Kuyper Coffee Dates- Tuesday

KuyperCoffeeDates_zpse49f9fa2 Today I’m continuing a week long series called Kuyper Coffee Dates, for more information read up on Day 1.  The short version is as follows:

A beloved college professor of mine gave her students an assignment to select a blog which spoke to spiritual formation, mine was one of the choices.  They had to write a short paper about their reading experiences which included an answer to this question:

“If you could go out for coffee with this writer, what questions would you ask her?”

A few weeks back I got a stack of about 20 college papers, all reflections and questions about my blog.  I was beyond flattered and humbled and I want to answer these  questions as best I can.

So Kuyper Students, readers let’s have coffee, shall we?

Is it hard to do something so public, like sharing your story on a blog, and still give all the glory to God without wanting to keep it for yourself?

Yes and no all at the same time, while it’s easy to puff up with pride when the page views are high and the comments are many, my pit fall seems to be completely losing focus of who gives me the words in the first place.

I do catch myself thinking I’m the shiz every once in a while and when that happens I remind myself that I am just another one of God’s kids who has clumsily managed to be be faithful with gifts I’ve been given.

The best lesson I’ve learned on this subject is that God is the one who is to be glorified in my writing, if I start taking it for myself or start putting my writing above my Creator he swiftly takes away the words.

He won’t fuel me to do something that is taking precedence over our relationship and communion.

Your husband Kel seems like an amazing Father and Husband, how has his spiritual leadership been a part of your journey?

No disputing this one, Kel is an amazing guy, so glad you picked up on that!  Kel and I have already weathered some crazy storms together.  Some moments the pain brought us together, sometimes we allowed it to come between us.

Yet during every painful season Kel rarely left my side.  His quiet prayers and support were the strongest spiritual leadership that he could have possibly shown me.  There were no words that were going to take away the pain I was feeling, so his quiet support was the simple, yet strong leadership I needed.

He loved me in simple ways by putting me to bed early, watching our 1 year old during my two hour baths and putting up with my ever changing moods.  His love was healing and I felt God’s love through his actions.

If someone asked me how to best support a spouse through grief, I would tell them it’s to dole out mountains of grace.

The odds are that your spouse isn’t going to be their usual self for a while so give grace and drop as many expectations as possible. This when they don’t meet your expectations or can’t engage your typical routines you’re not as upset or surprised.

I would ask Leanne how she has been able to go through all this grief and pain and still have such a strong and unwavering faith in God?

Okay, I am so glad that you got unwavering from my writing but to be honest with you, it’s felt very… waivery.

I’ve been angry, cynical and I’ve as good as given God the silent treatment.  There have been seasons where my most prominent prayers have been little more than: “What the hell are you doing here?” and “Please just sustain us.”

Yet I will tell you that not even once did I consider walking away from my faith. I screamed, threw selfish tantrums and bought into a hundred useless lies but I knew I wasn’t going anywhere.  God was my Father, even though I was one of his most pissed off and petulant kids.

I don’t know how I did that, I was real with my community of faith, they knew I was angry and in no mood for trite platitudes.  I don’t have any tips or tricks on this one, just keep talking to God, keep taking steps out of your anger and cynicism and he will be faithful to lead you into healing.

A Part of the Story

Do you remember the complete and utter drama of trying out for plays in school?  You audition, trying desperately to bring the hero or heroine to life and then you wait in a awful blend of dreams and dread.

The day arrives when they post THE LIST on the auditorium door.  All the hopefuls gather ’round, scanning the list of roles, wishing to see their name.  Asking the same question, will I get to be a part of this play, this story?

Life gets a whole lot better than it was in high school, thank God.  You come to realize that the most important plays and stories aren’t happening on a stage some Saturday night in April, but everyday, all around us.

waiting on a homecoming

More beautiful than any hoop skirt heroine is a little boy home for the first time from Ethiopia, finally part of his forever family.  More lovely than a choreographed rendition of “Getting to know you” is a text message letting you know that a broken relationship has been restored.  Listening to your son learn to sing is more precious than a part in “Meet me in St Louis” because this is a play that will last a lifetime.

I cherish nothing more than being a part of stories, my story, your story and above all else God’s Story.  I meander through my little house with it’s smudged walls, scattered toys and full pantry and my breath catches and escapes in a heavy sigh.  I think about all the people whose stories are dark today, whose mind is full of hard and heavy sorrow and questions.

I can’t be a part of every story, but I can breathe prayers to a God who is the author of every page.  I can beg him to teach me to become more aware of the story being woven all around me, to play the part that is the most helpful in his over arching desire to redeem and restore.

I can open my eyes wider and savor the moments where I am privileged to speak the most beautiful lines.  To be a part of the dream scenes, the ones that will forever alter the lives of those I love.

Yesterday was a dream day, our family stood along side many others with signs that bore the words “welcome home” and my dear friend Joely walked down the airport hallway beside her son, finally home from Ethiopia.  They gathered as a family of four for the first time.

My heart popped and every hair stood on end, how many times had we sat and talked about this moment, rehearsing it in our heads, the day when she would bring her child home after a 2 year pregnancy of fundraising and paperwork.

Finally it came, and it was more beautiful than I could describe, and as we drove home my heart overflowed with thanks.  I was humbled to be a small part of the day they brought him home to stay.

Anytime you are humbled to be a part of someone’s story and you have the clarity to realize it, breathe thanks.  Really the story is what we have, it’s how we change the world, bring heaven to earth.

Lord give us ears to hear the direction of your spirit as we live out the moments.  Thank you for every story we are blessed to be a part of, and give us the courage to go for the roles that are hard, to reach those that others aren’t reaching.

Thank you for sharing your story with me, dear one, any day that our lives intersect is a moment of beautiful humility for me.  Be blessed, be brave, see the story.

Shouting Hope with Green Bean Faithfulness

This week we’re garden sitting for my neighbor Libby, who has an extensive organic garden and bakery across the street from our house.  I water and tend to the plants in exchange for the produce that ripens while they’re away.  It’s a pretty sweet deal for someone who can’t seem to figure out gardening in Oklahoma beyond basil and rosemary.

Yesterday morning I picked green beans as my daughter chased kittens and my son was tried to eat out of the compost pile.  It wasn’t even 10 AM but it was wickedly hot and I had sweat dripping off the tip of my nose.

I felt a deep connection to the soil and the plants as I gingerly pulled back the leaves hunting for the long, slender green beans.  I couldn’t help reflecting on the encompassing worship of creating, how in the act of sprouting and growing, these green beans were worshipping our mutual father.  They were being faithful to their call to bloom as they were planted.

Last night over cupcakes and tapas I had a chat with a dear friend about life, love and

photo compliments of http://www.pinkitzel.com/

direction.  I’m the older, “wiser” one in our relationship and all I could think to say about the purpose and direction of her life was this: she was really only called to impart herself to the world she found herself in.

God created us all with an inner spirit and if we infuse that beauty to the people and places we find ourselves in, then that’s being faithful.  I never saw myself as a writer and full time Mom when I was on the cusp of college graduation, but I endeavor to share my inner spirit with you and my children as best I can.

And somewhere in-between the green beans and the cupcakes I realized that why I write about my painful story, my little at home moments, because I want to give you a taste of my hope.

My insides can’t contain the need to shout from the rooftops the good news that whatever you’re going through, wherever you find yourself, that you can find full hope in a God who will bring you through the other side of every situation to a new, joy filled day.

Somehow writing about suicide nights and french toast mornings is my way of imparting my inner spirit into your world.  Because if we could sit down and have a fancy cupcake, at some point I would tell you not to lose hope, because with a loving God we can come through the other end of any day or struggle.

God’s redeeming my story, he is using me to show hope and whatever you have, wherever you’ve been if you hold it up to him, with weak and shaky arms, he will redeem it and make something beautiful.

I can promise you with every confidence that I feel this, and I can’t contain it.

Beautiful Scars- The Year of my Drinking

I’m so excited to be sharing a real and lovely post from my friend Addie Zierman who does most of her writing over at her blog “How to Talk Evangelical.”

Addie has a way of taking your soul and putting it into words, so I implore you to follow her blog immediately if you know what’s good for you.  Addie is sharing her voice for my “Beautiful Scars” Series, and if you’re interested in doing the same I would love that, click here for more info.

Beautiful Scars- The Year of my Drinking by Addie Zierman

That was the year that I was very sad. The year that I was drinking to get happy. Drinking to forget and remember and feel something all at once.

Before that point, my relationship to alcohol had been downright ambivalent. As an on-fire-for-Jesus high school student, I had thought drinking was a sin. As a college student at a conservative Christian college, I adhered to a strict Lifestyle Statement that banned it altogether.

But in 2007, I discovered my own bottomless, inexplicable sadness. And I discovered Starling Castle Riesling…a sweet, mellow wine that I could drink in great gulps.

After the first glass, I felt happy and buoyant. After the second, honest and authentic. Somewhere in the middle of the third glass, I felt myself float away like a balloon, and all of the pain looked tiny and surreal so far beneath me like that.

The Depression, of course, had to do with biology and with old wounds, never really healed. In this place of darkness, you encounter something normal like loneliness, and you cannot handle it. In this place, some church person that you barely know says some well-intentioned something, and it breaks you in half because you have become so brittle in your pain.

And what I want to say is that yes. I have been wounded.

Many of the wounds came from the high-mobility, high-passion evangelical teen culture of my youth.  There was a high school boyfriend who, in his scrambling to be “passionate for God,” broke my heart brutally again and again. There was a fervent, teen missions organization that set impossible standards and then made me feel less-godly, less-beloved and less-chosen when I couldn’t meet them.

My wounds came from unexpected places, places that I thought were safe, people who I thought were speaking the Word of God, and they cut deep. I was wounded and it was cruel and unfair and painful. I was wounded, and it matters.

But the thing about wounds is that they will heal if you let them, if you tend them, if you take care of them. But we are terrible at this. I am terrible at this.

Ever since the Garden, we have had this compulsion for covering. We cover the pain with silence or with excuses or with simplified Christian answers or with Starling Castle Riesling.

We walk around this world infected with anger and bitterness that we do not understand, and we just keep throwing stuff on it, expecting that we eventually, we will bury it deep enough that it will just decompose like an old piece of bread.

But this is not how it works. By covering my wounds, I only compounded them. In my desperation to numb the pain, I made it worse.

I drank and drank and raged. I flirted with temptation and peered into the cavern of my own darkness, and then, one day, I reached the bottom of myself. I reached that desperate place where I had to change or fall into the abyss.

Here is why my scars are beautiful: because they represent the work I have done to become whole.

My scars are beautiful not because they are wounds but because one day, I stopped pouring the Riesling overtop them. Because I went once a week to a sweet, serious therapist who made me talk through the ache. A therapist who helped me find them, clean them, sew them back together one brutal stitch at a time.

Scarring is that beautiful thing that happens when you hold out the painful thing and let the healing in. Let God in.

It’s that thing that happens when we uncurl from around those tender places and expose them to that startling, searing, beautiful Light.

Addie Zierman (@addiezierman) is a writer, mom, and Diet Coke enthusiast. She blogs twice a week at How to Talk Evangelical, where she’s working to redefine faith one cliche at a time.

Beautiful Scars- When I was a Christian

For a long time God has been nudging me about the need to be part of a community that not only shares their story, but speaks of redemption.  An honest connection for sharing how God has used our scars as unique qualifications to bring his light to the dark spaces.  

It all started with trying to write about my own story and being smacked in the face over how my childhood wounds make me the perfect mother for my own daughter.  And how my grief and loss has enabled me to talk about hope and tenacity in the valley.  

So I’m starting a series of sorts here on the blog where I’ll host and create space for other people to share their beautiful scars and painful yet unique qualifications.  A space for sharing our stories, even the most painful parts all for the purpose of glorifying a God who wastes nothing and is open to redeeming it all.  

If you have a story of beautiful scars and would be willing to share it here please contact me and we’ll chat about it.  

Today I am humbled to give blog space to my friend Joy Cannis as she shares her raw and honest story of loss and restoration.  I’ve known Joy for a while online now and I’m blessed to be in connection with her, hoping you feel the same:

I grew up in a loving home surrounded by “God-fearing” parents, grandparents, friends and neighbors. My mom says that I prayed to receive Christ at age two. Though she was unable to decipher my words, she’s certain that’s what I did.

I distinctly remember at age seven, sitting at the kitchen counter, across from my mom, when my dad called to say that my grandfather’s long and painful battle with cancer was over. And just like that I learned of mortality.

I was never afraid of death before having someone that I knew and loved pass away. It made it so real. When my grandmother died many years later, I can remember looking at her body in the casket. Her hands were pale and shriveled.

“Why do her hands look that way?” I asked my uncle.

He replied with a look of disdain, “There’s no blood in her body! They have to drain it all out! Didn’t you know that?!”

I didn’t know that, but I would never forget it after that moment.

Continue reading

Sucker for Hope- The Pirate Elephant Saga

This is my one year old son’s little toy elephant.  When you pull his tail he plays a lullaby and our little man can’t nod off without him.  He was intended for a soft snuggly life of comfort and happiness.  The only problem is that when I was painting my sons room “peaceful meadow” green a few months ago, I dropped a big drip of  paint directly on his eye.  My son wasn’t even all that attached to him before I maimed his eye with “peaceful meadow” but after I blinded him in one eye I started putting him in bed with our son every night, to try to make up for maiming him so badly.  I feel very real guilt over what I did to this poor elephant, so much so that I’ve spent real time thinking about ways to make it up to him.  I feel like in his current state he’s probably the creepy guy of the playroom, that when we all leave the house and the toys come alive that he’s probably singled out and alone.  The thought of this breaks my heart, so I have decided to give him a cool orange eye patch and give him a sort of “dos equis most interesting” toy in the world persona.

I have spent a lot of time lately thinking about why I got so broken up about the one eyed elephant.  I came to understand that it touched on something deep inside me, I have a real passion to see people realize their created potential.  My heart breaks for those who experienced pain that has stunted their growth and screwed with their hope.  I hate the thought of orphans across the world that go uncared for, unloved and unfed.  And yes, I experience real guilt when I maim a stuffed elephant.

I am a bleeding heart when it comes to hope, restoration and redemption.  I love to go out to the salvage yard and give an old chair a new chance to bring warmth and comfort to our home.  When a marriage fails, a diagnosis is terminal, a small business doesn’t make it or a friendship cannot be reconciled something aches within me.  All that hope down the drain instead of growing and bringing beauty to our world, it’s just not the way it should be.  Our world and lives are full of moments where hope doesn’t pan out, where potential isn’t realized but rather squandered, every moment holds potential for beauty but as we grow up we stop seeing the world for all that it could be and we start to give up hope.

This passion for hope and restoration is something that God put inside all of us, in my world sometimes it comes out in silly ways but mostly it defines my calling.  I feel called to help people restore their hope, to unload their brokenness and exchange it for the easier yoke of God through Jesus, whose entire life’s purpose was to bring restoration to everything.  When you see something broken, full of unrealized hope and potential and something stirs within you, that’s God using you to bring about his redemptive work.  His business is to restore, renew and reunite.   Romans 8 says all creation groans to be set right again, from the fields all the way up to the cosmos.  It’s funny what God will use to remind us of our calling.

All around us are is brokenness and God works through our hands and feet, I so want to be used this way today.

How are you being nudged and broken to redeem and restore?

Well I’m off to sew an eye patch for a musical elephant.  Hope you get after something quirky and wonderful of your own.