But the crowded auditorium and staring eyes were white washed under the bright lights as adrenaline propelled me forward through my choreography. What I couldn’t form words to explain to my parents is that it took more bravery some mornings to walk through the double glass doors of my school, day after day to the overwhelming buzz of small talk and what felt like critical stares.

Sometimes the initial blow overtakes us in a consuming wave that leaves us disoriented and underwater. Bravery comes as easily as swimming to the surface and finding air. But once we find our bearings, as we stand and begin walking to the waters edge, its the wave after wave that slowly wears us down and steals our strength.

Maybe brave isn’t withstanding the waves but finding the strength to get back up and take the next step. Maybe brave is getting out of bed when depression covers you like a thick blanket. Maybe brave is staring at your precious daughter, her face covered in an angry red rash and smiling past the tears that threaten, to tell her, “darling, you’re beautiful.” Brave is your 15th round of chemo, bringing your dad lunch as he recovers from brain surgery at the hospital, or making coffee and taking a shower two days after you kissed your wife goodbye after her final breath. Brave is raising your daughters, working a job, and supporting your husband while secretly battling the aches of a chronic pain. Brave is the wife beside her husband’s hospital bed after a year long fight with a disease that no one has heard of. Brave is having Christmas in a makeshift apartment as you rebuild your home that was lost. Brave is forgiving the husband that cheated. Brave is facing cancer for the third time and still fighting with all you’ve got.

Maybe brave isn’t dressed in the clanking armor of Saul, but the regular human flesh of you and me, filled full of an unshakeable God-sized hope. Brave doesn’t mean we have to be bigger than the giants that we battle, or the storms that we face; brave isn’t as strong as lions, or hate; as powerful as death. No. Brave is knowing WHO IS. 

Brave faces an uncertain future and grasps on to an unshakeable hope.

My dear brave friends– with shaking legs and outstretched arms I lift you up in fragile prayers, to the One who will hold our hearts and makes us brave.

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What I Want This Christmas

Its the final sprint to Christmas and I’m standing at the crossroads of anticipation and sadness. I love the festivity that Christmas brings. It brings people together in joined anticipation. It gives us a reason to wear pretty clothes, and string up lights, and hang wreaths. Our hearts beat a little faster at Christmas in preparation and excitement. 

But what happens the day after Christmas when the paper is torn and the shopping malls rush to disassemble it all? Its a day we don’t discuss in the days leading to Christmas, a day we put up on a shelf to face when we must, when we’re forced to look at our weight on the scale and long list of to do’s reserved for “once Christmas is over,” once again.

But before you think I’m a total Christmas buzz kill I’m getting at something, I promise.

I’ve heard about Christmas wishes of the different children in my life. Bree wants a unicorn, Hannah wants a bike, Ava wants an IPhone. I have my own little list of the things I’ll shop for at the after-Christmas sales. Then I think of the famous song by Amy Grant, “My Grown-Up Christmas List.” I would love for those hopes to be fulfilled too. Things like “no more lives torn apart, that wars would never start, that time would heal all hearts.” Yes please to all three. But as grown ups we know that we live in a world that will always be a bitter blend of beautiful and ugly–that on this side of Heaven, restoration comes in the dark corners and broken bits of life.

So I sit here looking at the twinkle of my tree, and a glimmer of hope in my children’s eyes. My heart is full of hope, and love, and faith, and yet a deep ache for something more. Something more that I’ll have to face on the other side of Christmas, but is hushed to sleep with sugar, and wine, and pretty paper.

It challenges me to ask how I can take the bright hope of Christmas into the days that follow. It challenges me to think of the things that I can unwrap on the 26th, 27th, the 30th, and January, February, July, and the long dark days that scatter between.

So, this is my Christmas list:

  1. Laughter Every Day– Even if its laughing at this mess of life, I want to find a reason to laugh every day: kid’s belly laughs,  laughs that cramp my stomach and escape in tears at the corner of my eyes. I wish for bowls and bowls of laughter.
  2. Heart to Heart Conversation– The kind of talk that makes me feel seen, the beautiful mess I am. I wish that this year I see more people holding out their hearts so I can cradle them–more people that know me enough to love me through all my aches and victories. More time with the people that already do.
  3. Inspiration– Whether its books or poems, center pieces, or paintings I want my life to spill creativity, and the hope that it blooms.
  4. Song– I’m learning that music lifts my mood and inspires my words. I want to remember that even on the days that feel too somber for song, that I need to turn it on, and let the hope crack open my heart.
  5. Ordinary Grace– I don’t just want the holy grace that I experience in the words of forgiveness from a pastor. I want to share and experience the reckless grace from loving wildly. I want my kids to learn grace as a life, and not just a precious word between the pages of scripture.
  6. Messes and Face Time– I want to abandon my chores to read my kids books, to cook impromptu muffins, or to leave my house in a moments notice to sit and listen to a friend in crisis.
  7. Lovely Contradiction– Too much of my life I’ve wanted to organize things in a way I can understand them. This makes me the ultimate judge and curator of life. I’m learning people are a knot of complication and nuance. That I’m not called to understand or approve but to love and be love to a world that doesn’t have enough.
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Every Day Christmas

As a kid on Christmas morning, I would gaze at the pile of papered packages beneath the tree, searching for the big one—with my name on it. Biggest was best, of course, and so I would spot it, pick up the oversized gift with my child size body, and place it at my parents’ feet. I perched and pleaded for my turn to unwrap the promise contained within the bright and festive Christmas paper.

Our first year in Orange, I learned that St. John’s does “big,” well at Christmas time too. Big crowds pack in to worship within an ornately decorated sanctuary, aglow with strings of lights and candles, colored by brilliant stained glass windows, and humming with breathtaking music. St. John’s also does big outreach events for the holidays, things like hosting Thanksgiving and Christmas for kinship families, Project 23, and Operation Christmas Child. I love all these things, and more, about my church.

When I first came to St. John’s, I just stood in awe, taking it all in— all the vibrant ministries, all the worship opportunities, all the talent and history. I came from a small church, where I was the big fish, and at our new church, I wasn’t sure of where I fit in.

But like a God who would send an infant to a manger in Bethlehem, to make his grand appearance, I found my place at St. John’s enfolded in the humble and gracious fabric of its people.

On Ash Wednesday this year, we received word that our daughter, Elyse, had a rare auto-immune disease called Juvenile Dermatomyositis. It quickly spiraled, and a week later, Nathan and I cradled our 18-month old in the hospital, so weak she couldn’t walk or lift her head.

By God’s grace and provision we were able to get back on our feet, and with treatment, Elyse has been doing remarkably better. But, on Mother’s Day, a pipe burst in our bathroom, leaving our family of four displaced from our home for three months.

I thought I would find my place at St. John’s on a platform, but little did I know I would find it within the space of my greatest vulnerability and need.

It was in these circumstances I experienced St. John’s story through eye to eye relationships, through humble and heartfelt generosity, and the love that spills into the cracks of ache, like a trickle from the altar.

In my deepest pain I encountered the sweetest mercy, through loving home cooked meals that tasted like grace. The Haiducs can make a mean lasagna. One day a box of “busy bags” showed up from an army of St. John’s moms, with toys and crafts that lifted Bree’s spirits and kept her busy, and scraps of Bible verses to keep me going. One day a bouquet of dandelions and ingredients for smoothies was dropped on our doorstep. A check arrived in the mail to meet the amount due for an overdue hospital bill. The Friendship Quilters made a quilt sewn and tied with hope and prayer for our Elyse.

I shared on Facebook one day that Elyse’s sun sensitivity had gotten worse, and two days later, someone showed up with a princess parasol for her. While the teachers at St. John’s gathered hand drawn Bible verses and other inspiration in a book, for our family. Classes of kids drew cards of encouragement, and bowed their heads in countless prayers for a baby girl they knew only from pictures.

When our house filled with water, St John’s families showed up with towels, and buckets, strong arms, and hot boxes of pizza. As we tried to get our house ready to move back in, two high school students from church, volunteered to watch our girls, as a St. John’s life group of 6 people arrived in work clothes, to vacuum, mop, and organize.

I love big gifts. This year I’m thinking about getting my girls a Barbie doll house to unwrap on Christmas day (Shhh! Don’t tell!). I love sitting in a magnificent, century old church, and feeling small, as I join my voice with an overwhelming chorus of worship. But lately, God is helping me to appreciate small gifts too. He’s giving me eyes to see the small gifts of handmade love and outstretched hearts that tell the story of St. John’s through community, and relationships.

I think thats the story God was teaching us with Christmas too. Instead of a big platform, God sent his son in the helpless package of soft, baby flesh—displayed for shepherds to worship in a wooden manger surrounded by livestock. Immanuel, God-with-us, came to Earth completely dependent on relationships, for a mother to love and nurture, and a Father to guide. Jesus began his ministry by becoming close friends with twelve other men, by touching, by healing, and by serving people.

Tonight I’m grateful for my baby Elyse. I’m grateful for every smile, for every step she takes, and when she twirls, I watch in awe. I’m grateful that God uses babies to remind us of who He is. I’m grateful that, through her, God has taught us what St. John’s is all about—God sized love—in human packages.

So I guess this Christmas, the question I’m left with, is how do I continue the story?

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Create Your Own Sunshine

 

 
 
SHADOW GIRL
One day the sun will kiss your face
One day your body will not ache,
A day you won’t need to run away,
Yes, there will be a day.
A day you stand in the light,
A day you will chase the sun,
A day when all will be made right,
A day we’ll stand in the light of the son.

I met my close mom friend for coffee. My two-year-old daughter was in tow, and her eighteen-month-old son was her debonair date. We rioted the local hipster coffee shop, our toddlers climbing on the benches and shouting, as we collected skeptical glances from the Chapman University students with their laptops, sipping macchiatos and balancing oversized spectacles on their baby faces. The entire cafe let out an exhale as we got our coffee to-go, herding our rambunctious kids outside along with our oversized strollers. It was a cloudy morning, which meant I could actually enjoy a casual stroll outside—like a normal mom and her normal little girl.

My daughter has a condition that means she cannot be in direct sunlight. Even with the cover of clouds, we have to protect her from too much UV exposure. We use hats, UV clothes, sunscreen, and parasols, but when she is having a flare up—even all of those precautions don’t always prevent her from getting a painful rash on her face, elbows, hands, and knees.

But this Fall day, we felt normal, walking beneath the protection of clouds, we felt free from the burden of hiding. My friend and I talked freely. The kids chased each other. Smiles were contagious and laughter came easily.

A couple hours later the sun peaked out, reminding us our precious morning was ending. I put my daughter in her car seat, and decided to drive around the down town area so that she’d fall asleep. As I began our drive, my daughter complained that her fingers were hurting. Our morning outside was having its effect. As my daughter quieted down and gently gave in to sleep, I let my mind wander to the sad thoughts I usually avoid. My daughter would never feel the warmth of the sun on her face, without it hurting her. The realization stung more than usual. Tears blurred my vision, and I blinked to let them roll boldly down my cheeks.

I paused my car at a stop sign, and looked up to see a white church sign with big block letters. “CREATE YOUR OWN SUNSHINE,” it read. The intersection was empty, so I grabbed my phone and snapped a picture. I knew it was a photo I would treasure, a story I would tell my daughter about one day.

In life we will all face limitations. Whether its the form of disabilities or disease, mental illness, grief, or the eventual effects of age—life eventually presents struggle—seen and unseen, that influence our every day lives. Sometimes we are born with our limitations, sometimes they show up and surprise us one day in a diagnosis. Whether its something we’ve lived with for a lifetime, or a new normal, there will be days when the loss will surprise us with a sharp new pain. As we live day by day, hour by hour, our limitations present themselves in new challenges that we don’t always anticipate. Sometimes its the same old challenges that suddenly wear a hole in our hearts like the toe of an old sock.

Our greatest fears and vulnerability loom beneath the surface of our imagination like a monster under the bed, making us want to run and hide—or hang our head in shame.

But when we face the limitations forced on us by a world we can’t control, we can stop, and look up and see the challenge of each new day: “CREATE YOUR OWN SUNSHINE.”

Pain and suffering leave gaping holes in our hearts and lives. Our limitations will taunt, accuse, and challenge us to believe that we aren’t whole. But maybe those holes can be the place where God plants the seeds of sunshine.

The sun rises each new day. The son rose after three days of darkness. When this life weighs down on us with its demands and limitations, when we feel like we have to hide in the shadows, or feel too weary to get out of bed, we can look up and see the Son.

The Son takes our weakness and shame and makes us whole—the Son shines hope into this dark world. We hold out His grace in our tired hands, like the shining sun that lights us up, from the inside out; and in his hope and promises, we can “CREATE OUR OWN SUNSHINE.” A little light that promises hope in hurt, a grace shaped love that keeps our hearts beating for more.

 

 

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You’re New Here–Its Nice to Meet You

 

Hello Blue Eyes
Its nice to meet you.

I knew you were coming,
I’ve been waiting and nesting,
But—oh my! My heart feels like its bursting.

Your brand new face, your fuzzy head,
All your own, but like an old friend.
My eyes just want to drink all of you in.

You’re familiar somehow,
Your yawn like a growl,

Our bodies fit, like our hearts always knew,

Hello Blue Eyes,
Its nice to meet you.

You’re holding on to my finger so tight,
My love, just keep holding on,
Sometimes it will be a bumpy ride,
But we’re together, so we’re not alone.

You’re big owl eyes know,
That I am all yours,
We talk in the quiet love language thats ours,

You’ll tell me your secrets
I’ll whisper my wishes,

The first has already come true,

Hello Blue Eyes,
Its nice to meet you.

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Can We Stop and Sit Together?

This morning I sit, like a fixed point in the center of a storm of distraction. My house is messy, I still have a project due, and my girls have been watching a show–maybe longer than they should. But my heart feels full of so many things I want to share with you. I wish time and kids would allow for me to sit and savor conversation with you over hot coffee that grows cold, because there’s too much to say between us.

Lately I’ve felt tired. In this marathon of life we’re on, I feel like we’re in a season of endurance. Our fight against Elyse’s JDM isn’t following the easy arc we hoped it would, we’re back in our house and yet so much is left undone.

I’m not naive to think we’re alone in these struggles. Everyone has some sort of battle they face on a daily basis, whether its cancer, rebuilding a home that was disassembled by flood and fire, or fighting back the darkness of anxiety and depression. Maybe its just overcoming the small annoyances life throws at you, like to do lists that never seem to get done, or small disappointments that add up, and grow burdensome, like the loose change in your wallet.

Sometimes the biggest struggle we face is isolation and weariness–the feeling like there’s too much to do and we’re doing it alone. Sometimes we feel like nobody sees how much work we’re putting in. Sometimes we just wonder if anybody sees us, if they really care.

If we were having coffee, I would put my hand over yours, I would look into your eyes and tell you: I care. Others care too. I just think that our culture has become so bogged down with performance, that we’re all battling this fog of busyness, the fog of being seen, but never really feeling fully known., 

Maybe this isn’t you. If it isn’t, that means you need to pull others out of the fog. Take them to lunch, listen to them, and encourage them.

We all have the weapon to fight back the fog, and it is love. Love quiets the raging voices, love calms choppy waves of uncertainty, love transforms gnarled nail shaped wounds into marks of sacrifice and forgiveness. 

If you’ve forgotten how to love well, if you’re feeling too alone or weary, I invite you to visit your local classroom. Its a place you may have to kneel, ask questions, get messy; but in this place you will forget yourself enough to let joy overtake you. Are you ready to hear where it is?

Its in the park, with wood chips in your shoes and dirt under your nails. Its in a classroom that smells of syrup and play dough. Its on the floor with toys strewn around you, and gleeful screams in your ears. Surround yourself with children, and let them remind you that life is about reckless abandon, its about reckless love. Because a child’s love breaks through the walls of isolation and apathy.

I get lonely. I feel like everyone knows who I am, but few people know me. It feels like too much work sometimes to invest in friendships when my life takes so much work as it is. But when I need to feel known, when I need to take a break from the pressure to perform, I get on my hands and my knees and let my daughters climb all over me. They knock down all the walls I’ve been putting up around my heart, and remind me that love is easy, if I just let it in. Love is loud, and messy. Its hands on. Love shows up and knocks people over and disarms them with tender grace.

So when the world feels like a confusing place. When we feel alone and unknown, lets love like we dance when no one is watching. It means throwing open our arms, closing our eyes, finding the joyful rhythm, and throwing ourselves in. God will always catch us. 

There’s an awkward silence between us now. Tears in our eyes. We both feel like we’ve been a little too vulnerable. We stand up, we hug each other–the kind of real hug, where we really hold on and squeeze our arms tight. We look at each other and smile, then head for the door–ready to keep plodding forward, ready to face the day knowing that we’re not alone.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”  Hebrews 12:1

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BLACK COFFEE HEART

Come meet me in the morning,
When the monsters are asleep.
Whisper me the promises,
I know only you can keep.

Come meet me in the morning,
over coffee, black as my heart.
Let your love pour into me,
to cast out all that is dark,

Come meet me in the morning,
Tucked away, but not alone.
Let me know that you hear me,
Breathe life into dried bones.

Morning after morning,
You guide my mind; My thoughts you guard.
You greet me with the sunrise; And wipe soot from this old heart.

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“Dear Future Husband”: I Have Anxiety

The catchy tune by Meghan Trainor, “Dear Future Husband,” is a favorite in my house. Since Alexa understands my 4-year-old daughter’s voice commands, she can listen to it until her heart’s content, until mommy pulls the plug.

Its a cute song with a good beat. I’m grateful my girls are too young to understand all the lyrics of course, but overall the message is sweet, but maybe lacking a little depth. No problem Meghan, I get it, “Dear Future Husband: I have Anxiety,” wouldn’t have the same hook.

I’ve been married for almost 8 years. Like every marriage, we’ve had our ups and downs. And while I have absolutely no regrets, about my husband, or the journey we’ve taken together, I can share with you the kind of open, honest conversation I wish I’d had with my man before we tied the knot.

Dear Future Husband,
You say you love me deeply. I’m guessing I probably seem perfect to you right now. Love has a way of doing that. But I’m not perfect. I have anxiety. I’ve come to accept it. Its something about myself that I’ve actually come to appreciate, but I need you to be okay with it too.

Not just the “okay, its annoying but I can put up with it, okay“— because that kind okay won’t carry us through a lifetime. I mean the okay that holds my hand when I can’t breathe, the okay that brings me icepacks for tension migraines, the okay that holds us together through perinatal depression, the okay that understands that our life will look a little different.

If hearing this makes you want to run, then run. I don’t want a man that scares easily. I need a man that fights for me, when darkness threatens to overtake my mind. I need a man that digs in his heels and challenges me to be the person he knows I’m capable of being. I need someone who will pull the covers off my head and kick me out of bed, someone who will make me go outside for fresh air, or make breakfast burritos at midnight. I need someone that will cradle me when my fears feel bigger than my fight.

But before you think this is one sided, wait. If you’re willing to accept me and all my complications, you will get to see the gifts behind my struggle too. I promise you deep empathy and compassion. I promise that when you say “I’m fine,” I will look into your eyes and know the truth. I will feel more deeply, in the hard times and the good. I will love you more than you thought possible.

We are all broken in our own ways. I will stand beside you in your broken moments, and won’t look away. I know what it feels like to feel small, to question yourself, to feel like maybe you weren’t assembled right. But I’m beginning to learn that in the brokenness, we can find the most strength. We turn to God that supplies our strength–Who offers an endless supply of love.

Love can bind up our wounds, love can make us strong together, love can heal us. I believe this like I believe in the sun. But I know that love means a lot of pain, and hard work, and commitment too.

If you’re all in, if you want all of me, anxiety and all, then I know that our life will also be filled with the sweet and simple things too. We will have candlelit pizza dinners, movie nights with popcorn (no butter), and silly inside jokes. We will laugh until we cry, and pick the grey hairs out of each others eye brows. If you say “I do,” know that its yes to all of me, anxiety and all.

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Wherever Fall Finds You

Fall is upon us. Yes Fall, where the cool winds blow in and draw us inside, where we make hot and savory meals in the crockpot, and cuddle under a throw to sip hot tea or a Pumpkin Spice Latte. The glorious season where we get to slip our unpainted toes into the comfort of knit socks and cute leather boots. Its that time again, where we get to slow down, just a bit, to admire the beautiful changing colors around us, and if we’re quiet enough, to feel our hearts stirring with the changing leaves.

We  gather together as the nights get darker and cooler, to laugh, and light candles, prepare and linger over hot yummy food, and good company…

If I sound nostalgic, its because I now live in Southern California. Yes, Sunny Orange County where Fall is a little bit of a pretense, since the days only continue their hot and humid march in their season-less monotony. Nonetheless, even us Californians like to gather together as the nights get darker and cooler, to laugh, and light candles, prepare and linger over hot yummy food, and good company, as we enjoy the months that transition us into the close of another year.

 

I have gotten to experience Fall in many different places and life circumstances, from my childhoods in Lake Tahoe to college days and early professional years in Sacramento and San Diego. From being a newlywed in St Louis, to a new mom in Sedona, to living as far away as Madrid, I’ve seen fall come and go in many different colors, and flavors, surrounded by different (and sometimes unexpected) people. I could tell you the Falls that were the most beautiful, most festive, and flavorful. If we had more time together, I would share with you about the Fall months my heart was full with friends and community, and the ones when loneliness followed behind me like a hand knit scarf.

Its easy to think that Fall should look and feel a certain way. But those that find themselves displaced from their homes by floodwater, for the broken hearted that mourn the loss of someone they thought would still be here, for the warrior women mustering courage as chemo drips into their veins, for you who are scared, or lonely, or disillusioned, Fall might look different than what you envisioned.

For those of us wrapped in Autumn nostalgia, and enjoying all the trimmings of Fall, enjoy. But for those finding that the festivity feels hollow this year, take heart. Jesus is in our midst, whatever your Fall looks like.

As I anticipate this season with my family, the prayer that I want to share with you is one we have spoken since I had to sit on my knees to reach the dinner table as a small kid. Its a prayer that my two little girls know by heart. I like it because its simple. It invites Jesus to come and join us wherever we’re at. Come Lord Jesus. It asks Him to make His home in our hearts and walls. Be our guest. It recognizes and thanks Him for what He has done, and what He is doing in our midst. Let these gifts to us be blessed.

As you snuggle in, and draw your loved ones close. As you slow down and sip life in, I pray that you would live out this prayer in your ordinary, every day. I pray that it would weave into your threadbare soul and keep your heart warm with a homespun kind of hope that gives comfort no matter where you find yourself this Fall—unpainted toes and all.

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