Wednesday, November 18, 2015


I'm not going to pretend I know how to speak into your pain. I trust that you have it. Maybe your body hurts. Your heart almost certainly does, even if just in one corner, because you miss or long for someone. Perhaps that someone is yourself: someone you used to be, or someone you hope to become. It seems likely to me that things are imperfect in your world, but even if I'm wrong, things are imperfect in the world. We both know that.

Life is painful in this broken place, and I don't have the answers. I don't have even one answer related to one source of my own, personal pain. But in the event that someone may find this helpful, I want to offer: I have started practicing relinquishment. I read an article about it--a reprint by Catherine Marshall--in a recent Guideposts. Then I read it again. And again. I rarely reread like that, but the premise intrigued me and still does.

"Gradually," Marshall writes in the Guideposts article, "I saw that a demanding spirit, with self-will as its rudder, blocks prayer. I understood that the reason for this is that God absolutely refuses to violate our free will; that, therefore, unless self-will is voluntarily given up, even God cannot move to answer prayer." She goes on to explain that Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, becomes our example; He doesn't want to die but--with His own free will, regarding His very life--submits to the will of His Father. 

To relinquish something, or someone, to God is to accept that I am not in control and that I may not see or experience the outcome I think I desire. It is to trust, however, that God is in control; that He knows best; and that He will work all things to my good. It is to remember that He is more concerned with my holiness than my happiness, that I tend to grow more in hard times than in easy ones. (Click here to read an example of Marshall's Relinquishment Prayer.) 

When I look (and read) back, I see clearly that I've tended to relinquish things and people to God only out of utter exhaustion. (See, for example, this post related to my brother's illness, or this post related to my miscarriage.) This, what I'm trying to do now, involves letting go earlier, before I spend all of my emotional energy. 

I almost always pray on my drive to work, and I've been challenging myself with the question: what can I turn over, today? I've offered to God (among other things/people) the spiritual condition of my children, my marriage, my husband, my husband's joblessness, my job situation, my creativity, and various sources of my pain. And I've experienced some manner of peace. I've experienced Immanuel (God with us: me!) in ways that I find personally irrefutable. In seeking Him, I've found Him, and isn't He good for never hiding from us? Isn't He good for working even in our details?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Chip Turns 3

Dear Super Chip,

Happy third birthday. Over and over again, your sisters have been a sharp intake of my breath, but you have been my exhale. You are my everything-makes-sense and everything-is-okay-in-the-world. You are fairly predictable and almost always content.

You are my full circle. You are home to me. You remind me of my grandma, my mom, my brother, your brother Cade. You remind me of myself. (Finally, I have a child who pretend plays like I did. Fisher-Price Little People: hooray!)

You are my fellow night owl, and when I walk in the door from the restaurant, you always greet me with: "Mama! You came back! You always come back! I love you!" You still sleep best in my arms, and that's (mostly) okay. Thank you for waiting for me. I waited for you for so long. We belong to one another; I feel that every day, and

I love you. I loved your "Blue Birthday" party. I love your red sword. I love your laugh, your kisses. I love every one of your sweet teeth. I love it that you think we should trick-or-treat every night; I think so, too. I love it that, in the dark, no other story works for you but "Goldilocks and the Three Bears." I love it that you're nice to pretty much everyone but Cade's girlfriend. (I understand why you pull her hair. She's a nice girl, but her hair is straight out of "The Goose Girl"; Conrad would've tried to pull it, too.)

You're my very favorite super hero. I believe in every single one of your powers. You hold my heart in your hands.


Friday, November 6, 2015

What I'm Learning about Jesus

I don't have time to blog; I really don't. I have seven photo sessions to edit, and I'm off to take more photos in three hours.

I'm behind with my Bible study and struggling to keep up with homeschooling. I don't have time to blog,

and yet. I'm thinking of my friend from the restaurant: the one who advised me to slow my pace when I'm in the weeds. I'm thinking of his saying that, if I slow down, I'll remember everything I need to remember, and one thing I need to remember comes out of my Bible study.

This Bible study. There have been moments that I've felt as though God were speaking directly to me. And He was. He does that. His Word is so relevant to our daily lives. When I don't have time to read the Bible, when I don't want to read the Bible, I need to read it, most. I don't know why I have to learn this lesson over and over.

The Bible study is on Isaiah and took me, recently, into the fourth chapter of Luke. Jesus had entered His hometown of Nazereth after spending forty days in the wilderness. He had eaten nothing for those forty days and had resisted the aggressive temptation of the devil. Scripture says the devil departed from Jesus for a season. Jesus entered Galilee in the power of the Spirit. In Nazereth, He stood up to read in the synagogue on the Sabbath day. He read this from the book of Isaiah (Chapter 61):

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord (Luke 4:18-19).
Before Jesus closed the book, gave it to the minister, and sat down, He said: "This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears" (Luke 4:21b).
Up until that moment in my Bible study, if someone had asked me what Jesus's purpose was, or is, I would've said He died to save us from our sins. Maybe, if pressed, I would've referred to Him as the Creator. And I wouldn't have been wrong, but I wouldn't have been entirely right, either, because I wouldn't have presented these verses. I wouldn't have offered that Jesus's purpose was, in part, to heal the brokenhearted. I wouldn't have suggested that His purpose was to give sight or release captives.

I knew He does those things, but it's different--isn't it?--to say someone does something and to say his or her purpose is to do something. It would be one thing, for example, for someone to say of me: she bakes a good cookie, another for her to say that I was put here on earth to bake cookies.

More than seven hundred years before Jesus was born, Isaiah prophesied that Jesus was coming to heal broken hearts, free captives, and so many other things, besides. Jesus didn't just do those things; He came to do those things. I'm having a hard time articulating why I find this distinction so meaningful for the same reasons I've found blogging so challenging, recently: there are things I can't write in this space.

But. My heart hurts. I am grieving. I have blind spots. I am in a prison (or two) of my own making. And it matters to me that not only can Jesus help me, but my life is in the hands of the One who was sent to address these specific concerns.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Weeds

My head is swimming with all the things I want to tell you and can't. What I want to tell you and can is that I'd forgotten so many things in the twelve years or so since I'd waited tables. I'd forgotten, for one thing, about being in the weeds: those moments when you've been "triple sat" (gotten three tables all at once) and it feels like you're stuck in place, spinning your wheels.

It doesn't help that I'm still learning the locations of all the menu items on the computers. The more frazzled I get, the more mistakes I make. It's nothing for me to push the wrong button three times in a row. Another server was standing behind me, last week, watching. "Chill out," he said. "Damn." Then: "Calm down. Shit."

This is the way most all of them talk. I'd forgotten about that. They mean no harm, mosttimes, and this particular server has been especially helpful. He came up to me later and said: "A guy at another restaurant told me, once, that the best thing to do when you're in the weeds is to slow your pace. Just slow down, and you'll remember all the things you need to do and know in which order you need to do them. Just slow down. It works."

I'm going to try and keep this in mind. The truth is that it had been a long time since I'd been busy in that way. The closest I'd come in years and years was getting all the children out the door for church, Sunday mornings. Trust me: it's not the same.

It's good to be physically active: to remember the strength of my arms, back, and legs; to fall weary into bed at night; to sleep so deeply that, if I have dreams, I don't remember upon waking. The children slip into my arms without my knowing; I never know whom I will be holding when I open my eyes.

It's good to be seen, even by strangers, as someone apart from those with whom I live. It's good to miss my family, sometimes, and it's especially good to appreciate my time with them. It's good to feed cash into the ATM at the end of the night.

I don't know how long this particular season will last, but interestingly, I'm experiencing less anxiety than I had for a while, including before Jim lost his job. I have the sense that God wanted to wake me up, to help me recognize how blessed I was to stay home with the children, to remind me that I can function when apart from them. I'm thankful for my job, also for work as a photographer. I'm thankful for those friends who've been friends during this time. I'm thankful for my Bible study on Isaiah and for the ways in which God keeps leading me into Romans. I'm praying and asking Him to fill my needs and voids, to help me put one foot in front of the other, to lead me not into temptation,

to lead me safely through the weeds.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Book Review: Every Little Thing

It was a beautiful, exciting thing to read the nonfiction words of a real-life friend, someone in whom I believe wholeheartedly. I didn't need to read Every Little Thing to stand behind it; I know the heart of the author. I have rifled through her kitchen cabinets and slept--after she turned down my bed with her own hands, praying for my rest--on her pull-out sofa.

I could tell you a lot of things (all of them gorgeous) about Deidra Riggs, but my favorite thing about her is this: she really just wants to leave you further along than she found you. She's too wise to think she can carry you or fix you, and in fact, she seems to have a healthy detachment from how your story will end. If you spend a moment with her, you'll inevitably feel it: she's fully present and thinking about how she can illuminate your path with the one moment she has. She'd like to see you take your next step. For now, one step (in Christ) is plenty enough.

I found Every Little Thing to be a beautiful reflection of and from the heart of my friend. If you're feeling short or shy of a calling from God, or if you think you know how God is calling you but feel inadequate, fearful, or overwhelmed, this book is for you...not because it includes a detailed plan, but because it will help you take your next step. For now, one is enough.

Every Little Thing will help you believe that you are loved, that God has created you to love Him and other people. If you're willing, He can and will do amazing things through you...and "amazing" has little to no relationship to size. I do recommend this book, but more than that, I recommend this writer. If you're unfamiliar with Deidra Riggs' blog Jumping Tandem, you're missing out. She's hosting important conversations there, and she's doing it with almost unimaginable kindness and grace.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Grandparents' Day

We HAVE to have a prayer life! But go ahead and sleep in though. Hell has come for your family, for your marriage, but by all means--get yourself 45 minutes extra of sleep. -Beth Moore, via Lelia Chealey

Today is my first Grandparents' Day without a grandparent on earth. I was in a terrible mood, already, when I figured out it was Grandparents' Day.

One of my childhood friends passed away, yesterday, after a long battle with brain cancer, and she wasn't the first friend I'd lost to death, this month.

My husband got caught up in "workforce reduction" at the end of July and lost his job. He's made a full-time job of looking for a job ever since but hasn't nailed down a position. We're not in desperate straits, quite yet, but it won't be long. In Kroger, yesterday, I thought he and I might throw down over a box of pudding. (The one the girls wanted--the one upon which I insisted--was eleven cents more expensive than the store brand.)

I could tell you stories about other situations with which I'm struggling, too, but I won't; suffice it to say: I've known less confusing, happier days. Fonzie and the Cunninghams have left the building. And I haven't stopped praying or reading the Bible (I started a study on Isaiah this week, in fact.), but I have copped a bit of an attitude with God, here and there. I slept through church, this morning. Then, after reading about Grandparents' Day, I slapped the spoons one by one into the silverware holder, asking God in my mind: Where. Are. You?

I miss my grandma. She passed away in May. She was 97 and had been suffering from Alzheimer's, among other atrocities. She had earned her reward; still, I miss her. When I lost her, I had already been losing her for a long time; still, I miss her. I miss our conversations. I miss her letters.

I was thinking these things when I came across some unopened mail at the end of our counter. I found a package from Joanne Norton, her book inside, also a letter from my cousin Ginny. I don't think Ginny's written to me since I was in elementary school, but my grandma was her aunt. I sat down on the couch to open the envelope and unfold and read the letter. What a happy thing, I thought, to get "real mail" from Joanne and Ginny on Grandparents' Day. A Sunday.

But there's more. As I was opening a door I rarely open in my house, an envelope on top of a book shelf caught my eye: could it be? And yes, it was: a thank-you note from my aunt related to my grandma's services. I had opened it on the counter back in May and read exactly one line of it before one of the kids called me away. When I returned to read the rest, it was gone: just gone! I'd searched high and low for that note for almost four months. I'd actually gone through garbage, looking for it! I'd been feeling so awkward about it; how does one respond to a note she hasn't read? I hadn't wanted to write to my aunt and say: "I got your thank-you note but never actually read it. What did it say?"

I don't think it's a coincidence that the note turned up (for the second time) on a day on which I was feeling particularly discouraged, Grandparents' Day, a Sunday.

I looked at the clock. It was 4:30. I had twenty minutes to get ready for the evening service at my former church. Cade, the girls, and I made it on time.

Still clinging.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

My Thoughts on Abortion and Planned Parenthood

I haven't written much about abortion; if you run a search for the word on my blog, you'll find this to be true. I don't know why my hesitation but suspect it comes down to these considerations:

  • Despite carelessness, at times, I've never experienced unwanted pregnancy and therefore can't completely comprehend what it's like, let alone the various circumstances that might cause a woman to want to terminate pregnancy. I have the sense of "There but by the grace of God, go I."
  • I have experienced pregnancy. Five times, in fact. And while pregnancy was worth it, I suffered a great deal in getting my children here. I was very, very sick: nauseous, fatigued, faint. I was twice diagnosed with gestational diabetes and put on insulin shots. My fourth pregnancy ended in miscarriage, and I experienced depression and anxiety throughout my fifth. Pregnancy was, for me, a labor of love. I can't imagine enduring it without joyful expectancy for a baby.
  • Some of my loved ones have experienced abortion and have suffered for it both physically and emotionally. I feel nothing but compassion toward them. I read something recently (wish I could remember where but can't) about how abortion isn't a choice that pleases anyone. It's the choice of a person who feels she has no good options.
  • I know I don't have the appropriate arguments or responses for all the well-thought-out debate points of the pro-choice minded. I just don't. More than one million abortions are conducted every year in the United States, alone; if all unwanted babies were born, where would they go? I don't know that my husband and I are in the position or mindset to foster or adopt...or even open our home to a pregnant woman. Unwanted pregnancy is a complicated issue, to be sure.

Maybe I wouldn't be writing about abortion, now, if it weren't for the recent Planned Parenthood videos. I've watched some of them and read summaries of others, and one thing that stands out to me is the conversation around and treatment of fetuses/babies (particularly at 16-22 weeks of gestation) among Planned Parenthood employees when, in contrast, other fetuses/babies of the same gestational age are being documented and grieved. Recently, I came across an essay on photographer Liz Cook's blog: images of Hudson Barrett Williams, born/miscarried at 16 weeks of gestation, along with tender words about the experience from Cook and Hudson's parents.

How is it possible, I wonder, that the value (or type of value) placed upon a fetus/baby lies only in a person's perception of it? One woman wants what she carries in her womb; therefore, she assigns the highest of meanings to it. She does everything in her power to deliver it safely into the world. If she miscarries, she will grieve it and may have it photographed. If, in her womb, it dies at the hands of someone else, charges may be brought against that individual. Another woman doesn't want what she carries in her womb, so she has it aborted. Upon her consent, someone may assign value to it outside the realm of all emotion.

Emotion. I'm even now in the process of learning not to trust my emotions completely. I'm learning that there is truth outside of emotion, and I believe there is a consistent truth about fetuses/babies. I do not believe the truth changes depending upon the perception of those who carry them, let alone the perception of others.

Perhaps even among Christians we disagree, but when I read the words of David, I believe the Lord created David, also that--if the Lord created David--His hand was/is in creating everyone else, too.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body (Psalm 139:13-16a, NIV).

There are so many things I don't understand, and in fact, more than anything, I would like to understand how and why (if?) babies are assigned. Why is it that so many women experience unwanted pregnancies while so many others experience infertility and miscarriage? I don't ask the question with a shred of animosity in my heart: just sadness. I don't have all (any of?) the answers but--even in confusion and with compassion--can't slide to the left on this issue. I believe life begins at conception, that it is sacred, and that it should not be ended deliberately. I am pro-life.

Based upon the video footage, I would agree with those who maintain that Planned Parenthood has broken the law by 1) receiving more than reasonable payments for human fetal tissue...although this will be difficult to prove because of the subjectivity of the term "reasonable," 2) changing abortion procedures for the purposes of obtaining tissue, and 3) killing partially-delivered fetuses. I'm well aware that Planned Parenthood provides services other than abortion, also that they perform many/mostly legal abortions, but they should be held in some way accountable for breaking the law, and measures should be put in place to prohibit their breaking it in the future.

Meanwhile, I am hoping the Senate will pass 20-Week Abortion Ban later this month.