Category: Faith

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?

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.

 

 

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

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.

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

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!

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.

 

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.

How to Heal a Broken Heart

People disappoint us. We give them our time, our trust, and maybe even our secrets, and sometimes, they don’t protect it like it deserves to be protected.

People are true too. They are loving and devoted, generous and tender. But the ugly and beautiful aren’t always distinguishable on the outside. Or maybe its that each of us are a mosaic blend of ugly and beautiful fragments..

When we entrust the beautiful parts of ourselves to people who are careless, our hearts can feel beat up, broken, or even hardened.

God thinks out hearts are pretty important. So important that, “from (them) flows the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)

Rejection has a way of bruising my heart. Intentional or unintentional hurtful words burrow in like thorns that cause sharp and unexpected pain. Sometimes I know why my heart is hurting, but I’ve let the pain grow so deep, that I have trouble figuring out exactly where it started, like finding a splinter in a callused foot. My heart can start to get callused from wear and tear, pain forming a barrier that makes me feel less and less.

A once fleshy hearts can become so solid and impervious that it repels instead of absorbs. It can build layer after layer of self protection that shields from feeling any emotion. It fortresses itself against life, instead of being a pipeline of love to the surrounding world.

God knows the condition of our hearts. He knows that we need His grace poured into our heart cups—that we pour that grace into each others heart cups to be whole again.  His grace is the antidote to a hardened heart. It is the elixir we need to be able to love.

“I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)

I use to admire the people who let tragedy, disappointment, and rejection ping off them like the flat rocks that skid across smooth water. My life would be so much less complicated if I cared less; if I felt less.

But God calls us to experience the world through loving hearts that feel, and hurt. He wants our hearts to beat and break for the community around us. A heart too tough to absorb the pain, may mean we need a heart transplant. We need God to remove the hearts that have curled in on themselves and hardened. Because tender hearts that hurt and feel, are sensitive to God’s molding and shaping, refining and defining as we engage our worlds with vulnerable hearts, willing to be known.

As a kid, I always felt ashamed when an unkind word or mean glance caused me to cry in front of my peers. At some point, we learn that being tender hearted is a bad thing.

My four year old is starting Pre-K. I’m feeling typical mommy nerves over what this year holds in store for her. But I think my biggest fear is that my daughter will begin to learn that she can’t wear her heart entirely on her sleeve. Her heart is so visible, pulsing through every inch of her little body and pouring out of her intensely blue eyes. Her heart is open and tender, and untouched by the world’s wounds. I love that her heart is like a vibrant paint, that spills and colors every part of her life with intensity and feeling. When she cries, it is with earth shaking sobs and big gliding tears. Her anger curls with a hook in her brow over great betrayal and injustices. Her joy, is so intense that it beams from her face like sunlight that brightens a dark room and helps you to see. When she loves, it is a passionate, kisses all over my face, look me deeply in my eyes, kind of love, that I know she feels with every fiber of her being.

As adults we learn to stuff, swallow, or hide emotions. We don’t want to feel too sad, so we numb it with pleasant distractions. Nor do we want to feel too happy, it could lead to disappointment. So we are divided by happiness, and anticipation, as we wait for the other shoe to drop. We don’t give ourselves over to the throws of anger, even at injustice, because adults are suppose to stay even tempered. And love, well love seems okay as long as it is returned to us in equal amounts. If we love more than we’re loved in return, then the imbalance can pose a risk—and rational adults don’t like to gamble with their hearts.

But then there is God. A God that whose heart is pure, passionate, and pursuing. He rages over injustice, cries out and weeps, He loves and longs for us like His bride.

God takes risks in relationships. He meets us more than halfway. He gives more than we can ever repay. He loves and forgives when we don’t deserve it.

Callused hearts are rendered useless by unforgiven hurts, dark and unmet longings, and deep seeded pains that can’t ever be completely unrooted or explained.

A world without God makes our hearts harder and less feeling. But God makes our hearts beat like new again. He replaces the heart that is twisted and scarred and knows too much, with a new heart of flesh that beats supernaturally for a world that needs more of us—a world that needs more of Him–a world that needs love.

My First Book Launch Team: More Than Just Making It

About 6 weeks ago I signed up to be a part of my first ever book launch team. I didn’t know what this was exactly, but I knew I was 100% behind the author Erin Odom. You see, I’m in a writing support and encouragement group called Hope*Writers. Us Hope*Writers, we like to stick together, to pray for one another, to give positive feedback, and to promote each others work. But in HW, Erin is a shining star. Not just because her blog, Humbled Homemaker, is an amazing resource for moms (it is!), and not just because she is a great writer (she is), but because she is a person that is always answering questions, lifting others up, and offering encouragement and useful advice to other aspiring writers. This is an author I want to get behind.

To my surprise, her book More Than Just Making It wasn’t about mindful living or deeper spiritual awareness like I initially thought. Those are threads woven into it too, but when my book arrived in the mail, I laughed out loud. The full title was: More Than Just Making It: Hope for the Heart of the Financially Frustrated. While I’d love to read another book on living in the moment, receiving this book was a God wink, or as Erin calls it, “a kiss from Jesus.”

Yes God had been listening to my prayers. A burst pipe and a flooded house have displaced us from our home all summer. Dealing with insurance and the onslaught of expenses was not the easy process we’d imagined. In March my youngest daughter was diagnosed with a rare auto-immune disease that meant a week long hospital stay, prescriptions, and a monthly visit to the hospital’s infusion center. As a LCMS pastor, my husband is blessed with a generous paycheck, but all these circumstances on top of each other, meant God was challenging us to make every dollar count.

 Money is an uncomfortable topic that most of us would rather avoid. But Erin cuts through the tension with personal stories that pull you in. Her useful advice feels like its coming more from a friend over coffee, rather than just a book of how to’s. More than that, her engaging stories and compelling honesty help me think about other friends that may be in need. Friends that beneath the smiling facade, might be struggling to buy enough food to feed their family. Her book has helped me become more clued in to the difficult reality that exists within my own community and church.

I recommend Erin’s book if you’re looking for ideas on how to make your budget stretch, or even looking for supplemental income. I also recommend her book for those that are financially secure, to go along with Erin on her journey as an educated woman from a “good Christian home,” living in poverty. She upends our comfortable categories, and challenges readers to see that anyone could find themselves barely making it.

More than Making It shares a message of hope, offering practical advice, along with the hope that comes from faith and God’s redemption.

After all, Erin Odom is an example of how God can walk with us through difficult circumstances, that shape us into Hope*Writers; she is a walking testament to how our sad songs become love songs, and how our struggles transform into stories of His goodness.

Pre-order your copy of More Than Just Making It before September 5th to receive $220 of free bonus gifts.