How Tradition Heals The World

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This year more than ever, I am thankful for tradition. Not so much the ritual of it, but what it means. It’s a coming up for air, a gasp of relief. 

During the past year, I overcame a debilitating perspective of God and the world, life inside a tormented mind, a world I had never experienced. My actual life was perfect, as much as we would all dare to wish, but I was haunted by “what if”, a gruesome fantasy land.

It is Christmas time again, and I remember that last year, near Christmas time, I was not doing well. My hair turned dirty and gray from stress, and one of my eyes twitched frantically beneath all the tension. I worried my falling-apart soul was manifesting on my outsides.

When I look back at this photo from just one year ago, the day my family ventured out for a Christmas tree, I can see and feel all the wear on my face and in my soul. Life was a weary thing in those days, but I am in a different place now.

This year, when we went out to get our tree, I insisted we take another picture in the same spot because I wanted to see it. I wanted to look in my eyes and know the healing happened, know that I am not the same. And I saw it. I saw the newness, the strength, the peace and confidence that comes with a healthy soul. 

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Tradition is the gift that reminds me I am not the same: I am growing, becoming. I could not have imagined who I am now, but that wasn’t necessary to become her. And when the earth goes around, and I find myself back here in this season, I can feel the change, the space between who I was and who I am. And it is good.

Tradition is proof there is hope for humanity, that we are not a lost race. Proof that God has not given up on us. Because here we are again, despite all the pain in the world that frightens or distracts us. We are listening to Bing Crosby, sipping wine, telling our children the story of the first gift ever given, and how we are now Father God’s children because of this gift, Jesus. And how we give gifts because we so long to be like our Dad, the papa with the belly laugh like Mr. Fezziwig from A Christmas Carol. And this year, I can tell my sons with certainty that our God is a God of extravagant generosity and he loves so big, so much, and it is a special honor we have to follow behind and try to be like him. 

I can say all these things this Christmas because my soul has room to believe them. I have been planting truth in my soul, nourishing myself with quiet and learning, bravely, to simply let myself be loved. 

If I could give us all one gift this Christmas season, it is that we would let ourselves be loved, that we would take the boxing gloves off, that we would stop keeping score of our goods and our bads – God isn’t doing it, so why should we? I would give us the gift of gentle vulnerability, the kind that isn’t too strong to let love in, to receive the only gift your heart really wants, really needs, the thing that happens to be the the thing God longs to give you. 

Let traditions, another year around the sun, heal and nurture your soul this year. May you see all the lavish grace that has been poured out on you in the past year, even when everything felt broken down and busted up. May you live in this circle of the earth, this season of warmth and quiet, and may it heal you up in places you didn’t even know you needed it. 

Love to you. 

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How To Save Your Soul

My friend, the warm-hearted and generous author and pastor, Steve Wiens, invited me over to his place to share about my practices of soul-care. You can read this post in its entirety there, or get started here. Steve is releasing his first book, Beginnings, on January 1st next year. This book is full of his kind and welcoming voice inviting us to be made new, to let God’s love and mercy begin again and again to refresh us. I am on his launch team so you’ll hear more about it, but if you want to get started reading the book for free, you can download the first two chapters right here. 

Okay, here are my thoughts on really, truly taking care of your invisible parts. Love to you.  

Sometimes I yell. It’s one of my least favorite things about myself, especially considering I am not yelling at a football game or a narcissistic political tyrant, which would be appropriate and reasonable. No, sometimes I yell at my children.

Now, it’s not like the little darlings are without fault, mind you. I only yell when their ears are broken, which is the only logical explanation why they are still not wearing pants after I politely asked them five times to get dressed.

Nevertheless, the yelling is a version of me I don’t like. It’s the strung out mom who prefers to use rage and shame over boundaries and creativity, or at least consistency. I don’t know which is worse: the pained look in their eyes when I am shrieking in frustration or the disgust I feel with myself afterward, which only fuels a new round of alienating outbursts.

Fortunately, my responses are not at the mercy of my children’s behavior. In the last year, after months in the dim darkness of postpartum anxiety, I discovered a part of myself I’d mostly neglected for most of a decade. The good news was, when I tended to this part of myself, things went remarkably better. This little known part was my soul.

The soul is a funny thing, an ubiquitous church word we all use to describe the part of us that lives forever. We say souls are lost when we see folks behaving badly, and when they find their way to church, get that glow of wholeness in their eyes, we say they’re found. But if we’re honest, we don’t even know what a soul is.

In his book, Soul Keeping, John Ortberg recalls that he had been a pastor for several years before he learned from his friend and mentor, Dallas Willard, that the soul is “the tiny, fragile, vulnerable, precious thing about you”. Dallas elaborated to John that our souls are what make us who we are. The soul is what Jesus died for, the thing that gives each of us our intrinsic worth.

If our souls are truly tiny, fragile and vulnerable, then it’s easy to see why they are overlooked, like an introverted, wide-eyed child. And if our souls are precious, if they are the the core of our value as humans, then we can see why God is invested in this invisible part of us.

We can also see that if we neglect our souls, delicate as they are, we will have no ability to be anything but a version of ourselves that we dislike. We may behave in ways we regret, or worse, become a person we regret allowing ourselves to become.

The nurture of my soul is not simply for me though. Soul care touches every relationship in my life. Whether it is control of my temper with my children, compassion toward my patients at work, or empathy for my husband, I can only be a woman I am proud of when my soul is cared for first.

But if the soul is invisible, how can it be cared for? We can’t hold it or feed it, can we? In Soul Keeping, John Ortberg tells us that because the soul is made by God, it is also made for God. It is God who feeds our soul. Our souls, like children, are dependent on Father God for wholeness and sustenance.

When I first read John’s words, I thought it sounded right, but I didn’t know how to let God nourish me. It wasn’t until the worst days of the postpartum anxiety when, mercifully, I remembered Psalm 131 where David refers to the soul with God as a child with his mother. He said, “I do not concern with matters too complicated for me, but I calm and quiet my soul like a child with his mother.”

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One of my favorite lakes near my house

Continue reading over at Steve’s place. 

 

 

When It’s No One’s Fault But You Want It To Be

It’s painful to watch. The itching, clawing, bleeding of my son’s eczema. It tugs on my compassion, but it pulls harder on my anger. I hate that sound, the furious scraping of fingernails across the skin, the catclaw marks they leave behind. And not just occasionally, or seasonally, or even for a month-long stretch. It’s every day for years, the slow, maddening water torture of something that just won’t stop.

We do all we can, anxiously dousing him with creams, soaking him in mineral baths, experimenting with oils, steroids, strict diets. He sleeps with sock-wrapped hands at night.

But no relief. No cures to speak of.

The scratching is more intense at night, right about the time I get home from work and need to make dinner. I try everything to soothe it, but my patience is thin. We do this every day, after all, and I want him to just get over it all ready.

Stop scratching. Stop making yourself bleed. Why won’t you stop?

Sometimes I am calm and ready to meet the need. Sometimes I yell. Sometimes I cry. But the words are the same. The helplessness doesn’t change.

I glance around furiously, searching for someone to blame. Sometimes I blamed my son for his scratching habit or for eating triggering food. But being his mother, I’ve been the best target. My body knit him together, guided by the hand of God. Anything that went wrong must be my fault.

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I can blame myself because I started him on formula at 3 months, and then let him go on antibiotics 3 times in his first two years. It’s my fault his immune system is weak and his intestinal tract unhealthy.

It’s my fault because when he was born, I didn’t know how to mother. I ignored every material instinct and refused to be nurturing for fear of being seen as gentle or weak. I was ignorant, arrogant, broken.

If he was born tomorrow, I would parent him so differently, with more nurture and natural remedies, but I didn’t know then what I know now. I just didn’t know.

And yet day after day, his eczema is a painful reminder of my failure, my helplessness, my blame, staring back at me, red as blood.

I yelled and nearly cried about the eczema twice today, and the shame cycle was strong with me. Every time I saw him clawing at himself, I wanted to scream. I wanted to run away or make him leave me alone, to stop reminding me of my failure. The shame heaved over and through me, spinning a cycle of anger and guilt I couldn’t leap out of.

Tonight I skipped out on bedtime stories and prayer because Josh let me, and because I needed to patch my niceness back together after the day shredded it.

I sat in a warm bath and listened to my husband tuck him into bed, the sound of the packing tape scraping off the reel, crinkling over his sock-cuffed hands and around his tiny wrists. That sound, one I’ve heard for months now, a bedtime ritual, broke me.

I don’t want it to be this way anymore. He is still so small. It’s not fair for him to absorb my anger at myself, my rage at my own helplessness. His little body, in distress, tired from the torment, deserves my compassion, not my rage.

Tears streamed down my face in the moment I knew I was ready to give us both mercy. Finally.

I pictured myself asking him to remind me, “Mom, it’s not your fault,” when I wanted to shriek in anger over the scratching moments we would inevitably face. He would do it too, if I asked him. He is the kind of kid who insists unsolicited, “You’re a good mom,” right after I unfairly yelled my eyeballs out for some misdemeanor offense.

This imaginary conversation with my son struck deep, a realization that deep down I must know, his eczema is no one’s fault. As much as I want to blame someone for his condition, for the endlessness and the sadness of it.

I want to blame someone like the Pharisees wanted to blame someone for the man born blind. They pointed at the blind man, they pointed at his parents. It’s his fault. It’s their fault, they shouted, accusing. And Jesus said, It’s no one’s fault. This is his story so he can display God’s goodness with his life. The man was healed after that day, and no one had to shoulder the blame. His healing was the end of the story, not the sickness.

I want that for us too. I want the healing part now, not later, but I can’t control that. But I will take Jesus’ admonition to the legalistic rule followers, the ones whose voices I hear in my head far too often.

“It is no one’s fault. It is his story to display God’s goodness. That is all.”

After the bath, I crawled into his dark room and lay down on his bed. I apologized for being so mean. I whispered that I wasn’t really mad at him when I yelled, that his pain made me feel it might be my fault. I told him I was really just angry at myself. Before I could finish, he was ready with, “I forgive you”, answering with the openness of someone who has not learned to hold a grudge. I thanked him and rubbed his back a while before saying Goodnight.

Now I am ready to give mercy, to get it in return. Since that’s the way mercy travels, in circles like that. I need mercy more than I’ll ever give it. I sort of hate that, but it’s good for me.

My son forgave me. God already did. Who am I to not forgive myself?

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I want to shout a giant THANK YOU to all of you who contributed to my crazy birthday campaign.

My goal was to raise $3400 in 34 hours. Our final total was just over $2000, which was only about 60%, but what amazed me about it was that the giving was done by about 15 people. Proof of your wild generosity and how much good a small of people can do.

So thank you for changing the lives of mothers and their children in the slum of Katwe, Uganda, forever. And thank you for being part of a moment of freedom for me too. I can’t do this without you. And I wouldn’t want to.

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Planned Parenthood, Let’s Get Real

Planned Parenthood, I am a woman and a mother, and I’ve got a problem with you. It’s the way you talk, the dishonesty in your words. Your rhetoric is unsettling and insulting to me as a woman who knows a lot about her body.

Let me give you an example: you call an abortion “removing the products of conception”. Who do you think you’re kidding? Every woman who walks out of the clinic knows exactly what her products of conception were. You want to call it tissue? That’s fine. But there is no other tissue in my body that has heartbeat unless it’s my heart. We know it’s a baby. Let’s be honest about that.

You call it healthcare when 94% of the women who are pregnant walking through your doors get an abortion. I thought we all vowed to make abortion safe and rare. You don’t provide women with information about adoption or resources on how to raise their own children, but why would you when you’re making money on the procedure? How rare do you really want it to be? And how is this actually care?

And again, remind me how we can call something “healthcare” when two fully alive humans walk into an operating room and only one walks out. In no other scenario besides abortion do we call something successful healthcare when someone routinely ends up dead from the process. 

You act as if redirecting funding from your illicit activities is a subversive attempt to defund ALL women’s healthcare. Please. Let’s stop acting as if the only way to care about women is to demand they can have an abortion at any time they want one. Good God. It’s biologically incongruous for a women to want to abort her child. A woman’s body, her hormones, her most natural tendency, is to give up even her own life to nurture and protect a growing baby, not destroy it. Demanding the right to an abortion is akin to demanding the right to severing one’s body part whenever one desired. 

A mentally and physically healthy woman with the financial means and social support does not want to abort her child. It’s not in our nature. Why should we as taxpayers be forced to support and pay for something that is biologically unnatural? (We should, however, financially support women in doing what is natural, but I’ll get to that.)

You call the Center for Medical Progress “extremists” when all they did was record several conversations with you and play them for the public. You’re the one who pulls babies apart and selling their organs for $30 apiece for “research” and all with taxpayer funding. Who are the extremists here, really? As someone who is funding your business with my hard-earned money, I demand an investigation at least. 

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As Americans, why are we okay with this? Why are we not advocating for more and better options for pregnant women? I do not know any women who has had an abortion that was happy about it. She did it for lack of options, because her boyfriend was abusive and didn’t want the child. Or because her parents were going to kick her out.

What if we stopped so vehemently defending the right to an abortion and started defending instead a woman’s right to raise her child?

What if we collaborated to support mothers who, under better circumstances, would want to raise their child?

I love the tagline of Feminists For Life: “Women deserve better than abortion”. Exactly. 

But now it’s time for my confession. As a prolife woman, I’ve been accused, and rightfully so, by Sister Joan Chittister and others, of being irresponsibly pro-birth and not pro-life. I can understand this. So often we fight to get a child earthside and as soon as they arrive, we throw a party and move on to plan the next rally. “There are babies to save, after all,” we tell ourselves.

But being prolife must mean supporting life from conception to death, not just the parts that are convenient. And let’s be real: conservatives aren’t too keen on government healthcare, welfare dole-outs or other federal subsidies for low-income families. So there’s a dissonance here between what we say we support and how we vote.

How can we celebrate a baby’s birth when we aren’t willing to also help the mother get her feet on the ground and earn a sustainable income? If we take away the choice for abortion, can we say in good conscience, “Congratulations on the baby, honey. I’m sure you’ll do fine.”

Even Proverbs warns against wishing someone be warm and well fed and doing nothing to improve their condition.

As prolife taxpayers, we need to get more involved. We need to be prochoice in terms of how the government spends our money, and yes, women deserve better than abortion. But what does that mean 10 years later for a women who opted out of abortion but doesn’t have the social resources to provide for herself AND her child, which is the situation for most women seeking abortion?

Here’s what I suggest we do with our money:

  • I will happily fund prenatal and postpartum care for mothers, as well as healthcare for the children.
  • I will fund infant and child adoptions.
  • I will fund mental health care for women who are post-abortive, post-adoptive and moms and dads who are dealing with stress due to parenthood.
  • I will fund a higher minimum wage so mothers and fathers can do better for their families.
  • I will partner with new mothers in my community to provide meals, mentorship or whatever support they need. 
  • I will fund education grants for parents who want to attend and finish their education.
  • I will fund childcare for parents who want (and need) to work to support their children.
  • I will collaborate with community organizations and churches to support parents with education, babysitting and parents’ days out, and anything else they might need.
  • And last but certainly not least, my husband and I agreed from the start of our marriage that we would be open to adoption and always, if we knew a mother contemplating abortion, be willing to help her raise her child or even adopt the child, if needed. We know big change starts small, and it starts with us.

If we want to remove abortion from the social consciousness, we are going to have to work together to remove the need for abortion. We will have to make the resources and support for families so abundantly available that mothers will always know they have somewhere to turn when they have an unexpected pregnancy and everyone else in their world is saying “No” to life. 

We will say “Yes” to life not with votes and protests but with our time and money. With our love and our life. 

It will take all of us, not throwing stones but offering true compassion and empathy to women on either side of abortion. It will not happen overnight, but all of us who love life must stand not just with the women outside the abortion clinic, but all the way until she stands with her child at their college graduation and beyond.

If we say we stand for life, let’s be true to our word and stand for all of life. Not just birth, but LIFE.

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I Don’t Have An Anger Problem, Unless You Are Four Years Old

Tonight was one of those nights where I wanted to quit motherhood. Like seriously, quit and walk away. Quit because it is so hard and clearly, whatever I am doing is not working.

I still feel like a broken mother. And earlier, giving up seemed like the better, wiser option because I can’t do this. I am not good at this.

I wanted a permanent timeout. For my kid, yes, but mostly for myself.

Me. Except not as well dressed. And way angrier. [Click photo for credit.]
The breakdown was well-earned. Only five minutes into an evening walk, something that is becoming something of a ritual for us, my oldest decided he wanted to go a different direction than I did. When I explained this was not on the agenda, he escalated into what became the biggest, loudest, nastiest tantrum I have ever seen.

I turned the baby and the stroller around to head home because no child of mine was going to enjoy themselves if they behaved this way. But the walk home only got worse.

I would tell you all the graphic moments and how I was so painfully wronged, but I am learning that my child is not a possession but a separate human so it’s really not fair for me to share his bad behavior with you. At least not all the gory details. Even if he tells you about mine, like he has at church more than once. Sigh. But I digress.

When we got home, he had lost all his privileges for the evening. I managed myself fine while we were out walking. I couldn’t very well freak out in public. But when he kept up his tantrum-ing at home, my cool and collected self straight up evaporated. I lost it: a showdown of who could yell the loudest.

I wanted an ally so I told Josh about how our son had lost his mind and what needed to happen for him to find it. I sort of wanted revenge.

But then, I’d lost my mind too. I had to own that.

My son and I have a lot in common, aside from our strong personalities and our love of adventure and people. We freak out when we feel powerless, when we feel we are fighting a losing battle. We get scared, and we lose our cool. We both do it, and I’ll bet he learned it from me, not his dad.

It makes me sad because I’m afraid if I keep this up, I will lose more than my patient demeanor, the thing that makes me look good in front of other people. If I don’t watch it, I could lose my son too.

I feel powerful in many area of my life. I know how to talk to clients or co-workers, how to get people to share my ideas or jump on board with my plans.

But I never feel so powerless as I do with my children. I think those moments when we reach the end are the tests, and I usually fail them.

Two years ago, I wrote about my anger problem, how I yelled too much. But I don’t have an anger problem. I have a power problem. I don’t feel powerful when my kids act up so I react by acting powerless. I yell or freak out or overreact, letting the moment or their behavior tell me what to do, rather than guiding them forward and upward with my calm presence.

I know better. They don’t. But in the heat, I’m as lost as they are.

So who’s the parent? Sometimes I don’t know.

Don’t worry. I’m not really going to quit. I know that blaming myself for being a “bad mother” is just a pity party, a crappy excuse to stop doing hard things. I can’t quit. I mean, it’s not even legal. But if it was, it’s lame.

I can’t walk away when I’m bad at something, even if it’s one of those annoying (yet hopelessly necessary) virtues like patience or self-control.

Apparently, God thinks I need parenting, need this particular child, for my personal growth. And he needs me.

We need each other. (Sorry, son.)

Before he went to bed tonight, my son and I apologized to each other. We talked about our anger problem and what we can do next time to keep from letting it get there.

Mostly, I need a plan for myself. I am 33. He is 4. One of us can be expected to have another tantrum. The other needs to manage it, be a good example, for crying out loud.

If you’ve got loads of patience and self-control, pray for me. I need what you have. But if you can relate, help me remember – and I’ll remind you too – that we aren’t here to parent our children perfectly. Nor are we here to make perfect humans of them. But we are here to make each other better, with each interaction, to bring the other closer to God.

Our children can do it for us. Let’s try to do that for them too. You with me?

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When You Think You’re Never Going To Get Better

Today I talked with a mama friend who’s been anxious and scared for a long while. She’s tired of fighting this fight with her mind. I know this feeling so well.

There were days in the worst of my paralyzing paranoia where I wanted to just give up. I didn’t want to die, really, but I just didn’t have much fight left. I thought, if this keeps going, I can’t. I can’t do this.

The worst part was realizing what was wrong, fixing it, and then still nothing. I didn’t get better. At least not at first.

At some point early in the struggle, I knew the problem was rooted in soul neglect. Of course, add in the years of sleep deprivation, the disappointment and uncertainty of pastoring, friends moving and confusing career discoveries, scary news everywhere I looked, plus a depleted body and rapid hormone shifts, and it was a perfect storm. But isn’t this most women’s story? I seriously wonder how every mother doesn’t have a postpartum mental health challenge to overcome. But I digress.

I could feel something specific was wrong with me: my skeleton insides craved nourishment, silence, solitude, attention, God himself.

So I started doing something so very small, spending 15 minutes in a big chair in my living room, quiet and still, like David said to do in Psalm 131. I let my soul be a child, because it is after all, and slowly, painfully, there were less bad days and more good days.

The bad days would come though, and I would want to give up. I would claim I was always this way, that I was losing a battle. But the truth was, I wasn’t losing. I was winning. The bad days didn’t end in a second like I wanted, but I was gaining. Gaining weight on the bones of my soul, gaining insight on who I was and what I needed.

I was becoming myself again, although I barely recognized her at first.

During the worst of it, it felt like it took way too long to get healthy again. I wish it would’ve gone faster, but how could it have? It took weeks and months and years to get so sick, so how could I expect to be well again after a few hours of quiet? The sadness had been stacking up and so I had to stack up silence and healing to take place of the ill in my soul.

So if you’re feeling like it’s been taking too long and you’re still having more bad days than good days, I want you to keep doing the good things. Keep making room for yourself and God. Keep taking the anxious waters of your soul and letting them sit near the calm waters of God. Let the light in. Keep telling your story and remember to talk about all the work you’ve done and how far you’ve come. You need to remember that part more than anyone else needs to hear it.

You’re weeding your garden, pulling up the junk that grew without your permission and planting beautiful things instead. They’re underground now, and it seems like nothing is happening. But it is. But you can’t give up. Keep weeding, Keep planting. Soon you will feel strong and healthy and beautiful.

Help and Healing For The Anxious Mother

I never saw it coming. The anxiety from this past year. I’d heard of postpartum mood disorders, but knew it would never happen to me. Not with my mental health training, my pastor-husband and my strong faith. Not with my friends all around me to support me. Not me. Even my second birth itself was beautiful and empowering.

But months later, something ugly started to grow. My disconnection with my soul and my chronic self-neglect started to reveal themselves. My insides were a skeleton, a garden overgrown with weeds.

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I started to feed on the most terrifying media. I always knew where to find the news, and if I didn’t read it, I could envision it in my head – all the worst, goriest scenarios. All-out war and diseased plagued me, if only in my mind.

And as the months dragged and the images magnified, just like that, fear drained the hope and life right out of me.

I felt such peace at first, rocking my newborn to sleep. It was beautiful. I thought everything was fine. I thought I would take care of myself later. But the accumulation of lost sleep, the chronic neglect of my soul and the pain of the world all created a perfect storm.

No one knew the hopelessness of my mind. The fact that over and over in my mind, I asked myself, “What’s the point? What’s the point?”

It felt so grim, so permanent. I thought I would always be this way. 

I realized it was soul neglect early enough, and I started doing all the things I knew to do, prayer and singing and reminding myself of God’s promises. I sat in the quiet with Jesus and tried to quiet my soul.

At first, it didn’t work. The waters of refreshing simply pooled on the desert floor of my insides. But after a while, it started to sink in. I started to talk about the fear, the sense that something horrible was just around the corner. I started to realize what was really happening. My husband prayed for me. I told my story.

What I thought would always be true became a memory. 

But it was so lonely, and if you are like me, you feel like no one will understand. You think no one could know what your painful world is like. No one will comprehend what it feels like to be trapped in your own mind. No one can understand why you lay in your bed with your heart racing, unable to sleep, with the possibilities of pain and death and loss spread before you in high definition.

But I do understand – it happened to me too. 

Here’s the crazy thing though: during all this time, my circumstances never changed. The scary was all in my mind. Fear, panic and paranoia, all trapped inside my inner world.

This taught me that above all things, we must fight for our mental real estate. The state of my soul is something only I can curate. My inner life is my responsibility, and I am daily inviting in darkness or light by the choices I make, what I choose to look at.

As mothers, we have to come to terms with our vulnerability. We have never loved anything like we love this tiny baby. Our bodies broke open to bring them into the world. We can’t imagine losing them. And the fear of this haunts us.

We have never been so open, so vulnerable as when we love. But unless we care for our souls well, our vulnerability, the cracks that love in, will let in the pain of the world too. And the infection will make us sick. 

But we don’t have to be ruled by panic, fear, anxiety. We don’t have to be sick and live crippled by things that are only temporary anyway.

Beauty: it’s right here in front of you, and all around you.

I love what Paul told the Galatian Church – this has been a saving grace for me:

“Instead of being anxious, thank God for all the things you can think of, then pray and ask for what you need. Then peace that it so powerful, it doesn’t even make sense, will stand guard at your heart and mind. So whatever is lovely and beautiful and good and worthy of praise and adoration, if anything is wonderful, focus and meditate on and pay attention to these things.”

We become whatever we look at. For years, I read the news, the panic-stricken, fear-mongering news. I became a junkie of fear, and I had to detox.

Now, I don’t read the news. It’s not news to me that there is pain and suffering in the world anyway. I guard my mind and heart and soul vigilantly. Whatever I listen to and watch and think about are seeds planted in my garden, and whatever I plant will grow.

I planted fear in my soul, and panic grew. I planted sorrow in my soul and despair grew.

Now I plant goodness in my soul and beauty grows. I plant peace in my soul and generosity grows. 

So what are you looking for, mama? Let me urge you with all of myself to look for beauty. Look for goodness. Look for compassion and kindness and healing and restoration.

Whatever you look for, you will find. You will see it everywhere, the thing you seek.

So stop looking for the scary, terrifying things. Stop looking for evidence that the world is unsafe and no one can be trusted.

Let me give you a prescription for soul-care, for the thing we mamas really need:

Go to museums and art shows and concerts. Take the baby for a walk and listen to the birds sing. Search for beauty in your babies fingers and toes, in the grass beneath your feet and the trees in your yard. Sit in the quiet with God until your soul quiets down. Take a break from always being mother and let yourself be a child with God. Become obsessed with finding beauty and goodness in the unlikeliest of places. I promise you it’s hiding there, waiting to be discovered.

Please, if you do anything this year as a mom, let goodness and beauty cleanse and calm you. Let them restore your faith in Father God and your faith in humanity.

You were made for beauty. You yourself are beautiful. Look for beauty, let it in, let fear go.

Perfect, whole, complete love pushes out fear.

Darkness is only the absence of light.

When we let the light in, the darkness will run, and only love will be left.

Surely goodness and mercy will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in Father God’s house forever and ever. -Psalm 23

 Let’s be bright and whole and full of love together.

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There’s No Such Thing As Perfect (Until You’re Dead)

Your life is this road, up and awesome one minute, and if only it just stayed that way, but then whoops, you’re down at bottom again. [click photo for credit]
There is no such thing as perfect.

There is no such as a perfect child, a perfect hairstyle, a perfect front yard, a perfect job.

There is no perfect score. No perfect performance.

There are no perfect husbands, and no perfect wives. There is no such thing as a perfect dad or mom.

There are no perfect friends, perfect houses, or perfect neighborhoods.

There is no perfect way to spend your time or your money or your thoughts.

Perfect implies completion, and this side of heaven, we are constantly growing, gaining and losing. As long as you are breathing, you aren’t not done yet.

Yet we are always on the lookout for perfect. We tell ourselves it doesn’t exist, yet we are always disappointed when we don’t find it.

When we are on hold or something is taking a long time, we often assume it is because the perfect thing is being prepared for us. We think if we just wait a little longer, the perfect job/husband/wife/house/opportunity will come along.

I have not found this to be true at all. I have only found that God makes good out of bad. He takes a lot of things that are imperfect and makes them beautiful, and eventually, perfect.

He takes an imperfect husband and an imperfect wife and makes imperfect children. They live together in an imperfect house with an imperfect lawn (and a sink full of dishes that I swear we just did an hour ago.) On Sunday mornings, they go to an imperfect church crammed full of imperfect people who sing along with an imperfect band banging out imperfect songs. And then imperfect pastor has the courage to get up and preach an imperfect message.

Then they all drive in their little imperfect cars back to their imperfect lives and somehow, in the middle of the mess, there is a God, piecing together the pretty good, and the not-that-bad, and oh-heck-no. And what do you know? He makes it good. He is so good at that.

Let us not underestimate the value of adversity. This life is not about arriving on some high hill, buying real estate and squatting there. It is not about “making it”. God is not in the comfort business. He is in the gold-making business. It is in the hot and uncomfortable and tight places we find ourselves in that we can have a chance at coming up gold. It’s the dark and invisible, the high-pressure, underground places where the diamonds form.

This side of heaven there is no perfect anything, at least nothing that will last. But if you stay close, Someone who is perfect will keep working on you until you look just like him, and then you will finally get your Perfect after all.

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What We Mean When We Say We’re Busy

I used to think I was busy, and I used to think that made me important. The busier, the important-er I was. Or so I thought.

When people stopped by my office, they’d apologize for taking my time. They told me they knew I was busy but they would make it quick. I find myself doing that to other people I perceived as busy and important as well.

The truth is, I have a lot to do, but I’m not busy. My proverbial plate is full and spinning and all that, but I’m not busy. Not too busy to make room for people.

Being busy, or acting busy, keeps people at arms length. It sends the message that people are not welcome. One of my primary jobs as a Christian and a social worker is to send a message to people that they are welcome that there is room for them. This is the opposite of busyness.

I don’t want people to apologize for taking my time. I don’t want people to apologize for sitting on my couch and sharing their lives with me. I don’t want to be perceived as somebody who doesn’t have room or time for others.

There might be a pile on my desk and a stack in the sink, but if that doesn’t bother you, I won’t let it bother me.

Because I have to pick.

I can’t be generous with time and while living under a scarcity complex.

I can’t make room and crowd out.

I can’t be hospitable and busy.

So I’m going to pick the one that lets me love.

Tell Them What To See

We took John to the museum a few weeks ago. I was afraid it might go badly. He is only four, after all. He might break something, throw a tantrum, embarrass me somehow. But I craved the creative. So we went anyway. 

When we walked through the doors, genius struck. Instead of clutching his hand and demanding he stay close, I leaned down and said, “This is a museum. There are treasures everywhere. Look for treasures, and I’ll look too.” 

“Okay,” he whispered back, as we walked slowly beneath the giant, vaulted ceiling. 

He ran a couple times. He got hungry. But he found treasure. And so did I. 

We always find what we are looking for. When you have young kids, going to a museum means looking for trouble or looking for treasure. 

And we always find what we are looking for. So what are you looking for?