One Thing I Want to Know When Life is Hard

It’s summertime, and if you’re anything like me you’re drinking deeply from the cup o’ awesome.  The smoky smell of barbecue and friends gathered on the patio, an icy drink after a sweaty bike ride, boating on the lake as the sun sets (EVERY lake in Minnesota is THE lake), the smell of fresh cut grass, and kids running through the sprinkler… This is my neighborhood.  This is my summer.IMG_2316IMG_4309

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But this Norman Rockwell and Mayberry picture exists in stark contrast to the conversations I’ve been part of the past few weeks.  Conversations permeated by the aroma of despair and disappointment, a thirst for redemption and healing in hard situations where spouses aren’t showing up, and parents grieve over the choices their kids are making and people can be just plain mean.  And we want to fix it all, using our plans, our timeline with a little bit of God sprinkled on top.

Isn’t that THE story of all of us, starting way back with Adam and Eve?  We want to be God.  Period.  We want control, but we’re not capable. And so God brings us to the end of ourselves time after time  And we once again bow down, draw close, seek Him…and submit to a plan better than ours – a plan that we may not see clearly this side of heaven.

In all of these conversations, hearing so much heaviness, I’ve been asking myself, if not to fix, what IS our role in community?

One small inkling from the Holy spirit came from an unlikely place.  We decided to host a backyard bbq for our neighborhood.  DSC00423Now, as someone who hosts a lot of gatherings in her home, let me tell you, these things are always messy and never turn out the way you plan (much like life).

It rains, or people don’t rsvp and then show up, or come at the wrong time, or you remember about their peanut-gluten-dairy-banana allergy as they walk in the door.  You can’t “fix” it, you just have to show up and welcome whatever comes. Continue reading

Three Ideas About Feedback Vs. Criticism

Monday I wrote about how we can handle criticism that feels like a personal attack.  Ironically, I had an experience this week that got me to thinking about the difference between criticism and feedback.

Criticism is usually unsolicited and often exposes blind spots that are uncomfortable for us to acknowledge.  Definition: the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes.

Feedback is usually solicited.  Definition: information about reactions to a product, a person’s performance of a task, etc., used as a basis for improvement.

Let me tell you about my experience this week. Continue reading

4 Things to do When You’re Afraid of Snakes or Technology or…

Last year my One Word was Fearless.  Even if it wasn’t your “word”, it clearly struck a cord with many of you.

I’d really like to say, “Fear shmear!  Puh-lease!  We’ve dealt with you and we’re so done!  Shaking the fear dust off our feet!  Moving on!”

Unfortunately, like bad hair days and weeds, it can keep showing up.  What’s a current fear of yours?   Is it a risk in business?  A parenting decision?  A move or change? 

Recently as daughter Maggie was getting ready to head to northern Uganda she was researching snakes – a phobia we both share.

She texted me asking if I thought mace would deter a Black Mamba.  I said I thought it might just make him angrier.  Her husband, Austin did research and assured her that she’d have 20 minutes to find an antidote (in the middle of nowhere) before she died.  And then this:IMG_7102

So, she’s got that advice in her hip pocket.

But a fear of mine, not as dramatic as snakes, has been plaguing me recently – fear of technology. Continue reading

The Fence

Monday I wrote about “those places”.  The sacred spots where God seems to break through the everyday haze of earthly stuff and remind us He’s there if we’re willing to pay attention.  Some of you shared wonderful stories of “your places” in the comments.  And then I received this from my delightful friend Liz, who lives in New Zealand.  She is a pray-er and a photographer, and former World Vision board member, but most of all she’s a Jesus follower.   
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Where’s your place?

I often wonder if David ever went back and visited the spot where God used him to wallop Goliath.

Or if Paul paused later in life on the road to Damascus where God had knocked him crazy bold with His grace.

Did Mary ever go back to the spot where the angel first gave her the ridiculously impossible news that she would carry Jesus into the world?

The whole earth is filled with God’s glory, but in some places He just seems more present than others. Or we are paying closer attention.  Some call them “thin places” where the boundary lines between heaven and earth are barely discernible.

Friday I got home from a trip to Great Britain, feeling a little “off”.  Jet-lag or being out of a healthy soul rhythm.  So Saturday morning I went back to one of those thin places – a path I walked daily during a season when many of those days were filled with pain and confusion.  It is a path where I have praised God and also cried out to Him in utter despair.  It’s a place I return to because it is filled with reminders of His presence and faithfulness.

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As I walked yesterday I remembered an early morning after a powerful thunderstorm years ago that had echoed the sounds of the storm in my own life at the time.  The next morning as I was walking around “my” lake I came to a place on the path where there was a bird who had been pelted to the ground by the storm…battered and broken.  I couldn’t tell if there was any life left in him, but it didn’t look good.

I thought, “Lord, that’s a picture of how I feel.  Half the time I’m numb.  Unconscious. Battered and exhausted.  Every once in awhile I regain consciousness and try to move my wings, and figure out how to fly again.  But it just hurts and I collapse in pain again.”

Though this was the way I felt, as I continued to walk this path that represented my journey with God, I had memorized Lamentations 3:21-24 “But this I call to mind and therefore I have hope.  Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed.  His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning.  Great is Your faithfulness.  I say to myself: The Lord is my portion.  I will wait for Him.”

That morning and in the days after, slowly, ever so gradually, God changed the picture in my mind.  He added to it.  I was still that mangled, broken bird, but gradually, I saw myself gently scooped up into the loving hands of God, shielded, nurtured, bound up, healed.  I was an injured bird, cradled in Hands that treasured me and would restore my strength.

Yesterday as I finished my walk, and my memories of God’s faithfulness, these are the words I encountered.

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Where is “that place” for you?  Is there a chair, or a chapel, a path or a beach where you feel God has shown up in ways you can’t deny?  I’d love to see you post your place or your experience in the comments so others can be encouraged.  If you’re a first time commenter and it doesn’t show up immediately, don’t worry, it will!

If you are new to faith and haven’t experienced this, let me share what I prayed every morning I walked that path: “Lord, what do You have to show me about Yourself and myself today?”  Give it a try!

Among the Ruins

qtThis is my view outside Latimer house where we’re staying while husband John is in meetings.  I know!  Pretty wonderful!  It looks a little like Downton Abbey but with trees around it, on a hill overlooking the Chess Valley in England.

Earlier I was in the library, but it is an unusually beautiful spring day and the English countryside kept whispering to me to come outside.

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All that to say, I’m feeling very British-y.  Our cab driver in London actually said “Cheers, mate!” with a straight face.  I didn’t know that was an actual thing.

Yesterday we walked Oxford and now I’m longing to go back and re-read everything C.S. Lewis wrote.

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I came across a quote from Lewis that really sums up what I’ve experienced over the past few weeks.

“Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some to see.”

Continue reading

Changing the To Do List to Choose Life

The other morning I was up early, before husband John (as usual), but no worries.  Did I wake him?  No, that would be sooooo inconsiderate!  Instead I left him a note in the bathroom.  It read something like this:

Sweet Baboo (NOTE: I did not say “baboon”),

I woke up remembering…

And could you please…

And while you’re at it…

And don’t forget to buy….

love,

your adoring, romantic, AWAKE wife

Upon reflection, I write a lot of these notes which reinforce the business of marriage much more than the delight.  I’m trying to turn over a new leaf.  So these were my notes this morning: Continue reading

Living Instead of Liking a Better Story

First, let me say loud and clear: I LOVE the ministry of Jen Hatmaker!  I think she is an amazing, funny, inspiring, kingdom-loving mom and leader.  If you’ve been following this blog long you’ll remember when we did our own “experimental mutiny against excess” motivated by her book, 7, so clearly she’s been influential.  If you haven’t read her stuff, you should!

But the other day I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed and came across this:

photo-8The rest of the update reads: “…minutes past Remy’s bedtime. Tra la la.”

So I’m looking at this and thinking, “Oh, that’s nice.  Family.  Beginning of summer.  Building good memories.”

I’m happy she could post that, but it’s not a big deal, right?  It’s not like her kids won American Idol or converted Kanye West.  I would hope many of you could post some nice slice of a pre-bedtime moment if you have kids, or a nice pic of you and friends relaxing on your deck if you don’t, right?

What baffles me is what’s under the update.  4,700 people “liked” this, and 138 people commented!

I showed husband John and asked him why he thought so many people engaged with a simple picture of someone’s kids playing in their back yard.  He said something which I thought was brilliant (I think most of what he says is pretty brilliant though).  He said: Continue reading

After Easter

Good morning!  So many of you are new to this blog that I decided to re-post an offering from last year about this time.  I pray it is encouraging to you today!

My cousin died last week.  And a friend was deeply wounded by something a loved one said to her.  And another friend continues to pray for healing from a painful illness.  And another is deeply discouraged.  I imagine each of you could add something to the list.

And last week, after Easter, I was reading in John 20 when Mary comes and finds the tomb empty.  It was my “scheduled” devotional reading, and I’m a rule-follower, so I was obedient, and read it, but inside I was thinking…”Easter is OVER!  Been there, celebrated that.  Let’s move on.” (I’m not proud, just being honest).

I felt like those people who leave their Christmas wreath up til May.  Easter didn’t feel relevant after Easter, which I know is soooo wrong, but like at the tomb, God was gracious and showed up

I was clonked on the head like one of the Three Stooges as I entered into this passage as Mary.  Yes, Mary Magdalene, the one who Jesus miraculously cast all the demons out of, but at the same time, someone like all of us, any of us, who are ever in pain, lost, confused... Continue reading

To All Those Who Didn’t Show

I wrote yesterday about the waiting on the Fool’s Bench at Easter.

As it turned out, I didn’t sit.  I stood near the door to church in the Great Room, craning my neck, looking over the shoulder of anyone I was talking to, hoping to see the shaved bald head of my next-door-neighbor and his blond wife walk in.

I prayed and prayed.  I saved seats at two (count ‘em, two!) services, which did NOT endear me to those who did come and were tackling others for a spot, practically paying hard cash money so they could sit inside the sanctuary instead of in the overflow rooms.

It didn’t happen.  Yes, the other friend did show at an earlier service and I pray that she felt totally hogswaggled by the enormity of God’s love for her, but it’s hard not to focus on the ones who didn’t come.  photo-109

I’ve been thinking about them…All the friends and neighbors and co-workers and prodigal family members you invited to church this Sunday.  Or last.  Or any one of a bazillion times. Continue reading