longing and begging

It’s December 17th, we are right in the season of Advent, and I can’t recall a time I have longed for Jesus so badly.
This week has been nothing short of longing.
Longing for hope, peace, and anything that remotely resembles joy.

And this is just my little life.

One of my friends had her heart ripped out of her chest on Tuesday morning, discovering that the little boy she thought was going to be hers was in fact not anymore. They call it adoption reversal, which sounds like a cold way of saying, “You can’t have your baby anymore.” Her and her husband are now grieving parents, with nothing to show for it except empty hearts, pockets, and bedrooms.

That same morning, my other dear friend told me she and her husband went into hear the heartbeat for the first time of her precious 12-week-old, and the nurses “found nothing.” And used the cold, non-empathetic words, “this is not a viable pregnancy.” I don’t know who invented that phrase, but they should probably redo that year of their life. I can’t imagine a more lifeless phrase when telling a woman who dreams of being a mother that she is, in fact, not.

On Tuesday afternoon, one of my family members suffered from a mild stroke, which leads to lots of challenging conversations and rearrangements as they navigate what to do in this next very unknown phase of life.

Again, this is my little life.
I know suffering is everywhere.
I’m not blind to it.

I read the prayer requests every Tuesday afternoon in our staff meeting . . . heartbreak after heartbreak, loss after loss, and sometimes my heart gets so swollen I cry right there, in a conference room with gray walls and business suits.

And again, this is only my little corner, with the faces I know and love.
I know it’s everywhere.

On Friday afternoon, I got a text from my husband that said, “Try not to saturate yourself with the media coverage of this.” Of what!? I immediately turned on the news, ignoring his caring request, to find the horror that the rest of you saw and for a minute I said right out loud, in the stillness of my living room, “What in the world is going on?”

All of this coupled with joy–visiting with friends late Sunday evening, eating cinnamon popcorn, laughing about nothing and then eating some more. Listening to my sweet baby’s heartbeat today at the doctor’s office, and hearing, “You and the baby are getting along perfectly,” as I breathe relief because let’s face it, this seems like the week people are supposed to get bad news.

I’ve read Brene Brown‘s wise words about not selectively numbing emotion, about how you can’t numb pain without also getting rid of joy . . . and so I have fully embraced the pain that surrounds me, knowing that without it I cannot receive full joy.

But I confess that I long for Christ in a way I never have before. I long for Him to heal my friends, heal these hearts, and to bind up wounds. I long for Him to bring about restoration in the midst of darkness, and then I stop right where I’m sitting because I remember . . .

He came into darkness.

He was not surrounded by a world full of rainbows, unicorns, and butterflies. He was born right into a dark, unknown world, full of uncertainty and hatred, and yet He was called the Prince of Peace.

And this year, I long for Him.

I long for Him to hold my friends that sit with an empty nursery, to hold their hearts tightly and whisper into their pain and hear their angry questions. I long for Him to heal my sweet friend and her husband, whose entire paradigm of life is now something I cannot imagine, fathom, or begin to understand.

I long for Him to usher in peace to the little corners of our worlds, in the brokenhearted places we dare not say aloud. And during this season of Advent, I am not ashamed in my questioning, no–begging.

Christ, I beg of you to come close.

We beg you to be close to us.

because i can’t count on my hands

I knew once we announced our pregnancy, the questions would come like raging rabbits in search of a garden.

“How long are you going to breastfeed?”

“Are you going to get an epidural?”

“Have you started shopping for maternity clothes yet?”

“Are you going to find out the gender of the baby?”

Contrary to what the tone may imply, I enjoy questions because questions urge dialogue. I get to hear people’s stories, what their personal experience has been, and what they wish they would’ve known or done differently. So in this way, questions are good for me, because they force and encourage me to think and listen.

On the other hand, the questions can also be intimidating and anxiety-ridden. And the one that has ignited the most anxiety has been:

“What are you going to do about work? And daycare?” 

This question implies, of course, that I am going to continue working full-time, and that my child will inevitably be in daycare. This is a fair question, as I have never really spoken about dreams of being a stay-at-home mother. I read an article recently about Yahoo!’s CEO who planned on going back to work within weeks of labor and delivery. Then I read another one about a woman dealing with similar questions and issues, taking a less-demanding job so she can be with her family more. It’s a discussion that isn’t short of opinion or experience, and for me, it’s one I don’t take lightly, and feel too conflicted about to jot off a simple, “a + b = c.”

But our short answer is: we really don’t know. 

In our short 14 weeks of pregnancy, we have talked about every option, envisioned (and budgeted) each scenario. We’ve asked people we respect and admire the decisions they made, why they made them, and what they would do differently if they could. All had different answers, but very similar theme: do what fits your family.

This conversation is loaded with theory, identity, family, sacrifice, etc. No decision comes without significant loss and gain. So I ask, in the midst of our wandering, that you be gracious to us. We are trying to figure it out. We don’t know. We are full of lots of questions and very few answers. And we are settling in being okay with that for the next six (or so) months. I find myself saying more times than I can count on my hands, much like Jehosophat in 2 Chronicles 20, “God, I don’t know what to do. But my eyes are on You.” And something tells me that’s kind of the theme in parenting.

we are not enough.

My husband is not enough.

My friends, nope, they are not enough.

My mother, she is not enough.

My father, he is not enough.

My brother, he is not enough.

My coworkers are not enough.

My students, daggonit, they are not enough.

None of us are enough.

We want people to be enough. We wear them out, force them into roles they were not meant to play, beg them to be playdough in our hands–shaping them into the exact people, leaders, spouses, friends we hope and dream them to become.

But, I am not enough. And I so desperately wish I was. I frantically run through life, hoping that everyone I meet will be amazed, “Wow, isn’t she marvelous?” And yet I continue to disappoint the people in my midst. I used to think the solution to this was to just be better, achieve more, impress higher, be stronger.

I am finding that real courage comes from saying, “You know what? I guess I am not enough. I have so much to learn. I suppose, no, I know I need other people. I cannot do this on my own. I am flawed. Deeply, deeply flawed. I know it; I embrace it, and know admitting it will be the only thing that frees me.”

This morning I have peace in knowing I am not enough. And neither are you. We’re not supposed to be.

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind:
2 “Who is this who darkens counsels
with words without knowledge?
3 Get ready for a difficult task like a man;
I will question you
and you will inform me!
4 “Where were you
when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you possess understanding!
5 Who set its measurements – if you know –
or who stretched a measuring line across it?
6 On what were its bases set,
or who laid its cornerstone –
7 when the morning stars sang in chorus,
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
8 “Who shut up the sea with doors
when it burst forth, coming out of the womb,
9 when I made the storm clouds its garment,
and thick darkness its swaddling band,
10 when I prescribed its limits,
and set in place its bolts and doors,
11 when I said, ‘To here you may comet
and no farther,
here your proud waves will be confined’?
12 Have you ever in your life commanded the morning,
or made the dawn know its place,
13 that it might seize the corners of the earth,
and shake the wicked out of it?
14 The earth takes shape like clay under a seal;
its features are dyed like a garment.
15 Then from the wicked the light is withheld,
and the arm raised in violence is broken.
16 Have you gone to the springs that fill the sea,
or walked about in the recesses of the deep?
17 Have the gates of death been revealed to you?
Have you seen the gates of deepest darkness?
18 Have you considered the vast expanses of the earth?
Tell me, if you know it all!
19 “In what direction does light reside,
and darkness, where is its place,
20 that you may take them to their borders
and perceive the pathways to their homes?
21 You know, for you were born before them;
and the number of your days is great!
22 Have you entered the storehouses of the snow,
or seen the armory of the hail,
23 which I reserve for the time of trouble,
for the day of war and battle?
24 In what direction is lightning dispersed,
or the east winds scattered over the earth?
25 Who carves out a channel for the heavy rains,
and a path for the rumble of thunder,
26 to cause it to rain on an uninhabited land,
a desert where there are no human beings,
27 to satisfy a devastated and desolate land,
and to cause it to sprout with vegetation?
28 Does the rain have a father,
or who has fathered the drops of the dew?
29 From whose womb does the ice emerge,
and the frost from the sky, who gives birth to it,
30 when the waters become hard like stone,
when the surface of the deep is frozen solid?
31 Can you tie the bands of the Pleiades,
or release the cords of Orion?
32 Can you lead out
the constellations in their seasons,
or guide the Bear with its cubs
33 Do you know the laws of the heavens,
or can you set up their rule over the earth?
34 Can you raise your voice to the clouds
so that a flood of water covers you
35 Can you send out lightning bolts, and they go?
Will they say to you, ‘Here we are’?
36 Who has put wisdom in the heart,
or has imparted understanding to the mind?
37 Who by wisdom can count the clouds,
and who can tip over the water jars of heaven,
38 when the dust hardens into a mass,
and the clumps of earth stick together?
39 “Do you hunt prey for the lioness,
and satisfy the appetite of the lions,
40 when they crouch in their dens,
when they wait in ambush in the thicket?
41 Who prepares prey for the raven,
when its young cry out to God
and wander about for lack of food?
(Job 38:1-41 NET)

Thank you, Yahweh; You are enough.
I am sorry for expecting everyone else to be what is reserved for You alone.

on criticism, trust, and context

So, I don’t think I was mentally prepared for the amount of readers (and anger?) that would come along with yesterday’s post about Boundaries & Love. A few people were really, really mad. One person even emailed me saying I was locked inside a cage of religious-fear and I needed released. What? Clearly they do not know me.

A few things in response to this:

1. I have lots of guy friends. Our friendships just look different from my friendship with women. We hang in groups. Read: we don’t lie around in our pajamas watching re-runs of New Girl together.

2. I am in full-time ministry, and have heard story (after story, after story) of men (and women) leaving their jobs because of an inappropriate relationship(s). So, boundaries are just a bonus to the consistent heart-checks that free me from that. I don’t want to be part of those stories.

3. I trust my husband more than anyone, outside of Jesus. Our boundaries are not created out of fear, but rather mutual love and respect for one another. In fact, they allow us to have great friendships with members of the opposite sex.

4. Criticism–especially that which does not come from a place of love–actually really hurts. I have usually been in the camp of “if you haven’t been through the grueling process of creating something, step back and don’t be critical just to be critical.” Yesterday I got a little personal taste of that. I am all for dialogue, conversation, growth, and different opinions, but not when they’re in the form of internet-rant-screams.

5. Before you critique something, read the entire thing. Context matters. I read a lot of comments yesterday wondering if they even read my post. I did not think our boundaries were a list for everyone to adopt. Rather, they were the overflow of principles we try to live within our own marriage. The encouragement was not to adopt my boundaries, but to think through your own heart/mind/desires and figure out what’s necessary for you and/or your spouse.

Thanks for reading and supporting! It’s been a fun couple of days.

on boundaries: no one’s above it

Yesterday as I was perusing the interweb, I stumbled upon a site called The Good Women Project. Their mission? “We exist to restore a woman’s identity as God created her to be.” That sounds beautiful and simple, right? But then their mission says this, “We are adamant believers that good women have the most fun, the best sex, and most fulfilling lives.” 

Okay, now you’re listening.

So they allow guest submissions and post their topics ahead of time for people to write their thoughts and submit them in, with the hopes (but no promise) of being published to their site. That quickly appealed to me, so I wrote this for April’s upcoming topic: Boundaries. I’m testing it here. I wrote a while back a reactive response to this, but here are some more formulated thoughts.

——-

Sitting across the table from my friend, Pam, I heard it for the first time.

“I think you need to set some boundaries.” 

I had just moved to a new city for an internship and found Pam, a friend from home, was living about an hour from me. I asked her to mentor me and she gladly accepted. So, we met once a month at Starbucks halfway between my home and hers and got to talking, growing, and laughing.

One Thursday morning, she asked how work was going when I casually mentioned that I had just been to a one-day conference with my co-worker, who happened to be a man. She got a bit of a nervous look and said,

“Did you drive together?”

To which I casually and confusingly replied, “Well, yes, it was over an hour away, so it would’ve been silly to drive by ourselves.” 

“Were you the only ones in the car?” 

“Um, yes….” 

“Is he married?” 

“Yes, why?” At this point I began to clue in that, I, unknowingly and naïvely, had crossed a boundary.

She looked at me sympathetically and then launched into the speech: the one about boundaries in dating, work relationships, and marriage. I would’ve liked to think that I was privy to boundaries. I didn’t hang out with married men or ask them personal questions about their lives. I had no desire for any of the men I worked with, nor did I seek their interest. The very thought of a romantic relationship with any of them made me feel nauseous. So why was I getting a speech like I’m the other woman? Because although I my intentions were pure, no one wakes up to an affair. It is a slow process of boundary-less decisions. 

And so, with the help of Pam, here are some boundaries I adopted as a single woman. Some of these may seem obvious, and some extreme, but here they are:

    • Never ride alone in the car with a married man. Even though it’s innocent, car rides can be long and isolated. Inside jokes are created and a deeper form of friendship comes through being alone together. If he’s married, there’s no need for him to have that kind of relationship with any woman except his wife.
    • Don’t be in the office alone with a married man. If there’s only two of us left in the office, one of us needs to leave. Or ask another co-worker to stay. I know this creates an awkward dynamic at first, but once it’s the standard, it becomes second-nature. Even if it’s only because of the pretense of what could be happening and definitely isn’t, it doesn’t matter. It’s worth the safety-net.
    • If someone who is married begins to complain to me about their spouse, check out of the conversation and end it immediately. Say it’s inappropriate and that it makes me uncomfortable. If I were to tell my 18-year-old self one thing, it would’ve been that. I listened to far too many wife-bashing stories that I now, as a wife, really regret listening to. They have plenty of male friends they can talk with, and if they don’t, they can find some.
    • Don’t text, instant message, or communicate with a married man unless his wife is present, or I know she could read everything I saying without questioning my integrity or intentions.
    • Because my job lends me to work with more men than women, one of my “boundaries” is to intentionally befriend the wives of men I work with. Not in manipulation, but as a way of reassuring them and allowing them to feel safe and comfortable with me. This actually quickly became a requirement when looking for a potential job. One of my internal “required” questions was, “Could I be friends with his wife? Is she welcoming of me, or threatened by a female’s presence?” If the answer to the last question was yes, I committed to say no to the job. My reason? It’s not worth becoming the target of someone else’s insecurity, if I can help it.

When my husband and I got married, the boundaries changed more. As someone who grew up in the home of divorce, it’s entirely worth it. I know neither of my parents said “I do,” thinking someday they would live separately and drop their kids off at each other’s houses.

None of these are 11th Commandments, or necessary for every couple on the planet, but for us, they are agreements we made for the sake of protecting and nurturing our marriage.  A wise person told me once that no one is above an affair. And I think they are right. When we become invincible in our minds, we let lies seep in, ignore our intuition that quietly says, “mayday!” and excuse it for self-consciousness. If my heart skips a couple of negative beats before making a decision, that’s the Divine telling me to run. Or the Word becoming flesh in my subconscious. Or the Holy Spirit. All of those are viable options.

And so, as a married person, here are some of our boundaries:

    • No communication with exes, from any stage of life. The heart can be an absolute fool. What happens when you and your spouse are in an argument that goes on for days, you feel under-appreciated and an ex tells you how beautiful and wonderful you are? Only a few more steps into an affair. How many stories have you heard/seen about people who reconnected via Facebook and left their spouse? I’ve heard too many. And I doubt that any of them were planning to end up in affairs on their wedding day.
    • Never ride alone in the car with someone of the opposite sex. This is about the spirit of the Law more than the letter of the it. Again, this can be the starting place for an isolated relationship with a man other than my husband. I don’t think driving in the car is the danger, but the togetherness a car ride can bring. For that matter, the same principle applies–don’t be at work alone with a male co-worker, or vice versa. Scratch that–if you are married, just don’t hang out by yourself with someone of the opposite sex.
    • When it comes to friendships, if you’re a woman, be friends with women. That’s not to say you cannot have male friends. But please do not be one of the girls that say, “I just can’t get along with women.” Do you know that means you are probably the problem in that equation? I have no doubts that women have hurt you and been cruel. But I also know a lot of great women who encourage and strengthen. So don’t stop at the “I don’t like women,” door; push beyond it and seek out deep, meaningful friendships with other women.
    • This may seem like, “duh,” but we try very hard not to put down (even in a joking way) each other around other people, not knowing how they would receive it. My friend says it this way–when she was pregnant, one of her husband’s co-workers asked, “So, is your wife getting really moody and hard to deal with as her pregnancy ticks on?” Even though in other settings they could all laugh and poke fun at the ridiculousness, her husband gave a short, “Nope, we’re just thankful she’s been able to carry her this long.” I really respect that.
    • Don’t go to bed without saying I’m sorry and/or I love you. In our 2 and 1/2 years of marriage, we’ve had our minor blow-outs. Anyone can tell you–I’m a difficult person (and I’m guessing you are, too!) and so I have my fair share of life to apologize for. Humility and forgiveness has paved such an open dialogue and space for apology.
    • Love each other like crazy. Don’t withhold love, apology, or grace.

If you’re thinking by now that I have surely lost my mind, that I wear jeans up to my bra, and that I haven’t had my hair styled since 1996, you’re wrong. I’m actually kind of cool. I teeter on the edge of hip (can you be hip and use the word “teeter?”). And would you know it? I want a healthy marriage. I wish healthy marriages were written about, talked about, filmed around… but I know why they’re not. They’re boring! Who wants to read a novel about my boundary-filled, healthy life? About a couple making a meal together at night in their home, planning the month’s budget, investing their lives in their jobs, friends, Church, and community…? You’re already falling asleep. But that’s because it’s only boring to the outsider. On the inside, it’s freeing and incredible. Mumford & Sons sings it like this (told you I’m cool):

Love, it will not betray you, dismay or enslave you, it will set you free
Be more like the man you were made to be
There is a design, an alignment, a cry
At my heart you see
The beauty of love as it was made to be
(Sigh No More, Mumford & Sons)

Love sets us free. Free to laugh, cry, dream, give, and receive. In a paranoid, nervous relationship, you are placed in a hopeless cage of anxiety and guilt. Boundaries set you free to love your spouse in a way you can never love anyone else. Trust, loyalty, and promise win out over the flesh. . . and that is something to be celebrated.

——

What’s your opinion on boundaries in marriage, dating, work relationships, friendship? Do you have any you try to keep? Which boundaries seem too extreme? Why?

2011 Reflection & Wrap-Up

1. What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before?
I flew solo in youth ministry for 3 months as my co-worker took a sabbatical. I officiated a wedding. And… I dove into the joys of home ownership. :)

2.Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I did. I failed. Hah! My resolution was to run the mini-marathon, but that didn’t work out. HOWEVER, I did join the YMCA and am working out routinely, so although I didn’t complete my resolution, I got creative.

This year, my goal is to have balance in my financial life. I want balance everywhere (who doesn’t?), but financially, we are making some adjustments. We want to give more. Save more. Spend less.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yes, yes. I am in a season of babies & weddings, and I love every minute of it.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Yes. Kyle’s grandfather passed away this fall. One of my former students, Tessa, died this past Spring in a car accident.

5. What countries did you visit?
Zilch. As in none.

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?
Time and space.

7. What dates from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
March 1-First day of Nick’s Sabbatical
March 5-Tessa died
April 30-First GO LOVE INDY. Loved watching our community that day. Rumor has it that I drove around from site to site with some tears.
September 24-Officiated Emily & Brince’s wedding in Eatonton, Georgia
October 23-Celebrated my mom’s 60th birthday in Chicago.
November 12-Stood beside my friend, Katelyn, on her wedding day
December 7-Kyle’s grandfather passed

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
There are lots of little things. I grew a lot this year–in personal maturity, my job, as a wife, sister, daughter, and friend. I just stinkin’ grew!

9. What was your biggest failure?
Taking out anger and frustration from work on my husband. I truly regret that.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Well, yes.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Definitely my iPhone. Life changer!

12. Where did most of your money go?
Bills, student loans, bills, student loans, bills… welcome to adulthood!

13. What did you get really excited about?
Durham Family Vacation in Florida, haven’t seen most of them since our wedding!

14. What song will always remind you of 2011?
Sigh No More by Mumford & Sons, I’ve Got This Friend by The Civil Wars

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:
– happier or sadder? Happier.
– thinner or fatter? Same. 
– richer or poorer? Same.

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Time and energy in the Word.

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Checking email and being on the internet.

18. How did you spend Christmas?
Drove all over the place visiting family, led worship at Chapel Rock, and then drove all over the place again. :) Hoping for a more relaxing year in 2012.

19. What was your favorite TV program?
Mad Men, Parenthood, Parks & Recreation

20. What were your favorite books of the year?
Cold Tangerines (Shauna Niequist), Blue Parakeet (Scot McKnight), Making a Mess and Meeting God (Mandy Smith), Radical (David Platt)

21. What was your favorite music from this year?
Mumford & Sons, Adele, The Civil Wars, Over the Rhine, Brooke Fraser

22. What were your favorite films of the year?
The Help

23. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 24, and I had a relaxing day with my husband and then went over to a friend’s house for dinner. Low key and perfect.

24. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Deciding early on that I cannot control other people’s choices and decisions. That would’ve saved me a lot of anxiety and stress.

25. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?
Dressy/Casual/WannabeHipster

26. What kept you sane?
Laughing with my husband. Cooking. Funfetti Vacation with my closest friends.

27. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011.
People are capable of tremendous amounts of good, and tremendous amounts of evil. We desperately need a Savior. Also, chocolate really does help. :)

thankful for insecurity

Have you ever caught a glimpse of yourself in the mirror while Zumba-ing? No?

Well, let me tell you, it’s probably not a pretty sight. 

Last night while attempting to dance like a Latin Diva bustin’ a move at Zumba, I glanced in the mirror only to realize the image in my head looked nothing like that which appeared before my eyes. Instead, what appeared before me was a pale-skinned, sweaty-haired disaster who clearly thought she looked way sexier than reality has sadly proven.

This is, of course, not the first time I’ve felt unsatisfied with reality. It happens every morning as I stare into the mirror and tug on my stomach, arms, cheeks, eyelids, and wish for something different. Or when I stare into a closet full of clothes and say, “I have nothing to wear.” Never done that? Well, either your identity in Christ is so rock-solid that you never feel the weight of insecurity, or you’re lying. Because as far as I can tell, every woman I know has a body part she’d freely trade.

I remember listening to a speaker in college say that nothing drives us to more bad decisions than insecurity. Insecurity drives us to jealousy, overeating, pride, drunkenness, terrible relationships with men, vanity, the list goes on. Insecurity, is–yes, certainly another form of evil. But… insecurity can actually be a gift. 

What’s that? Insecurity? A gift? Yep. A gift.

What happens when we  feel insecure? We push ourselves to find validation making idiotic choices, saying jealous things, spending money we don’t have on things we don’t need, find our worth in what we can achieve and know, and again… the list goes on. But what insecurity also does is push us to find credibility in things that actually matter. Whether or not we allow this to happen is not the point. Insecurity is a gift… in that it drives us to our real source of credibility: Christ. We are nothing without our Creator.

I am–quite slowly–learning to put my moments of panic-stricken insecurity into the hands that created me, to say over me, “You are more than this.” When we choose anxiety, we forget who we are. We forget where security comes from. And not just in external things, but internal, as well. We forget that our personalities are really just a reflection of God, that our circumstances are temporary in light of who He is, and we all bear the image of Christ in some way because He lives inside of us.

And so, today, I am thankful for insecurity. Insecurity that drives me to an identity in Christ, that pushes me to seek and trust Him deeply. Thank you, insecurity. . . you are an unwelcome, but motivating, gift.

killimanjaro and christmas trees

My life is so very ordinary. It’s true. I spent lots of time in denial, and can finally accept that my life is beautifully, extraordinarily, ordinary.

Last night, up lurking on Facebook, I intentionally stalked stumbled on an acquaintance from high school that recently hiked Mount Killimanjaro. Yes, you read that right. Girl hiked highest mountain in Africa. Immediately my interest peaked, as I 1) Hardly remember this person and 2) Am not sure how we became Facebook friends. Either way, she hiked Mount Killimanjaro. I lurked through hundreds of photos of tents, hiking poles, making food over a campfire, sites you only see in movies and then looked over at my bulldog snoring on my bed. Hardly close to hiking 19,000 feet above sea level.

I post photos of Christmas trees, driveways, my husband, food creations from our  little kitchen, friends having coffee, concerts that no one else cares about, birthdays, holidays with family, and weddings of beautiful friends. This is how my morning went today: I woke up, chowed down on Special K, made coffee, watched the previous night’s episode of Parenthood because I didn’t want to stay up until 11pm, fed and let my dog outside, dolled myself up only to slip a hat over my frizzed out hair, and drove two miles to work. Pretty thrilling, right?

But last night around 9pm, as I was standing near the window and looking out at our backyard covered in snow, my husband came over, wrapped his pale arms around my waist and simply said, “I love my life with you.” And we slow danced to silence. Corny? Yes. Do I care? No.

On the outside looking in, my life looks pretty simple. And it is. If someone wanted to make a movie about my life, there’s a strong chance that many would fall asleep. But that’s because it’s only boring to the outsider. On the inside, it’s pretty extraordinary and beautiful.

It’s taken me a while to realize this, but life doesn’t have to look extraordinary and unique to be so. And I’m not bashing, by the way, hiking Killimanjaro. That’s beyond incredible. But my guess is in between the photos, there was a lot of ordinary wrapped up in that hike. Lots of campfires, processed camping food, bug spray, tent making, blister-repairing, laughter, tears, awkward relational moments, forgiveness, loneliness, sore muscles, and maybe even a little regret. Ordinary.

I believe God is visible and present in the crazy, Mount-Killiminjaro-moments. I also believe He is undeniably present in the small, ordinary moments. The bowls of cereal, arguments with our spouse, mortgage payments, making snowmen with children, bad recipes, raking leaves, tithing, tutoring a struggling child at a nearby elementary.

All of us are full of ordinary. But that’s what makes life so beautiful. So today I am thankful. Thankful for grocery bills, weekly menus, friendships that never change, and ordinary moments that are absolutely Divine.

bible college pet peeves

I had a conversation recently that sparked some of my “Bible College Pet Peeves.” I thought I had put them aside, since it’s been almost two years since I’ve been in school, but nope…. they came flaring up with a vengeance. So, here we go. This may or may not come across incredibly judgmental (okay, it probably will). Please know that all of this has an undertone of grace and understanding.

1. I go to Bible College because my parents made me, and I’m over church stuff. 
First things first: I sympathize with you. But I also want to kick you in the rear (in the name of love, of course). You went to Bible College because your parents MADE you? While I’m sad you aren’t allowed to make your own decisions, that is not a get-out-of-learning-free card. While you’re here, and while you are having doubts about faith/life/church/Christianity/humanity/etc., how about using this time to learn a few things? Go visit professors that will make you think… go voice your frustrations with people who will listen, because they’re EVERYWHERE. And they might even be smarter/nicer/wiser than you perceive.

2. I’m an athlete; why do I have to take Bible classes?
Look at the sign at the entrance of the campus. Sorry, but you should have known.

3. This is my time, I don’t need to serve people while I’m in college. 
One of the most perplexing things while I was in school was how few people actually left campus to go serve the people in our community. Because more often than not, these were also the people who had the most critical opinions about church, Christians, theology, etc., which of course makes zero sense. Knowledge puffs up; love builds up, right? If you want to learn, you have to get outside of yourself and do things that make you uncomfortable.

4. I learned all I need to know about the Bible in Sunday School.
Okay, no offense to your Sunday School teachers, but I’m pretty sure they do not have the level of education of the professors that surround you. Also, you were 12. Or 16. Or whatever. Your brain was not even close to being fully developed, and learning by a felt board is not the same as having your nose in a book written by a New Testament Scholar. These classes, believe it or not, enrich your faith, and if you choose not to attend and actively engage… you are seriously wasting LOTS of money, and time.

5. My professor thinks differently than the way I was raised; he or she is probably a heretic. 
This is the worst one of all. What a sad, sad Christian culture we live in to believe that if people see Jesus, the Bible, Trinity, Baptism, Communion, the Holy Spirit, and/or the Church differently than we’ve always known, they are somehow a pagan heretic. Seriously people. When you get out of Bible College and into reality, you are surrounded by people who disagree with you. And if you can’t figure out how to disagree with grace and learn from others that surround you, you are only limiting yourself. And God.

Time at Bible College has the potential to be some of the most enriching years of your life… if you let it be so.