Thursday, October 10, 2013


Our family spent 2 hours at a large specialty gift shop near our home recently, and I seriously couldn't get enough of the quotes. Painted on wood, printed on paper, stitched on a shirt. I'm a sucker for good sayings--the deep, simple, profound ones that go straight to your soul. Mostly because they contain nuggets of truth that often get overlooked.

When I read, "how will you choose to live your one remarkable story?" I got all teary-eyed. Maybe because I don't feel like I have a remarkable story. I feel ordinary and normal and run-of-the-mill. I have four kids. I'm married. With a mortgage. In the suburbs. My life feels ordinary and uneventful and everything the opposite of remarkable. Don't get me wrong--I am thankful. Very grateful for a healthy, blessed life.

And yet...I am restless. Something turns inside of me, craving more than normal. More than standard.

If we were created by God, in His image, what does that mean? Is God anything less than remarkable? If God created butterflies, mountains and stars, then He is more than remarkable, He is unfathomable. Vastly creative. Immensely huge.

And if we're here, living on earth, I'm starting to believe that He has a remarkable story mapped out for each of us, a specific purpose and reason for our lives. More than just laundry and dishes, glory hallelujah.

Think about that: we all have a remarkable story to live. All created for something great. Purpose. Amazingness. Our lives are meant for beauty, to reflect the grace and beauty of our Creator. 

We get one shot at life, one chance at making our life count. And that one chance is made up of a million tiny choices. 

We get to choose. 

We get to choose joy, choose happiness, choose chasing down our dreams and the God who put them there. But the vastness and responsibility of choice can paralyze and cripple me into stillness and stagnancy. 

It’s easy to choose to brush my teeth, or choose to do the dishes. 

But it’s harder to choose potential world-rocking things. Harder to choose remarkable things. 

Going on that missions trip. 

Talking to that person about faith. 

Writing a blog for the world to see. 

Saying yes to a speaking gig. 

Taking in that foster kid. 

And remarkable things don't have to be BIG things. There are lots of small, super significant choices that matter, too. 

Forgiving that friend. 

Making meals for a new mom.

Carving out time for an aging grandparent.

Really listening to your daughter's middle school woes.

Pursuing people who appear lonely and distant.

Loving those that are hard to love.

Let's live remarkably, friends. Whether you're called to speak boldly in front of a crowd, or whisper encouragement into the hearts of the broken, let's step out and start living the lives we were made for. Let us be people that don't shrink away from hard things, but embrace the challenge.

We are all created for purpose and beauty and remarkable-ness. As we seek the heart of Jesus, may we understand our unique calling, and let's run after it with all we've got.

What do you think? What does living remarkably look like to you? 

Saturday, August 24, 2013


My three year old son looks up at me, foot dangling in the pool, all shivers in the sunlight, water glancing off his little boy hair. “T-t-t-t-oooo  c-c-c-c-old mama.”  An hour of swimming, out for a potty break, and he’s done in on this warm-but-not-hot summer day. You know the drill: in the water, it’s warm. But out of the water, you freeze.

Getting back in would solve the problem, really. It’s warmer in the water. “Get back in!” I urge. “You’re cold because you’re wet in fresh air!” But chilled skin and dripping hair has short memory, and he wants to towel off and be done.

It’s like that for me, lately. For a while I was writing, reading, posting a little more on this blog, immersing myself in the Word, in fresh revelation from friends, from writers whose hearts I love. I was swimming around in Life, in newness, in hopes and possibilities and I dared to dream of future things. New passions were discovered, new opportunities began to take shape.

But this summer, I got out of the water. I took a potty break from writing after my last post, and now it’s SO HARD to get back in. I feel cold and scared of the shock of the water.

Writing is therapeutic for me. It helps me process, God brings revelation, it’s healing. But it also takes time. It takes time for the process to happen, it takes time for things to come to light. It takes practice, forcing myself to sit down and spill out all that’s spinning around inside.

It’s much, much easier to towel off and forget the pool.

But there is life in the water. There’s fun and playing and lots of life to be had in the water. I’m shivering and cold on the ladder, and I guess it’s this: choose to swim, or choose to dry off and dry up.

So I’ll jump in with this post, which has little to no words of wisdom, but is just an obedient response to God’s whispers to my heart. There's more to this story---I'll share that later. He is doing huge things in my life---so big, I’m not sure quite how to unpack it all. Thanks for joining me, friends.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

for my Dad

When I was a little girl, I loved snuggling with my dad. On his lap, with my head against his chest, was my favorite place to be. I can still hear his heartbeat under his plaid flannel shirt, and I can still smell his familiar smell of cologne, car dealership, and dad-ness. My five-year old self loved to cuddle into his chest, relaxing in the arms of my daddy. I felt safe, secure, and loved.

He gave me horsey rides on his back. He made a swing out of his hands for me. Let me ride on his feet as he walked along. I tried to touch his mustache and he pretended to snap at my fingers. When he came home from work, the first thing he heard was, “Daddddyyyy!!!” and I would leap into his arms. He’d wrap me in a warm hug, his scratchy face against mine.

our family, circa 1987

It’s amazing, how a dad affects his children. Research shows that the lack of a supportive father figure can be detrimental to a child. There is something wired into a kid that needs a dad, that needs a strong sense of fathering. It’s practically common knowledge now that most convicted felons were without a father figure during their childhood.

Dads shape hearts, mold lives, and define right and wrong. They provide accountability for their children, and they play a huge role in developing a child’s self-esteem, self-confidence and motivation.

Most importantly, dads almost always contribute to our understanding of God. Their level of involvement in a child’s life paints a picture of who God is. Dads are meant to be a signpost, pointing to the heart of the Father. Demonstrating unconditional, gracious love is perhaps the most significant role in a father's life, because it gives a child an unshakable trust in the heart of God.

And I see this so clearly, with my own dad.

Because he loves me, I can receive love from God.

Because he is safe, I know that God is too.

Because he is trustworthy, I can trust God’s plans for my life.

Because he is generous, I believe God is too.

Because he is loyal, I believe God will never leave me.

Because he is available, I know I can always come to God.

Because he forgives, I know God forgives me and I can receive it.

Because he always works hard, I know God is always working on my behalf.

Because he wants what’s best for me, I know God always has my best in mind.

Because he is gentle, I know and experience the gentle tenderness of God.

Because he is funny, I know God has a great sense of humor.

See how that happens? The presence of a loyal, committed dad, leads me to deeper understanding and trust of a faithful, gracious God.

Does this mean that my life has been an easy cake-walk? No. I’ve still struggled with fear and faith and purpose. That is simply a product of living in the world and walking through life.

But two things I have never doubted: that God is always good, and that I am always loved.

My life is built on those two truths, which were first modeled by my dad. It will always amaze me, how God uses imperfect people, to reflect His perfect goodness. His perfect love.

My dad doesn’t even know, but he is one of my life’s greatest gifts.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you with all my heart, and I am so grateful for you.

*I know there are many whose childhoods are marked with pain and loneliness and desperation for their dad to see them, to care about them, to show them affection and love. You need to know that you are incredibly loved and valued by God. Reach out for Him. He is waiting to be your Dad.

Monday, May 6, 2013

love and life

My first understanding of wild love came with the birth of our firstborn, my only daughter.

After 2 hours of pushing, and the threat of a trip to the operating room, this beautiful, pink, screaming girl was delivered into my life, and into my heart, and I'd never known love like that before.

Instantly I understood how much my parents loved me. Why they protected us. Why they worked hard to provide for us. Why my mom stayed up late, stenciling "ESPRIT" on a white sweatshirt from Kmart, so I could have a designer sweatshirt like the other 5th-graders. She loved me like crazy.

It doesn't matter whether your babies came from your body, or came from another: when you become a mama, and when those little munchkins wrap themselves around your heart, your understanding of love changes. Suddenly you get it, on a totally different level.

I write about love, because I have been loved and cared for my entire life. And the knowledge, or revelation, rather, that there are MANY who don't know that love, or protection, or security makes me woozy.

As I read about orphanages and slums and girls being beaten and sold for money, my stomach lurches and I wonder if my heart can take it. I never knew. I mean, I guess I kind of knew, but I didn't understand. I didn't know. How much of this understanding can I stand?

I have been given so much. We eat good food, and sleep warmly, and safely, and I am loved by many, and I am valued by many, and I have a whole 38 years of being filled up.

These gifts, this grace, this love, that has molded and grown and harbored me, has reached maximum capacity in the vessel that is my life. I am full to overflowing, and I have more than 99% of the world and yet I don't feel fully alive. I ache for more joy, more fullness. Something in me remains unsatisfied.


Maybe because written into the fabric of my being is knowing that you can’t be happy unless you give it away. That all of those blessings, all of that grace, is not meant to be hoarded and kept safe and locked up in my little life in Minnesota.

Maybe because God knows that there are so many who lack so much of what I’ve always had.

It’s like there is a wild, rushing river inside of me, pulsing and begging to be released, and it’s the 38 years of blessings that have just piled up inside of me, and it’s crushing me, the weight of it all, and I HAVE TO SHARE IT or I will explode.

Yes, she was right when she said that fire in the belly can come from gratitude for the blessings. That when we are crazy, radically grateful, there is born a fire that cannot be contained. And wasn’t it that old philosopher, Teilhard de Chardin, who said it best:  

Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.”

And that quote, which I have loved since high school, which spoke to me then, and brought tears to my eyes and a lump in my throat then, screams to me now: Love is a fire that cannot be contained. There is nothing more powerful, more catalytic, more consuming, than crazy, God-induced, crazy-thankful LOVE.

We love because He first loved, us, right? And greater love has no man than this, that He lay down his life for His friends, and love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself, and it really all comes down to this:


And I knew it, 17 years ago, sitting in Perkins with my roommate, studying and eating up the Word which was so new and fresh to me then, we had underlined it in the latter chapters of John, where we discovered that it all boils down to this simple, profound truth: LOVE is what matters, because Love is what moves us to change things that matter. Love is what motivates us to extend grace, to extend hope. Love is the beginning and the end, and He has a name, and He is the Word, and by Him all things were thought up and created and ARE.

And Love covers over everything, and Love is what draws us to repentance, and it’s His Love that gives grace, that gives gifts, and His Love compels us to gratitude and loving back, and it’s the circle of LIFE:

He loves and gifts us, we love and receive with gratitude, we pour out and His gifts to us become gifts to others. Repeated over and over again, this crazy, grace-filled love pouring out from God,
to us,
through us,
back to Him,
and it just. keeps. going.

Love in action. Love as a verb. 

This, I think, is where the secret of joy comes from: being crazy-grateful for God's crazy-good grace-filled, love-laced gifts, and pouring out that grace, that love, to the world around us.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

the world outside my window

A warm breeze blows through my open window.

We haven't had a warm breeze here in over 6 months.

It feels heavenly.

And yet, I'm not thinking about my garden, or the budding trees. My mind is thousands of miles away, in the poorest of countries, with a people I've never met, but whose eyes I can never forget.

Poverty has been on my mind a lot lately. It's an uncomfortable topic. Somehow, in all my years, I've felt that it's sort of taboo to talk about the impoverished nations of the world. I remember the Ethiopian famine when I was a kid, and my parents telling me about the children starving in Africa, so I better finish my meatloaf and green beans.

Television revealed a totally foreign world of malnourished, pot-bellied children. Filled with faces of sad, hungry kids, squatting in dirty, trash-filled slums, those images on TV shocked me. It didn't seem real. The pictures made me sad, but I felt totally powerless to do anything. I didn't even feel like I was supposed to do anything. Feeling sad, and shaking my head in sympathy seemed like the only thing I could do.

Maybe my parents sent money, maybe they didn't, but one thing was sure: that level of poverty was not part of our reality. We could change the channel and the Love Boat would be taking us on another adventure, the pleading eyes of third-world children quickly forgotten.

And even into my adulthood, I've not thought too much about those children. I've been busy, having babies, raising babies, making important decisions about houses and jobs and schools. 

But then a couple of years ago, I stumbled onto a few blogs where the writers traveled with Compassion to different countries around the world. Not exactly mission trips, but more of a "go check it out and write about it" type of a trip.

When I first read about their experiences here, here, and here, I was stunned. The stories were so vivid, so personal. Suddenly, those faces that I associated with poverty had names and families and stories. They had smiles and hopes and dreams. They bathed in dirty water, lived in cramped quarters, and ate next to nothing. They had amazingly good attitudes, despite their extreme lack.

They became real. 

They lived in cement block homes, with dirt floors. One-room dwellings with no windows and roofs missing.  

Shacks on stilts in the middle of a jungle.  

And as I sat here in my 2600 square feet of warm and cozy comfort, my eyes began to open. For the first time, I saw their reality--this was their life--and the vast differences between my life and theirs. Never do I worry about where our next meal will come from. Or if we’ll sleep safe tonight. Or if we’ll survive tomorrow.

But out there, beyond my window, 640 million children are without adequate shelter.

And today, and every day, 22,000 children will die from malnourishment.

Maybe the most shocking statistic I learned: that 80% of humanity lives on less than $10 a day.

In the past, knowing this would leave me riddled with guilt. Maybe that's why poverty has always felt like an uncomfortable social topic--maybe we've all just felt guilty that we're here and they're there, and we have it so much better than they do, and what can we really do anyway?

But guilt is the wrong reaction. Not only is it unproductive, it doesn't make sense. None of us chose the circumstances we were born into. I didn’t choose to be born into a comfortable, middle-class family, with loving, protective parents. That I was born into the life I have is purely grace. It's all a gift.

But what if---and this is where it starts to freak me out a little---that gift was meant to be used for greater good? What if my life, filled full with love and joy and relative ease---was meant to be a launching pad for something bigger?

Instead of responding in guilt, maybe action is the better response. 

I can't help where I was born. But God wants to form me, all of us, into His image. He wants to make us more like Him. And maybe His image can't be pinned or followed, but crafted and formed by being His heart to the least of these. By getting outside of ourselves and seeing with His eyes. By loving and serving and laying down our lives. 

And maybe serving the poor isn't all about just helping them. Maybe we’re the ones that need help. Maybe we’re actually the ones that need to be fed, us with our bellies and bank accounts full, with our homes warm and safe, but maybe it’s our hearts that are starving and malnourished. Can we really be happy if we’re consumed with pretty pins on pinboards?

What kind of reality is that, anyway?

I'm not saying that everyone should quit their jobs and become missionaries. We're all uniquely equipped for the plans God has for us, and full-time missions certainly isn't everyone's call.

But I'm beginning to think that when Jesus told us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, he meant more than just being nice to the mailman. The Samaritan didn't just give a sympathetic head tilt when he saw the man beaten on the side of the road. He didn't assume that someone else would take care of the problem. He showed him mercy. He gave of himself.

Rolling around in my heart is this crazy notion: What if God actually wants us to feed the hungry and remember the poor? Not big agencies, not full-time missionaries, but little old, regular us? What if He really wants us to care for orphans and widows; not merely with sincere words, but with merciful action? What if His greatest desire is for us to know fullness of joy by being His heart to a hurting world?

And what if this whole time I am missing it, and the world is wasting away while I waste time on Facebook, and I have the power to do something, to make a difference?

I never thought the impoverished world was my reality or responsibility but the reality is this:

There is a world outside my window, begging for help, begging for mercy.
They did not ask to be born into their circumstances. 

But I have the choice to respond with mine.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


 Power in this.

My whole life I have believed that I can’t.

I can’t be a singer.
I can’t be a doctor.
I can’t be a marine biologist.
I can’t be an actress.
I can’t be an archeologist.
I can’t be an astronaut.
I can’t be an athlete.

Voices in my head, voices from all around kept me from believing that I could actually DO those things. That I could actually do something risky, something hard.

Don’t dream too big, the well-meaning voices said.  Don’t be silly. You can’t do that. That's too hard. Just do something normal...just do something safe.

Sometimes I hate safe.

I hate not reaching out when I know I have the ability to do it.
I hate not making a phone call because I’ve called them the last few times and it’s their turn.
I hate not rocking the boat.
I hate all the damn politeness.
I hate all the BORING, MEANINGLESS conversation about NOTHING.

Why do I let those voices speak to me? Why do I LISTEN??

Who knows what I might have been, done, accomplished had I actually believed in myself. Had I been aware of my gifts, of what I WAS CREATED to do, of what my strengths and interests were. Bad choices, people-pleasing, fear of failure; I hold myself entirely responsible.

But God has used it all, of course. Maybe He's allowed the struggle because this is part of my unique call. His grace covers the whole mess of it, and every day, every year of struggling to find my self-worth, of struggling to find my unique-ness, is being redeemed before my eyes.

And by that grace, I am starting to see. 

I see my gifts.
I see my interests.
I see the ways He has geared me.
I see my unique-ness.
I see my potential.
I am starting to see my purpose.

Seeing all of this, coming at me in an onslaught of visions and dreams, scares me. A lot. I want to be brave, and brave does not really run in my bloodlines. Safe runs in my blood, and every time I choose brave, I fight against a strong current that wants to keep me mainstream. A current that seems safe, but is really a riptide of risks not taken, and a flood of mediocrity that threatens my sanity.

What is brave?

Brave is stepping out and trying something new.
Brave is taking chances.
Brave is trying, knowing that I could fail.
Brave is believing that I can succeed.
Brave is believing that I WILL succeed.
Brave is changing habits.
Brave is running, and falling, and getting up.
Brave is continuing to get up even after falling 99 times.
Brave is keeping on with the race until it's over.
Brave is being vulnerable.
Brave is being honest and real.
Brave is being myself.
Brave is trusting others.
Brave is forgiving others.
Brave is forgiving myself.
Brave is choosing Joy.
Brave is smiling at the days to come.
Brave is being thankful for everything, and asking for nothing to change.

A quote from one of my favorite bloggers, who was brave all of her days:

“I’ve learned to appreciate the simplicity in my moments. I’ve learned that being thankful in everything is more important than being thankful for something. I want to be grateful for everything in my life, not just the special moments.” Sara Frankl, Gitzengirl

We are human and we posses the unique ability to change our habits, to change our attitudes, to change our hearts. We can change...we are not stuck. The road is hard and long and feels endless sometimes, with detours and closed roads and potholes and ditches. But today I will choose to believe that with God's grace, change is possible. Brave is possible. 

I can do hard things.



Friday, December 9, 2011

seek first

The Lord has been talking to me a lot the last few months about seeking His kingdom first. Anxiety about money, and kids, and school, and housework were overtaking my life and stealing my joy, and he whispered to me one day while I was journaling, "Seek first, sweetheart; seek first...remember?" 

"Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Mt. 6:33
In the past, I've taken that verse and have viewed it as a task: "I need to read the bible more. Do more. Be more. Memorize  more."  It resulted in failed attempts and a heart disheartened. I've assumed that seeking His kingdom involved more doing...but I'm starting to think it involves more being. 
What does it mean to seek the kingdom of God? What is His kingdom made of, and how do I seek it? 
It’s a kingdom of Love. It’s an upside down kingdom, where the last is first, and the meek will inherit the earth, and blessed are the peacemakers. Where forgiveness reigns, and grace overflows, and it’s a kingdom of second chances, and third chances, and it’s all under the umbrella of a crazy, heart-overflowing love. A kingdom of peace, and joy, and no stress, and light hearts, and a slowness of living, and a focus on what really matters, and this is the way to joy and happiness and peace in your soul---to seek out this Kingdom. 
This is where Life is, and He showed us how, and when you wrap it up with a ribbon of gratitude, it's a gift to all who behold, but especially to yourself. It’s a kingdom of humility, and mercy, and patience, and kindness, and why do we buy into the lie that we have to live anything BUT this?! 
It’s seeking a Kingdom where Love rules, and mercy and grace are the currency, and we just trade them with each other, and our shortcomings fade away and all that remains is Love. There is no room for heated debate, for arguing about who is greater, but just room to love and be Loved. To learn to live life loved, isn’t that what He showed me 4 years ago

I'm not talking about a watered-down "everything goes, just love people, man" type of Christianity where there are no absolutes or standards. Truth is vital, and He's got a name, and it is the name above all names. I'm just saying I think there is a pipeline of crazy love-grace that we don't even know is available to us, and if we could just tap into it...maybe we could find the kingdom we seek? 
Crazy grace doesn’t mean no boundaries or not taking care of yourself, but it does mean that you pour out grace undeservedly, because that is what Love forgives when people don’t deserve it. To bless when they don’t deserve it, to honor when they are acting dishonorable. Because that’s what You do, Lord, you forgive and bless and honor, not because we’ve earned it, but because we’re loved. We’re yours, and we’re loved, and even the ones that don’t know you, they are LOVED, and You so loved them that you were born into a dirty stable, and lived a scorned life, and crawled up on a tree and died because You Loved, and You Made, and You chose to Forgive, and if we could understand this, we would see...that it’s not about living perfect, and never making mistakes. It’s not about false piety, and doing things right, and appearing all holy and proper. It’s about receiving and giving back a fierce, wild love to the One who Loved enough to be born, and live, and die, so that we might live, and not just forever, but that we would have life abundant here, that we would bring Your kingdom here, right now

So, I am learning to seek first. Learning what His kingdom looks like. It's a process, learning to love like Him. But His grace is abundant, and I am thankful. 
"For God so loved the world...that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not die, but will have life everlasting...John 3:16"