Mommy War

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My mom, Donna, at work circa 1977.

If you want to talk about a BA (bad ass) mom, look at that lady up there.  Single mom, check.  Raising two kids financially and emotionally solo, check.  This 5 foot nothing, silky bloused woman would walk into a room with three-inch heels and my heart would flutter and my mind would command attention to ANYTHING she had to say.  My mom was an accountant because it put food on the table and paid the rent in a town with a great school district.  These are the things that guided my childhood:  food and good schools; everything else could fall down a sinkhole to hell, but as long as we could eat and go to good schools, we were kicking surviving’s ass.

My mom is a natural mathematician, so taking care of “the books” provided for us.  My momma didn’t LOVE crunching numbers for a living; in fact she really wanted to be a DRIVER’S ED TEACHER!  What the heck, a driver’s ed teacher!!!!!  Hahahaha!  My mom IS a BA driver, and she would have ROCKED at that.  My mom ALWAYS had a stick shift car, and she bravely taught my brother and I how to drive in wide open parking lots in the dead winter on the Robert Moses Causeway.  I’m pretty sure Billy (my older brother) learned to drive at eight years old, if my memory serves me correct.  Needless to say, if we wanted to drive, we HAD to learn on a stick shift, and I’m grateful for it…even the times I stalled out in the middle of a four-way intersection.  No worries, as my 17-year-old self cried in panic in the intersection, she quickly had us switch drivers, waved to the honking cars while screaming “New driver, sorry!” and got me calmed down in the passenger seat.  It wasn’t pretty, but we lived.

I share this with you because I have no recollection of a neat, pretty childhood with home-baked cookies (Actually, I don’t think we EVER made homemade cookies; we bought them or sliced and baked them).  Our life was in no way picture perfect, but we made it, battle wounds both emotionally and physically, memories both good and bad, but here with a story to tell nonetheless.

I witnessed my mom at war with herself.  She would go into a room by herself, lay down, and wrestle emotionally with the dark night of her soul.  I do not know all the questions, the regrets, the wondering, the dreaming, the hoping she wrestled with, but it was real.  She was a woman at war in her heart with wanting to not just provide, but wanting to thrive and probably feeling like there was no hope to accomplish that.  Heavy, heavy stuff.

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She instilled a fierce independence in me to the point that I never saw myself as married or as a mom.  I was focused on thriving.  Thriving meant doing what you loved (be that a driver’s ed teacher or a back up dancer for Janet Jackson) and being able to live off of that.  My mom wanted me to have CHOICES, so that meant getting a college education, no matter what the SAT scores said I was capable of.  She knew she raised a girl with grit and that I could do almost anything.

Currently, I’m reading Shonda Rhimes’ book, Year of Yes, and it’s worth the $24.99 just to read the chapter entitled “Yes to Surrender the Mommy War (Or, Jenny McCarthy is My Everything).”  Here’s an excerpt:

Being a mother isn’t a job.  It’s who someone is.  It’s who I am.  You can quit a job.  I can’t quit being a mother.  I’m a mother forever.  Mothers are never off the clock, mothers are never on vacation.  Being a mother redefines us, reinvents us, destroys and rebuilds us.  Being a mother brings us face-to-face with ourselves as children, with our mothers as human beings, with our darkest fears of who we really are.  Being a mother requires us to get it together or risk messing up another person forever.  Being a mother yanks our hearts out of our bodies and attaches them to our tiny humans and sends them out into the world, forever hostages.

When I became pregnant with my oldest, Alex, I inherited the Mommy War.  I remember seeing friends making choices to stay home or work, some out of choice, some out of necessity.  I remember the battle lines drawn between women: those who continued to work outside of the home and those who didn’t.  Everyone one of them had their valid reasons for their choices, me included.  This new journey was challenging enough- sleep deprivation, breastfeeding, body and hormones out of whack, while keeping my human alive and thriving- I became a mom- body and soul.  And now, with student loans to continue to pay, keeping my growing human clothed, fed, diapered, and equipped (strollers, cribs, and car seats, oh my!), I went back to work- to a job I loved, thankfully.

There have been many battles in my personal on going Mommy War, but the one I remember most was the one where a mom who did not work outside of the home told me that I was not serving my child well because I didn’t stay at home when Alex threw a tantrum, when she was a year old.  I mean, what one year old does not throw a tantrum?  And there began the growing seed of guilt, doubt, and emotional torment in my soul.  I wrestled because I have never thought of my teaching career or ministry as a job; they have always been missions, a way for me to be used to change the world- so going back to work brought me joy, and I was blessed with amazing caretakers for Alex. We were doing it.  It was messy and exhausting, but it was happening.

Until that conversation.  That sucked.

What I’ve come to realize in the Mommy War is that we’re all in it internally and externally- always wondering if we’re doing the best for our kids.  Here’s the thing though, every single one of us are doing the best we know how.

Some of us are better moms for not working outside of the home.  Those moms are heroes in their own way-giving your kids gifts that are beautiful and valuable; creating and living in awesome ways.

AND

Some of us are better to do something outside of the home.  We are contributing in a different way, sharing a passion with our young girls to inspire them to make their mark, to contribute to the ongoing conversations of worthwhile change.

No one is better.  Whether we want to or not, as humans, we will wrestle with what is the best yes.  I’ve learned that it’s not the decision that we make that is the most important, it’s paying attention to the person we become on the journey.  I think the better question to wrestle with is: ARE YOU ACTIVELY BECOMING A PERSON THAT IS LEAVING A LEGACY WORTH REMEMBERING?

The paths in which one takes in order to answer this question is going to look different for all of us.  I think the Mommy War is worthy, as long as we are making it about ourselves and how we are called to do it.  The Mommy War is dangerous and damaging when we focus it on other moms.  Put the stones down.

I think about how the click of my mom’s heels on the kitchen linoleum floor was my anchor, my absolute favorite channel to tune in to the world.  Whether you’re walking into the room of your kids’ hearts in flip flops, Birkenstocks, Jimmy Choos, Uggs, Nikes, whatever, our kids are tuning into the emotional conflict, the celebration, the joy, the failures that we wrestle with and navigate.  They are drawn to the battles we choose to face head on, and that is a huge “Oh my gosh.”  Choose well.  Wrestle hard.  Survive and thrive.  Knock down the walls of your heart with your stones, but let’s stop throwing them at one another.

We will pass down our Mommy War; it’s inevitable.  It’s the fate of the world; just know that we are ALL doing it and that battle is happening in each and every one of us.

 

 

 

The Truth about Complaining and Grumbling

5675f9caabdc0f754da51356You know God is talking to you when four out of the five conversations you have about spiritual matters (which is every aspect of my life) circles around to the theme of suffering.  Often, Young Life or Wyld Life friends will ask me why there is so much suffering in the world, someone will bring up the meaning of suffering, or the conversation of how Jesus suffered greatly for us will arise.

There are many Bible verses that talks about suffering.  Here are a few that come to mind:

Romans 5:3-5:  More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

James 1:2-4: Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

2 Corinthians 4:8-10:  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.

In all honesty, when I am suffering, my first reaction is to complain and grumble.  If we believe the above verses and the holiness of Christ’s suffering on earth, then it’s important to acknowledge that suffering is a real part of our journey.

And when I say real, I mean messy, oh crap, this sucks, I want to beat somebody up or beat myself up messy.  It comes like a tsunami wave, and my tendency is to try to control this massive force coming at me so I don’t have to deal with it in me.  When I experience or witness injustice, cruelty, insensitivity, fear, I want to wrap it up in a neat box with a bow; I want to package it.

Through reading Brene Brown’s work in Rising Strong, I’ve discovered that I am the ultimate conspiracy theorist.  So, when this tsunami wave of suffering comes my way, I wrap it up in a story; Brene calls it “the story I’m making up…”.  I want it to make sense, so I don’t have to feel and process the full weight of the experience.  What happens is my brain will start to connect dots that may or may not really connect in truth; it’s just the story I make up in my mind to make sense of a situation.  Ultimately, it’s my sinful desire to want to control, to feel like I have a leg up on perspective.  It’s the desire to wrap it up nicely, so I can put it up on a shelf and not have to deal with it.

What I’ve come to realize in this, is that once you know this about yourself, what you’re (I) really doing is using it as a defense mechanism to not feel and allow something, especially something hard and big, to break your heart.  And why do we not want our hearts to break?  Because a) it sucks and b)then we have to change.  The truth is that once our hearts break, it can never go back to being the same, and change is freaking hard and scary.

And now I am processing this…

that suffering is a way God carves our heart to look more like His, and anytime our lives and hearts go through a dramatic change and shaping, it hurts and involves grieving- a time of experiencing a letting go of what we once knew.  When I was teaching, I experienced a few times when I was grieving, and it hurt so bad.  One time was over the letting go of the identity that I had wrapped myself in- I am an educator, hear me roar.  It was a beautiful shaping process where God was using some disappointments in my career to teach me that I am His child first and foremost. I suffered with the lack of control I felt and ultimately the lack of faith I had in what God’s bigger story that was unfolding in my life and the situation.

My first reaction to those situations and others like it was to grumble and create a story of why I thought people and circumstances were playing out the way they were… you know, create a conspiracy theory.  Rather than opening my arms to the massive tsunami wave, I fought it off with grumbling and my own conspiracy theory.  Fortunately, God didn’t allow me to use my defense mechanisms for too long; He ultimately made me feel the pain of letting go the identity that I had wrapped myself in, and let me tell you, it hurt.  I had invested years in creating this identity for myself.  By unwrapping those grave clothes (much like Lazarus coming out of his grave clothes), I had to be vulnerable, be scared, feel grief, and then ultimately feel the sun shining on my face.

I’ve found that if we don’t unwrap those grave clothes of how we think things should be, then we become bitter and dead in our binding.  Oh, what a process.

Interestingly, the Bible is far from silent on the topic of grumbling and using these defense mechanisms.  Here are some examples:

Philippians 2:14-16: Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.

James 5:9: Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.

I think back to the stories I’ve spun in my mind rather than rejoice in the suffering.  The beautiful thing about waves is that over time they change the shape of the shore, smooth sharp edges of rocks, and break elements down to create sand.  Putting up walls to hold the waves back will last for only so long; eventually those will fall away too.  His power is large and beautiful and ultimately leaves us different for a greater purpose.

I am learning to recognize when I spin theories to make sense and allow the mystery and power hit me hard and do its best work.  It takes courage and great faith, but I think it’s worth it.

Living a Spirit of Yes: Connie & Mark

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Last April, I had the pleasure of meeting two of my favorite people…Connie and Mark Garrett.  They rolled up to the barn, where we do Young Life, in a red convertible top down.  Their daughter, Kathryn, was with them, and they strolled into the barn like the three musketeers.  We were having a garage sale fundraising event, and they were there to check out what we had.  Without saying much, they walked out with a bounce house (for the neighbor kids) and some other things that I’m sure they didn’t need and were willing to do what they could to show support for our ministry.  Next to Kathryn, in the back seat, they stuffed the oversized box with the bounce house that I’m sure they didn’t really need and rolled off into a beautiful Saturday afternoon.  I was intrigued by this trio who stopped by our event that didn’t serve their adult daughter.

This encounter, through their neighbor Nikki (whose kids are too old for the bounce house too), blossomed into a beautiful friendship.  We met for lunch with Ryan and Nikki two months later, and over salad and pizza they asked how they could be a part of our ministry.  I mentioned that we would love a home for our junior high students to meet for Campaigners every other week.  Connie immediately said, “Well, you could do it at my house.”  I was speechless.  I wanted to ask her if she was sure; I mean, how many people INVITE 80 junior high kids into their home every other week, willingly?  (And they don’t have kids in the ministry).  But Connie and Mark were serious and with a spirit of yes, have hosted our Wyld Life Ministry with utter joy every other week.  Connie has candy and cupcakes on holidays, and she’s so excited to share her home so kids can talk about Jesus together.  Mark and Kathryn usually arrive home from work when we are there, and they treat us like family.

Connie and Mark are celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary, and it’s an honor to have them and Kathryn a part of our Wyld Life Family.  Their love has overflowed into many blessings for others, and their love is exactly how Jesus intends for us to love- big, abundantly, overflowing, sacrificial, and joyfully.  Happy Anniversary, Connie and Mark.  We are incredibly thankful for you and Kathryn and your sweet pups.  May your love continue to grow for each other, Kathryn, and Jesus.

Here are some messages from our Young Life & Wyld Life Family:

Mark and Connie- Happy Anniversary!  Thank you so much for all of your support of Young Life and Wyld Life in our community.  Your hospitality, generosity, and love is so appreciated.  Thanks for loving kids so well and pointing them to Christ.  I hope you enjoy your special day together.  -Ryan Ahlwardt

Connie and Mark- 25 years of marriage is such an accomplishment!  You two are such an inspiration and living model of doing life God’s way.  Thank you for sharing yourselves and home with us.  May you be blessed with another 25 years of marital happiness.  -Lori Trulock

Connie and Mark- Happy 25th Anniversary!  Thank you for letting us use your house to share Christ in junior high kids’ lives.  Your welcoming spirit every week keeps all of the leaders and kids coming back.  I hope this is the best anniversary yet.          -Anne Kleinrichert

Thank you so much for opening your home to us.  Your willingness to give what you have for God’s glory is so inspiring.  Jesus has truly been working in the leaders’ lives and all the junior high kids’ hearts all in the midst of your home!  This ministry would not be complete without the two of you!  I’m praying that the supernatural presence of the Holy Spirit will be made known throughout your house, marriage, and family.  I know God looks down and celebrates this day with you both, and that reminds Him of why He created mankind and said, “It was good.”  Thank you and Happy Anniversary!  -Chloe Green

Connie and Mark- Oh holy are we thankful for you and your hospitality.  Just a few of my favorite things:  1. We’re always greeted with smiles and hugs.  2. You shine your love for Jesus.  3. Your sacrificial graciousness is beautiful.  4. You treat us like we’ve been friends for 20 years.  5. Even if we accidentally break the bed, you keep welcoming us back.  Thank you so much!           -Sarah Wright

Connie and Mark- Happy Anniversary, guys!  Thank you for all that you have done for Wyld Life!  Most parents wouldn’t trust their house to a bunch of junior high kids, but since you guys do that just makes you 10 times more awesome!         Congratulations again!  -Katy Puzzella

Thank you for opening up your house on Wednesdays to be a place where we can go and do life with our junior high friends.  They home-y atmosphere you allow us to make for those kids is really special.  Thank you for being so generous with sharing your home with us!  -Zach Mutchner

IMG_2357We love you, Connie, Mark, and Kathryn.  Happy 25 years!

What I’m For

A few weeks ago, I came across an article in Relevant Magazine entitled, “Be Known for What You’re For, Not Just What You’re Against.”  It spoke of how most followers of Christ are known for what they’re against and not what they’re for.  This really struck me because when I share with people about my faith, I can almost see the glazed wall of “I don’t want to listen to another thing you say because you might be judging me” look come across their pupils.  If there is a way that I can send a message to the world that being a follower of Christ is about what I’m for, I think the conversation in our culture would be much more open and loving.

So, I followed up with some friends who love and follow Christ and asked them what they’re for.  Here’s what they said:

Marie Meyer:  I’m for supporting kids with special needs. My uncle was born with an intellectual disability, and he married my aunt who also had special needs.  Ever since I was young, respecting people with disabilities was something very important to me and close to my heart.  I decided to take the peer tutoring class at my school last year, and I was given the opportunity to teach and become friends with kids who have special needs at my school.  When my uncle passed away last December, it inspired me to join Best Buddies; this is now my second year in the class and the club.  My best buddy is Darby, and I love spending time with her!  Being in the class every day brightens my day, and it has truly changed my life and shown me what I may want to potentially pursue as a career.IMG_6529

Sarah Wright:  I am for friendship.  I am for adventure.  I am for being together.  I am for embracing what you love.IMG_6530

Rachel Phillips:  I am for uncomfortable and raw adventure.

Darby Haase:  I am for handshakes.  All of my best friends and I have handshakes, and whenever we see them, we do it.

Mallory Myers:  I’m for having best friend names. 

Reece & Paige:  I’m for making new friends.

Olivia Phillips:  I’m for being different.  Being different is awesome.

Molly Bickle:  I’m for being extraordinary.  If everyone was ordinary, nothing cool would ever happen.

Meredith Card:  I’m for rainbows.  The first time I ever connected with God was through seeing a rainbow. 

Adelyn Bowman:  I’m for being yourself.  You make more friends while being yourself.IMG_6531

Danielle Boehm:  I’m for being kind and forgiving.  Everything is better when you’re kind and forgiving.

Alexis Snook:  I’m for having friends.  My friend helped me get through difficult things.

Kristina Mathioudakis:  I’m for being a friend to everyone.  Not everyone has a good friend, but everyone needs a friend.  No one likes to be left out.

Sydney Lorey:  I’m for praying.

 

Let’s be known for what we’re for and not what we’re against. 

 

 

 

 

13

Thirteen is more than a number today; it’s a life marker.  Our Alex is thirteen.  It’s more words than I can handle… my girl is thirteen.Baby3

It seems like yesterday that we discovered we were pregnant with her.  Those months of her growing inside me was like magic; something out of my control was becoming.  We dreamed of her face and personality during those months.  We thought about names like Casey, Connor, Cameron; we wanted a name that wouldn’t define her as one thing, but something strong & emerging, so Alexandria “Alex” was just right.  With a name like that she wouldn’t be just defined as a girl, an athlete, an artist, smart, cute, funny, or serious.   She could be what she wanted to be with the first identification the world could give her: a name.270604_1940170986307_6024716_n

It seems that God directed us to that more and more as she becomes.  She is a force discovering her voice, and although that can seem messy and confusing at times, it’s a gift.  I am acutely aware that she will never get to do thirteen again.  So, I hope that we do it with grace.  I hope we walk with wonder and courage through it.  I hope we protect her well, simultaneously giving her the armor she needs to slay the junk life will throw at her.  May she know that she is always loved, be brave in vulnerability, and embrace the journey she’s on.      1374939_10205209073842345_2291896508917835905_n

Here are some memories we have of Alex so far:217295_201081796592642_7669428_n

  1.  Bringing her home from the hospital, and Charlie (our dog) climbing into the car and giving her a big kiss.280472_1940726080184_3687177_o
  2. Her smashing her first birthday cake into her face.  Go big or go home.216460_1045216086576_3472_n
  3. She had tons of friends at preschool and a best friend in our neighborhood whom she played with almost every day.
  4. We went to Maui to visit my dad when she was three years old.  She loved being at the beach and riding with the top down in the jeep.  Because of the time change, she was awake at weird hours.  Steve and I would find her watching Strawberry Shortcake videos in the middle of the night.268920_1938274778903_3920110_n
  5. I used to be the Yearbook Sponsor when I taught at Edgewater High Schoo.  She LOVED being in the yearbook room with all those awesome girls.  I’m so thankful for how they took Alex under their wing.267100_1940165666174_5190839_ofiles001
  6. Moving to Indiana, she bonded with her grandparents.  That was a gift.
  7. Her excitement to bring home her brother was intense, and yet she was so patient.  She told everyone that she was going to be a sister.1003996_10151531259948067_1849929727_n
  8. Our last vacation as a trio was to Bald Head Island.  That was a magical week.  She made friends and played, and we sat back taking in every moment while loving the beauty of that time.  We can’t wait to go back.
  9. Alex was with me when I received the news that TJ passed away.  I know her first brother has a very special place in her heart.  11800184_10206847830177364_5546773256795923740_n126-1
  10. I will never forget seeing her face as Steve, Jesse, and I were walking through the terminal on the day we came home from Ethiopia.  The tears were flowing down her face to get a glimpse of her brother.  We missed her so much during that week.IMG_6324
  11. She and I traveled to Ethiopia two years later.  That was a hard trip for her, but after a few days, she was jumping rope with new friends.  To share and see that with her was an incredible blessing. CRAIG_0116
  12. Alex has more books and journals than I know what to do with.  Seeing her have a passion for reading and creating is exciting.1544315_10206681231405364_3537549746952766788_n547026_482238201810332_242031225_n
  13. Our girl is more than our daughter and Jesse’s sister.  She has discovered the beauty and path of friendship.  This past year has been incredible to see her navigate who she is in the lives of others.  It’s the beginning of her walking on her own two feet in this world.

It’s thirteen.  It’s a box with many bows and knots. It’s what we are still watching her open, and there’s so much more to come.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Yourself in the Unknown: Ethiopia

Maya Haile, Marcus Samuelsson, and Anthony Bourdain hanging out in Ethiopia.

Many of you know that Ethiopia is more than a place for me to go and visit.  It’s a part of my family, my friendships, my life, my story, my hope, and my wondering.

I was so pumped to watch Parts Unknown last night hosted by Anthony Bourdain, as he explored Ethiopia with Marcus Samuelsson and his wife Maya Haile.  Marcus and Maya, now married, were born in Ethiopia and both, because of illness and political strife, respectively, they left Ethiopia in their childhoods.  Marcus is now a world-renowned chef, and Maya is a stunning model.  What I love is that Ethiopia is an undeniable, intentional part of their lives.

Watching Ethiopia through their eyes was a beautiful new lens to see a place that has grown in my heart.  Marcus, Maya, and Anthony planted new seeds for me that I’m so excited to see bloom.  Here were some of my favorite parts from the episode:

“I come from a dusty land.”  Marcus said this to Anthony with a big smile on his face as he kicked up the dust in his home village.  Priceless.

“I always find it such a paradox that I was born into very little food, but yet I’ve made my whole life about food.  My structure and pragmatism comes from being raised in Sweden. And my sort of vibrancy and warmth to cooking and feel-based food that I love comes definitely from here [Ethiopia].”  This paradox is truth…life and death, joy and sadness, abundance in the face of scarcity.  These are a part of my experience in Ethiopia.  I wonder what my son’s experience will be as he walks through this paradox as well.  It will be a story for sure.

One of the coolest parts of Ethiopian culture is how food is celebrated, prepared, and shared.  There is a custom called gursha; this is where a diner will feed another diner; it’s an act of endearment of love for another.  I love so food, so if you want to stuff food into my face, game on.

Watching Marcus and his biological father hold hands while walking brought on incredible memories of how there isn’t a weird social norm where boys can’t be friends and express just pure friendship by holding hands.

I also loved watching Marcus and his father compare their feet.  Their feet were the same, and yet they’ve walked such different journeys.

Three kisses, because one is not enough. 

Everything Addis!  The blue buses, the skate park, the green and yellow fences, food, and community.

The old and the new.  The history and the future.

I can’t wait for April 2016.

Check it out for yourself!  http://us.cnn.com/shows/anthony-bourdain-parts-unknown?sr-tw1022PUABethiopia

Playing Dress Up

I have been a long time believer that a big part of adolescence is playing “dress up” with different identities.

Walking into almost any junior high or high school, you will most likely see many different cliques of kids.  If you look even closer within each social group, there will be a distinct role/identity each group member has within that clique that makes it function as a unit.

The question is: How do those distinct roles within a group get decided upon?

I would like to say that most of my observation has been kids finding a sense of belonging, but instead I see kids changing themselves to fit in.

Brene Brown has written, “Belonging is not fitting in. In fact, fitting in is the greatest barrier to belonging. Fitting in, I’ve discovered during the past decade of research, is assessing situations and groups of people, then twisting yourself into a human pretzel in order to get them to let you hang out with them. Belonging is something else entirely—it’s showing up and letting yourself be seen and known as you really are.”

I would argue that the majority of our kids are intensely twisting & changing themselves to fit into a social group.

Why would kids do this?  Well, why would anyone do this?  If we think about it, we were created for relationship & community, and the reality is that most of our kids are living a lonely, disconnected life.  Fitting in vs. belonging is a survival tactic.

Even more interesting is that this generation of teens were practically born with little computers connected to a global community in their hands.  Therefore, you might think that our kids would have this instant connection.  I’ve found that it’s just the opposite- because it’s not true, face to face interaction and connection, our kids feel more alone than ever.

Often, I see junior high and high school friends behave and make choices that’s not really who they are.  It appears as if they are seeking their best chance at success of fitting into a particular group for connection.  And, they will continue to behave in a way that gives them the most community, even if it’s risky physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

This makes me want to wrap my arms around them even more and give them a safe place to just be.  Life is freaking hard.  I continue to remind myself and them of Psalm 139:

1-6 God, investigate my life; get all the facts firsthand.  I’m an open book to you; even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking.  You know when I leave and when I get back; I’m never out of your sight.  You know everything I’m going to say before I start the first sentence.  I look behind me and you’re there, then up ahead and you’re there, too— your reassuring presence, coming and going.  This is too much, too wonderful— I can’t take it all in!

7-12 Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit? to be out of your sight?  If I climb to the sky, you’re there!  If I go underground, you’re there!  If I flew on morning’s wings to the far western horizon, You’d find me in a minute— you’re already there waiting!  Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark!  At night I’m immersed in the light!” It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you; night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.

13-16 Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb.  I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!  Body and soul, I am marvelously made!  I worship in adoration—what a creation!  You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.

17-22 Your thoughts—how rare, how beautiful! God, I’ll never comprehend them!  I couldn’t even begin to count them— any more than I could count the sand of the sea.  Oh, let me rise in the morning and live always with you!  And please, God, do away with wickedness for good!  And you murderers—out of here!— all the men and women who belittle you, God, infatuated with cheap god-imitations.  See how I hate those who hate you, God, see how I loathe all this godless arrogance; I hate it with pure, unadulterated hatred.  Your enemies are my enemies!

23-24 Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about; See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong— then guide me on the road to eternal life.

I can’t help but want to see kids the way God sees them: shaped by Him, marvelously made, and with a plan and purpose- each and every day.  They can try on lots of identities, but they have a truth that lives and breathes underneath the costumes- that they are a child of God.

Light Up Shoes

IMG_6345Today Jesse and I celebrated fall break at the Children’s Museum.  It was awesome.  We went in the “haunted pirate ship” and had an adventure.  Jesse was made for this kind of stuff- activity, things to touch, and fun things to explore.

At one point, Jess turned around to me and declared, “Don’t be scared, mom.  I have my light up shoes.”

I could not begin to tell you how much I love my boy.  Here we were, walking through a semi-dark, kind of haunted pirate ship, not knowing what fun things would be around every corner.  My boy knows that there’s nothing to be afraid of because he has a light to guide his shoes through the dark.

What I loved even more was that he wanted me to not be scared either.  His shoes would be enough for both of us.

Don’t you love how little kids are so like Jesus?  Jesus says in Matthew 19:14, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Kids get it, and they don’t even question that they are enough because they have a super power or whatever that is the Holy Spirit, and that they don’t have to be afraid.  The kingdom of heaven does belong to our children.  In fact, I love that they don’t have to use big words and lengthy theology.  They just have light up shoes (or a flashlight, light up shirt, whatever).  It’s simple.  It’s real.  It’s true.

At one point do we grow afraid?  And when do we stop believing that we aren’t enough?  When did we stop believing that we could be super heroes?  It’s an interesting thing to think about.  The risks get bigger as we get older, but the greater the adventures.

I wish I had some light up shoes, but I guess at some point we have to own that we don’t need the light up shoes, that in Christ we have the greatest light ever inside of us.  That’s where faith grows- when we can’t see it, but we choose to believe it and act on it.

In Matthew 8:12, Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

I have to believe that when we act on that faith, our lamp stands become brighter, and it’s easier to believe that He is inside of us.  And not only that, but others can see it more clearly too.  That’s the difference between little kids and grown ups; we get to choose to believe without wearing the shoes.

 

Hanging on a Mustard Seed

5627973aabdc0f754da4de03I knew this school year was going to be challenging; we knew we would be moving and making changes that we felt the Holy Spirit calling us to.  Right now, I feel like we are hanging on a mustard seed.  The date is circled to put the house up for sale, there is much packing and projects to see through, and I find myself sometimes paralyzed with anxiety.

He’s given me a job that I cannot do.

I cannot pack up a house, do full-time ministry, be a present and loving wife and mom, nourish my relationship with Christ,  and write this blog all at once.

I’m scared of sharing my anxiety and fear; I’m supposed to be the one that everyone else can lean on, and it freaks me out that I have my own worry.  As much as I listen and answer questions about faith and being bold, I am hanging on a mustard seed right now.

Right now, I want answers.  I want to know where we are going to settle down and what schools my children will be in next year.  I want to know exactly what our family’s budget will be.  I want to know where I will be food shopping a year from now.  I want to know what the answers are for my kids (who are very unique from one another)- what is right for them socially, emotionally, and spiritually.  I want to know if I will have a back yard or a dog.

I want a map, and I want it now.

But He hasn’t given that to me.

He’s asked for me to give Him my mustard seed and to trust. I would be lying if I didn’t say that I’m angry about that.  I’m doing my best to not to be angry, but I am.  I’m ready for answers, and He tells me, “I am enough.”

He’s asking me to believe in uncomfortable ways today.  I hate this feeling.  And yet I know this place, right here, is necessary.  It’s necessary for me for me to be unsettled to be used by Him.  It’s necessary for me to see Him move the mountains with my mustard seed; otherwise, it would be about what I could do, and not what He can do.

Perhaps you know the feeling.  Perhaps you’re feeling it right now- paralyzed and overwhelmed, and I would like more than anything to give you a map.  All I can tell you is that I’m right there with you…praying, wondering, battling warfare in my heart, counting my blessings, being tired, and surrendering myself each and every minute.  That’s my map.  It’s invisible and yet present.  It’s asking me to trust more and watch it all happen without my fear and worrying.  It’s a faith builder, and it’s a beast.

I’m shaking my jar of mustard seeds, and it’s rattling my heart.

Father God, Be with us right now.  Show us what You do.  Help us to be brave and trusting.  Amen.

Bless you, Fred Bock

IMG_6339 Last week, I received a glorious email from one of our Young Life parents, Fred Bock, asking what my favorite kind of food is; I literally let out an audible “Woohoo.”  If you know anything about Fred Bock, he is passionate about food.  Last night, Fred brought over trays of lasagna, garlic bread, meatballs, chicken and eggplant parmasean, and the most heavenly layered yellow cake with fudge icing that I’ve ever layed eyes on.  When Fred cooks, the love is real.

Last spring, Fred cooked ribs, watermelon salad, homemade tortilla chips, and potato skins for our WyIMG_6340ld Life Leadership Team.  We didn’t even know what to do with ourselves.

When someone does something so awesome, you just want to share it.  So, last night and last spring, we invited kids to enjoy the yummy-ness of this gift.

I am in awe of friends, like the Bocks and so many others who are in this ministry, who not only say they’re in but pour their whole hearts into this community.  Ryan Ahlwardt and I have said to many people that there’s always room at the table to be a part of this; everyone has a gift and a passion that are appreciated beyond words.  Last night, not only did our leadership team enjoy the night with full bellies and a food coma, but so did our Young Life kids.  It was inspiring and a memory.

Thank you, Bock Family, and all the other generous families who join us at the table.  Thank you for loving us well with your gifts and passions.  We wouldn’t want to do this without you.  We are better because you are with us.