Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The necessary means to an end

Over the last several months, I have heard myself use the phrase "it's just the necessary means to the end" to describe so many things. Usually it's my attempt to stay positive or rather sound positive- an effort to convince myself of a truth that doesn't feel true.

Like when I would wake up in a panic in the middle of the night a few weeks back. I would think of my impending c section and recovery... having done it three times before I knew how awful it would be. I talked to my doctor about the anxiety of it all and he assured me he'd do his best to make the surgery part as least awful as possible. (He did- totally my best c section of the four!) I would end the conversation, with him and in my head: The c-section is just the necessary means to the end. It has to happen for me to get to have my sweet baby. So I would resolve to do what I had to do, knowing the pain wouldn't last forever, but in the end, I would have a dearly loved and wanted 4th child.

Indulge my shallowness for a moment. I hate gaining weight. Really hate it. I wish I didn't care so much about each weigh in at the doctor during pregnancy, but I do. But everyone knows that gaining weight during pregnancy comes with the territory. It happens. It HAS to happen. Weight gain is a necessary part of a healthy pregnancy. I also know my body and that I have to hold on to some of that weight in order to successfully breastfeed my babies. So, I have to keep lugging this extra weight around a while. I have to bear it as a necessary means to en end. In the end, I want healthy pregnancies and healthy breastfed babies, so the extra weight must be endured for this time. Then, when it's time, I'll work it off. I'll get to drop the extra pounds in due season, but for now, it's mine to bear.

My body and my heart seem to be mirroring each other lately.

The necessary means to an end.

Our forced resignation from Ronny's job. Leaving our church family and home of many years. Loss of identity. Death of a dream. Loss of relationships. Hope deferred.

If hope does not disappoint like Romans 5:5 says, then why do I feel so terribly disappointed? The thing I put my hope in, crushed my spirit and broke my heart. It didn't want me. Jesus, however, does want me. He has called me. He has called my husband. He has called my family. He gently has had to remind me over and over again since March, but hope in Him does not disappoint. We've been so scared to hope. What I've had to answer in my heart is, do I want the end badly enough to endure what it takes to get there? In some ways I don't really have a choice, but in the ways that I do, yes- yes I want to do what it takes to get what God has promised us in the end. I want the end. I want the best possible life, fully walking in the plan God lays out for us. I want it. So it must be this way. It has to be tender and to hurt at times, and I still shed tears more often than I wish I did, but it is the necessary means to the end.

My body is not healed from my c-section, but it's a whole lot better than it was 2 weeks ago. I'm not healed but I am healing, both in my body and in my heart. I have some extra heaviness on my soul that is mine to bear for now, but in due time, that too will be lifted. I also have the most incredible newborn son to stare at day and night. He is this bright, shining promise of a new beginning, a hope and a future.

Friday, October 4, 2013

WRITE- a five minute friday prompt

5 minute timer starts... NOW

My 12th grade English teacher, Mrs. Moak, lead us weekly in timed writing drills. Everyone groaned. I soared. Write? Oh yes, now that's something I could do. I loved it. I was good at it. I've been writing ever since.

I write on my blog when I take the time. I write emails and letters to friends when the words bubble over out of my heart. But, I write a lot of things that no one ever sees. I write in my notes on my phone when I'm out. I write word documents when I want to type what I'm thinking, but not post online. I write with a real pen on real paper in journals. I write sermons I'll never preach. I write stories I'll never publish. I write memories and secrets. I write letters to my kids and seal them up to read when they're grown.

Because I love to write, I also love to read. Nothing, nothing, nothing more beautiful and moving than words. Glory, I love words. Good words make my heart beat fast. Good authors are my celebrities. God speaks when I open my computer or pull out a pen. 

God- the original author. The one who wrote the pages of holy scripture through the followers He chose. The One who with his own finger wrote the Ten Commandments onto stone. The One who wrote in the dirt before the woman caught in adultery. The One who gives words and lets me write.

I don't write because anyone is reading my words. I write because my soul feels full and free when I do.


Link up!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Why I Ran

It's probably been a year and half now since I first heard of As Our Own. My sister's pastor and his wife are on the board and AOO's founder had come to speak at their church. My sister told me all about it and shortly thereafter, I saw on twitter, a half marathon raising funds for As Our Own. I read all about it. I emailed links to my friends. I even felt called in a way to do it. But I didn't. Not then. I don't even remember why... Oh yeah, because I really hated to run. I needed the weather to be absolutely perfect to make it even tolerable.

Running in my past had always been something I wanted to be good at, but just wasn't... that I wanted to enjoy but just didn't. Running was what I did when I was punishing myself, because I didn't like my body and wanted it to be smaller, or when trying to be someone I wasn't. And so, I resolved myself to be "not a runner." I could teach Zumba. I could be good at yoga. I could love kick boxing. But runner, I am not.

But I continued to follow As Our Own. I was drawn in. Connected. Called. And then the tweet appeared in my feed- the Dallas Rock n Roll 1/2 marathon series now offers a 2 person relay. Half of a half marathon. Maybe, just maybe I could do that... 1st leg ran for 7 miles and 2nd leg for 6.1. I really wanted to do it. I wanted to prove to myself that I could accomplish an actual, for real race, and I believed in AOO. Brilliant marketers said "Will you run for her?" And I thought, if I am willing to run for anything ever in my life, it's this.

I texted 3 friends who had just run a 5K in our town figuring they'd be the mostly likely to join me, and they all said yes! This worked great because then 2 people could run the first leg together and 2 could run the 2nd leg together. Marsha lives in my neighborhood and we could train together. Dona and Adrielle work out together anyway, so this would be perfect. And it was...

Mine and Marsha's schedules don't often match so we did some longer runs together but mostly we were running on our own in the months leading up to race day. Somewhere along the way though, I stopped hating it. My legs got stronger, my lungs caught up and I don't remember exactly when but I stopped being scared that I wouldn't be able to complete 6 miles. I ran 4 miles and it wasn't that bad... I ran five miles and felt like I could keep going... it was so weird for me! ;)

Our friend Claire came along because she's a fantastic encourager and a cheer leader. We knew we'd eat fantastic food and have a blast together in Dallas for the weekend. And truly, the race wasn't even what I was most excited about ;) I was excited about the time with my friends.

But the Thursday before Sunday's race, I was running alone. I was listening to music and enjoying the weather, and I began to pray for As Our Own as I'd done many times while running. I prayed for little girls who sleep under their mother's beds and in closets while their mothers work in brothels there in India. I prayed for those orphaned in India who would likely be sold as slaves as young as 6 years old. I begged God to see and intervene and I praised him for As Our Own, who would rescue and raise these little girls to be smart and strong and know Jesus. And I knew that it mattered what I was doing. I knew something had come alive in me. I was called and I was passionate and I was excited to run. That Thursday the Lord spoke to me, too. He told me that we'd all been rescued from something- Dona, Adrielle, Marsha, Claire and I- he'd rescued each of us from ourselves, our own sin and the sins of others. "But on Sunday," He said, "you are no longer victims who have been rescued, but you run as rescuers." With that, we could run in power.

The day of the race was ridiculously cold.
Like colder than maybe it's been the entire year. Dona and I were running the second leg so we waited in that cold wind for a while. We talked about maybe going for coffee instead, grabbing brunch instead of running :) I mean, that would have been way easier!
But then our partners appeared, passed the baton and we took off.  We ran the race.

We each struggled at different parts of the run and all we kept saying to each other was, "we are doing this! We're really doing it!" There were tons of people lining the streets and cheering us on. The atmosphere was unbelievable. I've been the one on the sidelines cheering on my husband while he ran races. I loved being the cheerleader, being present but not participating. Those people are an important part of the race. But that day, Dona and I ran. We loved the spectators, but we were not the spectators. We were the ones running, both figuratively and literally, in all sorts of big and small ways. There was redemption. There was freedom. No longer victims who have been rescued, but we ran as rescuers. Empowered and healed by the Holy Spirit. We ran for spectators to be made aware of As Our Own. We ran so someone would read this and do something with it. We ran to raise money for Kingdom work in India through As Our Own. We ran and I can't explain it... it sounds crazy and far fetched, but it was anointed. The presence of God was palpable. We talked, we laughed, we ran and we loved it.

I know I only ran 6.1 miles. I know I only raised $500 and there are more than 40 million vulnerable children in India. But we have to start somewhere. You have to start. You have to do something. I cry a lot. I believe my tears are groans that only the Spirit understands. I cry for the hurting and the vulnerable. But then I have two options- either stop caring because it hurts too much or DO something. So I'm doing. Whatever I can, big or small. Money, time, effort, prayers, sacrifice. It's not ok with me if children are hungry or abandoned. It's not OK in my city and it's not OK in my world. People are not things to be sold. That's not OK in my city, or in my world. Women were adored, honored and respected by Jesus and when they are not treated the same in my city or anywhere in the world.

Ralph Borde, founder and CEO of As Our Own, said in a sermon I watched recently. "This is not a social justice issue. This is a Kingdom justice issue." Yes. Agreed. And speaking of Ralph, he was at the finish line of the Dallas race. He approached me wearing my As Our Own jersey, introduced himself and thanked me for running for them. I knew who he was as soon as he started talking, and it was an emotional day. So as I shook his hand and thanked him, I actually cried! Give glory to God, but give honor where honor is due! :)

I knew I wanted to run, to accomplish, but I had no idea all God would teach me. How He would change me. This won't be the last I talk about it. This certainly won't be the last time I run. I'm planning on the whole half next time :)

Friday, March 29, 2013

Broken: A Five Minute Friday Prompt

I volunteer with a ministry that reaches out to strippers in our town. We visit their clubs once per month with gifts and food, sometimes make up and sometimes barbecue. We spend time getting to know the dancers, hearing them, and sharing the love of Jesus with them. Then when they're ready, they call us and we help with friendship, education, resume building, any legal help they need, etc.

Last month's outreach was particularly heavy for me. After a tremendous night with the girls and feeling so overwhelmed with the presence and goodness of God, I feel asleep only to spend the night tossing and turning and finally getting up in a fit of anger. My heart was utterly broken for so many reasons and before I could even find any words to pray, I was in tears. Not just a trickle but heavy, hot, mad tears. Not only was I face to face with the brokenness of humanity in strip clubs, but I found myself completely aware of my own need. My own brokenness. My own desperate need for a Savior. That I am nothing without His grace. Even playing field.

He saw me at 7 years old, afraid and in need, and he heard my prayer and rescued me. That same God sees broken women across my city, desperately in need of Him. It's hard to see that He sees them sometimes. It is.  But I know that I know that I know He does, and I'm clinging to that with all my heart as we head into clubs tonight. This Good Friday, we take bags of gifts to strippers, that they might feel seen and heard, special and beautiful, in the eyes of Jesus whose own body was broken on their behalf and mine. That they might feel the dignity Jesus gave to the woman who washed His feet with her tears. That they might feel the mercy Jesus gave to the woman caught in adultery. He did not condemn her.

He wasn't just broken for the spiritual who had their acts together and were waiting for Him to come. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. While we were still prideful and selfish, our own hearts broken and ignoring the broken, Christ died. While we were still strippers and broken, Christ died. Body of Christ, broken, this day, for her, for you, for me. So we don't have to stay broken.

more posts on "broken" from hundreds of other women here

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

On Bread and Wine: A Review

The day my advanced reader copy of Shauna Niequist's newest book Bread and Wine came, I was like a child on Christmas morning! Heart beating fast and giddy! I loved Cold Tangerines and I loved Bittersweet and couldn't wait for this newest book. I devoured it quickly and it did not disappoint. I'm a wanna-be foodie and a wanna-be writer so the two absolutely go hand in hand for me. Beautiful words plus beautiful food make me happy every time.

The first thing I did was to make the risotto she writes about. I've only ever tried to make risotto once before and it was only ok... I usually prefer to eat it in a restaurant with skilled chefs making it. Shauna's recipe and instruction were easy to follow, included lots of variations and suggestions and was unbelievably delicious. With my older son at school and my younger son napping, it left an afternoon with just my 5 year old daughter and me. She poured in the rice, helped press the garlic, and then wondered how long I was going to keep stirring! I made the butternut variation because, well, I love butternut squash. After we finished cooking it together, Avery and I sat down and enjoyed a bowl. She loved it too!

I love watching my daughter eat. Almost two years ago, after several very sickly and scary months, she was diagnosed with Celiac disease (an autoimmune disorder triggered by eating gluten). To see her love and enjoy eating again is such a gift. That moment of enjoying a big bowl of fancy yet comforting risotto together was a happy and significant moment! Before her diagnosis, I cooked, but was a pretty simple cook. I liked convenience and packages and drive thru windows. I liked casseroles and lots of pasta-- hey, it was easy and the kids would eat it. While it took a lot of reading and practice and work on my part, I've discovered, through gluten free cooking mostly, a deep love for cooking and feeding people. Perhaps that is part of why I relate to this book so much. It's certainly nice that Shauna's husband eats gluten free and there are many recipes and variations to recipes that I can make for my family, too!

Shauna's stories throughout Bread and Wine are as rich as the recipes. Even a non-cooker will love the read, although beware you non-cooks out there, Shauna will make it so beautiful that you'll want to cook! Or at the very least, open your home to host those you love with take out, knowing the community is what really matters. She writes about a dinner with an old friend: "The meal itself wasn't spectacular by any means, but it didn't need to be. It was simple and it was good and it gave us something to gather around. It filled our bellies and let us laugh and let us connect and settle into our chairs and let the kids play under that table. It did what it was supposed to do: it fed us, in all sorts of big and small ways." It is stories like this that make Shauna and her writing both inspiring and relate-able.

As soon as I read Shauna's chapter entitled "love and enchiladas" and how they were good enough to eat  leftover, straight out of the pan with a fork in the middle of the night after her son was born, I knew that was for my friend, Dawn who just had her third precious son.  "Annette's enchiladas" , they're called, are delicious, comforting, and hearty enough for a new mama. I made the enchiladas and also included Shauna's Green Well's Michigan Harvest Salad, which is enough to be a meal of it's own -fresh and healthy. Nice balance. I also fixed black beans with barbecue sauce as Shauna recommends and took them to my friend. I feel like a real chef and my friend is fed well. Win/Win.

I've taken many a dinner to many a new mama and have had my fair share brought to me. Early days with a newborn are exhilarating, and exhausting and for me require a great deal of healing (3 c-sections here). I remember when I had my first baby, and my friend Holly brought me the most delicious wild rice and ground meat casserole dish. I remember scarfing down left overs late at night night with my pain killers and loving it's comfort to my aching body. I remember Emily bringing me a killer homemade lasagna and how happy it made me that someone would take time to make something from scratch for me. I remember Angela having my family over to her house and setting me up on her couch with newborn Eli and grilling huge hamburgers with bleu cheese and bacon for us. Marsha brought enchiladas so rich and good that I didn't even share with my family. Heather brought creamy taco soup. Laura brought a huge bowl of chicken and pasta salad that I ate for lunch every day for a week. Dawn brought sweet potatoes stuffed with chicken, sour cream and cheese- that was the first time I discovered a savory sweet potato and how much better it was than the canned, sweetened mushy kind we ate at Thanksgiving. Claire brought pot roast and mashed potatoes. Rustic. Warm. Good. See, the food mattered. The people who prepared it mattered. And many years later I still remember and feel thankful that they loved me and my babies enough to feed me.

And while the cooking is brilliant, the heart beat of the book is this: "I pray that we will live with intention, hope, and love in this wild season and every season, and that the God who loves you will bring new life to your worn-out heart this year and every year, that you will live, truly and deeply, in the present, instead of waiting, waiting, waiting for perfect."

Cooking like I like to do now is rather new to me, but I've always loved to eat  and try new foods. And, I've always loved to read cook books. But even more recently I am not embarrassed by that. It's not very girly to love to eat like I do. I love crusty french bread. I love olive oil and balsamic vinegar and garlic. I love butternut squash and avocados. I love basil and cilantro. I love cheese. I love enchiladas and fresh salads loaded with fruit and nuts. I love mashed potatoes. I love pulled pork and chicken wings (see, not that girly). Shauna's chapter entitled "Hungry" gave me so much validation for the way I enjoy good food. Then she went on in the chapters entitled "Feasting and Fasting" as well as "Scrambled eggs and doing hard things" to give such a beautiful balance to portions, exercise, healthy boundaries, and seasons. Gone are the days where I write down everything I eat. Gone are the days when I watch the calories burn one by one on the treadmill. Gone are days of not caring for my self or what junk I ate. Here to stay is a celebration of beautiful food, that nourishes my body and my soul. Here to stay is community around a table with loved ones and dreaming of going on to experiencing the whole world through its stories and flavors.

 Shauna writes from a deep well of experiences from running the Chicago marathon to early morning breakfast with her toddler to traveling all over the world to a terrifying hospital stay with her 10 day old baby to braving the dreaded swim suit. I laughed out loud at the retelling of the unannounced stop over a friend made while Shauna was home writing, wearing pajamas with dirty dishes in the sink. Then I cried real tears when Shauna wrote about the day baby Mac was born healthy and strong. As much as I love delicious food, the beautiful words in this book are even better.

My favorite lines of the whole book are this: "'s in these moments that I feel a deep sense of God's presence and happiness. I feel honored to create a place around my table, a place for laughing and crying, for being seen and heard, for telling stories and creating memories. I do sometimes feel a sense of God's presence when I write, or when I listen, or when I read the Bible. I often feel that sacred flickering when I hold my baby, or when I kiss Henry's eyelashes when he's sleeping. I feel it when I look across the lake or when I see the ocean. But more than anything I feel it at the table. Body of Christ, broken for you. Blood of Christ, shed for you. 'Every time you eat the bread and drink the wine,' Jesus says, 'remember me'."

My life group meets a few times per month and we always make sure we have a meal. One, because we all really like food, and two, because we've caught glimpses of this "bread and wine" thing... this every time you eat the bread and drink the wine, think of Me... We know that Jesus knew what He was saying when He made meal time the reminder. Eating is something we must do to stay alive. Eating is what we do three times per day. There is significance and beauty, power and presence, in remembering Him, every time. Body of Christ, broken... for me...

Head on over here, and order your copy of Bread and Wine. Available April 9! Make some of the recipes included, savor the stories, cry and laugh, and whatever you do, be sure to gather those you love around your table.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Does it work?

One month ago, we buried our long time pastor. He married my parents in 1977. He lead me to Jesus and baptized me in 1987. He was the figure head for my home church- her leader in every way. He was strong, constant, fearless and faithful to the end. And he went to be with Jesus just 8 weeks after his diagnosis of brain cancer. My husband, kids and I no longer attend FBCW that I grew up in, but we still live in the town. My family still attends church there, my kids attend the church's school and we are still deeply connected there. It's my home in many ways.

But in 2005, Ronny and I returned home from Africa pregnant with our first child and in need of a job (which would give us a church home- my husband's a youth pastor) Long story short, a church here in my home town needed a youth pastor and doors flung open for us to land there. The very first Sunday we went to HBC, I was so excited to be there- a little nervous but excited. But then something freaked in me and next thing I knew I was sobbing. Uncontrollable, deep, obnoxious sobs. My head was screaming "these aren't my people! This isn't my church!" I was jetlagged, pregnant, longing for Africa, longing to feel at home, totally freaked. Yet over the days and months and years that followed, I did find my home there and fell so deeply, deeply in love with that fellowship. My three babies were born there- it's the only church home they've ever known. We have found such precious teenagers and families. We've seen God do miracles. We've found deep community. It's home.

Our dear HBC has had a rough couple of years. Our long time pastor retired. Two strong candidates have gone through the process of coming to us, only to withdraw from the process days before a church wide vote. Elders have resigned. Many families have chosen to go to church elsewhere. Today our worship pastor resigned. Ronny probably doesn't want me to talk about it. He's on staff after all and someone might read this. I have nothing to say about the politics and opinions of it all. I'm just sad. And over the last couple of years, I've actually started to think maybe this doesn't work anymore. I feel wounded, jaded, and in my flesh, a little bit hopeless. But let me say this before I say any more-- I am...we are... deeply, utterly, completely devoted to the body of Christ. I need her.

I sat down at Pastor Toby's funeral a month ago and knew there would  be some sadness, some grief for the loss to his family and to the church. I wasn't at all prepared for God to speak to me so clearly. I was breathing quite shallowly and tears began to stream before the service even began. I watched a deacon I knew as child seat a friend I've known since infancy and I lost it... I looked around at all these people... former staff members, old friends that had moved away, friends of my parents I knew as a kid, and kids a little older and cooler than me in the youth group in the 90's... and there we all were. All together to honor the life of a man committed to serving God the best he knew how for his entire life. And you know what God said to me? "It still works. It worked here for you as a kid and made you who you are. My people are flawed but most of them mean well. He winked at me when he said "most" ;) Hang in there. My body; it still works."  I was beginning to make noises then and Ronny was elbowing me ;)

The minister on the stage was reading a letter that Pastor Toby's daughter in law had written about how he shared Jesus with her father many times and the day before he died, he'd asked Jesus into his heart. I felt like I needed to take off my shoes and shout. I'm not even kidding. So simple. Just sharing Jesus. And the conviction was so thick. All my pride and all my judgement and all my self righteousness and all the ways I knew best had to go- there was no room left in my heart when his grace poured in.

I'm not saying we will always be a part of the same denomination or the same church (little c) or always work on church staff. I'm not saying that this church does it better than that church so let's all try to do it just like that church.

What I am saying is the two church homes I have had in my life are hurting. And I could give up on it altogether. But I'm choosing- and it's a choice I have to make daily-   to put ALL my hope and ALL my trust in my Savior. Not a person, not a building, not even a group of believers. ALL my hope in Christ alone. And then I'm going to give the church a whole lot a grace. Because Jesus has given a whole lot of grace to me.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

New blog??

I love to write. I mean really love it. One might think I would do it more often...

I'm thinking of changing blogs altogether and sort of getting a fresh start, a new place to share a new me and new thoughts and write regularly all the things that swirl around in my head....

Maybe I'm too lazy to start over though...

Just thinking...

Not sure anyone is still reading anyway ;)