Five Minute Friday: hidden

It’s been a good albeit long week of summer. We watched a summer movie ($1 at Regal), shopped for school shoes (already!), I had an interview on the Debbie Chavez show, we played at the pool a lot and did a lot of indoor activities trying to stay cool during a sweltering week. Today I take a break and return to the blog, joining in Five Minute Friday.

Five Minute Friday is my favorite of writing link-ups hosted by Kate Motaung. Her description draws me back every week, and the community of FMF keeps me writing – “This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation. Just write.”


Hidden holds intrigue and promise, like a buried treasure waiting to be found. It’s a new life blooming within a mother’s womb. A long cherished love that awaits the right time to be expressed.

Hidden is also shame-tinged. It’s where I store my latest failure – bolted, safe, secure, for no one to see. If you’ve been abused, you know the burden of a hidden secret.

Hidden is good or bad, depending on what it is we are hiding and why. If it’s the latter – the long-buried secret – it needs the light for healing and freedom. Those sorts of burdens aren’t meant to stay hidden and borne alone. Speak about it with someone safe. Feel the burden begin to lighten.

If it’s the first – the type of hidden that’s like a treasure waiting to be found – I can think of no better analogy for what the Bible calls us children of God: “hidden with Christ in God.” We are God’s treasured ones, kept close and precious. Our glory is waiting to be revealed. 


Easter morning

{a repost from 2014}

“Hear the bells ringing, they’re singing that you can be born again!” That melody floats through my head this morning. The melody that drew me into salvation as a child of 4-years-old who inquired what it meant to be born again, and then was … Keith Green’s invitation set to music.

Another phrase that seems to capture what Easter means for me this year, today:

Be free and have fun!

I overheard these words spoken by a grandmother sending her grandson off to play at a park a few weeks ago. And they have reverberated through my mind and heart ever since. Not only as such a good (different) parenting focus, but the words I need to hear from a resurrected Jesus this morning, every morning.

Easter means I am free and so are you who are united to Jesus by faith. Free from sin, free from slavery to the effects of my sin and others’, free from anxiety and worry, free from performance on the treadmill of perfection, free from my past and my failings, free from others’ judgments or opinions, free to say “no” to doing too much, free to love – to serve wholeheartedly – to create.

Free to have fun in the truest sense of fun. To be creative, to delight in a world that can be as delightful as it is broken.  To have fun with my daughters and not only be a disciplinarian. To have fun with my husband and in so doing make both of our loads lighter. To take myself more lightly and laugh a little easier. To have fun doing what I don’t give myself permission to do in my quest for achievement and success: to have fun painting, reading novels, blogging, sharing a cup of coffee with a close friend, making life and our home beautiful.

What about you? What could it mean to live in the light of Easter morning? Of the empty tomb calling out to you – “be free! and have fun!”? Where are you still living under the weight of “Silent Saturday”? Of the agony of Good Friday?

Three posts I recommend for your perusal. “We are the Sunday morning people” by Lisa-Jo Baker, “Woman, Why?” at (in)courage, and “We Need All the Days of Holy Week” at Grace Covers Me.

Enjoy … be free … have fun! The tomb is empty; Jesus our Lord is risen; death has lost its darkness and sin has lost its power. 

Noticing Goodness

A few weeks ago I spoke at a local MOPS group (Mothers Of PreSchoolers). And one thing that really struck me was their themes for the year: “Noticing Goodness” being my favorite. Doesn’t simply that phrase refocus your thoughts today?  What I love about noticing goodness is that it means: 1/there is always goodness to see and 2/goodness needs to be noticed, some moments more than others. 

As a counselor and the author of a book on shame, I’ve trudged through some dark places in the past decade – both in my own heart and in the lives of others. In some ways, I’ve trained myself to notice the struggles in life – the places where someone is lonely, isolated, stuck. And I’ve been invited into these dark corners, to be part of the redemption of our God, leading us into places of light and beauty once again. I’m realizing anew that even here – especially here – there is goodness to be noticed. Not in a fake cliche type of way, because that backfires, but in a real way that seeks out the treasures found nowhere else but in darkness. 

Were it not for the winter’s doldrums, spring wouldn’t be so sweet – so life-giving. 

Without depression, it’s all too easy to take emotional health for granted. 

The hardest, most baffling parts of the story are where character is forged, perseverance is developed, steely hope emerges, and compassionate empathy grows. 

My shame stories give me the ability to connect with you authentically. (And even write a book about it.)

And then there are the thousands of small beautiful moments waiting to be noticed in our daily lives:

  • Pink and purple glory bookending each day through sunrise and sunset
  • The taste of a perfectly ripened sweet berry
  • A moment of calm in between the stress of a busy day
  • Music!
  • My kids’ excitement for new experiences and skills gained
  • Unexpected kindness
  • Humor
  • Witnessing a friend’s resilience through hard circumstances
  • Art created 
  • A blank page
  • Words that make your heart sing
  • A good story
  • A refreshing walk/run/yoga session

What goodness will you notice today? I’d love to hear about it! 


Five Minute Friday: morning

Five Minute Friday is my favorite of writing link-ups hosted by Kate Motaung. Her description draws me back every week, and the community of FMF keeps me writing – “This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation. Just write.”

So I come this afternoon to write – feeling a bit rusty, and knowing that it is these very days where writing is necessary. For a writer without writing is like a fish out of water. And I am a writer who needs to write. Join me?


I never was much of a morning person, and that’s an understatement if there ever was one. You only need to ask any member of my family to verify its truth.

But now. Maybe it’s growing older; certainly it’s having less of a choice about the matter since becoming a parent; now – there is nothing I love more than a fresh, beautiful morning.

The day is a blank slate yet to be written. Yesterday’s foibles and sins are wiped clean – “new morning mercies” is what I love to remind my children and myself of after a particularly difficult day. Sunlight streams in as the sun peeks above the horizon; and the birds greet the dawning of a new day.

Last week my husband and I traveled to the Caribbean to celebrate our tenth anniversary, and I can say that (unlike our honeymoon 10 years ago) mornings were my favorite part. The sunlight breaking over the aquamarine horizon, palm branches filtering rays of light, lush green grass sparkling. God inviting his children to play. To come out – to wake up – and delight in the day that he had created. 

And isn’t this just as true even hundreds of miles away? When we’ve traded in palm branches waving in the breeze for barren branches shaking in the wintry wind? We still need – and are assured of – God’s love dawning with each morning’s light.


the glittering mess of Advent

Every December, it surprises me. Meaning, the juxtaposition of “the most wonderful time of the year” with the reality of how far I am from being able to fully embrace the joy proclaimed to me in every Christmas song and story and glittering decoration. I know I’m not alone in this. For I  hear your stories – maybe not yours specifically, but in sitting with multiple stories of suffering and disappointment and hope deferred throughout almost a decade of counseling and a few decades more of friendship and family relationships, I have a fairly good sense of the ways life breaks us.

And for some reason, I find myself each Advent/Christmas season battling to find the hope that surrounds me like no other time of year. I struggle because at the deepest part of who I am, I know that Jesus’ coming as a baby changed everything for the better (while I also see so much that doesn’t fit with a redeemed world). I find deep comfort that his incarnation – God with us – was a literal game-changer for the human race. That Jesus was “born to set Thy people free/from our sins and fears release us/let us find our rest in Thee.” That I am to “fall on [my] knees/O hear, the angels voices/O night divine/O night when Christ was born.” And I crumble inside with the best of you at the emotion of it all – of God being made like us, like a tiny baby, utterly vulnerable to the ones he created.

But then I begin to get angry and sad. For if Jesus was born to set His people free, why on earth are we so chained up to others’ expectations and our own inward voices of shame? And why do we Christians hurt  each other in the church when we are all simply trying to love one another the best we know how? Why do “Christian” politicians infuriate the culture-at-large with offers to pray in the wake of tragedy and apparently no (or minimal) actions behind these prayers?  Why do news headlines daily proclaim a new form of terror?

And to bring it home and make it more personal: why do I have friends still struggling with infertility?

Friends grieving parents taken too soon?

Friends who have suffered unspeakable tragedies of abuse when they were children who could not protect themselves?

Why are friends stuck in marriages that feel lifeless? (Or why are there friends who are newly divorced despite months/years of trying to reconcile?)

Why does cancer still strike in the most unexpected of ways and times to friends in the prime of their life/ministry?

And if I dare to be courageously honest, I have a few questions of my own. Like how did I get to be so battle-weary and exhausted when I thought I was fighting for the gospel of justice, truth, beauty, and light in the name of Jesus, in the strength of his grace, and for the sake of his glory?

Why does every recent December feel depressing, as a time when I am more likely to feel the weight of the world’s sorrows instead of the hope of the Savior’s joy?

Why does Christmas seem to come up short from how I remember it as a child?

I am beginning to realize anew that the only answer to these weighty, angst-filled questions is in trying to hold in my feeble hands the glittering mess of Advent.

It’s not unlike the abundant blue glitter that one of my 5-year-old daughters sprinkled with abandon around her room earlier this week. There was literally a path of blue sparkle that looked like a rug placed on our white (!) carpet. A glittering path that led to their mini-Christmas tree. As I vacuumed it up, I surprised myself by beginning to laugh instead of growing more angry and frustrated. I laughed because it was beautiful. Any of you who have ever had the *privilege* of vacuuming up large quantities of glitter know exactly what I’m talking about. It glitters and sparkles and changes in the light, and as I vacuumed clean white paths through the blue, the vacuum cleaner began to sparkle, too. (Because it has a see-through compartment.)

And that’s when it came to me.

This is a metaphor for Advent’s tension between the beauty that will be (which began to break through in the incarnational mystery of Jesus) and the mess that we continue to make with this beauty.

These broken places of grief, betrayal, loss, and deferred hope – they are real and they are tragic in an exponentially greater way than a 5-year-old glitter tantrum (oh – did I leave that part out? The reason that she created such a display was out of anger that she was in time out – it was a mess intended to annoy me.).

But this I cling to – in hope against hope – that the mess twinkles, sparkles, glitters in the light of the Christmas tree. The Christmas tree that became our salvation as it became a cross. This tragedy of the tiny babe grown up and offered up willingly as the most tragic of sacrifices for the most unworthy of offenders. You and me.

Ann Voskamp says it well in her Advent devotional:

The Cross stands as the epitome of evil. And God takes the greatest evil ever known to humanity and turns it into the greatest Gift you have ever known. … If God can transfigure the greatest evil into the greatest Gift, then He intends to turn whatever you’re experiencing now into a gift. You cannot be undone. Somewhere, Advent can storm and howl. And the world robed for Christmas can spin on. You, there on the edge, whispering it, defiant through the torn places: “All is grace.”



a Thanksgiving meditation

As you go into the day in which we all pause and give thanks, where we eat bountiful feasts and celebrate God’s provision, I offer you a meditation and a prayer. A prayer that also acknowledges that this day/season too often also becomes an occasion for thanks-shaming (why don’t I feel more grateful for all that I’ve been given? why don’t these people I’m at table with seem more grateful for me or me for them?).

thanksgiving image

photo credit:

May I have eyes to see the beauty around me, hidden though it might be beneath layers of chaos and criticism and busyness and family dynamics and guilt and shame.

May I lift my gaze to what is good in my life, for there is always something good – even the darkest of nights can be illuminated by a pinprick of light, like a star bursting through the black canvas of of a night sky.

May I have tastebuds to taste and see and relish and delight in the goodness of the Lord who provides. And if I can’t, may I pray to have my tastebuds changed – attuned to what is truly good – even if it means spiritual junk food must be jettisoned, or that I must step away from what dulls my senses (or whom).

May I practice giving thanks on Thanksgiving as a day of focused practice on noticing what I’ve been given. For I have been given so much.

And in giving thanks, may I see those with whom I am asked to share my abundance. May I see the poor, the marginalized, the orphaned, the widowed, and (even/especially) the ones at my own table who are lonely and carrying sorrows in isolation. May I create a space for them with whatever I’ve been given.




Five Minute Friday: dance

I’m back for Five Minute Friday, my favorite of writing link-ups hosted by Kate Motaung. Her description is perfect:

“This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation. Just write.”

Today’s prompt is “dance.”


ballerinasI turn on my favorite music to keep us company as we do the mundane task of transforming mounds of laundry into neat and organized piles sorted by type and owner.

She begins twirling, pirouetting, practicing her newly learned ballet steps. “Mommy, look at this!” Her twin sister joins her, and what was previously ordinary is now transformed into a dance performance worthy of a stage. My husband and I smile at the privilege of being the audience to such a play. They grab their blue leotards and ballet shoes and their dance takes new levels as they sway and spin and leap and laugh.

Soon we are mesmerized. Transfixed by their art and spontaneity and, in a word, glory.

Did you know that people who experience awe 2-3 times a day are more emotionally and physically healthy than those who don’t? We have much to learn from those who haven’t lost the wonder and awe of the ordinary, found in the mundane.

I who so easily stress and grow anxious and worried and bothered about too many things – I need them as much as they need me. They bring me back to what’s important, drawing my eyes above to their Creator who delights in them and me with an unending love eager to be interrupted to watch my dance. 


5 things I learned (in October): from Adele to bullet journaling

Whenever I can, I enjoy linking up with Emily Freeman’s monthly “What we learned.” I’ve missed the official link-up this month, but that’s no reason why I shouldn’t share with you what I learned in October. Because there was. SO. MUCH. I’ve chosen my top 5 things I’ve learned/am learning.

  1. Adele. Hello. Hauntingly beautiful is how I’d describe her music video that’s breaking records. adele hello
  2. Daily blogging doesn’t really work for me. See my conclusion to #write31days.
  3. The importance of margin. I have started to literally schedule it into my week like an appointment. Its absence has led to an accumulation of needless stress in a life that already has *plenty* to go around. Margin is helping to restore my soul – because it creates space for the Spirit to meet me and touch my heart and life. 
  4. Konmari is magical. And exhausting. My dear (and slightly OCD in terms of how much he loves things to be neat and clean) husband has patiently endured piles and piles and piles of the things I’m purging after being inspired/instructed by Marie Kondo in The Magical Art of Tidying-UpWe tried to yard sale most of it, which wasn’t the smashing success we’d hoped it would be. Oh well. More on this in the month to come. #lessonlearned #justbringittogoodwill
  5. Bullet journaling. Thanks to Emily Freeman talking about it on her blog, I decided to start practicing this way of daily tracking activities, to-do lists, and ideas. I found a beautiful three-section journal that I’m loving, which I picked up for all of 4.99 at a Tuesday Morning store. I started in September with one of these journals from Rifle Paper Co – they’re perfect in terms of size and portability. RPCo notebooks

Konmari and my bookshelf

On my birthday, my best friend gifted me with a magical book, titled “the life-changing magic of tidying up” by Marie Kondo, a Japanese organizing professional. It had already been buzzing around my circle of friends when Mary told me about it at a spring baby shower. She described it in those very terms – “life-transforming!” and summarized the book by saying, “You clean out your house by asking the simple question of every item in it: does this spark joy?” I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical when I first heard about it. It sounds a bit too simple, and “magical” and organizing don’t seem to fit together in a book title. Plus as a Christian who puts value in the spiritual and eternal over the temporary and material, none of my stuff *should* spark true joy, right?

Yes, and no. Of course possessions shouldn’t spark true, lasting eternal joy, but the things I choose to invest in should bring some measure of meaning and beauty into my life. Beauty reflects God’s glory wherever it is found. And shouldn’t I want my house and closet and bookshelf to only be filled with what seems beautiful (and useful) to me/our family? Additionally, if my energy and time and attention is consumed with maintaining all my “things,” I have less of it to devote to what is truly and most important in my life – relationships, service, justice, mercy, kindness, God’s Word, to list a few.

So I read the book this summer, and decided that when my 5-year-olds started 5-day preschool this fall, I would give the “Konmari method” a fair shot. I’ve sorted through clothing and books so far, with three categories remaining: paper, miscellany, memorabilia. And it has been pretty darn close to magical in terms of how liberating it feels to get rid of things I do not want or need. I can feel my mental capacity increasing as my things in my closet decrease and as my bookshelves open up. For me as a self-professed bibliophile, that says something.


And an important caveat: no method is 100% effective, nor can it be for all people. I’m not following all of her suggestions, and there’s a few sections I’m amending or omitting entirely. Like emptying my purse every day and thanking all of my things for serving me each day. Or her instruction not to roll up socks because they’ve done so much work during the day and need some rest. I’m not an animist, and parts of her book sound a bit like animism and a mixture of her Japanese Shintoism. But I as a Christian should be first in line to care for things better, and to live life more simply and with greater joy. Plus – for a second post in the future – all the things I’m purging from my house can be put to better use and shared with those who need them more than I do.

If you’ve tried the Konmari method, has it worked for you? What’s been your experience? I’d love to hear from you. It’ll give me the courage I need to tackle the piles and piles and piles of papers scattered throughout my house as next week’s Konmari task … !