20 thoughts and feels from a not so good pastor’s wife about having to (probably) move again.

How do you like THAT title? You like it… You like it….
Warning grammar nerds, I have not adequately proof read. I’m sorry. Can we deal? 

Pew Selfie, New Church.

Pew Selfie, New Church. hi.

I laid in bed last night for a while after Kel fell asleep, feeling deeply sad. The sort of sadness that comes from knowing you have to let go of something, even though you don’t want to. Even though all you want to do is channel your inner four year old and dig in, screaming until maybe… just maybe you get your way.

We are moving again. It’s not officially official but it may as well be. Yes, there is a five percent chance (or less) that we could get to stay but since my thirties is forcing me to be an adult about things (boo forced maturity that comes from three kids and home ownership) 

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Big sister, little sister storytime.

I want to grow claws somehow and dig them into the drywall, hissing at anyone who tries to remove me from our home. I want to go buy 7 spirit hoodies from Noelle’s school and wear them on repeat to represent how very much we are NOT leaving. I want to make mimosas and day drink and whiny text all my friends about how hard this is, because yes I know there are people dying and starving but we have to move. again. dammit. dammit. dammit.

Pass me another mimosa. Or scotch, someone bring me scotch maybe?

OOOH Or Put Big Metal Chicken on my porch Blogess Style? 

This is not, by the way, how a “good” pastors wife handles moving. I am pretty sure they sigh and say something about the will of God and how blessed they are to serve no matter where.

Maybe I’ll get there. Maybe the mimosas will help.

PS I’m not really day drinking. If I were I’d be Netflix binging on Scrubs, Parks and Rec or Gilmore Girls. Or all of the above…. WWLGD? What would Lorelai Girlmore do? 

Probably drink more coffee and kidnap Rory for a trip to boston to eat Chowder in her Jeep.

This is not helping, or is it….?

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So I’m not day drinking or Netflix binging, I’m doing the much more helpful, cathartic thing and whiny blogging about it to you guys. Continue reading

Penny Family Update

Well I’ve said that I want to get back into blogging. Let’s start with an update, shall we? Then I’ll try to follow this up with a fun, easy Valentine’s Day card project perfect for preschoolers and Kindergarteners. 

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How it actually looked writing this post…

With as many snow days as we’ve had, I still declare winter 2014-15 a fairly mild one… so far. It’s only February after all. I would probably be cool with any winter less severe than last winter which left even the perkiest of Michiganders running for Zoloft and SAD lights. It was 8 foot snow drifts bad, so this? Easy Peasy.

Little miss Clara is 12 weeks old now and a gorgeous, soul-healing, life changing little baby. She sleeps amazingly well at night and only gets up to nurse once (on average… knock on all the wood) and then goes back to sleep until 9 or so. This allows me to help Noelle and Caedmon with breakfast, clothes and their very important, yet terribly elusive socks. I hate folding them, they love losing them… we live in constant sockmageddon.

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We are all loving Clara beyond measure and we’ve had had no jealousy issues with the older two. If anything they’re a bit too into her, especially Caedmon who has been known to pick her up and move her to wherever he is for fear that she is “very sad being alone momma.”

Watching your four year old carry your wiggly 12 week old is endearing and terrifying all at the same time. You want to swoop in screaming and grab your camera simultaneously. But ultimately you have to go with swooping and screaming so as not to encourage the behavior which can only end in tears for everyone involved.

And speaking of Caedmon, he’s still my big hearted, snuggly, opinionated little guy. He’s enjoying the mountain of Christmas and Birthday Legos and presents in addition to lots of craft time. Honestly I think we’re all ready to ride bikes again but we’ve got a lot of waiting to do. He hourly asks me if it’s fourth of July yet… nope… still very nope.

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Noelle is doing really, really well in Kindergarten. We adore her Montessori school and I’m so thankful for it that I well up with tears on a weekly basis. I’ve felt such a peace sending her there. The staff, especially her lead teacher, advocate for her beautiful individuality as they do with all the kids, praise God.

This past fall she was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder by a doctor at Brains Potential here in Grand Rapids (I wholeheartedly recommend them if you need help with your kids.) Seeing her through this lens has been so much more freeing than I ever imagined a diagnosis could be. It’s just a way of understanding how she interacts with this world, not a pill, not a stigma, but a way of understanding my very unique daughter.

I’m starting to see with stunning clarity that each child is really and truly an individual who processes, learns about and interacts with the world differently. This is really causing me to call into question a “one size fits all” education model and love and advocate for montessori education.

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Kel has been working for the Methodist Denomination while waiting tables at Carrabas Italian Grill to carry our family through until he gets a full time placement as a pastor again. But he will be done slinging noodles as of February 14 and he will be the interim pastor at Dowagiac First United Methodist church in Dowagiac, Michigan, which is roughly a 75 mile drive from our current home in Northeast Grand Rapids.

This is currently a temporary placement, due to the former pastor leaving unannounced, and Kel being a natural, available fit for the job. He is commuting down there twice a week and staying overnight a few evenings a week to reduce the drive time and expense. I hate going 36 hours without seeing him but it’s only until July.

Sometime in the next six weeks, the Methodist Denomination will let him know where his next, full-time placement will be. The Methodist church uses the itinerant system (click that link if you want to understand what that is.) Which means that basically the Bishop and his Cabinet decide where Kel will work and ultimately where our family will live. It’s part spiritual and part strategic and a hundred percent hard for me to come to terms with, but I’m getting there. It’s hard to know what you’re supposed to accept and what you’re supposed to change up in your life.

Maya Angelou said “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” There is something there… when I married Kel I married his dreams and calling as much as he married mine.

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I’m still breathing hourly prayers that we can stay here in Grand Rapids, at the school I fought for and love so dearly, among these walls that we’ve painted, these floors we’re polished and sense of home we have cultivated with moments both bitter and sweet.

But the phone call could go the other way, any week now.

Either way I’ll hit my knees in some sort of Hallelujah, for at least the waiting game will be over.

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And as for me, I’m adjusting well to being a mom of three, usually. I’ve never had so little left to give at the end of the day. I wonder where I went in the hours of my day and yet, still I find myself in their eyes as we play, create and observe life together. I want more than this, even though I am often deeply satisfied with the work of “mom.” It’s both AND. It always will be. There has to be more than this, there is more than this, it’s just spending a lot of time chilling on the shelf right now. For now. Just for now.

It’s a conflicting way to live and I’m likely not saying it well.. but I’m starting to find scraps of time to release a little creative energy out through words, and fabric and yarn. And this is so so good.

So yeah, that’s what’s up with us. More to come. Thanks for reading, really.

What have you been up to? 

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7 Hard Things (About Church Planting)

This was supposed to be up on a Saturday but you know… life.HELP I recently asked the fine folks in our facebook group. (Are you there yet? If you are did you know that new content doesn’t show up in your feed unless you “like things” that page post from time to time? Helpful advice from your neighborhood blogger)

Anywaaaaay 

I asked these fine folks what they would like to know about our Church Planting Journey, because honestly I’m starting to get a little overwhelmed and brain-frazzled so I need to know: What can I fill you in on?

There were several good responses, but this is the one I want to respond to today and it comes from reader Ginger.

“What the specific challenges are that you two are finding? Obviously you have to depend on God to bring the increase, but how do you cope with the challenges?”

Yes. Church Planting is hard and Ginger I just wanted to thank you for helping me open up the floor and talk about it. Kel and I have thrown this question around a bit and come up with what I hope is helpful and true for all those on this journey across the country and world.

1) Getting people interested without seeming creepy- I’ll be honest with you (this is how I roll) we only have three people on our launch team as of today and that can get a little discouraging. Since we started this journey it’s been bitterly cold and engaging people has been less than easy as no one is feeling very social. This will all change soon as we plan events and spend more time outdoors in the community, but for me I worry so very much about coming across as the face to face telemarketers of the church world, which is so not what we are going for.

2) Not taking it home- Although this is officially Kel’s job (my name is not on the payroll anywhere) we both feel deeply called and to engage the NE Grand Rapids community through this church. This means that if we’re not careful, the church plant can dominate our dinner conversation which is okay in part but we are a family who existed before this church and will exist apart from it. Sometimes we need to talk about church stuff at home and sometimes we need to focus on our lives apart from it, it’s a delicate balance and we’re not there yet.

3) Maintaining a big picture- As with any big task, it’s easy to get bogged down in the details. I have to keep telling myself that we do in fact believe that God has called us to this and that through our open hands people will experience changed, healed hearts. That this is about people and Jesus and really nothing else in the end, not paint or logos… people and Jesus.

4) Let it Go, Let it Go– I am not in charge of this church plant, and it’s wonderful. God has plans in mind I haven’t even dared hope for. He has people for us to meet and stories yet to write. I need to open my hands and bathe in the hugeness of our God and the smallness of my role. Do we need to work? Yes. Do we think that we are the ones who will make it work? Nope.

5) Keeping upbeat – It’s also easy to get discouraged with slow progress, I am not a patient person, so this is really hard for me. The other day I found myself going negative nancy on things, talking about how our budget was too small asking if we were behind. Kel approached me later that night and told me this: “However discouraged you feel, I feel 10 times that discouraged and nervous about all of this.” So part of our church planting process has been about keeping our attitudes upbeat, but honest about our feelings and for me it means tipping the scales in favor of encouraging Kel and away from expressing fears.

6) Worrying we will make the wrong calls culturally– We are planting a church in an urban area and I’ve never lived anywhere except suburbia. This leaves me feeling so very culturally inept. When we were in Oklahoma I felt this way at times when I picked the wrong food for events (apparently college students hate pasta salad?!) I don’t know what people in this area want or need from church, so Holy Spirit help us here and community? Forgive us when we fumble it.

7) Feeling inadequate in general- I don’t have it all figured out and I don’t feel like mine is a spiritual journey I want on display as an example. We forget to read the bible, we forget to pray with our kids, sometimes I feel like a hypocrite and a lot of times I feel that surely other ministry families must be better than us… whatever that means. I know that better is non existent and this it’s all relative but this is a massive struggle for me personally and regularly express and project upon Kel.

So there it is, the ugly, honest hard parts that our subconsciouses are currently aware of.

So, tell me: Is there anything you want to know about our church planting journey?

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The Melt

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2014 has been an epic winter for the midwest and for us here in West Michigan 5 foot snow piles are a normal part of the scenery.

We have had snow cover on the ground since before Thanksgiving with very little days above freezing and always additional accumulation raising the level of snow in the front yard.

“Alright winter, you’ve proved your point. Enough already. Go home.”

The cloud cover has been endless and it seems as though weeks have passed without a shred of blue sky or sunshine.

But this week? We hit 40 degrees and the sun hit the snow and turned it into fields of translucent glitter.

The kids and I headed out in the warm sunshine to build a snowman from the wet snow in our front yard. It promptly fell over from the warmth of the day.

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Continue reading

How naming our church taught me that “my dream church” will stay exactly that, a dream.

So, I have a big announcement, huge really.

We’ve landed on a name for the church.

Ready? I’m doing a drumroll on my desk but you can’t hear it… space and time and all that… 

Rivercrest Church.

How did we come up with this? Well it doesn’t exactly fit in the parameters of our original name criteria but we did a lot of market research and had over 250 people take a survey between these three names:

  • Prodigal church (my favorite and true love)
  • Rivercrest church (a play on the area we’re located in, near Riverside park and within the Creston Neighborhood)
  • Found church (and original idea but never one we loved… just another option)

And Rivercrest won, while my love name lost.

Here’s what people said:

“It sounds more “real”. The others seem very specific for only a certain type of worshiper.”

“Found Church seems too simple, and Prodigal Church seems to ‘Jesusy’ to me.”

“The other two names sound excessively “churchy” to me. Someone unfamiliar with church and the Prodigal Son story would most likely not know what the Prodigal name meant. As someone who does not attend church, I would more likely visit a church named Rivercrest. The other names sound trendy to me.”

“I like Rivercrest Church because it is neutral. “found” and “prodigal” have a “born-again” sound to them.”

There were a few wise church people who told us this would be the case from the beginning: people want a neutral name, non churchy name… Prodigal Church might not be the best fit. 

But I was in love with the name Prodigal, it described how I felt about God and church, how I thought others would feel as well. It’s simple and redemptive and above all I love it…and my friends (who are like me) love it!

I railed against the idea of a neutral name and wore myself out rallying for my cause, I chatted to random people in line at store about “my church name” and why it was clearly best. I used words like “intentionality,” “purpose,” and “names mean things!”

I performed impassioned monologues for Kel about how choosing a neutral name would be caving to popular opinion early and how I was afraid that this would mean we’d become the church of “what is popular”… which is exactly what the world doesn’t need… what the bible doesn’t call us to. I’m sure I used the phrase “sell-out” a time or two. You know, for good measure.

It all sounded very good and there was truth in it, but in the end I had to concede that the “neutral but nice” name received 20% more votes than my preferred name in a survey that I myself created and publicized.  One I thought would only serve to confirm my name…

But it didn’t.

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And in the end I learned a hard lesson that needed to be learned early: This is not going to be my dream church.

It’s going to the church that God wants us to plant for the people who need more of Him.

Does this mean Rivercrest Church will be solely “seeker friendly” and won’t deepen my faith or relationship with God?

Not hardly. It just means that it’s NOT my church, it’s The church, which was never about me in the first place.

I learned years ago that I was not called to be a consumer church-goer and I learned about 3 weeks ago that I am not called to be a consumer church-planter either.

If you’ve been in the church long enough you’ve had this thought: “If I ever started my own church we would….”

And this list grows over time. You know exactly how you would do coffee, children’s ministry, worship, leadership, take an offering, give communion, decorate the sanctuary.

And you think… if I were to ever start my church it would like this… and it would be perfect.

And it would be perfect… for you.

But church has never been about making yourself happy, that’s the first step to become a member-focused church, when you base your ideas on “what makes us happy.”

That’s how the currently, literally dying churches got that way. They centered their choices around making themselves happy and they lost touch with their core call: show Jesus to the world, start with your neighborhood.  

And 3 weeks into the church I was already starting to move in that direction, how can this church serve me? Be what I want?

And then God Survey Monkey and a few heated marital texting sessions to put me back on track, and early.

Will Rivercrest church contain nuances of my heart and story? Absolutely.

Will Rivercrest church be my dream church? No, but I hope it will be the church we need to plant so the love of Jesus is poured all over the NE side of Grand Rapids.

Lord, help my dream to conform to yours.

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When mutuality turns to selfishness turns to a chance at true love

I’m going to try to write through something that is so very much still in progress so bear with my until the end, agreed?

I’m in the midst of becoming better at marriage, the hard way. Or at least the pinching, uncomfortable way… which describes most life lessons that I’ve gone through.

Kel and I believe in mutuality (definition here) when it comes to marriage, which means that we both submit to each other equally, to each other’s hopes and dreams and work and passion and time.

All of it.

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Over the last few years with this concept, I’ve experienced a shift when it comes to what I believe about gender equality and marriage. And it’s set me free, it’s made sense of the gospel in a way that the old teaching never did.

But here’s the sucky part… there is a chance that I took it a step too far. There’s a chance that I’ve tipped the scales of mutual submission in my favor and straight on into selfishness.

Because mutual submission only works when you’re both submitting mutually and I’m beginning to suspect that in my marriage it’s been more Kel than I. I say that with a lump in my throat and fourteen tons of shame.

Yet, there it is.
Some people might use this as ammo for why mutuality doesn’t work, to them I say, read on…

When I look back on my thoughts, words and actions I’m coming to realize that there’s been a lot of blame shifting, finger pointing and “I’m not getting mine-ing.”

And this isn’t love, and it’s not mutual submission. In fact it’s become a power struggle in a way that marriage was never meant to be. It’s hell to be involved in a relationship where you both feel like you’re playing a game of tug of war for time and importance.

It’s exhausting and unsustainable.

A few weeks back I very seriously considered giving up writing, quitting my job with Young Life and no longer pursuing speaking stuff. Simply put it seemed easier to shrink, to give up the ghost that keeps me at this keyboard, to move into other things, simpler things.

It just seemed easier than figuring out what both AND looked like for our marriage in this season.

Kel didn’t want that, he recognized that this is who I am, that it’s one of this biggest ways in which God is redeeming my story, but I did. It seemed easier to stop trying to make it work to stop seeking out the balance and just give up.

But that’s not God’s plan for me, for our family.

It takes me back to the days in which Kel and I were falling in love over the phone, I had every intention of going to seminary alongside him and we’d regularly joke and dream about tag team preaching and doing ministry together.

Wherever God leads us, together side by side. That was the dream.

And you know what? It still is. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean you quit. That flies in the face of every inspirational poster ever sold at Staples so it can’t be true.

No, it’s not about my giving up writing, but it is about me giving more. Putting others before myself and getting out of the rhythm where I’m constantly griping about not having enough time for myself.

It’s about getting back to gratitude, because gratitude is everything

It is about prayer, I need God to lead me to a better place of love and encouragement.

It is about asking for a heaping portion of gentleness and bravery.

It is about putting Kel before me and trusting that he’ll do the same.

It is about scheduling, because when time is on your side… you win.

It is about an inner paradigm shift.

But it’s not about my becoming smaller
It’s not about giving up
It’s not about throwing away the dream
It’s not about putting my marriage farther down the list

It’s about being a part of something in which you both say: “I want you to go through this life free, called and fully alive in a way that only Christ can invite you to.”

Some people say faith is a childish game
Play on, children, like it’s Christmas day
Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, Live Forever (go, listen, love)

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How to be an introvert, starting a church, talking to strangers about God without coming across as a creepy evangelist.

So, it Saturday, and even though I missed last week, today I am going to try and be faithful in my promise to keep you all updated on our church planting journey. 

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local photography via flickr creative commons andrewkuhnphotography

Two weeks ago I showed you around our lovely church, since then we’ve had a brilliant team of designers come through, one whom grew up in church and “gets it” in the best of ways.  She understands what works, what welcomes and what has been done to death. For this I am unspeakably thankful.

Also this week the boiler exploded, which caused us to wonder why more seminaries don’t offer classes on old building maintenance. Kel’s handy but boilers are beyond him #churchboilerdrama .

All this is true but it doesn’t really get to the heart of what’s REALLY going on with the church.  

Currently the main business of the church is connecting with the community.

What does this mean? It means that if Kel is at the church that he’s not doing his job. (#churchboilerdrama aside)

Because currently Kel’s main job is to go out and meet people by checking out their businesses, going out to lunch, working at coffee shops and taking walks through neighborhoods.  He’s supposed to meet with and chat up 50 new people a week. 50!

This terrified me for two reasons
1) Kel is an introvert, this could kill him.
2) I don’t see how one can do this without seeming like a creeper

But he’s impressed me every evening with his stories, all authentic and not the least bit slimy.

This begs the question: How does an introvert strike up conversation with a random stranger and steer the conversation toward the new church plant without seeming creepy or pushy?  

I think this is where I should just let Kel tell you, after all… he’s the one doing it.  

Hi everyone, it’s Kel.

So I’m going to start by telling you the story of a conversation I had this week: I was at McDonalds, not because I particularly love it (I’m not lovin’ it) but because they are one of the few places that has wifi in the area.

So I’m in line to get my large drink (which I fill with iced tea like a good southern boy) and in line behind me is an EMT.  So, I walk up to the counter and I say “1 large drink and whatever he wants” gesturing in the EMT’s direction.

He gives me a weird look but thanks me and puts in an order for an Egg McMuffin. He thanks me again and then asks:

Awesome EMT: “Do you have a busy day ahead of you?”
Me: “I kind of do but my schedule is pretty weird right now. You see, I just took a new job and I’m a pastor starting a church”

This leads us down a conversation about the ups and downs of my schedule. Then I tell him why I bought him breakfast.

“One of the things that I really want to be as a church is a place that serves the community. One of the ways we can start doing that is by serving those who are already serving the community. So buying you breakfast is a way for me to say thank you for what you do everyday.”

I could tell the guy was caught off guard. Apparently this isn’t something that happens to him everyday. Then he does something cool: he invites me to come down the station sometime so that I can meet the other EMT’s just before we part ways.

This conversation is at the heart of what I’m doing everyday, of what it takes to plant a new church.  

You see, when I started doing this nobody in the community knew who I was.  So when it came to making contacts it was important that people in the community got a feel for who I am. The best way to do that is obviously by authentically building relationships.

Every contact I make is another person that knows both who I am and that there is a new church coming to the neighborhood, that’s my only agenda.

So how do I do this without seeming like a creeper or a door to door evangelist? Its easy, I listen way more than I talk.  I ask people about them: What do they do?  Do they live around here? Do they like that sandwich?

I try to find common ground.

You see, it’s not actually about meeting a quota of numbers. Numbers to a church don’t really matter, its what those numbers represent: Each number is a story, a person, an opportunity for God to show up in real life.

That’s why its easy for me to keep perspective, As a pastor I’m the often at the forefront of those stories. I see the breakdowns, the illness, the funerals. Often I get to be the one that prays with people when they find out I’m a pastor.

For me, it is very encouraging because I get to see this community in a completely different light. This community is who I am trying to reach but ultimately it is God that changes hearts, not me.

So what is my job? To care, to love, and build relationship with the people that surround the church. To introduce them to the God that can bring about change in their lives.

It’s not about me, it’s not about numbers, it’s not about MY church… in the end it’s about God and his people and doing everything I can do to foster freedom through their intersection.

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The best way to fail at church

Next week I have a big, newsy, tour of the church post planned.  But for now, it’s another feely post about church planting and pastor’s wifing.  Cool?

For those who are new, every Saturday for the foreseeable future, I’m writing about our church planting journey.  Here’s a little more info

6380995935_0c38436424_bI didn’t want to be a Pastor’s wife. I made this declaration before I ever graduated high school. And it was seriously confirmed in college by watching countless episodes of Seventh Heaven.

I remember one specific episode (viewed in my suite mate’s room just before lunch) where a bunch of church women were touring the parsonage and commenting loudly on the curtains and bedrooms with disdain and loads of snark about the decor.

In their opinion, since the home belonged to the church it was theirs to evaluate, tour and scrutinize.

 

So often ministry families feel like this. Owned. Scrutinized. Evaluated and found lacking.

College me grabbed another handful of Doritos and told my suite mates… “See, this is why I will never be a pastor’s wife, that’s crap.”

But…. here we are. #pastorswifed

They say that man makes plans and God laughs.  This phrase has always bothered me because it makes God out to be a bully who enjoys messing with us.

It also bothers me because it seems to hold true a lot of the time. I didn’t want to be a pastor’s wife, but here I am.

I talked to a lot of other pastor’s wives and they said the same thing.  “I never wanted to be a pastor’s wife, but here I am.”

I think it’s because so many of us worry that somehow God’s work will be the undoing of our marriages and families.

We’re worried you’ll judge us
We’re worried you hold us up to unreachable standards and dismiss us when we fail you
We’re worried you’ll judge our children, maybe make them hate church.
We’re pretty sure that you’ll say mean things about our spouse
We’re worried we’re not good enough for our role
We’re worried we’ll fail you by example.

And all these fears, have validity in the history of our lives
They’re valid because they happen. Continue reading

Because patience begats patience

Screen Shot 2013-08-11 at 10.02.16 PM As we walked through the church doors she was already tugging on my arm with excitement.

I was trying something new, going to church with my aunts, uncles and cousins… mostly because I couldn’t do another Sunday of church with both kids by myself.

I whimpered inwardly when I learned that children’s church was closed for the summer my task for the next hour would be managing my four year old daughter throughout the service.

We’d never made it through a service without bailing before.  The odds were never in our favor.

We shimmied our way into pew and I was instantly thankful for the engineering behind this old school church seating. There were people on every side of us, at least she wasn’t going anywhere.

The service started with a slideshow from a recent mission trip, which managed to hold her attention for a while.

Then the music started and she fidgeted from person to person, crawling down the pew behind me. Each rotation struck me with grace and guilt.

I always worrying that I’m robbing someone else of a meaningful God encounter when they take time to help with my children.

Then the sermon started and I sucked in one big, deep breath and broke out the big guns, the iPhone.

There, I thought, that oughta keep her entertained for a while.  And it did, I was even able to take in scraps of the message in-between answering questions about bejeweled.

Later, I noticed her flipping through my photo albums and smiled at the thought of her reminiscing about family memories while we enjoyed church together… well sort of together.

Then it happened.  Before I knew it I heard my own voice yelling loudly, interrupting the sermon.  “I’m gonna powerwash you!” I yelled. Continue reading

Saved by the Dough

You know the song lyric: “We need a little Christmas, right this very minute, we need a little Christmas now” ?

That perfectly describes the atmosphere in our home yesterday.

Yesterday there were tears and silence, I wept through church, dear reader there is so much I’m not ready to unveil here yet, but when I can, I will.  I promise.

So yesterday I decided that part of our aching may be soothed with a few twinkle lights and some nostalgia. Christmas has historically been the best part of my year, where my family managed to forget the sickness and pain and find joy together.

I grew up measuring my year by it, how many months until Christmas?

Grieving my parents has certainly messed with my feelings about Christmas but I still try to breathe it as deeply as I can, even if it stings a little bit.

So, yesterday we put up our grove of Christmas trees.  No ornaments yet, just the three white lighted trees that spend December in the corner of our living room.  I haven’t even fluffed the branches out yet, they look a little sad but they still do the trick.

Then I shattered a Bath and Body Works Wallflower refill on the tile floor that runs past our living room and the atmosphere really took on a Christmas feel, er.. smell.  Plus the added danger of cleaning up chards of glass while the little ones attempt to investigate the mess.

Then to top is all off we spent the evening listening to Christmas music and baking my Dad’s famous Christmas cookies.  Something about standing over that huge bowl of cookie dough, like I had every year for as  long as I can remember, healed me a bit.

Everything we’re going through, my Dad endured too.  All the gossip, the inner anger and bitterness, he walked through it.  I also know that he came out of it and wanted his children to live with the knowledge that men’s praise does NOT matter.  It’s not why we’re here.

He wanted his kids to be free from people pleasing, from legalism, from caring what other people think of God’s call on their lives.

Somehow in the cookie dough I found that reminder.  I was rejoined to who I am and why I’m here.

Then I ate 3 cookies and fell asleep on Kel’s lap at 8:30.

I think that in December I may share our family’s Christmas cookie recipes with you, what do you think?

What’s something that grounds you to who you are and why you’re here these days?