Thursday, March 26, 2015

Where Were You Four Years Ago? Zayn Malik and One Direction, An Old Email, and God's Faithfulness

Four years ago...

long before Zayn Malik left 1D...

Look, it's a foreshadowing....Zayn has his back turned to the band...
(and yes, I was at a Private 1D concert two years ago. Thank you very much.)

...long before you'd fall in love with Downton's Matthew Crawley, only to have him ripped from your heart...long before you'd watch that horrific ending of How I Met Your Mother...and just a few years after the first gen. Iphone...Where were you? What were you doing?

I was (surprise!) pregnant with my third son, and yet also feeling a tug to give birth to other things.

In 2011, I sent the following email to some friends. One of them sent it back to me yesterday and it's got me thinking about God's faithfulness.

"I have some steps I'd like to take in the next two months, before the baby comes- but often I get very overwhelmed. So, would you please pray that somehow amidst kiddos and pregnancy and real life that I would make time to work towards the following (even if it doesn't all get accomplished)?

1) I have majorly reworked my writing project. I need to edit and create second and third drafts of two chapters. You will be receiving these for critique eventually, if you are willing to read them!  

2) I need to update my bio sheet and send query letters to literary agents.

3) I need to begin blogging.

4) This biggest one with the most work- I need to finish my book proposal- this involves many hours and a lot of research.

Above all- the trap I get in emotionally -- the lie I believe-- is that I am NOTHING unless I am accomplishing something outside of mothering, OR that I don't have what it takes to accomplish my goals in life. 

And so 5) Please pray that I can speak graceful truths to myself--whether or not I accomplish the above goals.  And above all, pray that I will learn to be present and content- enjoy the sacredness of the present moment!"
 
Yesterday, after backtothefuturing through that email, I listened to a sermon on the topic of work by Timothy Keller. (My Lenten goal is to listen to sermons while I run, rather than watch HGTV,which beckons to me to it like a long lost lover.)

Keller spoke about Madonna (someone he, funny enough, quotes often). Madonna supposedly once said that the reason she creates music is because she doesn't want to feel mediocre. She wants to feel special. 

In that email from four years ago I can see both a strong desire to work hard and do what God was calling me to do, but also a broken longing; I had (and still have at times) a deep need To Be Seen, To Be Approved Of, To Not Be Mediocre. 

That was the work under my work: a striving to feel worthy. 

God has been good to me over the past four years. My writing dreams (thus far) have come true. My family has grown and been blessed. But other moments have been excruciating: my son's spinal cord surgery and his long recovery; the unexpected death of my cousin, Cameron; the passing of my best friend's son (which you'll soon read about soon at (In) Courage. I'll share the link with you when it's published.) We also left our beloved church of ten years to begin a new one

As many endings as beginnings.

And so, as I think about God's faithfulness, it's not that His faithfulness means every dream will come true. They don't always. 

It's not that we won't suffer. We will. 

At the same time, some dreams will come true. 

We will see beauty and births. 

As many beginnings as endings. 

I don't know what the next four years will bring, but I hope I can remember this: 

It's not our work or projects that give us significance. Before we were ever accomplishing, before we were even starting anything, we were already seen, known, and loved by the One who accomplished everything.

And no matter what we accomplish or don't accomplish, He is faithful, still.
(No matter who leaves your favorite British boy bands/television shows.) 


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Green Philippians 1 and a Few Quick Updates

There is a lot to fill you in on from the past few weeks, so I'll try to make this short and sweet and to the point. Warning: some of these updates are important in life, others are just 'cause I need to tell someone!

Quick Updates:

TWICE now- my alarm has NOT gone off on the day of a speaking event. TWICE. One time it actually jumped time zones, so I woke up an hour early (much better than not going off at all, but still...) iphone 6- WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?

Two weeks ago, I spoke at an awesome MOPS group on overcoming shame for moms.

One week ago, I spoke at an amazing women's bible study about overcoming shame for women.

Last weekend, I was one of four speakers at the Redbud Writer's Guild Retreat. Some of the most brilliant and creative women across the country were there (including the wife of the man who saved President Reagan's life--like actual history was in front of me), and it was an incredibly energizing time.

Yesterday, I walked around Target with these funny glasses on that filmed my shopping habits. I received a $20 target gift card for doing so. And if you're wondering, NO. The gift card is not my latest giveaway because I will always hoard all target gift cards. FOREVER.

And totally random sidenote: if you are interested in a GREAT read on St. Patrick, go to biblemesh.com today.

Now, to the point...
Mine was the closing session at the writer's retreat, on the Redbud's theme verse for the year.
(I'll put it in green for ya' in honor of St. Patty):



Theologian N.T. Wright writes, "The confidence Paul has throughout this letter is that God himself is a 'finisher' as well as a beginner." 

In other words, He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it. 

Paul's joyful prayer for his beloved church plant, his co-laborers in the gospel, is this: that their love would abound. As my friend Catherine taught at the retreat- abounding in love is to be overflowing, chock-full of, and infested with love. It's not only a love of the emotions; it's also a love that impacts our minds, as well as our behavior--a love that grows in knowledge, insight, and the ability to live a pure and blameless life. 

When I was speaking to the MOPS and women's groups, I asked both to come up with a definition/ example of "shame." At each session, I was reminded me that sometimes our biggest shame-triggers are those expectations (real or imagined) that others place on us. We feel we aren't living up to some elusive wow-factor as moms, or wives, or friends, or daughters, and then we begin to question our worth as moms, or wives, or friends, or daughters. 

The truth is we don't have to live up to anyone else's standards. In fact, the gospel is that we can't. We can't even live up to God's standards--but Jesus, who upheld all standards, offers himself to us. 

We are able to abound in the love Paul is praying about because Jesus is love and has first loved us. 

We are capable of growing in knowledge and depth of insight because His Spirit is at work in us.

We have the capacity to discern what is best and pure and blameless because He who is best and pure and blameless has begun a good work in us.

So today, in as much authority as I have to do so--I am wearing green, so that gives me some street cred-- I give you permission to let go of the false expectations of others and to let go of shame. 

In their place, may you abound with Jesus-- your Beginner and your Finisher-- who is faithful to complete you. 






Thursday, March 5, 2015

Guest Blogger, Joanna Bloss, The Grace Bomb, part 2

If you missed the amazing Joanna Bloss' first post on overcoming shame, you can read it here. Part two is below:

the grace bomb - part 2

Fast forward to 7th grade. We moved and I had to go to a new junior high with people I didn't know. I needed a friend. The requirements weren't rigorous--I mostly just needed someone to eat lunch with and talk to between classes at my locker.

I had a couple classes with Paris and she seemed nice, so I took the plunge. But then one day she said something mean to me. I was deeply wounded, but since middle school friendships were so hard to come by I stuck with her (and plus we were only school friends. It wasn't like we hung out on the weekends or anything.)

Fast forward, this time to sophomore year. My first year in high school, once again feeling awkward about the school-day friendship thing because it was all about convenience and none of my actual friends had the same lunch period as me.

Paris did and she also happened to be in my PE class, so once again, I kind of attached myself to her.

Then she did it. She said something mean again. This time it was really mean. And at this point in life, I wasn't middle-school-desperate-for-her-friendship. I wasn't willing to let it slide. We were done.

Now, here's the thing:

It's been 25+ years and I haven't forgiven Paris.

I'm working on it now and I don't see her or anything, but her name comes up now and then in conversation with my high school friends, and I just inwardly roll my eyes and groan. Ewww. Do we have to talk about her?

Seems kind of lame now that I'm admitting it out loud, but it's the truth.

I've secretly harbored this little grudge for over 25 years against a person who has likely forgotten the entire thing. I took the two mean things she said to me and added them together to = I will intensely dislike this person for the rest of my natural life.

(Because, as we all know, Christians can't say we hate someone. And gossip. We never, ever gossip. We only share prayer requests.)

So thinking about all that got me to thinking about other people who've wronged me and how maybe I haven't forgiven them either.

That got me to thinking about people I've wronged and how some of them haven't forgiven me and how I wish they would.

It's a vicious cycle, isn't it?

The thing about grace is, we're supposed to pay it forward. Well, actually, we're supposed to forgive so we can be forgiven. I think this is one of the hardest verses in the Bible.
"But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins." 
Matthew 6:15 (NLT)

Seriously?

I keep thinking some day I'm going to run across a creative interpretation of this verse that will let me off the hook.



In the meantime, I'm trying to figure out some things.
1. What does forgiveness even look like?

2. Why is it so stinking hard sometimes for me to dish out little morsels of grace (nibbles, really) when God serves it up to me in heaping platters?

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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.

Grace.

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 yet...it's a great, witty, and insightful read.

You can journey over to her website Olivemepost.com 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?

Coffee?

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 olivemepost.com.


Waiting
"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"