Archives For Family

Congregant Caricatures

March 6, 2014 — 3 Comments

The thing about caricatures is you always know who it is just by looking at it:

caricature

And yet, you know you can’t trust the likeness.

Right?

A caricaturist zeros in on several points on a person’s face. Maybe it’s a slightly larger nose, or a bit of a crooked smile, or maybe something as pedestrian as deeply blue eyes or a natural blush. The caricaturist’s aim is to exaggerate and minimize what sets the face apart. His aim is not to make ugly, but often times a caricature looks ugly. If you’ve ever had one done you know the righteous indignation that accompanies first sight,

“I don’t really look like that!” you say, and of course you don’t.

But you kind of do. Not really. But sort of. Enough that you’re recognizable, not enough that anyone who knows your face well would say it’s an exact likeness.

Within culture at large, and Church culture especially, caricaturists abound. In some ways, they’re the comedians of the inner circle; the Jon Acuff and Jen Hatmakers. They zone in on the ridiculous and ludicrous parts of the Christian life and family and help us all laugh at ourselves. They satire, and they’re good at it, and we laugh at them because they’re helping us laugh at ourselves.

When Caricature goes badly is when a sly artist studies a theology or movement solely to find the weak or shallow parts. Then they pound out a blog post heard round the world for a split second and then life goes on as normal. A moment of fame while everyone points and laughs at the funny man in the picture, asks how could he be so silly and stupid and ugly, and how could he not know he’s so silly and stupid and ugly.

Ha ha.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Here’s the other thing about caricatures: we know the elongated nose or tiny eyes or stout neck are true about us; in fact, nobody sees our face in the mirror, under such a microscope as we do.

But when the caricature is passed around as truth for long enough, everyone starts to believe that’s our real face. That’s who we really are. But it’s not.

That’s not the person who wakes up in the morning, drinks their coffee while they read the bible, who packs lunch for her kids or drops the shampoo in the shower, who can’t find their keys where they left them, who buys coffee for the person behind them in line, who killed it at the meeting with his coworkers, who meets weekly with a guy who just needs prayer and a friend, who forgot to put gas in the car, who falls into bed every night exhausted and confident that they are doing exactly what God designed them to do and be and look like.

Who cares about a caricature when there are real people to be seen?

If you are tempted to zero in on a particular face of a movement and draw for the world a caricature they won’t forget, what you need to remember is at the end of the day we throw those caricatures in the garbage. Nobody really wants to look at them, and especially not the subject of the drawing. Why? Because it’s not true. It’s partially true, which makes it not true.

If you want people to listen to what you have to say, really listen, not just rally around you, or press like on your Facebook post, you have to sit with them and be true with them, and be truthful about them.

I asked an artist one time, a man who paints likenesses that almost breathe with life, how he made the paintings.

“Do you take a photo and paint from that?” I asked him.

“Oh, no,” he said, “I make the subject sit in front of me, hours and hours and hours. How could I paint them life-like if I did not see them living?”

If you came here looking for gossip, this is not where you’ll find it. I alluded to a few things in my recent post on Same Sex Attraction and Delaying Marriage, so consider these thoughts just a continuation of that post.

First, I want to say that I bear no ill will toward my parents in any way. Hebrews 12:10 says, “Your fathers disciplined you as it seemed best,” and whatever that verse means for you, for me it means I can trust my parents did what they thought best. They did not intend harm toward me or my siblings in the schooling or spiritual choices they made for our family. That does not mean we were not harmed, only that I know they were doing what they thought best.

Second, I want to say that God is not a wasteful God. He does not pile up the scraps of our lives and bemoan the loss. He is a careful artist and potter, shaping and shifting, knitting and building, crafting those made in His image to be more and more like Him. He is careful and attentive. He does not waste experiences or difficulties or joys or pains. Every single moment of my life has been held in His capable hands. I see that more today than I ever have before and I trust Him.

Now, let’s talk about homeschooling and sex scandals

If you were a part of the homeschooling revolution of the 80s and 90s, then you were most likely a child of someone who came of age in the 60s and 70s. These were the hypnotic, drug hazed years of rock n roll, hippies, bra-burning, Woodstock, and the Jesus Movement. These were people who knew how to sin big—and who came to Jesus big. For most of our parents, even if they were not part of those movements, they were influenced by them—for better or worse.

As any parent, and especially ones new to faith, would do, they protected their young often to the point of over-protecting. They banned rock music, R rated movies (or PG13 if you were my parents); they monitored clothing choices not only for modesty, but also for looking too much like the world; they monitored friendships—especially friendships between boys and girls (more on that in the aforementioned post).

Folks, I have stories I find laughable now, but then? In the moment? Rage inducing stories. It was tough to be a child in that atmosphere. We were ruled by the fear of what might become of us. There was little grace in our communities—in fact, it wasn’t until I was in my late 20s that the word grace ever entered my vocabulary as something other than a girl’s name.

These parents intended to protect, and they did, but drawing boundary lines close around your daughter still does not protect her from herself. Naming things as off limits to your son does not keep him from delving into the darkness in his own heart.

You can monitor modesty and measure hemlines, but you cannot moderate the temperature of your child’s heart. You can eliminate songs with beats, but you cannot temper the beating of your child’s heart for artistry. You can talk about not defrauding the hearts of boys or girls, but you cannot control the trigger in their hearts that jumps when they feel chemistry.

The problem is, for many and most of these homeschooling parents, they tried to do just that.

Full disclosure for a moment here

I was not simply a homeschooled kid. My family brushed shoulders with some of the upper echelon of the homeschool movement of the 90s. My parents produced an award winning book for homeschoolers and I spent most of my youth surrounded by the most deeply entrenched in the movement. We were taking over the world, one homeschool convention at a time.

Within these homeschool circles, because there was much protection, there was much trust with likeminded individuals (I remember being disciplined and rebuked often by other parents in my family’s circle), and kids were free to roam among their likeminded peers. There was a common habit of putting the older children in charge of the younger children—but all of us still just children. And all of us bit with the curiosity that forbidden fruit offers. I had my first encounter with sexuality when I was 10 years old. I cannot even remember all the times my peers were either accused of sexual curiosity, abuse, or simply “going too far.” It was epidemic—and still never talked about.

Natural curiosity lies abed in everyone. We all want to know about things. All sorts of things. How they work, if they work, who knows how to make them work, and if they’ll work for us. For many of these homeschoolers though, the questions about sex and relationships were squelched—even the good ones.

You can protect your kids from almost anything, but if you don’t teach them that their greatest threat is self and the sinfulness that lies inside them, they’ll be surprised by it every time.

Curiosity kills the cat—and sometimes the mouse too.

In the past few years more and more allegations of sexual abuse or assault within conservative movements has come to light (SGM, ATI, BJU, PHC, and far more).

Friends, we should not be surprised.

I believe that much of the sexual abuse and scandal that’s coming to light these days is directly related to the sin of legalism. It was Eve telling the serpent, “God said we could not eat or touch.” There was so much fear surrounding the other things in life (music, clothing, doctrine, even food), that to broach the subject of sex just seemed almost other-worldly.

We added to the gospel, to the truest things God ever said. We got knowledge of good and evil, but for many in the homeschooling movement, we prided ourselves on keeping the knowledge inside and the evil locked safely out. We never let ourselves realize the heart contains all the knowledge and evil it needs to have things go very, very badly indeed.

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Note: These are just my thoughts and commentary on a bit of my own experience. I believe most parents who spearheaded these movements realize their error at this point—and most of us, the product of these movements, certainly realize it.

The solution is the whole gospel—and to flee whenever you catch even a drift of another gospel. There are “other” gospels everywhere—pet theologies, dogmatic arguments, dramatic treatises on any subject offering the real truth and real life, but Christ alone is it. Christ alone.

If you find yourself heading into a belief system that places more emphasis on any outworking of the gospel, than it does on the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, flee.

Half of 28 is 14

February 28, 2014 — 3 Comments

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February 28th is my dead brother’s 28th birthday. Is that what they call the Golden Birthday? He always was the golden boy. The dead often are.

I don’t believe in celebrating the birthdays of the dead, but this one in particular sticks to my ribs, to my heart, and in my soul in a different way than all the rest. It is a benchmark birthday.

Andrew was 14 when he died and it has been 14 years since he died. Life has gone on as normal for 14 years, but now we are on the other side—the side that will have experienced more of life without Andrew than with him. It is a strange thing to celebrate or commemorate, and yet I do.

A few weeks ago a friend said to me, “Sometimes I think about all the things he’s been spared from, just by going on ahead of us,” and I had to agree. A lot of living—and dying—has happened in these 14 years. I am glad he was spared, and I am also glad I was not. God does know what is best and I trust Him in that.

There are things about Andrew that are forever memorialized in my mind, his wide mouth and smiling eyes, his lanky legs and heavy steps, his long fingers and, most of all, his kindness. Andrew was kind to everyone he met, a simple, unaffected kindness. The sort you get from hardly anyone and want from almost everyone. He had time for you, for everyone. He might have taken all the time in the world to get to you, but when he did, he had time.

For many years I felt the injustice of being the one left behind—me, the one who is always in a hurry to get everywhere, him the slow almost plodding one. And yet he got there first.

The irony is never lost on me.

God Saves Little Boys

February 21, 2014 — 5 Comments

My family had just moved from an affluent Bucks County five acre lot in Pennsylvania to 120 acres in the middle of seeming nowhere New York state. I was 18 and my two youngest brothers were attached to my hip. They snuck into my bed at night, or just slept on a mattress beside my bed. I read them stories all day long and every night, and they are in every one of my life’s favorite memories.

The Little Boys, we called them, one tow-headed and green-eyed, and the other just like me, brown haired and startling blue eyes. They were my right and left hands, my favorite people, and my joy.

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When death snuck in one rainy April morning and then a fractured family followed shortly after, I clung to those boys—if not in body, in soul. They who were a part of my every favorite memory, were also the ones caught in the crosshairs of a court system who rarely has the child’s best interest in mind—even if they say they do.

Through all of that, one memory stands above them all. It was right after the move to New York state, the walls not yet painted and the boxes not yet unpacked. My best friend and I took those two Little Boys to the top of a hill across the street. We had no way of knowing that a year later we would bury my 14 year old brother on that same hill. The sun was setting and the sky streaked blue and orange and black.

We sat in the tall grass and those boys ran circles around us while we sat on the grass and talked about Best Friends things. When that tow-headed three year old stopped and fell into best friend’s lap, the one who looked like me stood tall, raised his hands to the sky, and with the bold confidence of a five-year old, said, “When I grow up, I’m going to be a pastor so I can worship God all the time.”

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That five year old is a grown man now, has tumbled back and forth through the angst of a broken family along with his two younger brothers for the entirety of his life. There were many times in the past 15 years where I have held onto those hilltop words, praying them to even be a fraction prophetic—if only that their salvation would be secure, that their faith in God would not break.

In December I spent some time with that young man, who is now the age I was on that hilltop. He studies graphic design at a local university and keeps a blog; he works hard at everything he does and yet knows his salvation is not worked for or earned; he is so very far ahead of where I was at his age.

And every time I think of him, I think of that hilltop and those words and all the brokenness that followed, and how God does not let one thing out of His sight, not one thing.

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Friends, I’m weeping as I write this, not only because I love that boy and his gentle heart and big fierce love for his family and God. But also because for a lot of years I asked for fruit that I didn’t see. All I saw was the brokenness, the courtrooms, the wooden casket lowered into the ground, the arguments, the shuffling back and forth of their young bodies and souls. It is still ongoing, even now, with the two youngest of my family. But God saves. He saves.

He plants seeds and covers over and for a long time there is just deep, earthy darkness, but then one day, a decade and a half later, there is a strong branch grown bearing good fruit.

Because God saves.

What feels dark and covered over to you today? Where are you waiting for something broken to come untrue? He is with you in those moments, and He is working in you a better prize, a more lasting one. Just you wait.

Makerness

February 17, 2014 — 2 Comments

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I’m a first generation college graduate, and the only one of my seven siblings to have completed secondary or tertiary education. Growing up, neither of my parents had college degrees. My mother put herself through a degree in early childhood education for the past several years—the irony being is she is the last person who I think needs it. She’s now working on her graduate degree.

The reason I say that is because my hard-working parents taught me the value of using my hands from my early childhood. Laziness was not permitted in our home and using the word “bored” was as near to cursing as any of us would ever get.

From the moment we woke up until the dinner dishes were done, and the candles lit for evening read-aloud, our hands were kept busy.

My father is a gifted artist, talented writer, and has been an entrepreneur for as long as I can remember, working hard, long and late hours. He has always been inventing some new gadget or brainstorming some crazy idea. We never went hungry.

My mother quilted, baked, created lesson plans, gardened, refinished furniture, and always encouraged us to work hard at the things that gave us joy. Since my parents divorce, she has built her own successful business—while putting herself through school.

I’m grateful for my college degrees. I worked hard for them, paid for them myself, supplemented with scholarships. In no way am I discouraging a college education, but I know my best education came from watching my parents work hard. Start businesses. Give homemade gifts. Make things from scratch. Look at what others had done and decide to make it themselves—only better.

Whenever people ask me how I learned to sew or write or design or crochet or cook or make flower arrangements or make a home or anything, I tell them I taught myself, which is true. But not entirely.

The whole truth is my parents taught me to value hard work.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Paul encourages the Thessalonians like this,

“[We urge you] to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.”
I Thessalonians 4:11-12

Don’t under value the work of the hands. Teach your kids to work hard when they are young, let them puzzle their way through diagrams and difficult words, give them tasks that are too difficult for them, encourage them in the work that gives them joy. But don’t let them simply value work because it gives them or you joy, teach them to value it because it gives the original Maker joy. Teach your children they are literally imaging God when they work hard, carefully, with attention to detail.

All of life is a muscle waiting to be worked. We bring glory to our Maker when we reflect His Makerness. His creativity. His near constant work.

Believey

October 11, 2013 — Leave a comment

When I was in my early twenties I had someone in my life who was *believey for me, for all the things about myself she knew to be true and all the things I doubted. I knew if I could ever get over the funk that was my life in my twenties, I wanted to be that sort of believey for someone else.

That someone else lives in the bedroom next to mine now and she is in her early twenties and she has been a lot of things to me in the past seven years. But today she is one of my very favorite persons in the world. I believe all sorts of crazy things for her and sometimes I crawl into bed with her in the early morning hours to tell her all the things I believe for her. She grunts and groans. But sometimes she writes things like this and I bust with belief.

When you’ve lived in so many different houses and so few homes, its tempting to stay on the sidelines. Sometimes a house doesn’t feel like a home because it just doesn’t. Sometimes a house doesn’t feel like a home because I hesitate to let it. Just about the time a place gets the comfortable pulls and tugs of home, life always seems to send me somewhere else. Which is always easier when you’re leaving a house and not a home.

Read the whole thing. It’s a beaut.

I guess I want to share this with you today because maybe you’re in your early twenties and life is a funk. Or maybe you’re in your forties and you know someone in a funk. I’m not into psycho-mumbo-jumbo “Believe in yourself, achieve anything,” garbage. But I do think there’s something beautiful about believing the promises of God on behalf of someone. I was the half saying, “Help my unbelief!” but my person was the half saying, “I believe.” And at some point in the past three years I could say both with confidence.

Don’t underestimate the significance of encouragement, of saying to someone, “With God in you, I think you can do it.”

*Nan’s word, not mine.

When I first met my ex-boyfriend’s girlfriend we were six of us sharing a hotel room for a Thanksgiving wedding. I hugged her hard and I meant it. “Welcome to the Makeshift Family,” I said, and I hoped she would be forever. And then she was.

This morning I am lying on my hammock, my glasses pushed up on my head, staring up at the trees above me, an oak and one I don’t know its name.

In the Impressionist era they would make paintings of small dots of color and this is what someone with less than twenty/twenty vision sees. I wonder if the Impressionists were really just suffering of poor eyesight, but nothing about my view looks poor. I am talking to one of my closest friends on the phone. We are talking about serious things and I stop and tell her about pointillism and Seurat, and how no matter how well I can explain what I see—small circles of color, all the same size, but different shades and lightness of color and sky—I cannot explain this to her. It is beautiful and tragic at the same time. Beautiful because it is, and tragic because my eyesight is poorer than 80% of the population and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

Tonight at church one of our pastors shared about the Israelites complaining in the wilderness, “Take us back to Egypt!” they fussed and we all laughed but who of us doesn’t wish ourselves back in what seemed sore but good enough for now?

I rolled over and hugged my pillow tight tonight, wishing for homes. College years with the best friends I’ve ever known. People who know me and who I know even though we’re nearing a decade out. They all married one another, except me and one other. He lives in Colorado and is smart enough to find a girl to marry and get his PhD in bio-chemistry all at the same time. I haven’t talked to him in a few months and it feels like longer. The rest—thank God for Facebook. They are having kids and moving houses and being family together and I am in Texas and Texas feels very far away from what I love and what is still not best for me today.

I have wished for their lives sometimes, the homes, the husbands and wives, the babies growing and toddling and talking. I know they’re not perfect, but there is a togetherness they all have that I do not. I have wished myself back into that season. I have wished myself sick. I squint my eyes to see it clearly, but oh, what I see with my tilted vision, my clouded eyes. It is beautiful and tragic, this world. Beuchner said, “Here is the world; beautiful and terrible things will happen. Do not be afraid,” and I love it because it is true.

Here is the world, and it will mess you over in a myriad of ways. Beautifully and tragically and back again for good measure. Welcome to the family, it isn’t perfect, but it’s home, in a strange distorted way. You can’t go back, you can’t ever go back, your eyesight has failed you and still it’s beautiful here. But I can’t describe it to you, even if I try.

Hindsight is only 20/20 if you have perfect sight and I never will but it still looks like home from here.

387103_669705533246_1123382129_nThe last time we were all together under one roof. I don’t even know how many bodies are asleep in this picture. But I love every one of ‘em. 

I don’t know when I first began to understand the bible was not a blueprint for life, that David was not a model of how to slay giants in my life and Balaam’s donkey wasn’t my cue to listen for God’s voice in odd places. It seems foreign to me now, to think of the Bible that way.

Here was the whole story of God and I spent my whole life trying to make it the story of me.

The Jesus Storybook Bibleby Sally Lloyd-Jones, takes a holistic and simple approach to the gospel, from Genesis to Revelation and is appropriate for the youngest of children—though I don’t know many adults who can read it without choking up themselves.

Sometimes I find the intricacies of the gospel seem so complex, the questions mount, and before I know it, I doubt God’s goodness and faithfulness and love for me. One of the opening lines in the book is, “They were lovely because God loved them. Because He made them.”

They were lovely because God loved them.

I recommend you buy this book right now, go! Buy it even if you don’t have children, but most certainly if you do.

For You!

I’m giving away the four DVD set of animated Jesus Storybook Bible. The illustrations are by Jago, the same illustrator from the book, and it is narrated by British actor David Suchet. I think its value is far greater than money alone, so even if you don’t win, I recommend purchasing them. The DVDs were given to me by Zondervan for review, so in return I’m gifting them to one amazing family!

To Enter

Winning is easy, really easy, and I hope fun.

I know a lot of you read Sayable and you feel like you know me, but I don’t know you! If you’d like to enter to win the four DVDs, tweet me a photo of your family or leave a comment on this post on Facebook attaching a photo in the comment. If you don’t feel comfortable showing your faces in public, no problem, email it to me here. If you’re single, upload a photo of people who are like family to you.

I’ll pick a winner Saturday at noon and contact you through whatever medium you shared your image with me. Cannot wait to “meet” your families!

This contest is now closed. The winner was Jonathan Wilson and family from Conway, AR. Thanks all! Seeing your family photos was one of the highlights of my blog-writing days!

 

threeSomewhere along the way I forgot I had a story.

It is more accurate to say somewhere along the way I forgot I was living a story.

There’s so much noise these days and I don’t know how to shut it out and down and over and out. Our home is a quiet place, filled with simple things, but it is a small place, and there is no hiding from life’s noise. The coming and going, the phone calls with family, the boyfriends, the dishes piling, and the laundry. Some have said the single life is simple, but I dare anyone to say that to me who has had 32 roommates in a dozen years. As soon as I learn the rhythms and graces of one, she marries or moves and I plunge into another lesson with another girl. I cannot complain and do not: these girls have been family to me, each one of them slipping into her new life while I mourn her leaving, she has been family to me.

One and I are walking yesterday and the sun is setting, “You’re going to move with me?” I ask her, because we will close up shop on this house soon I think. She tells me she doesn’t know how to process the invitation that I would want her to meld her life with mine. I feel a sense of Naomi in that moment and she my Ruth: where you go, I’ll go; only I am the one saying to her: where I go, you come. (Ruth 1:16)

It is foreign to us both, the togethering that happens with strange people in a strange land. And we are all strangers, I think, we just haven’t awakened to its reality yet. Or life has been kinder to you than to me. Or perhaps, after all, it has been kinder to me than to you. We shouldn’t bother ourselves with such things.

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I am scrubbing the laundry room floor tonight and I know I ought to feel at home in this place, but it feels more a placeholder to me, a dog-eared page, a bookmark: Don’t Forget What God Has Done Here. And I don’t know if He means this house or Texas or this world, but it could be any and is all. We are all so enamored with making a place for ourselves when it is He who has made a place for all of us. His thumbnail is the sliver of moon, heaven is His home, the earth is His footstool, dare we even imagine we could build a place for Him? (Isaiah 66:1)

The air catches beneath the tablecloth as it settles centered, dust particles float, and I put the broom in the corner. The dishwasher and the washer both run, their steady hum sounding steady with the air-conditioner. It smells like lemon furniture polish and maybe the grapefruit in the bowl on the table. We have made a home here, placed ourselves in the center of our story. The doors revolve around us, the world revolves around us, and I wonder sometimes how little idea we have of His grandness and this home a vapor, our lives a breath, our whole story His.

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You’d have thought I put on a tin-foil hat this afternoon when I tweeted, “Scuse me for being a little wary of conspiracy theories. I grew up thinking Keith Green was the antichrist & Social Security numbers were the mark of the beast.”

I can remember the exact moment one of my parents removed a Keith Green record from the player and returned it to its owner under decided instructions to never play it in our presence again. I also remember the day I walked into the social security office at age 19, signed my name, and apparently my soul, over to the devil. The lump in my throat was surely the first sign I was hell-bent on hell. Truthfully I just wanted my driver’s license and to stop getting paid under the table.

We cannot grow up unscathed by anything; we all carry the bumps and bruises of what our parents thought was best (Hebrews 12:7-11). Some will bear the presence of scars and some will bear the fruit of pruning—but we’re all carved out, shaped through, and pricked by the reality of life in a post-fall world.

And we’re all children of somebody broken by the same reality.

You don’t have to look far back in my family history to see dysfunction; in fact, a good hard look at just me will probably keep you busy for a good long time. We’re a mess, all of us, all the way back to Genesis. I don’t write about my family often because I love my parents, I know they love me, and I’m convinced they were doing what they thought was right. And, trust me, the antichrist and the mark of the beast are a small fraction of the oddities we embraced while I was growing up (and also a small fraction of the beauties of growing up in my particular family).

A few weeks ago I had a discussion with someone who landed on a very conservative position on a tertiary doctrine. My soul and flesh blanched, and my first thought was for the children. The children! Adults can navigate these difficult matters with a decorum of sanity, but children? Children are simultaneously the most accepting and most polarizing creatures. The world is so black and white to us as children, right and wrong, good and evil. We accept what is good, abhor what is evil, and call spades spades.

At some point, though, introduction to gray areas must happen with children, and eventually we need to decide for ourselves where we land on gray areas. Open-handed theology, secondary or tertiary doctrines, even matters of finances or what is considered modest—these must be areas where we are given the freedom to wrestle and own for ourselves in light of gospel implications. We are exposed to violence, politics, death, joy, sex, divorce—some of us are exposed to all and all are exposed to how everything is broken in a sense.

But the very first brokenness we encounter as children is our parents—and that is so very difficult.

I’m not a parent, but I imagine how difficult it must be to have concluded ideals that broke my child and for them to see my own flawed nature so clearly. I know, as a child, how very difficult it was for me to realize the devil didn’t reside in every song with a drum line; or that I wasn’t going to hell in a hand-basket when I got my little nine numbered blue card. It wasn’t wrestling with the music, though, or the number that was most difficult—it was the acknowledgement that Mom and Dad didn’t know best even if they were doing what they thought was best. And that that’s okay. Because God.

Every one of us has a story about our parents. We laugh about how over-protective they were, or under-protective. And for those of you who are parents, your children are crafting those stories about you right now. Some of them will be nostalgic “remember whens” and some of them will carry the weight of brokenness you tried to protect them from, but our prayer ought to be that these stories are told with greater perspective and deeper truths.

We pray we would not be like arrows kept in the quivers of our warrior parents, but that we would hit the mark, strong and true—even from broken bows.

Backwards Math

February 16, 2013

While a friend and I were grocery shopping today, I mentioned that it seems more and more of my friends are not only divorced already, but on their second marriages. We counted my friends on my fingers and I didn’t know whether to count them as couples or as individuals. Two or one? There’s nothing impressive about larger numbers when you have to do division to get there. Backwards math.

I know marriage must be hard and I can’t even imagine how hard. But I know it cannot be as hard as splitting in half what God has joined together.

A friend divorced last year and he asked me once what he could do in the aftermath. I had only one thing to say: when he spoke of his ex-wife to their children, he not call her “your mother” because this puts the ownership of all his and her dysfunctions on small shoulders never equipped to own all that. She is their mother, true, as truly as he is their father. But call her just “Mom,” and pray she counters in point.

Even if you tell your children they are not responsible for your divorce, can I tell you right now they will probably believe they are? Whether they are five years old or twenty-five years old, there will be questions in every crevice of their soul nagging, demanding, accusing. There is nothing you can do to assuage this—pulling adhesives apart leaves residue.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Tonight I am thinking of how Jesus taught us to pray: Our Father.

Ours.

A shared Father. The Son shared His Heavenly Father with us. Us?

Our Father.

I had conversation a few weeks ago with a near stranger and she asked me how I could serve a God who caused bad things to happen to good people. I thought for a few minutes and asked her if her parents were still married. “No, of course not,” she said, as though divorce is so common now it should be assumed. “Does your mother refer to your father as ‘your father’?” I asked. “Yeah, so what?” She said.

“Do you ever feel the weight of all the ways your mother felt wronged by him on your shoulders? as though it was your fault? and are you sometimes ashamed of him? even if he is doing and has done his best your whole life?”

Her shoulders fell and she nodded, dropping her eyes.

Sometimes I feel like this about God, I said to her. Because the truth is that I don’t know why bad things happen to people. I don’t know why you got saddled with the guilt of a broken man and the accusations of a broken woman. But sometimes I feel the heaviness of owning the explanation and hope of the world on my shoulders because it is my Father who has created it.

I don’t know why we seem like we have to bear the weight of a broken world on our shoulders. But I do know this: if you’re His child, He’s our Father. And when we can’t bear the weight of Him being our Father, take comfort in the reality that Jesus sat on a mount with His disciples, sinners, and taught them to pray to Our Father, teaching us to enter into brotherhood with Him. Creating oneness out of brokenness.

He is infinitely good, incapable of doing wrong.

Always does what is best for His children, all of them.

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There was a new kid on the block in 2012 named Project TGM: Theology, Gospel, Mission, and they recently asked to make me the newest kid on the block (and the first woman to join their team.) I jokingly said to them yesterday that I have seven brothers and ain’t skeered of them, but I’ll be honest, it’s a solid line-up over there and I’m humbled they asked me.

I hope you’ll join me over there today, but also make a habit of heading over there for some great pieces by regular writers (Owen Stracham, professor of Theology and Church History at Boyce College, Logan Gentry, pastor at Apostles Church in New York, and others) and occasional guests.

My inaugural post is up today on how the greatest need for women is not parenting/marriage/singleness advice or tactics, but gospel realignment. Please hop over and give it a look! 

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I say to a friend recently that it may be those who have suffered most who trust most.

I hope you don’t take offense to that—it is okay if you do, though, because it probably means you haven’t suffered and it is coming for you. I promise. I pray sooner rather than later.

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We come in the world with our fists clenched and go out with hands open and I think God did that on purpose—a visual picture of the wrest that our lives will be and the peace that comes when we enter final rest.

What I mean is that I’ve never met a Christian who has tasted death, whose home has been visited with deep suffering, pain, or loss, who does not know that He is found in the mourning and His mercies are new every morning.

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In the past few months I’ve encountered some new writers, so many lovely people who love Jesus and love His bride, but two stand out and I want to say a few words about them and then ask something of you.

He is a poet-lawyer. The old joke is that lawyers lie, but this man tells truth and tells it beautifully. His blog is one of my favorite places to visit.

His wife is the same. Not a lawyer, but a poet and a mother. Gentle. Honest. Beautiful. Sparkling with life and faith.

They have four sons and it is the youngest I want to tell you about. Titus. I don’t know the full details of his sickness, but that is primarily because his own parents and doctors and specialists do not know the extent of his sickness. Here is what is known: Titus does not grow. His small body just doesn’t grow. So while his older brothers grow up, and his parents grow on, Titus stays small, unable to fully process nutrients. I have experienced great loss, but I understand my loss. There is logic and sense to be made of my loss, but this?

This?

I don’t understand this.

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But here is what I know: his parents love the Lord, they love the Church, they love the Gospel, they cling to the goodness of God in the land of the living, and trust that He is good in the land of confusion.

So would you pray? Would you pray for wholeness for Titus? Would you pray that Seth and Amber would suffer well in this process, that their pain would not be without meaning and purpose? Would you pray that there would be clarity, but even more, that there would be healing? I believe that God can heal and He may, but I also believe He may not heal, but that either way He is good. And Seth and Amber, they believe that too.

Pray that their faith makes well.

I wrote this post on Sunday, planning to post it sometime this week. Today Amber updated us with news on Titus and Seth made me cry with a song he wrote about the Goodness of God

Table Manners

November 20, 2012

tableA handful of the last of the basil from our garden tossed with some chicken and mushrooms, some cheese I call Money because it’s worth so much, and we eat dinner around the dining room table.

One might think all I write about is tables.

But if it was a small fruit feast that fell us into death and it will be a fine full feast that ushers us into life eternal, I suppose I can write about all the tables we’ll sit around in the meantime.

My roommate Season is getting married in three days. In June she told me about her “summer crush,” in September she said yes to the ring, and now she will stand beside him and marry him.

And so our table is gone.

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The past few weeks things have gone missing from our home, small things, a rug, a chair, a vase. They go missing from our home because they now belong in her home. And our table, the one we’ve had for two years, the hand-me-down one from Ikea with the broken chair and the wobbly leg, it now sits in our garage awaiting its trip to her home too.

In its place sits a solid new table with three chairs and a bench. It’s bigger than our old table. It doesn’t fit in the breakfast nook. We’ve moved it three times since it arrived and now it’s found its home—in the divide between the living room and the kitchen. Centered and topped with a tablecloth, a bowl of fruit, and two taper candles in brass candlesticks. It has found a home in our nearly fractured home.

I have done my mourning already. When all three roommates find love within three months time, one cannot help but get her mourning done quickly. I have let my sad sit deep and my jealousy weed out and my fears brought near and I have heard God say, I’m still setting a table for you if you want it.

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We gather around our table, more so in times past than times now, but we are gatherers. We enjoy one another and I have feasted at this table, this table and the old one. I have feasted in this home and am not ignorant of the blessing it is to have feasted so fully.

On Thursday we will gather sixty and more in a lodge in the Ozarks, we will give thanks for our nation and our history and for family and for marriage and for my roommate and her almost husband. And then on Saturday we will feast again after the vows have been given and spirits are high.

And then we will come home, to the monotony of life and school and jobs and chores, and we will feast around our new table. We will feast on apples and carrot sticks and peanut butter and jelly, and we will feast on chamomile tea and coffee in the morning. We will feast with one less person in our family, and that’s sad, but we know it’s not the end.

It’s just one more table of our meantime.

And people will come from east and west,
and from north and south,
and recline at the table in the kingdom of God.
Luke 13:29