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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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

Dog Years

Hours pass like a slow drip, belly full of jumping beans,
Days ticked off a calendar,
Until the day that meant another year older,
“When Mommy…when?
“Shhh…Not yet.”

At a desk, Staring out the window, 
Sprinklers dot the glass,  
Sun and kelly green grass shout summer,
 “Ms. Lake, Can we leave….now?
“Shhh…Not yet.”

Slow days measured by ringing bells
The hallway stretches so long,
Ruby red cap, pressed gown, behind a closet door,
“Is it time?”
“Shhh…Not yet.”

Hair grown long, mind made up,
Perfect plans with sips of coffee,
Kitten Heels, A job, A lease
“Do I have it figured out?”
“Shhh..Not yet.”

Candles, a ring, a date on the calendar,
One day that changes all tomorrows,
Wrapped in white, hair pinned to perfect,
“Dad, Am I ready?”
“Shhh…Not yet.”

Swollen, aching, impatient 
Bursting with life, Ripe with change,
Belly hiding toes, Quiet pastel room,
“Dr, Is she coming?”
“Shh…Not yet.”

Anxious, praying, hoping trusting
Letting go of what is, Waiting for what’s coming,
Tears of change, Heart spilling life,
“God…Will it ever make sense?”
“Shh…Not yet.”

 

 

 

Date Night

Lets pour our dreams on draft

like cool amber liquid

topped with white foam

forming mustaches

flirt with me

and you can catch my heart

once again.

smiling and laughing

and loving like we have

one life to live,

and I’d pick you to share mine with

again and again.

tonight my love,

tomorrow a daddy,

my husband always.

 

When You Love

 

Fickle child don’t pout,
Your birthday candles are puffed
and tucked back in their box,
But look at the twinkling lights
He’s hung for you in the sky,

Your castle made of blocks
may reach high and then fall down,
But you are His temple,

Your sweet head may swirl with fears, doubts, and a gajillion “what if’s”,
But your heart is
safely tucked inside His heart

Your balloon floats out of sight.
But He is everywhere,
At the end of the rainbow,
On the tip of your tongue,
In your dreams, 

When you love,
When you’re brave,
and especially
When you feel all alone.

 

 

 

 

Finding Faithful

When I was 5, my mom lost me in a small department store. She thought I was with my dad.

 I found a blonde woman with a kind expression on her face. She took me to a clerk that announced my mom’s name in a loud tinny voice over a microphone at the register.

I know now that if my mom had known I was lost, she would have searched for me frantically. She would have performed the kind of urgent red faced dance I do when I lose sight of one of my daughters. As a child though, I bought a small yellow bungee cord that I attached to my mom’s belt loop. Holding the other end, I thought I’d found a fool proof way to always keep my mom close- so she wouldn’t lose me ever again.

How often do I fool myself into thinking that God has lost sight of me or just doesn’t care? How often do I mistrust the people I love and trust most? In life’s uncertainty, I feel like a five year old little girl, lost amidst the shelves of unfamiliar problems, peering up at giants I don’t recognize.

In my insecurities, I hide, run away, and tether myself to false control in the form of approval, possessions, status, and ego. I beg God for my own plans to work out, rather than trusting in His plans.

This week we’re exploring “faithfulness” in our fruit of the Spirit Facebook study. What I’m realizing is that my own capacity to be faithful, depends on trusting God’s faithfulness to me.

I wish I could tell that five year old little girl how much her mommy loves her- how desperate her mom is to keep her safe. But I couldn’t understand this kind of fierce love until I became a parent myself.

I’ve come to learn that my mom’s love reaches further than a four foot bungee. More than that, I get to experience relationships that require a delicate balance of loving and trusting and holding another’s fragile heart in my careful hands. But even in faithful and loving relationships, I can get hurt and I can hurt those I love most. I’ve come to learn that God has designed these complicated relationships for me to seek His faithfulness, and to cultivate a deeper dependence on Him.

I can soak up God’s love and faithfulness to me in his Word, and when I feel lost I can whisper His name and find my way home. From that place of centeredness and security, I can be a faithful wife, compassionate mom, and kind stranger. I might feel lost sometimes, but I never leave His sight.

Giving up On My Dreams and Living in my Reality

I have a book that I bought that is supposed to teach me how to get things accomplished.

Its called “Eat that Frog,” by Brian Tracy. The only problem is I haven’t read it. I got that initial jolt of excitement when I read the back of the book while browsing in Barnes and Noble back before I owned a kindle. “Eat That Frog is a proven system for dramatically improving your time management skills so you can get more done, more effectively, in less time.”

Doesn’t that sound great you guys? It sounded great to me. I got a high when I bought the book, knowing that I was taking the first step in improving my time management. Only problem is I never seemed to find the time to read it. And that was BEFORE I had kids!

Because it always seems to be something, some excuse that holds me back from doing the things I know I should do. I’m sure you can fill in the blank with the prescription you’ve written yourself for personal improvement, “Once I’m done with ______________ then I will do this _____________.” I don’t know about you, but something always seems to come up that prevents me from being my aspiring self.

Take this blog for example. I haven’t written a thing because I’m always waiting for the perfect circumstances to sit down and pour out my heart in a meaningful way. The stars just haven’t aligned recently. So instead I’ll settle for an afternoon in my hotel room, my dog snoozing on the chair as the sun streams in through the clouds and sheer curtains on the seventh floor. I won’t mention my toddler covered in erasable marker creating a masterpiece on her arms and the coloring book on the floor beside me.

But I’m stealing a moment to write this because I’ve made a resolution. I’m going to stop waiting for the “once…then…” to be fully present in my life now. But I’m also going to stop trying to measure myself against an impossible standard.

This means a house thats relatively clean and not immaculate.

A diet that is a happy blend of salads and protein shakes and wine and chocolate chip cookies.

It means feeling accomplished when I find time to do a 10 minute workout instead of delaying working out until– well you know all the excuses.

It means sharing a blog post that shows my life and heart in process.

Its having friends over to laugh and sip wine on a Monday night while my kids sleep in the next room.

Best of all, having friends that love me and celebrate me and all my contradictions– the former hair stylist that never does her hair, the pastor’s wife that doesn’t like small talk and potlucks, and the stay at home mom that longs to change the world. 

I love stories about people accomplishing amazing feats, stories about redemption, the stories that depict people’s love and dedication to one another and their calling– the underdog that overcomes impossible odds to do something amazing. But sometimes these stories paralyze me.

Sometimes I need to step back from my aspirations and live my life one word at a time. I need to remember that the small things, like mustard seeds have incredible worth and potential.

So I’ll plant these little seeds that I have right now.  I’ll plant myself in this moment. And I’ll grow. I’ll grow little by little, in these days of undone to do’s, my barking dog, and a bed that seems to keep unmaking itself every morning.

I think I’ll focus on these little things and let God move the mountains.