a new decade begins & a spiritual father dies

On June 7, 2019, I turned the page onto a new decade. I chose to mark it by a long weekend at my favorite beach with our family of four. Despite predictions of rain for the whole weekend, the sun broke through, and we had glorious weather for the better part of our beach days. I never tire of the rhythm of waves crashing on the shore, soothing and powerful and constant. I love looking into the horizon of ocean meeting sky and feeling wondrously small. In all my doubts about God and faith and goodness and struggle and suffering, the presence of the ocean is a reassuring reminder that I am a created being, and that I have a Creator. The world is not up to me to run, nor can I alone solve its problems or complexities. In the face of the vast expanse of the sea, I get to be a part of the creation whose primary job is simply to worship. (I am not saying worship is simple. Far from it. It can be quite costly, actually, and quite powerful, and worship is always transformative.)

In our time away, I found space to reflect on this past decade. It’s easily been – to quote Dickens – “the best of times and the worst of times.” Shortly after my last big birthday in 2009, we moved from Philadelphia to Norfolk, Virginia, for Seth’s first job as an assistant pastor. Later that same year, I launched a counseling practice at our church. God blessed us with the gift of our twins in 2010. Our daughters began preschool in 2013, and they started kindergarten in 2016. Seth and I celebrated our first decade of marriage, and I published my first book that same year (2016). Then we uprooted our family from Virginia and moved to South Carolina in 2017 to live closer to extended family while Seth pursued his Ph.D. I went to Italy to visit my dear friend, Maria, in 2018. I began working on a second small writing project in 2019 (due to be released this fall). And – I lose track of all of the years – I became an aunt to 7 additional nephews and nieces this decade as well (through a combination of births and foster care).

2010: our tiny twin bundles of joy arrive
2016: celebrating our 10 year anniversary in the Bahamas with dear friends Karen & Dan
2018: A view from the Italian coast near Naples while visiting Maria & her family

Those are a few of the major milestones in the category of “the best of times.” The “worst of times” – well, I would rather not dwell on them in detail. But I have blogged through some of them in this space. I have written about others. Other stories have yet to be told. To summarize, they follow the themes of my personal struggle with depression and anxiety, striving to live and write “Unashamed” while being more aware than ever before of the ways shame has had a hold on my life, grappling with deep communal tragedy, fighting my own stubborn sins of pride and entitlement and anger and fear, navigating how to be a wife and a mom and a writer and a counselor without losing sight of my primary identity as God’s beloved daughter, striving to live out the truth of my own writing and teaching, and learning my story and how to share it. There have been mentors and counselors and friends and family members who are witnesses to these dark moments and who have carried me – and our family – through them. There have been authors whose words I have clung to to make sense of the apparently senseless and meaningless, and who have served as guides to me along the journey of both the highs and the lows of this decade.

And that brings me to the second part of today’s post. One of those foundational guides and spiritual fathers died on my milestone birthday. David Powlison, professor and counselor at CCEF, passed into glory on June 7, 2019. I expect there will be many who will eulogize him – as well they should – and many who will remember the impact he had on their lives. I am one of them. I was first introduced to David Powlison in the fall of 2004 as I embarked on my counseling degree at Westminster Theological Seminary. He was my professor in the foundational course of the semester called Dynamics of Biblical Change, and I shared an auditorium with a hundred or so eager students. His instruction changed the way I viewed the process of personal change/sanctification. He taught a few other courses that were part of my degree in Biblical Counseling. Each time, he offered creative counseling insights into the human heart, and he exuded a deep compassion for people that was contagious.

David Powlison carried with him a sense of wonder at God’s Word and God’s work in the world. Whether it was a class or a conference, I cannot remember, nor do I recall the context – but I distinctly remember the way he highlighted the wonder of “a goldfinch in flight.” To this day, I don’t notice a goldfinch without thinking about what he said. I had never noticed goldfinches before, but now I can’t miss them. And I can’t help but to notice the beauty of their wings in flight. And I worship.

That was his larger point – it always was – to draw us to worship the God he himself delighted in. In worshiping, we change. We are conformed to whatever we love most. That is challenging, convincing, and hopeful all at the same time. I’ll end this post with a favorite quote from him, as I join a vast community that grieves his passing – with the hope he testified to – that we will meet again perfectly sanctified, in perfect communion with God and one another.

My favorite birthday gifts

Today I creep closer into my “mid-30s” as I’ll add another candle to my birthday cake. And this year more than any other, God has reminded me of the two gifts that are my favorites. My twin daughters who are closely approaching 3-years-old in early fall.

As I began my birthday morning with my daily devotional reading from Psalm 127, it was as if God was speaking right to my heart – reminding me of these two beautiful gifts that are straight from his hand. I so often forget, and I complain that mothering is hard and difficult and discouraging. And of course it is all of those things, but it is also a privilege and a deep joy to have these two girls call me “Mommy.” Psalm 127:3 (ESV) speaks of this so clearly:

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.

So how am I celebrating my birthday? With these two girls and my husband. We had breakfast bagels and coffee at Yorgo’s, and then hung out at the mall play area together and browsed books at Barnes and Noble. Just to keep it real, I’ll also tell you that we had a major chocolate milk spill in the car in which said Mommy-who-loves-her-kids got pretty upset with the offender (who did it on purpose to her twin sister’s great amusement); that we had a major diaper change in Barnes and Noble; and that I was pretty glad for naptime once we got home. I love my alone writing/processing/reflecting/reading time.

But these years of naptimes and tantrums will pass quickly (so I’ve heard), and before I know it these two will be in preschool, and then I’ll blink and they’ll be graduating from high school and I won’t know where the time has gone.

So, God, give me grace not to miss your daily gifts to me in the two sets of blue eyes who greet me each morning (ready or not).

A few of my favorite things

A couple weeks ago, I had a birthday. It was simple and sweet and filled with my favorite things. That’s the inspiration for this post – as I started then, I have kept going with the mental list of what I’ve enjoyed anew lately.

  • Mom’s visit during my birthday, which meant Gigi time for the girls and a break for Mommy and a date night for Seth and me. Win, win, win, win … you get the picture
  • Stella’s Cafe
  • Lunch at Press 626 with Mom
  • OpSail 2012 – majestic ships sailing in from around the world, as far as Brazil and Spain, and docking for a few days’ celebration of the War of 1812 in our own little city
  • Dancing to Brazilian music with our girls and the daughters of another family friend on the deck of a Brazilian Naval ship – it really doesn’t get much better than that, without a passport.
  • Live Colbie Caillat concert under the stars and the twinkling lights of the ships’ masts. I looked over at Seth at one point and said, “If you just realized, what I just realized …” No, only kidding. We realized our love a long time ago now (if 7 years counts as a long time). And yet marriage is a continual re-discovery of our love for one another. That’s a post for another day.
  • Long nap-times and early bedtimes. Just being honest. This stage of almost-2-year-old twins is quite emotionally and physically taxing.
  • Harris Teeter’s Express Lane summer special – order groceries online, pick them up curbside outside the store for only $1.95 during the summer. Grocery shopping made easy.
  • Lunch with a friend whose birthday is just a few days before mine at Bite. Great food and wonderful conversation. Adult conversation, which is so rare these days.
  • Banana Republic Factory Outlet + birthday money + Seth giving me a morning off = a very happy Mommy with a new wardrobe
  • Dark Chocolate Roasted Almonds (with sea salt and turbinado sugar) from Trader Joe’s. Seth and I are officially addicted and stock up every month now. Thanks, Mom, for getting us hooked.
  • Summer!!! I really love almost everything about this season. I think my life motto about seasons would be: “Winters are to be endured; summers are to be celebrated.”

If you care to post, what are some of your favorite things/people/events/etc these days? I’d love to hear.

birthday reflections – a year of extremes


Today was my birthday (or still is, as a matter of fact, for two more hours). Due to my husband’s work commitments, I ended up having much of this afternoon and evening by myself with the girls – and now that they’re in bed, alone to reflect on this past year. Certainly a much quieter birthday than years past (like the year I had three surprise birthday parties!). It was definitely the messiest birthday dinner I’ve had, since my dinner guests smeared food all over their faces and threw it on the floor before deciding that their patience was up about halfway through my meal. But such is life with 9-month-old twins! And for all of the “inconveniences” or frustrations, there is an unspeakable joy that comes with having them in my life. I couldn’t imagine it any other way.

More reflections on this past year, which has been the year of extremes, follow:

Time is a strange thing, how it seems to speed up and slow down, yet keeps constantly ticking along. And birthdays are a reminder of that. As I think about life as it has been radically re-defined for me in the last year, I cannot imagine it any other way. I could not picture a life absent of the gifts of our twin daughters. And they are the gifts that have come with an equally heavy load of responsibility. God has given with them the gift of seeing a new depth of my need for Jesus Christ, exposing the places of false comfort I have sought for refuge instead of my Rock. I have found out how solid my God is when life has felt shaky. Literally – when we wondered whether these girls would make it far enough along before their birth.

This past year, more than any other so far, I have lived the extremes. God has shown me both extremes of resting in simply being (through over two months of bed rest) when I could not be active and of resting when there was no time to rest or sleep or do anything but survive and help these babies thrive.  There have been days that felt endless because of lack of activity and days that felt endless because of an absence of anything but activity. I have gone from lonely days to days when I wished for one moment alone. I have had months of anticipating the twins’ arrival and preparing for life to change dramatically and all the months since of reflecting and processing and adjusting to how their arrival has transformed our lives. I can remember what it was like to believe the illusion that I alone was in control of my schedule, my to-do list, my sleep, and could choose how to spend free time. The illusion has been exposed and those days are like a dream.

And yet the other extreme to the life-turned-upside-down adventure that parenting has been is the joy I have felt. I didn’t know how I would see these little faces and fall instantly in love. And how, six days later when we had to take our babies to the ER of the Children’s Hospital, a deep-seated fear would grip me as I realized how fragile were the lives of these little ones who had my heart.Then the relief I would feel a week later when we all arrived home (again) and Seth and I placed them in their crib to nestle next to each other, free of monitors and IV lines.  During that week in between, I experienced the wrestling of faith to entrust these ones to the God who cared about them more than I do and who had compassion on me that went even deeper than mine for them. Yes, it has been quite a year. The end result? More awareness of my weakness. More clinging to Christ for strength. More joy independent of circumstances. I can only hope and pray for more of that in the year to come. Only this coming year, I’m not planning on doubling our family size as in the year past!