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Stranger Things Have Happened

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This Life of Faith

A Heart For Worship

Worshiping the Lord through singing has always been my favorite part of a Sunday service. I lose myself in those moments as we lift our voices to our God in community.

But there was a time when I found myself unable to focus.

Week after week the songs sounded trite, the music felt too loud, and my heart was struggling to connect to the words on the screen.

I was distracted, uncomfortable, and frustrated. I felt empty and cold, merely going through the motions of helping others to enter the presence of God when I could not find the way myself.

At first, I told myself that it was just a season. “Fake it till you make it!” I thought. It will pass. It’s probably stress, you’re probably tired, next week will be fine.

But it wasn’t.

Then I blamed the music. The songs were old. The sound was not right. We didn’t practice enough.

But that was not it either.

And I knew it.

Continue reading “A Heart For Worship”

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When A Baby Changes Everything.

The phone call came at the worst possible time.

We were at the height of the worst year in our marriage. Matt had just been offered a new church, in a new city, and I was seriously considering staying behind permanently on the pretense of selling the house we owned.

Things could not have been worse when the adoption agency called out of the blue.

I say out of the blue because a second baby was not even a discussion at that point.

Isabel was not quite two years old and, while we always wanted more than one child, we both understood that pursuing an adoption in the state our marriage was, was foolish and unfair.

We did not seek it, we did not request it, we didn’t even dream it.

But this was Isabel’s biological brother.

Brand new.

How could we say no?

Continue reading “When A Baby Changes Everything.”

Dear Pier One – a re-post.

Several years ago, Pier One had a Christmas slogan stating: “Décor that speaks to you.” It prompted a blog from me that I posted in my old blog space. This year, as our tree was trimmed, I felt the same stirrings. This is a slightly edited and updated version:

Dear Pier One,

I saw a commercial you aired a few days ago. Your new slogan for Christmas ornaments is “Décor that speaks to you.” The commercial encouraged us to buy new Christmas decorations if the ones we have no longer speak to us.

Tonight, after my husband and kids finished trimming and decorating, and generally having a blast, I assessed our artificial tree and smiled at the horrified look I would get from your “experts” on what Christmas should look like.

This tree is the same one we set it up in the reception hall of our wedding chapel. Since we got married the week before Christmas we asked our friends to bring to the wedding one ornament to help us decorate our first tree.

And they did.

By the end of the night, the little scrawny tree was glittering like any of the proudly displayed on your storefront. It was a joy to behold, mainly for all the love and good wishes it held in each branch in the shape of an ornament.

We still have those ornaments and have added many more over the seventeen years of our marriage.

To be honest, I don’t know much about the ornaments you sell, and I can’t afford most of what you have in your store, but I do know that I don’t need to buy your decorations.

My ornaments not only speak to me, they also touch me and tell me stories.

There is the silver disco ball we gave away as wedding favors and the snowman figures we gave to our wedding party.

They speak about the promise we made that day before so many witnesses to be together in sickness and in health, in poverty and in wealth, in the good times and in the bad times, and about the people who honored us by standing next to us as we made our vows to the Lord and to each other.

There is the one we bought on our honeymoon in New Orleans the night we saw Harry Connick Sr. (the famous Junior’s dad) playing in a hole in the wall where I sipped on a virgin strawberry daiquiri that turned out not to be virgin after all.

This one reminds me of the adventure that were our first years married when we could go anywhere and do anything because we were young and carefree.

There is the one for The Parents-to-Be that Matt’s parents gave us months before we knew Isabel was a reality.

I remember how this one brought tears to my eyes for it spoke of hope and promise. I look at my children today and this ornament now speaks to me about a family built on initial disappointment, lots of prayer, lots of waiting, and a God who keeps his promises.

I see the many Baby’s First Christmas ornaments that were given to us. Most of them pink, because Noah’s first Christmas was a whirlwind of moving, new church, and new life so he had only a few given to him.

They take me back to another baby’s first Christmas more than two thousand years ago, and my mother’s heart understands how Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

There is the one Isabel’s foster mom made for her when she heard Isabel had found her forever family. It is hand stitched with her name, and the year.

It reminds me of how she spent two months of her life waiting for her mom and dad to find her, but how she was loved and cared for by many people even before we met her.

I spot a globe in the shape of a baseball that was given to Matt by his beloved granddaddy, his name-sake and his hero, who is no longer with us.

It speaks of three generations of men who loved Jesus and chose to make their life’s work and vocation to make His name known.

Then there are the ones that belong to this new era of our lives like the Noah’s Ark with all the animals and Mickey Mouse ears from the trip to Disney we took not long ago.

They talk to me about the passage of time, how it flies, and how we move from one stage of our lives into another almost without notice.

I see a tiny wooden guitar carefully crafted by a friend from the first church Matt pastored.

It reminds me of our life in ministry, the churches we’ve served, the people we’ve loved, and the path that God carved for us to bring us to where we are today: the job that Matt was supposed to have all along. 

And then we have the ones that speak of what Christmas truly means to us. The ones that portray the Holy Family. We have several of those for those are the ones that speak the loudest to our hearts.

We have one that shows Santa Clause bowing to the Child Christ and one that shows a Christmas tree on one side and a cross on the other.

We have Nativities all around the house as well. We have wooden ones, metal ones, ceramic, and plastic. We have toy ones for the kids to enjoy, fancy ones that should not be touched, gorgeous ones that stay out all year, and the one we collect a piece at the time year after year.

These are the most valued decorations in our house as we try to teach our children in no uncertain terms what Christmas is all about.

Seventeen years of Christmas represented on one tree.  

A tree that saw our beginning and which has been with us year after year.

Dear Pier One, if I were to change my hodge-podge of decorations for your beautiful, expensive ones, my tree will no longer speak to me.

It would be a silent, green, glittering blob in my living room with no history, no meaning, and no purpose.

I am sure it would be beautifully chic, but I think I will keep my tree as it is, and continue to let it serve its purpose as our family’s historian, reminding us Christmas after Christmas about the wonder that has been our family’s journey.

 

Now you’re speaking my language!

Yesterday was our 17th wedding anniversary.

I got out of the shower in the morning to find a bottle of my favorite perfume, a framed picture of Matt and me, and a sweet Happy Anniversary card on the bathroom counter.

I immediately burst into tears.

And they were not happy tears.

See, we had said “no gifts” and I had not even bought Matt a card.

I meant to…but time got away from me.

So Matt found me hiding in the closet, tears streaming down my face.

In sweet Matt-like fashion, he held me and let me blubber about how sad and embarrassed I was to have nothing to give him.

He stroked my hair and let me cry for a bit longer and then he proceeded to gently remind me of something we had learned many years ago.

Continue reading “Now you’re speaking my language!”

Hard Conversations…

Recently, I was reminded that a Facebook discussion about difficult topics can take a turn for the ugly rather quickly.

Even among Christians.

We can tear each other apart like the best of them and it’s enough to make you never want to engage again.

But that same night a godly woman whom I deeply respect suggested that we “need” to have those hard conversations if we ever want to understand each other and walk in each other’s shoes for a mile or two.

Especially among Christians.

Because certain conversations are healthy and helpful to the development of our minds, souls, and characters.

Some of my most growing and learning times have happened when I have engaged in conversation with another believer who disagrees with me on some issue and I heard their point of view.

We may not have walked away on the exact same page, but I know I was changed and gained a deeper understanding of their perspective every time.   

At the very least, having listened to their experiences helped me become a more compassionate and empathetic human being and softened my heart towards them.

So, I thought long and hard about this clashing dichotomy: the necessity of having these difficult dialogs and our seeming inability to do so.

Should we do it? Can we do it? How do we do it?

Continue reading “Hard Conversations…”

That Proverb…

Parenting can be a hard job.

But it can also be as humbling an experience as any you can ever have.

Because I’m convinced part of God’s design for parenting is to sanctify us, the grown-ups.

A few weeks ago, my pre-teen daughter began answering my angry rants about her behavior with the words: “Yes, mommy.”

I would lose my patience and raise my voice and remind her of something she did or did not do and she would simply answer:

– “Yes, mommy.”

No reproach, no defense, no fighting back.

Her answer would disarm me and quiet my frustrated heart on the spot, especially when I was irritated and going on and on about something, as I’m known to do.

Invariably, the rest of the conversation would go down a different direction and we would solve whatever problem we were having peacefully and calmly.

At first it didn’t dawn on me what was happening but soon I began to notice this pattern. Finally, I asked her one day,

–  “What’s up? You usually get mad at me and fight back and when I start to call you on something you did or have not done.”

She looked at me with those big, brown eyes that will melt her husband one day and said,

– “Well, you talked about that proverb the other day and I wanted to try it. I think it really works.”

And she walked away.

That proverb?

That proverb?

What proverb?

Ah.

That proverb.
Continue reading “That Proverb…”

Brave…

You are so brave.”

I heard this a few times after I posted the story of our marriage troubles a couple of weeks ago.

Thank you.

Yeah.

Maybe.

Maybe it was brave.

I’ll confess it didn’t feel very brave.

It felt scary.

But necessary.

There are some lessons God continues to speak into my life over and over again for the last few years because I’m slow to learn.

This is one of them:

Be transparent.

Be vulnerable.

Be real.

Because it matters.

Continue reading “Brave…”

The Date That Changed it All

Dates are important to us. They remind us of crucial events in our lives and we commemorate them as anniversaries.

In our house, we celebrate lots of anniversaries and we announce them to the world because they are happy remembrances of wonderful days:

The anniversary of our first date. The anniversary of our engagement. The anniversary of our wedding. The anniversary of the day we met each of our kids. The anniversary of the day they became officially ours.

But there is one date that Matt and I usually celebrate in private. This year, however, marks its 10th anniversary so I think it is time to celebrate it openly.

It is the anniversary of the date God delivered our marriage and sent us down the path of healing and reconciliation.  Continue reading “The Date That Changed it All”

On Trusting…Again.

When everything is humming and life is working just as it should trusting God seems like second-nature to me.

He is good! He is wise! He is faithful!

Then comes dissonance, a change in plans I did not choose, a moment that changes the harmony that were my days, and doubt and fear push trust aside.

He is far away, He has turned his face, He has forgotten me.

And I try to fix the problem.

I work, I strive, I stress. I talk to people and search for ways out. I chase after my own solutions and my own wisdom until I come to the end of my rope: this is beyond my hands. Continue reading “On Trusting…Again.”

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