Five Minute Friday: truth

After many months of hiatus, I’m returning to the blog – joining up with Five Minute Friday, hosted by Kate Motaung. Five minutes of free-writing on a given prompt. No editing or overthinking. So here goes … 

It’s so important that I named my daughter after it. Alethia, meaning truth in Greek. It’s easy to lose; hard to find sometimes. Other times it’s staring at you in the face, and then maybe you don’t want to admit what it is.

Pilate asked, “What is truth?” in the face of Truth Incarnate, Jesus led like a lamb to die on the cross.

We ask, “What is truth?” out of confusion. Desperation to know. Refusal to admit it because then it has claims on your life.

streams

Truth should be sweet. Refreshing like purified water. There are so many half-truths and deceptions floating around our world. To discover truth in any form is beautiful. Or at least it should be.

But for me, truth too often seems dry. Unconnected to my life. Which is the furthest thing from the truth. It roots me, anchors me in storms. Telling it leads to freedom and connection and community. Even when it’s hard. Always when it’s coated in love. It’s how I grow. Receiving and telling the truth in love.

Truth isn’t dry when we remember it’s always to be joined to love. Many more will argue with truth who cannot argue with love. So let’s wed the two together, as they’re meant to be. And then truth is attractive – winsome – sought for – and secure.

An honest prayer for Thanksgiving

As we move into the season in which we seek to pause and give thanks, to celebrate God’s provision with a bountiful feast, I want to offer a meditation and a prayer. {While I also seek to acknowledge how this season can become an occasion for #thanks-shaming. I.e. Why don’t I feel more grateful for all that I’ve been given? I wish I was as grateful as ___ seems to be, etc. If this feeling of thanks-shaming resonates with you, read more in my series about shame here.}

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

May I have eyes to see the beauty around me, hidden though it may be.

May I use Thanksgiving as a time of focused practice in noticing what I’ve been given.

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 the ones at my own table who are lonely and carrying sorrows in isolation. May I be generous and open-handed with all I’ve been given, as God has so generously been towards me. 

because we need hope, peace, & comfort

I have been writing and thinking and praying a lot about hope this fall. There are many reasons I crave hope this season. Like the headlines flashing across our screens and calling to us from the morning paper, and the usual stress of trying to balance home, church, and family life. (And our family’s life now includes our twin daughters going to kindergarten full-day. Despite the great school they attend, it’s been an adjustment for all of us!)

We have also experienced waves of greater-than-usual overwhelming circumstances in our lives and in the lives of our family and friends. Like a hurricane that “breezed” through (pun intended) and left a ton of chaos in its wake;  friends who’ve had miscarriages; a friend battling leukemia; extended family health issues requiring more care from my husband and me; the death just last week of my great-aunt Julie; and a bit more travel than usual for me this fall.

As I’ve tried to take stolen moments along the way to pause, be still, and know that God is God (Psalm 46), I feel how much I need comfort for my own heart. Not only does chaos swirl without, it also rises up from within. I need a peace that’s bigger than the messages I feel bombarded with and *wish* worked, but just haven’t – like “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” or “look for the rainbow after the storm.” While I’m all about the rainbow and the strength needed to keep moving, I need something that lasts as long as the storm.

And the only thing I’ve found that can outlast the storm is the hope of a God who is there. A Jesus who meets us in the storm, and then rides it out with us. As I spoke to a group of beautiful women, including many family and friends, at my aunt and uncle’s church in Columbia, South Carolina, last week, I was praying hope over their hearts, and I spoke the words I myself need to hear – a few of which I’ll share below. May your heart be encouraged as well … in all the places where you find yourself in need of hope, peace, and comfort today. 

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“Humble Roots” – a preview of a book

Usually I wait until I’ve read (and reread and highlighted) a book before giving a review. There is a stack of books waiting to be reviewed right now. [Sidebar – I even have one to giveaway … coming soon, hopefully in the next few weeks.]

But the introduction of Hannah Anderson’s newest release is so compelling to my heart this morning, and speaks right into the midst of our anxiety, that I couldn’t help but pass along a few quotes that are calming my own heart – in hopes that it will also bring peace to yours.

humble-roots-book

Humility frees us to flourish as the human beings we are made to be: to celebrate the goodness of our physical bodies, to embrace the complexity of our emotions, and to own our unique gifts without guilt or feeling like an imposter.

Humble Roots is not a sequel to Made for More [Hannah’s first book which I reviewed in 2014  here], but it is the other half of the conversation. At the same time, it’s also a conversation all its own, one that can be explored and savored for its own sake. If, however, you have read Made for More and it inspired you to think about yourself as a person destined to reflect God, Humble Roots will help you think about yourself as a person dependent on God to do just that. And remembering this simple but essential reality – that “You’re not God” – will lead to the spiritual and emotional rest you long for. 

Happy, restful weekend to you, friends and readers!

[PS – Would love to hear from you about my blog’s tagline if you would complete this one question survey here. Thanks for all of your input so far! I really appreciate it.]

when your friend has leukemia

I first met Jen at Myrtle Beach when we were part of a college ministry summer project. She was as joy-filled and gracious then as she has proved to be in the 18 years since. We later were roommates while we were both at seminary. She was a co-conspirator with my husband when we got engaged, leading me into New York City despite my initial resistance and saving my engagement pictures from the gaudy St-Patricks-Day-themed outfit I’d first chosen. She was a bridesmaid in my wedding. We were in Philadelphia for several years together. And then she got married, and they moved to a farm in New Hampshire to pursue their dream when Seth and I moved to Virginia. We were pregnant with our first babies at the same time, their due dates only days apart. After years of living states apart with sporadic phone calls and emails to connect us, reconnecting in person last year was as if no time had passed. When we caught up over lunch, she listened empathetically as I spilled out my heart that was on the verge of burnout. Just like she always does.

Then cancer came along into this beautiful mother-of-three-kids’ life. A diagnosis of chronic myeloid leukemia in March. It came out of the blue, one of those fear-inducing stories of going to the doctor because her back hurt and finding out that in fact the major problem were the bruises that didn’t go away. She pursued treatment, and it seemed to be working well until an unexpected turn into blast phase happened a few months ago.

Today she undergoes a bone marrow transplant thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor. (Did you know that you, too, could register to help another in this way? Go to “Be the Match” for more information.)  And the many, many of us who love her are praying for her today, day 0 as it’s termed in the transplant world, that this would be the rebirth of new, healed blood cells for this friend.

If you’re reading this, and you want to join along, we would all be honored if you lifted her up and asked for healing with us.

a-prayer-for-healing

 

 

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.”

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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. 

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Five Minute “Friday”: help

I love this weekly writing exercise/community, and I return after a few months’ absence. Because it’s always there waiting. And it’s *only* five minutes.

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.”

helpIt’s a word that can save a life. But I find it almost impossible to utter. It feels so, well, helpless. Who needs help in my self-sufficient world? I’m doing just fine, thank you.

Except when I’m not. Like tonight when one of my 5-year-olds defied me in front of her grandparents, and I messed it up. I was angry and frustrated and overwhelmed and out of my league. I was also ashamed for my daughter’s behavior in front of her grandparents and my response in front of them, too. Why couldn’t I just have said, “help, please”?

It’s a lie that as a parent I can do it all and be it all for my kids. But it’s a lie we all deceive ourselves into living by more often than not.

I wonder if this false stigma with the word “help” is what contributed to the tragic death in our church community of a mother and daughter two years ago today. Afterwards, we all expressed the sentiment – “If only she’d asked for help …” We all wished we could have jumped in. But how many of us would have been willing to ask for that help if we had been in her shoes? On my hardest, darkest day of parenting, it took all I had in me to finally, finally text my trusted friend and neighbor with the simplest of requests – “Will you help? I need a hug and I can’t deal with bedtime tonight.” She was over within minutes, and I felt simultaneously grateful and humbled. 

It’s the hardest, best thing in the world to ask for help. Because we know there’s One eager to help us when we ask. And He’s sent people into our lives who are as eager to assist us as we are to give them a hand when needed.

So do you need to ask for help? Don’t delay. Help is on its way.

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If you find yourself to be entertaining thoughts or ideas of suicide in particular do not hesitate to ask for help. If you’re not sure where to turn, contact the crisis text line by texting “GO” to 741741 or call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255. 

 

 

 

 

scattered chaos – or a story?

A half dozen (or more) children’s books are scattered in piles of two or three around the perimeter of our living room. The one most recently read lays atop our ottoman beside a discarded ballet slipper. Its pink partner sits in front of my husband’s recliner. A pink polka-dotted blanket is on top of the rug, and a paper airline peeks out from underneath the couch. Blue sparkly Cinderella shoes and fuzzy pink slippers grace another corner, and the pink bin of Legos sits opposite. A plastic green cup with a straw sits proudly beside the remote controls. Cushions are all in tact at the end of this day – and that says something.

In my more frustrated moments, I’d say this is scattered chaos. I look around and feel annoyed that I didn’t ask my daughters to pick things up before they went to bed. I’m annoyed with myself for not picking up more before grabbing my laptop to write a long overdue blog post. But then I try to remember how this mess tells a story of a full day well enjoyed by two five-year-old girls. The books are from reading time at the end of the day, me in one chair with one twin and my husband in another chair with her sister. Before this there were dance parties (hence the ballet slippers and Cinderella shoes) and a yoga session (note the blanket on the floor as makeshift mat). One twin adores her slippers and hates cold feet, so she wore them downstairs until the day’s play began. Another girl was thirsty before bedtime and so she brought in her ice water with a straw while being read stories.

In ten years, the mess will look very different.

In twenty years, we’ll miss the days that left behind such a scattered chaos.

I wish – I pray – that I would have the long view as I parent during what feels like a long summer in the midst of a long season of gloriously imaginative play and charming smiles punctuated by sibling conflict and mommy frustration.

My word of 2016 has been “rooted.” I haven’t written about it here before because, well, the book has taken a lot of air time. But it’s because of the book’s publication that I chose this word as a focus and prayer for this year. It can be too easy to get lost “in the clouds” of a book release, becoming a published author, engaging in speaking events I’d only dreamed of before – and forgetting my roots. The lovely, hard, sanctifying thing about motherhood and marriage is that my family roots me and grounds me in reality. There is laundry, and the dishes pile up when neglected, and meals need to be cooked and planned, and these ones I love are always present. Loving me and counting on me for their rootedness.

This task feels too immense. And it is until I remember where I am rooted. Deep in the eternal love of God, secured for me by Jesus Christ, spoken into my heart and soul by the Spirit. To be rooted in him, all I need to do is rest and abide and remember. Reading the Bible and praying and worshiping in our local church community help immensely. roots

The truth is that as I look around my living room this evening, the scattered chaos and the story it tells reminds me where I am rooted. Physically and emotionally – here with my family at a house in Virginia amidst a neighborhood and community of friends. Spiritually – I am rooted in a story that often looks to human eyes like the scattered chaos of this room. But it is telling a bigger story of redemption and hope and joy as the life of God is known through my work and play and parenting and marriage and friendship.

 

when May reminds you of what you’re missing

strawberries
May is usually pictured as cheerful. Kids running through fields of wildflowers, or picking strawberries with red juice staining white frocks. The world coming awake from its wintry hibernation. It is happy. It’s spring. The earth is blooming. 

But what about when you feel at odds with the world outside? Like the inevitable good-byes that come when you live in a military community. Like remembering the bittersweet end of each school year – mostly sweet, because the long, lovely days of summer were ahead; but a bit bitter, too, when it meant change was around the corner. I remember the year I graduated from the only school I’d known because I’d be attending high school the next fall. I can recall the joyous grief when I graduated from high school, as we all were about to scatter to our next stages of life. And college graduation was probably the most distinct. Those four years were a sweet, sweet season of my life that I wept at leaving behind. The drive back to South Carolina from Chicago that May was a trail of tears … mine as I kept wanting to look in the rearview and remember the good times, as if that might help them to last forever.

So I think it’s normal (I tell myself) that each May I feel a mixture of all of the Mays I’ve lived. The excitement, the anticipation, the anxiety, the regret, the sad farewells to friends and seasons. And I can’t help but remember the May two years ago when friends lost their 17-year-old son to tragedy. In meeting with this friend a few weeks ago, she talked about the way that May seems to drag on forever some years (like this one).

If you have felt the May blues in whatever degree, take heart. You’re not alone. Change, well, it’s unsettling at any stage of life. This May our across-the-street beloved neighbors moved. They were the kind of friends you felt truly #blessed to have as neighbors. My husband and I enjoyed the company of the parents as much as our kids loved playing together. We left for vacation for a week and when we came back, they’d moved already. We knew it was coming, but after the fact … it feels like something is missing. Life on our street doesn’t feel the same.

And I’ll be honest. As a mom of twin 5-year-olds, summer feels rather daunting. I want to be the mom who enjoys the extra free time at home with her children (and some days I do), but I too often feel like the mom who gets tired of being camp director/chef/cleaning boss/chief disciplinarian. Times 100 in the summer because of all.those.hours. Every day. And so.much.heat. And no.more.naps. I don’t want to default to PBS kids’ marathons Mon-Fri because “mama just can’t take it anymore.” So while the finish line of preschool edges ever so close these next few weeks, I am trying to remember the “sweet” part of “bittersweet May” and to remind myself that these days with these 5-year-olds will one day be a wistful glance in the rearview of my life. 

wildflowers

 

 

 

 

Holy Monday

{repost from March 30, 2015}

It sits just on the other side of triumphant Palm Sunday, and days before the remembering, mourning, and celebrating of Thursday through Sunday. It can feel lost – this “Holy Monday.” (And is that an oxymoron? How can Monday ever be holy? More often “mundane” is an adjective of choice.)

I wonder if “Holy Monday” (and “Holy Tuesday” and “Holy Wednesday”) are needed so that our hearts are ready for the sobriety of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. For something shifted in the crowd who welcomed Jesus with palm branches waving, surrendering their outerwear as a pathway for their donkey-saddled King. Something shifted between this “Triumphal Entry” and the angry crowds begging for his execution on Friday. It was the overlooked days of “Holy Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday.”

The days when I overlook – or fail to look – at my king, humbled and riding on a donkey, but riding nonetheless TO ME; the days when I overlook the tears Jesus wept over this city (and symbolically, over every city in which any of us dwell); these days are the ones when my heart can go rogue. It slips out beneath my notice and goes after its old lovers. The ones promising quick satisfaction without waiting for long promises to be fulfilled. The lovers who tell me I’m beautiful (especially if I use their line of clothing and beauty products). The ones who lure my restless heart with excitement and adventure (forgetting to highlight the fine print warning of: use only at great risk to your soul). It was these false lovers who won over the hearts of the crowds in the four days between Palm Sunday and Good Friday. The false lovers were clothed in religious garb. They planted questions like –

“How dare he claim to be the Son of God? Who does he think he is?”

“We were promised a Messiah to rescue us. We are still under Roman oppression. Jesus cannot be the promised one.”

“This Jesus is not what we really want. He is working too slow – or not at all.”

And these same religious leaders were at work behind closed doors making deals with an insider who would betray Jesus (Judas). They were plotting his death while the crowds went about their business on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. They were stirring up the crowds, with insidious doubts at first and then with explicit commands.

Holy Monday can become “Holy” only when I first admit how similar I am to these fickle crowds. I want a king who comes on my terms, to deliver me in my way, and to make me powerful with him. A king who calls me to follow after him, deny myself, and lose my life to save it? No, thank you. I think I’ll go find someone else. Holy Monday becomes holy when I look at the God who has won me wholly. Even (especially) in the days when my heart feels prone to wander.