All This Beauty

img_3356A blanket of snow
fell last night.

If I get bogged down
in the shoveling and
the ensuing puddles and
the required gear,
I miss the beauty.

So it is with life:
I can wallow in the brown slush or
choose to stop,
look up, and
watch the snow tumble down,
hushing everything,
and thank the one who sent
all this beauty.

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“Let the excellence of your work be your protest.” –Bill Lane

I read this quotation tonight and immediately felt discouraged that my work this week has consisted primarily of caring for my children, felled by strep throat and high fevers.

Discouraged I didn’t have written work I could pour over and make excellent, I walked past the rooms of my sleeping children, and the words hit me—the excellence of my work. These children are the excellence. They are the excellent work of God, who has entrusted them to my care. Today, this is my work.

Today, I triumphantly unloaded the dishwasher, made different dinners for still-sick throats; read some Harry Potter, Fancy Nancy, and On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness to their respective listeners; and, under my son’s persistent tutelage, I finally beat him in the Wii Mario Olympics long jump competition. Twice.

There are so many heartbreaking events I could stand in protest against today, but tonight I stand in protest against the voices that yell, “Do something of value,” ignoring mothering as something of value. Tonight I see that God is doing excellent work in these brilliant young lives, and He’s given me a front-row seat. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

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Nothing works today—

Nothing works today—
The vacuum,
The bus,
The heat.

Nothing is complete—
The laundry,
The lists,
The house.

When nothing works the way I want,
When I cut it to the bone,
It feels like you’re out to get me, God.

But you,
You meet me there:

Yes, I’m out to get you,
My treasure.
Your heart, I’m after your heart
That’s hell-bent on your plans,
I want it bent on me.

Your plans and hopes for today are too small.
Mine are big.
Mine are better
For you.

Let loose your desires to me,
I’ll hold them fast.

Like balloons,
Dreams held down too long

But give me your dreams,
Release your clenched fists,
And watch them escape
From you
Into me.

Yes, things break here.
Yes, they’re incomplete.

But one day,
You’ll see
All things work
For good,
All things complete.

Trust me.
I have good for you
Even today.

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Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.
–Psalm 116:7

We’ve lived in Pittsburgh for almost three months now. We moved into a house built in 1929. It’s a beautiful home with countless issues we unknowingly walked into. We miss familiarity; we miss old friends. Some days the loss feels deeply painful.

The Lord has dealt bountifully with you.

There’s a friend in Nashville who is dying and several who already have. Today has been hard.

Truth-telling: Do I believe God is dealing bountifully with me? Does it feel like he’s dealing bountifully with me and with these families? No. No, it doesn’t feel bountiful.

If we stop long enough to feel it, life this side of heaven is hard and hurts and doesn’t feel good. All the feels are rough and scratchy; they wound and hurt. This side of heaven there’s a constant commingling of sorrow and joy because things here are broken. Jaggedly so. But I’m choosing to believe today that God is, among countless things, an artist. His medium is often mosaics: taking separate, broken pieces and forming them into one masterful work of art. The end work is only the artist’s until it’s finished.

As I work with him through the heartache and pain that are so often life, I want to believe the truth, his truth, that he has dealt bountifully with me. If I choose to believe he is unmercifully dealing out hardships and suffering, there’s no rest for my soul. There will be  hardships and suffering until heaven, and I am choosing today to believe that God always deals bountifully with me. It’s not always in the way I’d choose for him to deal with me. But he continues to deal out his unyielding faithfulness nevertheless.

So, today, I’m listing ways he’s dealt bountifully with me. I am not ignoring the pain, but I am fighting to see God’s provision even there. It’s so easy to complain; a friend once said, it’s lazy to complain. It’s a sacrifice to thank, a sacrifice of praise, to see God’s bountiful provision everywhere.

Very little is familiar here. But he is.
We believe he brought us here and that he goes before us and will be with us.
We believe he is providing, even when his provision doesn’t always look the way we want it to.
We believe his mercies are new every morning, even when they don’t look the way we asked for them to look.
We believe he is good, even when it’s hard to make out his goodness.
We believe he is never changing, he never sleeps, he is always in our midst, he is in the details, he is love.
We believe he is a good father: “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” –Matthew 7:11

Even as I type these things, I can feel my heart softening and the Spirit reminding me of God’s good gifts we’ve seen here already:
We have been loved well by new friends who are not scared away by my tears and have delved into life with us around their table and ours.
We have neighbors who brought us a feast in a Steelers’ cooler and continue to explode and expand our definition of generosity.
We see God’s overflowing provision in our church and in our kids’ schools. . . .

God has dealt bountifully with me. And however my list of that bounty looks today, it always ends with the truth that he saved me and is saving me and is mighty to do so. I deserve eternal death, but he is graciously bountiful to me in Jesus.

My little sister taught me to pray about the details, however small, because God loves us, details and all. And you know what? It helps. Imagine that: It helps to call on my creator, the one who is always with me and understands me completely. It calms and encourages my soul to ask him to give my kids strong friendships or to help us find a plumber or to ask him to meet us in our sadness and realize he knows sadness well.

Because he is our shepherd, we shall not want (Psalm 23:1). Even when my wants hit a screaming pitch and seem they’ll never be met, one day, I shall not want. Even today, I shall not want for the things he knows I truly need. He gives me daily bread. May he give you and me pause to stop and eyes to see that daily bread, accept it as enough and even as bountiful provision, and break it with one another.

Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.
–Psalm 116:7



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The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters (footnote: “beside waters of rest”). He restores my soul. –Psalm 23: 1-3

He gives me rest. That is a hard statement to believe. Life is crazy, whatever your station or season.

I realized today that I have a singular vision of rest: sitting on the beach absorbed in a book. And that is one lovely type of rest, but it’s only one type.

Today I sat and watched my kids play. I have mountains of boxes to unpack, but I sat in a patio chair, which I’ve just discovered can rock, and I rocked and watched my kids and realized God does gives me rest.

God is opening my eyes to see that he leads me beside waters of rest every day—they may not be the waters of rest I had in mind, but it is rest, even for a few minutes before I re-enter parenting mode. He is true to his word, he doesn’t forget me, and he doesn’t forget to open my eyes to watch him provide. I believe he provides rest for you too, even today, wherever you are. Drink deeply.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. -Matthew 11:28

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We told our kids we’re moving to Pittsburgh this summer for a new job. They were sad, asked why we couldn’t stay, but amid the sadness, they accepted it. They have questions, ranging from the state bird and flower to where they’ll go to school. But they inherently trust us.

We told them we were going to find a new home there. They asked if they could see the options and help us decide on the best house, but we asked them to let us do that work for them. I told them about our first house-hunting experience, how I set my heart on a house on the far side of town, but it was bought out from under us. I told them how hard it was to get excited about living anywhere else after that. But God knew. He knew the community he had specifically chosen for us. They nodded their heads, realizing the gravity of the choice and the goodness of God to them in their friends and said, “Will you please find a house for us?”

They teach me faith, child-like faith. Sometimes faith is an impossibly hard act, prying off fear and putting on trust in who God is. He is my good, good father. I can’t comprehend his goodness and mercy; sometimes they look like nothing more than painful change to me. But in remembering his promises and his past provision, I can rest in him. I can ask him to find a house for us, and he can tell our realtor about a house that’s not even on the market, which he did. He prepares the way for me. He takes the burden from my shoulders and puts it on his own. He says, “Will you trust me? Will you trust ME? I promise I have good planned for you and the children I gave you. Will you trust me like your children trust you? I promise my provision for you is far beyond what you could ask or imagine because I love you that much. I want you to trust and rest in me.”

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The Brilliance of Pretending

imageI was privileged to write for Proximity Magazine on how play looks for us as adults and what we can learn from our children in The Brilliance of Pretending. I’d love for you to take a look; it just went live today.

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I saw a video at church that Dove created as part of their ‘Choose Beautiful’ campaign last spring. At shopping malls in Delhi, San Francisco, Sao Paulo, Shanghai, and London, they placed signs above two adjacent doors, one marked “Beautiful” and the other marked “Average,” and then they filmed women deciding which door to walk through, which door they felt described them.

It’s a powerful video to watch, but the sermon that followed the video reminded us of a much bigger, more powerful story: Our pastor and friend, Dave Burden, suggested that how we see ourselves—what creates our identity—affects how and where we walk. How I view myself creates the launchpad from which I do all of life.

“Beautiful” can be a word that speaks beyond appearance and goes to the core of who God says I am. Beautiful can be about walking through the door of God’s love for me, squinting to see myself through his eyes, fighting against the devil’s schemes and lies about who I am or who I’m not, armed with the truth of who God says I am.

Romans 8:9-17 says that if God’s Spirit dwells in us, we

-“are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear”
-“are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ . . .” 

I’m his child. He desired me and ransomed his son for me. And I’m an heir to a full and glorious kingdom. This is the tip of the iceberg of who God says I am. His word is chalked full of tender, unbelievably loving proclamations of who he says I am. And I am who he says I am. I’m not who other people say I am or even who I may feel I am or am not. And I am armed with God’s power to fight my way through the door that’s draped in the banner of his love for me, bypassing the door of slavery to fear and slavery to the lies of the accuser, which tell me I’m just average and tell me to compare myself to this person or that—shouting, “You’re not enough!”

As in the Dove video, where brave women pulled their friends and daughters through the Beautiful door with them and, in essence, said, “You are walking with me through this proclamation because, even when you don’t see beauty in yourself, I see it,” many days, we need someone to pull us alongside them and walk us through the truth that we are beloved, we are heirs, we are adopted daughters and sons and to say to us, “This is real. This is what’s true. This is who you are and what you were made for: You were made for God and his love for you. Walk in the truth of who you really are.”

Abba Father, would you teach us how to walk in the truth that our identity is what you say about us in your word? Would you walk us through the door of your love and truth when the songs of the world tell us we’re less-than? Would you fight for us as we strain to hear the song of love you are singing over us? Would you lead us headlong into your invitation to embrace who we are in you, to rest from the striving to be something or someone else? Would you help us believe we are beautiful to you?



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Uncertainty Is an Armchair

What if uncertainty
were a plump, fluffy armchair
and I slid into it, my socked feet pulled close

What if
I let this chair envelope me
and made friends with its ever-present nature

What if
I settled in
and even rested there,
trusting that nothing is uncertain
to my God.

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Mantle of Mom

Three paragraphs. This fall I had the opportunity to write for a parenting magazine. They asked me to write three paragraphs about the challenges of being a stay-at-home mom. More specifically, they wanted me to speak on how I balance being a mother and not getting lost in that identity. I could have written on this topic for three days, but I offered my three paragraphs: Continue reading

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