Photoblog

The Awkward Wedding Day

March 25, 2015

We celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary last December. Our traditional December wedding was dreamy…tiered candelabras, white bows adorning each pew, red roses and white lily bouquets, my scoop neck crystal white gown, his red paisley vest tucked under a sharp black tux. Aside from the church’s royal blue carpet, all was perfection.

As far as life events go, weddings rank up pretty high. It’s a day centered around the bride and groom.  It all comes down to a moment where eyes locked, hands held, and words exchanged two people are united as one.  I’m a visual learner, so when I read the Bible I often need mental imagery to make sense of what’s happening. I don’t have all of the historical contexts of ancient Israel and Rome, so I imagine how things would be if Biblical stories were occurring today. Sometimes it makes for humorous visuals (How convenient would it have been for people to break out YouVersion Bible app on their IPads instead of unrolling scrolls? Ancient world problems).

John chapter 3 starting at verse 28 says, “You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.”

John (the Baptist) is teaching about how to follow Jesus. Sometimes it’s easy to gain knowledge, but acting on it is another story. Verses like this one teach us the how of the what. John is talking about a bride (God’s Church), groom (Jesus), and the groom’s friend (himself, Jesus’ cousin who prepared people for Jesus’ arrival). I picture a wedding day much like my own. Cue the music…the lights…white fluffy ribbons on each pew, illuminated candles, (I’m going to imagine gleaming hardwood floors in my imaginary wedding instead of wonky blue carpet)…the groom is standing at the altar watching his bride slowly descend the aisle…then BAM, out jumps the best man in front of the groom and starts a monologue to the audience about how he set up the bride and groom on their first date and how he’d love to snap a selfie with the bride and groom before they go any further, could he honeymoon with them?… Can you say awkward? It would make for a funny Hollywood scene, but in reality it’s not about the best friend in that moment. As the friend of the groom, no matter your role in the happy couple’s lives you are to stand aside and celebrate their joy.

John’s words teach us something about what it’s like to live in the limelight of Jesus. John’s role was in pointing people to Jesus and he got to celebrate in baptizing them in the name of Jesus, but ultimately it wasn’t about John. In a short time he would be beheaded and his role finished. Ultimately it’s not about us. Our time here is finite too. Unless we want to be an awkward distraction, we are to decrease as Jesus increases. Share the Good News, live the freedom you claim to have, introduce people to your close Friend, and stand aside and watch Him at work. It’s a joy to decrease. It’s peaceful to lessen. It’s freeing to know your role. It’s an honor to empty when it’s all about Jesus.

A Letter to Myself for Next December…

March 20, 2015

December seems to be a particularly difficult month for women. Maybe people in general, but I hear it most from women. Expectations, demands, schedules, emotions…they all get twisted up in our Christmas crazy culture and we lose sight of what’s really important. I wrote this in January after a challenging December. I pray it serves as a reminder to seek God first every day. 

IMG_6355Hey You,

Remember how you didn’t really enjoy the Christmas season last year? How the hustle and bustle overwhelmed the joy right out of you? You went all December-numb and hated it. Advent felt less like anticipation and more like obligation. Here’s the deal…no one is going to give you permission feel joy. No one else is going to force your soul to steep in moments of child-like faith. A packed calendar will fill your days while emptying your soul.

Here’s an idea, mark off entire days in December before it even starts. Maybe even an entire weekend (gasp!). No plans allowed. Leave room for whimsy. Sound crazy, unrealistic, idealistic? Maybe, but so are your expectations for squeezing joy from anything other than the reality of a Savior sent.

Do whatever whatever it takes to spend dark December evenings by Josh’s side. He’s your person. Disappoint your to-do list. Snuggle your girls’ sweetness for as long as they’ll let you. Open your house without planning an open house. Cancel appointments and reschedule for January…February. Put your phone away.  Don’t find yourself at every party and cookie exchange if it means losing your peace in the process. Spending time is time spent. Spend it wisely.

Don’t overthink your gifts. Gifts given with a heart of generosity and love matter most. Don’t overspend. It’s just not worth it.

Set aside extra money to give away spontaneously. It’s fun and you feel good doing it. God loves a cheerful giver.

So what if your Christmas decorations don’t look an Anthropologie display? Today’s material satisfactions are tomorrow’s garage sales. Just look at the nativity set from the elderly couple’s garage sale. It’s your kids’ favorite. They love to rearrange the pieces and since you only paid $1 for it, who cares of the shepherd is now missing legs?

Focus on three traditions to uphold. Remember bigger is not always better. More is not always memorable.

Your kids want you to laugh with them. Go ahead, find them funny. They love it when you’re happy, and so does your husband. It’s a gift to your family.

These few weeks before Christmas will fly. There’s mystery and wonder in them if you stop and pay attention. Listen to what God is saying in moments of chaos and quiet. He’s in it all. Take time to worship Him. Remember, repent, and celebrate. If you’re not living like it’s Good News than you’re not really living.

While the memories are fresh, write down what God has done in your life this year. Were there glaring moments of God’s glory you need to recount? What were your biggest disappointments? What were your biggest accomplishments? Don’t wait on this. One very short week after Christmas is the New Year and you’ll be wanting to move on and look forward. Give yourself the grace to do so in confidence trusting the past has purpose and the future hope.

One last thing, in case you haven’t been told in a while, you’re enough.  Even if you totally fail at all of the above, you’re still loved and known. If the sun is rising then mercies are on their way; brand spanking new. Now go grab a cup of tea and piece of dark chocolate. God is totally crazy about you.

Love,
Me

Girl on a Mission

March 4, 2015
Mission in progress for my kindergartner.
Mission in progress for my kindergartner.

I’m easily distracted. If you know me well, don’t laugh…I know you’re laughing.

So much so that I’ve read articles on adult ADD just to make sure I wasn’t overlooking a clinical problem (thank you, WebMD). I forget things, important things sometimes, and miss the details of life like parent-teacher conferences for example. Super smart people have shown me their e-calendars and organization apps. Lovely. I’ve been gifted awesome planners with suggestions on how to actually use them. Great idea. Last year I was challenged by a friend to take inventory of how I spend my days in 30-minute increments. Tracking it was tedious because I found I wasn’t spending that long on any one task. It was a little here and a little there. I start one thing and get distracted by another: laundry, carpool, phone call, email, dishes, bills, Instagram, pray for a friend, back to the laundry I left sitting on the couch, cook dinner…and on, and on. Is this all sounding a bit familiar?

I know I don’t need a diagnosis. I’m 99.7% (leaving room for error) certain I don’t have a serious condition. I’m suffering from this thing we call Life. Most likely it’s not my circumstances that need to change it’s my perspective. I need to know my mission. I’m a Jesus loving, warrior chic who gets antsy without clear orders.  Then there are many times when I do get clear directives but Life distracts me to the point of ineffectiveness.

It’s one thing to forget peanut butter at the store or my wallet when I leave the house (thanks for the loans [you know who you are] and to my daughter’s elementary school for still letting me enter without my I.D.) but it’s another thing to forget my purpose in living. How quickly I live like my life is about tasks and to-dos, just getting from one day to the next. I need to stop and remember:

  1. I am a daughter of God
  2.  I represent His Kingdom here on Earth each moment, every day
  3. I am Josh’s wife
  4. I am Mom to three wonderful girls

It really is that simple. Everything I do and how I spend “my time and energy is best sifted from the top of that list down. My mission is to have God-directed influence in every relationship and responsibility I encounter beginning with those top priorities. Sometimes that means I teach and write, other times that means I’m at home baking cookies or enjoying a slow cup of coffee with my husband. The point is we are to actually live what Jesus says in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

We have our mission and we can step into it with confidence and courage. The craziest part is, when we feel like God is asking a lot of us He’s actually giving us what we need most. Himself. When we get distracted and lose sight of our purpose we can, with courage and confidence, turn to our Father and ask Him to remind us who we are and why we’re here.

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

Ripple Effects

February 26, 2015

Photo Credit: Imijphoto
Photo Credit: Imijphoto

Those women; the ones who speak confidence in the face of uncertainty, who reject dismay and invite joy in, who search for truth with humility, who seem content among crowds and at home in silence, who cry tears of joy and sorrow without shame, and who turn to Jesus before I can even turn over a thought. Twelve years ago I wanted to be one of those women. I was a new mom, a young mom, full of uncertainties and doubts; full of ideas and vision, yet so short sighted, so inexperienced. When a friend invited me to attend a “women’s Bible study”, I only went because it was ironically and conveniently located 100 feet from the front door of my quaint, second story condo.

I had my presumptions about what a group of women would think of me…and I them. Inadequate is probably the best descriptive word for how I felt in their crowd, followed closely by unworthy. Although the meeting place may have only been 100 feet away, my heart was 1000 miles away from believing I belonged. It was for those women and others so perfectly on track to becoming one of those women. It wasn’t for the young, first time mom who didn’t know how to handle her daughter being uncomfortable and fussy in the provided childcare, it wasn’t for the woman who didn’t know the books of the Bible or why they were not just in alphabetical or chronological order (for real), or how to shower and have this coveted thing called “quiet time” (I had to learn a whole language of Christian-ese). Bible studies weren’t for people like me who didn’t know how to sit in a room full of women and be one because losing your own mom to cancer at the age of four and being raised by a dad who didn’t always respect women wasn’t exactly a recipe for confident womanhood.

God knew I needed to make that 100-foot walk from my home to the church’s front doors. They were baby steps of faith that I needed to take to begin to trust Him and His ways. What I realized over time was that all those women were doing the same thing. Their journeys were different than mine, but we were all desperately and imperfectly seeking to believe Jesus and be more like Him. The traits I envied in other women were all coming from one source. It was Jesus in them that looked so appealing to me. His humility, confidence, boldness, meekness, gentleness…I just didn’t know it at first, but the more I got to know Jesus; who He was, what He was about, and who He said I was, the more I saw His presence in other people. The women who admitted that fact quickly usually became my favorites because what He was doing in them just looked so, so good. Their humility, grace, holy confidence, and loving ways challenged my fearful, self-righteous self without a word of blame or shame. I truly wanted what they had, and they had faith in a Savior and King who loved them and wanted to have a real relationship with them.

God is raising up a new generation to watch and learn how to be visionaries in His unseen ways and Word. You cannot know the ripple effects God sends out from a life of authentic faith. Those women I looked to over a decade ago probably have no idea I was watching. They had no idea God would use the ripple effect of their faith to encourage me to point other women (my three daughters included) towards Jesus today. I still have those women in my life; those who’ve gone before me, who are not afraid to be transparent in their journey, and generous with their memories. By the grace of God, I will live to do the same in return.

Why Now?

February 19, 2015

There is a ridiculous YouTube video my daughters find hilarious showing this rather large dog determined not to get into the bathtub.  In fact, he refused to even go into the bathroom.  Further still, he wouldn’t even stand up knowing he was going to be taken to the bathroom to be given a bath. His owners had to drag him, total dead weight, cooked noodle all the way down the hall and through the bathroom door. Dogs these days.

Admittedly, I laughed just as loud as they did at the dog’s crazy antics. In a similar vein, I am that dog when it’s come to having my own blog. I’m not new to the world of writing or blogging. I’ve done both for several years, but when it’s come to taking on a blog in my own name, on my own schedule, and from my own heart I’ve gone all cooked noodle.  In fact, I can think of 103 reasons why I don’t want a blog. So, why now? Why when there are so many others great writers and communicators out there sharing their perspectives and experiences in the world of blogging?  It’s because all 103 of those naysayers in my head crumbled when I understood the power of narrative.

We’re living a story within a greater story. Our narratives, our stories, are not isolated events occurring in insulated bubbles floating freely from one moment to the next. We live in tangled, intertwined, messy knots of relationships and circumstances. When I pull on one string, it tugs on someone else’s. If I wind up my chord, it’s unwinding someone’s down the line. Our yesterdays, todays, and tomorrows share common experiences, hopes, dreams, and fears.

I picture this life like a neatly knit sweater with a determined unraveling thread. Unraveling isn’t an option, it’s a way of life. It’s the way of life. We’re dying to make our sweaters of this world fit even as God is unraveling it for a greater, eternal purpose. He tells us not to fear, to exercise courage, and to steady our eyes on Him as he graciously and lovingly unravels us in this world to prepare us for perfection in the next. We can’t have our sweater of this world and our heavenly one too. It’s one or the other. If I try to cling to this one I end up holding a mess of string because the truth of this chronos life is that there is purpose in the unraveling.  Wearing our sweaters of this world can be great for a time, but eventually what was once good will become a trap to keep you from what’s best. God is for our ultimate freedom, our ultimate best. As we unravel grace abounds and Love calls us out of what binds us and into new depths of freedom with Him. This blog is my written narrative to gain and give perspective to this unraveling life. Sometimes I focus on my current sweater, sometimes I can’t take my eyes off the pulling thread, and other days I’ve got sights locked on my promised eternal creation. It all points to Jesus, and it’s a joy to share His story in me with you.

Brooms and Band-Aids

February 15, 2015

IMG_5717Admitting we are wrong is tough business. As someone who’s followed Jesus for nearly 17 years, realizing I have blind spots of self-reliance and self-righteousness is no easy truth to swallow. Part of me (a big part) wants to be a perfect daughter for my perfect Heavenly Father. One of Jesus’ messages to His followers was to repent because God created us to be in relationship with Him and unrepentant sin has a way of fogging up our view of God. He desires our sinful selves to be so near to His Holy Self that he allows us to say we’re sorry…and accepts our Jesus covered apologies so that we “by the help of our God, return.” (Hosea 12:6). God doesn’t ask us to repent because he’s cruel, or unjust, or unloving but because He is our perfect parent. One who is for not only our salvation, but also for our sanctification (us becoming more like Jesus). A parent who loves us enough to want our freedom instead of complacency, our joy instead of sorrow, our trust instead of fearful control.

Like the children we are (no matter our actual age or spiritual maturity) we run hard from truth that may hurt, we hide evidence of the leftover cookie crumbs of sin, we ask for a Band-Aid to cover our wounds when what we really need is surgery for our souls. We are desperate for our God who loves us enough to send obstacles to slow our frantic pace, says that it’s ok to sweep our messy sins right up to his throne, and isn’t afraid to rip the Band-Aid off when necessary.

Mark 1:15 says, “The Kingdom of God is near. Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!” Repenting is God’s way of admitting we’re wrong and literally turning away from our sin. But because God parents his children in perfect love he doesn’t stop there. Our Father is FOR OUR FREEDOM. When he asks us to turn away from something, it’s because he has something eternally better in mind. Thankfully we don’t have to wait an eternity to experience his promises. When we come before God and admit and apologize (two words I use with my own daughters often), God begins the hard work with us of clearing out the clutter of our souls to make space for his kingdom. One of God’s love languages is giving good gifts. They’re the type of gifts you’ll never need to keep the receipt for because there’s no such thing as refunds or exchanges. Perfect Love knows the exact size of your need and the specific quantity of gift necessary to fill your deepest, truest desires…peace, love, joy, mercy, forgiveness, meekness, faith, hope…It’s never too much and never too little. God is good, his gifts are real, they’re available right now, and they’re so much lighter than any pre-repentant load we could ever carry.