When I finished student
teaching my students gave me gifts.(I
think they were just glad to see me go.)I got cute little apple decorations of all kinds.Ever since then, when the kids go to school
the first day I put out the apples, which have grown in number since those
first gifts in 1991.
I have always loved
school and books and new notebooks with nothing written in them yet.I love to learn.
In college I was the
one front and center.Sitting with my
book open before class started.Waiting
for the teacher.(Picture my husband
rolling his eyes.)
I went straight from
the first day of class and took my syllabus to the library, checking out every
book I would need for the big research paper.
Call me a nerd of all
nerds if you want, but Proverbs 4:7 says, “Wisdom is supreme; therefore get
wisdom.Though it cost all you have, get understanding.”
Let me tell you, with
a kid going to college, all we’ve talked about the last two years is the cost of
getting understanding.It’s high.Ramen noodles high.
I always want to be a
learner.I want to open my Bible and
read the hard stuff and go do it.Teachable.
Wisdom means you’re
skilled at doing what you know.I know
the Bible.It’s the skilled part I’m
Read it.Do it.Read it.Do it.
We send our kids off
to school after an assault of lectures:Sit toward the front.Take good
notes.Make good use of class time.Ask questions.No TV after school.Be ready to start homework at 4:00.Matt told Caleb last night, School is your job this year.
When it comes to the
Bible, what kind of student are you?Back row slacker or front row nerd?
I grew up in church.Played the piano for church from sixth grade
until I was in my late 30s.So I’ve done a lot of singing about God.
Several years ago, God put it on my
heart to go on a two-week trip to teach the Bible in Africa, which scared the
snot out of me (yes –the snot right out of me.)I said, Okay, I’ll go.But I don’t want to, and the whole idea makes
me want to throw up.
After the decision to
go to Africa was made firm, I started what I call THE YEAR OF FEAR.Every night I cried before I went to bed and
told my husband, I can’t do this, and
he patiently, every night for a year, listened to me list off everything about
the trip that was scary.On the top of
the list was being hot.(Uganda is on
the equator.)I don’t do heat very
well.Next on the list were
insignificant things, like civil unrest, diseases of a third world country, and
dying in a plane crash over the ocean.
I started walking in
to church every week as a desperate woman.I had never walked into church desperate before.
We started singing
the same songs as always, but they were all new to me.Because now I needed them.I would sing a verse about who God is, and I
would look God straight in the eye and say, with steel in my voice, You had better mean this.I’m going to Africa, and you had better be what I’m singing about right now, or I’m
going to die.
On this side of
Africa (let me point out that I did not die), I now know that desperation is good. It makes me needy.And when
I am needy I find God IS what I sing about.
If you’re afraid,
anxious, desperate, I say GREAT!You’re
in the perfect position to look God in the eye as you sing and say, You had better be who you say you are.
We love people deeply.Friends and family.And then often God calls us to leave the
friends and family we love so we can serve Him someplace else.
So there’s this love for God that makes our
mouths say, Yes, I’ll go, Lord.The suitcases get packed.The feet head out for a new place.
But while the suitcases get unpacked in the
new place, the heart commits a heinous mutiny and longs for the people in the
I remember when we moved to Kalispell,
Montana from Texas where we had lived for seven years.Matt and I fell in love in Texas, had our
first child there.The friendships were
When we moved here I held a secret distain
for the new people.I didn’t want them.I couldn’t love them.Give me
the old people back.The comfortable Texas
people.The ones who know me.
Yet here I am 17 years later, and I do
believe many of you reading this blog post today are the new people.The Kalispell people.Now my heart is tied so tightly with yours
that I can’t imagine life without you.
It’s sure hard to love new people,
though.To get to a new place and work
to make friends.To make mistakes and
wonder if these new people will show grace to you the way the old ones did.
It’s easy to pack a suitcase for your clothes
and transport them, but it’s not so easy to pack up your heart and
bring it along to the new place.It weighs more, and it’s hard to carry.It’s that last box that gets unpacked.
Colossians 3:23 (NIV) says, “Whatever you do,
work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.”
All your heart.
We can’t start a new something for the Lord
in a new place and not bring our hearts along.
Today I’m praying for each of you who is in
the new place.Praying God will give you
the strength to let your heart (not just your body) settle there.
My 15-year-old son wants a Camaro.A yellow one.With stripes.
I know because he has told me this 500,000
times.Every time we drive past the car
dealership he says, There’s my Camaro.Except I want a yellow one.No one is more focused and passionate about
looking at cars than a 15-year-old boy who is two weeks away from taking driver’s
We just took a long road trip, and he pointed
out every single Camaro on the highway.There are a lot of Camaro’s, he said.
The truth is, when you start looking for
something you begin to see a lot of it.All of a sudden every corner has a Camaro, but there aren’t more now
than there were before.
Only the seeing has changed.
The same is true when it comes to looking for
God’s goodness.When we start looking
for it, it’s everywhere.
Lord is good...”Psalm 100:5.
I had the experience of walking with two different
women as their husbands threw them aside in divorce.One woman, through her tears, could not stop
speaking of the goodness of God.The
other, through her tears, could not stop speaking of her bitterness.
There’s a lot of goodness out there.We just have to start looking for it with 15-year-old-boy
$400 later and she has a stack of books for
her first semester of college.As a book
nerd I pick up the stack of textbooks and flip through them, resisting the urge
to open them up and stick my nose in the binding.
New book smell.Why don’t they make that as a car air
My first days of college rush back to me, and
I say to her, I love to learn.A feeling of jealousy comes up in my throat.You get
to read new things and learn new stuff.
Five books sit on her desk.World music.Music foundations.Intro to
business.Intro to economics (scary!).Biology.
There’s a sixth.
I feel it as I lay in our hotel room
anxiously anticipating saying goodbye to her.Seeing in her eyes the panic of coming loneliness.
The sixth textbook.Learning to rely on Jesus.
It should be on the schedule and come with a
syllabus.It should require tuition and
a ridiculously expensive textbook.It
should be listed as a core requirement to get a degree.It should have a learning lab on Tuesdays and
Thursdays.It should have tutorial
the hidden class.The one you don’t sign up for but get
enrolled in anyway.The one that comes
with starting a new job or having a new baby or experiencing a new illness,
loss, or grief.It’s the class you take
when you’re a mom alone all day with little people who can’t talk yet or when
you plant your family in India or Africa to be missionaries.
John 13:25 (NIV) says of Peter, “Leaning
back against Jesus, he asked him…”That’s the class –learning to lean back against Jesus 101.Learning to sit close.To ask the hard questions of the One who can
answer them.To let Jesus’ love and His
companionship be enough.
This old hymn comes to my mind as I think
about learning to lean on Jesus.Care
to sing it with me today?
What a fellowship, what a joy divine, Leaning on the everlasting arms; What a blessedness, what a peace is
mine, Leaning on the everlasting arms.
Refrain: Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from
all alarms. Leaning, leaning, leaning on the
Oh, how sweet to walk in this pilgrim
way, Leaning on the everlasting arms; Oh, how bright the path grows from day
to day, Leaning on the everlasting arms.
What have I to dread, what have I to
fear, Leaning on the everlasting arms? I have blessed peace with my Lord so
near, Leaning on the everlasting arms.
I went for a tour last
night of my dad’s impressive garden.
He walked through,
pointing out a field of potatoes, some pushing up from the ground.Knee-high, feathery carrots.Rows of tomatoes standing tall on dad’s
homemade support towers.Lettuce tall
and gone to seed.A fence line of acorn
Enough produce that all of
my parents’ friends had better keep their car doors locked at church, or they’ll
end up with a squash and tomatoes in their front seat.
It’s hard to imagine that
all of this came from fragile starter plants and a handful of miniscule seeds.
This is a note for you, my
daughter only three days in to your college experience.Right now you’re at the fragile starting
place.The time where a gust of wind
feels like it could blow the tiny seeds away.Where roots wait in a starter container.And you wonder if you’ll ever, ever feel comfortable and solid and firm
in the ground.
Psalm 44:1-2 (HCSB) says, “God,
we have heard with our ears –our forefathers have told us –the work You
accomplished in their days, in days long ago:to plant them…to settle them…”
God works to plant people
where He wants them to be.
I feel a bit unsettled
too, my beautiful girl.A bit fragile
and wanting to feel comfortable and okay again.
Surely it’s a condition
most of us wake up with every day.Fragile and small and looking for solid earth, to be able to dig deep roots and
know we’re in the right place.
Strong enough underground
to reach up and really live out in the open.
Here’s encouragement to everyone who feels unrooted –God accomplishes the work.God plants.God settles people.We just need
to look to Him and have patience.
It might not surprise you
that the article on language in the National
Geographic caught my eye.Did you
know there are 7000 languages in the world now, and they predict in about a
decade half of those will be gone?
Which is sad, because
language is unique to culture.Word
choices reflect how the people think.When the language goes, a part of the culture is lost.
Words and culture.
The God who said, “Let there be light,” and
there was light (Genesis 1:3NIV) –He
has created a culture where there are words like forgiveness, grace, blamelessness, reconciliation, hope, love, salvation, comfort, faithfulness, truth, peace.
I live in a culture where
there are words like idiot, loser, failure, pathetic, fear, skinny, fat, nerd, hopeless.
I read in the National Geographic there are people who
are working like crazy to preserve some of the endangered languages.To save the very culture in which the people
Language is a big deal.
It shows where you
live.Who you are.
Yesterday my daughter
texted from her first day of college (sniff sniff) and said by the grace of God she met up with a
friend at orientation.
That was a great moment
for me as a mom –to hear my daughter’s words reflect the culture of the kingdom
So to quote The Music Man, “Wad-a-ya-talk?Wad-a-ya-talk?”
My daughter and I were in
the checkout line of the grocery store when I realized I had forgotten
Jayme, run and get a dozen eggs!
She came back and said, Wow, I didn’t know there were so many
choices.I didn’t know which
ones to get.
Choices come with the wealth of our nation.
For example, I used to spend an
inordinate amount of time in the cereal aisle, because good moms bring home
variety, right?Then one day it seemed
ridiculous –spending five minutes to choose cereal.So that day I chose two kinds of cereal, and that’s about all I’ve bought ever since.
I was talking to a friend
who was trying to find creative snacks for her little kids.Because shouldn’t they have variety?
Well, shouldn’t they?A valuable question.
Jesus says, “Do not store
up for yourselves treasures on earth.” I wonder if part of that storing up includes the American appetite for variety.
What if we were to purposefully stop storing up
so many choices?Choices of food and
beverages.Choices of clothing.Choices of décor. Choices of toys and gadgets.
If you could pick one area
in which to try a de-choicing experiment, what would it be?
The man at the shuttle
service at Glacier National Park greeted us with a robust voice and immediately
ushered us into… an experience.
With sincere enthusiasm,
he asked my husband where we needed to go.Then he said, with five-star quality, Please, allow me to escort you to my executive waiting room.
The waiting room was two
wooden benches by the sidewalk.
But the man’s demeanor
caused us to say, It’s
like we’re at Disneyland!
As we boarded the shuttle
the man encouraged us to get the very best out of our day in the park, as he
had been doing as an employee there for over two decades.
I’m tempted to carry
around a box of star stickers, to slap on the chest of anyone I meet who takes
ho-hum and crafts it into something spectacular.Surely the opening of my tin box and the
presentation of a star sticker would be of equal value to the presentations on
the Olympic medal stand.
The shuttle man would get
a star for sure.
God also turned ho-hum
into an experience.
He took formless and empty,
rather drab raw materials if you ask me, and formed them into light and color and and life.Then he stood back and “saw that it was good”.(Genesis 1:25NIV)
“Good” seems a modest
description, but then the artist must have a humility about His own work, I
That’s what I want to be
able to say when I stand back and look at the tasks I’m doing.I want to be able to say, This
is good.And when God stands up
close behind me to check out what I’ve done, I want Him to say, Mmmhhhmm.Mmmmhhmm.Yes.This is good.
I want to be like the
shuttle man.When people brush up
against what I’m doing I want them to get that Disneyland, over-the-top,
come-step-into-an-experience kind of feeling.
Some days the work is just
cleaning toilets and making dinner and providing taxi service to a teenager.But still.I could add a bit of the Creator’s flare to the ho-hum.Besides, it’s rarely the task itself that is
spectacular, rather the attitude and energy and creativity I bring to it.
What’s your work?When you step back and look at it is it good? (Get-a-star good?)
I might just go buy me
some star stickers this very day.
We rafted the white waters
of the North Fork in Glacier National Park last summer.
If I remember correctly,
one of the rapids we passed through was named THE BONE CRUSHER.(I thought
maybe in all caps you would feel the ominous in that name.)
How do you prepare for THE BONE CRUSHER when your
rafting guide is an ornery man with a glint in his eye?
Today I pack my suitcase
in preparation for taking my firstborn to college.For months, every single adult survivor of this rite of passage has looked me in the eye with sober expression and said, Ah, the bone
crusher.Hardest thing I ever did in my
life was to drive away from my child at college.
If only there were something to brace my feet against.
This is what I’m doing to
prepare for rapids.
·Thanking God we have
·Thanking God she’s
sad to leave us.
·Thanking God we’re
sad she’s going.
·Thanking God we’re in
a country where girls can learn how to read and get an education.
for providing money for her to go.
·Thanking God for
Skype and a text plan.
“Give thanks in all
circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”(1 Thessalonians 5:18NIV)
Thankfulness. It's the only handle to hold onto when things are about to get rough.
As I give thanks, I am
reassured that the God of all this goodness will continue to be good through
the hard goodbye and the hard first weeks (months?) of missing her beautiful
What rapids are you facing
right now?(Maybe it’s the same
whitewater trouble you’ve been facing every morning for a long time.) Brace yourself with thankfulness.
What would you write first on your list of gratitude?
The first seven miles of our
11-mile hike yesterday were amazing.I
was definitely tired, and my knees were hurting a little, but I was plugging
along.The scenery in Glacier Park was
breathtaking.We stopped to see mountain
goats and big horn sheep.The
wildflowers were in full bloom.The sun
was shining with a slight breeze.A
Then we started the
descent of the last four miles.That’s when
iliotibial band syndrome struck.It’s
inflammation of the band of tissue on the outside of the knees, and it causes
excruciating pain with every step when going downhill.
Four miles left in our
hike, and all of a sudden I was moving like a 90-year-old, gingerly making
every step down with sharp pain.At that
rate I was thinking we would get down the mountain in approximately three
Matt came back to check on
me, and I was in tears.And panic.
I don’t know how I’m going to finish this hike.There’s no way with this pain.
He offered to carry me the
last four miles (how romantic is that?)But I knew I had to finish the hike.
That’s when I prayed.
This morning I was reading
about Samson who had the Spirit of the Lord on him to go against the
Philistines.“So he went out and caught three hundred foxes and tied them
tail to tail in pairs.He then fastened
a torch to every pair of tails, lit the torches and let the foxes loose in the
standing grain of the Philistines.”(Judges 15:4-5NIV)
How does a person catch
300 foxes?And I’m thinking –once you
catch a few foxes, what do you do with those two while you’re catching the
other 298?Ridiculously impossible,
unless the Spirit of the Lord is on you.
That’s where I was on the
hiking trail yesterday.Staring at four
miles of impossible.Lord, I can’t do this unless you help me.
I figured out a way to
spread out my gait (which I’m sure looked ridiculous) to shift the pressure off
my knees, and I made it down the mountain in a few hours.A miracle of God –I’m not kidding you.I can’t believe I made it down.
The same God who gave Samson
the strength and ability to round up 300 foxes and tie their tails together is
standing at the ready to be our help.
I didn’t know how to
describe this feeling my husband and I have had in these weeks before we take
our first kid to college.Then Matt
taught me this new phrase.
According to Wikipedia
it’s a “quality of ambiguity or disorientation” that occurs within a rite of
passage.The old life of our little girl
at home is getting cut off forever.We
stand on the threshold of a new life where she becomes an adult and we change
to the role of advisor.
But we haven’t passed
through yet.Holding our breath.Waiting for it to happen.
We don’t know what the new
will be like.
When I’m not the mom all
day long, then who will I be?Away from her
family and the friends she’s known for so many years, who will she be?
Paul says, “One thing I
do:forgetting what is behind and
reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by
God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.(Philippians 3:13-14NIV)
Christ is to live in a liminal space.
Liminal space is about a
rite of passage.Tearing away from the
old.Going through the ritual of
learning to walk like Christ.Waiting for
the new structure of “identity, time, or community, and a new way” (Wikipedia).
It’s a space where fear
comes easily.Fear of losing what was so
comfortable and familiar.Fear of moving
forward into what we know is good but can’t always clearly define.
Paul tells us how to
function in liminal space:
·Forget what is
·Reach forward to
what is ahead.
Six days until we take
Jayme to college.I’m determined to let
go of what was and reach forward to what will be.
I have a project I’ve been
working on for almost seven months, and I think it only should have taken seven
Everything about it has
been hard.Road block after road
block.Here I am, as my dad would say,
with 99% done and still 100% left to do.
I was standing in the
shower, where I seem to have the best
conversations with God.
And I asked a question I’ve
asked many times before.So, what are ya doin’ with me, Lord?
Not disrespectful or
I assume that,
despite my frustration and discouragement in completing my project, God is doing something.
“We know that in all things Godworks for the good
of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”(Romans 8:28NIV).
The hot water ran over my
face in the shower, and I thanked God for not allowing my project to come to
completion yet.Thanked Him for the
delay.Voiced trust that His plan for my project would happen at the most opportune time.
Pull out the “magical”
list.Because I’m pretty sure summer is
supposed to be magical, and a mom is supposed to make it happen somehow.
The only problem is, I
didn’t get a fair sprinkling of whatever enchanting dust “all the other moms” got.
At the end of every summer
I feel like a failure.
Summer came to a close a few
years ago, and I knew I hadn’t checked off the make-it-magical list.So in anxiety I said, Okay kids, I don’t have any work today, so
what do you want to do?Anything you
want to do we’ll do.(A brave offer
from a mom who hates to be wet or hot or athletic or idle.)
I was working up the
internal motivation to take them hiking or to the lake or something on that
last beautiful day of summer.And my
daughter said, Let’s do a craft.
We spent the sunshiny day indoors
with canvas and paints.That was a good
Anyway, here I am again at
the end of summer knowing how much I have lacked the ability to make fun happen.
This morning I ask myself,
makes the list?
·Who decides what
makes a rockin’ mom or a boring one?
·Who decides, at
the end of summer, whether a mom has been successful or has failed?
·Who decides if a
mom has done what it takes to feel good about how she has cared for her
If I get to the end of the
day and my kids have had clean underwear, a healthy dinner, and a hug –but they
were bored –do I take a red pen to THE LIST and write a big, red F across the
The lists in the Bible
look way different than mine:“But the
fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.”(Galatians 5:22-23NIV)
Maybe, after 18 years of
parenting, I need to crumple up and throw away the superhero mom standard and
strive for something different.
Do you have posted in your
mind some impossible “amazing mom of the entire universe” list?
My mom gave me a one-year
Bible for Christmas, and my grand plan was to read the entire Bible through in
So today is August 10, and
I am officially on April 25 in the one-year Bible.Obviously I must have meant dog years when I
made this goal.
A few decades ago I would
have given up about now:Had a
plan.Plan failed.Failed God.Why keep going.
That was how I used to see
it.I would attack my time with God like a
DIY project where I would have the great idea, buy all the supplies, get a feeble
start on the project, and then sell all the untouched supplies in next year’s
Then one day I realized God loves me
and just wants to be with me.
I don’t really care about
the three-month lag in my big plan.The
important thing is that I had a plan to walk all the way through God’s word –with
Him, and I’ve been doing that every day, just more snail pace than I had
In Revelation 3:20, God
says to His people, “Here I am!I stand
at the door and knock.If anyone hears
my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he
It’s the with
Him part that is the success, not the page count.So I keep going.
How are you coming along with
your big plan to spend time with God?(It’s
okay if it’s not perfectly executed.It
only matters that it happens day after day.)
Did you know it’s possible
to say, It’s okay with different
tones of voice?
Like when someone bumps
into me accidentally and says sorry.I
sing-song a cheerful It’s okay.
Or when a girlfriend tells
me about her hard day and then apologizes profusely for dumping on me.I lean forward, eyes all compassion and
kindness, and say, It’s okay.
But then the husband calls
when I’m putting together homemade pizza and says he won’t make it home for
dinner and that he also has a late meeting.It’s okay, I say.
But my tone says, Don’t worry about me – sigh – I’ll just be
home by myself all alone tonight with no one to enjoy this fresh pizza out of
the oven and to keep me company, but don’t worry about me.I’ll probably just mope around depressed with
nothing to do, feeling sorry for myself.Maybe watch some television –by myself.
That was me last night.
And he hangs up feeling
all bad and neglectful because of how “okay” I am.
Bad wife!Bad wife!(I say to the tune of bad dog – bad dog.)
Really, the man has a job
and obligations, and he loves me like crazy and calls me like five times a day
just to say hi and see how I’m doing.Could I not be gracious and not pout when things don’t go like I want?
So here’s a public apology
to my man.Forgive my pout –I beg you!It was subtle
but childish, and you deserve better.
Philippians 2:14 (NIV)
says, “Do everything without complaining…”
Oh man, those really,
really simple commands are the worst.
I just read a story in the
August edition of Voice of the Martyrs about a man named Bounchan who
lives in Laos.
Arrested in 1999 for
telling people about Jesus, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison.(He was released two years early in February
“He was locked in a cell
by himself for a year, without a Bible.His stone and concrete cell had one large metal door with a small rust
hole that provided his only ventilation.I would stand up and put my nose
on the hole and breathe, Bounchan said.He asked the guard who brought his food to send a message to his
wife.Tell my wife, ‘Would you please help me?Bring me a Bible.I cannot live without the Bible.'”
I know some of you can’t breathe.
-Little kids wear you
out.And they’ll wear you out again
-Living conditions aren’t
what you wish they were.
-Paychecks are way too far
-Work is a constant demand
from a difficult boss.
-Sickness goes away, only
to strike someone else in the household, and you wish everyone could feel good
at the same time.
-Lice and nit combs and
washing the bedding again is your evening entertainment.(Sorry, sister!!)
-Fear of the future is a
You feel like you’re
sucking air through a small rust hole.
Here’s what Bounchan
knew:The Bible is oxygen.
Job 12:10 (NIV) says, “In His
hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”
On my 30th
birthday, my outrageously on-fire metabolism began to sputter.By my 35th birthday it had died on
the side of the road.For the first time
in my life I couldn't eat whatever I wanted and not have it show up on my body.
So I determined to exercise,
starting with resistance training.
Don’t good moms give their
whole day to their families?Every
waking moment thinking about what everyone else needs? Dinner on the table, clean laundry, paid
bills, made beds…
I started putting in time
doing strengthening exercises and then added 30 minutes on a treadmill.
Totalling 45 minutes given
over to sweating every day.
I felt like a thief.Stealing time during which I should have been
doing those million other tasks for my beloved husband and children.
Then I started to see
results of my daily workouts:
·Toned muscles led to improved perception of beauty.
perception of beauty led to increase in flirting with husband.
increased husband’s happiness.
·Care about quality
and quantity of food consumption rose.
better.Everybody ate better.
level led to increased productivity.
·And so on and so
Taking time to exercise was
one of the best actions I’ve ever taken toward my family’s well being.
“Make every effort to add
to your faith…self control.”Increasing
this quality “will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your
knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”(2
productivity –the two things a mom desires most.They start with controlling our own health.