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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Why I’m Going to Stop “Comfortable Prayers” and Complacency in My Faith

I had a dream. One of those dreams that was so insightful that I willed myself to try to drop rocks in the waters of my haze to remember something concrete for when I awoke. As I held the hard porcelain mug of strong black coffee the next morning, and blinked the fuzziness from my vision, I tried to pull up any tangible memory of what I had dreamt the night before. Just one smooth stone of thought emerged, just one line from a poem by J.R.R Tolkien from The Lord or The RIngs: “Not all who wander are lost.”

The words swam through my head all that day and into the next night. Tossing and turning as I pondered an unanswered question, I finally felt compelled to get out of bed at 4:30 the next morning, to look up the verse that Paul spoke on “Mar’s Hill” (I’m a pastor’s wife, but I had to google where this was in the Bible, because I HAD NO CLUE.)

Here is a portion of what I read from Acts 17, where Paul is speaking to the people of Athens, who had many gods, and many, many altars to gods in their cities:
“Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands (…) because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. (…) God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.” Acts 18:22-28

I know God. I know the touch of His presence. And yet, reading this I felt struck. How often do I keep him in the confines of the temples built by hands? How often do I not seek, or reach, or find him, but settle for the lukewarm knowledge that he is just there. I think God is challenging me to wander, to search, and pray, to reach with flexed fingers, and kneel on tired knees. Because if this God I believe in, and know, is all that I imagine him to be, then I want to spend my days searching for more of who He is, so that I can figure out who I am, in Him. Amen? Amen.

Did I mention that right before writing this I found a sign above my writing desk (I’m at an AirBnB in Chicago) it said: Never Stop Exploring.

TO AN UNKNOWN GOD
Wandering, waiting,
Listening, slowing,
“Be still and know,”
But knowledge is fading.

Altars and idols,
Something to satisfy,
Anything that fills,
Our hungering belly.

Flesh that itches,
Wandering minds,
Nothing that fixes,
Only confines.

But God in flesh,
Without an agenda,
Mercy unleashed,
Perfect surrender.

Dwelling in me,
Not God unknown,
Compelled to speak,
of THE GOD that I KNOW.
by Lindsay Hausch

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Your Text Messages Could Be Hurting Your Marriage

Honor your spouse with your text messages. It sounds straight forward, easy even. But as I scroll through the last few weeks of texts between my husband and I, I see ones that show respect, and love, and ones that don’t. Actually, far from it. These unflattering texts each have a story behind them, which I could tell you. Yes, I could paint a picture of exactly why I sent those snarky words. But when the burn of my anger fades, or the importance of the moment gets lost beneath more important things, all I have left are the words. Harsh words that I wish I’d never said, but are kept as a record on my phone.

Preparing for this piece, I went through and took screen shots of some of my texts. I had to wince a few times guys. Because I don’t know about you, but when I’m really angry at my spouse, the easiest thing to do is to shoot off an angry text with harsh words that wouldn’t roll off my tongue as easily. If its not clear, I’m the words highlighted in blue.

I asked my husband if I could share, and he agreed to go along, “if it helps other couples.” So, here I am, being a little vulnerable. I’m putting these angry texts in the light, because thats what God calls us to do with the shameful parts of us.

You Aren’t Alone When it Comes to Text Message Temptation

So am I alone in this? Or do you also send off messages to your loved ones that aren’t always so loving?

Too often I don’t think about how my texts can be ill timed, because I have access to my husband through my phone all the time.

But what if my husband is in the middle of counseling a bereaved wife after the loss of her husband, or scribbling down inspired thoughts for his next sermon? Since he’s a pastor, those are both plausible.

“I see why you need to be more thoughtful about what you text him,” you say, “but my spouse has an ‘ordinary’ job.” Okay, then imagine if she receives a snarky text from you while in the middle of showing a client a house, or in the midst of an exhausting day caring for your kids, already on the verge of tears? Or while he’s in the middle of a small lunch break trying to relax and regain energy, that you’ve now zapped with an angry text—that simply couldn’t wait for a face to face conversation?

Its so easy to share our anger or frustration, or ask our accusing questions, with the push of a button. But these easy words that cut through distance and circumstances, are still words—words that can cut, and damage, and steal our spouse’s focus and their joy, ours too. And I think God is challenging me to be more intentional with them.

I am called to be a bearer of God’s light to the world around me, but I’m realizing there’s a hole in my boat. It seems small and innocent, but if it continues, I believe it could continue to
undermine the love, trust, and loyalty that my husband and I work so hard to build. It not only impacts my ability to be a light to others, but it also slowly drains my husband of his joy and light in his world too.

Use Your Texts for Good

But good news guys! The story doesn’t end here. I also got to go through and see the loving exchanges. The tender words we shared over text that I remember savoring all day. Sweet little words that were kindling for a brighter light of love between us that we can pass on to the people around us.

Think about how words like these could rejuvenate, inspire, and encourage your spouse as they go about the duties and to do’s of every day life. What if I could gently offer him words of love, life, and reconciliation that could bring hope to the dry places of his life and soul?

What Would Jesus Text?

Because sometimes, I wait to share the tenderness and romance with my husband. I wait for the
special occasions instead of threading them through the fabric of every day life as a married couple. But as I look at Jesus’ life, I see how He transformed the plain and ordinary into the sacred and miraculous. He used spit and mud to make a man see, and some loaves of bread and a few fish to fill the bellies and souls of hungry people. I think if Jesus lived in a time where texting was common place, he would have found a way to use text messages to share love and light too.

In marriage we spur one another on. My goal this Fall is to use texting to uplift my husband and to funnel my love and God’s love for him, into his ordinary every day.

What do you think? I’d love to see your most loving, inspiring, or silly texts to the ones you love!

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What to Do When You’re a Grown Up and You Still Have Anxiety

Once upon a time I thought I had my life all figured out. Things seemed to be falling into the right places. I was leading a group of moms, that made me feel like I had a voice and that I was doing “my part.” I was working towards writing a book, and pursuing public speaking. From the outside, it looked like I was living out my dreams.

But for a while, there have been small cracks webbing over the glossy surface of my life, reminding me that I can’t continue to sustain this image for long. And then the girl who seems to have it all together had a panic attack in the middle of leading a women’s study.

 It shouldn’t be a surprise. I’ve carried a lot of stress for a long time. A blend of my daughter’s restlessness and my own insomnia have meant I haven’t been sleeping. For the past couple of months I’ve been having trouble being in settings with a lot of people again, reverting to struggles of my old self. Yes, that anxiety that I’d filed away in the drawer of my past is creeping out and making itself known in my present. Shaking sweating hands, racing thoughts, trouble catching my breath, inability to slow down or process the situation normally, all these symptoms that I share about as things I’ve learned to overcome, are overcoming me.

Its embarrassing and inconvenient. I worry what others are really thinking. I start to feel uncomfortable in my own skin, which is an odd feeling as a 30-something woman– like I’m an awkward teenager again.

To cope, I could resort to old unhealthy habits of my past. But then, I should be older and wiser now right? But the truth is, when I try to think about a long term plan, even when I think about the prospect of finding a counselor, or how I’m going to cope with things that feel stressful and anxiety provoking in the next few weeks, I freeze up. It was this overwhelm that led me to being curled up and immovable on my couch, unable to cope when I was younger.

So this 30-something woman hasn’t learned much, but I’ve learned one simple trick to keep plotting through this familiar maze called anxiety. Its taking the next step.

The next step during my book club was admitting my weakness and getting support to get through the hour. The next step was to leave there with my head held high, to get my daughter, and pick her up and smell her hair, to drive us home and make lunch. The next step was to not give into the thoughts of shame and self doubt, to put her down for a nap, and sit and cry, and listen to good music and pray. Yesterday, all I could do was do the next right thing, and then the next. Today it was waking up, and drinking coffee that tasted like grace, a half of a Pilates workout, and then to cancel my social plans and give myself the time and space I need.

These panic attacks aren’t convenient when it comes to my passion for public speaking and leading. Its not convenient with my husband’s job that is also in the public eye. But I can’t think about the big life implications. I can’t redirect my whole course or make any life changing decisions right now. I just have to trust that God will help me find my way, and the the next right thing will guide me back to who He’s created me to be.

I know that Paul had a thorn in his flesh that God used to empower him. I’m not Paul, and my thorn is probably not as great as his was, but it reminds me that this anxiety thing is a piece of my life that will continue to make itself known on and off. Its something that even as a mom, a wife, a professional, and a “mature and capable grown up,”  I’ll never fully be rid of. While its annoying, and frustrating, its also a gift. Its God’s way of directing me back to Him, so that in this weakness, His power can be made perfect in me. After all, the secret that we grown ups keep, is that we all have so much more growing to do.

 

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Finding Your Way

(the verse above was written and given to me in a collection of verses from the teachers at St. John’s)

FINDING YOUR WAY

If you don’t know which way is up or is down,
When emotions are whirly twirly around
and you can’t choose your left or your right.
Let love be your compass
Let love be your light.

Take a deep breath,
You don’t have to hurry,
Just think loving thoughts,
It untangles the worries.

People will fill up your ears with bad news
Sometimes they’ll tell you that life is a bother,
They’ll try to convince you that your way’s not right,
But fill up your chest with a breath and a sigh,
And talk to God, Let Him lead, not your pride.

God made you to be who he made you to be,
Not Cooper, or Eva, not Hannah, not me,
Your heart knows the way, cuz God’s voice is inside,
Keep moving forward, one step at a time.

Do the next right thing, and the next, and the next,
When you go bit by bit, you don’t have to be vexed.

Your heart knows the way,
You’re never alone,
Close your eyes tight, and pray ,
Let love guide you home.

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