"He Gives to His Beloved Sleep"

“It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.”

Psalm 127:2 ESV

This is a hard season of life for me. It’s a hard season of life for my husband. We’re just struggling. And one big thing I’m learning in the middle of it all is that when I’m struggling, I have a strategy for how to fix it all. And guess what? I’m pretty sad about it because for my whole life even though I haven’t really been aware of it, I’ve used this strategy to make it through stress and seasons of struggle and uncertainty, and I guess I thought subconsciously that it was a pretty good or useful strategy. But I’m finding out in these days, in this struggle, that my strategy pretty much sucks. I know that might seem like an offensive description, but if you could step into my soul and see how highly I’ve held onto this strategy to hold my life together when I thought it was maybe falling apart…and how sad I am that my strategy doesn’t work, maybe you’d understand my choice of words.

I’ll explain what I do. I take in all of the things happening, asses all of the very real threats and fears and what-ifs and unknowns. That’s all just sort of information-gathering. Then, what do you think is the next logical step? If you’d say find a solution, then thank you. That’s been the logical progression for me, too. I start to ruminate on the problems…sort of like a cow digesting their food. Eating it once, bringing it back up, eating it again…I just keep chewing at those problems. Turning them around in my mind, looking for a solution. What piece of spiritual wisdom would solve it all? What emotional health component would be the answer? What prayer can solve it? It all even often looks like throwing ‘spiritual’ solutions at it…in my mind. And of course, there are the not spiritual solutions thrown in there, too. The defensive thoughts, insecure conclusions and imaginary action steps. But it’s all in the realm of the mind, swirling around, over and over. 

I don’t think it makes sense when I try to explain it. Maybe that’s why I never even knew it was my strategy before now, because it doesn’t even make too much logical sense. But here it is: if I just think about it enough, the problems will get fixed. They’ll become un-entangled. 

You probably guessed it. And I already mentioned it. Surprise! That strategy doesn’t work. Letting all the components of your problems take up all the mental space in your mind doesn’t equal a solution. It just basically equals worry. And worry is pretty much what I’ve been left with: it even wakes me up more often than I care to admit in this season of struggle in the middle of night with thoughts I ‘didn’t think through yet.’ 

So as I’ve been realizing this about myself and feeling quite sad about it all, sad to let go of what I have wanted to make work for so long, of course I’ve needed to know what do I do instead?! If that doesn’t work, what does? 

Well, I don’t have a perfectly developed answer. I’m still on this journey, and I’m more on the side of the journey where I’m just more sad and straight up surprised that “If I think it to death, it’ll be fixed” was my strategy for dealing with stress and scary situations. (Like, seriously??) But I have two things I am embracing. The first is let go. 

To ‘let go,’ to me, means that I say, in my mind, “I can’t fix it. I can’t. I thought I could. I thought if I could just think a bit more, pray a bit more, just a verse, get a spiritual truth, emotional truth, understand SOMETHING, then it would all be fixed. I would understand and there would be harmony. But I can’t. I let go of my strategy.” Letting go feels like death. I have cried as I have embraced mentally letting go. It’s embracing my smallness. My inability. My vulnerability. My neediness. 

The second thing I am attempting to embrace is I am safe. There are scary things around me. We are struggling. I don’t know the answers, and I just gave up my life-long (stupid) strategy to save us from all of these threats. But in all of that, I am actually safe. I am safe because God sees me, God loves me deeply, and God is completely in control of all of my circumstances. Those things don’t often seem experientially true, but when I let go, and embrace in my mind that I am safe, instead of my strategy of I will be safe when I can figure it all out, I start to create a space to experientially know those things more. And my hope for help, my hope for intervention, my hope for what I need in this season isn’t myself and my over-thinking brain with no space for anything else. It’s in the God who sees me, the God who loves me deeply, the God who is completely in control of all of my circumstances. And my new strategy, even though I’m not great at it, is to let go of my anxious toil, to realize that I can’t, to allow new space in my mind where there once was just over-thinking, and to wait on and trust in Him.


A Story of Jesus in the Midst of Lingering, Deep-Seated Disorder

Later on there was a Jewish festival (feast) for which Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

Now there is in Jerusalem a pool near the Sheep Gate. This pool in the Hebrew is called Bethesda, having five porches (alcoves, colonnades, doorways).

In these lay a great number of sick folk—some blind, some crippled, and some paralyzed (shriveled up)—waiting for the bubbling up of the water.

For an angel of the Lord went down at appointed seasons into the pool and moved and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was cured of whatever disease with which he was afflicted.

There was a certain man there who had suffered with a deep-seated and lingering disorder for thirty-eight years.

When Jesus noticed him lying there [helpless], knowing that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, Do you want to become well? [Are you really in earnest about getting well?]

The invalid answered, Sir, I have nobody when the water is moving to put me into the pool; but while I am trying to come [into it] myself, somebody else steps down ahead of me.

Jesus said to him, Get up! Pick up your bed (sleeping pad) and walk!

Instantly the man became well and recovered his strength and picked up his bed and walked. But that happened on the Sabbath.

So the Jews kept saying to the man who had been healed, It is the Sabbath, and you have no right to pick up your bed [it is not lawful].

He answered them, The Man Who healed me and gave me back my strength, He Himself said to me, Pick up your bed and walk!

John 5

This story about Jesus and a man witha ‘lingering’ disorder keeps knocking around in my brain these days. I’m not quite sure why. But here are a couple of thoughts that have stood out to me…and maybe they’ll start knocking aorund in your mind, too.

This guy had something that had plagued him his whole life.

The translation I’m using describes it as ‘lingering’ and ‘deep-seated.’

It also says that others around him were ‘blind,’ ‘crippled,’ ‘paralyzed,’ and ‘shriveled up.’

They were all waiting for a system for how to get well…and it was a limited system. There was space for only a few, and there was not space for this man. The system limited him for getting well, getting free, getting healed of his deep-seated disorder. It wasn’t powerful enough to help with the depth of what he was carrying. nd the system wasn’t strong enough to deal with the scope of debilitating needs all around.

He couldn’t get set free by the system or by the pattern of what everyone else was doing.

But it strikes me very deeply the way that he DID get set free, that he got healed: he came face-to-face with the person of Jesus. Jeuss didn’t do any fancy system or pattern of special things. He HImself just made this guy well. It was Jesus. It was being in His presence. It was an encounter with Jesus. It was the merciful, powerful, full-of-ability-and-capcity-choice of Jesus, a real person.

I don’t have much to say besides that story keeps coming to my mind.

Are there ways you tend to turn to a system to heal you, to save you, to make you well? Are there ways you’re ’waiting in line’ for your healing and there’s not really space for you in the system? I know for me I tend towards looking to a system for what I need because it’s more controllable, I can understand it and explain it more easily. If you look further in the passage, this healed man received alot of grief about his healing because he coudn’t explain it in the current rules of what was acceptable.

I’d like to encourage you to look to Person of Jesus, look to His very real Presence for the very real needs that you carry today. For the things that you’ve carried for a long time, the things that are deep-seated and lingering, what if Jesus is right in the midst of all the people, asking you if you really want to get well? Your reality probably is that you are most likely surrounded by people who genuinely are crippled, who are blind, who are paralyzed, and shriveled up on the inside, and they, as well, need you to blaze a trail away from waiting for the ‘pool to get stirred,’ and to turn to the Person of Jesus…and to show them the way, too.

My guess is that He fully sees you, in all that you have experienced and all that you are experiencing, and His eyes are full of mercy and capacity to heal.




Gratitude? I Thought It Wasn't For Me


I’m sad to say that I’ve always kind of thought that it’s not worth my time to ‘practice gratitude.’ 

I’ve considered myself quite above the practice…thinking that when people ‘count their blessings,’ they’re doing something a little bit hokey, a little bit like living in a ‘Pollyanna-type’ reality. They’re just looking on the bright side of things. I’ve considered myself more realistic than that, more authentic than that, and guess what?

I’ve missed out. 

I’ve thought that not practicing gratitude would not affect me. I even thought that it might make me a more authentic person. But I was wrong. 

I’ve been experiencing an elevated level of anxiety in this season of my life. Or maybe, more honestly, it’s just that the anxiety that I typically have going on under the surface, that I’ve learned to cope with, is more apparent. 

As I’ve asked the Lord about this anxiety, I keep hearing His invitation to practice gratitude. At first, it seemed odd. It seemed like I was probably hearing wrong. Too much of a simple fix. But I read a book on gratitude, and the author sort of grappled through all of the same reasons I had for not practicing gratitude, and she also came to the conclusion at the end that gratitude was something essential that she was missing, and that the lack of gratitude in her life was affecting her deeply. I could relate. 

So I’ve started trying to practice gratitude. 

And as I’ve started, I’ve found that gratitude is not just a practice of ‘looking on the bright side of things.’ It’s a re-orientation for my eyes to really see life in an accurate way: I have been given everything I have. I am taken care of completely. I have a Father who carries me, and turns every evil and difficultly into good through His miraculous resurrection power. I am so loved. There is a God who is control. 

These things are true, but when I choose to not practice thanking God, remembering God, I miss out on the real realities of the universe. And I live in an alternate reality where life feels out of control, scary, overwhelming.

When I don’t practice gratitude, I get confused. My eyes get clouded to the way life really is. Gratitude helps me return to reality. 

“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools…”

Romans 1:21-22

And you murmured in your tents and said, ‘Because the Lord hated us he has brought us out of the land of Egypt, to give us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us.’ Then I said to you, ‘Do not be in dread or afraid of them. The Lord your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place.’ Yet in spite of this word you did not believe the Lord your God, who went before you in the way to seek you out a place to pitch your tents, in fire by night and in the cloud by day, to show you by what way you should go.” Deuteronomy 1:27-33

May we, today, have the courage to take the steps that we need to, to remember God’s good care of us…and to thank Him for it. May we live having the courage to yet again be faithful to do our part to lay hold of the true realities of life.


Pausing In The Middle of Cyber Week

I find myself so easily FRANTIC at this time of year: I get this overwhelming urge that I need to think through ‘pressing issues,’ like if I need to buy socks for my kids…and I need to think thorugh them RIGHT NOW…and I then have to find the best deal out there in the wilderness of what has now become Black Friday Week and Cyber Monday Week.

It’s an understatement to say I can get QUITE frantic in my mind, in my little typing fingers, in my deal-searching. But it’s hard for me to notice how frantic I am…and how really NOT pressing the things are that I’m considering.

I read an article this morning by Paul Tripp that was such a needed reminder for me as I was caught up in the cultural push to buy and have.

I pass it on for anyone else who, like me, needs a reminder of what’s really going on in life…what’s needed…what’s not needed…right in the middle of this season of hearing so many messages of consumption.



I Don't Buy Things At Victoria's Secret

I don't buy anything at Victoria's Secret. Not one little thing. Nothing. Never. I haven't for 12 years.

I'll tell you why and I'll tell you my story: I used to buy various things there. In high school and in college, I actually loved buying things there because I thought that somehow purchasing items from that particular store would make me more sexy, more beautiful, more of what a woman ought to be. I wouldn't have admitted to that, even to myself. But the belief was there in me, inside of me. 

My favorite perfume scent in the whole world is actually from Victoria's Secret: it's called Love Spell. I think it is one of the best smells in the whole world, and most other perfumes spell a little gross to me. But I haven't worn Love Spell in 12 years.

When I was in the final years of college, Jesus started talking to me about what it means to be a woman, and what it means to be beautiful. He even started talking to me about the word 'sexy.' I had thought for most of my life that in order to be beautiful, I had to be like a woman on TV or a woman on an advertisement. I had thought that sexy could only be the world's definition of sexy- inappropriately unveiled, fashionable, tons of makeup, really done-up hair...I never imagined that beautiful, and sexy, and what a woman ought to be was just the way I was, without trying to BE or BECOME anything else. 

As I said, Jesus started teaching His way, and He started changing my thoughts. Little by little, He introduced me to new ways of thinking, like, "I already AM beautiful. Just the way I am. The true equation is 'me plus NOTHING equals beautiful, even sexy (Can I say that publicly on my blog? Yikes!), and just the way a woman ought to me.' It's all because I've been created by Someone. It's not me who chooses about the way I am. I've just been made that way."

As I learned those things, I started realizing how honestly wrong stores and pictures and advertisements like Victoria's Secret are. There's lots of reasons why they're inappropriate and downright wrong, but let me just share a few. Let me start with the precious woman who is the model in the picture in the window. She is precious. She is made by God. She is valuable and worth so much. And yet, through her picture, through her inappropriate unveiling of herself and her beauty, she is treating herself, her body, and her beauty first of all like it needs all kinds of enhancements and that the equation is 'her plus a ridiculous this and this and this' to equal beauty. It's just wrong. And sad. For her as a person, as a human being, as a soul, it's so broken. Second of all, she is treating her beauty like it is cheap and worthless because it's available for the entire world to take and see and use. Her beauty is meant to be honored, to be cherished, and instead it's sold. By a company. For their benefit.

Another reason Victoria's Secret is so wrong in what they're doing and how they're doing it, is because not only is the woman believing a wrong equation about herself, but she is helping to blare that equation out to every woman and girl who passes the store, who sees an advertisement, who knows about that establishment. It's a place that is screaming at the world the lie that women are not beautiful or sexy or 'woman enough' as they are. They need to be this sexualized object simply to be beautiful or sexy. And worse than that, they're doing all of that for money. I am wishing to say that it's the height of exploitation of women, preying on their desire to be beautiful (and behind that desire, to be loved and wanted and chosen and powerful in their beauty), but there are even darker realms in the exploitation of women, so I can't really say it's the height. But it's UP THERE.

And maybe worst of all, Victoria's Secret, and places like Victoria's Secret are screaming messages, without words, to the next generation, to those whose minds and worldview and perceptions are still being established and formed: to our daughters, to our sons. Her image says to our daughters, "Use your sexuality like this to become beautiful...pay us to become what you long to be...you need to be more to be good enough..." Or to our sons, the image calls out, "Come to me, I will give you what you need...satisfy yourself in me, in images like me." It's heartbreaking. And we walk right past the store, not knowing what to say or how to say it, and all the while, her messages are screaming, screaming, screaming messages to our children walking next to us.

So that's why I don't purchase anything from Victoria's Secret. I've made a commitment to myself that I never will for the rest of my life. Sure, I still have the desire to, because I still, to this day, dearly miss the scent of Love Spell, and I've never found a perfume I like as much as that one. And I'm sure their things are pretty. But those 'sacrifices' are a small price for me to pay. It's not worth it, not WORTH IT ONE BIT, for me to use even a penny to endorse the way they've chosen to portray women, and the messages they send out to the world about the way a woman should be and has to be. I will never support that endeavor. 


Meeting Miss Cookie in Dunkin' Donuts

I was having a date with my daughter Bethany in Dunkin' Donuts yesterday morning when these two elderly women approached us. We were minding our own business, but I could tell that they were drawn to Bethany's sweetness and youth. They looked to be having a date of their own: they were quite dressed up in the formal way that elderly women sometimes have. One woman was wearing high heels and pearls.They seemed lonely for family, yet happy for the togetherness of the date. I had overheard them earlier discussing belated phone calls from their children, asking them for updates about things that had happened months ago.

When they approached us, they asked us the normal questions: how old is Bethany, is she in school, what grade is she in, does she like school, what is her name? Once we started talking about names, one of the women told us that her name was Cookie, and she showed us how to sign her name in sign language. Then she disclosed something else about her name that I wasn't expecting: "My real name isn't actually Cookie, you know," she said. "I don't tell anyone my real name. It's ugly. It's an old fashioned name. It's ugly and nasty and I've always hated it since I was a little girl." 

At first I was taken aback. Then I thought..."Do I say something about what I really feel about what she just said??? Or do I just continue to speak to her on a surface level politely?" I decided to say what I felt, but kind of 'test the waters.' 

Here's what I said. I said: "You know, I think that that's what happens to all of us, in some area or another. A little lie sneaks in about the way we are when we're little girls, and it tries to tell us about the way we are. It could our name, or about the way our face looks, or about something about our body, or about our personality...that little lie sneaks in and tries to tell us that something about us is ugly, and not good. And then we think we should try to hide it away forever. But it's probably not that that part of us is so bad, or even ugly. We've just been so confused by the lie when we were little and the sad thing is, it affects us even until we're adults." 

She looked surprised by what I was saying, and this Miss Cookie said, "You know, you're probably right. One time, I saw this gorgeous woman." [I should give quick interjection to say that I don't subscribe to what Miss Cookie is saying by default- by saying that she saw a 'gorgeous woman' she's also by default saying that some women are 'gorgeous' are some are not. I do NOT agree. I think our culture has taught us a way of seeing and judging and analyzing beauty that is NOT the same way God assesses women and their beauty. I think that's another layer of how a lie creeps in when we're little and it dictates the way we think even as adults.] Anyway, she said, "I saw this gorgeous woman, and she had on this gorgeous black sweater, and it had my name written across the sweater boldly. She wasn't ashamed of my name at all. But I was." 

I told her, "Maybe it was a sign to you that your name- that part of who you are- isn't repulsive at all actually. It's actually beautiful. You just haven't had eyes to see it." She looked at me, with wishing, with eyes that were wanting to be hopeful eyes, but with eyes that had spent too many years of believing that lie, and said, "Maybe. But I'm 71 years old. I don't think I'm going to change now." As we parted ways, I said, "I hope this year is filled with more signs for you about your name." 

As you read that little interaction, you might feel, "Geez. Let the 71 year old lady use whatever name she wants to! You don't even know her!" And that is true. I went out on a ledge. I don't know her story. I don't know her. 

But I DO know ME. And I do know women and the pain we collectively carry as we have ALL believed parts of us (that are actually delightful and wonderful) are ugly, gross, shameful, and unfit for others to see or hear or know about. And I do know that we have an enemy that specializes in lies. He loves to steal and kill and destroy what is actually so valuable, precious, worthwhile, well-made, crafted and beautiful

So with all of that assurance and knowledge, I felt quite comfortable taking a risk with Miss Cookie to push her tiny bit as she shared a window into the pain she had carried for her whole life. She had believed that her name- a part of her that tells who she is, that distinguishes her uniqueness, that is a significant part of her identity- was ugly. And that is just so sad. Her name is a part of the glory of who she is...and for her whole life, it's been stolen. 

The other reason I felt quite comfortable pushing a tiny bit is because I have personally experience the liberation that comes when Jesus comes to a place that I've labeled as 'ugly' or 'shameful' or 'no one will love this about me,' and He calls me beautiful, wonderfully made, precious, crafted on purpose. There's nothing like that kind of love. 

May we all, including Miss Cookie, experience more of that kind of piercing love that results in liberating freedom.


What's True About Me: Part 1

I often lose sight of what is foundationally true of me. 

I often think, "Oh NO! Bad things are happening! Scary things are happening! My kids are falling apart! My husband is exhausted and overworked! Our family is a mess. My relationships are messy. This person is mad at me. I'm mad at this other person. This is all bad, bad, BAD!"

And I forget what has been promised to me, by the One who made me, who thought me up in the first place

He's promised that in all of these things that overwhelm me, every day, what I experience will be goodness and mercy, whether I have eyes to see it or not.

He's promised that He will never stop doing good to me: that He will use what seems like chaos to me, what seems bad to me, to work His healing and His redemption into my life. He will change me into something new.

He's promised that He is washing me through all of this, so that one day, He will present me as part of His bride, pure and radiant.

He's promised that nothing can separate me from His love: His love keeps coming, keeps pursuing me, keeps following me, keeps embracing me, no matter what my state is, how faithful I've been.

If you're like me...and you tend to forget...you might need to spend some time letting some of these promises wash over you again. 

I've compiled some songs that declare the strength of God's promises that don't stop because of circumstances or our performance. Maybe you're like me, and you need to take some time to stop your busy pace, and remember what's foundationally true about you. These songs help remind me. 



All Things Beauty? All In One Place?

I've walked past this store in the mall many times, and plenty of times I've felt that something not right is being 'shouted' from the advertisements in the windows. It makes me feel sad.


I'll tell you why.

Over and over I've seen messages in the ads in the windows that say beauty is found outside of a woman. 

For example:

Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 8.52.13 AM.png

It's like these ads are shouting to anyone who walks past that women need something outside of themselves to attain beauty. That bothers me. "All things beauty. All in one place." Beauty is found in a place. "21 days of beauty...it's our most loved semi-annual event!" Beauty is found through buying enough of the right things at an event. "Bring the beauty." "Makeup: Report for beauty!" Beauty is found in products.

I don't believe that beauty is found in a place, in an event, in a product. I don't believe that beauty is outside of a woman, and she needs to strive to make sure she has it. I don't believe beauty is outside of a woman.

I believe that beauty is found already inside of a woman. 

It's not her PLUS makeup, clothes, a perfect hairstyle, a skinnier body...any of that stuff our culture has shouted to us.

A woman already IS beautiful. 

She doesn't have to become beautiful.

A woman is beautiful because she has a Maker who, though it might sound a bit odd to our ears, is Himself the most beautiful One ever. And He wanted to give us a reflection of the way He is...so He made women to display His beauty.

She's not beautiful just because she herself is so amazing, but she's made to reflect back to the world a message about the One who made her. The way she is (but also women collectively) images God. 

Her beauty tells a story to the world about the way the Maker is.

So that's why I feel bothered by those ads in the windows. They're trying to sell me, and every woman walking by, the lie that we need something outside of ourselves to GET something we REALLY WANT: beauty. The heartbreaking lie is that beauty is found somewhere outside of a woman...that a woman can be beautiful if she does enough to become beautiful. But a woman already is beautiful, without doing anything, without adding anything, without needing anything. She isn't beautiful because the culture says she is, or because she measures up to some cultural standard of what we've defined beauty as, but because she has a Maker. Her Maker has decided that one thing all women would carry around in their physical body would be beauty. It's not a choice, it's not something they have to attain or earn or strive for. It's just a part of who each woman is. Yes, the beauty of her personality is part of it, but physical beauty, beauty you can see with your eyes, is just essential to what it is to be woman. 

And what makes it all even more sad for me is that those ads are pretty much shouting out that lie about it's me PLUS something else, but we don't even notice that they're shouting because we've all heard that lie, our whole lies, without questioning it. We've grown up on a diet of lies about what beauty even is, and who has it, and where it's found...so when there are images that say "Beauty is found in a product," we don't even think twice. Not many of us have had anyone in our lives to tell us the truth, or to point out the lies. 

So I guess I write this blog post, for myself, and for anyone who stumbles upon it out there in the huge world of the Internet. You can't find beauty inside of Ulta. It might feel like you can...that's because we've all grown up learning and believing that those are the places where beauty is found: a 'beauty parlor,' 'beauty salon,' 'Ulta Beauty.' But it's not found out there, in striving, in adding. It's already in who we are, in being crafted and formed by a God who wants to speak a message about Himself through seeing us. 




I've been following the #metoo movement on Social Media, and let me just say, certain parts of it have me all fired up.

What in the WORLD is up with the response-hashtag #notallmen?!? 

That hashtag makes me SO angry.

First of all, #notallmen is disturbing for this reason: would it have to be EVERY SINGLE MAN doing it for us to say that women's stories are valid and we have a problem as a culture??

Second of all, #notallmen is so dismissive. It's the opposite of listening to someone's pain. It's defensiveness. It's protecting yourself. And I would definitely go as far as to say that defending yourself, thinking about yourself, protecting yourself, as a man, is a HUGE part of the problem we have in our culture of sexual assault, molestation, harassment, and rape.

Even if a man has never assaulted or harassed someone, he can still perpetuate the problem, time and again, by what he does and doesn't do:

  • When men don't use their strength to control and discipline themselves in what their eyes look at, in what they allow themselves to think about, whether publicly or privately, they perpetuate the problem: they're embracing the idea that women exist for their pleasure, women's bodies are objects that belong to them, are theirs for the taking, for their enjoyment.
  • When men don't use their strength to teach their sons to value and honor and respect women; when men don't teach their daughters about the inherent worth and beauty of who they are and about the dignity of their life and about how they must be treated; when men don't teach their sons about sexuality; when men spend their extra hours sitting their butts on the couch and letting their wives run the household, lead the kids, take care of the family, in their silence and passivity, they are perpetuating the problem. 
  • When men, even if there is consent, lead (whether actively or passively) a woman into a sexually vulnerable situation, instead of using his strength to take the lead and care for her, lead her, create a safe place for her, he's perpetuating the problem. He's saying, in that moment, that nothing and no one is more important than his pleasure. The woman exists to gratify him. And so she is left vulnerable and unsafe, instead of taken care of and safe.
  • When men listen to music or watch music videos (which are so pervasive in our culture) that normalize objectifying women, that sexualize women, it perpetuates the problem: over and over and over these things want to teach us that women are objects of sexuality, meant to be sexy, their role and their purpose solely to be for a man's pleasure. And that is the problem.

This might seem like a rant against men, and in some ways, it is. Men, over and over again, have contributed to fostering an unsafe culture for women and children. Some do it actively and horrifically through assault and harassment and rape, and many men do it passively through complicit silence and lack of speaking up in regards to what is just plain wrong and should not be ignored. Men have collectively failed to use their resources and voices to honor the invaluable worth of women and children. They have so often failed to lead towards what is good.

Women obviously have caused hurt and brokenness, as well. But the hurt that women cause can NEVER be a reason to brush aside and dismiss the pain, horror and shattering women have experience at the brokenness of men.

Men, won't you decide to make a change? Won't you stand up and use your strength to protect what is vulnerable? Won't you hear the shame, pain, and horror associated with the stories of #metoo and choose to listen and do something about it in your world, instead of simply dismissing it all with #notallmen?




Book Review: Hope When It Hurts

I read a book this summer that I really enjoyed: Hope When It Hurts: Biblical Reflections To Help You Grasp God’s Purpose In Your Suffering. 


The authors are two women, Kristen Wetherell and Sarah Walton. And these two women are walking the balance between having things in their lives that they deeply struggle with, and also, at the same time, holding on to the deep, true, beautiful, hopeful reality that God is present right there in their suffering. They ask questions like 'What does that balance look like for me, right now, as I struggle with real pain?'

I would recommend this book to anyone that feels like they are walking through difficult circumstances in life and they just aren't quite sure how to hold onto the reality of Jesus with them in the middle of the difficulty. The authors reference physical pain, parenting pain, abuse, depression, job loss...but the content is applicable to various sorts of suffering. I'm also excited about this book as our pastors at Living Fatih Alliance have recently been preaching about our deep need to ask our hard questions about life and 'find counsel outside of ourselves' in the Bible. That's exactly what these authors, Kristen Wetherell and Sarah Walton, do: in short, easy to read chapters, they move through a passage of Scripture (2 Corinthians 4-5). They base each chapter on a phrase from the passage and they write about how that is still true, right now, even in the midst of suffering. They don't just offer their own thoughts or opinions about suffering and pain. They point us back to what God has said through the Bible, what is true and can be counted on, again and again and again. If you want to be challenged to lift your eyes to see what can be gloriously true in the middle of suffering, while also still acknowledging and living with pain, read this book. 

Hope When It Hurts feels very level-headed to me: like someone helpfully just pushing me back to God's Word over and over, without a lot of fluff. The authors keep bringing each chapter back to the foundational BASICS of what it looks like to be a God-follower. They ask the honest, scary questions that I myself have had in times of suffering, that I wouldn't necessarily voice out loud, and they answer them in a way that is Biblical and life-giving. 

On a side-note, some might ask, is this book solely for women? The cover looks very feminine and the authors are two women sharing their stories. Would men find this book helpful or engaging? I tried to keep that in mind as I read. I imagine it would appeal deeply to women I also imagine that men would have to 'get past' a few components, such as the presentation of the book. But the general content is excellent and good for men as well.

Surely Goodness and Mercy Will Follow Me

Every summer for the past several years, my parents and my siblings and their kids, who are now scattered all over the country, and even in South America, come together for a yearly get-together. Our time together usually lasts somewhere between 3-6 weeks. When we're all together, it's 22 people in one big house on a lake. Those weeks are so many things: simply wonderful to be together again, at the lake; intense to be all together, 5 families in one house, for those concentrated weeks; chaotic and funny and FULL.

But when everyone leaves...it's empty. 

Some years when the family get-togethers are over, I feel thankful for the space that the emptiness creates: the return to regular life and relationships, margin to catch up on responsibilities. But this year, the emptiness has left me feeling sad, grieving the void they left, suddenly unsure of what I even did before they were all here. It's been a strange feeling and I've been trying to regain my emotional footing.

In the midst of the vacuum that my family's departure has created for me, I have September and the school year staring me in the face. I'm sending both of my daughters to school this year...and for the first time in what? 7 years? 8 years? I won't have any children at home during the day. 

The sadness and the emptiness that I feel about my family has started to kind of...intimidate me about my girls going to school in the fall, too. I've started to wonder, 'What if I just keep feeling even MORE empty when they're gone, too? What if I don't like them being in school, and the space that it creates for me is just SAD and EMPTY and it leaves me in a more confused place?' Those worries have left me feeling fearful, a little bit worried, and intimidated. 

Sitting on the couch yesterday afternoon, I was telling Caleb about these things. It always takes me awhile to remember that I probably won't be helped by trying to figure out my emotions on my own, inside my own head. It'll help to talk. I just forget that helpful fact every time I feel a confusing emotion.

But it really did help to talk out what I was feeling. Caleb reminded me of a theme I was holding onto awhile back. I even wrote several blogs about it. Sometimes I forget the things that meant so much to me at one point of my life...and then I need to be reminded again. It's a little annoying. But anyway, he reminded me that I used to hold onto the truth from Psalm 23 that says: 

Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.

Remembering all that that verse signifies for me helped my soul take a deep breath and it was like I could almost feel the intimidation starting to back pedal. In more words, what 'goodness and mercy following me all the days of my life' means for me is that, in Christ, good is around the corner. Disaster is not around the corner. Destruction is not around the corner. My life falling apart is not around the corner.

GOOD is around the corner. 

Good might not always look ideal. But because of Jesus and His love and His power and His commitment to never stop doing good to me, even hard will be good for me.

So I can pretty much rest about the fall, rest about what I might feel, what my life might be like, because I know I will have Jesus, and I know that with Him, it will be good


Check out my previous blogs I wrote on 'good around the corner' 2 years ago:

When I Don't Like The Mother I'm Being

When I Don't Like The Mother I'm Being

And oftentimes...I feel like I'm being crushed under the weight of it all. Multi-tasking it all. Doing so many things at once. And the mental to-do list never gets smaller. 

And when I feel like I'm being crushed, I go through my day feel overwhelmed...and often downright irritable. I'm grumpy towards my kids. I'm short with them and their problems. I mutter under my breath. I bark at my daughters. It's NOT very pretty. 

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"Show Me Your Day and I Will Show You Your Life"

My birthday is in January, so when the new year rolls in, it always feels like an extra blank slate to me because it's a new calendar year and a new age, all rolled into one. 

This year, at the commencement of 2017 and of age 32, I had a sense that I knew what would be a good next step for me in my development...but I haven't been QUITE willing to 'look it in the face' fully and embrace it...because it would require a bit on energy on my part and an intentional change of routine.

It's like with our children, how sometimes we think about what would help them move to the next level academically or physically in sports. It could be, for the homeschooling Classical Conversations mom, pushing a child to become a 'Memory Master' of the content. Or it could be switching dance schools to a harder teacher, or perhaps a more grace-filled one, depending on the needs of that particular child. But we know it will move our child's development to the next level.

Well, when I think about myself, I'm pretty sure that I know what will help move me along to the next level of development, spiritually, emotionally, socially...in so much of who I am as a person.

But I'm a little bit skittish about it, because it's the basic idea of...

I'm the kind of person that it's just easy and natural for me to do what seems 'immediate and neccessary' to me or what seems 'nice' in the moment to me. But I'm realizing that I have these things that I value, or I want to value, but I end up only valuing them 'in theory' because I don't intentionally carve out time and energy to develop these values in my life. Because I'm too busy just doing whatever seems immediate, neccessary, and nice.

Let me be more specific, so you know what I'm talking about. They're not huge things that I want to do, so they're easy to forgo.

In 2017, I want to make sure I process my emotions well. I used to be a frequent journal-er, but life as a mom has made it easy for me to push journaling to the side too often. I so believe that the light and life of God come to me when I bring my real emotions to God, my Maker and my Redeemer, and let Him inform me about how to live, how to think, how to feel, how to react. He changes me from the inside out. But it's way to easy to just go through life experiencing emotions but not really processing them.

I'm also coming to realize that the time has come for me to devle into my parenting philosophies again: when I first became a mom, I studied and read about which method I wanted to follow, what I believed would be the best 'path' for our family in how I mothered my girls. And when they were a little older, I knew I didn't understand much about authority and teaching a child to follow a parent's leadership and voice, so I watched my husband, I asked him to help me learn, I read some books...I learned. I'm sensing that in 2017, it's time to learn again. It's too easy for me to just respond to my daughters...and have my interactions with them have pretty much nothing to do with immersing them in the Gospel- the very Good News about what Jesus did and accomplished on the cross and what it means for how we get to live. I want to make sure that I set up boundaries for my girls that lead them to places where they realize that they do, in fact, sin. And when they get to that point, I want to be learning and growing in my ability to point them to the great Rescuer, the one who can wash them clean and accept them because of His performance, not theirs. I want to make sure my parenting is about more than just doing what feels natural or easy fixes in the moment.

And lastly, I happen to know that the way that I think about myself and the way that I interact with other people is just too often a reaction to the insecurities and the shame that resides within me. I don't naturally live believing that what God says about me, in the Bible, is true. In 2017, I'd like to at least make sure that I'm hearing what God says about me, and not just hearing my own insecurities and shame. 

But none of that will ever happen on its own, magically. Of course, it doesn't happen by works alone, either. It's like a mix of making space, making time, and letting God to do the work that He alone can do in me. But on my part, in 2017, the part that I am responsible to embrace and grow in is...

What I'm thinking it will look like is just building into my regular routine short snippets of time that I regularly honor: I'm picturing 20-30 minutes of something very practical on a weekly basis to reflect each of these values...so that I don't just 'value them in theory.'

For example, I'll plan out when I will take time to journal, when I will take time to read and think through Paul Tripp's parenting book (14 Gospel Principles That Can Really Change Your Family), when I will spend time in God's Word taking in what He says about me, and when I I will study and think through some books about shame and how it affects how I think and what I do.

I don't think that the kind of discipline that I'm talking about requires a superhuman about of energy. I think it just requires a little bit of time, but repeated consistently. Something I put on my calendar and choose to honor, week after week.

One of my favorite singer/songwriters, Sara Groves, talks about this concept on a commentary of her song 'On Your Mark,' (which can be found on Spotify...the album is called Floodplain). She talks about a Dorothy Day quote that says:

"Show me your day and I will show you your life."

When I heard that, it resonated with me. And it also scared me a little. Because it's so easy to just float through life thinking that I'm really valuing things, when I'm only valuing them in theory...and my life will end up reflecting that. But in 2017, with the help of discipline, I want to make space in my days for my values, so that they truly are a part of my life.


I Want To Be Right

I texted my friend this morning kind of a weird request. I asked her to do a favor for me that I knew was a little bit controlling, a little bit weird. I wanted her to just say, "Sure, Sarah, no problem. I'll do whatever you're asking." But she actually kind of hesitated about my request...and said, "Actually, I'm going to have to talk to you about this a little bit later."

And the anxiety started rising up in me.

'What does she think about me?'

'She's going to think that I'm doing something wrong.'

I started imagining what her hesitation was...and if I was wrong or right in my request. Analyzing if I could defend myself...or if I just should feel down on myself, that I'm bad, a bad person, that I did something bad.

After awhile of mulling all this over ('Am I good? Am I bad?') I tuned in to the anxiety churning around inside of me, and I turned on some music that would help turn my 'spiritual' eyes back up to God. I started remembering some of the things that I know are now true about me because of the Good News of what Jesus did for me by dying on the cross and rising again:

I don't have to be right anymore.

I don't have to justify myself by being right all the time, by never making a mistake, by being more together than other people, or always having the right answer.

I don't have to prove that I'm good enough; I don't have to have to impress anyone or gain anyone approval.

God is gracious. He made a way for me to be me: broken, a mess, often controlling and confused. And His way is that He sent Jesus to pay the price for my sin and He has given me Jesus' righteousness...so He can now be gracious to me. He is happy with me right where I am, and where He's taking me, who He's forming me into.

As I contemplated what the Gospel frees me up to not have to do anymore (be right all the time) and what it lets me be (just be enjoyed and loved and cherished by God as the mess that I am), I started realizing I think that when I'm corrected, it's a shameful thing. When I'm not right, it means I'm bad. I'm shamed. I should hide that part of me.

That's one of the biggest things that bothers me, that scares me, that angers me, that even enrages me, about how our culture deals with children. 


And, as a result, we teach them that making a mistake is shameful. Being in process is bad. Not being perfect is to be hidden. And we are a culture that collectively wishes we could eradicate our imperfections. You can see it everywhere, from our hatred of any fat on our bodies, to self-mutilation, to rampant perfectionism and hiding who we really are.

That's what I learned growing up. When I did something wrong, it was a shameful experience. I see it when my children are around other adults. It doesn't have to be a volatile or aggressive situation. My daughter was riding a little toy car the other day and she, on mistake, ran over a little toddler's toe with the car and several adults, without even thinking, even in tiny comments to her, spoke shame over her. It happens every single day, in every day interactions.

But the Father, GOD, isn't like that. He doesn't interact with us like that. He doesn't shame us for our messiness, for our sin. He is gracious. His discipline, His correction, is kind, is compassionate, is gentle, is good. His parenting is completely different than our culture's. His embrace is shame-free. We never have to prove we are good enough, or hide that we aren't. We can just be who we fully are, and know that we will be embraced and delighted in. 

That's the true Father's love...and that is what will give me rest as I wait to hear what made my friend hesitate about my request.


Providing For Me In My Pain

I get migraines several times a week.

I've tried lots of different things to try to help them. Currently I'm considering taking a preventative medicine. But as I've tried lots of different ways to help, so far they just keep coming.

Sometimes it's pretty stressful. I take a prescribed medication to stop the migraine once it starts, but my insurance only covers 9 pills every 28 days. And there are many days that I'm vacillating back and forth: do I take a pill? Again? Or do I save it so that I'll have enough later in the month? Because I usually do end up needing about 9 pills a month, give or take a few.

And I'm usually caught up in this mental battle, wondering if I can make it through without needing the medication, wondering if I'll have what I need when the next migraine hits...or the next or the next.

But you know what I realized a few months ago? I looked at my little container of migraine pills...and I noticed that when I refill my prescription, I always have a few left over. I always have just enough. Throughout the month, I always feel like I won't have enough or I might run out. But when it comes down to it, I might have 3 left over, or I might just have 1. But I've never NOT had enough.

I'm not saying that I won't ever run out of migraine pills. But I am saying that I haven't.

And yet I still worry every month.

And it makes me wonder...how many other areas of my life am I always taken care of, always provided for, always carried through, but I keep on worrying? 

When I'm in pain, I tend to think, "Oh no! PAIN! I need to control! I need to make it go away! I need to worry and strive to make sure I am provided for, to make sure I have enough!" But in my pain, Jesus is always taking care of me. He is a good, good Father. He is in control of every aspect of my pain, of my life. He's in control of the pain now, and He's also in control of how I'll be shaped and formed through it. He's in control of what I need and how I'll get it. He's just in control. Whether I perceive it or not.

And right there, in the middle of the pain, instead of worrying, I can force myself to take a deep breath, and I can remind myself that God is there, in the middle of it. And He's providing all that I need. I have enough.