Mercy Found Me

You guys. This popped up on my Facebook feed this morning. I wrote it four years ago at my old blog site, but I wanted to share it with you here because I don't know about you, but I need this reminder. Over and over again. 

*****

She stood by the door as I entered the grocery store: tanned, blue-eyed, hair pulled into a tangled ponytail. She wore a gray t-shirt with an American flag in the shape of a heart on it. She could have been a mom, and maybe she was, but her expression revealed something else.

It was blank.

Staring at me through those blue eyes, she looked like a ghost. A very tan ghost.

I smiled and tried to look her in the eye, but her blank expression haunted me and I looked away quickly.

Later, as I unlocked my car and started piling bags of groceries inside, she slid up to me, out of nowhere. Maybe she really was a ghost.

“Can I ask you something?”

“Sure,” I said.

“I’ve fallen on hard times and I was wondering if you might have a few dollars to spare.”

Immediately I thought back to the previous Saturday night. My husband and I, our daughter, and her friend had all gone into the city for an evening at the theater. We arrived early so we sat in a nearby plaza to people-watch for a while. Most of the benches and tables were taken by the homeless, some sleeping, some chatting together, all on alert for something or someone.

As the four of us sat on a bench together soaking in a perfectly beautiful evening in the city, my husband took out his wallet and removed all of the single dollar bills he had.

I’ve seen him do this before; he wants to be ready if asked.

With Saturday night in mind and a ghost standing before me, I looked through my wallet for some money. I handed her the bills and said, “God bless you.”

“God bless you,” she said.

It didn’t seem like enough: a couple bucks and a “God bless you,” so I asked her, “Do you have a place to stay tonight?”

“Well, last night I slept at the table outside the Dominicks.”

My heart crumbled.

I chatted with her for a minute, asking if she knew about PADS (our local homeless shelter). She did. I asked if she knew where the shelter was going to be tonight. She did.

Then she took my empty cart and disappeared.

I thought about her as I drove home. I prayed for her. I wondered if I should have offered her a ride (pretty sure the answer to that one was yes).

And I thought about my husband, always ready with some bills when others would simply shrug off the everyday assaults of the city.

Some would even scorn those who would dare beg for money.

I’ve scorned. In my heart I know I have looked with disdain on those who don’t get a “real job.”

But for some reason, as I prayed for the woman who loves America but has fallen on hard times, I thought something else: she has as much right to receive mercy as I do.

It’s a hard choice, some days, to be a mercy-giver. We think people should earn it. We think that mercy belongs to people who look like us or who work as hard as we do or who believe the same things we believe.

We think we have a right to dispense mercy to those we judge deserving.

We think we have a right to judge. Period.

But mercy knows no color, no social standing, no economic importance.

Mercy just gives.

And gives.

And gives.

Letters to My Daughters: God's Word

This post popped up as a memory on my Facebook feed this morning. It was published two years ago at my old space, so I thought I'd share it again here. I hope it encourages you as much as it has encouraged me over the years.

 

Dear Daughters,

From the day each of you was born, I felt a deep responsibility to prepare you for the world in which you will live. I’ve tried to model for you what I believed to be best for your life, but, on occasion (OK, many occasions), I have failed. Oh boy, have I failed. If you were to rely on me as your sole model and guide for your lives, you would be in a sad place indeed.

I know my failings, and yet, I also know God. I know that God, who loves you more than I ever could, who sacrificed His only son so that he could have a relationship with us, has given us the best guide for our lives: his word.

Now, I know that God’s word is sometimes confusing and hard to understand. I know that sometimes it says things we may not want to hear. But I also know that it has stood for thousands of years as a beacon of hope in a lost world. God’s word is perfect. God’s word is sure. God’s word is the only anchor we can hold on to in this stormy world. In it we not only read things we don’t get or maybe don’t like, but we also read things that bring us comfort. And every page of God’s word speaks of His great love for us.

Here’s what I want you to know, dear girls, as you walk through life and encounter various trials: God’s word, His love letter to us, never fails. People will fail you. I will fail you. Culture will fail you. But God’s word will never fail. It has endured because God Himself has made it endure, and it will continue to do so no matter what happens in our lives.

I’m ashamed to admit, girls, that I didn’t always believe it—I didn’t always trust that God’s word was enough. But years of living in this world and through various trials have shown me that God’s word is the only security I have. I’ve read it front to back a few times, and every time I see something new and every time it speaks to me in different ways. Sure, some things confuse me, but I keep digging, reaching further for understanding and insight into the God who loves me.

Girls, I have no idea what the future holds for you. I have no idea what the world will look like in 10, 20, even 50 years. What I do know is that God’s word has not and will never change. Oh, there are plenty of people who would like to change it, but they can’t, they won’t, succeed because God won’t let them. We can overlook the parts we don’t like and make cutesy, Pinteresty signs for the parts we do, but the fact remains: God’s word will never change. You can trust it. You can stake your life on it. 

I read something this week from a Christian Millennial: “Many of us are bucking the conventional thinking of the churches we grew up in, our parents, our [Christian] colleges. . . .” Just think about that! What is the “conventional thinking” that these Christian Millennials are bucking? It’s essentially the Bible. Basically this person is saying, “I’m rejecting the Bible and its teachings. I’m going my own way. What I think I know is better than what God has already told me.” When we get to that place, girls, we are on shaky ground indeed.

My darling daughters, I love you with every fiber of my being. I think you are amazing—every bit of you. I have always been astounded by your incredible minds--especially your minds--but do not ever be fooled into thinking you know more than God.

The days and years ahead will be interesting. The future will look very different for you and for your children than it has for me. Culture, even fellow Christians, may shake their fists at you, call you names, call you closed-minded. You may lose your job. You may be called to take an uncomfortable stand. Just make sure that you are standing on the Rock and that your foundation is based on God’s word.

Here’s what I think about the days ahead:

We don’t have to fight—we are called to love.

We don’t have to win—the war is already over.

We don’t have to rant or scream or cry—the work is finished. Our God, through Jesus, has done it.

Don’t worry. Don’t be afraid. Hold on to what is true. God's word will stand for you just as it has for generations before you.

Now, go out and LIVE.

I love you so,

Mom

Easter Monday for the Rest of Us

Easter Monday for the Rest of Us

The day after Easter leaves me wondering: How did Mary (either one) and the disciples handle all of the emotion of the week prior? One day, Jesus is being welcomed into Jerusalem as a hero, yet only a few days later he is being crucified, handed over by those same people as a criminal.

Mary and the others had witnessed the cheers of Palm Sunday, then watched, horrified, as Jesus died a gruesome death the following Friday. They buried him with their tears, and then they walked away from his tomb, devastated, on Saturday.

But on Easter morning, Christ’s followers encountered an empty tomb and experienced yet another range of emotions that Scripture tells us moved them from total devastation, to fear and confusion, and finally to immense joy.

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But God . . . {A fun, exciting, crazy announcement!}

But God . . . {A fun, exciting, crazy announcement!}

Sometimes you wait for something for such a long time that you think it may never happen.

Sometimes you hope and dream for so long that you almost decide to give up.

Sometimes you wonder if your dreams are just crazy or that you’re not up to the dream after all or that you’re getting too old to actually accomplish it.

Sometimes you doubt. A lot.

But then God does something so entirely unexpected that you just have to believe He was in it all along, just waiting to gift you with your dream when the timing was just right.

That’s my story these days.

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Welcome to My New Home!

Welcome to My New Home!

Welcome to my new digs!

You guys. This is so long overdue that I feel like a dinosaur just launching a new website and blog now, but hey, at least it’s done. I hope you’ll take some time to look around and make yourself at home. As I said on my “About” page, I want this to be a place that feels warm and inviting, a place that brings value to you, and a place where you can feel free to interact with me and with other readers.

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My Favorite Books of 2016

My Favorite Books of 2016

In the past, I’ve enjoyed sharing highlights with you at the end of the year—fun events, travels, milestones. But this year, at least the second half of it, I’ve mainly sat behind a desk or in a library carrel, and I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t be interested in the hours upon hours that I’ve spent just sitting still, staring at a screen, trying to create something meaningful and interesting.

 

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I'm Guest Posting for Jen Michel this week!

I'm Guest Posting for Jen Michel this week!

Hi there! This week I'm guest posting over at Jen Michele's blog. If you haven't yet read Jen's book, Teach Us to Want, you really need to get it, read it, and soak it in. It was selected as the Christianity Today Book of the Year for 2015--need I say more?

Jen has a new book coming out next spring titled, Keeping Place: Reflections on the Meaning of Home. I'm honored to be sharing some thoughts on home with Jen's readers this week. Here's the beginning of my post, but click here to read the whole thing.

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When You Need to Remember: Seasons Change, God Does Not

When You Need to Remember: Seasons Change, God Does Not

Seasons change quickly around here.

I don’t know about you, but the sudden onset of fall temperatures usually has me scrambling for jackets and jeans after a summer of shorts and t-shirts. And I was NEVER ready with my kids’ wardrobes! I remember many a fall day when my girls went to school completely underdressed because I hadn’t pulled out the sweaters or jackets yet.

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End of Summer Wrap-Up

Hi Friends!

I've written here exactly five times this summer. Five! That must be some kind of worst-ever record for me. But it isn't because I haven't been writing--I have. Just not here.

I thought I'd take a few minutes to catch up today since I haven't been around much lately. Our summer was great, and even though I haven't documented much of it, I've enjoyed every minute. We started out with a fun celebration of Julia's graduation from high school (lots of family came--the best!) and took a fabulous vacation to Kiawah Island, SC as a family. Both took place early in the summer, and for the rest of it, we were mostly home except for a quick trip to Dallas for the Declare Conference and a very special wedding of a very special couple whom B and I have mentored for the past six years.

The rest of the summer was spent getting ready. For what? For change. My heart doesn't do well with change, yet I knew that August would be a month full of it, so I needed some space this summer to process all that would be happening over past few weeks.

First, Julia officially left for college in early August. School didn't start until much later, but she took part in a wilderness program that her school offered prior to orientation. Poor girl (I say this entirely tongue in cheek) spent 10 days sea kayaking around the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior, which is supposed to be one of the best adventure trips in the United States. Who knew?! Anyway, she had an amazing time getting to know a small group of girls from her freshman class.


And now she's all settled in at college, loving life in her dorm, and trying new experiences like playing ultimate frisbee. Again, who knew?!


Two days after Parents' Orientation, I loaded up my car and helped Caroline move 800 miles from home for a graduate program in physical therapy. I spent about four days helping her get settled, exploring her new part of the country, and dreading the moment I would have to pull away from her apartment. But I did it. I actually managed to turn my car in the right direction, head down the highway, and drive home . . . without my middle daughter.


But you know what? I'm thrilled for her. She is in the absolutely right place for her--God has confirmed it over and over again--so how can I be sad? It's just that nagging old change thing.

In the midst of all of this, we helped Kate move into a new apartment in a new part of the city. She's so happy with her new digs, and soon I'm sure I'll be called upon for painting duty. All good.

We've had a fair amount of company this summer, too, which I love. Hopefully in this new season we'll have more opportunities to open our doors to those who need a place to rest. God has given us this home for a purpose, we believe, and its up to us to use it for His glory. Come visit us!

So now things have settled down a bit. In fact, this is the first weekend that B and I have spent alone in our home. To be honest, it's crazy-quiet -- much too quiet for our liking -- but we're trying to figure it out. Going for long walks, enjoying meals out, and taking bike rides seem to help pass the time. And our fall is looking so busy that we won't have time to be bored. It's just that the transition is . . . well . . . strange.


Yesterday at church we sat down and realized that everyone around us was an empty nester. A couple of people asked us how things were going so far, and I had to fight back tears for the fourth Sunday in a row. For years now I've had at least one child sitting next to me in church, and now, for the first time, I'm faced with the reality that this won't happen for a while. All of these changes are good and necessary, and I wouldn't have life played out any other way, but that doesn't make it any easier.

Everyone says it gets better, this empty nest thing. I'm going to take them at their word and start living life as if it already is better. I'm going to take a couple of trips this fall. I'm going to tell myself that this isn't forever--at least one child may be home next summer, and there are always breaks. I'm going to remember God's faithfulness to our family.

In the meantime, I'm already starting to plan my Thanksgiving menu. The girls will be home!


ABOUT

Hi! I'm Shelly Wildman and I'm so glad you're here!

I met my sweetheart at Wheaton College, married him three weeks after graduation, and have made it my life's goal to come to grips with our last name. Someday I'll get there. I'm also a mom to three grown up daughters who inspire me, encourage me, and tell me how to dress. Someday I'll get that right, too.

What I really want you to know, though, is that my life, while really full, isn't special because of anything I've done. My life has been a journey through grief and joy, struggle and peace. God has used the hard parts to refine me and to show me a life that is truly LIFE. I'm so grateful for the journey.

A Little About Me

I have a B.A. in Literature from Wheaton College (1985) and an M.A. in English Education from the University of Illinois at Chicago (1988). I have worked in all kinds of jobs including fundraising, PR, and marketing, not to mention I was a really good waitress throughout those grad school years. Most recently I was a Visiting Instructor at Wheaton College where my job description said I taught writing, but mostly I got to hang out with students.

The most recent exciting development in my life is that I'm writing a book! Look for it in late 2017 (I think).

As a board member of the Redbud Writers Guild, I have been featured on the Redbud Post, our monthly magazine that features work of some of our members. In addition, I am a monthly contributor to Mothers of Daughters and have guest posted at various sites including (in)Courage (twice!),  Grace Table, and For Every Mom (twice!).

I also speak at women's events in the Chicago area and beyond as God brings opportunities my way. I love sharing my story of finding joy and freedom in Christ. I also speak on parenting with intentionality and purpose in order to encourage Christian parents to do the good work of spiritual development in their children and families. Feel free to contact me via email (www (dot) shellywildman (at) sbcglobal (dot) net) if you're interested in having me speak to your group.

I am a native Illinoisan (somewhat like a native Texan, only much more humble) and currently live in the Chicago suburbs. My husband and I are very active in the life of our church where we mentor college students every week. When not hanging out with college students, I love to travel, cook (check out my Recipes page!), and laugh with my family (it's what we do).

A Few of My Favorite Posts
How Your Daughter Dresses Matters

The Secret to Raising Girls "These" Days

It's All Kinds of Crazy Out There

An Anniversary - Part 2

Honesty, It's So Overrated

In Which I Apologize to My Dad

Finally, I'm especially passionate about parenting, so I wrote a series called "Intentional Parenting" which you can find by clicking on the link. Later, I wrote another series called 31 Days Closer to Your Kids. I hope you find reading these posts as helpful as I did writing them.

Thanks so much for stopping by! Feel free to contact me at shellywildman (at) sbcglobal (dot) net.

You can also follow me on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

I'd love more than anything to have you join me every week by signing up for email updates. Just subscribe by entering your email below and you'll never miss a post!


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Letter to My Daughters :: About the –isms



Dear Daughters,

Racism.

Feminism.

Terrorism.

The –isms. Words that have become part of our everyday language. Issues that scream for our attention, our compassion, our consideration. Issues different from one another, but important just the same.

And that’s not to mention so many others we talk about.

Atheism.

Capitalism.

Socialism.

Ageism. (I’m kinda sensitive to this one.)

A quick online search for a “list of isms” will produce over 200 words that have become their own distinct belief systems. But, more than that, they are ways of categorizing people or keeping them apart from one another. Worse yet, they become ways of discriminating against people who aren’t like us.

Today’s –isms have created an “us against them” world, and these ways of defining people confront us every day, pointing out differences, promoting hate.

In just the past two weeks we have seen racial violence of the highest order and a terrorist attack like none other. Not to mention that the country of Turkey (and how many others?) is in upheaval.

It leaves us wondering, “How much more can we take?”

I mean that quite literally. When we are bombarded every single day by news of one terrible occurrence after another, all of which we are told to care deeply about, I think we start to wonder how to do that.

How do we stay emotionally engaged with our world when there is so much violence and destruction calling for our attention? How do we love in a world so divided by -isms? We just want a little peace already!

Girls, I want you to know something in order to both guard against it and to deal with it when it happens to you. Compassion fatigue is a real thing.

Sometimes, in response to all of the tragedy around us, we lose our capacity to care. We act indifferent. We may even shut down.

It’s not that we don’t care, it’s that we simply cannot.

So let’s say you have a family—you will probably spend the bulk of your emotional energy caring for the people under your roof. That’s as it should be. And then, say, a family member gets sick or you have some big decisions to make about work. More emotional energy used up.

But that’s not all. You have close friends with needs that you should also rightly care about. And a church family full of hurting people who need your attention. The circle of care widens, stretching its boundaries until you think it may burst.

Maybe your community is affected by racial violence, like many in our country did last week. You hurt some more. And then you look around and see that the world is falling apart and protests occur loud and strong, and you realize that there is just so much to care about until your emotional energy is spent.

Our bodies and our minds weren’t made to handle this much sadness. We may even watch the news and feel despair or fear about the days ahead.

My darling daughters, here’s what I want say: Do not give in to despair. Do not fear. (How many times does Jesus tell us not to fear? A LOT!) And do not give in to compassion fatigue.

God, in his wisdom, has given us just what we need to combat the fears and stresses of the world we live in. That’s the great thing about the Bible—it’s timeless. It always speaks to where we are today.

Just last week I read this verse: “In this world you will have trouble; but take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Do you know how comforting that is to me? When I worry about your futures or the futures of the grandchildren I may someday have, when I think about the tragic occurrences of the past two weeks, I can remember that Jesus has it covered. He came to overcome the world and all its trials and tribulations.

He knew there would be terrorism. He knew about racism. He knew that hard days would come, but he’s got it covered already because of his death on the cross.

Here’s what I also want you to know: God does not want us to give up on compassion, but he understands compassion fatigue. Even Jesus had to pull away for a while, to get away from the crowds to pray.

So how should we handle the –isms calling for our attention these days? How do we handle compassion fatigue? I have a few ideas (you knew I would!).

Michah 6:8 says, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

1. Pray. We cannot know God’s will for us if we’re not talking to him about it, so pray that God would show you the –isms that he has placed on your heart. We can’t do everything, but we can do something right where we are, so pray for compassion for the issues God has equipped you to care for. And don’t worry about the rest—that’s why there is a huge world with people who care for different things.

2. Continue to seek justice in your everyday life. Again, we cannot solve every problem or fix every person, but we can be people of integrity who watch out for others. This doesn’t mean that you have to stand in on a protest. It simply means that whatever you can do to seek justice, do it. Refuse to overlook injustice when you see it.

3. Be kind. Oh, how our world needs a little more kindness. And it can start with you. Forget cynicism (another –ism!). Forget backstabbing gossip. Forget lying. And just be nice.

4. Walk humbly. Learn from others as you learn from God. Listen well. Love well. Take your eyes off of yourself and make those around you feel like they are the most important people in the room. Pray for humility.

These are the things God requires of us. Nothing more; nothing less.

Girls, as you go out into the world each day, don’t be overwhelmed by the trials. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, seeking God’s will for your life, following his call, and the rest will take care of itself.

He is with you always. Even until the end of the age.

I love you so.


Mom

But God . . . {A fun, exciting, crazy announcement!}

Sometimes you wait for something for such a long time that you think it may never happen.

Sometimes you hope and dream for so long that you almost decide to give up.

Sometimes you wonder if your dreams are just crazy or that you’re not up to the dream after all or that you’re getting too old to actually accomplish it.

Sometimes you doubt. A lot.

But then God does something so entirely unexpected that you just have to believe He was in it all along, just waiting to gift you with your dream when the timing was just right.

That’s my story these days.

After years of trying, discouragement, rejection, discouragement, hope, and more discouragement, I was ready to quit my dream. I regularly told myself, “I’m not really a writer” or “I’m too old for this” or “Nobody wants to hear what I have to say anyway.”

(Lies! All lies, by the way.)

But God.

He planted the dream many years ago, and he had a crazy plan all along. How he chose to unfold that plan is crazy in itself!

Last spring I went to a writer’s conference—one I had attended several times in the past—where I taught a class on writing prompts. But this year I decided to get a little bit brave and submit my book proposal to editors before I left. There’s a service for this kind of thing at this conference. If an editor sees your proposal and likes it, they can contact you to set up an appointment during the conference.

And that’s what happened. Two editors contacted me and wanted to talk about my idea.

Turns out that they both liked my proposal and wanted to take it further on down the publishing road. Now, what you have to know is that this road is very long and winding and sometimes comes with road blocks and detours, often with no communication at all. You just have to wait until the traffic clears and more people see your proposal and give you a green light.

Or reject you. Which is what happened to me on the Wednesday of our beach vacation back in June.

There I was, sitting on the beach, enjoying some precious time away with my family, when I stupidly checked email to find a rejection letter from one of the publishers I had spoken to back in April. (There’s a lesson here: don’t check email from the beach!)

Tears ran down my face from behind my sunglasses, and I broke the news to my family later that evening.

I was pretty sad. Not necessarily surprised (I have had plenty of rejections in the past), but sad. And questioning whether I should keep writing or just hang it up.

I’m not sure what I did the next day—I think I took a long bike ride or something—but I know I had a heavy heart hangover that morning. I couldn’t face social media, so I just stayed away from my computer until around lunchtime when I quickly checked email.

Remember how I said I had talked to two editors? I hadn’t heard much of anything from the second one, and I had kind of written them off too. I figured I’d get in touch with them after vacation, but again, I didn’t have much hope.

But on Thursday of vacation, the day after my rejection, there was an email from the editor of the second publisher telling me that they were going to be looking at my proposal THAT DAY and he’d be in touch the following day to let me know the outcome. I kind of laughed at the timing, then prayed hard and asked my family to pray as well.

And then we went to the beach.

Later that night I checked email again to find a note from the publisher telling me that they liked my proposal and, get this,

THEY WANTED TO PUBLISH MY BOOK!

You guys, that was 24 hours after the rejection. Twenty-four hours!!!

To say my head was spinning would be an utter downplay of how I was feeling. How on earth could I go from such a low point the day before to finding out that I was going to receive a contract? It still feels surreal to me.

But God.

Here’s what I know. There is no way any of this was a coincidence. God knew all along that I was going to get rejected, but He arranged it so that I was on vacation with my family. No better people to get rejected with!

Not only that, but he also arranged for the second publisher to look at my proposal the very next day. How crazy is that?! VERY CRAZY!

And that is how I know that God has said, “OK, Shelly, the timing is just right for you to pursue this dream.”

You see, for so many years the dream of writing a book has been stirring in my heart, but the timing hasn’t been just right. I loved being a mom to my kids (I still do!) and wanted to be here for them while they were here at home. I also loved being a professor and a mentor to students.

But my youngest is off to college soon (!) and my nest will be empty in the fall. I stopped teaching a year ago, so I have time to write now (as long as I can discipline myself to actually do it!).

The timing, for me, is just right.

And the book? I’m excited to tell you that it’s a book about parenting with purpose and intentionality. It’s about asking why we do what we do to instill spiritual and family values into our kids instead of asking how. Because I firmly believe that if we start by asking  why, the how will follow.

I hope you’ll join me on this journey by praying for me as you think of it. I’m sure I’ll be sharing more as time goes on, but today, I just want you to laugh along with me at the timing and the goodness of God.

Intentional Parenting :: Reprise :: Intentional Service



When I wrote about teaching our kids about service a fewyears back, I talked about the benefits of service and how we can model service for our kids. I still think those points are valid. I still think serving others is fulfilling, joyful work. I still think there is so much to gain by serving others.

But as I’ve been thinking about this post since my last parenting post, I’ve been convinced that there is and should be something more to our thoughts about serving others and to what we teach our kids about service.

Recently I read Philippians 2 where Paul encourages Christians to take on a new attitude—one that is completely different from the world around them.

You see, the world around the Christians in the early church was probably not too different from the world around us today. Christians were being persecuted. The secular world opposed the message of Christianity. Everyone was out for Number 1.

And Paul knew that it wouldn’t take much for the Philippian Christians to get discouraged by the world around them. (Sound familiar?)

So he sends them this amazing letter of encouragement. It’s a letter that screams “JOY!” from every page, which is totally ironic when you consider that Paul is writing from a prison cell.

In Philippians 2, Paul gives some practical tips for living together as the church and for living in the world around them.

“Agree wholeheartedly.”

“Love one another.”

“Work together with one mind and purpose.”

“Don’t be selfish.”

“Think of others as better than yourselves.”

Could it get any more practical?!

Well, actually, Paul thinks it can, because he adds one more example, that of Jesus himself, and he tells the Philippians (and us) how to REALLY live.

“You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.”

Oh really, Paul? What was that?

He tells us: Be a servant.

A servant? Jesus was the Son of God, why did he have to serve others?

And that’s the point—He didn’t.

“Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges, he took the humble position of a slave (the ESV says “servant”) and was born as a human being.” (NLT)

In order to get his message across, a message about the kingdom of God and the Good News that people really needed to hear, Jesus didn’t shout it from the mountaintops (OK, maybe sometimes he did that). He lived it. Every day. Humbly.

Jesus showed the people around him that Christianity is very different from the rest of the world. When the world is trying to get ahead, Christians open the door. When the world looks out for selfish interests, Christians make others look better.

When the world spits at Christians, mocks them, hates them, Christians look to Jesus on the cross, the most humbling act of love a person could ever have done.

And there they see true servanthood.

So what does this have to do with intentionally teaching our kids the importance of service? I guess I’m learning that along with the benefits, we need to show our kids that true service comes at a cost. That is isn’t always fun or easy or cheap to serve others.

And we may never hear, “Thank you.”

Oh sure, we can all come together to clean up a run-down playground and feel great about our efforts. We can pat our kids on the back when they take part in a service day through their school. We can feed the homeless alongside our kids for an evening. All of that is great.

But what about the day-in-and-day-out of serving those who are hard to serve? Even those who live right under the same roof as us? 

Sometimes serving our family is harder than serving the homeless.

But we’re still called to do it.

I bumped into a friend the other day, and she told me a story that prompted this post. She and her husband recently moved his elderly parents across the country so that they could care for them here.

It hasn’t been easy (although I’m sure she would say it has had its moments of joy). It has cost my friend time, effort, and money. It requires daily visits to check in on them. And the whole family is needed to help out.

One of my friend’s kids asked her, “Mom, are you getting paid for this?”

Because, of course!

We laughed about that, but we also talked about how her children are getting to see the hardest lesson about service firsthand.

Yes, some types of service are voluntary. Yes, there are occasional rewards. And, yes, serving others can be fun.

But mostly, serving others costs us something. Mostly, serving others is hard. It may take a huge toll on us. And usually nobody else notices.

But then I go back to Philippians 2, which talks about Jesus’ example, and I see the outcome of his sacrifice: that God has exalted him. Not just that, but that one day “every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is LORD.” (Phil. 2:10-11)

True service doesn’t do it for the rewards, and obviously we won’t be exalted as Jesus will, but we can trust that God sees our hearts. He knows us completely. And He will bless us for serving Him.

I’ll admit, teaching our kids to have a heart of service isn’t easy. At all. But we can model it ourselves, every day. We can talk to our kids about serving, even their family. We can encourage them to serve as often as possible, even if it hurts.

And we can remind our kids about the greatest example of servanthood ever found—the example of Jesus.

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Previous posts in my Intentional Parenting::Reprise series:

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Catching Up and a Book Review

Well hello there! As much as I hate having to do a "catching up" post, it seems like one is warranted today because I realize I've been AWOL lately.

The past two months, frankly, have been crazy. It's a wonder I've been able to write here at all with all of the commotion of end-of-school activities, graduation, a quick trip to PA, a family vacation, and a couple of birthdays thrown in for good measure. I hate to recap like that because everyone has busy lives and everyone can say that things have been crazy and everyone has an excuse as to why they haven't done what needed to be done.

Still, I want to catch up with you!

Graduation weekend was so much fun. Any time family and friends come together to celebrate is fun in my book, and this was no exception. Julia finished with a flourish and we all closed a very special chapter in our lives.

I've spent a lot of time reminiscing over the past few weeks about our years in public school here, and when it comes down to it, I feel so grateful for all of it. Some years have been hard, both academically and emotionally. Some years have been fun, filled with teachers who made learning a blessing and a delight. Some years have just been stretching and growing years that we needed to simply hold on tight to get through to the other side (hello, junior high!).

Through it all we have been blessed with an amazing community that has walked alongside our girls, both neighbors and friends who have known them for their entire lives. And that's something we don't take for granted.

So graduation ended with a flourish and a party and maybe some banging of pots and pans as we ushered Julia into her next phase of life. But until that phase begins in August, there's a lot of sitting around and waiting--something that's not easy for any of the folks in this family. Two of our girls are waiting to leave home and fly into their next adventures, one is waiting to move to a new apartment, and B and I are waiting for the onslaught of emotions once everyone is in a new place and we are left here with an empty nest. (Stay tuned--we're going to be fine!)

As soon as the party favors and decorations were put away, we packed up our car and headed out for a week of family vacation. We decided to try hard to get everyone together this year since we weren't sure when that would happen again. The girls cooperated and took a week off of work, and I booked us a villa in our favorite vacation spot: Kiawah Island, South Carolina.


You guys. I just can't even begin to explain how special that place is to us, and how special our week was. I'm sure I'll write more about it soon, but let's just say that a week on one of the most beautiful beaches on earth was JUST what this family needed. We read, relaxed, and rode bikes all week. We ate wonderful seafood and played cards and watched our favorite movies together. We talked and talked and talked, as we do. All-in-all, I'd say the week was a success.


So now we're home and summer is in full swing. Soon we will be in all-out packing mode, but for now, we're just enjoying the long days and the beautiful weather.

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While I was on the beach last week, I read a few books that I wanted to tell you about.


I'm kind of in memoir mode right now, so I read A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg, which I loved so much. Every page made me smile, and Wizenberg's way with words made me gobble up every turn of phrase. Plus, she gives a ton of recipes throughout the book--one at the end of each chapter--several of which I'd love to try.


The second book I read was Julia Child's My Life in France (are you sensing a theme here?). Also a fun and interesting read that I'm sure I'll go back to in years to come. What an interesting life Julia led!


Finally, a book NOT in memoir mode, but also interesting if you're trying to understand people a little better. A few weeks ago I was sent a copy of A Teen's Guide to the 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, so I saved it to read on the beach with my teenager beside me. (Ha!) It's a much simpler version of Chapman's classic book, written directly for teens (I'd say it's more geared toward younger teens as it might be a little simplistic for an older teen of, say, 18 or 19). The first half of the book outlines what the five love languages are, and the second half of the book talks about how to apply them, both for the teen and for their family members and friends.

This book is such a great resource for teenagers, a reading market that seems to be underserved in the non-fiction realm. It's practical. It's well-written directly to teenagers. It's helpful, especially during years when conflict might be at its peak in the home. And one of the best things about the book is that it gives godly advice without being in-your-face about it (teenagers hate that). It was great for me to read with my family nearby, giving me time to think about how I could best show love to them in this new season of life.

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So now I think we're fairly well caught up. It's a new week and a new chance to go out and "do small things with great love" as Mother Teresa encouraged us to do.

This week I'm going to try to write more, so stay tuned for a continuation of my Intentional Parenting::Reprise series and maybe a recipe on Friday.

What are YOU going to do with great love this week?

On Dying Trees, Retiring Chefs, and Graduating Daughters


As I write this, I’m watching history being cut down. A large maple tree, which has probably stood in the middle of my back yard as long as this house has stood on our street, is being removed. The upper branches, still bright with new, green leaves, floating to the ground like blades of grass blown in the wind. The larger branches dropped, one by one, onto the plantings below.

And the main trunk, which from the outside still looked strong and sturdy, sawn in half and brought down with a *thud* that shook the whole house.

Problem is, that trunk was half dead. Full of rotting wood that crumbled at the touch.

This tree, the one that turned golden-orange in the fall and had been the source of many a jumping pile when my girls were younger, the one that held memories of high-soaring branches against winter skies, the one surrounded by hostas planted by previous owners, had become a hazard.

Over the weekend my husband wanted proof. He needed to know for sure that, should a violent storm suddenly blow in, the tree was a threat to our home. He took a pitchfork and stabbed at the bark a little. And that’s all it took. The bark pulled away, revealing more and more rotting wood underneath the surface.

As much as we didn’t want to admit it, the tree needed to go.

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I just learned that one of our favorite restaurants closed over the weekend. It was a tiny French restaurant that we had discovered several years ago in a neighboring town.

It was an unassuming place—cheesy décor, twinkling lights, and oilcloth covering the tables—with the most amazing food that has ever crossed my lips. The first time B and I ate there (probably for an anniversary or a special night out), we asked the waiter what we should order. We were new to French bistro food, and we weren’t sure whether we’d like it or not.

We shouldn’t have worried.

The waiter told us to order the short rib ravioli—it was one of the chef’s specialties—so we did. And when it came to the table we simply sat and drank in the rich scent with silly smiles on our faces. The fontina cheese and short rib meat combined with the deep, dark sherry sauce, simply deserved to be savored like a fine French wine.

Thus began years of family celebrations at that little French place with the famous chef who had cooked for the likes of Frank Sinatra at the Beverly Hills Hotel years before and many other famous people in France long before that.

But this place was his swan song. His retirement. His couronnement.

And it had become like home to us. A comfort. A warm meal on a winter’s night.

Now it’s gone, suddenly pulled away, memories never again to be made there.

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Over the weekend our youngest graduated from high school.

[Note: for some reason, I resist calling her my “baby,” even though she technically is. But I don’t like calling her that because she is not a baby, and I don’t want her to act like one. She happens to be the youngest in the line of three, eighteen years old, but she is not my “baby” any longer. Am I weird for thinking that way? Probably.]

So Julia graduated. And we celebrated.

Family drove and flew in from across the country. Friends came to a party we threw on Sunday. Blue and orange balloons (for her NEW school) floated across a perfect early-summer sky.

Our weekend was grand and fun (and also exhausting), but it was also another closing of the books as we will never again have a child in school here. The empty nest is looming.

At various parties we bumped into families and teachers from elementary and middle school days, and we reminisced about “back then.” We talked about how the kids have grown and where they are headed next.

Some, I know, would like to hold on to those “good old” days when everything seemed simpler and sweeter and more serene. But that’s not possible.

Time marches on. Trees die. Favorite chefs retire. And our children move on.

Yet our hearts are forever tied to those memories, those places, those experiences.

For me, time around that tree, over incredible meals, and with our wonderful children are times when I have laughed and dreamed and become just a little richer for the lives that have touched mine.

Today, I’ll admit, I’m struggling just a little with putting the past behind me. But I know the days ahead will be just fine—with or without that tree in our back yard; with or without the amazing food that we occasionally got to enjoy; with or without my children running through my house—because I know that my life is more than the past. I have been promised a future.

Today, despite some changes I don't necessarily like, I can look back and be grateful.


Fabulous Friday Food :: Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp


Last weekend I finally had a chance to stroll through our local French Market. I've told you about the French Market before--my happy place on Saturday mornings in the summer.

The market has been open for a few weeks now, but I hadn't had a chance to get down there until last Saturday, and imagine my joy when I noticed huge bundles of my favorite fruit/vegetable (I think there's some kind of debate about this, but not one I'm about to get involved in) stacked on a table.

Ah, rhubarb. Alone, you are sour and bitter and stringy and gross. But paired with some sweet, juicy strawberries and you become some sort of nectar that I can't get enough of.

[You know, that's kind of like people. When we stand alone, we can become bitter, but when we're paired with just the right friend, we become something sweet and delicious. Just a little thought for your day.]

So last weekend we had a family dinner. As in, everyone was home, which is a super-huge reason to celebrate, so I cooked a really great meal. And Kate had a special request: Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp.

I think my love of crisps is well-documented here. I love the texture. I love the sweet-juiciness. I love that it's not a pie (my lack of pie making skills is also well-documented). I love how easy they are to make.

And this crisp is one of my favorites. And apparently one of Kate's favorites, too.

Now that Memorial Day is right around the corner, and since it's rhubarb season (a much-too-short season in my estimation), I thought I'd share this delicious recipe with you. Why not try it this weekend?

You basically need two bowls and an oven. You've got those, right?

In the first bowl, combine 3 cups of chopped rhubarb with 2 cups of sliced strawberries (which are also very good right now). Add some sugar and corn starch and mix well. Set that bowl aside for a few minutes so the fruit has some time to release some of their juices.


In the second bowl, combine the topping ingredients: oats (I prefer the regular oats to the quick cooking oats, but you can just use what you have on hand), brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and melted butter. Mix those together until you have a crumbly mixture.


Now you have to make a decision: ramekins or baking dish? I kind of like to use ramekins because that way everyone feels like they have their own special little dessert. But if you're feeding more than six people, you might want to make one baking dish so that it goes a little further. (Or, heck, just double the recipe--you'll want a lot.)

Whatever you choose, butter the dish, then spoon in the fruit, which by now is probably juicy and sweet and you might just want to eat it straight from the bowl.

Next, take the topping and crumble it evenly over the top. Do not pack it down! You want the topping to be crumbly, not thick. It's a crisp, not a pie.

That's it! Now pop it in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes if you're using ramekins or 40-45 minutes if you're using a baking dish. Just keep checking it. When the fruit is bubbling around the edges and the topping is getting a little brown, you're ready to go.


Serve the whole thing with some vanilla ice cream and you're in summertime heaven.

(Yeah, you'd think I'd show you a picture with some actual vanilla ice cream melting over the top of the warm crisp. But no. As I usually do, I forgot to take a picture of the final product. We were so excited to dig in that the picture went by the wayside. Use your imagination.)

Have a happy Memorial Day Weekend, friends!! I'll be celebrating our youngest daughter's high school graduation with all of our family, so I know ours will be fun. See you next week!

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For a printable version of this recipe, click here.

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