Five Minute Friday: “visit”

See yesterday’s post for a summary of our days (weeks) lately. I am going to dive right into today’s Five Minute Friday writing exercise (five minutes, unedited, free-flowing thoughts, hosted by Kate Motaung here).


mugs 2

photo credit:

I cannot wait to see her familiar smile tomorrow, and that of her radiant husband whose joy and passion for life and God matches her own. They will drive from South Carolina to come visit us, and it will be a much-needed refreshment for us snow-weary ones. She and I go way back, all the way to high school when we were both timid teenagers in youth group together. Her visit will be like revisiting all of the years since then. Years that have had their share of joys and sorrows in equal measure. 

Like the week we visited Ireland together. We were out of college then, in our mid-20s and quite brave (naive?). We flew into Dublin, took a train across the country to the Ring of Kerry, and then began searching for a B&B to stay at for the evening. The next day we hitchhiked (and wow – it could have been disastrous) and collected many more moments that we laugh at ruefully now.

Another time we will be sure to recount is when I wanted to visit her, but family demands kept me here – on this side of the Atlantic – missing out on joining the joy of her marriage to Erick. God brought her on an adventure across the ocean into missions in Africa, and God brought love to her in the person of Erick. Whom we finally met during his first visit to the U.S. over Christmas break. The two hours we had then were too short. And I imagine the same will be true for the two days we’ll spend together.

But I’ll take it. Any visit is a reminder of the good times we’ve had in the past, and it builds hope for future visits we will share together.


when mentoring exposes your idol of being needed

Sharing the gospel is inextricably tied to sharing other aspects of life with those we’re mentoring. Consider what the apostle Paul says: “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 2:8). Biblical mentoring requires engaging the whole person for more than just a scheduled time each week or month. It includes meeting for lunch or coffee, showing up for an important event in the life of the woman you’re mentoring, inviting her to be part of your life or family, serving together, and even enjoying together the seemingly “frivolous” activities such as watching a movie or going shopping.

Life-on-life ministry comes quite naturally to many of us women as we love to care, nurture, and share emotional intimacy. Yet as in every other relationship, there is danger that I find my identity in mentoring another young woman and so become enmeshed in an unhealthy relationship. My definition of “unhealthy relationship” is a relationship where one of my idols takes the central place that belongs to Jesus. In mentoring, this can happen when my idol of being needed replaces Jesus as what I am worshiping and serving in our relationship.

Warning Signs

What does this idolatry look like, and how can you establish healthy biblical boundaries?

[… Read the rest of the article here at The Gospel Coalition Blog where I’m a guest writer today.]

Mind the gap

This is how I imagine my kitchen to be:

Serene, beautiful, spotless. Could be on the cover or a feature story of “Real Simple.” The countertops gleam; all dishes are put away; there are matching Method hand soap and dish soap containers; and the lit candle signals that it smells as nice as it looks.

Instead, this is the typical end-of-the-evening scene in my kitchen:

20130729-214126.jpgAnd what you can’t see in this image is the dishwasher that still needs to be unloaded (it’s 9:30pm), and a pot on the stove that has another pot nested within it (both dirty, of course).

There’s quite a gap between “ideal” and “real.” To be honest, this particular gap doesn’t really bother me that much because I know it’s only a matter of about 30 minutes before the dishes will be put away and it will at least *look* clean even if it doesn’t smell clean or gleam radiantly. These photos illustrate a deeper gap I wrestle with almost daily. I know that I am not alone in this, because I’ve talked to many of you about it and read your blogs where you also honestly wrestle through the gap. The gap between who you want to be – “ideal you” – and who you really are day-to-day. 

In a conversation with my mom last week, she was telling me about a book she’s read lately in which the thesis is, “We all feel like we need to be perfect like everyone else because we compare our insides to their outsides.” Meaning that you don’t see me yelling at my kids and berating them to get dressed with proper shoes (slippers don’t count) and use the bathroom and get buckled into their car seats and etc etc … before you see us walk into the grocery store all smiles, me holding each of their hands.  Nor do I see your inward struggle with what to wear and does your hair look ok and what about this makeup and do these earrings really match. I simply see the beautiful well-dressed woman who walks into church with confidence and style, leading her equally well-dressed and smiling children behind her. And I’m intimidated by you. I feel less than.

I care so much because it could be that your image gives a picture to the ideal in my head. The who-I-want-to-be-but-feel-like-I’ll-never-be. Emily Freeman in Grace for the Good Girl describes it like this:

I am struck by how I have lived in a constant state of high expectation. I compared my current life to the one I thought I would be living.

What do we do with this? First of all, I mind the gap. I remember that my ideal self and who God created me to be are two different people. And who God wants me to be is who HE is making me to be as Jesus’ life overflows through mine. Which includes me being honest about weaknesses and struggle and confessing and repenting of sin. Secondly, I remember that you’re real, too. So I don’t envy you or judge you or distance myself from you because you seem perfect in ways I’ll never be. I befriend you, because you need friends, too, and you have messy places just like I do. I ask how you’re doing, and really listen. I don’t force honesty, but I offer you the real version of me – hoping that will invite you to do the same in case you’re also feeling suffocated and in need of the space to be real as well.

A decade remembered: 10 year Wheaton reunion

Chicago skyline

I had never lived in (or really even visited) a big city before I attended Wheaton College, located about 45 minutes outside of the “Windy City” of Chicago. In fact, I had never lived anywhere outside of Greenville, South Carolina, unless you count the first 2 years of life spent in Georgia. Since then, I have visited New York City, Philadelphia, and Dublin among others – and still Chicago welcomed me with its Midwestern familiarity while impressing me with its clean magnificence when I flew in last Friday with my college roommate, Katherine, to attend our 10 year college reunion.

The highlight by far was reuniting with my senior year housemates (all but one – we missed you, Sarah!). We shared our 4 bedroom, 1.5 bathroom on-campus house for a year full of laughter, tears, busting-at-the-seams house parties and senior-year-angst as we walked together through the questions of our future and the last months of our college-student-freedom. As we gathered in a hotel room near Wheaton on Friday night, it was as if nothing had changed and everything had changed as we caught up on the last decade. We have all walked through the valley of the shadow of death, some experiencing loss and grief so deep that it makes my heart hurt to think of what they have borne. We shed tears anew together. And we transitioned seamlessly into the joys of our lives, too: marriages, the birth of babies, graduate & medical degrees, participating in God’s kingdom work around the world, and finding new freedom that came as we emerged from the often “tumultuous twenties.” These 30-somethings (many of us moms who are early to bed most evenings) had so much to catch up on that we stayed up late into the night both evenings to try to fit it all in. Richly soul refreshing is the only phrase I know that could begin to describe our hours together.

We attended our 10-year reunion events together, enjoying the chance to catch up with other friends. We joked that we wanted to ask various acquaintances, “Now remind me how I knew you again? What role did you play in my life? How much of my life story did I share with you?” There is so much one forgets in 10 years!

Yet I was impressed with the way that the years really did “bring us together.” Unlike our time at Wheaton, now we weren’t vying to be part of any certain group or achieve a particular status with one another. We were united simply by the fact that we are the Wheaton College Class of 2001.  Any other person, by virtue that they were there, was worth engaging – I wanted to know where they were living, what they were doing, if life had been good to them in the past 10 years. And of course there wasn’t enough time to catch up to this degree with everyone, but at least  the weekend provided a start. Thank goodness for Facebook, right? (sidebar: which we did NOT have when I was at college, nor did we text and only a few had cell phones – gasp!) I was encouraged to see so many of us who had landed in similar places, even more closely aligned than when we were at Wheaton. It was beautiful to see classmates transformed into mothers and fathers proudly presenting their babies, a picture of how life changes us and how we are changed by life.God’s faithfulness was on display last weekend in Wheaton, Illinois, on a small college campus in a relatively small Chicago suburb filled with fall’s splendor, a good dose of nostalgia, and the stories of graduates whose lives “For Christ and His Kingdom” bear the indelible stamp of God’s grace.

a picture says a 1000 words

And so I give you the pictures that speak about this past weekend’s celebration of Seth becoming a “Reverend” as he was ordained as a minister in the Presbyterian Church of America. Our hearts are full from the outpouring of love from family and friends, both old and new, many of whom traveled to be with us in celebration. We feel like it was a glimpse of heaven. Thank you all! (or y’all or yous guys …)

The ordination service as Seth becomes a Reverend through the laying on of hands


IMG_4171My sister-in-law Nicole, “little” brother Jonathan, and nephew Caleb


Caleb was the most excited of all for Uncle Seth …



Family and out-of-town guests on a tour of Norfolk


friends from Philadelphia & my parents


IMG_4190 A few of our new friends in Norfolk

Seth’s family (parents, aunt & uncle) who traveled from New Jersey


IMG_4164And we all know that no party is complete without my youngest brother Bryan!

a ship in harbor

helsingor-dk165The analogy came to me tonight while talking to my friend Ellen: that this season of transition feels like being in a ship in harbor, waiting to set sail for distant lands. We are loading up the cargo, one box at a time. And we are untying the ropes that bind us to Philadelphia one strand at a time. Each good-bye is a letting go. Tearful at the leaving, joyful at the reflection of what the friendship has meant. We will soon be standing on the ship’s deck, waving good-bye to our friends on the other side. And there will be tears on both sides.

And we will “set sail” to a “new land” of Norfolk, Virginia, where a new life awaits us – yet to be discovered. There will be new friends greeting us at the dock, helping us unload our cargo and initiate ties of relationship that will bind us to our future home. There will be a season of many “hello’s”.

But now is the season of saying “good-bye.” And so I pray that I will be fully present for each one. Soaking up the memories – the celebration of what has been enjoyed in these five years in Philadelphia.

“new” identity

My best friend, Katherine, and I had a good email exchange this week about who we are now. Since we’ve both gotten married, we really can’t any longer address one another with our familiar-since-high-school nicknames of “KO” and “HD” (our maiden name initials). We realized we have a dilemma … or rather we’ve been through a metamorphosis.

So we made it official that she’s now “KC” and I have chosen to be “hdn.” It’ll take some time to “make it real” but these nicknames now accurately reflect our “new” (as in 6 months for her, 1.5 years for me) identities. One of the reasons I like “hdn” is because of the tie to this blog title “hidden glory.” And now whenever I write it, I will not only be reminded of my married identity as Seth’s wife but also that I am “hdn”/hidden in Christ … as in how Colossians 1:3 describes the identity of Christians (those spiritually “married” to Christ): “…your life is

hidden with Christ in God.”

What an identity! It’s mysterious and beautiful all at the same time. It’s challenging. How many people would look at the way I live my life and describe it as a life where I, Heather Nelson, am hidden and God is revealed through Christ in me? More grace, Lord, more grace, to be who you call us to be and to be who you have made us to be through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. May we be hidden and your glory be revealed.

Katherine & I at her bridesmaids\' luncheon in November