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5 Minutes a Day

I’ve been pondering what I want to be when I grow up. Or, ahem, now that I’m an adult. It requires stripping my heart naked and heading back to the mud of childhood where my curls were ringlets and my belly round and everything I ever said and did was cute, because: toddler.

Cheeks rosy. Throw head back for laughter to leave the lungs and fill the room. Pudgy hands crash together and again. And again. And again.

“More! Again, Daddy! More!”

Chasing, building, looking, exploring, balancing on anything and everything considered a balance beam. Eyes full of wonder. Seeking the knees of my Mom or my Dad, the safe space where my arms and their legs, once joined, were pillars, strong towers, the safest known place unless legs encircled around their waist and my head tucked into their neck and shoulder crook.

The smoothest ride without a care in the world is in the arms of a loving parent.

What is it I want to be? What is it I want to do? Why was I made and why am I here and how can I be of help to others because many a year has passed where I’ve more than helped myself.

What is it I wanted to be all those years ago? Was there something specific? Is it there I should be looking or forward to what I want to be or right here to discover and unfold the treasure?

And now my legs are the pillars for my little guy, and my hand and arms and shoulder and ears a source of comfort and strength for my daughter. How did I come to this age where adulthood is my label but youth and naïveté fill this bottle?

 

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.

Ways to Survive the Cold this Winter

It’s not me…it’s you, actually.

No. Really. It’s you, and we just can’t be friends…at least not until next spring.

As awesome as I know you probably are, lingering to talk in the parking lot at school or work or church or the gym or wherever, lingering to talk outdoors just isn’t going to happen…at least not until next spring…and by “spring” I mean late spring, like early June, realistically. [Read more…]

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.

“For I Know The Plans I Have For You…

…declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future…” – Jeremiah 29:11

This is a scripture a lot of Christians quote to encourage one another of God’s goodness over them. And it’s good. It’s truth. He does have good in mind for all of His creation.

But it’s important to read some of the sentences that surround this statement…not because God only functions in scriptural context, because He doesn’t…He won’t be confined to a box of our limited comprehension…but because sometimes we need a reminder that His goodness and His ways don’t always look like glitter and fireworks and shiny fancy packages…

Also, I don’t view this story as one solely for people a couple thousand years ago, non-applicable to today, but as especially pertinent for people who claim to be Christians, as a directive that still holds true wherever they may live.

A few years ago, some friends and I did what was supposed to be a 12-week study on the book of Daniel, from the Old Testament of the Bible that we stretched out over the course of 10 months. The content was too rich to cram into 12 weeks, so we unboxed it and soaked in it to really get a taste for it. Well, I haven’t stopped thinking about Daniel’s life and relationship with God, and the Babylonian kings, ever since.

There are SO MANY ANGLES to go with the stories in the book of Daniel, but as far as his character, integrity, and dedication goes, I’m blown away in light of the circumstances of why he is even in Babylon in the first place and how he remained faithful in a godless nation.

Daniel was a promising young man, intelligent, strong and handsome, of noble birth and character. It’s presumed he was a teenager when he was taken into captivity in Babylon, and there he spent the rest of his life, learning from, working for, serving, and ultimately befriending, the foreign rulers. Specifically I think of King Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel’s relationship with him, namely his behavior while living in a culture totally foreign to him.

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It never says Daniel tried to thwart the rulers he served under, never talks about him trying to change their governing systems, disrespect them, or slander the king’s name or laws. We know he didn’t eat the food or drink the wine the king provided for the leaders in training, and we know he prayed to God three times a day, and we also know he would interpret dreams for the king, even pleading with the king to heed the warnings…affording the king time to change.

But, we also know Daniel’s remainder of his life was spent in captivity, an exile from Jerusalem in Babylon, because God allowed for this. And we know he had huge favor and was the king’s right hand man.

The part about Jeremiah 29 and the promise of God’s good over His people is especially beautiful when the other sentences are read along with it, and especially challenging when filtered through a lens of “being in the world, but not of it” and how “we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against spiritual principalities in the world.”

Here are some of the other sentences, the words and charge from God to Daniel and ALL the leaders and exiles who were carried off to Babylon:

This is the Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, Israel’s God, to all the exiles I’ve taken from Jerusalem to Babylon:

“Build houses and make yourselves at home.

“Put in gardens and eat what grows in that country.

“Marry and have children. Encourage your children to marry and have children so that you’ll thrive in that country and not waste away.

“Make yourselves at home there and work for the country’s welfare.

“Pray for Babylon’s well-being. If things go well for Babylon, things will go well for you.”

8-9 Yes. Believe it or not, this is the Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, Israel’s God: “Don’t let all those so-called preachers and know-it-alls who are all over the place there take you in with their lies. Don’t pay any attention to the fantasies they keep coming up with to please you. They’re a bunch of liars preaching lies—and claiming I sent them! I never sent them, believe me.”God’s Decree!

10-11 This is God’s Word on the subject: “As soon as Babylon’s seventy years are up and not a day before, I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.

(The Message version)

It seems like Daniel was in tune with these truths, in tune with God, because he sought God, in spite of his surroundings and circumstances. His dedication to serving the king faithfully and with integrity, not trying to butt the system but rather praying for the good of Babylon, was met with great favor. It would seem Daniel’s lifestyle was a glimpse of what living and serving looks like in an upside down kingdom…what God will do when we trust Him despite what we see with our eyes or are experiencing in what feels like the darkest of hours.

I want that kind of intimacy with God and trust from Him. And that kind of favor for my “earth life.” Daniel’s example to me is to pursue God, regardless of surroundings, love my “enemies” extravagantly, and pray for the good of all people…liberal with the love shown me, liberal with the grace shown me, liberal with my trust that God sees a bigger picture…and it’s good.

(photo credit: pixabay user/TanteTati)

 

 

Life Interrupted

When I was in high school I used to keep a daily calendar…to be specific, I had a DayTimer. It was black leather with a zipper, totally official and tabbed and color-coded. And every single day over the course of a month, I wrote down and planned what outfit I would wear for the week, as to be careful never to repeat an ensemble twice in a two-week period, if not longer.

Clearly a first-world luxury.

I also used my DayTimer to plan ahead and keep track of class requirements, upcoming tests, my swim team meets and responsibilities as captain, my basketball games, youth group gatherings, and even a little red “dot” to mark important dates.

Though I’m an artist, go-with-the-flow kind of spirit, I thrive and flourish within boundaries and structure…

When I headed to college I replaced the calendar pages with a fresh new year and wrote in pencil everything each professor had given us in our syllabi, as well as all my social events and chaplain responsibilities and meetings, even first dates and break-ups. I lived and breathed and existed via the pages of my “organizer.”

After college when I had a career for 5 years, one in the field of college student development with a job description entailing a 24/7 work week, I kept my every move, hour by hour, scribed and color-coded, in my weekly and monthly schedule. If that thing ever got misplaced, I was lost…totally and completely lost. Thankfully, that never happened.

Then we moved across the country, while I was mega-pregnant, and bought a fixer-upper and knocked out walls and tore out the kitchen and Jason started at his new job 3 days later, so I sat covered in sawdust, eating chocolate chip cookies baked in a toaster oven, friendless, and started watching Soaps…

Eventually I snapped out of it, we met friends, I ditched Bo and Hope, my belly became a beautiful, little, priceless reality named Emily, and I started on the journey known as parenting…

a journey impossible to pencil into a calendar…a day to day sacred learning experience never intended to be minutely planned and scheduled into something as sterile as boundaries and structure and a DayTimer.

Parenting has been a rollercoaster ride with its twists and turns and loops…seasons of “closed for repairs” and “remodeling” and “expansion coming soon” and the fear of what’s on the other side of this upward climb and the letting go of trying to control it all.

Weirdest thing how the day I became a mom, my life no longer fit neatly into a neat, weekly-tabbed schedule…

I wear the same jeans every other day…because: COMFORT! A “red dot” is a sticker on clearance items at a store. I have “chaplain” meetings with my kids whether they are scheduled or not, and the only color-coding going on in my life has to do with laundry, on no specific day of the week.

Now, if every hour of my day and week were totally structured and written out in a planner or calendar, I’d rebel against it and feel suffocated, anyway.

But, with the kids spreading their wings little by little, I’m seeing a need to re-visit maybe a little bit of the structure I once knew and embraced. I know now better than to believe my life could be reduced to a rigid schedule, but I think part of me is longing to reign it in a teeny…maybe the creative, artistic side of me, as ironic as that sounds, is longing for a plan of action.

 

An Interview With My Hubby

Here’s a relationship interview with my husband of 22 years that I’m trying to have while we watch “Modern Family” and he searches for hotels for us to stay for our upcoming family adventure to Australia next month (I’m desperate for blog material, so sue me…):

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20+ years with this guy! (Photo: Jessica Quadra, Barcelona, Spain)

20+ years with this guy! (Photo: Jessica Quadra, Barcelona, Spain)

Me: How come you can’t read my mind?

Him: (shakes head, laughs to self…keeps scrolling booking.com (booking dot yeah) while watching “Modern Family” (he’s a “multi-tasker”))

Me: So, I’m pretty desperate for material for my blog…can you help a sister out?

Him: (laughs out loud, like, “hahahahahaha” to my statement, not the funny thing Phil Dunphy said on MF)

Me: What do you think is the most stressful part of marriage?

Him: When your wife asks you questions when she’s trying to write stories…(laughs at his own hilarity…)

Me: (Waiting…)

Him: Um.

Me: I think it’s when you try to multi-task ME.

Him: Stressful? Listening but trying not to be a problem solver.

Me: Why is that hard for you?

Him: Uhhh, I have a PhD in engineering…I’m wired to solve problems.

Me: So why is listening hard for you?

Him: Listening isn’t hard for me, it’s the part about listening without trying to solve it.

Me: So, when did you realize I just wanted you to listen to me, not fix it? After you saw this video?

Him: Yep. Pretty much.

Him: Women want to engage in conversations within their relationship, but it’s almost impossible for a man to listen and not want to talk about solutions and the issues at hand.

Me: That’s pretty stereotypical. If I had a nail in my forehead, I’d want to figure out how the hell to get it out…

Me: Let’s try this again…what’s your favorite part of being married to MEEEEEEEEEE?

Him: (hahahahaahahahaha) What are you trying to accomplish?

Me: Nothing. I just have to write shit. That’s what Anne Lamott says and that’s what Micah J. Murray the blog master says, just write shit. It’s the act of writing that I’m practicing, whether it’s good or not, it’s just about writing…

Him: (With the cutest smile smeared across his face…) Why does it have to involve MEEEEEEE?

Well, I think that went seemingly…until next time…

If You Could Do ANYTHING…

ANYTHING at all, to make a lasting contribution to the world, regardless of experience or finances,

WHAT WOULD IT BE?

This simple question has generated some beautiful responses from people lately as I’ve asked old friends, new acquaintances, and total strangers, the words you just read.

And you should see how people’s faces light up at the question! As if for once they are given the chance to dream and think and believe and aspire outside their day to day.

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I’ve spent a lot of time looking at my feet, watching every step. Last year I hung out a car window and did not watch the ground but looked up to the tree tops in search of koalas. This picture came to mind when I wrote this post because of the limitless possibilities of the potential answers to the question, “If you could do ANYTHING…” Plus, the fresh air felt amazing!

The question of “What if?” has limitless outcomes and asking ourselves “What if?” whether, “What if I take a risk?” or “What if I never take the risk?” or any variance of the question, can at least re-shift our focus if we’ve been spinning our wheels in the same space for a while, or believe we’re at a dead end.

Some friends and I are using the information from the interviews and responses we are gathering to dream collectively about something we are launching soon and it’s all just kind of surreal and exciting and kind of scary all at once.

And I’m lovin’ it!

We would love to hear your heart and contribution to our research by sharing your answer in the comments? So, here it is again:

If you could do ANYTHING…ANYTHING at all, to make a lasting contribution to the world, regardless of experience or finances, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

CAN’T WAIT TO HEAR WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY!

In Which I Tread Into Politics

Oh dear. The yelling on both sides is deafening.
Meanwhile, I’m over here, all, “Hey, I’m totally voting for Kid President!!!”

So, I am a grown adult. Like, I’ve been voting for 25 years now. Originally I registered with the same party my parents did, because, hullo? In my young mind, Reagan and my childhood were idyllic. Familiarity, the fact that voting was scary and bore weight and responsibility, and if my parents had identified with one party and I respected and loved them, well, that must mean I should vote the same, Doesn’t it?

Plus, a subliminal message at the time from my “community of faith” (not my parents), was implied, “You’re only a real Christian if you are a conservative Republican.”

Well, I sure as heck wanted to make sure I didn’t lose my way following Jesus on account of my earthly political affiliation…because that can happen, right?!??

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The years passed. One day at church I invited a couple of girls to meet at a coffee shop so we could get to know one another. It became an every Monday night date as we spent hours sharing our stories and what following Christ looked like for us. One of my friends shared about her journey of being a Jesus-follower and how it included loving people different than her.

“Of course,” I thought. “Of course you love people who are different from you…you are a Christian…that’s what Jesus modeled for us. I do, too.”

And then she told me she was a registered Democrat.

I was like, “Wait. What? How can you be a Democrat and a Christian?
What about the babies?”

She shared her heart about how she follows Jesus, not a political system where people are trying to set up laws in the land to influence people’s moral choices. “Only God can know our hearts,” she had said. She told us she doesn’t agree with killing people, babies or in wartime, but trusting in laws set up by a government cannot minister to the heart and soul of a person created in the image of God. That’s heart-to-heart work that has to be done in laying down our lives for others, not fighting through a system for our own rights at the expense of another.

And this made sense to me. It sounded Jesus-esque. It sounded like the Good News I remembered loving and pouring over ‘til late hours of the morning as a new believer and follower of Christ. It reminded me of the Red Letter Words in the New Testament, spoken by Jesus, rather than the human-tainted messages that had been filling up my head ever since.

I decided to explore what I believed, rather than only accepting what others and my circles of life, preached. I started paying attention more, not just to politics, the local news, and world happenings, but mostly to my heart and the pursuit of living a life that more closely reflected the Life of the One I claimed to follow…I started filtering ALL OF IT THROUGH THIS THING: Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself…like a litmus test of fruit-bearing for myself, checking my heart with the way Jesus treated people, not buying into man’s political systems and polarizing camps.

I started paying attention to peoples’ stories rather than their stereotypes.”

I’ve been reminded of Daniel and his friends in Babylon, living as exiles because God allowed it, for years living there, yet not trying to change the system, but rather praying for the people there, praying for, and serving, the leadership, for their well-being as in Jeremiah 29:7, and reaping the benefits of what happens when you pray for your enemies.

A few months before my Mom died she said, “You are a hippie, aren’t you?” This she said with a smile and in love. Her words had life, the part about “hippie” that bears the Free Love of God, not the acid and bellbottoms.

I had just told her, “Mom, we are ALL souls, made in God’s image…every single one of us. How can we keep walking around labeling each other and boxing one another into stereotypes, trying to make laws and cast votes to feel better about our moral choices when God calls US ALL His beloved? That can’t be politicized! He showed us how to love radically. Jesus didn’t come through a political system then, and He’s not returning that way either.”

I don’t have all the answers, but I know my identity, value, worth, and eternal grace from God, are not found in a political system or by aligning myself with a political party. I identify as a child of God. People on both polar extremes of our political spectrum also do, as well as millions of those in between…and there isn’t a law in the land that can know the heart of a person, but there is a loving Creator who does, and He is big enough.

 

 

(photo credit: pixabay user/dweedon1)

Some Lies Die Hard: Brain Re-Train

Some lies die hard.

Some are bigger than others, and they go down deep and then take root and if we aren’t aware they can take up residency as if they were there from the beginning…part of who we are.

Time and attention and reiteration grow these lies, just like sun and water and oxygen and time grow healthy things.

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Lies cloud our vision, yet they’re so part of our normal we don’t know our vision is cloudy. When someone speaks the truth to us, shows us the light, are we even able to conceive it? Plus, we’ve taken the time to reinforce these messages to ourselves, that we’ve heard them so much, well, aren’t they true?

A lie can establish itself in our heads and hearts and even our senses, what we see and speak and hear ourselves, until we deep down believe what we perceive as reality to be truth.

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One example of how lies have gone deep for me is in my 43 ½ years of life, looking back on every single photo, or when I look in the mirror, I’m not able to see what’s there. I only see what I wish was there. For example, I’ve done yoga for 10 years and I also lift weights. When I’m in a routine and can see some muscles making their way to the surface, sometimes I’ll flex and check it out in the mirror…don’t tell me you’ve never…well, I’ll see my muscle definition and think, “Man, I wish my arm looked like that…”

Except I’m looking at my own fugging arm, you guys. Or, I’ll be doing a yoga move and see a leg muscle and think, “Huh, I wish my leg looked like that…”

What the hell?! That’s my own fugging leg, too! No one else’s leg is in my yoga routine!

And they are strong because I am strong and it’s really me…except I’m not able to see it.

The lies we tell ourselves are really where bullying starts. It begins with only us. We bully ourselves by telling ourselves lies about ourselves that just aren’t true…and then we reinforce them every time we make a mistake, “Man, you’re so stupid! Gah, can’t you get anything right?! You are so fat…too skinny, too awkward, too slow, not this enough, not that enough…”

So, what is true? What is the filter we were designed to view life through? What is the new filter I’ve replaced the faulty one with?

In the beginning, God made them in His image and He said it was GOOD…”

There’s a cheesy little saying that goes like this: “God made me and He doesn’t make junk.” It’s hokey as all get out, catchy, and annoying, but the truthful foundation of the statement is, when God made us, He said it was GOOD. Period.

And that’s the kind of truth I want to water, expose to the light, feed, and nurture…that’s the kind of truth that must dig deep and take root for the GOOD life to spread…it’s the kind of truth we need to believe about ourselves and it’s the same truth Jesus modeled for us to believe about others.

(photo credits: pixabay user/StockSnap, and Stephanie Gullifer)