Saturday, March 31, 2012

I sometimes eavesdrop

I wasn't going to write tonight.

But I sometimes eavesdrop and I had to get this on paper. For them. For when they are older, and for when they've forgotten they were once best friends.

I let my daughter have a sleepover in my son's room tonight, knowing they would love the change-up, and knowing it was okay if everyone got to sleep a little later than usual from chatting.

Right before I left the room, I could hear that it had started to rain, and I cracked their window so that they could smell and listen to the rain while they fell asleep.

But long after I had tucked them in and headed downstairs, I heard singing. So I crept up the steps and sat next to the bedroom door. My son was just finishing a chorus of Black Jack Baby, the song I've sung him for years now. And then the most precious conversation ensued:

him: When you're all grown up, where are you gonna live? Tell me a location and a state. Like...the beach, or the countryside....

her: (after a thoughtful pause) Either Hawaii at the beach, or California at the beach.

him: Well, I'd choose California, but not Hawaii because of the volcanoes.

her: There aren't any volcanoes in Hawaii.

him: Yes there are.

her: Well they're not erupted. That was thousands of years ago and they can't erupt again.

him: (long pause) I like it when you're in here with me. (another long pause) You make me feel comfortable.

her: (thoughtful) Comfortable.

him: Yeah, when you're around me. (long pause) I'm going to start sleeping now, okay?

her: Me too. (long pause, and sleepily) The pitter-patter is like a lullaby.

I want them to stay exactly this way forever and ever. And I know they won't, which I why I had to write it. Just a bit of stopped time right here, on this screen.

That's all I really wanted to say.

Good night, friends.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

My Didn't-Do list

Here's me sitting in total darkness sipping green tea on my couch. I've been sick for three days. Just a cold, but still annoying. What's not annoying is silence and darkness and tea.

So in my most casual post ever, this is where I'm at. Right now.

I like to make to-do lists and check off all the boxes. If I handwrite one, I put a dash before every item. Then, once I do the thing, I put a vertical line through the dash so it ends up like a plus mark. That's how I know what has been done and what hasn't. It's a system.

Well, systems are not working so well lately. And since I am just too far behind, I thought I'd share my Didn't-Do list.

- take down the string of red heart doilies in the kitchen

- change the shamrock placemats to Easter ones

- plant our Easter Garden

- get out the Resurrection eggs so that my kids can be learning about the real meaning of Easter

- do anything related to Lent. anything at all.

- sweep my porch

- vacuum my carpet (which is not entirely my fault. in the garage, we found a chrysalis hanging from the cord. something is having an awesome metamorphosis in that thing, and I will have gross carpet covered in crumbs and craft bits until that thing emerges, so help me God.)

- get any spring flowers from Trader Joes to put in all the cute vases I have around here

- read blogs

- make Easter baskets for my kids

- report to the HOA how some bad person stole all the gasoline out of my husband's car the other night! (yes they did. it was parked in our driveway. how shocking is that, btw?) 

- have healthy boundaries with members of the PTA asking for my participation next year

And ughhh, this is getting depressing. I am drowning in unfinished business, undone chores, and didn't-do lists like never before.

But guess what. When I talked to God about it last weekend, He said NBD. Yes, He may have stolen that from Julie. But nonetheless, He said it. "No big deal." He was like, "Really? Are those things all that important right now? Is it the end of the world if you get take-out a couple extra times, decorate for Easter next year, and have a porch littered with leaves? Why not get us both out of the box you have us in, and LET IT GO."

I said, "Hmm. Okay."

So basically, the summary of this post is to say that I'm at peace with my chaos right now and even my house's lack of Easter cuteness. It's not totally easy to let go of traditions and certain kinds of order, two things I love. I won't lie. But what is easy is opening my mind up to the fact that God can surprise me with who He is. He hates boxes. As soon as I put Him in one - like the "He wants me to do these 10 things to prepare myself and my family for Easter" box, He crushes it and says, "Now what?"

I like that kind of challenge. I like learning new things about God. And most of all, I like it when He offers me freedom when I need it most. He unburdened me this week. Thanks God.     

Have a great weekend. If you come to my house, just don't expect to be invited in.
Well, until the thing in the chrysalis hatches.
I don't even think they call it "hatching," do they?


Grace on a Thursday: in the 'even thoughs'

At the retreat I went on last weekend, we studied Habakkuk. I guess I've never really read Habakkuk for what it is. Or maybe God hadn't opened the eyes of my heart to its meaning until this weekend. Regardless, it's quite the powerful book for only three chapters, filling about two pages of my Bible. It met me right where I am. {Don't you love it when God does that?}

Here's the outline. Habakkuk is the prophet to the people of Israel who have turned their backs on God and are involved in all kinds of wrong ways. He pleads to God, asking how long He will wait to answer his prayers for revival. He complains,

"How long, oh Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen." (1:1)

God answers (in my summary), "Oh, did you think I wasn't paying attention? Well I am. And guess what. My response is not what you're expecting. Instead, I'm going to allow the most brutal nation on earth to bring war on you guys. That is what I'll use to discipline my children and bring them back to me."

Habakkuk is one emotional guy. I love him for that. With beautiful candor, he complains again to God, saying, basically, "Seriously? Seriously, God. THAT is your plan? That sounds really, really not like what I'd do." In my Bible, the heading actually says, "Habakkuk's Second Complaint."

But then. There is this beautiful verse. Habakkuk says:

"I will stand at my watch, and station myself on the ramparts;
I will look to see what he will say to me." (2:1)

He pulls himself up out of this pit of complaining and despair and weariness from the Lord's silence in his life. He goes up, lifts his eyes to heaven, and he waits, in faith. He watches. And he expects the Lord to act.

In His faithfulness, God answers yet again, and assures Habakkuk that He is indeed just. That His discipline does not last forever, and that the evildoers will be repaid for their pride and violence against Israel. His last statement seems to say, "Remember who you're talking to, here."

"But the Lord Almighty is in his holy temple;
let all the earth be silent before him." (2:20)

Yet the bad news hasn't changed. Destruction will come. That's God's choice. It is here that Habakkuk offers a final prayer, which is all of chapter three. He spends almost all of it listing out the past, ways God has shown faithfulness to Israel. He is showing us the power of remembering God's goodness in our lives when we are in tough times. He writes it all down. I get the sense that he feels better for a bit, while recalling God's mighty acts on behalf of His people.

And at the end, Habakkuk gets back to the current reality. The land and the people will be devastated. It is a sobering truth. Read the last three verses of the entire book: 

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
The Sovereign Lord is my strength!
He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
able to tread upon the heights. (

His attitude is absolute grace. Nothing else could allow him to rejoice and find such strength in the Lord than God's grace buoying him up in light of the challenging season to come.

I have to ask myself, "What are MY 'even thoughs'?" Where am I still down in the pit of complaining over areas in my life that I did not expect? What are the areas of devastation that may indeed be allowed by the hand of God for a good reason?

Where might I turn these disappointments into opportunities to rejoice, even when there is not yet light at the end of the tunnel?

Which are your 'even thoughs'? I'm sure many of us will face each of these at some point.

Even though my husband lost his job...
Even though we haven't been able to conceive...
Even though my parents are gone...
Even though my friend betrayed me...
Even though my marriage is broken...
Even though I'm sick...
Even though I can't seem to hear God's voice...
Even though I've made horrible mistakes...

Can you answer like Habakkuk? Yet I will rejoice in the Lord?

I'm trying. I really am.

Because the sovereign Lord is my strength. In His grace, He makes my feet like the deer's, and helps me go up to my high places.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Little Fractures

Most of us know how to respond to the messages our bodies send us. If we get sick, we treat the sickness. If we are in pain, we see a doctor. If something stops working, we ask questions and seek help.
Tonight I reflected on how much less proficient we are at responding to the messages our souls send us. We do not quickly take our hurts to the Healer. We manage. And our busy lives leave little room for that soul care to even be a priority.
That’s the thing about going on a Retreat, like the one I went on this weekend. Every time I go on one, I am reminded of what is so easy to forget: time and space away make room for our hearts to be brought out up onto the examination table in a unique way. It’s not unlike getting an x-ray. You simply get a better picture of what’s going on in there.

When my son was two years old, he broke his leg. I had no idea it was broken, just that he was screaming and wouldn’t stand on it. But he was two, so he screamed regularly. I thought maybe he twisted or sprained his ankle, or even that he was just mad because he and his sister had been wrestling. There was no dramatic fall or obvious impact. I soon recognized he needed a medical assessment and so I took him to the ER.
His cries told me something was wrong, but we didn’t know exactly what until the x-ray.  He had two spiral fractures on his tibia bone, near the bottom. It was very clear, very specific. Because of the picture revealing the little fractures in front of our eyes, there was no arguing the problem, so there was no arguing how it was to be treated.
Now, I think of myself as relatively self-aware. You know I live there, in the analytical realm regularly making it a practice to sort through my issues. I don’t feel like I’m often content to “manage” despite my hurts or my questions. I try to bring it all out before the Lord.
But the magical mixture of time and space away from my responsibilities provided that x-ray of my heart, and revealed the little fractures. Hairline heartbreaks, areas of discouragement and weariness, and a core, desperate longing for my Healer showed up on that film. I suppose I felt their discomfort all along. But we, especially as women, forge ahead in the day-to-day, knowing others require our best energies and prayers. We too often don’t respond to the quiet aches of our souls.
I left out one thing, one very necessary component to being able to receive this heart x-ray in the first place and that is showing up for the appointment. I went to that retreat. I paid money, arranged childcare, said ‘no’ to a few things, packed a bunch of stuff, and then got there. And when I walked in that opening session Friday night temped to feel distracted by thoughts of home, I prayed for God to help me trust Him with the rest of my family so that I could enjoy the time with Him. I prayed for Him to help me let go of them and all my concerns so that in those open hands, I could receive something from Him.
And the first thing He did was hand me that x-ray, showed me what we have to work with. Because once I saw the problems, there was no arguing the treatment. My Healer is ready to repair every fracture with his love.

I know that literally going away for a weekend is not a possibility for everyone. But if it is, if your church offers this kind of thing, go. Really. Of course, a retreat is not the only way to give the Lord time and space in your life. I’m not talking about a thirty minute quiet time, although that kind of time with Him is so important for our daily soul vitality. It needs to be a longer chunk of uninterrupted time for Him to assess the underlying conditions you wouldn’t otherwise see.
You cannot show up as a spectator in any doctor’s appointment, and it is the same with the Lord. I observed some women who, through their comments, seemed to come to the retreat for entertainment, or social time. I'm not going to say that is the worst thing ever. But for me, I don't need another social time. I need some serious doses of love, peace, and hope. In order to get that assessment from the Lord, we must be genuinely interested in our soul’s health, and also genuinely trusting in the ultimate Healer.
Time, space, and open hands that lay aside all distractions and ask Him for that heart x-ray is a formula for deep healing to begin. And guess what, I didn’t even know what I truly needed. I had grown comfortable with my tiny fractures below the surface. But God knew, and He made a way for me to be there, even when the trip seemed challenging to pull off.
Isaiah 30:15 is a devastating message God speaks to his people:
“For thus says the Lord God, the Holy one of Israel,
In returning and rest you shall be saved,
in quietness and trust shall be your strength.
But you were unwilling.”

When we are ill, we do not just go to a doctor. We return to him or her, the one who has the record of our health. God is calling us to return to Him, not just once, but regularly, for these kinds of thorough check-ups. Here is my prayer for us both:

Lord, please uproot any unwillingness in my heart to return to you. Help me to be willing to allow you, the greatest Healer to deeply examine my heart. Remove the hindrances, the distractions, and excuses, and make a way for me to find time and space for you to speak to me. You alone know what I need. You are the Lover of my soul.

Have a good week, friends.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Guess what I made collages {Insta-Friday}

As if I need more stuff to keep me on my phone.

I used the PicFrame app to make these fancy collages for Insta-Friday this week. I used the LabelBox app to make the numbers. Don't you feel like I'm just really growing up? Joining the 21st century? Sitting at the cool kids table? I have a little late-night giddy happening, can you tell?

I call this one the Four Faces. Well, Three Faces & A Necklace.

1. The No-Heat Curls and nearly no makeup face. I do this to my hair every week. I'm addicted.

2. My end of the night I'm-so-over-it-and-do-not-cross-me face.

3. My going on a date with my husband face, working the perfect, two-day old no-heat curls. (Also soon to be the pic on my bio for something really really really cool I got invited to participate in.)

4. My favorite piece of jewelry this week, made by Heather Holden (her shop!). YES! It went straight from the mailbox to my neck for 48 hrs. There is a little teeny heart above the typewriter. See it?

I call this Pinewood Derby Day with my little Tiger Cub.

Really sweet time to see my little guy participate in this for the first time. He chose to put #48 on his car. No reason. My dad totally did this with my brother when he was the same age. I remember being there and watching. So awesome how my dad could be here too, to watch his grandson this time.

I call this Four Things That Don't Really Matter.

1. Rest In Peace, favorite custom handmade sandals I got in Capri on our tenth anniversary. You lasted me four awesome summers.

2. Loving this new color! It's called Posh. It's the perfect kelly green.

3. We heart musicals over here. As soon as it started drizzling last Saturday, my daughter suggested we rent it. It's so happy.

4. I just thought Trader Joe's had quite the nerve to step on Nutella's toes like that. So chocolaty and brazen. I bought it just for the sake of controversy. Ok, taste comparison. It's for science, really.

I call this A Really Good Day.

The Reed kids plus mine equal a wild, but oh-so-lovely bunch.
And this lady, well, she was a jet-setter to Paris for what seemed like a long time and I missed her. This beautiful afternoon made up for some lost time. I like it when my bestie and I are on the same continent (BTW, did you read her post on Paris and marriage? It's a good one).

I call this A Really Good Day Part 2.

{I spy with my widdle eye, some kids I really love.}

I hope you had a great week too. I'm off to women's retreat today, so I'll be off the grid this weekend. Hugs.

life rearranged


Grace in a Thursday: for the new mommy, in Sarah's words

Happy Thursday!
Today I'm so proud to host Sarah's words. Sarah is brand new to being a mom of two. It's hard for me to remember how I felt when I had a toddler and a newborn. But I'm fairly certain I was no where NEAR as mature in my faith and even in knowing my own self as Sarah is. If only I'd known all this when I was a new mom. I'm praying that some of you who have new babes find Sarah's encouragement today to be like water for your souls. Thank you so much, Sarah, for sharing your wise words on grace for the new mom. 
{and thanks for bringing some midwest flair to my blog right in the first sentence!}

Hey yall, I'm Sarah, and I blog at Racing Towards Joy.
Super honored that Leslie asked me to share here;
she's someone I have looked up to for a while now, here in this bloggy world.

Adjustment to mommyhood was hands down one of the hardest things I have been through.
It rocked my world to say the least.
And not because I didn't want to be a mommy, or because my life was entirely different beforehand (I worked with kids)...but because it's just hard, plain and simple.
{and its rocking my world yet again as I recently became a mama of 2!}


I just had NO idea the amount of self-sacrifice that would be involved.
The amount of time required, the sleepless nights, the never-ending feedings on my
never-healing boobs, the change it brought to friendships, and even to our marriage...
all because of a tiny little person.

Even just this morning at about 4:00 AM, sweet Bethany would not go back to sleep and I was exhausted, having just been up with her at 2:30 to nurse,
preceded by a long, colic-filled evening.
I felt my armpits start sweating and my tears welling up as I looked at this bitty face and said "Pleeeeeease go back to sleep!"
It seemed to almost trigger things to be worse, and she started crying.
I really started sweating, hoping she would not wake Abigail, my 2 year old.

Then I stopped.
It's like something hit me out of nowhere and whispered "just pray" right into my soul.
So I prayed not just for Bethany, but for myself...
that God would give me the GRACE to get through this,
the ABILITY and PEACE to deal with it.


And He did, and He does.

I love those moments when I actually stop and remember the grace that is at my fingertips.
{What am I even doing not walking in that ALL the time??}

Being a mommy, especially a new mommy (to your first, or to another one), allows PLENTY of opportunity to ask for grace, for help, for supernatural ability to do something that you cannot do yourself.

To me, grace involves more than just the salvation gift given at the Cross.
It is a gift of supernatural ability and strength...
because of HIS desires for us to live this life He gave us.
It is the "I'll-get-you-through-this-two-year-old-tantrum" gift He gives in the middle of the grocery store.
And the "Don't-worry-I'll-give-you-energy-tomorrow-morning" gift, after being up all night.
It's the PEACE that comes in knowing I CAN'T do it on my own,
if that makes sense.


So trust me, all you new mommies or about-to-be mommies...
you CAN'T do this alone.
His grace is needed, and it IS sufficient for all of it.

Let's do this thing together, live life together, share our grace-needing and grace-fulfilled moments together.
I'm here for you as a fellow mommy.
Please know I'm rooting for you today, friend.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The post where I use technology to bash it. A little.

It's ironic.
I know.

We love technology for lots of reasons. I'm a little embarrassed to tell you that the other day, I was wishing someone would start a linky for, like, app of the month. Because I already thought about what I'd link up with. First, this iPhone app called Paperless, which is for chronic list-makers like me. Second would be Tea Map. Be excited with me: here is an app that will tell you where all the tea houses in your area are. Wherever you are. And you may not know how much I love to go to tea. Except now maybe you know, since I'd actually write about the tea house app. By the way, app didn't used to be a word. I bet it's not an approved word in WWF, my acronym for my favorite game on my phone, Words With Friends. I know. This paragraph is ridiculous.

Moving on. In Bible study this morning, Beth Moore was kindly reminding me (in her Stepping Up study) that since we are in what the Bible refers to as the period of time called the "last days," and since the Bible also says that our Enemy will fight extra gnarly against us (I think that's the exact translation) in the last days "because he knows his time is short," that a primary way we will be defeated is by being isolated and discouraged.

How often do you feel lonely and discouraged?

For me, I'd say often. Not always. Not rarely.


Bethie made a good point. That loneliness and discouragement are on the rise because our culture places an increasingly high value on independence. Mix that with our growing dependence on technology, and we will quickly trade down for superficiality in our relationships. We text because we don't want to have a long phone conversation and then wonder why we feel lonely.

Today I caught myself having a serious "conversation" with my husband via text messages. In the middle of it, I thought, "WHAT am I doing? This convenience is for an efficient exchange of information. Not for sorting through a recent misunderstanding with my spouse!" I can't see his face, hear his tone, have his full was a serious lapse of judgement on our parts to try to discuss a heart-sensitive matter via texting. And I started it.

I could make the excuse that we don't have enough time together this week to talk through everything. I could say it's just because we are passing each other in the night without so much as ten minutes of time to chat. But the solution is not upping the emails and texts. Those can help, a little. However, the problem isn't literally a lack of words between us. The problem is that our relationship can become too low a priority. And that is something technology cannot fix.

It seems too many of us are starved for intimacy. Starved for deep friendship. Starved for being heard and seen and truly understood. Relationships require regular doses of time. Eye contact. Patience. And work. I have to ask myself how much I am at fault for allowing any superficiality to creep into my relationships.

I Peter 4:8 says to love each other deeply.

Hebrews 10:24-25 says don't neglect to meet together, and don't forget to encourage one another.

Our spouses, friends, parents, and children are gifts to us, relationships with which God has surrounded us for good reasons. I am ashamed at how I often reduce these relationships to things I can manage with my phone. Loving deeply is a high calling and I want to answer it. In person.

God would never limit the number of characters we could speak to Him. And thank goodness we can't text Him. It's a scary thought, but we'd do it. Maybe that's why Jesus chose to come onto the scene way back when, before all this stuff complicated things. He knew his hashtags would be super cheesy anyway.


Hey. Take someone to coffee this week. Ask them how they're doing. Be persistent, if he or she is out of practice with being vulnerable. Depending on how long he or she has felt lonely and discouraged, you may have to prove that you really, truly care, first.

And then love them deeply.


Monday, March 19, 2012

Facing mountains {an adventure revealed}

This is big.

A few weeks ago, my husband Kevin and I traveled to Bend, Oregon to meet with our friend and director of the Elisha Foundation, Justin Reimer, and his son, Elisha.

TEF is a non-profit organization that supports and serves families of children with disabilities. Eli, for whom the foundation was named, is 15 years old and has Down Syndrome.

We met up with them because, together, we are about to embark on a big adventure.
(some of us more literally than others)

Kevin (right), my man who is so very passionate about the outdoors and particularly mountaineering, is going to be leading a team of twenty people on a trek of a lifetime to the base camp of Mount Everest, at over 18,000 feet in altitude, in order to fund raise for TEF, whose purpose is close to his heart.

We're talking Nepal. An 18,000 foot challenge. 

For families who need help facing the mountain of challenge that is raising a disabled child. 
For disabled children here and overseas who are marginalized by society.
For intentionally bringing the love of Jesus to the least of these. 
One very exciting aspect of the trek is that Justin (left, above) will be joining Kevin's team, and Eli will be trekking alongside his dad (see below).

In Oregon, we spend a day at Mount Bachelor (above), we went snowshoeing, and we worked with an incredible video duo (more about them later) to be able to share this endeavor with you visually.

Watch this.

Each of the 20 trekkers will need to raise a radical $10,000 to benefit The Elisha Foundation.

That's $200,000 total.

Mt. Everest is BIG.

Helping meet the variety of needs in families with disabled children is BIG.

$200,000 is REALLY BIG.

But God is bigger.
In fact, we can't even come close to grasping just how big.

We hope and pray you'll join us in spirit.
We need a prayer covering, and we need financial supporters to make this happen.
We are so humbled to be a part of God's plans to love others
And we are so humbled to be invited to join His adventure.
{If you feel so led, we'd love for you to share this with others via Facebook, Twitter, or blog. Thank you.}


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Mentoring #3 with Casey

{I write a monthly mentoring post for my beautiful friend Casey and her blog Casey Leigh. When she posts the newest one, I post last month's here, just so I have it in my archives. In case you missed Post no. 3 over there in January, here it is. Post no. 4 can be found on her blog here.}

It was nearly ten years ago, but it feels like yesterday. My water broke in the middle of the night, waking me up. I expected what the books told me to expect. Contractions, timing and making sure we were prepared for the hospital trip. Maybe even calling ahead, my husband and I chatting excitedly about what was to come.

But my baby had other plans. She wanted out, and fast. All the reading I'd done flew out the window as my body went into full force labor within fifteen minutes. I couldn't talk as I hunched over in the car in blinding pain. There was no way I could utilize the breathing techniques learned in class. My body knew no rhythm, just an increasing, forceful, and constant constriction folding me over and taking my breath away. When we got to the hospital, I remember a nurse asking me to change into a gown. I whispered, "I can't." I couldn't imagine moving out of my frozen, fetal position on the ER bed.

The intensity never let up. By the time they got me to a delivery room, I was dilated to 7 cm. But more importantly, by this point I was terrified. I didn't know how bad it was going to get, and I already felt completely overwhelmed at what my body was experiencing. I just wanted it to stop. All the staff were shouting orders at me. All kinds of things were being done to my body that just increased my discomfort and fear. So in my panic, I nodded yes to the order for an epidural, hoping it would lessen the pain. It did, of course, and about thirty minutes later, my daughter came into this world. My body still couldn't feel a thing.

That's how life begins. Through pain. And not just a little. Since the beginning of time, pain in childbirth is known to be the worst kind. It's what people use as the extreme point on a scale: "Tell me how much pain you're in on a scale from 1 to 10, 1 being a paper cut and 10 being childbirth." Crazy that God chose to start life through such pain, isn't it? And I don't think the reality of pain ever ceases to haunt us.

I live in a constant state of conflict. Half of me is still very afraid of pain, and tries in every way to create a smooth, comfortable existence for myself. The other half of me desires to live a passionate, adventurous journey with God as my guide. But God is not interested in my comfort as much as He wants to shape my character. Isn't that annoying? You and I both know that people who have endured the worst pain also know the greatest redemption, rescue and healing. They have incredible testimonies. And I want one too.

But I'm no different from when I was in labor. I still feel terrified by how bad things could get. Whenever bad circumstances come my way - fighting with my husband, discipline issues with my child, financial strain, whatever - I just want the hurt to stop. I get totally focused on how to return to my comfort zone. Unfortunately, I also know God could allow such pain to come my way that it folds me over, breathless. I have known it to a degree already, in fact. And what I've learned is that since I can't avoid pain, what I do with it is what matters.

Of course, we want to medicate first, shove that pain way down until we can't feel a thing. And it doesn't just come in bottles. Anything can numb pain. TV, busyness, home improvements...whatever we choose to obsess over in order to block out what hurts. It's super tempting. In fact, it's popular and encouraged. "Oh, everything will be fine! Just come have drinks with us and you'll feel better." Numbing our pain always has its pros and cons. I'm pretty sure I don't want to live any part of my life not feeling.

This verse sticks with me: "Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart."  Psalm 119:116

A testimony is a story of life-change by the power of God. I want a good story to tell that ends in Jesus. If you are a blogger, don't you want the same, a story to share that moves hearts and impacts others for good? I long for one that proclaims His work in my life, His healing, His transforming love. I want to encourage others who may be in the same struggles. And in order to have a testimony like that, in order to live a God-sized adventure, that may mean I encounter pain. So I cannot afford to be afraid.

You cannot afford to be afraid of what may come.
Instead of fear, we need to know and be sure of His presence. We need to wash ourselves in the truth of His word. We need to clearly see the unshakeable rock we as followers of Jesus stand on. We need to set our focus on Him and Him alone because "perfect love casts out all fear". That's His promise. And He has perfect love for us (no one else does). Loads. Try Him. Bring Him your fears and your pain and ask Him to do something about it. To show up for you. To heal you. To strengthen you. He will. (I promise. Because He's crazy about you.) He is so worthy of your trust.

Maybe the reason life begins with so much pain is because God is hinting at something more universal: only by enduring can we eventually behold a miracle.  

Friday, March 16, 2012

Weekend Project: Creating an Easter Garden

Last March, the kids and I started a spring tradition that I absolutely loved.

Planting an Easter Garden was one of my favorite projects of 2011 for a couple reasons. For one, most importantly, it taught my children about the true meaning of Easter. It walked us through the details, cementing truth into their little hearts through the visuals. Second, I actually love that our garden eventually fell into disarray - some plants died, the succulents got messy, and dead leaves covered the surface of our once-dreamy mini garden. I love that this year, we get to recreate it all over again.

But I do want to share with you my original post. The pictures represent it really well, still, and I link to the ones from whom I got the idea in the first place. Please enjoy, and please let me know if you plant an Easter Garden this year. When we recreate ours, I'll be sure to share it with you as well. Now, check out our garden from last spring.

* * *

Last week, I tasted a bit of the holy.

Not often do we get those chances in life. But I tried a project, and it became so much more.

Immeasurably more.

It's shocking that all I did was make one choice to step out. Try something new. A lot of times, my ideas don't work. They don't flesh out like I imagined. People are whining, hungry, get the idea. Not exactly what was pictured on the magazine page where everyone is sitting so...very...still.

But on occasion, an idea becomes out-of-the-blue magical.

On one of my new favorite blogs, Contented Sparrow, I saw this idea for making an Easter Garden. Lo and behold, Megan lifted it from my favoritest Ann at A Holy Experience and this post from 2009. Ann called it a visual parable. I was mesmerized.

And my giant giant giant pot was empty.

After school pickup, we drove straight to the garden store. It was sprinkling, but under the umbrella, I had two helpers fluttering with excitement about making our garden. Everyone got to choose some miniature plants. Everyone anticipated the planting of something special.

Creating with hands in fresh soil brought focus, life coursing through little plants brought gentleness. Even the rock path was laid carefully.

Truth-planting and life planting all at once. All life hinging on truth. Life sustained by the very breath of truth.

"I am the way, the truth, and the life."  
John 14:6

At first it seems that the way leads to emptiness. A tomb lies hungry for death. A prickly cactus at the end of the path reminds us of pain, the so very great cost.

But water in our pond reflects hope. 
“If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”  John 4:10

The garden awaits.

On Palm Sunday, we'll read the greatest story every told, we'll light candles along the rock path, and wait for Him, eager and burdened with a debt we cannot pay.

On Good Friday, the candles will not be lit.  We'll read about the darkness and the earthquake. And His words.

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Luke 23:34

Jesus will be wrapped in a cloth and laid in the tomb. Men will stand guard, as if they could contain Life. Saturday too the path stays dark.

But Sunday, Easter Sunday, now that day makes all the difference.

The stone will be rolled away.

The cloth will lie vacant.

And we will celebrate freedom.

Looking at our Easter Garden every day as I walk past makes me long for Him. The empty scene is merely a reminder of my empty condition without Him. But a promise is also rooting deep.

For the next month, we'll watch the thyme and succulents grow, and feel the promise of Life swell within our hearts.

"For God loved the world so much that He gave..."
John 3:16

ADDED: To see what happened in our Easter Garden one month later, on Good Friday 2011, click here.

sharing here and here today


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Grace on a Thursday: in my husband's words (mostly)

{This post is the first of a few where I share something BIG that is going on in our lives at the moment. My husband has courageously stepped out in faith to do something that I swear only he and God together would ever even think of. On Monday, I'll be able to share about this adventure in full. This cute picture of us was taken on a recent trip. It too was an important piece of what's been going on. But for today, I wanted you to hear his heart. I'm in awe of the way God is writing his story right now. There is so much grace throughout it. Please show Kevin some love, friends - but not too much 'cause he's mine.}

Learning Grace for the Least of These

I grew up with a neighbor who was mentally disabled. To tell you the truth, for most of that time I didn’t really see him beyond his disability. And I think a lot of people respond to disability that way. It’s uncomfortable to see someone struggle with something that comes naturally to you. When we connect with someone, we have a tendency to look for common ground with him or her. So I guess you could say that for a long time, I sort of unintentionally marginalized him in light of his limitations.

When I got older and more serious about my faith, probably just after high school, I started befriending him. We made a plan that on the first Sunday of every month, we’d go to church and then we’d go to Tim Tom’s for burgers. Sometimes I’d feel embarrassed because at church, he’d always want to sit near the front. He couldn’t carry a tune at all, but was by far the loudest singer.

After lunch, it was our tradition to go to the swap meet. My friend and I would walk around the entire place, but he would be most excited about the guy who sold pencils. The vendor sold not just regular #2 pencils, but a wide variety of pencils with colorful designs. They were ten for a dollar, and my friend would spend a ton of time choosing the perfect ones.

It was during those afternoons that I started seeing him not for his obvious disability but for his incredible heart. He found pure joy in the simplest of things. It was during those afternoons that I started to see ways that I was far more disabled than he.

That was twenty years ago. But for some reason, recently, God brought these memories back to me in a powerful way. He reminded me that he has inclined my heart to the disabled, and wants to use that.

So I’ve embarked on a big adventure. There are God-sized goals and plans in place. Leslie and I recently went on a trip to Oregon to develop these plans further and to help make a video that communicates the heart of these plans. On Monday, Leslie will share it all with you in full. We are humbled and excited about what God will do to multiply our efforts, and we know many disabled children and their families will be changed, supported, and loved through them. Grace is always and first for the least of these.

I’ll close with an excerpt from Wrestling With an Angel: A Story of Love, Disability and the Lessons of Grace by Greg Lucas. Mr. Lucas is a father of a special needs child.

I hear religious-minded people say all the time with good intentions, “God will never place a burden on you so heavy that you cannot carry it.”


My experience is that God will place a burden on you so heavy that you cannot possibly carry it alone. He will break your back and your will. He will buckle your legs until you fall flat beneath the crushing weight of your load. All the while He will walk beside you waiting for you to come to the point where you must depend on Him.

“My power is made perfect in your weakness,” He says, as we strain under our burden.

Whatever the burden, it might indeed get worse, but I know this—God is faithful. And while we change and get old, He does not. When we get weaker, He remains strong. And in our weakness and humility, He offers us true, lasting, transforming, and undeserved grace.

It is this grace that enables us to do more than survive in this world. Grace enables us to thrive in the presence of this world’s sufferings while magnifying the One who breaks us with affliction—that He might equip us with comfort, compassion, and strength to give to others.