Monthly Archives: July 2013

Up in this Mess

My phone rang the other day. It was my home phone. I never answer my home phone. Why do I even have a home phone?  I keep it in case
I  were to ever fall off a ladder someday and my kids need to call 911 (Because I go on a lot of ladders. I never go on ladders.) But other than that, if you ever call me or a leave a message on that line, I will probably call you two months later because I forget I have a home phone. Anyways, this has nothing to do with what is on my heart to share. And yet, my phone rang.

I picked it up expecting to hear a recorded message about some great credit card offer or a political opinion call from someone zealously assuming I share their stance. But instead it was the voice of an older woman that I know, but not well. In the space between hello and more, I wondered how she got my number and what she might have wanted. She began to explain an experience she had at a woman’s ministry day called Collide (check it out on facebook), that had meant so much to her. She said that for the first time in her life (and she is probably nearing 60) she realized what God meant when He said ‘Confess your sins to one another and you will be healed.’

As she said this, it struck me that I have no idea what God meant when He said this. I  certainly have a lot of garbage and dirty laundry all over the place and boy do I need a lot more healing up in this mess. Her statement of realization beckoned a question within me. “What does it mean
that when we confess we are healed?” I was intrigued.

Therefore
confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so
that you may be healed.
James 5:16

She said for the first time in her life as a Christian woman she was invited to share and be real about her story and wounds with other women. It was that day that her and another friend opened up to one another and shared what they were carrying. She said that moment changed things for her, “It’s not that when you confess you are healed that instant,” she said “ but when you confess to one another, that is the beginning of healing.”

Profound.
Simply profound.

This woman said she had been trying to get her story on paper for 20 years and now she finally felt freed up to do that. She said she opened up for the first time  with a friend about getting pregnant at a young age and her family encouraging her to give up her baby. The entire story unfolded leaving her with secrets and shame and longing for decades. She wondered what happened to her baby, she was left with deep pain but unable to speak about it. She felt guilty, dirty, promiscuous and silenced.

And then someone
gave a woman permission to tell her story. And telling your story is the
beginning of healing.

Perhaps, if today you feel a bit broken, like I woke up, we can together begin telling our story, confessing to one another what we carry, and in that, we can experience God show up and begin mending those broken pieces back to whole. And perhaps we can be a people that invite others to do the same, and in that, we can be used by Him to stitch up the brokenness of others so that they can say “I am more who I am meant to be!”

For some reason, God wants us to open up deeply to one another and He promises to be faithful to the act of telling, of sharing, of confessing. He promises healing out of confession and prayer. Honest story telling actually begins to be the place God meets us in the midst of the most painful parts of who we are and rewrites our story with the touch of His healing Hands because of our vulnerably faithful mouths. Let us learn from this woman who called- to tell our story and to invite others to do the same and there our shame, secrets, pain, guilt and mess will begin to heal.

Where have you experienced the beginning of healing by openly sharing your story with another? What keeps us from vulnerably confessing to one another? Let’s share our thoughts here….

Pin This

IMG_0418

This is my sink.

This is a smoothie cup my kid drank out of and the dishwasher has tried cleaning it 3 times.

This is a roasting pan full of pork fat that I haven’t cleaned in 3 days.

This is my kitchen counter today.

Pin that.

We pin the things we think are beautiful, lovely and desirous. We put on our profiles the image we want people to have in mind when they think of us. When is the last time facebook asked us what we had on our mind and we said something like “eating as many Doritos as possible while watching trash tv and stalking my highschool sweetheart” or “slapping my neighbor across the face because I can’t stand them” or “getting in my car and never coming home”? We don’t see those kind of posts even if we feel them because we allow people to see in us what we believe sells. Yes, that’s right, sells. We are like products on shelves. We are staged items trying to convince people to buy us. We put our best pictures out there for everyone to see. When is the last time you took a picture of your muffin top or your backside with the cottage cheese factories and tagged yourself for the world to admire? You haven’t. And neither have I. I actually have a rule, it’s more of a joke, but still…. I will not have any pictures of me on facebook that won’t make all my ex- boyfriends regretful. That is becoming almost an impossible task these days. I am going to have to start photoshopping every picture to keep this hideous rule. Or go on a diet and eat lettuce for the rest of my life, make good friends with a plastic surgeon or more feasible, untag every photo that pops up. Or I can age gracefully, become ok with who I am and be just that.

I can sell you who you want to buy. But then I am just a product, an image, a marketing gimmick. I can talk about my kids on honor roll, who are awesome at sports and always get along. But I would be lying. I would be talking about your kids, not my kids. Because your kids (you as in the capital ‘I’ image that people portray)  as it seems always clean their room, eat broccoli, write letters to their grandparents and memorize scripture. I hear so much about your kids that I think I have to sell you mine. We are like walking commercials selling ourselves as “the product”,  just hoping someone will buy us, put us on their shelf and keep us.

We have this mentality in so many arenas of life. If I just dress a certain way, if I just drive a nicer car, if I have funnier stories, if I come across like I don’t care at all, if I know a lot of people, if I say the right things or go to enough parties or show you pictures that intrigue you…. We are just building our profile, so people will friend us and think we are really something, important and worthy and then we might believe it too.

What if we stop all this nonsense? What if we start pinning the truth? What if we pin keeping it real? What if people can’t handle what is real and true and messy about us? Will we no longer be really something, important and found worthy? Will no one buy us and keep us on their shelf?

If I pin this picture of my stove, will you refuse to eat the array of bon appétit that comes wafting out of my kitchen? What if I stop coloring my hair, will you talk about how I have let myself go and feel sorry
for my husband? What if I stop looking strong, will I be too much for you? What if I actually tell you I am sad, will you care? These are the kind of questions, we wonder when we consider pinning truth in our lives. And since we aren’t sure if people will buy us as imperfect as we are, we keep selling, we keep marketing, we keep portraying, we keep imaging. We pin what we want to become so that we might become what we pin.

For this is what the Lord says: Isaiah 52:3 You were sold for nothing, and without money you will be redeemed.

We have been sold. For nothing. Ouch.

We have been selling ourselves as though we are sitting alongside the street with a sign that says “Free”. Please just anyone take this. Take what I am putting out there. We have actually begun to believe that we have to get people to take us and this mentality has created these image sellers pinning and posting perfection. And God says you
might have been sold for nothing, but I will redeem you with what is worth far more than money. My own life. God will redeem us from this kind of slavery to selling an  image by reminding us just how valuable we already are. God will rescue us from having to be perfect and put together by reminding us of His love. The Bible says “while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”That means that when our life choices look like my kitchen, God still sees in us a worth so valuable that He was willing to go to the greatest lengths to remind us just how loved we are. Our value doesn’t come from convincing other people we are great, it comes from a great God reminding us of our value.  By His love- we can begin to believe that we are great despite anything that tries to steal our greatness.

Somehow we need to stop selling ourselves. You are not a product to be bought or sold. Nor are you an image you have to portray. You are a creation of God. He made you. He breathed life into you. He sustains your every breath. You are His child. Regardless of what your kitchen looks like, or your marriage or your social strata or any other mess in your life, you in and of yourself are really something.

You have been made.

You have purpose.

You have destiny.

You are the apple of His eye.

He has paid for you with His whole life because you are worth that much.

Stop trying to convince people you are something. You already are. Pin that.

Once Upon a Time Changes Everything

Once upon a time…

is a phrase that has been used since the 1300’s to begin story. Story gives life color. It paints a picture. It gives background and understanding. Think about some of the most famous stories of all time- let’s say Cinderella for example. Cinderella being locked up in a room sewing a fancy dress with mice doesn’t quite pack the punch when you don’t know that once upon a time her mom died and her dad married a total whack jobYou don’t have the same hatred and anger and you don’t feel her situation is as wrong as it truly is unless you hear her story. When you watch the ever so thrilling Alfred Hitchcock film, Rear Window, we know it ends with Thorwald confessing he kills his own wife. Yeah yeah, a dramatic movie with a man who buried his wife in the backyard-we have heard that one before. But when you see the once upon a time unfold through the eyes of his neighbor who sits in a wheelchair and sees the drama play out of his rear window, you know why this is one of the greatest films of all time. When you look at the Beebs, he looks like a sellout poser and then you see his once upon a time story and realize he came from little, grew up without a dad and opened up a bongo drum when he was like 3 and mastered it the first time he played. You see he was born with talent and when you see his hair twitch while he plays his guitar outside his local mall, it makes you like Bieber, even if you were a hater, and now you can “never say never”. 

Understanding our once upon a time story changes everything. It changes how we view ourselves, how we view others and how we view God.

The Bible story is one that begins with a God who takes nothing and makes it something. He forms what is shapeless and fills what is empty. He makes what’s not- what is.  The beginning of Genesis tells of a God who called forth light and day and night and made the expanse, what is land and
sky. He thought it was a good idea to make the pomegranate, the peach tree and  corn on the cob. But that wasn’t enough. God called forth starfish in so many colors and worms that can be broken in half and still live and caterpillars that turn into beautiful butterflies. He breathed life for the first time into the tulip’s brilliant colors, the goose who had no need to migrate yet, and the puppy who had yet to become pit bull.   Then God said ‘lets us make man’ and he took dust from the ground and He breathed life into it and there was man- fine in form! Then God took from the man one rib and made woman. And the man saw this hotly and said “Whoa man!” and that is how she became known as woman. God made them and He loved them and He basically said “play and frolic in this beautiful space I have given you to live.”

In the Bible we have our

story of origin

and if believed by faith it changes the way you look at the world.

What do I mean?

When I see you as created by God, I see you as important, special, and worthy of life. When I believe I am created, I understand my life was intended and destined no matter what anybody or any circumstance says. We were made and our

lives matter.

As this once upon a time story goes…things get really screwed up. It is a story of a people in rebellion who continually to choose their own way and their own way doesn’t seem to work- so this God keeps trying to guide them toward the path of least destruction. It is a story of people who have no loyalty. They’ll screw everybody and their brother, to get where they want to go and God in this story tries to restore their sense of love and care for others.  It is a story of people who are the definition of dysfunction junction. They sleep with their own fathers, kill each other with tent pegs and use animals for their own pleasure. The sins of their families passed on right into their stories and their DNA and this story tells of a God who wants to be bigger than family baggage.

We get this part of the story.

Once upon a time things got really messy. Once upon a time he left and never came back. Once upon a time they betrayed me. Once upon a time I messed up so big time that things will never be the same. Once upon a time I cared and now I don’t give a damn. Once upon a time we were happy
and now we are miserable. Once upon a time I was pure and now I am tainted.

So we get this part of the story in the Bible. It’s like somehow along the way, man plowed down the flowers to build strip malls and geese started migrating to get away from choking on bubble gum, the pit bull started eating children for snacks and kids are raising themselves. The God throughout this book seems to be a God who is continually trying to restore what people damaged. It is a story about how religious people stained spirituality and the pursuit of God and it tells of God’s way of redeeming that. As we get this story in the Bible it goes on to tell… in the midst of what humanity damaged with their greed and pride, their stubborn hearts and their ugly wars, the story goes that God shows up in the hood of the
war zone and actually hangs out with them because he desires what is getting so old to become new again, as He originally intended.

And when God shows up in the neighborhood, Jesus collides with people trying to remind them LIFE MATTERS. Those people you judge, they matter. Those people you pass by and pretend they are invisible, they matter. Those people that believe differently than you do and you think
they are nuts, they matter. Those people that look different than you do- they matter. Those people who intimidate you, they matter. Those people who hurt you, even they matter. Jesus told stories all the time challenging His listeners to believe that they mattered and so did their neighbors. But He not only told stories about life mattering, Jesus lived and died that story so you would believe it. And you believing that LIFE MATTERS – Jesus thought, would have the enormous capacity to change the entire world back to the way it was intended to be,

once upon a time.

Nothing Will Separate Us as Nothing Matters More: by William C. Boos

 I remember the first time I sat down with William over coffee (of course) and he shared his journey with me. Throughout William’s childhood he had experienced such rough, adverse and destructive collisions with hurtful people, that he, with a raw honesty, shared the details of those things. I hurt for him greatly, but was given the amazing privilege of hearing the new life and hope God is shaping now within Him. The day he walked into the grotto, as you will read, he told me was life changing. He said he looked at a statue of Mary holding baby Jesus. With all the pain he held inside William saw the vulnerability of God who chose to come into the world as a baby to tell people their lives matter and it hit him right there and then. Continue to read his story as he tells it and what the sight of Jesus did in and through him….
– 
Willow

Proverbs 8:17 “I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.”

It was during my junior year of high school when I felt Jesus collide with my life.

I stood facing what seemed like a hopeless life, filled with nothing but doubt, misery, and pain. I was constantly picked on and bullied at school, my friends had all but deserted me, I didn’t exist at home, and my relationship with God was nonexistent. For the first time in my life, I felt completely abandoned and utterly alone.

It didn’t take long for me to start believing the thoughts that would creep into my head. It was as if someone was constantly whispering them
into my mind, filling me with hopelessness.

What’s the point, you know you’ll never the good enough…”

“Who could ever love such a disappointment?”

“Do everyone a favor and just die. It’s the only way to escape
the pain of being such a failure.”

I had failed at being a friend, a son, a brother, a Christian, a person… I had failed at everything. By ending my own life, I could escape this
unbearable and lonely life. I could, for once, do something right.

I had arrived at my church in the late afternoon; the place that had one day been my sanctuary would soon be my grave. As I sat in the small
grotto behind the church, my head swam with the faces and memories of those I had loved and lost, my parents, my sister, my friends… Tears spilled onto my face as I slipped a knife out of my pocket and laid the cool blade upon my wrist. As I closed my eyes, I said my final prayer.

I’m so sorry God for being so weak. I tried to be somebody worth loving, but I just ended up being a disappointment and a failure. I’m
sorry I broke my promise to You, but I just can’t take this anymore. Goodbye.”

Then, He collided with me.

He crashed into me so hard that I fell onto the cold, hard ground and before I knew what was happening, the walls that I had built so carefully around my heart began to quickly crumble away. All of the pain and anger I had bottled up burst, and I began to cry harder than I had ever done
before. For the first time, I truly felt all of the emotions I had locked away, all of the anger, the guilt, the pain, everything.

I had turned away from God; ashamed with myself for never being able to be the person I had promised time after time to be. I left Him, before
He could leave me, just like everyone else in my life had. But as I lay there, I also finally felt the presence of God re-enter my life. His love cradled me
and comforted me; giving me something that I hadn’t felt in a long time, hope. Hope that I wouldn’t have to face the unknown alone.

As I stood facing my life so full of doubt, misery, and pain, I was reminded of a Bible verse that I now carry with me, as a daily reminder, which has filled me with the determination to keep moving forward: Romans 8:38-39“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I have never forgotten what Jesus taught me the day He collided with my life; that I will never truly be alone and that nothing can ever separate myself from His love.

The Cutest Lil’ Parade on Earth

This past weekend we went to, seriously, the cutest, most nostalgic and quaint parade that I think exists on the planet. This rave review does not come out of a place of traveling the globe to rate the myriad of parades that walk down your average road. But the Max Wellington Fourth of July parade invited me into another time, place and feeling. I felt as though I had traveled in a time machine onto a beach to the mid 1900’s and realized that all this time I had been living in the wrong era. Things were brighter. People smiled more. Families liked each other. Everyone ate strawberry shortcake. The spirit and festivity was incredible! We walked along the beach past these old historic homes passing the parade goers and the parade partakers to find a place to sit. As the parade began I was struck by the beauty and diversity of each passer by.

There was this one kid that caught my eye as he was following the Lions Club motorists who were revving their engines so loudly in pride for the amount of money they had raised for charities across the country. Now you have to imagine that from this little guy’s perspective, after following these hardcore bikers on a trike for 20 minutes, he wasn’t as impressed by the roaring engines or the black pleather pants as we were.  I was impressed by this kid’s natural response to cover his ears because he lacked the portrayal and “put on” image that he should be a certain way and instead was exactly as he felt. This boy was trying to be nothing other than less loud.

There were the gnomes. Who enters a parade and says “let’s dress up as gnomes” ? These guys. I have no idea why. They weren’t advertising anything. They apparently like to hide in gardens, wear white beards and lift carriages holding chicks in smocks with pointy toes.

This girl just loved her dog. She loved her dog so much that she was grabbing his right paw and waving it to the crowd, in a way to say hello to all through her pooch’s paw. Everyone who saw her could relate because we all remember communicating things to the world though our pets. She made me want to hop in a red wagon and have some strong fella pull me while I hold a cute Cocker Spaniel and hide behind him and let the world know, I really am, friendly.

There were the hippy flower children women who wore moccasins and whose bike baskets were full of daisies and fresh produce. Rather than throw candy, they were throwing radishes. There is nothing more you’d rather eat for a snack than a warm radish that has been tossed at you like a piece of taffy, landed on the pavement that countless people have walked, only to bite into its spicy refreshment. These women brought us back to dirt and seeds and foods closest to God. They stole us for a  moment away from busyness and pesticides and fake sugar. They made me want to skip to my loo and run through a field of poppies and braid my hair. After these women were the stilt walkers, the dogs in strollers and the man who wore the thought provoking message “be the parade you want to see.”

We don’t go to parades to watch people all look and do the same thing. Imagine a parade that is only people on horses, white horses wearing the exact same plaid shirt yelling “yeehaw” with the poop collector girl walking behind them cleaning it up over and over again. Or imagine a parade where only kids wear red, white and blue and ride bikes and plug their ears and that is all that happens. (The kid plugging his ears caught my eyes because he was the only kid plugging his ears.) Imagine a parade where everyone brings scarves and flags and waves them above their heads to the same song, a Fleetwood Mac song, and this goes on for 60 minutes. Imagine a parade where old men bring their collector cars that all look the same, red chevys, and they drive by and wave with their bored wives on the passenger side waving too, as if to say drearily “…another parade I have to go to with my car obsessed husband.” If parades were like this, we wouldn’t pack up our foldable chairs, put on our visors and sit in the hot sun all too cheer monotony and cookie cutters.

We like parades because we like to people watch. We like to people watch because we appreciate the diversity of people. We like that one man is obsessed with cars and another with pirates. We like stories about soldiers coming home from war and stories of families who unicycle together.

We like to see people marching for boy scouts, community gardens, religious freedom and just for fun.

When God said “I made you in my image” and we look around and see so many images, the vastness of who God is becomes greater than we can imag(ine). When I see the degree of difference in how we express ourselves I think about how God has expressed Himself through the burning bush, the rainbow and the sunset, the whisper to Elijah, and
through Jesus who constantly tells us “am here expressing myself to you world – telling you what I am like.” When I see the variety of colors in our skin I know that God is not white, brown, nor black but all are stamped in His likeness whether we are from Scandinavia, South Korea or a far away place and story we have yet to discover. When I am faced with the different ways we think about life I am in awe by God and His thoughts, His wisdom, and His perspective that spans the universe beyond the big dipper and the milky way.  In life’s parade, I am reminded we are all made in our Creator’s image and I image Him to be the most brilliant color spectrum. I imagine God likened to the most interesting of novels. I imagine our Maker to be the most thought provoking of conversationalists. I imagine Him to be the most creative artist that draws us into His work. When we look at one another and the differences seem vast, let us not forget “they too” are made in His image. When we cannot see eye to eye, let us not forget, even those we disagree with were created in God’s likeness. When we wave a different flag, must we not forget, we have the same Daddy.

When you sit in your chair and watch the parade pass you by, don’t just try and get all the candy, don’t just look for the people you know, don’t just critique those who walk by for whatever “stupid cause” they are behind, but instead see God and all that He has sculpted- for His work is awe inspiring. And His work is you. And His work is me. And His work is
them. And His work parades by us each and every day.

Lessons of a Lemonade Stand

Yesterday, for homework, I had my kids start by writing all the fun things they wanted to do on such a fine summery day. They had all kinds of ideas. They wanted to go to the waterslides, intertube, make sherbet, and go earring shopping! I then assigned them the task of writing a letter to each other trying to convince the other of what we should actually spend our day doing. This was all my highly manipulative way of getting them to do homework by seeing fun at homeowork’s end. So they wrote each other letters, edited all the missing periods and capitals and then stood up on the front porch and read them to one another.  Aidan tried to convince Bella to go intertubing and Bella then tried to convince Aidan to have a lemonade stand. Because we don’t own a boat to intertube behind, we collectively decided we would put up their first lemonade stand . But it wasn’t going to be just any lemonade stand, it was going to have cookies and ice cream bars and popsicles too! I asked them what they were going to do with the money and they decided to take any profit down to the mission to feed the homeless. This lemonade stand became a great teacher!

The kids learned measurements and how to follow a recipe to make lemonade. They learned how to share duties and not squabble over who gets to do what. They learned how to shop on a budget and the importance of having good hygiene when selling food products. (We are otherwise an unbathed people.) They learned how to price items, how to greet customers and how to let people know what their money is going towards. Aidan, on his own  accord said “I am going door to door.” And that kid hit the road knocking on the neighbors doors telling them to come on out! How bold! Bella learned to use her voice outside of her shyer self and beckon people yelling “Lemonade! Come get some lemonade!”

The school of lemonade stands taught me that you can make community happen. We had no plans yesterday. We could have done anything. We could have done house chores, gone to the beach, grocery shopped, or waited for something to come our way. We live in a pretty quiet neighborhood and all the neighbors keep to themselves. They are mostly older and don’t come out much and the street is such that it doesn’t invite people to hang outside and shoot the breeze. The lemonade stand drew people out of their homes, off the internet, out of the shade and through the woods, all to sip some cheap sun warmed fake lemons. The neighbor kitty corner came out in her Hawaiian moo moo and bought a cup. A mentor who lives 3 blocks down drove by to grab some refreshment and a break from putting in a sprinkler system in on of the hottest days of the year. The teacher across the street stopped by and talked football, retirement plans and memories of his kids growing up on this same corner. An older man came and bought an ice cream bar he never intended to eat just “to be kind” he said as it melted the entire time he sat next to me in a red adirondack. He talked about his son’s divorce, the burglaries in the hood and the family reunions he has inherited that used to be like funerals but he is trying to turn what is morbid into what should bring joy. Some neighbor boys rode their bikes through the woods because their parents saw the stand on facebook and bought way more ice cream than their parents probably wanted them too. The city workers came out in their hot uniforms. And by hot, I mean very warm, as to which I said, “Couldn’t you get the city to give you the shorts version of that get up?”  I pay enough darn taxes…I mean…. (I wasn’t flirting. This was mere compassion.) The sweaty man in uniform laughed and proceeded with, “I will take two lemonades.”  We saw many customers, chit chatted with neighbors, met new friends, spilled enough lemonade to quench the thirst of the entire mission, had trouble with giving change and made $32.42.

So a few meals will be enjoyed because my kids decided not to hit the beach. But I saw something else happen as a result of putting up this lemonade stand. They made community happen. People came out of their isolation. They had reason to. Neighbors were introduced to neighbors. Now people have a name with a face and an experience too. People rallied around a good cause. Good- because it was reminiscent of things past. Good -because it made two kids feel really special. Good- because people who cannot feed themselves will eat. Good – because people opened up with people. We live so isolated from one another. And even if we don’t feel isolated because we have our customary friends and family members that we choose to be with, we live in isolated communities. People drive home after work, wave to their neighbors and push the garage door button to open and push the garage door button to close. We rarely sit down with someone 50 years older than us and give them free license to share what they hold inside. If we are honest, most of us don’t even know our neighbors names. I finds that individuals spend a lot of time waiting for community to come to them. A neighbor can invite us to the potluck. A friend can call us for the coffee date. “They” can introduce themselves. “They” can invite us over. “They” can initiate the connection. We even wait for “they” to start the good cause. My kids were the “they” yesterday. “They” put up a lemonade stand and made community out of lemons.

It was that simple.

We are a  people made to know one another, made to engage and connect relationally. We are a relational people. God made us that way and HE is a relational God. We see God all throughout history in the Bible connecting with His people and calling them to connect with one another. If today you feel lonely, if today you feel disconnected, if today you don’t feel known, put up a lemonade stand. Do something that draws community. Don’t be the person who waits for others to make it happen for you. Tell your blinds they open. Tell your friend, Mr. Internet that you can’t play today. Tell your tea kettle it’s time to steep for others. Tell your insecurities they are holding you back. Tell your depression it will only go away by you walking with others. You can make community out of lemons. You really can. I learned that from two pretty darn cute sun scorched kids.

Boy do I learn a lot from my kids!