Thursday, February 26, 2015

Guest Blogger, Joanna Bloss, on Overcoming Shame

Kevin and I spent the weekend with our church’s core team -- sharing personal stories, encouraging each other, and praying together for Renewal Church, which exists for the glory of God and the good of the neighborhood. 

It was an awesome weekend and we already love the people God has brought together. We keep saying we are already a church, but we’re preparing to launch a service. It's going to be an adventure over the next several months and I'm excited to keep you posted.

One of our core team members is the incredible, cute, and sassy Joanna Bloss. Joanna is a master’s level therapist, a single mom of four, a faithful follower of Jesus, a crafter, an author, and a friend. Over the next couple weeks, Joanna will be guest posting for me about God's kindness in the midst of our shame. I know you’ll love her as much as I do! You can also check out her blog, Shine Bright, here.


The rule was clear. 

The one exception was holiday parties. We could chew it just during the party then we had to spit it out.

Stupid rule.

Stupid or not, I am ordinarily a devout rule-follower.

However, this was our 5th grade Valentine's party so I must have been feeling carefree, plus the gum hadn't yet lost its flavor so I reasoned...

...she'll never know.

Apparently I underestimated the eagle eyes of Mrs. Benson because she did know and called me to her desk.

I was so busted. 

"Joanna...are you chewing gum?"

I couldn't speak. Because at that point, what do you do? Swallow it? Show it to her in your mouth? Take it out with your hand?

For the love. You have NO idea how much I hated getting into trouble. (Still do.)

So I'm sure my face turned crimson as I stood there mutely, praying that my momentary indiscretion wouldn't get me kicked out of the 5th grade. (And incidentally, I am wearing, as in all of my grade school memories, a red-white-and-blue granny square crochet vest.)

I braced myself for punishment which I desperately hoped would be sure and swift.

But then Mrs. Benson dropped the grace bomb.

"You know what?" she said. "I'm not going to punish you. You've already punished yourself enough. Now spit the gum out and get back to your desk."

Holy crap. Was I that obvious?

What I felt in that moment was pure and utter shame. Mrs. Benson picked up on it and gave me a gift.


My response?

Repentance. Because at that moment I wanted nothing more in the world than to please Mrs. Benson for the rest of the school year because she had been so kind. A kindness I most certainly did not deserve in all my 5th grade depravity.

I cannot tell you the relief I felt in having been rescued that day from my own sinful behavior.
"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

"[do you not realize] that God's kindness leads you to repentance?" Romans 2:4

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Fat Tuesday and Wishing

Hey lovely people! I just turned in the second draft of my book-- a friend told me editing is like giving birth--it's definitely like contracting a muscle I never knew I had. I'm so thankful for my editor, and one day I'll have to blog about the editing/book publishing process. I'm learning a lot.

I guest-blogged on Valentine's day, for the lovely Cindy Johnson, author of Who's Picking Me Up From The Airport?(and other questions single girls ask)  Buy her book today if you haven't's a great, witty, and insightful read.

You can journey over to her website to check out my post.

So, with Ash Wednesday on the horizon, I've been thinking a lot about what it means to give something up in order to set my mind on Christ.

Should I give up tv?

Any music that isn't worship?


Bestselling author, Seth Godin, blogged last week about those times we "totally make fools of ourselves." He pointed out that, actually, we aren't making fools of ourselves at all -- we are making humans of ourselves.

I wonder what would happen if we gave up that defense, that need to be seen in a certain light.

I think if we allowed ourselves to become fools--to be seen as human--it would give our communities more courage to let go of shame.

I wasn't all that excited to give up my caffeine--so maybe I'll put on foolishness, rather than give anything up this Lenten season.

Wondering what your plan is...if you're participating in Lent, and have decided to give up something, I'd love to know.

Until then...Happy Fat Tuesday!

Monday, February 2, 2015

#likeagirl and others

I'm elbow-deep in book edits, so I'm a little behind on posting. But, wanted to respond this morning to the #likeagirl ad. I know there are some haters out there, but it got me-- Kevin busted me tearing up last night. 

If you missed it (maybe you were skipping the Superbowl in lieu of Downton Abbey--which I might have done for about an hour. Edith better just go get that baby like a girl!) here it is:

I wanted to show you a couple of other ads and articles that have inspired me lately:  

When Victoria's Secret came out with their recent "Perfect 'Body' "ad, featuring -- you guessed it --ten women with the exact same body type, the internet went crazy. Dear Kate created this amazing counter ad and petition: "We show the multitudes of shapes perfect bodies can take." 

And recently, Buzzfeed featured this video on how our standards of beauty have changed over time. 

What about you? Anything been especially inspiring to you lately? What'd you think of #likeagirl? (or Edith's plight, for that matter?)

I love this age of social media because we can use our online "voices" in powerful ways. We can tweet our frustrations at companies who exploit girls and women. We can post and pin real images of beauty. We can fight back against the onslaught of pressure women are constantly under. 

And -- we can celebrate the ones who are fighting the good fight. Well done #likeagirl! 

FYI: I'll be MIA 'til Feb 15, cause I'm editing my book (#likeagirl). 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Author Cindy Johnson on Waiting (REPOST) and a giveaway!

With the upcoming release of her brand new book, Who's Picking Me Up From the Airport?  (you can pre-order here), I wanted to repost Cindy's piece on waiting.  

Cindy and I share the same amazing agent, Heidi Mitchell at DC Jacobson, and publisher, Zondervan/HarperCollins. 

I read Cindy's book in one sitting -- it is full of sass, wit, vulnerability, and biblical insight. 
It is a must-read and a must-share! 

AND...I will give away a copy of  Who's Picking Me Up From the Airport? to the person who has the most shares, tweets, likes, etc. 

Johnson covers everything from Scars from Adult Dating to What Not To Say To Your Single Friends. In one of my favorite chapters, "Jesus, There Are No Men," Cindy shares a list of some of the exact moments when she and her friends knew it just wasn't going to work out with a guy, including: he had jewels on his jeans, he had a girl best friend, he introduced me as his "sister in Christ," and he still shared a bedroom with his sister. (Yeah that's a bad one.) 

Preorder Cindy's book and catch up with her at

"One of my favorite Christmas decorations is the Advent Calendar. Growing up, our family had one shaped like a chimney with a Santa on top. Each "brick" had candy in it and my brothers and I would rush home from school and wait for my mom to give the green light.
Advent, from the Latin word adventus, means "coming" and it refers to a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the birth of Christ. I guess those tiny chocolates were meant to help us wait out the time before the big day.

Lately, I've been thinking about waiting. Everyone I know is waiting for something: a vacation, a baby, a test result, a job, a relationship, recovery, forgiveness. It's hard to wait. It's even harder to wait expectantly and prepare for something you've never seen work out. As grown-ups, there is no countdown. No guaranteed outcome. No candy to help along the way.

There's just waiting.

My wise and thoughtful friend Crissy and I met up for coffee a few weeks ago and we talked about this waiting business. We both agreed it can be painful, annoying, and frustrating at times. (Ok, mostly I was saying that. She's a better person in general) Crissy, knows a bit about waiting, specifically waiting to meet a husband.

She told me that when she turned 35, she started looking at waiting differently when she noticed that waiting is, and always has been, a part of God's people. It's who we are. We have always been waiting for something: delivery from Egypt, the Promised Land, the Messiah, the return of Christ. Crissy said she believed God was actually interested in making her good at waiting. That realization helped her learn how to wait with hope, expectant of God's goodness in her life.

I admitted to her that sometimes I hate hope. Hope gets your hopes up. When it doesn't work out, you have a fall that you wouldn't have had if you hadn't hoped in the first place. Maybe it's better to just take what comes?
Crissy just smiled and said that reminded her of a verse from Zechariah:
'Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope; 
even now I announce that I will
 restore twice as much to you.' Zechariah 9:12

What a strange phrase, "Prisoners of hope.” I take it to mean that when we follow Jesus, there comes a point when we can't get away from hoping in Him. Even if I wanted to stop hoping, I couldn't completely because I know Jesus and I know Him to be very reliable. It's too late. I can't stop hoping. I've experienced too much of His kindness to deny that He has my best in mind, whether it feels that way or not. Deep down, I expect Him to come through in the way that He sees is right. I'm hope's prisoner.

Whatever you are waiting for this year, I pray you are a fellow prisoner of hope, waiting expectantly on the God who never fails and is always good. There's no countdown per say, and no guarantee we will get exactly what we want in the end. We do know God will show up in the right way at the right time. Remember that waiting is part of who we are and God can use this time to make us better waiters.

Lord knows I need the practice....

'Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.' Psalm 31:24"

Monday, January 5, 2015

DIY Part Two-- Spankin' New Kitchen for a Spankin New Year

Happy New Year! I hope you had a joy-filled transition into 2015. My New Year's Eve was WILD; I fell asleep at about 9:30 pm watching Honey I Shrunk the Kids with my 8 year-old. Good times.

I promised I'd update you on our DIY kitchen remodel. Before I do, let me just quote from AW Tozer (so this post can seem really spiritual):

"The simplicity which is in Christ is rarely found among us. In its stead are programs, methods, organizations and a world of nervous activities which occupy time and attention but never satisfy the longing of the heart." 

I adore my new kitchen but I must confess this remodel has been one of nervous activity and I am SO OVER house projects. My first goal of 2015 is to take a DIY vacay. (Well, after I finish this storage unit I'm currently working on...AHH! Make it stop!)

My second (and more long term) goal-- in the continued pursuit of living without toxic shame-- is to spend this year more meaningfully. I'm rethinking how and where I spend my money, which books I read, the music I listen to, and the shows I watch. I want to make sure I'm being intentional with every choice.

That doesn't mean I'm changing a ton in my life-- I just want to say the best yes's (as Lysa TerKeurst says) and make the most thoughtful decisions I can this year. In the reading arena, I picked up AW Tozer's The Pursuit of God and The Knowledge of the Holy again-- great reads if you haven't perused them before. I'm also reading Enrique's Journey- which I'd HIGHLY recommend if you are at all interested social and immigration issues.

I'd love to know how you live meaningfully. Where do you shop for food? Do you support a ministry or organization? What about how you spend your time and invest in relationships? I think it'd be an ah-mah-zing year if we could share ideas with each other.

And now, without further ado, let me show you the nastiness that was our kitchen:

Step One: Purchase new appliances. This was our only major expense. We used some Christmas money and some savings. Previously we had mismatched appliances -- black, white, and off white-- and the microwave had gone to electronic heaven. I was fine with the appliances we had, don't get me wrong; these are definitely first world problems. But it sure is nice having matching ones. We bought floor models at Lowe's and saved some money that way.  

Step Two: Update the island. I don't have  a  good before pic of the island, but trust me when I tell you it was an ugly green drywall. We had a friend install the bead board and the towel rack on the island. He did an awesome job. Both the bead board and the rack came from Lowe's and were super affordable.  

Step Three: Never lay eyes on this box light monstrosity again. My original plan was to paint the trim around it to kind of camouflage it, but Kevin convinced me it was worth purchasing a new light. We had some rebate rewards from Menards (love me those rebates), so we cashed those in for a new light. Kevin installed it and patched up the ceiling while I danced on the box light's grave.   

Miner's light from Menards. 

Step Four: The painting began. Again, Kevin did it all! I should call this a HYHDI (have your husband do it) project instead of DIY, cause he rocked this kitchen like a BOSS! We covered all of the russet colored walls with Benjamin Moore's Revere Pewter. My mom painted our ceiling fan (which was an 80's hunter green). She's tiny, so she literally just stood on the table and painted on black Rustoleum spray paint with a brush. It was fun to watch and an inexpensive fix. She also spray painted some old island stools we've had for ten years but NEVER used before now. 

Step Five: Next we had to choose cabinet colors and begin prepping them for painting. I obsessed over these decisions incessantly for months--I'm like J Alfred Prufrock in these scenarios (and if you get that reference, let's grab coffee). After some late night Pinterest and Houzz research, I played it safe with a neutral palette. I love that I can add pops of color as kitchen trends (and as my spazzy DIY moods) change. 

We had originally thought about getting new counter tops, but didn't have the budget and it kind of defeated the whole affordable DIY idea. So the neutral palette also worked to incorporate our current counter top. We chose BM White for the cabinets and BM Coventry Gray for the island. Once again, my manly husband did all the prepping and painting, saving us a ton of money. 

And here she is: 

TA DA! I hate how in house pics no one ever has anything on their counters and the lighting is all perfect. (Cause that's not how anyone with three children actually lives.) So if the clutter and imperfect lighting annoy you, you are more than welcome to come clean and light-design my house anytime you want. (Side note: this is REALLY clean for us.)

And I can't forget Jango Fett, the fish, who added to our project as well: Jango Fett died; sad but also awfully convenient for me to gain some counter top space and get rid of the turquoise fish tank stand. RIP JF, you'll be missed, but I'm also glad you chose to die when you did. Thanks buddy. If you're a detail person, you may have also noticed we moved the DIY nightmare of a gray table into the new space. It was born to be a kitchen table! 

Admittedly, I'm probably high on paint fumes, but I'm so ecstatic and thankful!
I promise I'll stop with the DIY updates...for now. 

Happy 2015! 

Monday, December 15, 2014

You Have an Asymmetrical Face; Merry Christmas

I was at the dermatologist over the weekend. There was a pharmaceutical rep in the lobby selling some kind of anti-aging product. She asked me a few questions about my beauty regime. I asked about her product.

She began pointing out the wrinkles around my eyes, the ones on my forehead (which, by the way, she also described as "big"), and the vast amount of fine lines I have on one side of my face due, apparently, to my "asymmetrical nature."

This was one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen in real life (her product must work!), and here she was examining me while nodding with what I can only assume was sympathy, "It's okay, lots of people have big foreheads and asymmetrical faces. Have you ever considered preventative treatments or fillers?"

Well NOW I have.

I'm not gonna lie and act like I'm above the fray.

I'm well below it. I've considered my face in obsessive  meticulous detail since that day, and I can't pretend like I don't want to race back to that office and purchase every product in her line, maybe even becoming a sales rep myself. (In this way, shame can be a very powerful sales pitch.)

But it does have me wondering this Advent season--what is true beauty?

On Sunday, our pastor asked us about the shepherds in our lives. Who is leading us? Who is guiding us through the valleys?

Is it the lady at the dermatologist office? Is it a pursuit of beauty or some other kind? Is it shame? Is it someone whose acceptance you are desperate to win?

Or is it the creator and embodiment of ultimate beauty? Is it the one who leads us by still waters? Is it the one whose loveliness has no match; whose spirit radiates from within us, so that we become bearers of his likeness, no matter our age or the bend of our faces?

I know it's an odd thing to consider this Advent, but could it be that as we wait, we are also in part waiting for Jesus to redefine our understanding of beauty by his standards?

I can't promise I'll never give in to the pressure, but for now, I know this:

Jesus, who had "no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him," in an act of unrivaled beauty took up our pain, bore our suffering, was pierced for our transgressions, and was crushed for our sins.

By his wounds, we are healed. Praise Emmanuel, God with us.

Because of his with-ness even wounds caused by the lady at the dermatologist office, even the wounds of identity and shame; yes, even those wounds are made beautiful time and time again.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Them Bones, Them Bones

Ezekiel chapter thirty-seven contains that famous story about dry bones coming to life. 

The Lord showed the prophet Ezekiel a vision of a valley of dry bones...signifying God's people. Their bones were dry. Their hope was gone. They felt cut off from God's favor.  

Through this vision, God was restoring hope to his people-- He was saying He would breathe life into the dead places. His Spirit would settle in them and they would live like they had never lived before. Most importantly, they would once again know the Lord's love, glory, and power.  

If you haven't heard, Kevin and I are in a season of training with Mission Church in order to launch a brand new church in the West Chicagoland area next fall. 

There are two-out-of-three people in the 15 minutes around us who don't know Christ. It is our passion to join hands with other churches in the area in order to bring hope to those who have not yet experienced the renewing love of God. We want to see our entire community find true life in Jesus.  

The coolest thing is this: statistics on church plants show that when a new church comes to town, it not only reaches about twenty percent of previously unchurched people--the existing churches also grow by about twenty percent. In other words, it's a win for everyone! We're so thankful for the other churches around us who have welcomed us to the neighborhood and encouraged us in our ministry.  

But before we find a location or begin holding services, the first thing we’re doing as a church is praying about and facing the dry bones in our own lives—those broken emotions, relationships, attitudes, situations, failures, regrets, or sins—those places that need to be touched by the restoring hand of God. 

We're asking God to bring renewal to us, so that He might bring it through us--to others. 

As my husband says, "Renewal is a work of God; only He can do it. The incredible thing is that God also wants to bring renewal." 

This advent, as we are waiting for our church to launch, I know you also are in a season of waiting. My prayer is that we will wait as people who have hope. 

For God has come--wrapped in the very flesh He restores and empowered with the very Spirit He gives to us--Jesus has come to nourish the arid places of our lives with His living water and to breathe new life into what seems dead.   

"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to live my laws. You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people and I will be your God." --Ezekiel 36: 20-27

What about you? What dry bones are you facing this holiday season? Are you in a time of waiting?