Category: Uncategorized (page 2 of 17)

Dear Friends

Dear Friends,

It is a stormy, gray day here. The pool is closed for the season, and most of our kids are starting school today. The tops of the trees are already tinged crimson.

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There is such a cornucopia of all the feels.

Grief at the end of a glorious summer…

Good bye to some of the rhythms and relationships that come with vacation, lake time, and outdoor sports…

The excitement and uncertainty that comes with new beginnings and new locker combinations.

Maybe even more than January 1st, September marks a BEGINNING.

We’re inside more, and more dependent on information – the weather report, full email in-boxes, school forms to sign, volunteer requests, schedules to keep straight, more meetings, the up-coming election, the WORLD situation for Pete’s sake!

September can feel like JUST. TOO. MUCH.

So, two quick thoughts and then you can go drink a Pumpkin Spice Latte.

You know I’ve been on a bit of a sabbatical from the blog this summer. You’ve been kind to encourage me and inquire when it will be over. It’s been good, and the Lord has prompted me to work on some other writing projects that I’m both excited and scared about.

As I’ve prayed about this space and whether/how to continue, the one thing I’ve been concerned about is clogging your in-box with anything that’s not a value add to your life. We are overwhelmed with so many good resources! So I’m going to be more careful. I will post less, and try some shorter posts (We’ll see how that goes!) but I pray God will use what He gives me to send you for His purposes and that you will be encouraged.

My friend James preached at our church this past weekend. In his message he shared the irony that the statue of Atlas holding the world, outside of the Rockefeller Plaza in midtown Manhattan is across the street from St. Patrick’s Cathedral. In the cathedral is a statue of Jesus as a boy, holding the world in His hand.

So this September, in the midst of busyness, take a deep breath and remember, Jesus holds the world. You don’t have to.

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The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength; indeed, the world is established, firm and secure. Psalm 93:1

The Other “F Word”

Good Morning! I’m taking a little sabbatical this summer, and thought maybe with all tragedies in the world, and “other” bashing, I’d repost a series from several years ago. I pray you are having  a delightful summer and regardless of your circumstances you’re finding ways to make it more than “fine”.

One afternoon when Katy was in kindergarten she got off the bus and informed me that she had learned “the f-word.”

“Fart.”

She later told us she had also learned the “sh-word”

“Shut up.”

Honestly, in our family the real “f-word” isn’t fart.  And it isn’t another word that might come to mind.

It’s “fine”.

To my mind, “fine” may be the most terrible word in the english language.  And words matter as my friend Sharon always reminds me.

Continue reading

Not My Thing

All of us have some “my things” and some “not my thing’s”. We all have stuff that in the Christian faith we call “gifts” – areas where the Holy Spirit has given us an extra oomph. Call it spiritual special sauce.

Hospitality, communication, encouragement. Those might be my things.

Counseling is not my thing. At. All.

In our family we like to say that somehow not one of us got the mercy gene.

Flat tire? So sorry. Buck up and carry on soldier.

Dog died? Sucks to be you.

Flunked a test? Your problems are so real.

Ok, maybe it’s not quite that bad, but almost.

The thing is, even if something is not our thing, Jesus still wants us to step up. We may not major in the areas of our weakness. We may call in folks who do have that thing for the heavy lifting, but we’re still called to learn and grow.

When someone comes to me with a problem, I can’t just say, “So Sorry. That requires mercy and counseling. Not my gift! Buh-bye now.”

We may not all be Mother Theresa, but our Jesus says mercy is always called for. Mercy isn’t just for people who think it’s “their thing”.

So I try really hard to pay attention. I have so much to learn from people who have the gifts that I don’t.

And God has a way of coaching us in the areas where we want to say “Not my thing!” 

I became a little more compassionate when God allowed me to experience deep pain, and loss.

I became a little bit better listener when God sent others to listen long to me, absorbing my tears.

But I still don’t have the gift of counseling (or administration, or helps, or wisdom, or…)

I wrote recently that John and I spoke on baggage in relationships and it seemed to strike a chord with a lot of hurting people. There was a lot of heavy baggage that they wanted to share with me.

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As people poured their hearts out I wanted to yell “9ll! Where is Rich Phenow (the most gifted counseling pastor I know)??!”

But here’s the deal…In those moments that aren’t your thing, you do what you can, and you get help.

I’m learning how to listen deeply. I’m learning how to be present to God and the other in the moment. I’m learning how to validate the experience of others and affirm their good choices, so that’s what I try to do.

But then I say, “You are facing huge challenges that I can’t begin to totally understand. I have some friends who are really kind and brilliant at untangling stuff like this. They have the gift of counseling. They would love to help if you’re open to that.”

That’s why Jesus gave us to each other. Together we’ve got our things and not our things covered.

Which means together we can do hard things.

What’s not your thing? What is God teaching you in that area? 

 

 

Judging the Woman in the Photo and the One in the Mirror

I look at the photo next to a post I’m reading online, and immediately my mind goes to critique like an East German figure skating judge in the 1980 Olympics.

Wow, look at those huge bags under her eyes!

She definitely shouldn’t have worn brightly patterned leggings at her age and size. 

That lipstick clashes with her red hair. 

Score: 3.2/10

Judgy Mcjudgerson.

And then I look into her eyes. And there I see the hope and uncertainty of all of us.

Her eyes say,

“This feels vulnerable and I really want you to like me.”

“I know I have bags under my eyes and I’ve tried everything to change that. I talk to God daily about accepting my looks.”

“I tried on five outfits before landing on this one, wanting to look fashionable and camouflage my hips, but not appear like I’m trying too hard.”

The details are different, but her eyes say she has the same conversations with herself that I have with myself.

It’s difficult for me to look at videos or pictures of myself.

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And I’m reminded once again…

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” Wendy Mass

Jesus looks at the woman in the picture and says “You are fearfully and wonderfully made by Me. You are my beloved daughter, beautiful just as you are. Score: Infinity.”

The woman I don’t know in the photo is longing to be loved and accepted just like the one I see in my mirror. Just like you.

We’re all doing our best. Be gentle.

For Days When you Feel Anxious, Scared, or Overwhelmed, Part 1

The winter stretches out before us here in Minnesota – long, gray, and frozen.

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The other day I stopped by to visit a young friend who’s in a dark time, a very wintery time.

She feels overwhelmed, and anxious, “not enough”, and scared.

Everything feels so hard and she’s tempted to look at all the sparkly, easy-breezy lives on Facebook and despair that she alone is struggling to adapt to a new season.

I know this feeling. I’ve been there.

It’s in these vulnerable times that I picture Satan chuckling with glee.

What are some of the lies the Enemy wants us to believe when life’s hard? Continue reading

Everyday Grace and the Fingerprints of God

Daughters Katy and Maggie and son-in-law Austin have gone back to the coasts – D.C. and San Francisco.

It finally snowed here in Minnesota (righting a cosmic wrong).

Christmas is over and I’m feeling the let-down. I’m sitting by the fire in our kitchen at dusk with a cup of hot chocolate as I write this.  Maggie insists I call it hot chocolate instead of cocoa.  No idea why.

The Christmas decorations are packed away til next year.  Ornaments made with chubby hands and glue of love.  Unusual baubles brought from far flung places.  Decorations marking special times.

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As I pack up Christmas I feel so conflicted…

I love and hate this time of year.

I hate it that it’s the end of my favorite season.  The end of twinkle lights and anticipation, shining stars and awe-struck shepherds.  Putting things away is such a mark of endings, while Jesus is the celebration of new beginnings that I love.

Jesus.  Every-day grace and fresh starts.  Every day.  Not just at Christmas and not just at New Years.

As I’m taking down decorations and wrapping up the creche I get to thinking there’s really no way to pack Jesus away.

I think of this Frederick Buechner quote: Continue reading

For A Hurting World on Christmas Eve

This morning I sit in Starbucks with Faith Hill singing Silent Night in my ear. This Christmas Eve morning while it’s still dark, before the family wakes and the hustle starts, I think of my sister-in-law without David for the first Christmas.

I think of my friend whose due date was two days ago, still waiting for her new baby to arrive.

I think of the dying woman who I visited in the hospital yesterday afternoon, just a couple of hours before she fell into the arms of Jesus.

I think of friends, barren, longing for new life, and those with prodigals, waiting for them to come home.

I think of Syria and refugees and Isis and friends serving in hard places like Palestine and Iraq.

I think of family and friends gathered around our table this week – the loud laughter and joy and thanksgiving, but also the brokenness that lurks beneath the surface.

We all have our stuff, right? We’re all so desperately in need of restoration and redemption and relationships being set right.

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And so, tonight, the rescue mission begins, for all of us longing and lost, hurting and hopeful. Love arrives like the allies landing in Normandy. Not really, but only in the sense that we know how the story ends. The battle against pain and evil, loss and brokenness will be won.

Help is here.

God enters in.

Love wins.

The world will be set right.

This Christmas we rejoice in the now, but long for the not yet. And Jesus takes our hand and says, “In me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (Jn. 16:33)

And I hear a father whispering to his fretful baby, “It’s ok. It’s gonna be ok. I’m right here. I’ve got this. It’s gonna be ok.”

Merry Christmas, friends.

How do we Live a Plan B Christmas?

Last week I had the privilege of speaking at a women’s event in the Chicago area. As I prepared, I felt prompted to speak on kind of a strange topic for Christmas: Fear.

AKA worry, anxiety, angst, hot messiness…

The shepherds, Mary, Joseph, Zechariah… To each of them an angel says, “Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid. Don’t. be. afraid.”

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It’s the most often repeated command in the Bible so I’m thinking there must be a lot of people dealing with it, right?

Fear is a weird emotion to associate with Christmas, but as I reflect on the shepherds, Mary, Zechariah and Joseph, it isn’t “CHRISTMAS” they are experiencing; it’s just LIFE – their ordinary, everyday walking around life.

And they lose any illusion of control, any illusion of “life as we know it” the moment an angel shows up, right?!!

LIFE isn’t going according to their plans.

They are living a life interrupted.

They are forced to adapt to a Plan B life.

The Plan B life may not be as safe, or predictable, or comfortable, or boring as they’d like, because there are new circumstances. But more than that, there’s a new character in their story. The main character has arrived; the messiah cleverly disguised as a baby in the muck and mess of a manger.

How many of us are living our Plan A life? Really.

  • You thought you’d have your dream job by now and you don’t.
  • You thought you’d be pregnant and you’re not.
  • You thought you’d he’d live and but he died.
  • You thought you’d be married by now and you’re not.

Plan B. Life is not going as we thought. Or hoped. Or dreamed.

But the main character, a baby has entered our Plan B life to be with us; to redeem and restore and make the story come out right in the end. 

Aaaannnd…spoiler alert: Love wins.

But how do we get from the fear or anxiety that comes with Plan B to the joy promised to all of us? Continue reading

What to do When You Don’t Know What to Do

I’m trying to get my feet back on the ground after a stretching season, so today, a re-post from 4 years ago. 

I ran into a 23-year-old friend the other day and asked how she was doing. “Being in your twenties is…awkward!” she answered.  “All these questions about what you’re going to do with your life…who you’ll be, where you’ll go…what to say ‘yes’ to.”

That same day I had coffee with a fifty-something friend who said her son is wrestling with some of the same unsettledness, and she herself is in a time of transition that has raised questions about God’s direction.  She said, “I thought by this age I’d have it figured out and be cruising along!”

24 hours earlier I had had dinner with a thirty-something friend who said, “My life looks a lot different now than I thought it would.”

Each person’s situation was different, but there was a common theme.  If I were God (a job that’s apparently already taken) I’d give detailed instructions like:

“Susan, I want you to move to 673 Elm St., Provo Utah,  join the Church-of-People-on-the-Right-Track, take the job with State Farm, (not General Mills), and order the tomato soup at Panera for lunch.”

And sometimes in the Bible God does that, like when God gives Ananias specific instructions (Acts 9:11) to go to the house of Judas on the street called Straight, (Love it!), but often it’s a bit fuzzier, like in Acts 15:28 where Paul writes, “It seemed good to us and the Holy Spirit…”

When I’m in seasons of discernment and transition, the three words that I feel like God often whispers to me are “Open your hands”

  • Open your hands…to release your plans in favor of God’s. Acknowledge your dreams, but don’t clutch them.  Release them to God to change, add, refine…
  • Open  your hands…to receive counsel from wise advisors who know you well, but don’t clutch it either.
  • Open your hands…to use what God has put in them, whether that seems like saying “yes” to dramatic invitations, or something that seems very small and quiet.  Respond to what God has put right in front of you.

That’s just me.  What has been helpful to you when making life decisions?  What have you sensed God whispering to you?

Why I Love Instagram

I’m pretty cynical about social media these days. Facebook and Twitter, I’ll throw you a bone now and then, but you really make me tired.  But Instagram??? LOVE!*

I love Instagram because…

  • It helps me be pay attention to God’s everyday graces.
  • It is positive, and uplifting. No one is bashing anyone on Instagram.
  • It is a creative outlet. It gives space to communicate what we’re making, the environments that are moving us, and the relationships we value.
  • It’s visual and I’m visual.

For me, Twitter is mostly information sharing. Facebook is where I post links to the blog and try to affirm others, but Instagram feels like a smaller, more personal, more inspiring world.

I’m really picky about who/what I follow on Instagram. If you put up all pictures of your kids, friends, or family, I figure I’ll see them on Facebook.

But if you want some suggestions of feeds l like, check these out:

1. benjaminhole – the ebb and flow of farming life on the Isle of Purbeck, England

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2. wranglertoday – the Today Show’s puppy with a purpose. These pictures chronicle Wrangler’s journey to becoming a guide dog.

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3. earthpix – amazing pictures of places, people, animals, and nature

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4. thedailyst – The Daily Saint – “By saints I meant people who behaved decently in a strikingly indecent society.” These are pictures of people doing random acts of kindness.

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5. bobgoff – uplifting words and pictures from the indomitable Bob Goff, author of Love Does.

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6. usinterior – beautiful pictures from state and national parks

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What Instagram feeds do YOU like that I should check out??

*If ANY form of social media feels like too much to you and you just don’t want to go there, I get it! Good for you if this is a healthy boundary…one thing you want to say “no” to.

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