Category: Guest posts (page 1 of 2)

5 Questions About Walking With People in Pain

I roll over at zero dark thirty this morning in a hotel room in Hanoi to see a missed call on my cell phone. In my heart I know why. It was a call from the husband of my best friend from college. Patty was diagnosed with ALS (that horrific disease that gradually takes away your ability to speak, eat, move and breathe) 3 years ago. Last night she was healed and greeted in heaven where I’m sure she is having a blast. She always was a party waiting to happen. 

Patty was fun and funny and compassionate and wise, and had all-together the best laugh ever. God took her on an amazing life-journey where He used her to come alongside people in pain or resource counselors helping others in pain around the world wo were experiencing trauma. This picture was taken when our paths crossed in London. Patty had just come from Nigeria and was on her way to Turkey and then Azerbaijan. Crazy, eh? In a post 4 years ago, after this picture, I asked her 5 questions about helping people in pain. I’m posting it again today in her honor. IMG_6973 Continue reading

In the Bunker with Jesus

A couple weeks ago I wrote a post about parenting and our view of God. Later I was at a park with my friend, Emily Conrad, and her children. I’ve had the privilege of walking alongside Emily through some really dark times.

She is a woman of tremendous faith and authenticity who is “working out her salvation”, looking for the real Jesus. When I asked her to share where she had seen Jesus recently, she told this story which I asked her to write down for you. It is a joy to welcome Emily to the blog today!

In my basement, there is a storage closet that we have lovingly started calling The Bunker.

It houses my camping gear & tent, Christmas wrapping paper, numerous garage sale items and far too many books from grad school.

About a month ago, my husband and I decided that our children (or maybe ourselves) needed a safe place to get out all of our angst, our anger, our emotions that have a tendency to scare the other members of the family in the midst of daily life with five people.

We made up a rule that the Bunker was the place to go when you feel out of control, and that Mom or Dad would stay in the Bunker with you while you yelled or screamed or cried at the top of your lungs. However, we might use our earplugs so that our eardrums didn’t shatter.  The important thing, though, was that we would stay together in the messiness. Specifically, we thought our middle daughter might benefit from a safe place to “just get it all out”- and side note, our therapist gave us the green light for this idea. ☺

Our middle daughter is a rock star 6 yr old, a little lady who has faced more uphill battles in the first few years of her life than most people face in their entire lifetime- abandonment, attachment issues, relocation, being the lone black kiddo in a white family, change of name-all before she was 2 years old. And with all of that comes a lot of heartache and emotions that she can’t process in her body so it often comes out in brutal, ugly screaming- like a torrent of anger and loss and pain. I want to say that I am able to handle her strong emotions like a champ. I’ve been her Mom for four years already – I should be a pro. However, that’s not quite true. Her outbursts make me want to run away most days, if I’m really honest.

So recently we had a moment, my daughter and I, when I was getting heated up at just the same rate that she was getting heated up. Things were not going to end well. An issue that started out small and was rapidly blowing up.

Time to head to the Bunker. This was not super well-received, but we headed to the Bunker anyway.

At first there was a total refusal to work through things: “I’m not mad and I’m not going to do this”, which quickly turned into an epic scream fest, (by her-not me). Think banshee decibel. I calmly popped in my earplugs as she was screaming and I thought to myself, “Go ahead, girlfriend, get it all out. I am in total control here. Do what you’ve gotta do. I am calm.” Not very empathic, obviously.

As she stood there screaming, beads of sweat on her forehead, I noticed something in my spirit that went like this: “I wish I wasn’t stuck in here. This feels so messy and chaotic. Ugh. Anyone else want to trade places with me?! I don’t do mess.”

And as I stood with my daughter in the Bunker, but not truly with her, I realized that I don’t like bunker situations.  In fact, I usually run from them.

But I know that the past several years of my life have been just that- Bunker-y. Messy, chaotic, yuck…both internally and externally as we have navigated life with our daughter. It has been lonely and exhausting and has felt like the pit of despair- just like it felt in the Bunker that day.

After several minutes, there was a flicker of hope that went off in my heart as I started crying, rather sobbing, over my life and my mistakes and my own heartache and my own need to feel heard and loved in the midst of messiness and brokenness – how I have needed someone to be with me in the thick of it. In the Bunker, I felt Jesus say, “I am with you in all of your Bunker, in your anger, in your despair, and it’s not too much for Me. I can take this on for you.”

I turned to my daughter and with what can only be called the mercy and compassion of Jesus, I saw her tears and fear and pain and I thought, “I can take this on for you- I can stay with you in the Bunker whatever that entails. I can take on your messiness and chaos because that’s what love does.” As I knelt down to my daughter and hugged her and cried with her, there was such a profound sense of connection and empathy and I-am-with-you-in-this, all of this.

I’m not sure if you have a place or a sacred moment or even someone who sits in the Bunker with you, but I hope these things for you.

What My Daughters and I are Learning About Community

I’m taking a blogging sabbatical this summer, but will occasionally be sharing some posts from the past. This one was a guest post written by daughter Katy 4 or 5 years ago.

Have you ever taken the Meyers Briggs personality inventory?

It’s where you answer a bunch of questions, and at the end you’re assigned four letters that make up the basics of your personality.
4 powerful letters that tell someone all they need to know about how you’d respond…

  • If strangers showed up at your door inviting you to a costume party,
  • Or if you had to decide under pressure, which wire to cut to diffuse a bomb,
  • Or whether you’d say “Suck it up.” or “You poor, poor baby!” if someone told you their hamster died.

Well in our family, the 4 letters that sum up Maggie are exactly the opposite of the 4 letters that sum me (Katy) up.

In spite of being opposites, while growing up, the two of us were inseparable.  Walking to and from elementary school together, taking (voluntary) trips up to the local library to stock up on Sherlock Holmes books to read aloud to one another in the privacy of the latest edition of our ever-improving fort.  We’d rally the neighborhood kids for night games and home made video productions, snow forts and magic shows.

We were a dream team.


But then, something happened. I think professionals call it “puberty”. We turned into the worst versions of ourselves, camping out on the far edges of our opposite personalities.

Things that were cute about Maggie became shallow and annoying. My attitude went from an indulgent older sister to, frankly, a superior jerk. Those halves on Meyer’s Briggs became like some sort of bizarre science class punnett square exercise gone wrong.

In our case, it took about 6 years apart and the advent of g-chat to start a new season of communicating. Rather than the cutting remarks and dismissive sarcasm, we began to speak with each other as people, rather than sisters.

Each of us slowly slid towards the center of that personality chart, first recognizing our weaknesses, then working to develop into more balanced people.

It sounds quite nice and simple in that sentence, but some of this “realization” came through heated phone calls and the occasional adopting of our high school personalities.  AKA our “worst selves.”

Now, years later, here we are, co-inhabiting a 900 square foot apartment in the heart of our nation’s capital.  Had you told us 5 years ago that this would be our living situation, we would have thought you were a lunatic.  Surprisingly, it is going quite well.

There have been a few flare ups where we’ve seen those high school selves resurface, and it’s embarrassing.  But we’re truly enjoying one another’s company, the sharing of friend groups, being invited to the same parties, and attending the same church for the first time in years.

We find ourselves working to carve out “sister time” and we’ve seen this time become increasingly more meaningful.  As we earn one another’s respect, we are better able to speak into each other’s lives.

The bottom line is that when we allow the other person’s strengths to threaten us we’re our worst selves.  But when we move towards each other in humility, ready to learn from the other’s strengths, and seek help in the areas where we’re weak, we thrive.

When I can sincerely say, “Maggie, what would you do in this social situation?” where I feel unsure, and she can sincerely ask “Katy, what bus should I get from U Street to get home? or Who is Christine Legard and why do we care about her?” we both benefit.

What I’ve learned from watching Katy and Maggie grow as they live in community is to ask questions.  When I’m in situations where the emotion seems to rumble in my stomach and travel to my face and threaten to come out of my mouth in unwise words I’m trying to ask:

1.  What am I afraid of?  Really.

2.  What can I learn from this person?

3.  What questions should I ask to gain better understanding?

What collaborative, or community building situations are the most challenging to you?  When do you feel most threatened?  What is helpful?



Real Community (Or: What Happens When People Stop Being Polite & Start Getting Authentic)

Our daughter Maggie, and her husband Austin are living in the Bay area in California. We are so over the moon proud of both of them! They are amazing communicators and followers of Jesus. I’m thrilled to have Maggie guest-posting today about their recent experience as leaders of a small group they affectionately call “tiny group.


Our church calls ourselves “a church of people who ‘don’t belong together,’ gathering around Jesus, for the sake of people who don’t belong.”  Sounds really cool, right?  Sometimes I think it’s a little too accurate though.  I’ll get there, just hang with me while I give you some context.


One of the things that attracted us to Oakland City Church (OCC) was its diversity.  Our church building is old and a little run-down – I haven’t heard any plans of removing the grungy orange floral carpet any time soon – and nestled in the hills of the Fruitvale neighborhood.  If “Fruitvale” sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because of the 2013 film, “Fruitvale Station,” which chronicled the murder of Oscar Grant, a young African American man who died at the hands of a white police officer who shot him while he was handcuffed.  Racial and socioeconomic tension runs rampant here in Oakland, as it sadly does in much of our country.  Co-pastored by a charismatic African American Oakland native (think: sweat towels for sermons and freestyle rap prayers) and an intellectual white Australian (think: dry jokes about greek mythology), OCC intentionally and authentically mirrors the diverse community of Oakland.

We love this.  We like that we are able to engage in a community of faith that is located in our city and with people who are wrestling with the same challenges we face each day.  It’s also really uncomfortable.  When I said our tagline is too accurate, I meant that we really are a bunch of people who don’t know what we are doing, who don’t belong together and who are trying to figure it out because we think that’s what Jesus wants.

A few months ago our pastors Larry and Josh made some very compelling points about entering into community.  Like, really entering into community, not just greeting one another in our pews on Sunday mornings.  My husband Austin and I felt convicted to join a small group.  We both have “small group baggage” so we weren’t thrilled about the idea, but we couldn’t come up with any legitimate excuses to get out of it.

We entered into the experiment with a bit of a martyr complex.  How great were we?!  Doing something we knew would be uncomfortable, getting involved in our cool, diverse urban church community…we were behaving like such great Christians.  We were ready, too.  We knew how tough small groups could be (which was perhaps why we’d been avoiding them for the past few years) and we knew we’d be shoved together with people who saw the world differently than we do (always a shocking reality for me).

We put our heads down and prepared for the worst because, well, small groups are difficult. They are the place where the hard work of learning to really love your neighbor happens and they often feel forced, insincere, and surface level. It would be nice if you could get a group of people together who look, act, and think like you so you don’t have to learn to love people in uncomfortable ways. It’s also difficult because everyone has their own expectations when it comes to small groups.  Some hope to participate in an in-depth study of the Bible while others hope to focus on building relationships centered around Christ without the debates so common in small groups. Striking the balance between spiritual formation and Christian community is hard, especially with folks you don’t know.

In our new group, we expressed our desire to get to know one another, speak into each other’s lives, and learn how each other was following Jesus in their everyday lives in Oakland.  We shared with the group that the Bible study approach wasn’t really our cup of tea, since it often devolves into theological scuffles or relies on the simplistic interpretations of armchair theologians. We were hopeful. The people in the group were diverse, sincere, and committed. Snacks were at each meeting. And our leaders worked hard to prepare for each week.

Despite our hopes, this group tended towards a tedious Bible study format.  There were weekly worksheets with guiding questions and line-by-line deciphering of the text. We seemed to be missing the forest for the trees, avoiding the arc of the scriptural narrative in favor of searching for little nuggets of truth set off by verse numbers.

Most members of the group seemed content with this approach, but for myself, it upset me that I couldn’t tell you anything personal about the other members of the group, that we weren’t talking about how the scripture impacted our lives at home or at work or in relationship.  It was exactly what we didn’t want.  I felt like Jesus had just table topped me and was laughing about it.  We were discouraged, and decided to not sign up for the next semester of the group.

Side note: here’s a glimpse of how this played out was when we studied Mark 5.  In this set of passages, Jesus and his disciples have just crossed the sea and meet a man called “Legion,” who was living in a graveyard, rejected by his community members and assumed to be possessed by many demons.  It may sound strange, but this is one of my favorite parts of the Bible.  I deeply identify with this man – wrestling with imperfection, isolated from his community, powerless to overcome his flaws.  To me, he is the perfect picture of all of us.  I wanted to discuss this with the group.  I asked our fellow small group members about the times when they feel isolated, rejected, powerless and alone.  One group member told me that he could not identify with Legion at all, instead focusing on a literal understanding of the demonic possession.  Our leader asked us to return to our line-by-line unpacking of the scripture – how many characters are in the story? What are they wearing? Etc.

To me this represents one of the deep flaws of our attempts to shove a beautiful and complex idea like “community” into a flawed cookie cutter of “small groups.”  We are so tied to the text and to our Sunday School manners and to a curriculum-driven interpretation of scripture that we overlook the opportunity to become vulnerable with one another.  Or perhaps we use the text, the manners and the prescriptive interpretation to hide from vulnerability. Either way, we seem to be so worried about “studying the Word” that we miss the opportunity for the Word to change our lives in real and practical ways.

After this Bible Study experience, martyr complex firmly in tact, we decided we would lead a group.  Surely there were other people in our community who wanted to share life in the same way that we did.  We were going to step up.  We were going to serve, to open our home, to offer our time and our leadership gifts. We were very sure of ourselves. 🙂

Our community life pastor seemed excited that we were thinking about small groups differently and he encouraged our little experiment.  We decided we wanted our group to look like a weekly dinner party – good food, wine and meaningful conversations.  We wanted to be informed by scripture but not tied up by it, instead focusing on living the way of Jesus more than we talked about it.

Suffice it to say our small group has not gone as planned. We had such a grand vision. We just knew that if we had the right approach and planning, the people would flock to our “enlightened” new group. Boy, were we wrong. It seems Jesus had a few more lessons to teach us about the difficulty of community.

Here’s what it’s looked like. For the past two months, our group has consisted of me, Austin, and one other person. That’s it. Our other “tiny group” member has been a committed participant, despite the lack of momentum in our group. But he’s very different from my husband and I. He’s 42-years old, and has struggled with both physical and mental challenges for much of this life. He doesn’t attend our church either.

Instead of the weekly philosophical hipster-Jesus dinner party we had planned, we’ve been learning to walk with our friend through the challenges and triumphs he faces – going to school, finding housing, looking for jobs, taking care of basic errands, and fighting for hope that God has a relationship in the works for him. We focus on the simple truths of scripture to guide us and mostly pray that God will meet us in our weaknesses.

It has been a lesson in humility. We’re learning that our needs and desires and vision for coolness are far less important that the basic needs of love and friendship that have come to define our tiny group.

We’re not giving up on small groups…but I think we’ll take the summer off.  I’ll let you know how it goes.  For now, I’ll just be licking my wounds, cursing Jesus under my breath and trying to learn the lesson that community isn’t “cool” and it’s certainly not about me and my needs.  So inconvenient.

Has there been a time when God had a different agenda in your life and humbled you? What has your experience in small groups been like?


Leaving Baggage Behind

My younger brother, David, is an amazing man of faith, humor, kindness, and courage.  Many of you know he has been on a grueling road trip.   As I write this, David has been admitted to M.D. Anderson in Houston. His road is one of ups and downs, medication, and fatigue. Recently, through the haze of pain, he bravely tried to reflect on last week’s post and share some personal thoughts. Here are his words:

Let me first start by saying I love to travel.  Planes, trains and automobiles are my thing.  I’ll bump off the interstate and take a US highway just to roll down the window, smell the alfalfa fields, and look for grain elevators every 6 miles like clockwork.

I know there isn’t much to like about air travel but every time I see the Arrival and Departure signs at an airport my heart skips a beat and I recall the first time I flew as a 12 year old on a Delta Airlines Super DC 8 stretch.

And don’t get me started on trains as there is NOTHING better than a private bedroom with a large picture window and a good book while watching the American west from one of Amtrak’s western long hauls.

They all connote road trips for me and they certainly are a far cry from Abram packing up his tents, livestock and family and putting one foot in front of the other on the way to where?  The Promised Land? With no return ticket?

Monday’s post about Abram, his idols, and his journey struck a chord with me.  You see, I’m on a journey of sorts myself, and like Abram, it’s not one I willingly signed up for.  In January I was diagnosed with stage IV Melanoma cancer.

For those of you who travel a lot, I’m sure you’ve become expert packers.  You know which clothing you can get multiple wears out of. Your carry-on is packed with extra charging chords, toiletries ready in one clear quart plastic bag, and the indispensable People magazine.  You are efficient and have exactly the right amount of “stuff”.

There are those of us, however, who arrive back home only to find six shirts never worn, untouched work out clothes,  and a pair of  Topsider deck shoes and Hawaiian  shirt because “Weren’t we supposed to have a Cruise Night Party?”

Just like Abram, I started my journey with everything I had and yet God wanted me to pare down a few things.  While the word “idol” sounds so ancient, there were things I worshipped that were excess baggage – mainly ego, pride and control. Continue reading

5 Questions About Your Time

Time.  I’ve always felt like it’s there in limitless supply.

Oh, yeah, there are stress-filled days where there don’t seem to be enough minutes in 24 hours to get everything done, but there’s always Tuesday and Wednesday and June 25th 2020, full to the brim with more of life to live.

I buy into the conviction that I need to be responsible for stewarding my time well, but I also live like a perpetually bullet-proof twenty-something.

Over the past nine months John and I have had a friend teach us much about living and dying, about heaven and earth, time and eternity.  HIs name is Steve and he is dying of Pancreatic cancer.  He and his wife, Sharol, have walked this hard road with authenticity, faith, courage and vulnerability.  I asked Steve if I could share some of his thoughts on time in the post today.  These reflections come from a place of physical weakness and a greater awareness of limited time. Continue reading

5 Questions About…Forgiveness

This “5 Questions about…” post is by my dear, courageous friend who  would like to remain anonymous for now.  I know you’ll be blessed and inspired by her powerful story.

1.  You have an amazing husband and an adorable baby boy – a healthy, Jesus-loving family, but your own family growing up wasn’t so healthy.  Can you give us a little background?

I feel humbled and grateful that the Lord answered my prayers and hearts desire for this family of mine.  Although the Lord took hold of me and I of Him as a little girl, I have kept many unhealthy secrets along the way. 

I was conceived out of wedlock to  a mother who wanted to abort me and a father who almost did. He has told me, ” I had a vivid dream that God told me to keep you and on the way to the abortion clinic, I convinced your mother to keep you”. Continue reading

5 Questions About…Marriage

This summer we did a little “5 Questions about…” series.  Fortunately for me I have so many awesome friends with wisdom to share that it’s gonna spill over a little into the fall!  Today my friend Cara Tregembo, one of the fun “7 girls” is sharing on marriage.  I asked her for a picture to post and this is what she sent:


However, here’s the real Cara (in front)!


That’s our Cara – fun-loving, creative, and (in real life) completely authentic! Continue reading

Reflections on Being Thirteen in Minnesota and Uganda

You know this blog is about the relationships, experiences and practices God uses to form us, right?  Well, today I’m putting up a guest post from our daughter, Maggie.  Most of you remember she worked in Northern Uganda this summer, doing an internship for her Masters in Public Health.  Her experiences with the poor, and particularly with women, have formed in her, a heart for justice – the justice I believe is in God’s heart too.   I’m sharing this as a little background before I post an update on the ways you have made a difference, joining in her work there.


When I was 13 years old and growing up in Eden Prairie Minnesota, my most pressing concerns included: getting the braces off my teeth as soon as humanly possible, convincing my mother to allow me to wear a two-piece bathing suit (or get my cartilage pierced – I varied my advocacy agenda to better my odds), and counting down the days until I would finally get my first period. I was in a big hurry to grow up and these experiences seemed like pivotal pieces of my maturation strategy. Continue reading

5 Questions About…Parenting Teens

Ok, so I know many of you don’t have teens, but you interact with teens, or you’ll raise teens someday or you’ve already raised teens and can add to this post in the comments section!  I’m super excited for you to hear from my wise, authentic, fun, friend, Molly Dykstra sharing on our “5 Questions About…” series.  You might recognize her from Wednesday’s post too :).


1.  You are a parent I admire so much!  Can you tell us a little about your kids and their personalities?

Admire?!! I have three “kids” although they are really all young adults now (need to keep reminding myself of that.)

Mackenzie is 18, just graduated from High school.  She is articulate, insightful, outgoing, an organizer and initiator, can be impatient, has learned to love time on her own to recharge her batteries, loves photography and creating beautiful spaces.  

Clara is 16, going in to her junior year of HS.  She is open, adventuresome, empathetic (intensely), laser focused about things she is excited about, passionate, daring, can be indecisive, loves being at the cabin, and caring for kids on the margins.

Bennett is 12, heading into 7th grade.  He is charming, witty (funny!), thoughtful, talkative, prone to forget to pick up after himself, caring, gregarious, smart, loves lacrosse, skiing, and drumming up fun with his friends.  

2.  People look at your family and see an ideal, but I know parenting hasn’t been without its challenges (just like for anyone).  What have been the dynamics that have been most challenging to you as a mom?

Not so sure about people seeing an ideal in our family, maybe a collection of craziness!! Oh the challenging dynamics…. Lots and lots of personality/opinion/need to voice that opinion–not a quiet one among us which makes for many heated dinner table ‘conversations’ (when we are able to corral the troops), slammed doors, raised (?!!) voices clamoring to be heard; having two girls close in age–tons of comparison/feeling they ‘fall short’ vs. the other who ‘has it all’; having a home with tight quarters that can feed the intensity.

3.  What are the resources that have been most helpful?

Partnership. Being married to someone (Jeff :)) who ‘gets it’ (the emotional dynamics) and is willing and wants to talk things through, be intentional, roll up his sleeves and do it together.  

Friends. Spending time with/sharing in a vulnerable, authentic way with friends who are in the same life stage–getting past our well kept homes and conversation about our jobs and kids’ schedules and into the nitty gritty…gives us the sense (Truth) that we are not alone. 

Spiritual Disciplines. Being willing to do the hard work of taking care of myself (therapy, forced rest, time alone, capturing early morning as my Sacred time.)

Most “parenting” books have been the WORST thing for me (Ahhcckk!  We aren’t doing allowance/chore chart/family devotions/serving together/fill-in-the-blank well/consistently/at all!!)

Like Dew Your Youth: Growing up with Your Teenager by Eugene Peterson is the only book resource specifically about parenting that I would stand firmly behind.  I picked this book up off a shelf at a house where we were staying a few years ago because I didn’t get the title (it’s a reference to a psalm-something about how dew is fleeting, so is adolescence, etc.) and have read it over and over.  The premise is that going through the stage of having adolescents is about something WE, as parents, need in order to refine us and humble us and bring us back to a place of dependence on God.  Seriously.

4.  What have you learned about yourself and God in the process of walking alongside your kids through hard circumstances?

About myself: I am vulnerable to self-condemnation; I am prone to panic and try to do rather then pause and pray for strength and wisdom; I need my support crew–they don’t just need me; I am good at listening to my kids; I do not have answers/solutions/programs that work or stick or last, so it’s best to not put too much stock in those.

About God: He is near-even in the middle of the night when the overwhelm can be most intense-especially in His Words in the Psalms; He is shaping all 5 of us all the time–we are all in process; light does come again after dark, spring after winter– He carries us THROUGH things.

5.  What advice would you give parents of teens?

Trust that God is at work and will finish what He has started.  And know that, at the end of the day, you are loved and that doing the best you can (which is often not that great) is enough–He fills in the gaps.

Older posts

© 2018 Laura Crosby

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑