IF: The Dominoes Fall

February 9, 2016

I nearly fell out of my chair.

Two days ago I sat in a sea of women in Austin, TX far from my Kansas City home when God’s love nearly rocked me out of my seat.

It was as if I was a character in a story; a story that isn’t mine to write but one where I was playing a supportive role in God’s Great narrative, and for whatever reason He chose the IF: Gathering as his primary setting.

We sat in the Austin City Limits auditorium on Saturday afternoon with thousands of onlookers from all over the world watching Amena Brown Owen reveal the location of her surprise visit to an IF: Local. When the reveal went up on the screen I couldn’t believe my eyes…

It was one year ago, at IF:Gathering 2015 when I found myself with a bird’s eye view of the entire Austin experience hearing one of the clearest directives from God I’d ever known possible beyond The Bible. His message was unmistakable, “Tell your story. I am for their freedom; not just their freedom from today but their freedom from years, decades, and generations past.”

OK. Super easy. Uh-hm. Who and where, God?

It was a weekend I’ll never forget for many reasons and I left Austin knowing something in me had been transformed. God gave me a glimpse of His presence and purpose in this world, for His daughters, and in my life that I cannot shake. I wondered in the weeks following if the glow would fade off that experience or if the ordinary days would lull me back into my old faith patterns, but it didn’t and it hasn’t.

In fact, in June of last year I received an unexpected email from a church looking for a keynote speaker for their upcoming women’s retreat; three sessions over the course of two days on the topic of “Remain” from John 15. Was I interested? This would be the most content I had ever been responsible for and it was a lot by any measure for one person to take on for their first key event. What they didn’t know is that I had been praying for an opportunity to “tell my story” since that February day, and their invitation was an answer to a very broad and bold prayer.

Last November, after months of prayer, preparation (and mild moments of panic) we gathered for a weekend retreat that could only have been designed by an all-knowing and loving God. The stories of the women who attended are not mine to tell, but I saw God move in ways that still leave me amazed and in awe.

Like all great stories, God has woven surprise tie-ins into this plot. You see, during the third and final teaching session of the Remain Retreat, I shared through tears that God laid this message of freedom on my heart to share last February at a gathering called IF in Austin, TX. The moment I sat down, the Event Coordinator stood up to the microphone and explained to us all that it was during their IF:Local on that same exact day when she walked over to her church’s Women’s Director with this idea from God to gather their women that very next November. We cried, we laughed, and we wondered at what kind of God orchestrates that kind of beautiful plan for His daughters. We don’t know why He chose the IF: Gathering as His moment to speak so clearly to us both and bring about His plans like He did, but we marveled at His goodness in it all.

Fast forward to IF: Gathering 2016 two days ago when I about fell off my chair…

Here we are, again nearly 2000 of us in Austin, and thousands upon thousands around the world sitting in Saturday afternoon’s session watching the big screen to see where in all the world Amena Brown ended up surprising an unsuspecting IF: Local. To my shock and delight…they announced she was in the Kansas City area, my town! But further more…she was at THE VERY church–the EXACT same IF: Local Church–where God had sent me to “Tell my story” at their November retreat.

What in the WORLD, God??

Seeing their joy and excitement come through on that screen, watching their women’s director receive the attention for being the Jesus-loving woman she is, was almost more than my heart could handle. Ever since that November retreat when I came to know those women as sisters I have prayed and prayed for God to continue to do mighty works in and through them. Seeing their faces on that screen two days ago…well, I cried, I laughed, I marveled at a God that would orchestrate such joy for His daughters.

It’s been a year since God told me to tell my story, and I am, but I know even more than ever before that I am just a small part of His Greater story. Our stories, no matter how big or seemingly small are significant because Jesus is our Redeemer, and He lives in and through us. My story of freedom in Jesus is the domino effect for your story of freedom, and so on, and so on, and so on…His Kingdom is on the move in the hearts and minds of His children one redeemed story at a time.

Are You Free to Fight?

February 1, 2016

We’ll fight for what we believe is true. The more personal the truth hits, the deeper we’re willing to go in our battle to defend and uphold it. Think about every hot-button issue you are willing to fight for whether that be in a one-on-one conversation, joining an organization assigned to the cause, writing about it, teaching about it, sharing or ‘liking’ social media campaigns for it, or even the ultimate sacrifice of our safety and very life fighting preserve the truth. What injustice flies in the face of your deeply rooted beliefs? How are you willing to fight for it?

IMG_4523A couple weeks ago I spoke with a group of women about what it means to be battle ready in your faith and fight from a place of victory. In this teaching (unedited video linked HERE [I come on about 2 min in]) I ask 4 questions to get us thinking about our ability and  motivation to fight our battles…

  1. Are you Aware?
  2. Are you Awake?
  3. Are you Armed?
  4. Are you Active?

When The Bible became personal when I started asking hard questions about life and truth. Who is God and what does He say is true? What does that mean for my life? I’m 17 years into unraveling those answers, but the core of what I learned hasn’t changed; God is my perfect Heavenly Father and Holy King, Jesus is my Savior and Redeemer, He says I am His daughter and kingdom rep here on Earth…and His because of His grace, I am free and eternal freedom lightens every earthly burden I’ve ever carried. 

Jesus made a fighter out of me. He took a disengaged, misdirected kid drowning in self-reliance and showed me what God-reliance looks like. It looks like love, mercy, surrender, humility, forgiveness, jGod will catch every doubt you throw and hand it back to you in a promise.oy, and hope. They were things I didn’t know actually existed beyond movies and novels. When I discovered their existence in a life of God-reliance, I knew it was worth fighting for.

However, the more I know God the shorter my fuse has grown for things like worry, anxiety, stifling rules, hopelessness, perfectionism, our own failing willpower, depression, regrets, and fear of death. On the other hand, my understanding and empathy for the people suffering in and from them has increased significantly. Because of the freedom I know, I’m able to fight for the freedom of others with the weapons God has given me (Ephesians 6). Freedom from those areas is personal to me because I know every one of them by name, and have lived chained to them by one degree or another. If I can be free, so you can you.

Galatians 5:1 says, “it is for freedom that Christ has set us free.”  Freedom is a personal experience. It’s something that’s meant to be exercised and enjoyed. God’s definition of it means it’s been done on our behalf, and we can receive the gift and use it accordingly. Fighting for the freedom in others isn’t a burden, it’s a privilege and honor.

It’s time we get honest, go deep with our questions about what we’re willing to fight for, and throw caution to the wind. God will catch every doubt you throw at Him and hand it back to you in a promise. 



Willing to Fail

January 12, 2016

Is it too late to say Happy New Year? January needs all the happiness it can get, in my opinion. I love new beginnings: unsharpened pencils, that first sip of a steamy chai latte, new journals, blank canvases, new years, new seasons, and new opportunities…

2016Today’s word of the year is yesterday’s resolution. I love the spirit behind it that we all want to make the most of our days. We want to live with intention and integrity, so we boil down our heart’s cry and choose one word. One word to rule them all…for 12 brief months.

This is my 5th year of choosing a focus word…available, commit, yes, ready, and now 2016 is willing. It’s all my previous years rolled into one humble, surrendered, determined word. If it’s from God then I’m willing. If not then I prayerfully wait or move on. I’m willing to struggle, willing to work hard, willing to fail trying, willing to prioritize, willing to be organized, willing to be joyful, willing to serve, and willing to follow God anywhere.

It’s risky to be willing, but I’m willing to risk for the right things. How do I know what the right things are? Sometimes I just don’t. Living by faith involves a lot of moving forward without all the answers and clarity. Blame it on Abraham. He started it.
With faith leading the charge in my willingness in 2016 I also have three questions I’m filtering life’s decisions through in order to willingly prioritize and organize this year:

1. Have I prayed about it?
2. Is the struggle worth the reward?
3. Do/Would I want my daughters to do it?

I’m willing to ask myself the hard questions and answer honestly. I haven’t always been able to answer all three of those questions sincerely. No is a hard word to hear from ourselves. It’s an even harder word to accept from ourselves.

Do you know what my favorite part about the word willing is? Perfection is not the point. To be willing simply means to be inclined to act. Sometimes we’re active in our waiting and other times we’re running faster than we ever thought possible. I’m willing to do both with joy.

Are you willing to make 2016 be the year you too were willing? What would change if you did?



A Heart Stapled to His

September 4, 2015

The longer I live this unraveling life the more I believe in grace. It’s defined as the “free and unmerited favor of God” in Bible terms. Free isn’t something we grasp easily because it doesn’t exist in our world. In fact, based on this definition only God is able to offer true grace. Our best efforts at extending grace are dependent upon our imperfect willingness, motivation, and presence. God’s grace is based on a perfection we can barely imagine, and without faith this unmerited favor sounds like hopeful wishing or some unfair version of a teacher’s pet.


I believed a version of undersold grace after my Dad unexpectedly died ten years ago. One day he and I were chatting in the kitchen while my ten month old daughter napped down the hall and seven ordinary, uneventful days later he was gone. He walked out of my apartment door and I had no idea that kitchen conversation was our last.

What kind of undersold grace did I buy?

I bought into a generic, watered down version of the real deal. I was 22 and if heaven was real then I was going to be okay getting in by a confession of faith but not really living it out day to day. In simple words, I could get by on my own if God wasn’t going to keep the people I loved and needed safe. I lived 17 years not knowing who Jesus was and could surely do a lifetime more believing He existed but minding my own business. It sounded like a win-win for both God and me since I clearly needed something He wasn’t willing to give.

What kind of grace do we really need?

This week a wise friend told me my heart is stapled to God’s. I smile at that image because she knows me well. A couple days later it occurred to me just how true it is. My heart is stapled to God’s. In His perfect grace and in my darkest moments, He gave me what I needed in that difficult season and every day since then, His presence. Only a severe and quick act of stapling my heart to His would’ve kept me where I needed to be, which was right by His side. That’s grace, friends. The deepest form of grace is God showing us our need for Him and Him opening up the eyes of our faith to see that He is and always has been with us. God’s biggest act of grace was sending Jesus to the cross and opening up a door for us to be in His presence eternally.

IMG_7471With my heart stapled to God’s the only way apart from him was to rip or tear myself away. That’s grace too. Like a child fighting to let go of the hand keeping her safe crossing a busy street, God held me close. In grace, He wouldn’t let me pull away from him without a struggle. Because of grace, I’m not that little kid fighting to let go of the hand that holds me strong. I’ve been in His presence enough to know the kind of safety and convenience God offers is exactly what I need. True peace and rest is in the depth of knowing I’m connected to the One who handles it all in grace and love.

It’s been over a decade since I’ve seen my Dad. The exact grace I needed the moment I learned of his passing was to know God was near, and the exact grace I need to today to miss my dad well is to know God is near. Presence is powerful whether it is in our temporary relationships of this world or with our eternal Heavenly Father now and forever. Stapling isn’t a procedure I’d ever willingly opt for, but it’s one I’m forever grateful for and that’s the power of grace.

1 Corinthians 5:10 MSG
But because God was so gracious, so very generous, here I am. And I’m not about to let his grace go to waste.

Anxiety’s Worst Enemy

August 24, 2015

Someone besides me needs to hear this today…

Anxiety says, “You can’t do this on your own.”

Surrender says, “You were never meant to.”

These words came to mind this morning as I looked ahead into the next few months contemplating goals, deadlines, and desires I have for my family and myself. We’re no strangers to anxiety, are we? We know full well when it arrives taking away our deep breaths and content perspective. It’s a cruel master that robs us of joy and peace while rushing our lives into a blur.IMG_6771Whether you’re 16 or 66, we all need to be reminded that we were never meant to do life on our own. Are you transitioning to a new school and feel alone among the crowds, anxious for a sense of belonging? Maybe this is your first year with all of your kids in school and you’re anxious about your schooling decision in a world where Code Reds and Lockdown Procedures are as real as fire drills. Perhaps you just hung up the phone with an aging parent and feel anxious for their future and what difficult decisions you may have to make with or for them in upcoming months or years.

Anxiety doesn’t require monumental circumstances to imbed itself into our lives. Sometimes it’s just a nagging, unrelenting undercurrent to everything we do and we wake up day in and day out wondering when we’ll feel relief.

Can you relate?

I need something more real than my circumstances to rely on if I’m going to live the abundant life I claim to believe in. I need something stronger than a rapid pulse, tension headache, and shallow breath to guide my emotions. What is able to undercut anxiety’s claim of, “You can’t do this on your own”, because the longer I live the quicker I realize the hard-learned truth of that statement?

We cannot do this on our own. We were never meant to. When we surrender to a God whose presence and purpose is constant, we hand over unhealthy control and  the anxiety attached to it. We need a God with impeccable timing to send the right people in the right moment, a God who knows my worst enemy’s worst fear, a God who knows my weaknesses and isn’t limited by them. I surrender to a listening God who invites me to talk to him about my lack of control controlling me.

For years I struggled with how an unseen God could practically help during difficult times. He seemed too big, too distant for my harsh reality. God, you may have created the universe and everything in it, but I just needed someone to get my baby to eat without screaming in pain (reflux, anyone?). God, I love your plan for eternity and all, but waiting for our financial situation to improve is taking forever! God, you split huge bodies of water in two long enough for your people to walk across safely, so can I ask that my sweet children be safe while they learn to read and write in their classrooms?

Philippians 4:7 says, “and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” God’s pathway to peace bypasses our highest IQ’s and EQ’s. His peace begins in our deepest, inner being and changes how we perceive life. There are times He changes circumstances, but more often He changes our hearts. The ready presence of His peace is our most powerful weapon against anxiety in any given situation. Be bold in asking for it and when it comes, don’t be blind to its source. Give thanks and enjoy it. We ask for protection from this temporary life and God guards our hearts and minds for all of eternity. It’s the ultimate upgrade.

“The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:5b-7

Is God Your Superhero?

August 5, 2015

Wouldn’t it be cool to live in a loft apartment downtown and stroll to the swanky, local coffeehouse every morning? We thought so and dreamed about it while house hunting for 2.7 seconds. Then we quickly realized lugging Costco purchases for a family of five up and down elevators from parking garages just wasn’t in our skill set, so we live in the suburbs; more specifically the suburban prairie. We’re just beyond corporate and retail America where a few strides away deer and the antelope could actually play (Kansas state song…were there really antelope in Kansas at some point?). One perk of our beige little house on the prairie is the view of both the rising and setting sun. Twice each day I witness how awesome and powerful our source of light is.

Sunrise view from home…pretty awesome.
It’s here, under the big Kansas sky, where I’m learning about the ever-present nature of God. Psalm 46:1 talks about God as a very present help in times of trouble. Other translations say ever-present. Throughout the entire Bible we see God reveal his presence in very specific moments. With Adam and Eve in the garden, with Moses at the burning bush, to Gideon when he was in a seriously desperate situation, to Elijah when he was running for his life, to Isaiah when God was calling him to speak to speak on God’s behalf, to Stephen as he was dying, to Paul in prison before he went to Caesar’s court…just for starters.

Sunset view from home…not too shabby.
For years I believed an untruth. I believed in times of true desperation God swoops down out of the heavens like the superhero we need and does something miraculous only to return to his castle in the sky when order resumed. My hope was in what I thought God should do because I believed he could. You can’t fault that type of childlike faith, right?

Right…except that it was inaccurate. Childlike faith is beautiful and healthy, but immature faith has a maturing process. God has done and does big rescue missions, so it’s okay to expect that of Him. We make superhero gods to save the day forgetting eternity is still at stake. Faith that blooms childlike hopes can also have deep roots of mature beliefs based on the timeless, unchanging character of God.

Here’s what a mature faith knows…God is ever-present. In times where we see Him show up big times are simply times where He’s chosen to reveal Himself for very specific purposes. He was always there, always here, and sometimes, in severe grace, He allows us to witness His presence. What else does mature faith know? God’s presence isn’t reserved for the perfect or super spiritual rulers and leaders. When you’re following Jesus, you are the royal priesthood. Immanuel isn’t God with “them”. Immanuel is God with Us. We don’t see God showing Himself to people when they were at their shiniest moments, we see Him over and over show up when people were at their weakest points.

Here’s the kicker. God revealed himself to those people in desperate times, but they were asking, seeking, and knocking on God’s door long before He revealed himself. Those people were already walking across their faith bridges with God before He broke the supernatural curtain and overwhelmingly affirmed their hopes.

Do you like a good challenge like I do? In fact (often foolishly) I find them hard to ignore and in Matthew 7:7-8 Jesus issues a challenge. He threw down the gauntlet and said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”

A few years ago I was fed up with mundane faith. I was questioning what it was actually worth in this messed up world or if it was worth it at all. In desperation I decided to take Jesus up on His offer and ask, seek, and knock in small and big ways. This (already long) blog post would be a lengthy book if I tried to explain how He’s answering, but He continues to answer still in big and small ways.

God isn’t present only in the rising and setting of life; here today and gone tomorrow. He’s not just a starry hope in a dark night fading with the dawn of a new day. He is all that and more. Those things simply serve as reminders of a portion of God’s character. He’s ever-present, ever-knowing, and ever-ready to both be the Spirit working within us and the Rescuer who saves. God doesn’t require us to have an Enoch size faith. God asks us to act on the faith He’s given us today.

“Earth’s crammed with Heaven, and every common bush afire with God; but only he who sees takes off his shoes.” –Elizabeth Browning 

Once Upon a Teahouse

July 26, 2015

It happened at a teahouse in California. I looked down our long, sparsely shaded table in the back garden of a quaint teahouse and remembered the worth of presence. From my seat I sat listening to the happy banter and clinking teaspoons of my husband, our three daughters and dear friends. Brimming teapots and dollops of soft butter beside fresh apricot scones were the center of attention. We sat and ate and ate and sat, present with each other and present to the moment. We talked, giggled, shared fooIMG_5175d, posed for photos, and took in the character of the surrounding gardens. It’s an idyllic memory for me and one I’ll cherish as a marking point where I realized my kids are becoming people. Real people apart from their dad and me. People with preferences and perspectives I can influence but cannot control. It’s their unique choice of tea flavors today and their unique choice of spouses and careers tomorrow. The type of physical presence I offer my daughters today effects the influential presence I have in their futures.

We forget the value of presence in our I-lives. It’s easy to confuse intimacy with information in cyber-real-life cross over lives. It’s safer to push buttons on an editable screen than have our presence push the wrong buttons in their hearts. Our presence is an expensive investment yet it’s easy to overlook its price. It’s a deduction in your time and plans with limitless potential returns when invested wisely. Your presence is your most valuable asset. It is the essence of uniqueness you bring to relationships and what’s left lingering in people’s thoughts after you’re gone.

People who know me know I like tea. People who know me best know that I enjoy sitting down to tea with them. The tea is simply a means to a relational end. Whether it’s sipping tea on my deck in solitude or surrounded by friends, it’s the power of presence that draws me there. Present to my own thoughts and notions, or present to their lives and dreams, both rely on the power of being available and generous with the time and genuine gifts God has entrusted me with.

Our lunch ended and kids were ready to vacation on, but the realization of the gift we all have to offer at the table of life has stuck for weeks now. In every relationship, in every situation, we choose our offering. We can present our best selves…the ones that are genuinely empathetic, forgiving, thoughtful, and joyful or we can present the distrustful, bitter, impatient, barely tolerant, angry side of us. We all have both sides to certain degrees, and for very good and real reasons in most cases. The choice is in which side we choose to offer in our presence.

If your brain is on summer vacation and you do little other soul searching this summer, mull over this one thing…what does your  presence offer to those nearest to you? …Nearest to you at the dinner table, in the line at the grocery store, at preschool registration, riding in the car, sleeping beside you in bed…what do you offer with your presence? It’s our offering to the world and our legacy to be remembered.


“The cups are waiting,

Favorite chairs anticipating,

No matter what I have to do,

My friend there’s always time for you.”  –anonymous

To Know and Be Known

June 15, 2015

He and I share a quirky sense of humor. We also share childhood memories; some heart wrenching and others heart warming. He crafted my first haircut, bangs shaped like the St. Louis Arch. I have the kindergarten yearbook photo to prove it. He was my first front yard soccer coach and my biggest competitor on the basketball court. Some people say we look alike anIMG_1969d others say not so much. He’s been my champion, my encourager, my challenger, my role model, and my constructive critic: he’s my brother. I grew up assuming all siblings love each other unconditionally like I do mine: not perfectly, but unconditionally. It’s not front page news that this isn’t always the case. Sibling bonds are as complicated and diverse as the individuals involved and shared genetics doesn’t assure healthy relationships. Doing family well takes intentionality and selfless love, two things that don’t always come easy.

I am Mom to three daughters. Sisters, I’m convinced, is one of the most challenging relationships in the world. There’s no guarantee they’re going to grow up and cherish each other. They tear one another down with a swift word, only to be giggling through tears the next. I’ve yet to find a parenting map to follow ensuring they arrive as family and best friends in the end. My mom mantra these days is, “now say that again as if you love and like her”. It takes constant training and do-overs to foster understanding and empathy with those we’re closest to. We challenge our girls to forgive their sisters faster than the other can apologize. It’s sibling competition at its finest. Our hope is they learn forgiveness is a choice and love is an action verb. We can put on a façade for a lot of people in this world, but our siblings are often the few people who know our hidden heart. It’s the best and hardest part of it all, to be a sister who is known and either judged or loved because of it. I pray my daughters choose to act on love. It’s the epitome of doing family well, to know and be known, and loved in spite and because of it all.

IMG_5791We recently spent the week with my brother and his family. About a decade ago he convinced this amazing girl to marry him. She’s proof God knows what we need before we even know to ask. Together our kids, the cousins, are seeing family done well. We laugh, we cry, we disagree, we pray, we celebrate, and we miss each other before we even leave the driveway. Our kids know their place. They belong. In this unraveling life, we are desperate to belong to something lasting and real. Knowing our earthly belonging is second only to knowing our eternal belonging. I pray each of them has a deep understanding and gratitude for both realities.

We’d be fools to miss what God is doing in our families. He’s taking ashes and turning them into beauty. Divorce, death, illness, and abuse have preceded our families leaving suffering victims in its wake for generations. Generations. I can’t know what the future holds, but I know God is writing a new story in my family and I trust his authorship. I pray for protection over our families, yes, but more than anything I pray my children and nieces and nephews believe God. His presence trumps our pain, mistakes, and doubts. Always. As we unravel, God’s grace abounds. Always. We can spend our precious hours missing it or living it. I pray they choose abundant life. It’s the truest, continual source of joy we can experience this side of heaven.

Chasing Rainbows of Perfection

May 29, 2015

I have a problem. Trying to write about it has only made the problem more glaringly obvious. I sat down to write about perfectionism paralysis on Monday. My last two blog posts were finalized in about twenty minutes. This one is going on four long days. Honestly, it’s getting humorous. Instead of thinking there’s a more perfect way to construct thoughts on this subject into relatable words I’m just going to take my own advice and surrender, so here ya go…

I’m fighting a losing battle and it’s time to lay my weapons down. It’s been me versus my own perception of perfection for years, decades even, and I have continually failed to claim the victory flag. Chasing perfection is exhausting and paralyzing. Perfection is a bully and playing by its rules leads to the death of motivation and goals. It’s been years of prayer and truth seeking to understand I fight with all the wrong weapons. No amount of try-harder-do-better-learn-more-care-less-buy-more-be-happy-suck-it-up-attitude wins this war. If it did, I would’ve taken my victory lap long ago.

Scooby_Doo_Villian_UmaskedLike the end of a Scooby-Doo episode, the first step to victory happens when we expose the culprit and demystify our enemy. When we remove the mask on perfection to reveal its true self all we find is a lie…“And I would’ve gotten away with the lie if it wasn’t for you meddling Jesus followers and your pesky Savior” (if you didn’t grow up watching Scooby-Doo that may not make sense to you). The lie is a mirage in the desert of life where we find ourselves parched for more because we don’t believe we’re enough. We don’t believe God, and who He says we are is enough. It’s the Garden of Eden played out day after day in our hearts and minds. The belief that a future event, possession, place, or person exists in this world satisfying our desire for perfection just isn’t real. It doesn’t exist. It’s a captivating and alluring notion, but a lie, nonetheless. Our multi-billion dollar marketing system depends on its appeal because it’s a pretty safe bet that people will continue to pursue its faulty promises. We are designed to desire more. We are designed to long for perfection. Our dream of a perfect state of being is so strong we will emotionally handcuff ourselves to its exhausting demands:

I’ll be happy when _____________.

I will stop waking up in a bad mood when ___________________.

I will stop yelling at my kids when _________________.

I’ll be a better wife when _______________.

I’ll love and respect myself when _____________________.

I’ll be content with my possessions when I have _____________________.

I’ll start using my gifts and talents when _________________________.

I’ll be content with my body when _____________________________.

I don’t think I’m alone in this battle. People, good people, are tired, depressed, and anxious from chasing the rainbow of perfection. I hear it especially from women all the time. The lie is running amok in our homes, churches, friendships, and families. It’s hard to discern sometimes because it hides in plain sight and takes on names like ambitions, desires, dreams, and hopes, but in reality it sucks joy and contentment out of otherwise healthy pursuits. As my sister-in-law and I exclaim to each other often, “It’s stealing my joy!” It’s true; the pursuit of perfection strips away joy in in the ordinary and everyday because the ordinary and everyday are gloriously messy and imperfect. We are tied to the belief that perfect happiness and peace are just on the other side of that relationship, degree, job, pay raise, weight, accomplishment, or possession. We live with this undercurrent of discontentment and anxiety believing we won’t experience freedom until we reach the greener grass of our perceived perfection.

What’s My New Weapon of Choice?

Imperfect photo with imperfect people who imperfectly love each other. The pie, however, was perfection.
Imperfect photo filled with people who I imperfectly love to pieces.  The pie, however, was perfection.
My new weapon is surrender and it’s one I have to pack in my daily arsenal. I surrender my belief in a more perfect me, and a more perfect life this side of heaven. I surrender the idealist mindset that I can’t act on a dream until x, y, and z change. I surrender the belief that if I can’t do it “perfectly” then I shouldn’t do it at all. I surrender the lie that baby steps don’t count.

If perfectionism isn’t an issue for you then this type of surrender might sound like giving up, like surrendering hope. It’s actually the opposite. Hope thrives in surrendered faith. Hope motivates us to shake off our chains of perfection and joyfully walk in peace filled imperfection. We have peace in a God who did it all perfectly so we don’t have to: truly, the pressure if off.

  • I can parent effectively and lovingly even when I don’t see the results immediately.
  • Squeezing in a 20-minute workout in a busy day does make a difference.
  • Writing can happen in the midst dirty dishes, piles of laundry, and playing kids.
  • Laughing with my husband doesn’t take a babysitter and fancy dinner.
  • Spending time with God can happen anytime, anywhere. Don’t wait for quiet time to get to know your Savior.
  • An overcommitted schedule doesn’t dictate my mood and attitude.
  • It’s ok if people don’t always understand or agree with my choices.

What area in your life are you chasing the rainbow of perfection? Where are you feeling battle weary and needing to trade in your weapons of try-harder, do-better for one of surrender?

That’s why this blog exists. It’s a reminder that in this unraveling life, we can grow to believe and trust in God’s abounding grace. Unraveling is imperfect by nature. It’s messy. Grace is perfectly timed and measured for each of us in our unraveling. Thank you for the emails, likes, and blog shares! It’s awesome to know we’re journeying together!

Changing Lanes

May 19, 2015

My blinker is on and I’m checking the rearview mirrors. Please excuse us as we merge over.

This summer, we’re pulling out of the fast lane. Our girls were in three different schools this year. That means three carpool schedules, twelve different teachers, three schools communicating through emails and take home papers. Gotta love take home papers. Then there was basketball, soccer, violin, track, theater, swim lessons, softball…did I mention it was our first year as middle school parents? That in and of itself…but then we have a traveling work schedule, writing commitments, and other weekly ministry roles, and it’s all added up to nine months living in the fast lane. Nine months of white knuckle, mental focus to stay the course. Many of you know the pace all too well.

I like fast lane living,IMG_5003 and that’s okay to admit. It moves the needle forward in measurable ways. Ambitions and hard work are rewarded with jobs completed. I’ve learned how to be efficient with time in the fast lane. I’ve learned how to move forward in bumper to bumper scheduling. My kids have learned a lot about fast lane living this year too. The middle schooler is outgoing and active, so she begs for fast lane living by default. The youngers learned to survive on quick meals, long carpool lines, and busy routines. We’ve had crucial car conversations about eating loads of candy in heaven, why the word “poop” doesn’t necessarily make every joke funny, and countless discussions about being the only family without a dog. Clearly they’re deprived.

To the extent that I like the fast lane, it also wears me out. It wears my family out, and we’re no longer offering each other or our relationships our best selves. We’re also missing out on just being present and absorbing the joy of the moment. There truly is a season for everything and I think our season to just relearn who we are as a family is now. Now, before we’re drawn in 50 different directions. Now, while our daughters’ lives are still centered around home. Now, while we’re in the thick of identity building years.

In an attempt to make this downshifting transition actually happen, and not just be a good idea on the clean slate of summer here are five ways we’re slowing down…

1. Unscheduling. Weeks in between traveling where we have nothing planned. No camps, no clinics, no appointments, no commitments outside of spending slow time with family and friends.

2. Traveling as a family. It’s where memories are made, and traveling provides rare opportunities for us to all be on the same schedule.

3. At home training. When we’re home, my parenting goal is to do a lot of on the job training. Laundry, yard work, cooking, cleaning…learning to serve each other and work hard as a team. There are countless life lessons wrapped up in learning to be faithful in the small things, in the dailies of ordinary living.

4. Prioritize the arts. We’re an artsy family and whether it be painting with watercolors, strolling through a museum, writing, reading, or listening to music, making the arts a part of our family’s summer is part of the slow IMG_2008lane. Creativity is nurtured and stretched when we can take time to process beauty and life, so more of that, please.

5. Keep a list. Forgetting is one of our biggest obstacles. We’re keeping a jar out on the counter to fill with gratitude reminders. Simple slips of paper counting our blessings. I know they’ll be days we forget to write things down and weeks we’re traveling, but when we come back to it it’ll be weeks, not years, and the blessings will still be fresh in our minds and hearts. It’s one way we strengthen our faith and really learn to see God in the every moment, every day.

There are going to be mornings I wake up and realize it’s a fast lane kind of day. It’s just how life goes, but those days will be the exception, not the normal. God paves our road and purposes every mile, and He offers grace for our best efforts and biggest fails. Check back in with us at UG and see how our journey is going this summer.  I’d love to hear about yours too! If you can’t get me by phone, text, email, comments, snail mail, or FB message I’m probably on the deck with a fruity kombucha and a good book. The more the merrier, come join us.