Friday, September 25, 2015

At Peace

I often turn to writing when I am struggling with some large question or frustration, but when the tide turns and I am at peace, I don’t feel quite the same need to put my thoughts to paper. For those whose interaction with me rarely goes beyond these posts (I think mostly of my family and friends who live at a distance), it may seem like I live in a constant state of angst.

Today I wanted to share with you that, finally, the dawn has broken on what feels like a terribly long period of struggle. I cannot logically explain how or why (I could wager some theories, but they would be mere supposition). but as I am going about my day I realize: I. Am. At. Peace.

The brilliant beauty of blue skies punctuated by white clouds and sunshine peeking through bright green leaves no longer carries the weight of a day I should enjoy but cannot. Where there has been a lingering sense of despair and apathy there is now a sense of stillness and content. It is like a switch flipped and all the lights came on.

The breeze and warm sun on my face remind me of the eternal presence that gently holds and sustains me in all things.

The day before me is an exciting opportunity rather than something to endure until I can steal a moment to lie down to rest.

These seasons are part of living for me. Seasons of beauty and purpose and seasons of stirring and discontent. It is easy to trust the joyful seasons … to see God working in the purpose and intention. What is harder is to recognize, accept, and trust is that God is also working in the difficult seasons, the times when I wander in the desert, not knowing my ultimate destination or how long it will go on. Even though my every need is still provided, I think there is something I must “do” to move myself out of the desert into the next stage.

But as God walked with the Israelites through their desert wandering, it was not their “doing” that led to the Promised Land. Every time they attempted to use what they knew to relive their distress – turning to idol worship and pagan rituals – they prolonged their suffering. It was only in forsaking their own ability to save themselves that they were ultimately delivered.

And so it is with me. God’s saving grace does not come in my seeking perfection or my striving. It does not come in the moments when I am trying to do my best. It is not my knowledge or my right actions that save me.

Wen all else fails and I have surrendered to my complete inability to fill my own cup or to be any more than the empty shell in need of saving, God can lift the veil and fill me with the peace of his saving grace. 

And that, is a miracle.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

From Death to New Life

It is one of those perfectly beautiful Iowa days that makes you believe in heaven.

Unlike the frigid cold of winter mornings that justify turning over in bed and covering up with a thick comforter, today is the kind of day that feels like a waste if you don’t get out an enjoy it.

It has been a really interesting year. I stepped forward and tried my hand at something new in ministry. Parts of it were huge growth experiences and challenged me in new ways. Other parts were disappointing and gut-wrenching in ways I had never anticipated.

So, after pouring myself into a new area of ministry for the better part of a year and realizing I was not being called to continue to do so, I found myself barren. Empty. Unmotivated even for the ministries that have challenged and sustained me over the last four years.

Unlike the beauty of fall, the autumn of faith life lacks the brilliance of bright colors and fresh air. It can be painful. Empty. When the things that once drove you and got you out of bed in the morning become difficult to even consider, something is dying.

When you arrive at this impasse, there are two choices: Give in to the death and become consumed by it; or acknowledge the death and start to look for the new life.

Those of us familiar with four-season weather cycles know that the death that comes in autumn is not immediately followed by new life of spring, but by winter. Signs of new life are buried under mounds of snow and hard, frozen ground. It can be bitter and unbearable. But as the ground freezes, seeds crack open, preparing them to grow in the warmth of spring.

Not only did something have to die, but it has had to lie barren and the conditions had to be so bleak and cold that the seed planted could, finally, crack, so that in the spring new life can come.

And it is beginning. The seed, planted years ago, finally cracked in the barren emptiness of disappointment and pain. A call is finally less scary than staying where I am. And a loving husband, terrified of what this means for our family, continues to demonstrate his love by being willing to “get used to” an idea he never would have considered.

So, I will be leaving the season of “doing more where I am” and starting to put one foot in front of the other to pursue candidacy and hopefully seminary through a distributed learning program that allows me to continue working and doesn’t require a total relocation.

And for today, as I look out at the spectacular color and delightful weather that is autumn, I am reminded that death can be beautiful.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

When the Spirit Moves

Coming off a week away at the ELCA National Youth Gathering, I find myself in a strange place. So many are riding a spiritual high ... energized, enlivened and spilling over with excitement. I stood with them and am excited for them, but my spirit is pensive.

That is not to say it wasn't a spectacular experience. In no other place is there the same intersection of thought-provoking speakers, inspiring music, and service opportunity.

It was most certainly an action-packed, spirit-filled week. Yet, I am at odds. The thing is, sometimes the work of the spirit is not warm-and-fuzzy kind of stuff. Sometimes the spirit works to reveal the truth. And the truth isn't always pretty.

Sometimes the truth is that six days of traveling, serving, celebrating, and praising alongside high school youth is harder than you thought.

Sometimes you realize you are ill-equipped to handle the developmentally appropriate sighs and groans of complaint to what youth perceive as "routine" and "boring".

Sometimes you spend the entire trip tending to the details to keep everyone moving forward and maintain connections with those back home, yet find few opportunities to experience connection in the present.

Sometimes you find yourself longing for the familiarity of Mom's group meetings, Guide Huddles, and leading predictable adults.

Sometimes you walk away from an unloaded bus feeling less connected than before you left.

Sometimes you realize you have not taken care of your body as you should, and two full days of rest were not enough to re-energize physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

Sometimes, you have a renewed sense of call, but it is the hardest possible choice.

There is great risk in even saying these things. Who goes to a Youth Gathering and comes back disconnected? Who admits they struggled to connect?

The way I see it, if we are afraid of the truth of our experience, then we are not honest with ourselves and risk much more.

So I am speaking my truth and I will continue to wrestle with the movement of the spirit. It could simply be the fatigue of an introvert who experienced no down-time for six straight days.

Or it could be more.

 From what I know of the spirit, if it is more, it will certainly be impossible to ignore.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

One Month Until Detroit!

One month from today we will be halfway through our National Youth Gathering experience. It is hard to believe it is almost here. When we started planning less than a year ago it all seemed so far off. We have learned and grown so much during our Gathering meetings as we prepare to travel to Detroit and be present with one another, 30,000 other Lutheran youth and adults from across the country and the people of Detroit.

As I reflect on our preparations, I am drawn to our first lesson, which took us straight to the heart of our identity in Christ, as children of God. In considering what it means to be a part of the Kingdom of God, we were given the image of spectacles (glasses) with two lenses. The first lens through which we were challenged to look at the world was through the nature of Jesus, as revealed in the Gospel of Mark. Through our study we discovered Jesus as the son of God who came to suffer for us and with us.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

In Case You Were Worried: Love vs. Fear

So, here's the thing about living in a community of faith (at least in my very Lutheran tradition) ...
we're called to love one another, to bear one another's burdens and be present in each other's lives ... and we do so with the understanding that we are, simultaneously, saint and sinner. The people we are called to do life with will hurt us. They will blindly cater to their fears even when it means denying the opportunity to extend love to another in the form of trust despite fear.

It happens because we're all sinners. We all make mistakes. We are selfish and difficult and self-centered.

And yet because we know that we are all both (saint and sinner) we are called to continue to live in relationship with the very person who is prioritizing fear over love. Even when that causes us pain.

And sometimes that sucks (which, according to Bishop Eaton, IS a theological term).

Which brings me to the readings for today (if you didn't know there were readings for every day of the year, check out the Revised Common Lectionary Year B, it's a great way to get into the Bible every day without the pressure of reading the Bible in a year type of program. Worth checking out.)

The first reading is Numbers 6:22-27

The Priestly Benediction
22 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 23 Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the Israelites: You shall say to them,

24 The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
27 So they shall put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.

If you've attended a traditional protestant worship service in the last couple of decades, you've probably heard these words spoken. So here's the thing ... in the Bible this blessing immediately follows a bunch of rules about how the Israelites were to set themselves apart from the surrounding culture.

In this particular time and place the way to set yourself apart was by your behavior. Through Moses, God provided the Israelites ways of behaving that set them apart as God's people.

Today's next reading is Mark 4:21-25

A Lamp under a Bushel Basket
21 He said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand? 22 For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. 23 Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” 24 And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. 25 For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”

"The measure you give will be the measure you get." Could this be in reference to extending love and risking fear? Hard to tell. But as I ponder this verse tonight I cannot help but think that we are, always, encouraged to extend love in all circumstances.

Finally, Psalm 20

Prayer for Victory
To the leader. A Psalm of David.

1 The Lord answer you in the day of trouble!
    The name of the God of Jacob [Israel] protect you!
2 May he send you help from the sanctuary,
    and give you support from Zion.
3 May he remember all your offerings,
    and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices. Selah
4 May he grant you your heart’s desire,
    and fulfill all your plans.
5 May we shout for joy over your victory,
    and in the name of our God set up our banners.
May the Lord fulfill all your petitions.
6 Now I know that the Lord will help his anointed;
    he will answer him from his holy heaven
    with mighty victories by his right hand.
7 Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses,
    but our pride is in the name of the Lord our God.
8 They will collapse and fall,
    but we shall rise and stand upright.
9 Give victory to the king, O Lord;
    answer us when we call.

So, here's the thing. God will be by your side. The Lord will protect you. It doesn't say that God will spare you all harm, pain and trouble and bring your heart's desire RIGHT NOW.

But the victory will be HIS.

And if God is love, as demonstrated by Christ on the cross ...

Then love will win and fear will be defeated.

So, as people of the Resurrection, we live knowing that love will defeat fear, our geeky terminology for it is that we live in the "now but not yet."

And we remember that in Christ, God has defeated sin and death ... all fear.

Love wins.

Yet on earth we still live in the midst of heaven not yet realized.

So, if we want to see that glimpse of love when we are surrounded by a culture of fear, we must respond to fear with love.

And that is far more difficult than the set of rules God asked the Israelites to live by. At least they had a measuring stick ... good enough ----> not good enough.

In Christ that measuring stick is gone. We are simply saved, by grace. And we are called to respond to that amazing saving grace in our love and care for the world around us, full of sinner/saints.

So, we are still set apart, like the Israelites but so very differntly.

"And they will know us by our love ..."

Which means that grace is, truly, the biggest kind of brave.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015


Writing is, for me, a therapy of sorts. It's the place I can work out my complicated questions, flesh out my thoughts and come face to face with myself. I suppose it is telling that it has been 8 months since I spent any time writing for the pure exploration of it.

Yet, today I found myself in grave need. Opportunities to learn and grow are not what I had hoped and for the first time in a long time I find myself just plain sad. Anger, pain .. they materialize for so many women as tears of sadness. For so long I have had the false armor of medication to absorb the blows of life's disappointments and loss. As I attempt to go it on my own, it is another thing entirely to fully experience the pain of rejection and the sadness of realization that those for whom you would give your heart and soul are not willing to put their trust in God working through you.

So, tonight, I read. Books have always been my best escape, my surest teacher and my kindest friend. I dearly love the words of Glennon Doyle Melton and her transparent honesty as she bares her humanity to the world ... eating disorder, addictions and all. I found these words particularly profound this evening,

"So for me, it's not a question of better. It's about a daily choice; the constant battle to listen to Love and silence Fear. Of course, even though I choose Love daily, I can still hear the reverberations of Fear's voice, like a bell that keeps echoing even after it's been stilled. Right now I am neither Fear nor Love, but the one who chooses between them. However, I have a feeling that after years of choosing Love, after decades of ignoring Fear and turning into Love, I will turn into Love. I pray that she and I will become one, that eventually all the words that come out of my mouth will be her words. And that when I slip into the arms of God, it will be as if there were no break at all in our eternal conversation. When I die, God will look at me and say, 'Now where were we, Darling?'"

And this ...

"There are only two lives we might live; our dream or our destiny. Sometimes they are one in the same, and sometimes they're not. Often our dreams are just a path to our destinies. My dream was to be an adoptive mother, but my destiny is to mother my three children, to be a wife, sister, friend, and daughter, and to speak hope boldly to you. My destiny is to remind you to look up from the castles you're building in the sand long enough to notice the cathedrals that God's building all around you, without you ... while you dream your dreams, he's busy building your destiny. And there is as much beauty in your destiny as there was in your dream. Let go and believe that whatever it is, it will be beautiful."

From Carry On Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed

So when one dream dies, one door closes (pick you clique) ... keep your eyes open for your destiny.

Or, for tonight, simply let the sadness be. Grieve the loss but rest in the assurance that we are called forward from death into new life.


Friday, November 28, 2014

Stretched, tired and Thankful...

A four-day weekend is a glorious thing ...

I'm not sure my husband would agree. When I looked at him this morning and suggested "picking up" a Christmas tree and another storage shelf that would allow us to better organize the boxes in the basement and get to the Christmas decorations, I might as well have punched him in the gut.

At any rate, despite almost losing his breakfast at the suggestion, my sweet husband proceeded to spend the next two hours tracking down the requested items and hauling them home in a truck borrowed from our dear friend.

This wouldn't seem like such a harrowing task be it not for the weeks that preceded. Last Thursday night we had to rush Scott's dad, George, to the hospital via ambulance for breathing trouble that turned out to be pneumonia and scored him a week-long stay, 3 of which were in ICU. Having just accepted a promotion to replace his boss who retired, Scott was more than a little stretched to take time off to be with his father in addition to staying on top of the additional responsibilities of his new position and the many typical urgent end of the year projects.

Add to that the early onset of frigid temperatures and the stir-crazy children that produces and our 8, 6 and 4 year old darlings have been more than a little challenging of late.

Which brings us to this morning.

What, on earth, possessed me to need these things accomplished today?

I really have no idea, other than the fact that in my late thirties I am realizing I have two speeds ... full-steam ahead or asleep. If I am not actively working to complete a goal, I have a hard time being motivated by the mundane (It shouldn't be a big surprise that stay-at-home-motherhood is more than a bit challenging for me.)

And I saw three days ahead of me and realized I could either start the momentum or potentially end up having wasted the entire time looking forward to my next nap. Not that naps are a bad thing. I regularly enjoy and celebrate them, but given the prospect of four unstructured days, it could have gotten completely out of hand.

Scott's brothers arrived shortly after 1 p.m. to our disheveled home as we attempted to get the Christmas tree upright in its stand and proceeded to assemble the storage shelf and rearrange the boxes. Quite the welcome to our home!

Then the Christmas tree fell. And we had to buy a new tree stand for our enormous tree. And I thought that was the end of Christmas trees at our house. But we got it upright, yet again.

So, this is us. This is our home these days. We're stretched. We're trying. We're tired. But we're putting one foot in front of the other and savoring each moment. And I'm so thankful  for a husband willing to drag himself out despite exhaustion and mental and emotional drain.

And I plan for him to have a restful, relaxing day tomorrow, and I'm so thankful he's mine.