Worst. Parents. Ever.

Do you ever feel this way? Like you must be the worst parents ever?

Do you feel like you’re perpetually living a Plan B Christmas? Like NOTHING is going right?

Amazon was out of the Syma S107 Remote Control Helicopter so your child will probably have to be in therapy because they will be warped – devastated by disappointment, and labeled with a huge L.

You ran out of time, so instead of homemade cookies for the Christmas pageant reception you ran through Target to scoop up some store-bought ones, which actually took you an hour and 17 minutes (almost as long as it would have taken you to bake them).

Decorating the Christmas tree was supposed to be a fun family activity, but your 4-year-old swooped around the tree in his superman costume and knocked off two of the heirloom ornaments from your mother, breaking them into tiny pieces which the dog immediately ate. You’re still cleaning up glittery dog vomit.

You’re not alone.

Have you ever thought that maybe Mary and Joseph felt like the worst parents ever?

Trying to adapt to a Plan B life, they’ve absorbed the loss of a traditional wedding and “It’s a Wonderful Life” family.

Now they’ve had 9 months to adjust to the news that Mary is growing, you know… GOD in her womb, and like any expectant parents they’re probably nervous but preparing to do their best.

Maybe Joseph has made a cradle. Maybe Mary’s mom is ready to come and help out when the baby arrives. They probably have a PLAN for Pete’s sake!

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I’m guessing that walking 90 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem to register for the census was not part of their plan.

What do you think they felt as they traveled? Did their fear of the unknown come out sideways in anger or impatience with each other? Did their out-of-controlness in the big things cause them to be controlling with each other in the little things?

Maybe Mary figured that since she was carrying royalty, God would alert others in Bethlehem and someone would put her up in a beautiful home. Nope. Didn’t happen.

Did they hope that at least Plan B would include a modest room and a little privacy?  No luck there either.

In the stable – stinky, dirty, crowded, what were they thinking? Were they feeling like the worst parents ever?

We can’t know the anguished labor pains that may have come from Mary, or the desperate pleas that Joseph may have given for help because they aren’t recorded.

Did they felt confidently carried in the will of God, or did they felt panicky, like when company shows up early and you’re not ready?

What we do know is this. They did what they could. They accepted the unexpected with commitment and creativity. And that’s all we can do as parents.

“Help” is a prayer that is always answered. It doesn’t matter how you pray–with your head bowed in silence, or crying out in grief, or dancing. Churches are good for prayer, but so are garages and cars and mountains and showers and dance floors. Years ago I wrote an essay that began, “Some people think that God is in the details, but I have come to believe that God is in the bathroom.” – Anne Lamott

God is with you. In the dirty stable, or the bathroom or when you think you’re going to lose it with your mother-in-law.

You aren’t the worst parent ever. But you’re not the best parent ever either, because He is.

 

Interrupting Your Busy

I’m guessing if you are reading this at all it’s on your phone and you’re scrolling through while you’re in line at Target, or waiting for your morning coffee to brew, or idling in the carpool line to pick up your kid from hockey, school, church, a friend’s house…You fill in the blank.

This season, in addition to all the everyday busy, we’ve got holiday busy thrown in and our soul cries out for “all is calm, all is bright” and a sleep filled with “heavenly peace”.  We want Jesus. We want to meet Him and talk to Him and truly step into the wonder of His birth.

This weekend we set up our Christmas tree and as I was decorating it I stumbled on a practice that was so simple and meaningful I thought I’d share it with you. It doesn’t matter if your tree is already decorated. You can still do it.

Here it is. Pray your ornaments. 

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That’s it. Simple. Choose one ornament at a time and pray for the person or place or value it represents.

When I hung an ornament from Bethlehem I prayed for all my peace-seeking friends in the Middle East.

When I hung an ornament from Amsterdam I thanked God for Maggie and the memories we shared there together, and when I hung the homemade angel Katy made I prayed for her.

When I hung an ornament that a friend had made who is very sick, I prayed for healing.

When I hung the ornament I got in memory of my brother, I prayed for comfort and joy for his family.

You get the idea. If your tree is up, maybe just take some time in the quiet glow tonight and go around praying your ornaments. If you have kids, have them each choose one to pray for.

Ok, you’re probably to the front of whatever line you’re in. Look for Jesus and joy wherever you are today!

The One Thing About Yoga that Helps My Christmas

really wish I liked Yoga more. It’s healthy.  And it’s so in.  But I’m not crazy about it.

Here are the only things I like about Yoga:

  • the comfy pants that are like legal pajamas,
  • the fact that you do it in a group with great people, and not, for example on a stationary bike in your basement (like a crazy introvert),
  • the corpse pose (where you lay still with soft music playing)…

And one more thing…

They remind you to breathe.  In fact, I think that’s the only part I consistently get right when I go.  I mess up all the poses.  And I can’t make myself pretzelize (is that a word?) like my friend Brooke.

But then they say, “Don’t forget to breathe.” and I think “Yes!  I’ve got that down!  Score!” (Can you tell I’m better at competitive sports than contemplative ones?)

Sometimes the best I can do at Yoga is to just keep breathing.  Sometimes in the Christmas season it seems that way also.  You too?

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What Do You Give the Power to Wreck You?

Question: What’s one thing that if, taken away from you, leaves you feeling hurt or even devastated, insecure, “less than”, not yourself, invalidated?

What is it that wrecks you?

  • A note from your kid’s teacher about an “issue”?
  • A breakup?
  • The loss of a title, or job?
  • The lack of invitation in a certain area?
  • Crickets rather than “likes” and affirmation in an environment where you thought you were gifted or competent?

How dependent are you on that “thing” for your sense of well-being?

I like to think of myself as “teflon” (don’t we all?), but then something big or little will surprise me the way it brings up all the yucky feels.

We want to be seen as the super-mom, the competent colleague, the successful host, the dynamic team leader.

“One of the tragedies of our life is that we keep forgetting who we are, and waste a lot of time to prove what doesn’t need to be proved.” Henri Nouwen

Confession: One of the reasons I took a sabbatical from writing this blog and one of the reasons I’m throwing out the “rules” of when and where and how to post now is that I recognized that it was sucking me into measuring my worth by the response I was getting. I needed to pursue a “holy indifference” to anything other than joyfully stewarding my gifts for the Lord alone.

 

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In 2015 the Barna Group did  a study that showed that women 18 and older in the United States, go to social media, trying to connect and feel better about themselves, but only 14% come away encouraged.

We’ve turned the Gospel into a matter of addition instead of subtraction. When we are so full of ourselves, we have no room—and no need—for God or others, or otherness in general. Richard Rohr

And this…

If we have not experienced (the) connection, (of) knowing that we are indeed a fragment of the Great Flame, we will most certainly need to accumulate more and more outer things as substitutes for self-worth. This, of course, is the great spiritual illusion. We needn’t acquire what we already have. Our value comes from our inherent participation in God. Richard Rohr

So…a few things that have been helpful to me. Maybe you too…

  • Separate from what separates you from your true identity in Jesus. If a relationship or a TV show, or seeing the posts of someone raises your anxiety or makes you feel less-than, ask yourself why. If necessary, block them from your feed, but better yet, have a conversation with them about it.
  • Major on the unchanging truth of God’s Word instead of the whims of culture and criticism. What’s one go-to verse that is helpful for you? For me it’s:

Find rest my soul in God alone. My hope comes from Him. He is my rock and my salvation. He is my fortress. I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge. Psalm 62:5-7

  • Evaluate what and who brings out the best in you. Lean into them, and let them lean into you.

That’s all I’ve got. What about you? What would you add?

5 Questions to Save Your Holidays from Family Drama

This is a repost from a couple years ago, but I need the reminders so I thought you might too 🙂

It’s three days before Thanksgiving and Christmas is just a ho-ho-ho away.  For most of us that means more family interaction during a season when we’re often physically, emotionally, and spiritually stretched thin.DSC00629For people who are trying not to gain weight, they say the most important thing is to go into food intense situations with a plan.

As I look back on our early days of marriage, there are things we could have done to set ourselves up better for success.   We could have used a plan!  So here are a few ideas… Continue reading

Gen Z R Us

Recently I listened to a talk about the characteristics of different generations that was…fascinating.

As I heard the description of Gen Z (also known as Homelanders because their generation started when Homeland Security was also birthed right after 9/11), I thought these are assumptions we ALL are tempted to make!

Gen Z R us! Take a look…

Our World Today
World is full of: So we may assume:
Speed (think microwave, INSTAgram) Slow is bad
Convenience Hard is bad
Entertainment Boring is bad
Nurture (super concerned with safety

in a world with 9/11 & terrorism)

Risk is bad
Entitlement Labor is bad.

The fascinating thing as I looked at these assumptions in the right hand column, is that these are all at odds with spiritual formation… at odds with the values and lifestyle of Jesus!

What we assume is bad, God uses for good…to form us into His likeness.

What does that mean for us? I think a huge win is actually just being aware of our assumptions and acknowledging that we are going to have to go against the flow.

When we engage in spiritual practices we intentionally choose what is counter-intuitive to our comfort-driven, instant-gratification, consumeristic bent. CRAZY!

How can we choose slow, silent, inconvenient, risky, or hard today? Not just for the sake of choosing it, but to step into it asking Jesus to form us into His likeness.

My hard, inconvenient, slow, boring choice involved being on the phone for 45 minutes with a customer service person. It forced me to think about the person on the other end of the line, not as an obstacle, but as a beloved child of God. It forced me to admit that the world does not revolve around me and my wishes. It forced me to consider acceptance and patience as better alternatives to anger.

Who Are Your “Others”?

I posted this picture yesterday on Instagram. It was taken right before I was mugged.

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I was violently grabbed in broad daylight and things were ripped from me. I’m totally fine, just shaken up and feeling a little vulnerable. I only share this because I think we are all feeling vulnerable these days.

We may all feel like something has been ripped from us – a dream, a sense of understanding, a relationship…

Great divisions have been revealed where we were living with some illusions of unity. We thought things had gotten better.

Many feel fragile instead of safe.

Some fear being attacked for their beliefs or their politics, or the color of their skin.

Here’s the thing…our inclination may be to expect the worst, to retreat or hide, or just huddle with “our people”. Instead we need to link arms as my friends did with me and venture out again, looking for the Imago Dei in others.

In the afternoon we went out (with a chivalrous protector), found a street dance, and jumped in.

But jumping back in doesn’t just mean getting out there with “our people”.

It means choosing humility and vulnerability, laying aside a certainty that ours is the only right perception.

It means finding the “other” and listening and loving them well.

It seems we have a lot of “others” these days, but it’s different for each person. For you the “other” may be

a minority or immigrant you feel is taking jobs away…

or a gay person or a straight person you feel uncomfortable with…

or a Muslim you don’t understand…

or a conservative Christian who quotes the Bible in a judgey way and seems confidently self-righteous…

or someone who voted for Trump…

or someone who voted for Clinton.

Who are your “others”? 

Think of the person who, when you think of them upsets you or distresses you the most. Got it?

Me too.

Now call them up and invite them to have coffee with you. You can do this!

I’ve invited one of my “others”, and although I want to say “WHAT THE HOLY HECK WERE YOU THINKING???”, here’s what I’ll say, “You are my friend. I respect you. I know you have a kind compassionate heart. I want to know you better. Help me understand the way you think about ___________________________________.

Your situation or relationship may be different, but the last sentence is the important one, right?

And then I’ll listen.

Hard.

To her.

And to Jesus who says “No matter what, they’ll know Me by the way you love – not just with words, but by your actions.”

Paul joins him, writing…

 In light of all this, here’s what I want you to do. While I’m locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences. Ephesians 4:1-3

Post-election Comfort Food

It’s been a rough week, hasn’t it?  Our country is in shock. This election has exposed deep fault lines that we were either denying or unaware of.

I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch the news since Tuesday.

I posted a few thoughts on Instagram, but mostly I’ve needed silence and solitude.

Wednesday morning I woke early as usual, walking outside in the dark while the stars were still the only light.

My heart was heavy, grieving for the state of our country, the deep divides, the lack of moral compass, the crassness of our rhetoric, the lack of civil discourse, and our future.

I felt a deep need for prayer, for silence, for beauty, and for worship music.

In the dark I looked up and was reminded of one of my favorite verses – Isaiah 40:26

Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars,

Behold the One who leads for their host by number,

He calls them all by name;

Because of the greatness of His might, and the strength of His power,

Not one of them is missing.

We…people…can feel so powerful…And there is power in the choices God has given us, but His power is always greater. He calls each star that He hung, by name!

We’re reminded, “Many are the plans in a human heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs

He’s still doing His job, and we need to do ours – to love others well and cling to Him.

Take the time you need to regather, but then we need to brush ourselves off, get up, and be the church.

To reach across walls,

to walk across a room,

to welcome those different from us,

to listen longer than is comfortable,

to reassure those who are afraid, that we will stand with them.

As we do, this song may help.

 

Lastly, I deeply appreciated these thoughts from Josh DuBois. Maybe you will too.

cw0r_84weaadunp

 

 

Love Leaves a Light On

Sometimes the most powerful thing you can do is to leave a light on.

My little brother David, and my sister-in-law live in the small town where I grew up.  Their home is a turn-of-the-century house with a wonderful front porch – swing and all.

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My brother loved investing in others, especially teens. During her high school years, David built a relationship with Sada.

Sada was not going through a typical teen rebellion. A brilliant, reflective soul, she was struggling with deep issues of justice, truth, and grace. Sada was an extraordinary girl with an equally exceptional brain and giant heart. She needed a safe place to examine issues of her heart and soul, darkness and light.

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Nourishing Soul Food Friday During a Distasteful Election

Monday Nathan Hamm tweeted, “Halloween could never be as scary as Election Day.”

Instagram joked,

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(In case you don’t have enough to worry about, read about Creepy Clown Sitings here)

But in addition to jokes, there are thoughtful Christians trying to bring salt and light and love to a dark, contentious time.

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Willow Creek Community Church has mounted a campaign during this time of anger and divisiveness that has taken off. Read about it here. 

There are some excellent sermons being preached that bring a biblical perspective to this season. This is one of the best I’ve heard – by John Ortberg. He looks at several elections in the Bible and then offers some takeaways. Take a listen.

House of Cards – How Not to be Anxious During an Election

  1. Be Involved. Get information from people we agree with and disagree with. Vote.
  2. Be Civil.
  3. Be Confident (in God). God is not worried about November 8th.

And two minutes of gold from Andy Stanley!

Many people feel like they don’t have any good choice for president this election. I get that. But I’m distressed when people tell me they are not going to vote. This is a hard won privilege we have in the U.S. Please don’t take it lightly. John and I have already voted absentee – easy peasy! Cue the West Wing theme song!

Lastly, if you want some deliciousness to pass around while you’re watching the election returns (or a football game!) I want to share a great recipe from my friend Ally.

Cheesy Party Burgers

1 lb. lean ground beef

1 ts. salt

1 ts. pepper

1 ts. mustard powder

1/2 ts. smoked paprika

2 cups diced onion (that’s about 1 whole onion)

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

1 10 oz. can Ro-tel Diced Tomatoes & Green Chiles, drained (I used mild)

12 slices cheddar cheese

12 dinner rolls (I used Pepperidge Farm slider buns)

Glaze:

1/2 cup butter

2 TB brown sugar

1 TB Worcestershire sauce

1 TB mustard

1 TB sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 350 and coat 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray.

Brown the ground beef, onions, and add rest of ingredients.

Put half of buns in bottom of 9×13 pan.

Top with ground beef and cheese slices. Finish off with top half of buns.

Mix the ingredients for the glaze in a pan on the stove and pour over buns. Can let sit for awhile.

Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.

 

 

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