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It’s a Beautiful Day

Kissing Noah Goodbye, Audrey Imfeld, NILMDTS photographer.

Kissing Noah Goodbye, Audrey Imfeld, NILMDTS photographer.

Eleven years ago, it was bitter cold in Denver, Colorado. 2 or 3 degrees, if I remember right. The chill is still part of my memory, though most of me felt numb.

Jason went out to the parking garage of Children’s Hospital to pull up the car and let it warm up for a few minutes. I stayed behind on the 4th floor where I bundled up our 7 month old son, Noah, for a short drive across town. He had only gone outside one time during his 5 month stay at the hospital… [Read more…]

“How Do You Like Nashville?”

People ask me how I like Nashville. Here’s the scoop: I’m not sold yet.

I haven’t been here enough to know. We moved here last August to a 2-bedroom Airb*nb we planned to stay in until the first of November of 2016. During that 3 month time the plan was to get the kids settled into a school rhythm and then I’d work with our realtor to find a house to live in more permanently. Our things have been in storage at my dad’s house for 2.5 years now since I ran away from home after my mom died we sold our house in Colorado. [Read more…]

I Choose Life

1978

Me and Bobby circa 1978-ish

Oh my, God! I just did one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. I took a baton that felt prematurely passed, and I’m going forward with it, because retreating isn’t an option. Stopping and raising my fist to the sky and screaming, “WHY?!” won’t alter time or the impending outcome, it won’t make this pain disappear or life suddenly make sense.

So I’ll embrace the pain, kind of walk through the side ache, so to speak…and I will press on.

This morning I soaked my Dad’s t-shirt for the last time with tears mixed with deep grief and appreciation that he has been my Dad on this earth. [Read more…]

5 Minutes a Day

I’m going to experiment with writing for 5 minutes each day this month, with no particular prompt, simply spending a few minutes praying prior to opening the laptop and then seeing what comes out on “paper.”

We’ve recently relocated to Nashville. People ask how it’s going, how we are adjusting, if we are all settled in, what we are doing here in town, etc. We moved here because we felt like we were supposed to, and really because we wanted to. We felt like there was new life for each of us here. Our kids got into a special school with a loving community and great educational emphasis, so we decided it was the tip of the iceberg of reasons we were supposed to move. The rest would fall into place gradually, we suspected.

Well, we’ve been here two months. We are renting a small, sweet little 2-bedroom Airbnb place in an incredible neighborhood, one we could never afford to buy in until I write some best-selling books or win the lottery or pull off an international heist. Our kids love school. Jason’s still enjoying and plugging away at his job with World Vision International, which he does remotely. And I’m daily making it a practice to talk to strangers and learn their stories, some of which I’m writing down, others savoring in the moment.

What will unfold is still a mystery.

There are days that are mundane and I wonder what on earth we are doing and other days, or moments throughout the day, where I sit and breathe and savor and smile and give thanks because right here in the heart of the Country, away from most of what is familiar, glimpses of glitter shine and I see we are right we we are meant to be.

Hospice: An Interview, Part 3

Thoughts on marriage and cancer…

As we’ve emailed back and forth, Mandy and Jay and I have talked about how “cancer” is definitely something woven throughout their love story and how it’s affected choices they have made as it relates to their marriage, friendship, and commitment to one another. Today’s interview is a glimpse into the part where “in sickness and in health” has been put to the test. How do marriages survive hardship, disappointment and tragedy? Can they make it through?! The wisdom and insight Mandy and Jay share is priceless advice whether a terminal illness is part of the recipe or not! We’d all be the wiser for putting into practice some of the examples of unconditional love these guys display. [Read more…]

Hospice: An Interview, Part 2

On Tuesday, my sweet doctor made the call we didn’t want to make – she called hospice. Within a few hours of returning home, hospice was calling us. We scheduled the admission for Thursday. My case nurse and an administrator arrived at our home with sweet smiles and soft spirits. At the kitchen tablewhere all important discussions are required to take place – we talked about the ins and outs of all things hospice.” – Mandy Smith, from her blog post on August 19th, 2016

This is what true love looks like on some days.

This is what true love looks like on some days.

Merriam-Webster defines hospice as:

  • : a place that provides care for people who are dying

  • : a place where travelers can stay; especially : an inn kept by people in a religious organization

  • :  a facility or program designed to provide a caring environment for meeting the physical and emotional needs of the terminally ill

The word “travelers” is truly sacred here as I am reminded we are on a journey, and Earth is one of the stops on the itinerary. Personally, my experience with hospice caregivers is, if they aren’t angels among us, they are indeed miracle workers who somehow breathe life and nurture love into end of life situations. The depth of emotional care hospice caregivers provide is so profound, it’s not just for the patient but for all who are affected by the death of their loved one, too. I wonder why health care in America doesn’t first start out with them (maybe under an alias title without the premise of nearing death), solely for the miraculous nurturing they offer rather than all the scary tests and what if’s most people face in routine medicine? [Read more…]

Hospice: An Interview, Part 1

My dream job, like if I could do ANYTHING on this earth, is to hear the story of every person I come in contact with…no one is a stranger to me and everyone matters. It would be kind of like Brandon Stanton, founder of HONY, except I’d just be myself, obviously, and it would be humans of wherever (HOW?), asking questions and listening, even when, and maybe especially when, it’s hard. We would exchange stories, and in doing so, further make known God’s love, first because of what Jesus did for mankind, second because we defied the darkness and went ahead and shared our stories, all the messes included.

I always say if a smarter thought pops into your head than you could think of, that was God talking. Well, over the last few years that’s been the case with a friend from high school and his wife. I will be driving along and their names or faces will come to mind, so I pray. Some of those times I’ve reached out to his wife to just let her know she was on my heart. So, when I found myself driving around our new city of Nashville recently, coming up with full interview questions for them, I first thought, “Well, maybe Jay and Mandy don’t really want to talk about their journey, or her cancer diagnosis, or the fact that hospice is just around the bend…” Then I remembered my dad’s words, “It never hurts to ask,” and so I reached out to them… [Read more…]

Speak Love: A Series on Semantics

I heard this recently from someone concerned about Target restrooms and transgender persons and homosexuality and how important it was that people know their sins, because, “Life is short and what if they were to die tomorrow and not know they were sinners who needed a Savior?”

They were talking about an opportunity they had to talk to someone they just met about their sexuality. I listened, “Life is short, and if they were to die, what if I hadn’t taken those 5 minutes to share the Truth about their sin?”

The problem is, that isn’t the Gospel. It’s NOT the Good News, nor is it the original message Jesus pointed back to in God’s Garden. Rather, it’s a strategy, approach, and delivery of many Christians skewed by fear, fear which has snowballed into a messy slop of anxious evangelism, the opposite of the way Jesus approached His, “God WITH us,” day to day ministry. To a degree, Christianity and the Church have lapsed back into a state of religion rather than pushed on through to its original design of intimacy and freedom with God. It’s become more “us vs. them…get them into our camp…have everyone believe all the exact same things and act the specific ways we’ve mapped out so people will know us by our behavior…” rather than recognize us by our Love. Sadly, some people don’t want to have anything to do with God, which is the opposite intent of the Christian in the first place. Delivery matters…

I was asked if I even thought homosexuality was a sin, was told what the Bible says, and could open “Bible app” in case I needed to see for myself.

I listened. In my head a scenario played out of the Savior of the world kneeling down, drawing something in the dirt, waiting for sin-free people to cast stones at a woman “caught” in adultery…you know, because she didn’t know what she had done. And I wondered, “What if he was a cheating, lying, tax-evading, gossiping, animal beating, drunken drug dealer, who was also gay? Seriously, which thing should I choose to address in these 5 minutes, if this, in fact, is how we are called to steward 5 minutes with strangers we meet…? And while I’m at it, what sins of mine should I go ahead and confess to him, since I suppose I could die, too…?”

You see, I know life is short. Time is my love language and 5 minutes can mean the world. I know people can die between breaths…between the last time you talked, before you get a chance to wake up another day…but mentally and emotionally functioning through a filter of anxiousness and fear, that the world needs to be made aware of their sinful nature before they meet their Maker because they could die in the next 5 minutes, well, I can’t seem to draw the correlation between that and the commission to declare, “Good News!,” the Good News Jesus came embodying of God’s unconditional love for a hurting world. The Bible isn’t a machine gun to point at sinners. And Jesus didn’t come declaring, “In YO face, suckas!”

Nope. I wasn’t created with a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and sound mind. I won’t let fear push me around, no matter how “righteous” it looks.

So then I was asked,

“What would you say if you knew you only had 5 minutes with a person?
What if they were going to die the next day?
What would you say to them?”

What a humbling question! To even ponder the choice and precious words leaves me a bit wrecked and in awe…I will tell you, my experience with Noah radically changed this very “5-minute scenario” for me, as well as my perspective on life, and death, and loving God, myself, and others.

You see, if I knew a person still had 5 minutes to LIVE, I would hopefully savor the opportunity to speak this, if anything at all…:

“For sake of argument, let’s start with a clean slate, forget any preconceived notions, beliefs or disbeliefs.
Let’s pretend there is a God and He is really, really, really, really, so very Good.
Everything He ever did was miraculously Good and born out of love and creativity,
and the day He made YOU, in His image no less,
He said, ‘Oh Goodness, Me! SOOOOOOO GOOOOOOOOOD!

Speak love. Speak it with, and without, words.

Speak love. Speak it with, and without, words.

That way, if the person died at the end of 5 minutes, they would know Who it was they would be meeting on the other side of life on earth…the Very One who designed them, knows them best, and loves them dearly, and the two of them would have their “none of our business” conversation. There would be no need for fear because the last thing the person this side of death would know their value and worth and it was their loving, heavenly Father greeting them…

…and I just have to trust and believe God’s BIG ENOUGH to handle the details from there…

HOW THEN SHALL WE LIVE?  Every minute of every day is potentially the last 5 minutes for anyone…we all know how much we fail on any given day, which is why, I believe, Jesus said the greatest of all the things, rules, directives for life wasn’t to cast stones, call out sins, or compete and compare on a scale of religious righteousness and law-keeping, but to LOVE.

Love God. Love ourselves. Love others.

“Just keep asking God what you are supposed to do
and then be found doing it.”
Betty Biebel

 

The Great Boxing Ring

Two years ago in October, my mom and a couple of my friends and I gathered around a friend who asked us to pray for her. She was weary. Her marriage was tumultuous, to put it lightly, and her head and heart could hardly take it anymore.

We all knelt around her and quietly waited on the Lord before we started praying. One by one we offered love, hope, and encouragement in prayer. As my eyes were closed, I saw a vivid picture in my head…it was a great boxing ring, and my friend and her husband were pitted against one another…fists raised in protection and ready for attack.

 

I waited and prayed quietly for a moment, opened my eyes and closed them again.

There in the other corner, opposite my friend, was the Devil and her husband, and God was in my friend’s corner, behind her, rubbing her shoulders, squirting her mouth, drying her sweat. Suddenly, the opposite corner was being filled with more and more people, one by one, groups, individuals…it just kept getting more and more crowded.

And as the bell rang for the fight to resume, the look on the Devil’s face grew pridefully sinister…he was quite pleased with himself.

As we wrapped up, I told my friend what I had seen while we were praying and encouraged her how the Enemy of our hearts would have her believe she and her husband were pitted against each other, because of course, that’s how it appeared and felt and was expressing itself in reality. I brought up the point of how our battle is not against flesh and blood but against spiritual principalities in a totally different realm, and that she could unfortunately never change her husband other than to leave the marriage, but that it’s not him who is the enemy but the Enemy of our souls.

Fast forward to one night in April, 2014, when I spent the night with my mom while she was in the ICU. We had a pretty amazing evening together, sharing hearts, reading scriptures to each other, talking about revelations the Holy Spirit had given us about this, that, and the other thing. I tucked my mom into bed, saying what she said to me every night of my life growing up and what I say to my kids every night, as well:

“Goodnight! God bless you! I love you!”

…and then I cozied up in the chair at the foot of her bed and fell asleep right away.

Suddenly I woke up and there were two people standing over me, the only light from the nurses station in the hallway. I had to get my bearings the way you do when you fall asleep, but can’t remember where you are. Some friends had gotten off work late and stopped by to bring my mom flowers. We talked in hushed whispers, then headed over to the side of my mom’s bed. She roused and wanted to pray for her friends, and pray she did…prophetically, with God’s assurance. Tears shed, hands squeezed, cheeks kissed, we said goodnight and they headed out the door. It had only been about 1/2 an hour in all since I had fallen asleep to when our friends came for a visit, but during that time, God showed me the rest of the dream from the previous October.

I told my mom how everyone in the world was in the opposite corner of that boxing ring, all ages, every demographic and ethnicity, people of every tribe and tongue…the opposite corner of the boxing ring just kept getting more and more crowded, to the point of crowding out the real opponent, the only opponent, the very place where the Devil was positioned…

…and as the bell rang for the fight to resume, the look on the Devil’s face, now nearly lost in the crowd, grew pridefully sinister…he was quite pleased with himself…his deception from the Garden had woo’ed the masses to believe that our battle is with anyone and anything other than him, other than the spiritual forces in this world.

“And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.” – Ephesians 6:10-12

 

To me it was significant that the rest of the dream came when I was with my mom near the end of her life. And, as I think of it now, funny how it happened in a hospital. When Noah was in the hospital I had a lot of quiet, late nights to sit and read scripture, pray uninterrupted, and silently listen to God’s heart…then life gets busy for the listening, I guess.

My mom and I talked about it extensively and then spent some time praying.

See, the Enemy of our hearts, in the Garden, woo’ed us into thinking that judging between ourselves was a good idea…he woo’ed us into believing that God’s GOOD for us wasn’t sufficient, it wasn’t the whole picture, that possessing the knowledge of Good and Evil was something that would benefit us, that we wouldn’t surely die if we possessed it…but God knew better…He didn’t say we couldn’t eat it, He said not to eat it because if we did, we would surely die…

we would die a death of paranoia, fear, sizing everyone else up, comparison, competition, living on the defense rather than cohesively, ready to throw a punch rather than offer a loving hand.

It’s the Enemy of our hearts, the one set to steal, kill, and destroy, who would trick us into believing that anyone else is in his corner…because we all know misery loves company.

The finale of the dream was quite profound…when the lights came on and the bell was rung, it was Satan in one corner, all alone, and opposite him was God and the rest of mankind, His beloved creation, those made in His image, the ones He said, “It’s good,” about…us, all of us gathered together, living abundantly, not fettered by fear, but loving each other through the telling of an extravagant Love Story.

 

* My prayer is this: Father, You told us to love our enemies, and to pray for them…but it’s confusing who is our enemy and who is our friend…Lord, be gracious with us as we simply love and pray for everyone in our paths…we trust You who sees the bigger picture…Amen.

When Marriage Requires Confession

Have you ever been driving along and a horrible thought out of nowhere goes something like, “Drive your car off that cliff” or “Head into oncoming traffic”? Or other abnormal thoughts like wanting to jump someone’s bones whose bones aren’t yours to jump, or even hurt yourself, or hurt someone else? The mind is a curious place and can surprise even ourselves at times.

The wrestling came with feeling a sense of “attraction” to a guy at church, one I wouldn’t have found attractive at first glance. I was upset with myself for the random thoughts popping into my mind when he would talk to me, because I loved my husband. It was during a season when Jason and I were tired and busy new parents and he was working a ton. He also admits he wasn’t close to God during that time and we were in a marital season of going through the motions to merely survive parenting, a move, and a remodel.

I felt ashamed for being a “Christian woman in leadership” and feeling a spiritual connection to a man other than my husband. I did everything “church” had taught me to do when stuff like this happened: prayed, read scripture, “took captive every thought that sets itself up against the knowledge of God…” I put on my armor every day and walked away from scenarios where the attraction could develop into anything more. But it was strong, and, at the same time, I resented Jason for what I perceived as being spiritually dry and disinterested in changing our relationship, so part of me wanted to entertain the thoughts further…because there was a “connection.”

Problem was, I was expecting Jason to meet a spiritual need in me that only I could find seeking God, projecting onto him some sort of spiritual role I had conjured up in my head, and of what I expected a “Christian” husband to behave like.

After trying to keep the battle to myself, not wanting to hurt Jason or ruin our marriage, but seeing the internal battle of containing thoughts was messing with my own head and heart, I finally confessed to Jason. I told him how I felt, the random thoughts, apologized for having unhealthy expectations, and how I wanted no secrets between us. I told him I didn’t want to jump the other guys’ bones, I wanted Jason’s bones, and how our marriage was important, totally worth it, but something was missing, and we needed to make God and our love the priority. He agreed. And the spiritual “attraction” to that other guy totally disappeared.

Rewind, and fast forward, to some other “random” scenarios, and hopefully this will lead me to my point…

Back to those random thoughts that come out of nowhere…throughout my mostly happily married life of 22 years to the hottest man in my whole world, there have been some guys I’ve met where I felt very uncomfortable and unnecessarily vulnerable around, and a thought comes out of nowhere and runs its course through my mind that has something to do with sex or attraction, and I’m like, “Whoa!?” or “What the heck?! Where did that come from?!” or, this, “Huh…that guy’s not ugly…” or “Wait! What is going on in my heart and marriage that a thought like that would come over me?!”

Being aware spiritually, and then bringing it to light, is key…even if it is just a thought, openly sharing it doesn’t allow a thing to grow and take root…it doesn’t allow it to stay hidden. Authentic sharing reveals everyone is tempted on any given day with any given thing. Confessing it to your spouse, even if you think it will hurt them, is being truthful with something that isn’t even a THING yet! When communication with our spouse is open, then saying, “Hey, will you pray for me? I just had a really random thought fly through my head and I don’t want to entertain it” diffuses and snuffs out something before it becomes a wildfire.

Recently, I had what seems to be a revelation about all of this…and I talked to Jason about it. See, I believe we are in a daily battle for our very souls. And I believe that battle is raging over us and in us and around us, whether we are aware of it or not…whether we believe it or not. I believe there are spirits waging battles against people to thwart their marriages, callings, families, livelihood, etc, but they are subtle at first…sometimes they come when times are tough, sometimes when everything is going great. And, if those subtleties, whether as “random” thoughts or about sexual temptation, or resentment and unspoken expectations like I had, go un-confessed, they can absolutely grow into inappropriate friendships and affairs. Scripture says, “Our battle is NOT against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces in this world.” In relationships, the subtlety can look like a battle with the other person, but the reality is, it’s rooted in something more.

So, then, what can we do with this information? First of all, no matter what, no matter the thoughts that pop into our heads, no matter our behaviors or choices, God who created us in His image, is totally and completely in love with us. Period. Any person who tells you otherwise is spreading lies.

  • We need to pray…I mean there are no secrets with God, anyway, so these thoughts aren’t shocking or a surprise to Him. How do you pray? I might pray something like this, “Lord, You know the thoughts that have been running through my head. I don’t want them there and I don’t want them to become anything more. Please open my eyes to see when these attempts at my heart are there, and free me more and more from their power. I need You and can’t do this on my own…”
  • We need to share these thoughts, the ones that AREN’T even a THING yet, with our spouses, family, friends, and trusted mentors, so they don’t become a THING at all.
  • We need to share because ISOLATION MAKES US WEIRD…when we sit with our own thoughts too long, especially ones we didn’t conjure up in the first place, yet “own” them as our own, then we start to wonder about our worth.
  • If the thoughts have already become a THING, it’s still not a secret even if you haven’t told another person (see first bullet above…) so the same course of action applies…especially since the longer it hides in the dark, the bigger it grows, and the more caustic the effects later.
  • And finally, instead of living in fear that there’s a demon under every rock, let’s simply be aware of the battles, call them out into God’s Light, and then, let’s get on with this beautiful, glorious life of loving God, loving ourselves, and loving others extravagantly.