How To Make A Monster: On Preventing School Violence

In two short years, my son will be a member of the United States school system. After this past week, I’m terrified. Shouldn’t I be?

Last Wednesday, 16 year old high school sophomore, Alex Hribal, gripped two straight kitchen knives in his hands as he walked the halls of Franklin Regional High School in Pennsylvania, stabbing students and staff and leaving over 20 people injured.

But Alex’s act of aggression is no isolated incident, as we know. Stories of violence in our schools are becoming the norm, and I’m not okay with this. Not as a mom, not as a neighbor, not as a US citizen. I want do something. If there is something to be done.

Every time bloodshed makes its way into our schools, we ask the same question: what was the motivation? We look through Facebook profiles while police search computer files. We ask about social connections and mental health history. Was this student notoriously strange? Did he have friends or was he a loner?

What we really want to know is, how can we spot a monster? 

After an event like Wednesday’s, where the lines between psychopath and human are blurred, all we want to do is understand. We think maybe if we can categorize this person, we can comprehend their behavior, the triggers, the build-up. Then we can put them on the outside, confident their chilling behavior was wrought by a being less than human. Somehow we comfort ourselves with the thought that maybe we’re not dealing with a real person here.

But of course we’re dealing with a real person. However, it is often we who make the monsters.

It’s rare, if not impossible, for a person who is healthy, well-adjusted and connected to his family and peers to wake up one morning, grab two knives off the kitchen counter, and decide today’s the day everyone he knows is going to die.

We assume there was bullying at school, or maybe abuse at home. Or both. But those are not the only indicators. What prevents the majority of children, even those who have been bullied or abused, from acting out aggressively?

The making of a “monster” is a complicated process with so many variables, but the Bible resoundingly calls us to acts of kindness toward “our neighbor”, and we’re not given much instruction on who that isn’t. We are told we must take responsibility for the people around us. And we must own up to the fact that monsters do not usually make themselves.

But how are we, nice people from the ‘Burbs, culpable for the creation of a child turned murderer, capable of heinous crimes? Here’s the behavior I’ve seen in myself. Maybe you can relate.

When kids have annoying or irritating behaviors, or when they are “tough to deal with”, I often label them as such and write them off. I find myself more affirming of the kids who know how to play by the rules, while I manage the behavior of the “problem kids”. If a child is quiet, I don’t necessarily look for ways to draw them out. I don’t look for the outcast, the scared and the bullied. Not naturally. And if I see them, sometimes they just scare me. I feel like interacting in their lives might be out of my pay grade.

Perhaps this sounds familiar to you. It’s easy to do, especially when we don’t understand the long-term results of our behavior.

So if this pattern of ignoring the ignored contributes to keeping a child on the outside, even “making a monster”, what might prevention look like?

I wrestled with the horror of Wednesday’s event over the past several days, and as I did, a simple phrase came to me. It’s a verse from one of the apostle Peter’s letters to Christian believers: “Love covers over a multitude of sins.”

As the words rolled through my mind, I heard them anew, this time as a simple prescription for redeeming our neighborhoods and schools.

Our love, whether small acts of kindness and grand acts of generosity and mercy, recovers and redeems hurt and pain in the lives of others. Our love covers over a multitude of abuses inflicted upon one of the least of these. Love brings the lost back home to family. As Christians, love is our prevention model.

When people act badly and we treat them badly as a result, the only impact can be shame, the experience of being not good enough, kicked out, no longer belonging. It’s from this place, the cold and bitter outside, that people do the terrible things. We have to be part of bringing them back in.

This is our job, getting the lost ones and bringing them back. [Click photo for credit]

Glennon Melton, author of Carry On, Warrior, recently wrote a powerful story about her son’s math teacher, who is making her own effort to bring children on the outside back in.

She describes how the teacher asks her students to write down the names of the children they want to sit with next week, and after school lets out Friday afternoons, she looks for patterns in the names, searching for who was popular last week but forgotten this week. With this tool, she identifies the bullied, the lonely and the lost.

Glennon asked the teacher how long she has been doing this. “Every week since the Columbine shootings,” she replied.

This teacher is an inspiring example of a simple yet persistent act of love that is saving lives by restoring human connection between students. Because at the core of our hurt and abuse toward each other is disconnection and shame.

We’ve wrongly come to believe that treating others with respect, smiling at strangers or offering to watch the children of a family who is “hard to deal with” are just random acts of kindness. We don’t really know why they matter so much.

These things matter because human connection is the root of morality. Our relationships with others empower us to live The Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” Science echoes this truth.

Three years ago, neuroeconomist Pal Zak gave a fascinating TED talk on his research on the human bonding hormone, oxytocin. After discovering the powerful effects of this hormone, he gave it the name “The Moral Molecule”. He discovered that people who feel bonded and connected to others are more likely to treat them better.

Here’s the formula: Kindness comes from empathy, and empathy comes from a bond. If I care about you, and you care about me, then I don’t want to hurt you. It’s that simple.

The experience of a bond even allows us to empathize with others who may be acting badly toward us. It promotes empathy in future relationships, allowing our minds to conceive how someone else might be feeling and understand their behavior.

When we love, when we show respect, when we give honor and dignity to someone who is often dismissed, when we recognize a gift in a child who is outcast, when we compliment someone who we know rarely receives kind words, we are building bonds. We are bringing lost sheep back in from the wilderness of shame into family, into love. Even if it doesn’t happen all at once.

With these acts of goodness, we cover over a multitude of sins by restoring human connection.

As I prepare to send my child to school in the next few years, I can anticipate he and I will run into children on the outside. They may bully others, they may get bullied or they may go unnoticed. But I want to notice them, and I want to teach him to do the same. I want to treat them with respect and see the good, however difficult it may be.

Let’s together look for ways to be our own version of the math teacher in our part of the world, using the powerful weapon of love to remove shame and restore relationships.

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Five Reasons You Don’t Have To Hate Valentine’s Day (Unless You Want To)

I admit it. I hate Valentine’s Day with the obligatory fervor of an enlightened, hip, 30-something. On behalf of our friends who haven’t found or kept love, we aren’t supposed to like this day. It’s not cool. And who wants The Man telling us when to buy presents and love people? Not me.

But when I thought about it this week, I ran out of excuses for not diving in and feeling all the warm fuzzies the day has to offer. If you want to continue hating Valentine’s Day, be my guest. Maybe you should stop reading. But hear me out. Here are five reasons we hate it and why I think they aren’t very good excuses.

1. Valentine’s Day is supposed to represent and promote love, but instead, it got ransacked by commercialism. Well, so did Christmas and Easter, and I still wrap presents and hide eggs without too much complaining. Don’t you? I look forward to both of those holidays as time with family and friends, an excuse to slow down and think differently about God and the people I love. So why not do the same with Valentine’s Day? Besides, I think capitalism is still the best financial system available to humanity. It has no feelings, but it sure knows how to make a buck on mine. Oh well. God bless it.

2. Valentine’s Day is an Emotional Day of Obligation. Not only do I despise bad chocolates, conversation hearts and general kitsch and cheese, what I hate most is the feeling that I “should” do something for someone or they are going to get their feelings hurt. But then, why celebrate any holiday ever? Why celebrate birthdays or anniversaries because those are also “days of obligation”? Why welcome some of those days and get mad at the others?

3. My husband already knows I love him. Even though I love my husband, I don’t tell him every day. I probably say it to my son when I tuck him into bed at night. Some of the love exchanges are built into our routine. But the routine my husband and I keep usually allows for quality time, dinner conversation, life troubleshooting and then goodnights. It’s easy to forget all the reasons I married him, to let the daily rhythm put me into auto-pilot. I need a day set aside just for love. And I need to appreciate the calendar gives it to me.

This is the kind of thing I can’t stand. But love doesn’t have only one style. Thank God! [click for photo credit]

4. Valentine’s Day is so cheesy. But it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes it feels like the love exchanges on a day set aside for love are hokey and contrived. Much of what I can pick up at Hallmark doesn’t fit my relationship with my husband. We are playful and sarcastic and poke fun at each other. I can’t give him sentimental sap and feel good about it. But there are other options. I can make my own cards or notes. I can think about his love languages and make him breakfast in bed with a letter about how awesome he is (he is a service and words love language mix so I would fill his love tank for a year with this one.) I can make it my own without selling out.

5. People flaunt love on Valentine’s Day and it makes people feel bad. Sure, but that doesn’t mean I am flaunting loveWhen I was single, Valentine’s Day was a reminder I wouldn’t be getting flowers, dinner invites or feeling someone’s arms around me. It felt like a sharp stab in my wound of loneliness I didn’t know how to fix. “Cool,” I thought. “There’s an offical day of the year to remind me that I can’t get a date.” But that’s not the point at all. While Valentine’s does highlight romantic love, it also invites the appreciation of all the love we have in our lives. We pass out cards to classmates in school, we place flowers as centerpieces in restaurants, and if we aren’t too cranky, the reminders of love can beautify all areas of our lives.

So if you like love, have friends, and you celebrate birthdays and major Judeo-Christian holidays, you might be out of excuses not to do something nice for someone you care about this week. Let’s love love and the people we love today, and what the heck – let’s do it again tomorrow and the next day too.

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Getting good at love

[If you’re visiting from Start Marriage Right, welcome. Glad to have you today. This is where I write about relationships, spirituality, parenthood and leadership – a little bit of everything. Let’s stay in touch, shall we? Get all the updates to my blog by subscribing here, or follow me on Twitter or Facebook. Without further ado, here’s the Start Marriage Right article from today.]

We hadn’t been dating long when I popped a question. “How can I show you that I love you better?” I chirped bravely to my boyfriend as we sped down the freeway at sunset. While it wasn’t the question, give me credit: it’s a hard question to ask. Because what if I was bad at love?

Indeed, love was nowhere on my resume.

After a myriad of short-lived, ambiguous dating trysts in my early twenties, relationship failure was a part-time profession for me. I knew all the wrong things to do. But to really love, to set my vulnerable heart out for review, was all part of a risk I hadn’t yet made in all my calculated attempts at intimacy.

Not long into dating this guy though, I realized two things: One, This relationship feels different, better. And two, Oh no! I have no idea what I’m doing.

I started reading, naturally, trying to catch up on the tried and true relational tactics I’d missed out on before. I downed the classics: Love and Respect by Dr. Emmerson Eggerichs, and Dr. John Gray’s Men are from Mars. I really, finally, wanted to be good at love.

Reading instilled the theories of love, but I had to try them out in real life. This was inevitably the tricky part. It felt like my first trip to Mexico, mouthing choppy, beginner Spanish, awkwardly formal, trying to translate quickly in my head. Until you speak speak the language fluently, it’s exhausting. I think love feels just about the same sometimes.

Keep reading here.                         Blog Signature

I am the opposite of me

I am a paradox. And so are you.

We are clean and shiny in some areas of ourselves, yet disheveled disasters in others. The real estate of our souls and our yards is impeccable from one angle, and painfully unkempt from another.

How is it that we can live with coexisting brilliance and ignorance, with generous nobility and glaring narcissism?

Sometimes, I feel I’m an imposter, like the real me is the messy version, and the times I act right are just glitches, some kind of cosmic error where the light fell just right, and now the world thinks good of me.

But it feels like a balancing act, until I wreck it again.

So who am I? Can I be the bad and the good, at the same time?

Am I summed up in my moments of fear, panic and rejection or in my faith and courage?

Am I a scared, helpless child, wordless with shame, or a ferociously brave teacher who lives to inspire?

Am I all the times I hate to be alone, or the times I am frantic to get away?

Am I the girl who can’t find her keys or the idea-generating leader bent on improving her environment?

Am I the friend you can count on for everything, or the friend who will let you down?

Am I the blessings and encouragement I bestow, or the curses I hiss beneath my breath?

Am I the rage and anger I release on my very last nerve with my child, or am I the patient nurturer, singing this same child to sleep?

Am I the forgiveness I extend or the grudges I feed?

Am I all the times I disappoint or the times I keep my word?

Am I the girl who finds showers annoying or the girl who can’t stand dirty feet?

Am I everything I do right or everything I do wrong?

Am I the desperate woman wanting children I don’t have yet or the grateful mother to the one I do have?

It doesn’t seem possible, but I am all these things. It’s the conundrum of me. I can stop covering it up now, stop holding my breath so people will think of me as cleaned up and together.

The truth is, I am holy and I am full of sin. I am a work in progress. But at this exact moment, I am the good and the bad. 

I am all the things I’ve screwed up irreparably, the words I want back, and the genius and generosity in between. I am everywhere I’ve been and everywhere I’m going. I am my failure and my success. I am what I know and what I don’t know. It’s part of me. 

I just need to hit “Accept” on all this stuff, on the easy to love and the impossible to love parts of me. Cause it’s all me, and I’m not going anywhere.

Anger Management for Moms: the 365 Day Challenge

I can relate.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about anger. My anger. The kind that fills me up with sadness and regret. The kind I dive into in the moment and feel I’m drowning in the next.

Since I wrote about it, read about anger from other moms and started paying attention to my volume and emotion, I’ve been doing better.

It’s amazing what a little awareness can do.

About a year and a half ago, a mom blogger at Orange Rhino got caught yelling at her kids. (I can’t remember when but I feel like I’ve been there. It’s not pretty.) She decided enough was enough, and committed not to tell at her kids for a year. If she yelled, the 365 days started over.

That’s quite a challenge. And a brave woman.

She outlines the varying levels of volume in our voice as we move from a whisper to a raging scream. Her cut-off is level 4, the “oopsie snap”, the moment when “your blood pressure is building” and maybe you’re overreacting a little. That’s nice. She gives herself some grace.

Crazy, wild-eyed yelling is out. No matter how tired she is. No matter how bad the kids are.

It’s parental self-control at its finest. I love this commitment, and I am going to make it as well.

365 sounds like a long time, but when do I want to start yelling at my kids again? I don’t. Ever. So setting the deadline far away improves my chances of forming new habits. I will either sail through the year with perfect performance, which means the light has come on, or I will be required to start over by bad behavior. Either way, I win because I am forced to learn alternate ways to deal with anger.

So here is my commitment. 365 of no yelling, no nasty snaps or raging screams. I think I know what these are, but I may have to define them more as I go. Orange Rhino’s rule of thumb: If you think you yelled, you did.

So what do I want from parenting? I want relationship. Not zombie, docile, obedient children…

Why yelling or not yelling really matters? Two big reasons:

1. Because proving parents can control themselves as a higher priority over controlling their kids is something we must demonstrate to our children. I must not try to control them or they will learn that people can be controlled. It’s only a matter of figuring out how to do it. I want my children to demonstrate self-control, not others-control.

2. Protecting my children from my sinful responses is essential if I want to guard their hearts. I want to keep the relationship open between us and “not provoke them to anger”, as Paul challenges fathers, and I believe all parents, to avoid doing. I provoke anger when I am angry and out of control. I am powerful enough to mold a tender heart into an angry, defensive heart with my words and expectations. I have to use my power to build and not destroy.

So what do I want from parenting? I want relationship. Not zombie, docile, obedient children without opinions who only want to please me to avoid my rage. Or the opposite, raging hearts who only have their parents to model the handling of their emotions, children without self-control who feel rejected and unsure of their boundaries.

Dear God, help me avoid that fate. It’s painful even to imagine what my children could grow to be if I don’t truly learn this.

I will continue to discuss these emotions and handling them better as I discover new ways, or as I run into challenges. I know now I will need to outline specific ways of dealing with anger so I can be prepared, not surprised.

Until then, here are a few excellent posts on doing motherhood well from some of my favorite bloggers:
Sarah Bessey
Ann Voskamp
Lisa Jo Baker

May you respond with love and self-control, and may you live without regret every day of your life.

Do you have skills or suggestions on how to manage mommy madness? Please share them below. I would love to learn. Thank you.

A squishy, floaty, sturdy, heavy thing called Love

Only the things done in love matter.

Only the things done in love weigh enough to stamp eternity. Everything else just floats off the surface as vapor.

It’s not the act. It’s the intent.

Love might wear you out, but it doesn’t get tired that easily.

Love lets you be where you are right now, knowing you won’t always be here. It knows This too shall pass.

Love is lighter than gravity with a terrible memory for the bad stuff people do.

Love is more a grandmother and less a police officer.

Love doesn’t look down in vulnerable moments. It just looks you square in the eye. And it doesn’t flinch at all that you’re uncomfortable.

Love chuckles at the past, beams bright toward the future and sits perfectly content in this moment. Because its a pretty good one.

Love isn’t in a hurry, doesn’t wish it was somewhere else. Love can silence the phone and taste dinner.

Love likes itself, doesn’t wish it was someone else. Love takes good care of itself, but isn’t self-obsessed. Love doesn’t belittle itself because it doesn’t need your compliments. And it’s confident enough to care about you, to really listen, to squat down next to you in the dirt and feel all you feel.

Love looks past sour, crusty shells to warm, squishy insides. And knows just the words to safely let the guts out.

Love listens because the stories are the people, and the people always matter.

Love can tell you you’re wrong so kind you won’t feel the sting. You will just be grateful. 

Indeed, only the things done in love matter.

Jesus is love. If you don’t know him yet, introduce yourself.

I am Jesus’ awkward friend

In college, it was getting easy. I finally figured out how to make friends, not talk too much or make people feel uncomfortable around me. And aside from the tumultuous relationships and the general self-loathing, my relationship with God felt relatively sturdy too.

In the mornings, I propped up my pillow behind my head, then read, wrote, prayed, sang. I poured my dirty, little heart out. And Someone always welcomed me.

Fast forward a few years to a dream come true. I met a man, we dated for a year and a day, and then we married. I love marriage. But God and I aren’t friends like we used to be.

After we married, I went back to school. Then he took a pastoring job. Then we bought a house, birthed a kid, and flung ourselves into the modern whirlwind. I’m studying to be a pastor myself. And I am a working mother and writer.

I just haven’t figured out where God fits into all this ministry I’m doing.

Ironic, isn’t it?

I am so busy saving people from suicide and trying to stitch together failing marriages and regretting nights where I choose anything over playing with my son.

I stay up late and arise early. I pray for people on Sundays and throughout the week. I listen to God for total strangers and encourage them with the proof that he sees them. I use God’s word to guide my life. My life feels busy, quite spiritual, yet strangely empty.

It’s hard to find time to be with God himself. 

It’s easy to coast, to look the part, to impress people with stuff I know. But growing up in a Christian home, the kind where people spoke in tongues and prayed Scripture for prayers, I have an unfair advantage. I know exactly how to sound like I have my crap together.

But I don’t.

Some Sundays, I want to stand on the platform and apologize to everyone for being a fraud. But instead I go home and apologize to God. I tell him I want it to be different. But not much has changed.

The last time I remember feeling anxiously earnest for God and his presence, for Jesus himself, was May 2010. I was a few months pregnant. I was alone and suddenly felt this heavy fear I would burn out on Jesus if I didn’t get some fire around me, the hunger of other people who wanted God too. So I got a group of girls together and told them I needed women to burn with me. We called our meetings Burn Night, and that’s been the name ever since.

I have one friend here who loves God and wants him like I do. But we are both struggling with motherhood and life and where to schedule in time with a Guy who exists everywhere all the time, who knew what I would be thinking about last week, before I even thought it.

How does one be friends with Jesus?

I woke up this morning and realized that I feel awkward around Jesus now because I talk to him often, but it’s small talk, often about other people. It’s not good, quality time. Our friendship just isn’t what it used to be, and it’s my fault.

There is a wall of condemnation guarding heaven, and I just haven’t learned to push through. But I have to.

So today, I sat down and wrote. I told him I feel naked and vulnerable, and I’m worried he’s going to remind me of all my failure, and I will just sit here looking down and then try to leave and act right.

Weird. He has never done that before.

Then I reminded myself what Jesus said a long time ago: “No one can come to the Father unless the Father calls for her.”

I have no right to be here. No right to talk to him. No right to be his friend.

I may be attractive and well-spoken, and that usually works for me when I need someone to think I know what I’m talking about. But that doesn’t impress God. He sees right through the extra make up and the confident posture.

Drat.

So what impresses God? Some might say nothing. Some might say, “Being a good person”. But Jesus said we can’t come to God unless God calls us first. So we are pretty much screwed unless he initiates the conversation.

But has he? Will he? Does he?

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. And suddenly, he’s coming to me. I’m not the sad, little orphan outside of heaven. He’s the one at my door.

And the tables turn. I feel I’ve been discovered. But not in a rock star way. In a “I am so going to jail for this” way. I want to hide, but I’m getting called. He’s at my door! It’s what I wanted, right?

Hello, awkward.

I feel deeply uncomfortable because I so want to qualify myself. I want to earn love, to prove my worth with my talent and labor. I want God to be impressed with me. But he just doesn’t care about that because he’s not looking for good deeds.

He’s looking for people who just want to be with him. I mean, he has everything he needs. And if he needs some work done, the angels are more reliable.

He doesn’t want a work force. He wants friends.

I feel really awkward, like I’m going to start playing with my phone and not making eye contact, because I am not bringing anything to this dinner. All the stuff that I normally bring to a relationship doesn’t matter here.

And yet, I am pretty sure the level of my personal contentment and happiness come with making peace with the fact that I am not really bringing anything except myself. And that is good enough.

By showing up, I am saying, “I want to be here”, and it’s all I can offer God since the only thing he won’t touch is our free will. It’s my will saying “Yes” to him, to all the forgiveness and love and future he hands out, and the humility and love it takes for me to receive it is worth a lot to him. 

Well, that’s a relief. Cause that’s all I have.

How to feel like a good mom when you tuck yourself in

Motherhood is teaching me a lot about my human-hood. And it hurts.

I face off against the frayed and tasseled ends of my patience and goodness every time my voice shouts too loud, or when my son’s unexplainable need to fish in the toilet stirs up my ugly, unreasonable side.

I don’t like that girl I hear yelling at the barely three foot, tiny, blond with giant Precious Moment eyes. Who is that crazy, angry lady, and why does she yell at children? She sounds like someone I never wanted to be.

It’s so counter-intuitive because I work in social work, and as a result, my biggest mom fear is that I will put my son in therapy. But what is really crazy is that it is precisely my unfettered, out-of-control fear that causes my strongest, scariest reactions. The kind that could land him on the psychologists couch. If they still used them.

Sometimes my son’s childish ignorance or disrespect on repeat just push a button and suddenly, I’m terrified. Or furious. And there he is, my little baby who still wets his Pull-ups, taking 31+ years of anxiety and anger.

I feel so crappy that I am trying out my uneducated mothering on him. Surely all the rest of my kids, whenever they get here, will get a wiser version of me. But he gets this tired, cranky, impatient lady who forgets who she’s dealing with.

It’s not fair, to him or to me. And my heart can’t take many more nights of the ache and regret. As I tuck him in under his glow-in-the-dark stars, I’m desperate to make the most of those last moments of the day. Trying to make good memories for him so maybe he won’t remember me only with angry eyes.

It’s just that Mom Guilt, and the general sense that I suck at this mom gig, haunting me all the time. So when I came across Sarah Bessey’s practices of mothering the other day, it was like a life jolt. I realized I could intentionally parent, with help, and I could not only stop sucking at parenthood, I could actually enjoy it.

Because let’s be honest: it’s hard to enjoy something you’re bad at.

For the record, my like or dislike of parenting was never, ever about not liking my son. I’m wild about him. I just was not at all wild about my skills. It just felt like hopeless most days.

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My personal parenting goal is: to enjoy motherhood and say with confidence, “I am a good mom”.

But I needed hope. And some structure.

And thanks to two of my favorite bloggers, Sarah Bessey, and Lisa Jo Baker, I have some of both.

Tonight I am sharing Sarah Bessey’s practices of mothering, which I plan to intentionally fold into my living as a parent to my son. I will share some awesome insight from Lisa Jo about not yelling anymore, which I am so very excited to stop doing. That will come in a few days. (And if you can’t wait, you can visit her site and find the article early, if you must. But I will get to it. Promise.)

Here are Sarah’s mothering practices, which I love-love-love, and I think they will enlighten any parent, mom or dad. I have three here, and then I will redirect you to her site to read them all. So good.

The practice of speaking life.

I can’t get away from the truth that is this: Words Matter. The words that we speak about ourselves, about our children, about our life matter.

The practice of attachment.

Here’s why it helps me love mothering: attachment parenting works. … See, I want their hearts. I want their hearts so connected to mine and to my husband’s that the love between us will be stronger than any thing else that comes along. So, I do these “things” not because they make me a good mother but because they help me to capture their hearts. And once I have their hearts – and I do – I can lead and direct and train them with their full trust and confidence.

The practice of routine.

Sure, a routine makes sure that I can get done what I need to get done for myself and for my family, but it also helps me find room for those things that are truly life-giving like prayer, meditation, reading, being outside, writing, reaching out to friends and neighbours, helping others, advocating for others, being present in our community and so on. By establishing a loose routine, I enjoy motherhood more because it feels intentional and restful, simplified and life-giving for all of us.

Read the rest of Sarah’s inspired practices of mothering here.

Love is sneaky: our little love story

Last week I had the honor of being featured at Leigh Kramer’s blog, Hopeful Leigh. She published Josh’s and my love story in her This Is How We Met series. 

I wanted to share it with you too. It’s a great story, one about how love sneaks up on us when we’re minding our own business. Or trying to.

I never thought this would be my story before it was. I wonder if you can relate. So without further ado, here’s our tale. From my perspective, of course. 🙂 

It was October 2006, the year I walked everywhere. The year I didn’t have a car.

I left my downtown office late that night, and by then it was dark. I had to pass a dark corner or two as I wound my way through the autumn streets, passed the low–income high-rise building, on my way to the coffeeshop in the bar district.

I was alone, and I felt it. I walked briskly as the darkness and the nighttime chill called for it. And then I heard footsteps behind me. I couldn’t tell how close, but they were close enough. I turned around to see a man, but I couldn’t make out his face. It was too dark. He was maybe 20 steps behind me.

I walked faster. And it felt like he did too. I felt more alone, but I wasn’t.

Then I looked up. In the light of the post office building sat something familiar. My friend’s car. And my friend was inside. My friend was a guy, which made me feel a little safer. I nearly ran to the door of his car and jumped in, maybe without asking.

It felt like a portal, whisking me suddenly from danger. He drove me the almost-mile to the coffeeshop where I planned to meet my friend, who would drive me the rest of the way across town to my apartment.

As I burst into the warmth and light of the coffeeshop, I felt like I’d narrowly escaped a disaster. My friend, Michelle, sat at a round table with another friend, Josh, and I gushed the harrowing tale to her, hoping she could absorb all my fear and relief. Josh didn’t say anything.

A few minutes later, we left.

I guess that was the first time I met him, but I hardly remember it. But anyway, Josh says we first met that night. He tells me I launched right into my story of near-death, and didn’t pay any attention to him.

I’m not surprised. It sounds shallow, and it was: I knew he wasn’t my type.

Two months later, Josh hosted an event of 24-hour prayer and worship at a local church. My church’s worship team took a two-hour set. I met him again there. He was intense, quiet, squinted eyes that seemed to take everything seriously. So not my type.

I ran into him again in January at the same coffee shop. He sat at the same round table, this time with several young gentlemen. Josh with his narrowed eyes, books stacked up, talked theology with whoever would listen.

They asked me if I’d heard of an author they were discussing. I hadn’t. I escaped to another table.

In February 2007, Michelle invited me to a prayer and worship night.  Josh was there again.

I sang my heart out that first night, and it felt so natural to be there with these people. I felt like I found home. And there was this weird thing, this chemistry with Josh that I couldn’t explain. Because he was so silent and contemplative. I knew he was not my type at all.

Do they end up together? It’s nail-biter. Finish the story at Leigh’s blog.

Spoiler alert 🙂 And yes, the dress is pink. [Photo by Sara Tafoya Photography]

When we get to heaven…

When we get to heaven, we will discover God is so much better than we thought.

Much kinder, grander, more magnanimous, generous, beautiful, vast. We will see that he was always looking at us with those kind, crinkly eyes, glad to have us here.

So let’s start interacting with him that way now.

Jesus enables this exchange: the adoption instead of feeling like a scrappy, orphaned child, the dad and child relationship, the welcome-anytime friendship we couldn’t earn. Ah, but we don’t have to.

“Today, settle your busy heart down and rest in the benefits of redemption. Enjoy the fruits of His goodness, and stop trying to “pay Him back”. You’ll never get close you goofy little kid.” -Derek Loux