Some Thoughts on Christian Identity

This week (January 8) marks the 60th anniversary of the martyrdom of Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Pete Fleming, and Roger Youdarian, missionaries to a remote tribe in Equador. I’ve been thinking and reading about these men, their families, and their sacrifice this week, wondering what it all means in our world today, a world that looks very different from the world of 1956.

Certainly mission work is done very differently today, perhaps as a result of this martyrdom. Nevertheless, the work of these men and the sacrifices of their families cannot be discounted. In fact, two years after their deaths, the wife of Jim Elliot, Elisabeth, along with Nate Saint’s sister, returned to Equador to live among the Auca people—the very people who had killed their husband, father, and brother. Elisabeth Elliot and Rachel Saint loved these people, and today, many Aucas now follow Christ.

This week I read a moving account of some of their life and ministry among the Aucas in a talk given by Elisabeth Elliot in 1983. (You can read it yourself here and her.) In this same talk, Elisabeth encourages college students to really think about their lives and to decide ahead of time what their lives will stand for. Will it be Christ? Or something else?

Lately I’ve been thinking about our identity in Christ. What does this mean? What should it mean? What difference does it make in my life? Because the day may be coming when I will have to decide where my identity truly lies.

For Jim Elliot, identity with Christ meant everything. It meant delaying marriage until he knew God was calling him to it. It meant loving a people enough to give up a comfortable life in order to bring them the Good News of Jesus Christ. And, ultimately, it meant obedience to the call of God that would bring him to his death at the age of 29.

Was Jim Elliot a fool? Some might say he was. But the Aucas who now know Christ might have a different answer. And the thousands, if not millions, who have been since affected by his and Elisabeth’s story might also answer differently.

Jim Elliot laid everything on the line for the cause of Jesus Christ.

Did he go to Equador to identify with the Auca people? That wasn’t his purpose. Did he change his clothes and wear their ceremonial headgear as a sign of solidarity with them? No. Did he take on an Auca identity? No. Because he knew that doing so would be like saying, “You’re O.K. the way you are. You just need a little Jesus band-aid to make your life better.”

Jim Elliot knew that a Jesus band-aid would not solve the salvation problem of a people. He knew that a complete life transformation would be necessary, so he stepped in to show them that a full life with Jesus was what they needed. What we all need.

Some might ask whether these missionaries truly cared about these people or whether they were simply trying to gain conversion notches in their belts. I’d say that anyone who would be willing to sacrifice life and family in order to share Jesus with them must absolutely have love in his heart toward these people. History shows that not only did the five men enjoy a banquet with the tribe when they arrived, but also that Jim Elliot had a gun in his pocket on the day he was speared to death. He didn’t use it because all five of these men had decided ahead of time that they would not kill another person, even if their own lives were in danger.

Jim Elliot knew his purpose and he knew his identity.

When the apostle Paul encountered Christ on the Damascus road—a road on which he was travelling so that he could find and persecute Christians—his whole life changed and he was never the same after that. Scripture tells us that Paul was a completely different person, both in thought and in demeanor, after he met Jesus. He no longer persecuted anyone—he loved. He said, “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

Throughout his letters Paul tells his readers that an identity with Christ means that everything is different. Our way doesn’t matter anymore—only Christ’s way matters. Our rights don’t matter either—we give up our rights to follow Christ. Our dignity doesn’t count for anything—as Paul said, it’s all dung (or garbage) compared to knowing Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:8).

Paul makes it clear that our identity is gone, vanished, when we take up the cause of Christ. And Jesus is worth it. Just ask Elisabeth Elliot, now rejoicing in heaven with her savior.

You’re probably wondering why I’m wrestling with all this. Why am I writing such a long post on a topic on which most Christians would agree with me?

Here’s why. And here’s what has been rolling around in my head for the past couple of months—an Instagram post that said this: “The day a Muslim is required to register as a Muslim in this country is the day I register as a Muslim.” Now I’m not going to argue the politics of this statement; what struck me about this statement was something not political at all.

What struck me about this statement was how quickly and how flippantly this person was willing to cast aside their identity as a Christian (they do claim to be a Christian) and to identify with another religion entirely.

You see, to me (and I’d say to Jim Elliot and to the apostle Paul as well), being a Christian means identifying with Jesus and all that goes along with it. It means being willing to accept ridicule, suffering, even death, if that’s what God calls me to. It means changing my way of thinking as well as my way of living. And it’s not something I can easily cast aside.

Because what I have been thinking about is is it worth it? Is Jesus really worth it? Is the sacrifice that Jesus made when he left his heavenly home, came to earth, lived among sinful people, and died a martyr’s death—is all of that worth it to me?

It is.

He is worth it.

But when I see flippant statements of people willing to identify so cavalierly with something other than Christ, I feel an unease in my soul. Like it’s an affront to all that the gospel stands for and an affront to the suffering of Christ on the cross. Jesus didn’t call us to identify with others to make them feel better about their choices. In fact, Jesus didn’t care much about the choices of others. He cared about the truth and he spoke it with boldness.

Yes, He loved and we are called to love. For sure.

We are also called to speak truth, and the truth is that there is no other way to live apart from Christ. The truth is that if we have identified with Christ, we cannot put our identity elsewhere. The truth is that we lessen the meaning of the cross when we put a Jesus band-aid on another person’s religion.

Christ is everything.

May I live it boldly.

May I proclaim it with my life.

May I love others well because of it. 

Reflecting on Risk: Part 4

Finishing up my reflections on risk today. To read my earlier thoughts, click here, here, and here. To read Hanna Rosin's article, "The Overprotected Kid," click here.


My point is this: there is no truly safe place in this world. Risk is the name of the game when it comes to life. We have to decide what’s best and healthiest for our kids, knowing the risk that’s out there.

And what’s best and healthiest for our kids is a small dose of risk, doled out in appropriate amounts at appropriate times.

One day it may be walking to school. The next it might be allowing them to sleep over at a friend’s house. Then we move on to handing them the car keys. And sending them to college.

The risks start small, but get bigger and bigger as our kids grow and learn and mature. That’s how it’s supposed to work in order for our kids to become productive citizens.

(Little nod to a family joke here.)

But what if it doesn’t work out? What if we let our kids take risks and they backfire—our kids get hurt, or worse? I’ve lived most of my life with the deep understanding that risk sometimes doesn’t work in our favor (I guess that’s why it’s called risk).

Many of you know that when I was a girl, my younger brother drowned in a tragic accident at summer camp. Had my parents known what would happen on that day would they have sent him? No. Of course not. But could they have known with 100% certainty that an accident would not occur? Again, no.

Sadly, it did.

Many years later it was time to put my own firstborn, at age 11, on a bus to head six hours north to summer camp for two weeks. Did I know the risk? Yes, I did. I felt it in my bones. It was one of the hardest days of my life.

So why did my husband and I decide to send her?

Because we both agreed that a life without risk is a life without trust. In other words, God was asking me to trust Him with the life of my child, and we trusted Him to take better care of her than we could. No matter what.

We still do.

I also believe that a life without risk is a life without growth. The day my daughter walked to school by herself was probably a day in which she stood a little taller, believed in herself a little more.

Does that mean that I deliberately put my daughters in harm’s way or that I’m advocating for you to do such a thing? Absolutely not. I assess risk, just like anyone would—I think about the cost every day—but in so doing I have to accept that often my fears are not justified. And if I’m acting on unjustifiable fears, I’m definitely not doing what’s best and healthiest for my child.

My oldest, that little pipsqueek who merrily walked off to school by herself in first grade, is graduating from college this May. She’s making plans, talking about the future, looking ahead.

Do I have fears for her? Of course I do, but I refuse to let those fears hold her back in any way from doing what she wants to do. Because my fears are not justified.

There is so much about this world that I do not know, that I cannot know. So what I must do is hold on to what I do know.

And in the end, here’s what I do know:
  • -       Jesus loves my children so much more than I do. (John 3:16)
  • -       He sees their every move. (Psalm 121:3-4)
  • -       God has a plan for the lives of my children, and it is good. (Jeremiah 29:11)
  • -       He directs their steps. (Psalm 37:23)
  • -       He knows what their future holds (Psalm 31:15). I do not.

My job, I believe, is to trust God completely with my children and to allow them to grow in their trust of God, too, by letting them take appropriate risks at the appropriate times.

Life’s risky, that’s all there is to it. There is so much that is out of our control and that was never meant to be IN our control. But I believe with all my heart that God’s got this. Our kids are safest when placed in His care and when walking in His will.

Reflecting on Risk: Part 3

This week I'm reflecting on Hanna Rosin's article, "The Overprotected Kid," from The Atlantic. You can read my previous posts here and here


Our natural stance as parents is a protective one. We want to keep our kids safe. We all do.

Many parents spend most of their waking hours thinking about how to keep their children safe, anticipating potential dangers and attempting to eliminate those from their children's lives.

Hanna Rosin’s article brings to light many statistics about child safety that might seem a bit counter to our strong parental intuition. She mentions, for instance, that playground accidents today are actually occurring at about the same rate as they were in the early '80s, even with so-called safety guidelines in place, and that rubber matting might actually be causing more broken bones because children have placed in them a false sense of security. 

Rosin also cites a researcher into children's fears who states that, "'our [parents'] fear of children being harmed,' mostly in minor ways, 'may result in more fearful children.'"

I know that's not what we're after as parents.

And what about child abduction, because isn't this one of our greatest fears? Interestingly, Rosen, citing an extensive study that shows that children are no more at risk of abduction today than we were in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

So why the alarm about child safety? Two reasons, I think: the media and the state of the family.

I don’t really want to get into an argument about the media. Let’s just all agree that that group can tend to be a bit . . . alarmist . . . at times. And they’ve got the bullhorn, so the word gets out that horrible people are lurking at every corner, trying to get to our kids.

I found Rosin’s commentary on the state of the family even more compelling. She points out that, according to one study on childhood risk, even though crimes against children have declined since the ‘90s, one type of crime has increased: family abduction. You know the scenario—Parent A has custody, but Parent B wants the kid so s/he takes the kid anyway.

Sadly, Rosin sums up the situation this way: “If a mother is afraid her child might be abducted, her ironclad rule should not be Don’t talk to strangers. It should be Don’t talk to your father.”

I’m shuddering at that thought.

So what's the takeaway? What can we learn from Rosin's use of statistics? 

One thing I think we could learn is that our own fears for our children might be holding them back. We have to fight our own fears so that our kids can feel free to take some risks that actually might help them build confidence as they grow up. 

And then there's the stranger-danger issue. While I think it's important to be wary of strangers, we need to realize that not every person is out to harm our children. In fact, I think our kids need to know that there are some very kind people in the world, and, should a problem arise, it might very well be a stranger who helps them out.

So tell me, what do you think about fear and raising confident kids? What are some fears you have for your children?

Reflecting on Risk: Part 2

This post is part 2 of a four part series in which I'm reflecting on Hanna Rosin's article, "The Overprotected Kid" and thinking about risk and kids. You can find Part 1 here.


My oldest started walking to school by herself when she was in first grade. My husband and I had purposely bought a house near their little public school so that the girls could eventually walk themselves to school, but I didn’t expect it to happen when Kate was quite so young.

In January of Kate’s first grade year, I got the flu so badly—about four times in a row in just that month—that one day I could not get out of bed to walk her to school. I simply said, “Kate, you’re going to have to do this on your own today. You know the way and you know all the neighbors, so if anything happens, knock on one of their doors. And I can watch you from the window until you get almost all the way there, so you really don’t have to worry.”

That morning my little girl practically skipped out of the house.

Sure, she was a little nervous, but I watched from the window, as promised, until she turned the corner and was just a few feet from the school grounds. She made it safely. And then she made it safely the next day. And the next day. And the next.  For the next few years. I’d go with her on most days, but if I couldn’t, she knew she could make the walk by herself.

I think it made her feel grown up.

Was I being stupid to let her walk to school on her own at six years old? Obviously I didn’t think so then, and I don’t think so now.

I would never let her take unnecessary risk, but a certain amount of risk (in which I'm watching from the window), at the appropriate time, I think, helps build confidence. 

Hanna Rosin's article describes "the Land," a park in Wales where kids are pretty much allowed to roam free and do whatever they want, with very little supervision. She writes, "When Claire Griffiths, the Land’s manager, applies for grants to fund her innovative play spaces, she often lists the concrete advantages of enticing children outside: combatting obesity, developing motor skills. She also talks about . . . encouraging children to take risks so they build their confidence."

I want to raise confident children. Children who are aware of their surroundings, but who also have enough common sense to get themselves out of a tricky situation every once in a while. (And, frankly, I'd rather not know about some of those tricky situations.) Children who are confident in the decisions they make for themselves. Children who can navigate life on their own without looking over their shoulder.

So far, I think we're doing that. 

How about you? What small steps have you taken to instill confidence in your kids? What are some appropriate small risks you can allow your kids to take that might help instill confidence in them?

Responding to Risk: Part 1

Just outside Central London lies a park so terrifying, so dangerous, so death-defying that only the bravest of souls bothers to visit. Four years ago, my daughter and I summoned our courage and ventured out to Kew Gardens. We were glad to have made it out alive.

If you’ve ever thought about visiting Kew Gardens, specifically to experience their Treetop Walkway, you should know a thing or two about this little project, which opened in 2008. First, it’s high up in the trees—18 meters (or about 60 feet), according to the Kew Gardens website. Second, the railings are kind of low, compared to U.S. standards—the rail came about to my waist (and I’m 5’9”). I could have easily toppled (or climbed) over the side. Third, it’s a bit rusty. Fourth, it sways in the wind.

You take that walk at your own risk.

In fact, the Kew Gardens website offers some further advice for people who are thinking about taking this walk (or roll—unbelievably, wheelchairs are allowed, but strollers for babies are not).

  • There are no age or height restrictions. They just ask that children be supervised at all times.
  • Pregnant mothers can make their own choice about whether to go up, but they should be aware that there are 118 stairs.
  • The handrails are 1.3 meters high.
  • The structure is designed to flex slightly in the wind, as I can attest.

And yet, every time Caroline and I talk about our visit to Kew Gardens (which, by the way, is lovely and not dangerous at all), we mostly talk about our adventure of climbing the 118 rickety stairs up to the top of the walk and taking the terrifying stroll through the tops of the trees on a rusty, swaying, barely-guarded, piece of metal.

We felt like we had stared death, or at least risk, in the face and won.

The entire terrifying experience (it was terrifying) makes us giggle with glee because we DID IT. And it is something neither of us will forget.

And yet, the entire time we were walking around in the tops of the trees, Caroline and I kept commenting: “They would NEVER allow something like this in the U.S.”

We remarked over and over again that in the U.S. somebody would do something stupid, get hurt, or worse, killed, and sue the park. There would be signs everywhere, explaining the risk and detracting from the sheer beauty of the scenery. Guardrails would be so high that you’d feel like an animal in a cage. And there would be park rangers posted about every 10 feet along the way, making sure that everyone was acting in a safe and appropriate manner.

(By the way, those park rangers would need to be paid, so admission would be required as well.)

None of that in England. Nobody checking to make sure kids were, indeed, being supervised. Nobody supervising the adults, watching your every move. Just unimpeded views of the gorgeous gardens from the tops of the trees.

Enter at your own risk.

I worry that kids today don’t get to experience that kind of risk anymore, and so does Hanna Rosin, the author of  “The Overprotected Kid” published in The Atlantic this month. Rosin writes about a park in Wales called “The Land” where kids can roam free among cardboard boxes, rusty chairs, a rope swing, and even (gasp!) a small creek. What’s worse, there’s even a fire pit where kids (boys, probably) can play with fire.

What?! you’re probably thinking. That’s crazy!

Is it?

As I read the description of “The Land,” it reminded me so much of my childhood on the farm. Most of my days were spent wandering outside, creating, playing, imagining. I’d ride my bike unsupervised for hours, my mom never knowing where I was most of the time.

At the end of the day, we’d all meet around the dinner table and share our adventures of the day.

I’m sure I didn’t appreciate it as much as I should have then, but now I look back and marvel at the freedom I had.

Today, most kids don't have the freedom to roam. Parents are too worried that something terrible might happen. And it might. But does the possibility of risk demand that we eliminate risk from our kids' lives altogether?

What do you think?

I had other ideas for my blog this week, but then I read this amazing article (please, click the link above and read it!) and had such a reaction to it that I ended up writing a four-part series. I hope you enjoy my reflections and that you'll share your thoughts in the comments this week. Let's talk about this.

Just a Day

Today was, well, just a day. 

I walked with a friend for an hour this morning. (Therapy, first thing.)

I did too many loads of laundry to count. 

I cleaned my oven. (You know you want my life.)

I baked cookies for Teacher Appreciation Day tomorrow. 

I ran Julia all over Kingdom Come. 

I loaned my van to a college student friend so he could move some furniture.

And I sat glued to the T.V. for the Benghazi hearings. (C-SPAN3 = Channel 105.)

It was just an ordinary day. Only it wasn’t so ordinary because it was MY day. A day I kind of liked. A day that made me happy and brought me joy (quite possibly a direct result of knowing we would be eating leftover hot dogs for dinner).

Yesterday Julia got into the car after school and, after I asked how her day was (this was at 4:20 in the afternoon, after a full day of school and play practice, while on her way to driver's ed--the poor girl hadn't been home since 7:00 a.m.!), replied, “Great! I had a great day.” 

So I followed up: “What made it a great day?” 

And she said (this is the part I love), “I don’t know. It was just a day, but I’m happy.”

Just a day, but I’m happy.

What if we took all the average, ordinary, cleaning-my-oven kind of days and turned them great only by changing our outlook? 

What would happen then?

Monday Musings

Borrowing the format from my friend, Lisa, because I like it so much. Thanks, Lisa! 


Sitting . . . in my comfy writing chair.

Drinking . . . water, in hopes that it might kick the dull ache in my head off to the curb.

Feeling . . . physically tired from a busy weekend, but excited to be finished with classes and officially on summer break!

Cooking . . . salads and burgers and dessert for a group of Kate's friends who are coming over tonight. One last bash before they leave for the summer (although some are sticking around this year). I really love these kids and will be really sad next year when it's time for them to graduate.

Reflecting . . . on the past semester. Things I could have done differently, some things I could have done better, and some I'm glad I did the way I did. Teaching, I have found, is a constant evaluation of myself and my students.

Looking ahead . . . to summer. Oh boy, is it going to be a busy one! All three of my girls will be home for most of the summer, which is awesome to me because it very well could be the last time all five of us live under the same roof. Not going to cry about that . . . yet.

Devising . . . a scheme to fix up the town home that B and I bought this year as a rental for college students. My summer involves painting, fixing up, decorating (on a very limited budget!), and furnishing (again, the budget) that place. If you need to get ahold of me this summer, chances are very good I'll be over there.

Enjoying . . . warmer temperatures. Finally!

Getting excited about . . . a trip I'm taking with my mom and sisters this summer. More on that later. (Just to keep you in suspense.)

Thanking God . . . for the way He has grown and changed all of us this year. The school year was not without its challenges for each one of us, but God has been so faithful to use each experience as a way to draw us to Him. It really is a wonder that He loves us so much.

Musing . . . about the blog . . . again. Some changes are coming that I'm really excited about! Hoping that will motivate me to keep going. More on that soon.

So tell me, what's on YOUR mind?

Paying Attention

A friend shared the most wonderful quote from Anne Lamott the other day. Anne said, 
"That's all you have to do today: Pay attention--being a writer is about paying attention."
So, in honor of Anne, here’s what I noticed today.

This morning I had a doctor’s appointment, and as I sat in the waiting room—just for a minute, it didn’t take long—I reached for my phone in the pocket of my bag. It wasn’t there. I knew exactly where it was--beside my bed where I left it this morning.

I surprised myself by noticing even the slightest feeling of anxiety that I had forgotten my phone. As if I had become one of “those people” who cannot be without their phone even for a few hours.

I thought about going home to get my phone immediately after my appointment, even though I had planned to run a few errands after the doctor and my house was completely on the other side of town, which would mean that I would probably waste a good 30 minutes in a fairly busy day.

My slight anxiety rose as I wondered if I had any emails. I wondered if my girls would need to get ahold of me. I wondered if B would need me. I wondered what I would do while I waited for the doctor, a certainty, if I didn’t have my phone with me.

And then, just as quickly, I sat back and chastised myself. Good grief! I couldn’t make it even a couple of hours without communication? That’s ridiculous. What happened just a few years ago, before the iPhone, when we didn’t have constant access to the internet, and we went to the doctor and read magazines for an hour?

What happened when my girls were little and I left them with a babysitter for a few hours while I happily trotted out the door with NO PHONE AT ALL? Back then, I just had to trust (!) that they would be fine.

And they were.

So here’s what I noticed today. I’m tethered. And I don’t like what that has done to me. Not that having a phone has made me a bad person, but inwardly, I wonder what it has done. 

It has made me more available. All the time. Do I want that?

It has caused me to be less “in the moment.” My thoughts turn from what I'm doing presently, concretely, to what I might need to do virtually. I hate that.

It has made me just a little less trusting that God would take care of things. Like I said, there was a day when I just had to "trust" that all would be well when I walked out the door. That my children could cope without me for a while. They did.

And it has made me restless, bored without something to look at all the time. This almost bothers me the most. Why am I anxious without something to DO? What ever happened to down time?

You know what turned out great, though? After my exam, the doctor left for a bit, but needed to come back to talk to me about a few things. While I sat in the room waiting, that’s all I did. 

I just sat there. 

There were no magazines available--only children’s books (another interesting thing I noticed!)--so without my phone I just sat. 

I leaned my head back against the wall, and I thought about things. I let my mind wander, and my thoughts took me to my husband and my kids. I took a quiet minute to pray for them. I thought about my parents. I thought about the fact that tomorrow is the last day of class.

I just thought. In the peace and quiet of the doctor’s office.

Without my phone.

So tell me, how do you feel when you forget your phone? Untethered? Or free?

Staying Put

I read a post this week by Sarah Bessey titled, "The Place that Shapes Me," that prompted this post from me. Sarah wonders if there is something to be said for staying put. I agree.


I only slept in two different rooms of the same house before I went to college.

I grew up with grandparents a half mile from me, in the house my great-grandparents lived in when my dad was a boy.

There was a secret road—we called it “the field road”—that ran between my house and my cousins’ house that only our two families used.

The road I grew up on still holds memories of the bike riding, tennis playing, and summertime wanderings of my childhood.

When I left that place, I didn’t look back.

I didn’t appreciate. I didn’t savor. I simply headed for the big city, much like George Bailey, shaking the dust of that crummy little town. . . .


What I didn’t realize until many years later—too many years—was that that town, that road, that house, held not just my memories, but a part of me. My roots were there, deep.

What I didn’t know was that I couldn’t escape the memories, mostly happy, some sad, nor did I need to.

What I didn’t understand was just how much that place, that one single place, had shaped me.

My dad was a farmer, tied to the land that his grandfather had farmed, maybe even his grandfather before that, and because of that, I was tied too. What I didn’t know was the blessing of being tied to a place.

I grew up restless, as if my home and my town and my life there couldn’t contain me. I wanted out, and I ran as fast as I could as soon as I was able.

I didn’t go far. I didn’t even leave the state. Still haven’t.

The girl who wanted to shake the dust from one place still hasn’t been able to shake it from another.

Years ago my husband and I decided that we would stay put, intentionally. That we would raise our daughters in the same town, the same schools, the same church, the same community so that they, too, would know the blessing of staying put, of laying down roots.

Today, our girls are on the precipice, just spreading those wings for takeoff. The purpose of putting down roots wasn’t to keep them here, but to give them the freedom to fly.

Putting down roots in order to fly . . . an oxymoron if I ever heard one, and yet, there it is. Truth.

Kind of like losing your life so you can gain it.



So tell me . . . have you put down roots for your kids? Or are you the restless adventurer? Or are you both, like me? What do you think about staying put?

No Two Ways Around It--I'm Turning 50 This Week

I brushed my hair from my face this morning, tucking it behind my ear, and noticed the silver at my temples. Rather than thinking the usual “time to get my hair colored,” I took a good, long look and smiled.

And I turned slightly to see the gray reflected from a different angle.

A wonder, aging.

Something I’ve given a lot of thought in recent weeks.

I’m aging. A birthday is coming. One I cannot hold back, even though I would certainly like to. One I have tried to ignore, but one that is knocking, knocking, knocking.

Last week, during lunch with a student, I confessed that my birthday was coming and that, despite all my protestations, it was coming fast. She just laughed and told me that her aunt always said that getting older is sure better than the alternative.

She’s a wise one, that student.


My husband has been asking me for weeks what I’d like to do to celebrate. Since I haven’t considered this much of an event to be celebrated, I just replied, “Ignore it.”

It’s the closest thing to how I feel.

And yet, I can’t. Ignore it.

It’s coming whether I like it or not.

In fact, it’s here.

On Saturday, I will be 50.


I remember turning 20—so much fun, a lifetime of surprises ahead of me.

And at 30, standing in front of the mirror, one child on my hip. Wondering how I had gotten there, and observing how much I had changed in a decade.

I barely remember 40. Three kids by then. Crazy life. Reflecting on the chaos of my 30s and thinking that the 40s had to be better.

They were.


And now, 50. I’ve been standing in front of the mirror for weeks now, amazed at how my life has changed.

Feeling so. incredibly. grateful.

And when I look at it that way, with a heart filled with gratitude, I have to think that the 50s will hold good, good things.


For months I’ve been dreading my birthday, but if I’m really honest, that’s just vanity talking. It’s been me focusing on graying hair, flabby arms, extra weight.

My friend, Robin, turned 50 a couple of weeks ago (lots and lots of friends will turn 50 this year!), and she did something I have not been able to do: she embraced it. She celebrated. She dressed up and danced and found the grace to face a new decade and say, “Bring it.”

And she encouraged me with these words from Scripture:

“This fiftieth year is sacred—it is a time of freedom and celebration . . .” (Leviticus 25:10 CEV)

Isn’t that awesome?!

Sacred. Freedom. Celebration.

This week I’m going to reflect. I’m going to write. I’m going to try to reconcile myself to the fact that I’m 50 and to try to figure out what that means for me.

And at the end of the week, we'll celebrate.

Will you join me? If you’re already 50, will you tell me it’s not so bad? If you’re turning 50 soon, will you tell me how you’re handling it? If you’re not even close, go put on your skinny jeans and dance in the rain.

What I've Learned from Student Evaluations

Students ask the darndest questions sometimes. Like the sophomore guy—a guy!—who asked me last week how old I was when I got married and how long my husband and I waited to have kids. Hilarious.

(I answered him, by the way. No need to keep my students in the dark about my personal life.)

Another student, also a guy but not in my class, asked me recently about how I felt about student evaluations. Did I even read them? Did I learn anything from them?

I had to hesitate before I answered because I have some serious past baggage with student evaluations.


After taking a five-year hiatus from teaching, I returned to the classroom in August of 2011. I’ll admit, I was nervous. Throughout the entire semester I wondered what my students thought of me.

O.K., I obsessed.

I was well aware that I was five years older than the last time I had taught. Would they just see me as a mother figure? Would they think I was dumb? Out of touch? Not on top of my teaching game?

Heck, I wondered the same things about myself.

I had a whole lot of doubts that followed me around like a lost puppy that first semester.

So when evaluations came back to me after the semester had ended, I was devastated to read that a couple of students really hated me. Devastated.

O.K., I cried.

I just stared at the comments, wondering if I would ever be able to put myself in front of a group of overly-critical, picky, self-absorbed, entitled students again. If my office had a window in it, I probably would have climbed out of it and fled, never to return.

I called my husband and said, “I should never have come back.”

He very wisely asked, “Shelly, did you get any good evaluations?”

“Well, yes.”

“What did those say?” he asked.

I don’t really remember much about those evaluations any more, but I do remember one thing: my students, pretty much across the board, felt like I cared about them as individuals and that I wanted to see them succeed.

What more could I ask for?

Apparently, a lot more.

Because the next semester, I couldn’t even look at my evaluations. They came to me in an email, and I deleted it before even looking at them.

What can I say? I’m weak.

And prideful.

And seriously uninformed.

Last fall, I decided to take a new approach to student evaluations. After giving myself a mental pep talk and a virtual kick in the pants, I decided that 1) I needed to grow up, 2) that I would read the evaluations but that 3) I wouldn’t take them too seriously.

I knew by then which students loved me and would give me a glowing evaluation no matter what. And as much as I’d love to stay in Neverland and read only those remarks about me, I knew they weren’t that helpful.

I also knew which students pretty much hated me. These were the students who didn’t work hard enough to get the grade they felt they deserved (remember the entitled ones?) or who felt it really wasn’t that rude to consider class time their personal nap time or (my personal favorite) to knit while I was talking. (Oh yes she did!) I knew what would be coming from those students, and I braced myself.

That semester I read every evaluation, every comment, no matter how much they skewered my pride, and did this: I threw out the really glowing reports at the top of the scale along with the really nasty reports at the bottom. I focused on the evaluations that fell somewhere in the middle—those that had some good things to say along with some constructive criticisms.

And that’s where I really started to learn what worked and what didn’t in my class. I’ve made changes based on the evaluations that landed somewhere in the middle.

Honestly? I wish my students didn’t have to evaluate me every semester. Because I pretty much know what’s coming. I know that some days I drone on and on like Charlie Brown’s teacher and that on some days my classes seem like a never-ending glut of boring, regurgitated information. (I’m working on that.) I know I don’t always start every class with an inspiring word from the Lord (I teach at a Christian college), but I’ve come to grips with that too.

Hey, you can’t always be inspiring at 8:00 in the morning.

And I know that I’m not the best professor they’ve ever had. A lot of factors come into play here, not the least of these is the subject matter. (Who knew that some kids just don’t like writing?!) But I’m O.K. with that. I work very hard to present the information to my students in the best way I can, and I feel good about the work I do.

What I also know is that I am a teacher who cares very much about her students and who wants to see them succeed, and my evaluations consistently bear that out. If a student doesn’t ever get the importance of the Oxford comma but knows that I cared enough to meet with her outside of the classroom for thirty minutes each week, I’m good with that.


So my response to the student who asked me how I felt about evaluations? I told him I’ve learned that some people will love you and some people will hate you. It’s important to not waste energy obsessing over it.

I’ve learned, instead, to look at how the people in the middle evaluate me—the people who take the time to see me for who I am, to listen to what I'm really saying, to care enough to respond with thoughtful comments—those are the ones that really matter.

Good advice for life? I think so.

On My Mind

Thinking all day about starting a blog post, but there are so many things swimming around in my head that I just need to blurt out the mess to make room for the rest.

Today will not be one of those deep-post days.

Today will be more like a here-sit-down-and-have-a-cup-of-coffee day. It's just one of those days that I need to get my thoughts out so I can move on and write other stuff.

I've realized that I don't let you in too much. As in, into my life. And I don't like that. I really want you to know me and to know what's going on in my life. I flatter myself to think that maybe you read here because you're interested. I don't know.

Or maybe you just like my recipes--who knows?

Anyway, maybe this post is a way of letting you know some things about me. It's not like my life is some huge secret or anything. There are, however, people in my life who would prefer that I keep some things to myself. I get that. And I try to.


So here we go. Some things that I want you to know about me.

** You know I teach, right? Thinking about teaching and actually going into work three days a week are probably what consume most of my thoughts these days. It shouldn't feel as busy as it does, and that frustrates me sometimes. Here's what my Monday/Wednesday/Fridays look like:

5:30 a.m. - wake up, stumble to the shower, get ready for my day

7:00 a.m. - take Julia to school, then head into my office

9:15 a.m. - teach my class

10:30-? - read, grade papers, prep for next class

I usually try to finish up around 12:30 when I either head home or meet my friends for lunch (a regular Wednesday thing). Afternoons are my time to run errands, walk the dog, write (oh, the ongoing angst about THAT), make dinner.

Right now I only teach one class, but in the fall I'll have two. Which will make my thoughts even more swirly and discombobulated.

But it's all good because I love my job and get to teach the most amazing group of college students ever. I'm confident that God has called me to it for now, and that makes it all worthwhile.

** One bummer about my job is that my spring break doesn't line up with Julia's, so every year we have to figure out what to do about that. This year we decided to pull her out of school for three days and high tail it out of here. (She's still making up the work she missed!)

But it was so great to be in the Florida sunshine, even for a short while.

Here's my honey and me. Twenty-eight years--totally worth it.

** In other thought-consuming news, B and I purchased a rental home near the college this year. We haven't done much with it yet since we still have renters, but the townhome is in need of, shall we say, a leeettle bit of work. This summer my job will be to completely restore that house, including replacing all of the flooring on the first floor (don't worry, it's not that big) and painting the entire place. And, yes, I plan to do much of the work myself in order to save money.

Call me crazy.

Just do. Because I think I am.

And I'm spending way too many hours thinking about paint colors.

** My sister had a baby! Amazing and delicious all rolled into one. And so sublime because we haven't had a new baby on my side of the family in, oh, 15 years. It's all very exciting.

I'm especially excited because this weekend I'm flying to Dallas to meet my newest niece, Gracie (do you not just LOVE that name?!). I'm not sure you'll be able to pry her out of my arms for the 48 hours I'll be there.

** I spend a lot of time thinking about and praying for my kids. Both of my college girls came home for Easter weekend and we all had a great time together. It gave me a glimpse into what our summer will be like since, for the first time in about four years, everyone will be home. Just a hunch, but it's going to be loud, boisterous, talkative, and full of laughter.

Here's our little Easter brunch right before church.

Easter was a little different for us this year because it was also Kate's 21st birthday.

Happy birthday, lovie!

So we said we'd celebrate Easter in the morning and that after noon it would be all about Kate's birthday. It worked for us.

** Speaking of birthdays, I have the next birthday in our family which is something that consumes way too much of my thought life. I don't have time to write about right now--this birthday is going to take a post of its own because it's a big one and I have thoughts.

** As I write I'm listening to Julia practice piano. Difficult strains of an unfamiliar Debussy piece are floating through our house. She's struggled with one line for weeks now, and last night, after her piano lesson, she cried out in frustration that she didn't think she would EVER get it right. I told her to hang in there, to not give up, and that one day it would just click and she'd get it.

Just now, over the music she shouted, "That's it!"

These are the moments I love being a parent the most.

**Last thing: be sure to come back on Friday because if you're one of those don't-care-about-your-life-but-you-give-me-good-recipes people you are really going to be happy. AND it involves a book review. Bonus!

There. Brain dump is completed. Maybe now I can move on and actually write something.

That's what's on my mind, what's on YOURS?

The Conversation I Never Thought I’d Have with my Kids

In about 45 minutes I need to pick up my daughter from school, and I will need to have a conversation that I never, ever dreamed I would have to have with her.

Because today, a beloved teacher from her school was arrested for having sex with one of his students. I won’t go into the scant details I’ve heard so far, just suffice it to say it’s horrific.

And especially horrific because both of my older girls had this teacher, loved him, and my youngest was hoping to have him next year.

It hits home.

What I want to know, what I have been praying to God this afternoon, is how on earth do I talk to them about this? Because, for the life of me, I don’t know.

Ironically, I’ve been thinking all day about a blog post I read and responded to yesterday. My friend, Jo-Lynne, has been struggling with how to protect her children, especially her 13-year-old son, in this crazy world we live in.

I get that. I understand that struggle.

What really hit me as I read her post and some of the comments from people who said that they have intentionally placed their children in a “bubble,” is that no matter how hard we try, we do NOT live in a bubble. We live in a very broken, very fallen world.

That sure became evident to our community today.

It’s interesting to me that I have truly been chewing on this for the past 24 hours, because much of what I wrote in Jo-Lynne’s comments is what I need to remind myself of here, now that I’m in this situation of having to have the ugly talk with my kids.

First, I need to remember that our world is very fallen indeed. Anybody watching “The Bible” on The History Channel can see that parents have been worried about protecting their children from outside influences for centuries. It's nothing new. But it’s also an unfortunate reality that the world we live in is trying its very best to corrupt, not only our children, but US.

And sometimes we fall prey.

Second, I need to remember who I am. I need to remember that I am fallen, too, just like this world, just like that teacher, just like, well, me. I am fallen. I am sinful. I am not above reproach.

The phrase, “there but by the grace of God go I” rings very clearly today. The fact is, I could be that teacher. I AM that teacher, because when God sees my sin, it makes him just as disgusted as that teacher’s actions are to me.

Sin is sin, and mine is no “better” than anyone else’s. If I think otherwise, I am only fooling myself and setting myself up to be a hypocrite.

Third, I need to remember who God is. He’s God, and that’s enough. He has loved me enough to provide a way of salvation, and in return, he wants me to stop living like the rest of the world and be holy.

But here’s the thing: I’m not holy. No matter how hard I try, I won’t ever meet the standard that God has set for me. In His eyes I’m just as bad as that teacher.

But Jesus.

Thanks be to God that because I have Jesus, God no longer sees my sin. He sees me as holy. It really is an amazing thing to think about.

So how does this help me talk to my kids about that teacher?

1. It reminds all of us that we are people who have received grace—totally, completely unmerited grace. And because of that we should not speak ill, we should not gossip, we should not judge what we do not know.

2. It makes me want to cling tighter to the God who sees all, who knows all, and who forgives all and to encourage my girls to do the same.

3. It causes me to pray for this whole messy situation, for the gross, fallen world we live in, and for the tender hearts of my children who are affected by this as well.

4.  And, sadly, this situation forces me to talk to them about being careful about who they are around and who they trust. To be honest, that was not on my list of things to do today.

This is a desperately sad situation for everyone involved, including my very own children. As I said, this hits home. I’m angry about it all--the effects are so far-reaching--and yet, I’m so sad for our community, for the victim, for the teacher's wife and family, and even for him.

It’s an ugly, messy world we live in, and all kinds of bad stuff happens in it. Stuff I would rather not have to think about or talk to my kids about. But the fact remains that this world, without Jesus, is desperately needy. There is no disguising the fact, no sheltering my kids from it, no bubble big enough to hide away in.

All I can do is praise God that He sent His Son to redeem it. As Easter approaches, this seems especially important.

And that’s a conversation I want to have with my kids.

Deliver Us from Evil

When I walked into the building where I work yesterday, I was greeted with the most glorious sunrise. I was so struck by it that as soon as I put my things in my office, I grabbed my phone and took a few pictures.

 Little did I know, an hour later, all hell would break loose in Connecticut.

We’re never prepared for these things.

One minute we’re enjoying a glorious sunrise, the next, we’re wondering why.

Within minutes, seconds even, of the horrific news being broadcast, my Facebook feed started filling with accusations.

“It’s the guns. If we only got rid of the guns.”

“See? This is what happens when we take prayer out of schools.”

Times like these bring fuel to the fire that lies just beneath our very thin skin.

Here’s the thing. I’m not on the side of those who automatically go to the “we have to take away guns” response. I’m also not on the side of “our kids need to pray in school.”

I’m just trying to see this horrific situation as it is and to call is just what it is: evil.

We’ve stopped talking about evil in our world, but evil is very, very real. And evil is being unleashed at a terrific rate these days. We see it all around us, but we’re afraid to name it.

I’m not a doomsdayer. I’m not a “Church Lady” who finds Satan around every corner. What I am is a Christian who has read her Bible some, and what I see in the gospels is that Jesus is dealing with evil on a daily basis.

When people had physical issues, Jesus cast out demons. Why? Because Jesus recognized that often our issues are more spiritual than we give them credit for.

Some came to Jesus blatantly demon possessed. He cast them out. Because only He can do that.

When the Pharisees tried to blame the parents of a man who was born blind, asking which one of his parents had sinned to bring about this misery, Jesus corrected them and said that nobody has sinned. “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

The works of God displayed in him. In his heart. A change took place and the man was miraculously healed.

Friends, may we be frank? May we see evil as it truly is? There is a spiritual dimension to our lives, and, yes, it’s much more pleasant to talk about the good work that Jesus has done in our lives than to focus on the battle that is waging for our souls. Every day.

I don’t believe that this tragedy was punishment on the people of Newtown, CT. I don’t believe it could have been prevented if people had just prayed more. I don’t even get it much at all, but what I sense is that Satan is having a field day out there, and we Christians aren’t doing much to stop him.

And it’s not just in Newtown. This evil wants to stamp out our own hometowns.

Our churches.

Our families.

Our marriages.

This isn’t a gun problem or even a public prayer problem. It’s a heart problem that we seem to want to ignore. Until hearts are changed, evil will continue to run rampant, Satan will continue to be unleashed, and the spiritual battle will rage.

Praise God that He wins in the end and that He doesn’t leave us helpless. The truth will prevail, and the truth is that God loves us. He loves the people of Newtown, CT. He loves our own broken lives and hearts enough to come to earth to die for us.

The picture is so much bigger than guns or prayer in schools.

What can we do? Ironically, we can pray. At home, alone or with our families. In our churches. In our hearts.

When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He reminded them of the evil that’s in this world and instructed them specifically to pray, “Deliver us from evil.” There’s power in that prayer.

We can also do what the sick and the lame did in the days when Jesus could be felt and touched and seen—we can lay ourselves on His mercy. We can come to Him, touch His robes, fall to our knees and beg for mercy. We need it more than ever.

Our children need it.

Our marriages need it.

Our country needs it.

We need it.


Thanksgiving and the last hour

I’m back from a glorious Thanksgiving with my family.

I got to see my sister pregnant for the first time. So sweet!

And I got to spend Thanksgiving with my entire family. If you’ve been around here in past years, you’ll know that Thanksgiving, while my favorite holiday of the year, has been a bit of a bummer for me. Normally, our Thanksgiving plans consist of just the five of us, so when I think about creating a beautiful meal, setting out the good china and silver, and having just five people around our table, it doesn’t set quite right with me.

So we’ve resorted to eating out. Still, a bummer, but better than the alternative. I think.

Anyway, this year was awesome. For so many reasons.

The week before we left, I had already started to dread the drive home. B wasn’t going to be able to drive home with us because he had to fly from Dallas to a business trip. I knew I had to make the 900 mile drive myself with the girls. Thankfully, I had two more drivers, and Julia was willing to help out in a pinch (*wink wink*), so I knew we’d be fine.

But the drive. Ugh. Nine hundred miles is just a LONG WAY.

We made it. In fact, we cruised. My girls are awesome travelers—lots of early training—so they just hunkered down and didn’t complain at all. We only made quick stops to go to the bathroom or to grab some ice cream, but aside from that we just didn’t stop.

We made the trip in 14 hours. Very nearly a record.

(Never let it be said that my small bladder is to blame for longer road trips. We managed just fine, thankyouverymuch.)

Anyway, somewhere along the way I had mentioned to the girls that the last hour of the trip was the worst for me. I knew the road like the back of my hand, and because of that, I just wanted to be HOME.

I also knew that, statistically, the last hour of the trip was the most dangerous. People put down their guard or something like that.

We had just passed what is, for me, that awful point where I feel like I can’t take it anymore—about one hour from home—when I noticed that the cars on the other side of the road were beginning to back up.

“Hey,” I said to the girls, “Check out the traffic on the other side of the road. We must have missed seeing an accident because the traffic is really backed up over there.”

There was probably a 2-mile traffic jam, but then traffic was moving again . . . for about a mile. Suddenly, we came upon fire trucks, ambulances, and police cars almost completely blocking the other side of the highway. Again. 

This time the accident looked serious.

We were marveling at the traffic—commenting about how these poor people would get through one terrible jam, thinking they were free of it, and one mile later come upon another back-up that was just as bad, if not worse, than the first—when all of a sudden we saw a THIRD crash. This time it was just a rear-end situation, probably common when traffic slows down suddenly, but still, three crashes in a stretch of about five miles.

We were amazed . . . and so grateful that the accidents were on the OTHER side of the highway and not on ours.

Needless to say, I gripped the steering wheel a little tighter and slowed down just a bit.

One of my girls said, “Can you imagine having to sit in that mess? I feel sorry for the people further on down the highway—they don’t know what they’re about to go through. I feel like we should warn them or something.”

Now, I’m not one to over-spiritualize things, and I didn’t feel the need to point this out at the time, but the lesson was obvious to me and I kept turning it over in my mind for the rest of the car ride.

Here’s the thing. If you knew that your friend, family member, or co-worker was headed for a figurative traffic jam of epic proportions, wouldn’t you want to warn them?

Wouldn’t you want to say, “Hey, you’re heading down the wrong highway and you’re going to get caught up in a real mess. Try taking a different way.”

And yet, I have friends whom I know are headed down the wrong highway. I wonder, have I warned them? Have I spoken these exact words into their lives? Have I lived in such a way that my life speaks to them of an alternative route?

The last hour. It’s haunting. It’s dangerous. It’s tiring. And it’s the most important hour of the trip.

I'm not sure I'll ever look at a traffic jam the same again.



A student came by to see me in my office yesterday. She poked her head inside and said, “You said I could come talk to you about anything, right?”

“Sure. Come on in.”

She sat in the empty chair next to the round table and poured her heart out about how she wasn’t sure she should be here. She talked about how she went home this weekend and had such a good time with her friends, just listening to music and dancing the way they used to. She told me she thinks about leaving school and just going home to be with her friends.

But then she said, “I know God wants me here.” And we talked about that. We talked about how she has a lot to contribute to this campus and how He has clearly led her here. We talked about how things at home wouldn’t be the same, even if she did leave and head back to her old neighborhood.

Things are just different now.

All of a sudden I realized her problem.

She’s been in school a month; the initial excitement has worn off. Classes and rehearsals and dorm life have become mundane, and it’s still a long time until Christmas. 

She’s homesick.

This weekend I attended the wake (that's Midwest for visitation) of an old friend from home--a woman almost as dear to me as my own mother. B and I drove an hour to get there, stood in line for 90 minutes to greet the family for five minutes, then drove the hour home.

It was worth every minute.

But, since then, I keep thinking about home. The town I grew up in was much too small for me; I didn’t fit in there; I knew God wanted me here. And yet, even now, I get homesick.

Homesickness, I’ve heard it described, is sometimes our longing for something we just can’t put our finger on. We know things wouldn’t be better “back there” and yet the here and now isn’t quite right either.

It’s the future we want, the future we long for.

Homesickness isn’t about going back; it’s about going forward. It’s about finding fulfillment in a place that isn’t "here and now" and that isn’t what has already been.

Homesickness is about all of our desires and wishes and wants fulfilled by something or someone who alone can fulfill them. It’s about finding love and acceptance and peace in the arms of someone who gets us completely and loves us still. It’s about longing for something we just can’t get our hands on here, no matter how far we reach.

As I talked to my student I realized, I’m homesick, too.

Are you?
"If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." C.S. Lewis

Linking to Richella's Grace at Home party. 


Seeing Rightly: What I Learned from my Cleaning Lady Today

Might I ask you to pray for someone our family loves dearly?

Today was “Beata Day.” The day, every two weeks, that we all look forward to because we know that our dear Beata will come clean us up and put us all back together again.

Yes, I have a cleaning lady, but she’s much more than that to me. She’s a friend who has closely watched my kids grow up, patiently putting their shoes away when I’ve told them a hundred times that Beata’s coming and they need to put them away. She’s the one who knows where I keep the old rags—in a tattered cardboard box on a rickety gray shelf back in a corner of the basement. She’s the one who knows pretty much all about us and doesn’t judge. (I love her for that.)

Over the years she has shared bits and pieces of her life with me in her broken English. How she left her home country many years ago in order to come here, work hard, and make a better life for her family. How she waited four years for her husband to get a green card to come here too. How she left her teenage daughters (I can’t begin to imagine how painful that must have been!), now grown up and married and having babies of their own. How she has missed out on birthdays and weddings and births.

On Sunday, Beata’s parents flew to Chicago from their homeland to visit their daughter and son-in-law—what was supposed to be a fun two weeks. But while still in line for Passport Control in the airport (three hours, Beata said, with no water), her father collapsed and suffered a heart attack. He was rushed to the hospital where he died two days later.

And just two days after that, Beata came here—to work! (I sent her home.)

But we talked for a while before she left this morning, tears occasionally sliding down her cheeks, and you know what she told me? She told me about the plans her parents had for her and her husband. How her parents lived in a really big house, and how their dream was for Beata and her husband to return home in a few years to live with them. She told me that her parents had been married for 48 years and were already planning a trip for their 50th wedding anniversary. A trip that will never be taken. She told me that it had been seven years—seven years!—since she had seen her father.

I kept nodding my head, holding her hand, telling her how very sorry I was that this happened to her.

Then she told me something that I won’t soon forget: she said, “But I got to see my father.”

You see, rather than focus on all the bad that has happened to her in the past few days (oh, heck, the past few years), she chose to focus on the good: the fact that she got to SEE her father in his last few hours. She got to hold his hand (“He squeezed my hand so tight,” she told me) as his strength left him in the hospital. And although he couldn’t speak to her, his eyes fluttered open every now and then and she knew without a doubt that he saw her.

“I got to see my father.”

Tragedy has struck my friend—real tragedy. Not the kind of thing we think of as our everyday tragedy: our car broke down or my kid’s Homecoming dress didn’t get delivered in time or the grocery store was out of the specific kind of pasta I was looking for. We get frustrated, upset even, when the slightest little bit of our life doesn’t go as planned.

I think they call those First World Problems. They’re all around us.

And they drive us crazy and make us think we’re justified to get frustrated and upset. (We’re not, just in case you were wondering.) We act like our lives should be so easy—that we deserve easy. (We don’t, by the way.) And that these “problems” threaten our very sense of peace and security. (Ask a Christian living in the Middle East about peace and security.)

And when these little irritations happen, we complain. Loud and hard, boy do we complain. We let everyone around us know how bad we have it—so much worse than our neighbor down the street.

Can I tell you something? I get tired of the complaining. I just don’t want to hear about it until you have something worth complaining about.

Like how your father, whom you haven’t seen for seven years, traveled halfway around the world and collapsed before you even get to give him a hug.

That you could complain about.

But you see, the irony of this world seems to be, to me, that the people who deserve to complain never do.

They just look at the tiny bit of good in their bucketload of bad.

“I got to see my father.”


Linking to At the Picket Fence's Inspiration Friday, Serenity Now's Weekend Bloggy Reading, and Richella's Grace at Home party.


Good Friday

We had had a bad week.

Well, I can’t speak for him, but I had had a bad week, and it culminated, as it usually does, in us taking it all out on each other.

The busyness. The frustrations. The obstacles. The fears.

They all came crashing to a head, and I broke under the weight of it.

I’m not pleased nor proud that this is my pattern, but it is. The pattern of the everyday. The pattern of the worn out, the weary. The pattern of the sinner.

I stumbled, feeling every frayed edge of the day, into the Good Friday service, not feeling it, not wanting it, and not expecting it. It was supposed to be a time of reflection.

Oh, I had reflected alright. Reflected on hurt. Reflected on anger. Reflected on injustice.

Reflected on me rather than Him.

So I stumbled from the car—did that door close a little too hard?—and up the stairs—Why, hello! How was your day?—and straight into Him.

Only He was wearing a dress. And had thinning hair. And was sitting in a wheelchair. And was reaching out to me with a shaking hand, eyes locked on mine.

He mumbled something I couldn’t understand, and His husband was standing behind the chair, eyes pleading too, begging.

I grabbed His hand, trying to be kind.

“Will you help us, please?” His husband asked, gently. “My wife really needs to use the bathroom.”

The worn and weary became fear and I-can’t-do-this-but-what-choice-do-I-have?

Let me tell you something about me. When I sin, I sin big; you just can’t see it. Oh, it’s there, festering, stumbling, growing underneath a smile and a hug and a kindness that seems real.

And so I did what any person would do in a church. I said, “Sure. I’ll help you. Just tell me what to do.” But inside I was praying, “Why me?!

This is a fear, a huge fear of mine: Sick people. Weak people. People who need other people. And Jesus, seeing my weakened, sinful state, after a week of outright ugly, knew this.

Still, He asked. Of course, He asked.
“And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” Matthew 25:40
Help Me? When it’s convenient.

Serve Me? When I have time.

Die for Me? Wait, You’re supposed to do that.

When I joined my family in the darkened church, unready to worship, I was wrecked.

The huge, wooden cross, draped in black, crown of thorns perched on top, mocked me from the front. The words to every song humiliated me.

He was not the One needing my help--I was the one needing His. His help, His service, His death. In my selfish state, I could not see Him until He asked me to do the one thing I did not think I could do.

Sick, weak, needy. That is the state of my heart every moment of every day. I should be in a hospital, I need healing so badly.

Yet in His merciful, graceful, lovingkindness He showed me that even at my worst—my sickened, weakened, needy state—He could still use me, helpless. In fact, only in that state can He truly use me.

“But God showed His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

Upside down grace, that’s what He showed me last Friday.

Good Friday.

Three Signs

“Mom, can I ask you a question?”

I looked up from my cereal bowl.

“Sure. What’s up?”

And thus began one of the most significant conversations and, bonus!, time of prayer with my daughter that I’ve had in a long time.

It did not go unnoticed by me that my computer sat on the table nearby.


Later, walking the dog, I was thinking hard about how I haven’t written in a while and how I’ve been trying to balance (not all that well, mind you) being digitally distracted with doing the actual work of writing. Basically, I was thinking about slowing down to see what’s in front of me and what that meant and what that should look like in my life right now.

And then, a goldfinch.

Just sitting on a ledge. Near the sidewalk. Causing me to slow down, take a good look, and smile.

You just don’t see goldfinches around here every day.

Goldfinches require stopping because they’re skittish, goldfinches, and if you hurry or rush to see them they will fly away. Quickly.

Kind of like kids.

Later still, reading a couple of my favorite blogs, I read this from Suzanne. Click over. Read it. Listen to the music (Suzanne plays the BEST music).

Is it middle age? Is it God speaking to me? Is it just the fact that between my family, my church, and my class I have very little time left for this space here?

I don’t know what it is, but today I think I’ve found the balance. For now.

See, here’s the thing. I need to write my thoughts. I love writing those kinds of posts—the ones about the things I’m thinking about. But you don’t always want to read that. I mean, I’m kind of boring and a little strange and not to mention boring, so my thoughts might not always interest you (unless you’re married to me and then my thoughts HAVE to interest you).

You seem to be interested in food. 

Well, I am too. I love food!

But you seem to be especially interested in the food I cook for my family. Go figure.

So where I see things right now, at least until school ends in early May, at which time I will probably inundate you with posts about nonsense and my sorrow about my oldest turning 20 and being gone for the summer and only spending two weeks of 2012 in our actual home . . . *sigh* . . .

Where was I?

Oh yes, where I see things right now . . . is that I like to write deep thoughts (don’t laugh) and you like food. So I’ve come up with a compromise based on the three signs I got today telling me to slow down or let it go or whatever those signs were supposed to tell me. 

And the compromise is this: I will keep writing here. I want to keep writing here. But I will have to, for the next month or so until classes end (oh, I also have a high school graduation in May!) cut back a bit.

So between your needs and mine, I’m going to write one post for you every week, and one post for me. Your post will be called "Fabulous Friday Food," which will allow you a small peek inside our kitchen window, with a recipe to boot. My post will be posted here somewhere around Tuesday and will be something I’m thinking about, concerned about, happy about, or just plain about.

Sound like a deal?

Oh, one more thing. Since I’m giving you a recipe, will you give me something? Like a comment? Or a “Follow”? I’d love it so much, like, with whipped cream on top (but no cherry—I hate those cherries).

So today was productive. I figured some things out, thanks to the three signs I received.

How good is God?!

Photo credit


Digitally Distracted

This is going to be ugly and humiliating, so have a seat. We might be here a while.

I’ve been thinking a lot about digital distractions lately.

Our campus was hurt recently by some people misusing Twitter. I won’t go into the details, but it was not good, all around. Our president addressed the situation beautifully in chapel, beginning with the concept of digital distraction.

He suggested that chapel is probably not the place to be digitally distracted—it’s meant for more than just a community gathering time. Chapel is worship and worship might just not be the appropriate place for cell phones.

Using the example of a Christmas Eve service he attended, he explained that the gentleman sitting next to him was on his cell phone, checking email or something else, throughout the service. Our president said he didn’t know what to do. He was so distracted that he couldn’t enjoy the worshipful Christmas Eve service that was unfolding before him because of the person sitting next to him.

I’ve had the same experience during one of my daughter’s orchestra concerts. A gentleman walked into the concert late, sat down next to me, and pulled out his cell phone. The bright light emanating from his phone distracted me throughout the concert, ruining the experience entirely.

Both of these experiences have got me thinking (and here’s where things get ugly and humiliating for me)—have I been digitally distracted?

The easy answer to that question is yes. I know I have.

When I close my computer for the night, then immediately pick up my cell phone and start checking emails, I know I have a problem. When I walk in the door and check Facebook updates, I know I have a problem. When I come downstairs in the morning and read emails before I read my Bible, I know I have a problem.

Here are a few thoughts I’ve had recently as God has spoken to my heart about my own digital distractions.

When we are digitally distracted, we hurt people without realizing it. Sometimes we are so consumed by what’s going on inside the screen that we forget to look up and see what’s going on outside of it. I know I have hurt people by my own actions in this area, something that is so humbling to me I can barely stand to write it. I have also been on the receiving end of others’ digital distraction, so I fully understand the hurt I have caused.

If I truly believe that people are more important than things, I need to look up and out, not into a screen.

When we are digitally distracted, we keep ourselves from doing other things we probably should be doing. Like making dinner, hanging curtains, and cleaning out closets. These are just a few things on my to-do list. What does yours look like?

When we are digitally distracted, we keep others from doing what they should be doing. I wonder if my distraction has so consumed the people around me that it distracted them from other things as well. I wonder if I’ve been like that person in church, just checking my phone real quick, and keeping someone from worshiping God as they should.

So I’ve been wondering what I need to change, and I’ve come up with a few ideas.

Be aware. This process has already started for me, and I am so much more aware lately of how I’ve allowed digital distractions to creep into my real life. I understand that there is a time and a place for technology in my life—I couldn’t work or write without it—but there is also a time and a place to put the technology aside.

Look up, not in. I’m going to try, as much as possible, to close my computer when my kids walk in the room. Hey, I’ve got teenagers, and the conversations don’t always happen naturally. Sometimes they just happen when we’re hanging out, undistracted. I know for sure that my kids aren’t going to talk to me if I barely look up when they enter the room. (Another sentence that is slightly painful to write.)

This sounds like such a no-brainer but I need to limit my time on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Reader. Twitter isn’t that much of a distraction for me—I rarely go there, but when I do I can get sucked in. Facebook and Google Reader, though, are complete traps for me. Again, I don’t think any of this is necessarily wrong, and I find it relaxing to read blogs, but if the amount of time I’m spending there feels like too much, it’s too much.

You might be thinking, What’s the big deal? If my kids are on the computer doing homework, why can’t I just be on my computer too? Here’s why I think it’s a big deal: I think our kids take their cues from us, and if they see us sitting in front of a screen all evening, they will think the same is O.K. for them.

But the truth is, we desperately need to get away from it all. We need time and space to just talk or read or think. And being digitally distracted is not going to give us the space to do that.

Like I said, I need my computer to work and to write, but I don’t need my computer as much or as often as I think I do. This week I’m going to try, especially when my family is around, to live in the real world rather than the virtual one. Hopefully my habits will change and I’ll be a better person for it.

Of course, I might find some other things change too. I might find that I don’t need technology as much as I think I do. I might find that those spontaneous conversations actually can and do happen. I might find that I like myself a little more and that the people around me like me better too.

Trust me, this is so convicting to write, but I worry that it’s not just me who is digitally distracted. We’re raising an entire generation of kids who think they cannot survive without being plugged in. (Believe me, I see it every day at work.)

Glennon at Momastery (a fabulous new-to-me blog that I already LOVE) wrote about this recently, and she said this: “Sometimes I have to turn away from the computer so that I can experience life and then come back and write about what I noticed.”

Yes! I need . . . my kids need . . . an entire generation needs to turn away from digital distractions and simply experience LIFE. I want to be the parent who models this because I want my kids to live in the real world.

And want to live there too.

How about you? Have you been digitally distracted? What did you do about it? I’d love to know your thoughts on this.