Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas Cookies

Christmas Cookies

This baking is taking

the fruit of some body

and mixing it with the fruit

of the earth, birthing

harmony in each small cookie,

Mary’s sowing, reaping, crushing, sifting,

the cow with milk to give, hen with eggs to fold in,

substance of life and life-giving blending.

Isn’t this season about celebrating

the melding of spirit

with flesh? Remember

our miracles blossom from trauma

and this baking is beating

ingredients, dividing

dough in heaping spoonfuls,

elements indivisible – egg and sugar,

wheat and water.

Bite in, lick the crumb from your upper lip…

Partake in this communion of saints

while the miracle still warms the wafer.

And now we are all here: laborer,

consumer, life-giver, hovering over a tray

of peace on Earth.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

God's Utilization

As a follow-up to the Gerard Manley Hopkins poem, which was written during an age, I think, when overt praise and religious neon signs were permissable, I thought I'd share a poem that probably won't see the light of day in any other forum. It's too cute. I like it, though, especially for its music and sincere but somewhat shallow praise. It's my kind of sappy.

So, without further delay, I present to you, "God's Utilization."

God’s Utilization

I stare bewildered at this sky
in hopes of lofty passersby.
Determined for some revelation,
I praise my God for exploitation.

The atoms in the atmosphere
compose a complex cloudy tier
of vapors written for the birds,
a sweet confession, hardly heard.

In these, the puffy, fluffy white
are held the fingertips of light.
From where a drop of rain once grew,
a tickled ray of gold pokes through.

And though the source sets in the west,
we are left a treasure chest
of colors, bold and pale ones, too,
to balance off the azure blue.

Evolving sky, how you amaze
when cirrus clouds pull their frays,
and thunderheads announce their tales
through mighty light and wailing gales.

What cumuli explode in puffs
of figures formed and bunched in tufts!
Combined exchange of fat and thin,
these clouds provoke a youthful grin.

And on this lazy, daisy day,
we’re left to pass the time away
by staring skyward, eyes alight
reflecting grace with great delight.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Gerard Manley Hopkins

My, how time flies -- already the end of October! I am sitting at home wrapped in a blanket waiting for the furnace repairman to return and take care of my furnace. I appreciate times like these because it is so rare to have previously unscheduled free time. I paid some bills, played some lexulous, and now I am diving in to some Gerard Manley Hopkins, whose work has been recommended by a number of poet-friends as of late, and it is available online, which makes for easy reading. Here's one:

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89). Poems. 1918.

13. Pied Beauty

GLORY be to God for dappled things—

For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;

For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;

Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;

And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;

Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

Praise him.


What a delight to read! Love it.

Off to read some more.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Big Nose! Big Nose!

This morning while my daughter and I ate our eggs, Lydia looked up and said, "Mom, you have a big nose." "Yes, I know, Lydia," I replied, and she said, "How small is my nose?" "Tiny."

I immediately thought of a joke my dad used to tell, over and over, when I was little. A man with a wooden eye was always really self-conscious of his eye. He had a really difficult time getting a date, but one night at a party, he saw a girl he thought might like to dance with him. She was attractive enough, but she had a big nose. Maybe this girl will understand me, he thought to himself, and so he walked across the room, still feeling self-conscious. Would she notice his wooden eye? When he finally approached her, he asked her if she wanted to dance. "Oh, would I!" to which he replied, "Big Nose! Big Nose!"

har har har.

Lydia was observing a documentable fact -- my nose is bigger than hers. She's three. I'm 27. It happens. At some point, the fact that I have a nose was turned into an opinion that it is too big, or too long, or somehow unattractive. "It's a nose!" I say to myself, "my nose! What does it matter?" But every now and again I catch a sideways glance in the mirror or find a photo taken at the wrong angle and I wrinkle up said nose and think, "ugh."

I think we all find ourselves self-conscious about something on us or in us. Sometimes the list is long, and it varies from day-to-day. Some items never seem to leave the list. Some feel like they've been there as long as we can remember. Someone or something in our pasts planted a seed of self-doubt that made us consider ourselves against an impossible standard: perfection.

As I typed that word, the verse from Philippians 1:6 came into my mind, "He who began a good work in you will carry it into completion until the day of Christ Jesus." "Completion" here shows up in the KJV as "perfect" -- and in the Greek is the word, "epiteleō" - perform, perfect, accomplish, finish, performance, make, do.

I think it is safe to say that when we are very young, our self-image is rather neutral. It is only formed based on the outside influences surrounding us - our parents, friends, and strangers shape and mold that self-image... for better or for worse. Our self-worth and self-image are determined first by what we hear and then by how we process it. Some comments are easily dismissed; other opinions embed themselves like weeds. As we grow older, that self-image is fed by repetition externally and internally.

If our self-image is slowly created by outside influences and our own bad habits of repeating those opinions, then the work of Christ is rebuilding that self-image in Him. Regardless of whether we have an inflated view of ourselves or a seriously deflated view of ourselves, God wants us to view ourselves in light of Him. If we are basing our identity on how we measure up to the world's standards, we will either be puffed up and egotistical, self-conscious and defeated, or crashing back and forth between the two depending on our own successes and failures. God tells us to find our identity in him. This isn't new - we were, after all, made in His image. The work of Satan and sin twists and destroys self-image and identity for every person. It is the redemptive work of Christ that renews and "perfects" us. (What does the perfect nose look like, anyway?)

Gradually, the standards for the proper dimensions of one's nose are rooted out of our conscious and replaced by the word of truth: Jesus says, "I designed you. You are mine. I made you in my image. I know you. I love you. I adore you. You are beautiful. I am making you holy. I have begun a good work in you, and I will carry it to completion."

Thank God - I don't need to be concerned with the size of my nose. That's not what he's measuring. In 1 Samuel 16:7, "The Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.'"

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Desperate Housewives

My husband started working weekends from now until Thanksgiving and left last Thursday for Norfolk, Virginia. We've been trying to mentally prepare for these trips for the last few weeks, arranging child care for the Fridays when he is gone and trying to keep in mind that our time together as a family would be cut much shorter, but for good reason - the trips are a great second income for us with minimal interruption to the kids' schedules.

I think one of the more frustrating things about marriage is the way you can be totally on with your spouse for weeks and then all of a sudden... or at least it feels like all of a sudden, the communication lines are disrupted and something goes awry. Usually I'm able to identify a primary cause for the refraction - those "monthly symptoms," a disagreement, some disappointment - but the week before BW had to leave for this trip, there wasn't anything specific to which I could attribute the bitterness I was feeling, those ancient emotions of self-pity and desire for attention and affection that are rarely filled because I am hunting for them and watching for the missed opportunities. My sights were turned inward.

It is so easy to live in the place of self-pity and selfishness. How are my needs not being filled? What disservice is being done to me? Why aren't you paying attention to me? Other people think I'm awesome, so why don't you? Most of the time, the afflicted party (my husband, for instance) is oblivious to this shift in my mental state because I conveniently fail to share these emotions with him. You would think that the gift of writing would come along with a communication party favor or something. Instead of expressing my sudden and irrational need for affection/compliments/quality time/etc., I become sullen and bitter. I leave my husband bewildered. Now, instead of just one of us being miserable, the other one has the great pleasure of being confused and distant, too.

It's tempting to wait for BW to see how pitiful and needy I am and to become the patron saint of unconditional love and passion sweeping in on his trusty steed of virtue and adoration, rescuing me from self-pity and depression. Tempting, but usually fruitless. While my husband has his shining moments of charity and thoughtfulness, their gestures are reduced in significance when I'm begging for it. How much greater impact they have when I am simply loving my husband, by choice, emotion, or otherwise, without conditions or expectations.

It is really hard to get back to that place when I've dipped below the level of love and appreciation I typically feel for my spouse, but I must choose to love my husband unconditionally, even during those times when I'm feeling neglected or unappreciated. It is absolutely necessary to lay down my needs, stop being petty, and choose to remember why I love this man. Jesus didn't wait for the world to love him, he loved us first, regardless of our behaviors. And since that's the model we've been given, it's probably the one we ought to try to follow.

I'm not good at this. I'm much better at sitting around waiting to be loved and then being utterly disappointed when my husband doesn't warm up to the cold lump of annoyance sitting on the couch. Why on earth would he want to love on that?! I don't snuggle with him or compliment him or go out of my way to serve him when he's like that, so why would he make the effort for my sorry self? Only out of God's love can we love our spouses when they (or we) are like that, and the rewards are usually beautiful and lovely for both of us.

He's on his way home today, and having had three days apart in which to love on my kids, play in the garden, hang out with family, and talk to the God of the universe about my ridiculousness, I think I'm ready to act like a wife and love my husband again.

"Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others." - Philippians 2:4

Monday, June 22, 2009


Sometimes the way we move about each other feels choreographed, we've been practicing it so long. It is a good kind of dance, where your partner seems to have mastered the steps and knows right when to lead, when to dip, when to spin, how to maneuver you just right so you feel as if this dance is really effortless.

It probably doesn't happen enough - most of the time, we fight to take the lead, would rather grapevine when our partner wants to cha-cha, and just when one person is warming up to the dance, the other just wants to take a seat and have a drink. But there are days when everything clicks into place and we're primarily interested in the welfare of each other rather than our own interests. This makes all of the difference.

Jesus said that the two greatest commandments were to Love God and to Love one another, but most of the time, we are wrapped up in numero uno - what can I get, who's serving me, how am I being left out here, what wrong has been done to me, me me me. As Toby Keith (that fountain of wisdom) has said, "I wanna talk about me, I wanna talk about I wanna talk about #1 oh my, me, my what I think what I like what I know what I want what I see..." That is where I reside most of the time, unfortunately, and also most unfortunately, this is where we are most unhappy.

But when we start getting down to the basics of loving God and loving one another, when we start turning our eyes outward to our fellow human beings as opposed to focusing on our own inner wants and needs, suddenly all of those wants and needs are minimalized and we can see the world much clearer. I think we tend to slip into a cross-eyed vision - not only can we only see the end of our noses, even that ends up distorted.

So back to this dance thing. It is necessary to practice the steps every day. Somedays, we'll be full of grace, our relationships will seem effortless yet meaningful, and we'll end the day content and relaxed. Other days, the dance is all work and no fun at all - your partner is difficult and so are you, but you have to suck it up, pour them a cup of tea too, determine to be happy that they switched the load of laundry and folded the whites even though the shirts aren't creased the way you'd like and the socks are all in balls rather than tucked neatly together. Because the basics Jesus taught, love God and love one another, aren't about feelings. It is about choice. Obedience. Commandment. These are conscious decisions, not flutters of heartstrings.

The next time you watch "So You Think You Can Dance," remember, those steps that look so effortless, the way the partners seem to glide across the floor as if they are one, that took hours of grueling effort, sweat, and patience. Let's invest that kind of energy into our relationships, so we can move as if we are one.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Adventures in Potty Training, with Biblical Application, Even!

I have never been so proud of bowel movements.

We began potty training our son, Elvis, a few weeks ago. We eased him into the process with the convenient yet pointless Pull-Ups and their sneaky tricks to entice you into buying boxes and boxes of them under the guise of "potty training" when really, they are just absorbent underwear, diapers without velcro tabs. Annoying.

So after messing around with the Pull-Ups for a while, we decided to go all out. It was time to buy the underwear. Naturally, we made a big deal out of the "big boy" undies and their manly navy blue with baseballs and basketballs all over them, snagging a box of Disney Pixar Cars underwear for after he goes in the potty -- "Now you get to wear the REALLY COOL underwear!!!!" And thus, the pants-wetting began.

It was slow going at first - lots of walking around in wet pants as if nothing at all happened down there between his legs. We escorted him off to the bathroom every 30 minutes, kept him in his underwear and a t-shirt all day (no sense wearing pants during this process, people), and did our best to stay patient and calm... after all, this is a big deal, this potty business.

Some people have begun potty training their kids as soon as they can sit up, and I have to admit I'm amazed and envious. How?! The child can't even feed himself but we're pooping in the potty? Amazing. Absolutely amazing. We have not been so motivated - infancy was a time reserved for bewilderment and frustration ("Why is he/she crying now?!"), and adding in random and unpredictable trips to the bathroom to prop my head-bobbing child on a potty seat just wasn't going to happen. I am certain I would have let them tumble into the toilet. I know these things about myself.

Our goal has been to potty train the kids before two hits - that momentous occasion when children decide that everything their parents have ever wanted them to do was the most ridiculous idea they've ever heard, a phase that lasts approximately until the children have children. Elvis will be two in August, and we have many a vacation and road trip and wedding to attend in the next few months, so it was now or never.

There have been many marshmallows promised in exchange for pee. Bribery is not a tactic of which I am proud, but sometimes you have no choice - half a marshmallow for pee, a whole marshmallow for poop. The kid will have diabetes by the time he is three. The first time our son finally peed on the potty, it took him ten minutes of sitting there, resisting sitting there, and then being somewhat pinned to the potty seat by mean old Mom, but once E succumbed, crying, to having to pee on the seat, there was much rejoicing. I think I screamed. Hooray, Elvis! Great job little man! Elvis peed on the potty! Weeee! Lots of this sort of thing.

The first go-around is the hardest - breaking down the fear and confusion, dissolving the idea that pee and poop in the pants is the way we've always done it, what's wrong with it, what's the big deal - these are the barriers that must be overcome. Much like any bad habit or sin, the first phase is denial - there's nothing wrong with what I'm doing. And then we move into grief - mourning the fact that I have to give up the ability to go whenever I want, however I want... even though it stinks, literally. Later, there's repentance - okay, okay, I get it, it would be better for you and me if I did things your way. And finally, reward - we begin to see the benefits and advantages of doing things God's way... or the big boy way, in Elvis's case.

And it appears as if we have arrived. Tonight, Elvis pooped in the potty for the first time, ever. A momentous occasion - one wildly celebrated by everyone in the house. Marshmallows for everyone!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Shopping with Children

I used to enjoy taking my kids shopping... when they were constrained to a shopping cart and infant carrier. Today, however, my kids are three and almost-but-might-as-well-be two, and shopping expeditions as a family only resemble fun if you like reshelving women's underwear and catching Fiesta dinnerware before it hits the tiles (why do they choose not to carpet the dinnerware section?). The kids want to touch everything, and more than that, they want to carry everything shiny and breakable around the store.

In spite of prior knowledge, the kids and I ventured out to Kohl's this evening to do some shopping. I had visions of obedient children dancing (choreographically) in my head and thought with a smile, what fun this will be! An evening out with the kids! And afterwards, we can go to McDonalds and ride home singing to VeggieTales. On top of the fact that I should know better, I had made a list - one of those powerful tools to conquer as much in one trip as possible. We are in wedding/baby/birthday/beach season, so I had a doozy of a list, and surprise surprise, most of what I wanted to buy was in the kitchen section.

I don't know what possessed me to conceive that this would be a good idea - three bridal shower lists in hand, I bravely herded my children through the aisles, adjusting detached mannequin limbs along the way. I am a fool - Proverbs 26 describes us (mostly me) - "As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool returns to his folly." Why do we do the things we know we will regret later?

Weary-eyed, impatient, and dangling an angry toddler by the waist, we paraded most of the merchandise on the trusty list to the front of the store for check-out, me running through the eternal battle of "Do I really need two strapless bras, buy one get one half off?" and "I wonder if I could make it back to kitchenware to pick up one more bridal shower gift." Insanity, I know.

We made it out of the store, with me almost breaking the Fiestaware, all by myself this time. As I loaded the kids and my bags, it dawned on me that I will be back at the shopping center for a dress fitting, alone, this coming Saturday. Silly mommy.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Calendar of Events

Women, I think, are natural planners. It's what we do - probably to a fault sometimes, but nonetheless, we're good at it. So Jody, Deb, and I got together to do some women's ministry planning and came up with a few ideas for the fall. Here's a quick look at what's coming up:

Monthly Events:
Mohican Hike and Picnic Lunch
Care Packages for Domestic Violence Shelter
Game Night with Nursing Home/Assisted Living Residents
Pampering Night
Ornament and Cookie Exchange
Movie Night
Tea Party/Brunch etc.

So those are a few of our ideas for the upcoming year - opportunities for us to get to know each other better, grow deeper in our walks with the Lord, and serve our community.

Also starting this fall will be a small group for college and young women. We'll be studying the fruit of the spirit through a study by Beth Moore, called "Living Beyond Yourself." This group will be open to any college or 20-30s women interested. It will call for a one year commitment. I am excited about this study and this opportunity to bridge the gap to a greater degree between the lovely women I know at 5 Stones and the lovely women I've gotten to know at AU!

Lots is going on at 5 Stones. I'm excited to see where the Lord will direct us to go from here!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Painting David

I have been studying the life of David with my 242 group at AU using a Beth Moore study this year, and we are now coming to the end of David's life. It has been one exciting ride -- we've learned so much more about David than I think any of us ever anticipated, and through his life story we've discovered many truths about how God deals with his people - patiently, justly, sometimes mysteriously, always lovingly.

So usually I would be meeting with my 242 group right now to discuss David's latest escapades with his army general and the Philistines, but tonight we cancelled group because everyone is pretty stressed and busy with school, planning weddings, raising money... the business of living. Instead, I just finished painting. This is what we do when we have an itch for a change - it's time for a new coat of paint.

This color is really nice. The paint itself is a really good quality. We have two gallons of it - both mistints reduced to $5 each - and I painted the entire upstairs hallway using only half a gallon. That's some fine paint, and I think I'll paint the dining room (which is currently baby-poop brown/orange... or terracotta) and the stairway leading down into the basement the same color, just because it is such a nice shade. It's a mellow brownish gray color. I'm a big fan. Obviously.

Our house started as a relatively clean slate - every wall was flat, flat, flat white - and then there were cabinets that had been lacquered so many times they looked orange, carpet in the kitchen, lime green paint in the bathroom... your usual 70s era "improvements". We've slapped paint on nearly every room in the house now - just a few more to go. We needed to make the house our own, to cover up the scratches and marks we made moving in with a nice warm glow.

The problem is that as we've prepped for painting, things start revealing themselves, like the interesting bulges behind the white wall, or the old wallpaper painted over we discovered when unscrewing the curtain rods. Worse problems are the bulging tiles in the bathroom (we have a lot of bulging going on). Most of the time we spackle the holes and paint right on over.

I bet David wished he could buy a few gallons of paint and cover up the mess he'd made of his walls. I know there are seasons of my life I wish I could just paint over and forget forever, but painting over and forgetting the cracks and leaks doesn't get rid of the problem - it just puts a band-aid on it until it festers long enough to become a worse issue. David was really good at ignoring sin in his life and hoping it wouldn't come back to bite him... but it always did - with Bathsheba, with Tamar, Absalom, and Amnon, with Joab, and on and on throughout his kingdom and his life.

So often we are unwilling to confront the sin or hurt in our lives and instead put on a happy face. David did the same thing over and over again. Jeremiah 6:14 says, "They bandage the wounds of my people as if they were not very deep. 'Peace, peace,' they say. But there isn't any peace." We can make the surface of things look happy, clean, and peaceful but it won't matter much if what's underneath is blistering and infected.

Are there areas in your life that you've painted a fresh coat of paint on in spite of the water damage underneath? What deep issues are you avoiding for fear of the angry gardener's pruning shears? It is better to have that infected area of your life cut off then to let it fester and rot until the infection spreads to every other area of your life. David did not deal well with the problems in his personal life or the conflict within his family, and it affected his entire kingdom. Protect yourself and your "kingdom" - family, friends, work, etc. - from the consequences of sin, and let God deal with you now before the infection spreads. No more paint! :)

The Angry Gardener
“He cuts off every branch in me
that bears no fruit…” – John 15:2

The angry gardener sees
overgrown, untended beds
and seethes. He pulls
the waist-high weeds,
heavy in seed, and heaves
them to the compost heap.

And then the shrubs –
how they shudder
in his shadow, hand saw
pushed and pulled until
limbs quiver, surrender.

Pruners snip, his grip
is sweaty, tight, a frenzy
to the suckers, rose hips,
broken stems, spotted leaves.
The clipping never ends;
he is severe – takes away
more than one-third.

And then mulch,
fertilizer, buckets of water.
The landscape sighs,
breathes with the gardener
who stands back,
fists on hips.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

God as Artist

The Shape in a Misshapen World Festival of the Arts was this weekend. The event was sponsored by 5 Stones and brought a community of visual and literary artists together under one roof to celebrate creativity. It was the first time we've tried something like it, and I think it was a success. We had a decent turn-out for an arts festival (you never know with such things), and the readings all went very well.

I recently attended a presentation at AU by a scientist named Karl Giberson. Among many thought-provoking points he mentioned in his speech, he talked about the metaphors we tend to use to understand God. The scientific community often uses the metaphor for God as engineer, which is a very practical position; an engineer's job is to build things that run efficiently and accomplish the tasks they are supposed to. If we view God only as engineer, though, we miss other aspects of the creator God. Not only is God concerned with how the world operates but the emotional undercurrent of creation. God is also an artist.

Why is it that we call a rose beautiful and a dandelion a weed? Why do multiple species of birds singing together sound pleasant, while multiple people singing different songs sounds garbled and chaotic? Why do mountain peaks covered in snow evoke awe and wonder while snow on my driveway evokes annoyance? There is more to the earth than just a practical tool for survival. There are objects on earth that have both a practical and aesthetic appeal - and to appreciate the creator to a greater degree, we ought to also consider His creation as something complex, beautiful, and mysterious.

This weekend's festival was an opportunity to show how we try to find shape, or answers, in our misshapen world. Just like God the creator, artists are in the business of looking for deeper meaning in the world than just the practical systems that exist. The world resonates with emotion and spirit. Artists are looking for it everywhere. In regards to poetry, C.S. Lewis had this to say, "Poetry too is a little incarnation, giving body to what had been before invisible and inaudible." We are looking for the invisible and inaudible, so that others can see it and feel it themselves.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Missing Stuff

So I had these big plans this last weekend that included Soulfeast, an audition to read poetry at the Columbus Arts Festival, and reading a poem for church Sunday morning. I've had these plans laid out for at least two weeks. I knew it was going to be a complicated weekend - my husband had work on Saturday and baseball in Cincinnati on Sunday - but I had it taken care of. Child care was arranged, I'd only miss one session Saturday and leave early Sunday to get back for church and the rest of the day would be easy peezy - hanging out with the kids and catching up on laundry.

And then I got sick. And then Elvis got sick. And then Lydia got sick. It has been nothing but hacking, vomiting, and nose blowing for days around here. I should have known weeks ago that the weekend wasn't going to happen - you know that feeling you have sometimes, like something is bound to go wrong? Well that's where I've been with the retreat/Brandon working all weekend.

Sometimes I think God lets us get sick so that we slow down, learn to say "no." I'm hoping to resurface into the land of the living tomorrow, but not before going to the doctor to hopefully track down a few antibiotics to kick this sinus infection I think I might have. Until then, sleeeeep...

Saturday, February 28, 2009

License to Date... Your Spouse

Last night I drove almost two hours to Toledo to hang out with my husband. At first this felt really silly of me - kind of pre-marital do-anything-to-see-your-boyfriend Sarah - but given that it feels as if we haven't seen each other for more than an hour each day since February 6, I was able to justify asking my mom to come watch the kids overnight so that I could meet Brandon for a late dinner and a night in a Days Inn just outside the beautiful... Toledo, Ohio. We enjoyed an expensive seafood dinner and a glass of wine each at a place that calls its side orders "accompaniments," and then went back to the hotel for the night (juicy details noticeably absent...). This morning, we went to Panera for bagels, like the good ol' days, reading the paper and making random comments, allowing the important conversations to perculate here and there. And then I drove back to Ashland and Brandon drove to Bowling Green for work, beginning Phase II of tag-team parenting.

We knew this was coming - this hectic relay race from the end of January to the end of April between my work and Brandon's baseball coaching and other contractual work and weekend retreats and roadtrips and conferences. I don't have to tell you how busy our lives can get - you experience it in waves as well - time ebbs and flows just like the tide. We schedule nearly every hour of this season on a calendar hanging on the fridge, in Outlook, on our phones - but sometimes, we forget to schedule each other in.

Some couples I know have picked a night during the week that is "sacred;" it is their night to do something together, whether it's dinner or bowling or shooting hoops or playing tennis... anything, just to have some allotted time together, away. I don't know about you, but even if Brandon and I are home together, there are some nights when it might as well just be one of us there separately - we don't talk, we veg out in front of the TV, he does his thing, I do my thing, and then we go to bed. Real inspiring. But if we force ourselves to actually go out, leaving the kids at home with a sitter for a few hours, that's two to three hours of sustained alone time, no distractions of dirty dishes, laundry, TV (for the most part), computer, etc., to keep us from talking.

For those of us who feel like we've gone on so long without engaging our spouses in any sort of conversation about our collective lives that sitting together over dinner for an hour sounds excruciatingly painful, that's probably exactly what we need. Scheduled time together with your husband can remind you why you love the guy, and that will feed into the oh-so-important sex life that has a habit of shriveling up during the busy season, too. Ah, sex. That's a whole other blog.

Why does this matter so much? God is a relational God - he designed us to be in relationship, with him, with others, and if he designed you to be in a marital relationship, then it's worth the investment of time and even money (heaven forbid we have to dish out $20 bucks for a babysitter so we can go out, when we spend that much buying lunch at Quiznos on any given weekday) to make sure our relationship is healthy. In turn, doing the same with God - setting aside time and remembering why you love him so much - works just the same.

Sometimes our marriages (and relationship with God) get pushed to the bottom of the priority list because, we say, the threat to lose it is much less than a job, our sanity, our health... whatever. But if we improve on sustaining our marriages, everything else will improve with it. There's one less stressor. Our marriages are the second-most important relationship on this Earth next to the one we have with Jesus Christ. How much more, then, should we invest in them?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Leah Considers Mercy

Leah Considers Mercy
“When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved,
he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.”
- Genesis 29:31

On my knees I begged, Lord
make him love me, I want to feel his kiss
instead of hear the whispers from his lips
to the sister of my blood, sister in the law,
How beautiful you are, my darling!
Oh, how beautiful!
Beloved, to me, only me…
and then one came. I named him Reuben:
he has seen my misery

My son… our child, a gift for a man
whose calloused hands are rough
on my back after this afternoon’s sun,
whose sunburned shoulders
carry two bales instead of one,
two… I will be loved now.

Reuben has his daddy’s eyes
and some of my father – the hands of a shepherd.
But I am not loved. I can feel the rolling hills
raise up their crops, tickle lambs’ feet—
years are grains of wheat,
harvests bountifully hollow,
fall, frost. Reuben plays on the floor
at my feet, I am crawling not loved.
The door clicks quietly in the night,
and Simeon: one who hears makes two for mercy,
for pity I am not loved.

What does she have? Not two sons
with wild hair, sucking thumbs and chasing
their father after dinner. Not two sons waiting,
sleeping, tucked under her blankets each night.
Not empty shadows, cold pillows and sheets,
this dense silence. My lover is hers – he browses
among lilies - I am not his – I finger the field
of dandelions with boys at my side,
wonder at this strange abundance.

Reuben and Simeon dart in and out
of the kitchen, call Dad! when the door opens.
His hands hug and hold them close.
Bread is on the table, I’m roasting lamb –
so hungry – my stomach swells,
eyes water, mouth dry. Levi: attached
Three. Now he will hold me close.

The boys grow tall and handsome,
just like their father. I watch Reuben
pick daffodils - it is spring, you know,
and the days are warm and bright.
Simeon finger-painted a stick woman smiling
and I taught him how to write M’s and O’s.
Levi is learning to walk, marching
like a soldier, and when he stumbles,
he doesn’t cry, only looks at me and laughs.

I have a fourth now. He came to me
three weeks ago, and he is beautiful -
he has my eyes and all his Father’s glory.
I know he will do great things, but for now,
he smiles, infects my soul.
I named him Judah: praise

Monday, February 16, 2009


Wrap your atmosphere around me –
I do not want to be the moon, unable to deflect
even the smallest cosmic speck. I flinch and dodge
a million bullets in a meteor shower, yearn to watch
the light show at night without fear. Without you,
my surface is sensitive – I bruise at the slightest affront,
scurry away to nurse my hurt. If I must wear
the craters of personal implosions and exterior stonings,
dress them in deep blue water with stunning clarity
so that none may question why this happened
but only know that nothing so beautiful
and pure could come without pain.

Plant in my volcanic cavity a hemlock tree
so all will witness how you’ve rooted yourself
in my explosive fragility and called me strong.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Baby Bug

Okay, I admit it - I have the baby bug. A combination of recent baby showers, many friends pregnant, and my little man starting to talk and potty train has me thinking it would be fun to do this again. The major hitch in this equation is the husband.

The husband does not one teensy little bit even for a minute want to have more kids. He did at one time -- a long, long time ago when there were no kids in the picture, he was all in favor for a big family... like, 4+, and of course so was I. Am I. But he has been the one at home with our two children under 3 for Elvis's entire life, and half of Lydia's, which makes him justifiably against having any more kids... right now.

I have at least pushed the "maybe later" button, so that the discussion isn't completely sewn up. Maybe after Elvis and Lydia are in preschool, or maybe after he is in or done with graduate school, or maybe after we've got the timing just right... but nothing we have ever timed has actually happened in our timing. That's how it goes.

What complicates this wanting more babies thing for me is that we've been through three miscarriages, two c-sections, one difficult pregnancy and one difficult post-partum NICU experience. After the last miscarriage this summer, I was left with a lot of weird emotions -- the pregnancy was definitely not planned in the first place, I was on birth control, and Brandon was really not ready to have another child in the family. And then we miscarried and were left with sadness and relief and guilt about feeling relieved. I had never been on the "baby not wanted" side of the painting, and it was a strange, awful place to be, especially in light of where we have been in the last four years.

Prior to Elvis and Lydia, we had two miscarriages - one a partial mole pregnancy and another very early miscarriage (4 weeks or so). For the first time since I became a Christian, I was thoroughly pissed at God. Honestly. I couldn't understand why we had to go through miscarriage #2, when we certainly figured out what it felt like to lose the hope of a baby the first go-around. It was an empty, depressed, silent time for me. You know those times in your life when God is so quiet and your grief is so deep that you no longer feel the joy and peace and happiness that had accompanied your faith for so long? I was there.

Brandon and I wanted a family so badly. We started wondering whether I could ever "hold on" to a baby or if we would go through the loss and pain of miscarriage after miscarriage. In a women's Bible study at the time, our group was cross-stitching verses from Scripture on a weekly basis, and about the time I had the second miscarriage, we cross-stitched the verse, "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart," and I remember pushing that needle in and out, in and out, attacking the cloth with my thread, "YEAH Right!" I said in my head, "DeLIGHT yourSELF in the LORD! What the heck does that look like?!" Did I mention I was angry?

After that second miscarriage, I couldn't find it in me to rejoice in the Lord, not the way you would think of rejoicing. But what I could do, and did, was list out ten things about God that I needed to cling to during that time of waiting, and healing. It was a list of promises God has made in Scripture about redemption, about how Jesus wept too, about how much he loves me, about salvation, about heaven, about plans and purposes. There are times in our lives when we just aren't feeling it. I'm just not feelin' ya, God. But in the midst of that deep pain and grief, God is there, and if we can't rely on the emotions of our faith during those times, we must rely on our intellect, and if our intellect can't get us there, we have to know in our souls the truths of the Word. We know he loves us, even if all of our circumstances seem to shout otherwise. He loves us, and he is continually working on us.

God pulled me out of my pit of grief slowly, gently. He let me heal at the pace he knew was necessary for that healing to be true. We can't just put band-aids on our wounds and pretend that our injuries are shallow scrapes when they are deep heart-wounds. It won't heal that way. We need to deal with the pain by letting God deal with our pain. I can't tell you how many times I shook my fist up at the sky and asked, "WHY?!" He never answered that question about those first two miscarriages directly, but he redeemed those losses.

Even though the pregnancy this summer wasn't planned, I was excited at the possibilities - concerned about my poor husband and his sanity, yes - but excited. So when we miscarried, I was sad, but the core of my being, the rock that is my salvation, was not shaken. Something between miscarriage #2, live babies, and miscarriage #3 rooted my faith more strongly than it had before. I can't disregard the fact that having two healthy children here to snuggle up with during and after that miscarriage helped soothe the ache, but I also believe that God did a work through all of that fight and grief, something to build me up in a way I could never have done on my own.

So now I'm in this new season again, this season of weepy-eyes when watching television and a baby, any baby, even Shrek babies sneak into the picture. This season of wondering whether I can convince my husband that more kids is a good idea. This season of contemplating whether wanting more kids is a selfish thing or a selfless thing, whether it matters, whether God will bless us with more kids, whether He has "closed up my womb" like he did in the Old Testament, whether our timing will be God's timing, and whether I would be okay with any or all of these possibilities. Right now, I think I would be okay with whatever God proposed, but ask me tomorrow and I might have lost all patience and sense.

Regardless, God loves us, whatever season of life we are in, and He has a purpose for us right this minute - single, married, widowed, pregnant, working, at home with kids, trying to get pregnant - wherever we are we are here for a reason. Cliche as it is, it's true. The trouble we have is finding peace and contentment in the present without losing hope for the things of the future.

FAITH-BUILDING ACTIVITY: What are ten things you know to be true about God, based on Scripture? Think about your current situation and see if you can find verses that speak to it, and if there aren't specific scenarios that come to mind, then what are some truths you can root yourself in, regardless of the situation?

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Bride of Christ

If you are anything like me, there are days when you feel like whatever it is you are trying to accomplish in life isn’t enough. Whether you aren’t doing enough to win or keep the heart of a man, working hard enough for a degree, loving your children enough, putting in enough effort at work, exercising enough, eating right, cleaning your house enough, relaxing enough, spending enough time with God… fill in the blank, I’m sure you can come up with other ways you feel like you fall short.

If we’re not falling short, we’re not sure whether we’re doing what we ought to be doing. Am I spending too much time at work and not enough time with my family? Am I staying up too late and waking up too early? Am I getting enough sleep? Am I getting too much sleep? Should I be single or should I be dating someone? Should I get married? Should I have kids or should I have a career? Am I serving enough? Am I giving enough? Should I give more? Am I stretching myself too thin? Am I being selfish? Am I being selfless? Should I be more sympathetic or should I be firmer? Am I working hard enough? Am I working too hard?

If we’re not confused about our state of affairs, we’re convinced we know exactly what God has in store for us, what we’re supposed to be doing. In college, my friends and I were going to classes to pass the time until we found a man, married, and could begin our real purpose on the planet – to be fruitful and multiply. Sure, God had given us certain gifts and talents; yeah, God had a plan and a purpose for our lives: we were meant to have babies. And that was it. That’s all we wanted. In many ways, we would have been happy living in the fifties.

Regardless whether you have been on the hunt for the man of your dreams so you could settle down and begin the work of baby-making or whether you have had your eyes focused on the PhD, CEO, or VP title, at one point or another, you’ve been sure of what God wanted for you. And then God laughs.

The women in Mona Lisa Smile all share one thing in common – their visions of the future ended up slightly or drastically different than what they expected. How do we come to grips with that? How do we face the harsh reality of a shattered dream? How do we respond when the man of our dreams never shows up? How do we keep going when the job doesn’t work out? How do we react when the babies don’t come? How do we keep going when the babies leave the house? What do we do when the wrinkles start showing?

When everything on the exterior is stripped away – make-up removed, hair undone, designer clothes turned in for some comfortable pajamas – and we’re honest with ourselves, what is left? What is left once we take off all of the roles we’ve adopted: mother, daughter, wife, sister, employee, student, grandmother?

God has always had a better design and model for women. Whatever our circumstances, each of us has a soul. We have been designed unique and are continually shaped into the image of God. Jesus destroyed the societal constructs against women throughout Scripture – he talked to the woman at the well when she was both a woman and a Samaritan – two big no-no’s in his day. He loved Martha and Mary, two women with drastically different gifts but both blessed to be in the company of the Lord and to discover themselves in his light.

What does it mean to be a woman of God? I think being a woman of God begins by trying to see ourselves as God sees us and not as the world wants us to see ourselves. The ideal image of womanhood projected by the world is that of power, control, youth, sexual appeal, dramatic beauty, a kind of do-it-all and do-it-yourself feminism, self-reliant, strong. The image of perfect womanhood provided by our culture is impossible to strive for, impossible to sustain, and does not bring any sort of sustained peace or joy. Reaching to become all things to all men and women will only lead us to despair.

But in Hosea, God promises that he will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. In Hebrew, “Achor” means trouble or despair. There have been many times when I have felt desperate – for love, affection, stability, peace, friendship. We can get stuck in those places and just keep looping through what our world’s definition of success and happiness is: getting what we want. What we are doing is worshipping the gods of this world rather than the God of heaven and earth. Hosea goes on to say that, “On that day, says the Lord, you will call me ‘My husband,’ and no longer will you call me, ‘My master.’ For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be mentioned by name no more… and I will take you for my wife forever; I will take you for my wife in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. I will take you for my wife in faithfulness; and you shall know the Lord.”

How do we respond to the husband of our souls who has taken us in righteousness and justice, in steadfast love and mercy, in faithfulness? We know him – we spend time with him. We figure out what he likes and do special things for him. When I was getting to know the guy I dated before getting married, I thought about ways I could make him happy all of the time. As a new bride, I tried to be the best woman for my husband. As a wife of five years, I’ve gone through my own valleys of self-centeredness and I’m not always as focused on how I can be nice to my husband.

Our relationship with God is so often the same way – we get all hyped up on how much he loves us at the start and then we kind of get used to it and don’t try as hard to show him our love. But both relationships are a process – both relationships go through phases, seasons, valleys, and peaks.

Our lives are constantly in a state of transition. Fortunately, we do not have to be everything to everyone. God does not expect us to be worshipping at his feet and simultaneously preparing the meal – there’s a time for both. One of my favorite passages in Scripture that deals so directly with women is Proverbs 31. The Proverbs 31 woman is not one woman; I think she is “Every Woman”, like Joan declares in the beginning of Mona Lisa Smile.

The Proverbs 31 woman glorifies God – whether she’s a businesswoman, single, a mother, a wife, a grandmother, or a widow, or any combination of these at whatever phase of life we find ourselves. It isn’t that she is signed up on a half-dozen church committees, singing in the choir, leading a Bible study, or tithing every week. She glorifies God by her attitude, her servant heart, her wisdom, her kindness. Proverbs 31 ends - “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her a share in the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the city gates.”

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Daughters (David Sherwood)

From Dave Sherwood

How does a pastor see women in his church and the culture that surrounds it


Daughters be careful to remember who you are
Because there are identity thieves everywhere
And they promise you, as they always do
Power, position, safety…

But do they tell you

The wonder of life growing in you
When you and a man become one
And god overshadows you
And you carry his creation
Into the world

That our Father in heaven is a good dad
The dad we never had
The dad of cuddles and teaching and healing and…and
So much more
So dance before him with abandonment
And cuddle deep into his strong shoulders

And don’t try to be a son
He has enough of those strange
Adrenaline riddled,

Be a daughter

Dance…cause most boys don’t dance well
Cry…cause your tears are precious to Fathers
Nurture…cause boys just build and destroy
They plant and harvest
They don’t remember to water
And if we all want some food to eat
It’s up to you

And forgive men
They are monsters at times
They have their own demons to wrestle
Help them find their own masculinity in God
By finding your femininity

And one last thing

Vogue magazine is lying to you
Stop trying to be an object for others and the fickles flowing definitions of beauty
Adorn yourself on the inside
With the feminine attributes of beauty

Because the pastors heart is torn

Watching you be enslaved to a culture that lies to you
And promises you so much
And delivers
Exhausted emptiness

Mona Lisa Smile

This weekend, the ladies of 5 Stones and other women interested are invited to watch the film, Mona Lisa Smile. Afterward, we are going to break up into small groups and talk through a few discussion questions, followed by a short message.

The night before, I drafted some discussion questions for the movie, and last night, I sat down after the kids went to bed and began typing. I do my best thinking at the keyboard - don't ask me to think standing up in a conversation because I'm sure to fail. The main question on my mind last night was, how do I translate the roles and shifts in perspective that occur in Mona Lisa Smile into today's culture and the lives of women in the church? At first, I started by looking at advertisements and sitcom summaries to see what common denominators I could find here, but as I wrote a few paragraphs, the message I needed to get across still wasn't clear. No, no, no, that's not it! and I'd pray again, Lord, what do you want me to say about this?

Eventually, the problem surfaced - I was trying to look at the outside issues, like choosing between career and family, rather than addressing the heart and soul. This essential root opened up the topic for me. I'm excited to talk about what it means to be a woman of God this Saturday. I wrote a poem a while ago about the woman at the well that illustrates a bit about how God takes us from where we have been and transforms us in ways we could have never imagined, in the metaphor of a crocus.

The Merciful Gardener
“Come, see a man who told me
everything I ever did.” – John 4:29

It feels as if I’ve been buried here
forever, dehydrated, covered in dirt,

a crocus stagnant and frozen with scales
wrapped tight and tunic pointing skyward

waiting for signs of spring. And now
water trickles down, sunbeams warm the soil,

I can feel myself changing, breaking!
All I’ve ever done was wait and rot.

And then he – And then he showed me –
I am compelled to tell, can’t help but bloom –

Do you see how he knew just what I needed?
Do you see how he knew what I could do?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Faith, Family, and Electric Carving Knives

This weekend the fam and I went home to visit our extended families, since it was a longer weekend. Family has become increasingly important to me (in my old age, ah ah ah), and I find myself longing to be closer to home. On my way home to Ashland tonight, I started thinking about home and how we relate to our family members those things that are most important to us.

When I first became a believer, I was gung-ho nutso about sharing my newfound hope with my parents, friends, cousins, aunts, uncles, brothers, and pretty much any poor sap who happened to cross my path. I even entered into a scary debate with a guy on a sailboat in Australia about evolution. It was heated. I was irrational and emotional. It was embarrassing.

It can be so hard to show our love and how we've been changed by God to family, especially, because they all know we're not that great. It's a whole lot harder to fool family with our holy acts than it is our church friends. They know us too well to believe that God made it all 100% better and now we're a no-sinning saint. Ba-loney.

Anyway, I went on a Bible-buying spree. Anyone related to me got a Bible - birthdays, Christmases, I made sure that a Bible would be in-hand, and that it would be somehow user-friendly (study Bibles, women's application Bibles, etc.). I wanted to share the wealth of Scripture - I had found so many truths, so much hope, from its pages, and I just couldn't keep myself from gushing about God. It was great fun!

But, as I am with all things, I kind of got impatient with the Holy Spirit. They had these amazing books within reach and yet weren't taking advantage of them! I could picture these books sitting on shelves or stashed away in closets like the two electric knives Brandon and I got for our wedding - sharp, shiny, powerful, even, but completely unused and therefore rather useless, except for the special occasion - like Thanksgiving - when one might want to carve a turkey in electric super-speed, double-fisted vibrating knife fashion.

I found a Bible up in one of the bedrooms this weekend. I gave it to my brother a few years ago after I found out he gave his life to Christ at a youth retreat. It was still in the box - the gold-leaf pages still stuck together when I flipped through it. At first, you might think that this is a sign of disregard - maybe disinterest. I would have, if I had found it a few years earlier. But my brother isn't much of a reader. He's a listener. He cares deeply about people. And this weekend, I hung out with my brother and his fiancee for a while, and we talked about faith and God and the Bible and their church. We also line danced and laughed and had a few drinks.

What I've come to realize recently is that God has his own timing. God moves in people's lives in many, many different ways. Even though the physical Word of God spoke loudest to me as a new believer, others come to know him in other ways - maybe it is worship music on a Sunday morning that brings along some stirring in one's soul. Maybe it is the kindness and love of a friend that speaks ten times louder than the words in a book. Maybe it is "through the back door" as the modern poet, Mary Karr, says about her alcoholism and prayer and the Holy Spirit, first, and then Jesus Christ.

Whatever way it is, what is most important for me is that it does not depend upon me. It is the Holy Spirit's job to use us however he can, we just have to make ourselves available. What a relief it is to know that it isn't up to me alone to save family, friends, or strangers. The Lord stirs people's hearts in strange ways, and if we have made ourselves open to discussing the experiences we have had, it is a seed that the Farmer can sow, and one day, without our even being aware, there will be this amazing vine growing and showing off its fruits.

One last thought - if you are feeling discouraged or impatient with family in regards to spiritual matters, remember that even Jesus Christ's brothers doubted him, and it wasn't until after Jesus died and was resurrected that James became one of his own brother's disciples. Faith is a funny creature; there's no predicting how or when it will grow in someone's heart. What we can do, however, is follow Christ's commandment to love one another - can we do something so daring as to show love to our family members, those people it is so easy to disregard - mostly because they are stuck with us? And, pray. Pray, pray, pray. The Holy Spirit can work across the miles and in our own homes when we're sure we've done enough to annoy them with our holy-roller stories of how God is the greatest and I'm saved and you should be too so accept him already okay?!? As a consolation (LOL I had constellation before) prize, here's an electric carving knife...

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Stronghold of God

For those of you who enjoy reading a book every now and then, the women of 5 stones are going to read through the book, The Stronghold of God by Francis Frangipane and get together to talk about the book Sunday, February 22 at 9 AM. It is just a little over 100 pages. In these uncertain economic times, it is always good to be reminded who are stronghold is. The book is only $6.05 used (including shipping) on -

Keep warm, ladies!

Sunday, January 11, 2009


For no particular reason, I have been amazed lately. At everything. I can't seem to help myself - the snow falls and I think, "how amazing! It's white and fluffy and mutes the world and each flake is unique and it is just so stinkin' creative! How did he think of it?!" But I guess that's not so unusual - everyone looks at snow and thinks, neat-o. But there are some things that I've gotten hung up on lately that I think if taken to their farthest conclusion would render me certifiably insane.

For instance, our bodies. Have you ever thought about how cool they are? It takes foreign objects (like brussels sprouts and pork chops and sauer kraut), smooshes it all around in one organ with these chemicals and then takes the stuff that's in those foreign objects and uses it, magically, for the health and well-being of the rest of our body. And then there's the disposal system, which I won't go into here, but let's face it - it's pretty amazing too. Beyond food and that amazing process, there's what happens with blood. Blood brings all the nutrients to all of the other interdependent organs in the body. And, some of its cells fight the bad guys that sneak in with food and air and water. And, by some amazing process, the deoxygenated blood keeps itself separated from the oxygenated blood to and from the heart, which pumps non-stop, on demand at timely intervals from somewhere around two to three weeks of existence in the womb until the very last second here.

And don't even get me started on the brain, bones, joints, skin, muscles, five senses, spinal cord, lungs, liver, reproductive system. Besides the fact that they even exist and function, they grow! They heal! They change! They weaken and strengthen! They bend and wiggle and stretch and shrink!

It's amazing. AMAZING! The very hairs on our head are numbered. We don't have to look any farther than the fingerprints on our thumbs to see that we have been fearfully and wonderfully made, unique down to the microbiological level, with slight variations to make us different but ultimately half of the population could mate with the other half of the six billion people on the planet and create a fully-functional human with some new combination of chromosomes and DNA, with her grandma's curls, her daddy's blue eyes, and her momma's unusually shaped little toe.

I think part of this astonishment and wonder comes out of watching my children grow and learn. Elvis, my son, almost died when he was born because of problems with his lung development, even though he was full-term, and whenever he chokes on a cup of water, I remember those first few days. But thanks to the help of a bunch of healthcare physicians who were on the watch those first critical days and thanks to a miraculous Healer in heaven, who created bodies that can take on almost anything and still survive and thrive as if they had normal beginnings, he survived and looks and breathes just like any other 17-month old. It's amazing.

Lydia is just as amazing as Elvis - she has all of these words that come out of her mouth - phrases and word combinations and thoughts that are unique to her mind and heart. She has such compassion and care, such love and joy, and it just pours out. I certainly didn't teach these things to her - they are innate, stored up somewhere in her soul. And... to be repetitive... she's amazing.

I haven't even gotten into the other things that bring wonder and awe -- the seasons, the sunset, the earth and its solar system, the galaxy, the universe... zooming back in to the bees and pollenation, the trees and carbon dioxide and oxygen, the water cycle, the sea star, the sea horse, the grass... I could go on and on. I am in awe.

If you have a chance each day, think about something commonplace, something you've taken for granted. It doesn't have to be anything high and lofty - it could simply be the fact that you winked, or sneezed. Investigate it - what does it take to do this? Why do we sneeze? Why do we blink? How do we see, really? What is involved from a scientific standpoint? And then, once you've seen how complex that single process is, think bigger - cloud creation, volcanoes, earthquakes, oceans, ice, islands, palm trees, sand, rocks, stars, light, sound. And now that you've effectively overwhelmed yourself, think even bigger - all of this, everything and everyone, God created. God knows. God has touched. God has breathed the breath of life in each of us. God has the power to heal us of our deepest hurts and addictions. God has the power to be larger than the entire universe and yet more intimate than a lover.


Friday, January 9, 2009


The New Year is always a good time for reflection, a chance to take a look back on how the past year has played out. What did God teach me this year? How did I grow? Did I grow??

A few lessons and experiences keep surfacing for me in regards to this past year: one is redemption, and the other is wonder. I had the great joy of leading a small group of women for a few months through a study of David's life (at least the first part of it... we've got a long way to go this spring!). Lots and lots of bad things happen to David early on in his story - he kills a giant, he plays the harp, he writes some songs and poems, he is hunted by a mad king, his best friend is killed, he gets married (twice)... all while being secretly anointed the soon-to-be-real king of Israel. It's like a super-double-secret, too, because Saul turns into this mad man that tries to kill David every chance he gets, and when David gets the chance to kill him he doesn't. It's craziness.

All this to say that a TON of junk happens in David's life, early on, and it left many of us in our study dumbfounded. What is going on here? Why do bad things happen to good people? It's the same old question we've heard hundreds of times, maybe even thousands of times. And then I think the most enlightening conversation I've had this year happened with one of the young women in my study.

The fiance of one of her friends died unexpectedly shortly before their wedding, and friends who were doing their best to console her said, "God works in mysterious ways... It must have been his time..." and her friend railed against this in grief and anger, saying, "NO - God did not kill my fiance in a car accident; God does not cause evil to happen so that he can do something good. He takes that something evil and awful and is able to turn it for good, in spite of the devil's handiwork." And I was like YES. That's it. Redemption.

God does not cause bad things to happen so that he can do something good. Bad things happen. Evil is in the world and its handymen are doing everything they can to turn our hearts away from God, and yet, and yet, God always sticks around after the rioters have come in and ravaged our hearts. He sits quietly, sometimes so silent we're not even sure he's there in the midst of that overwhelming grief and sorrow, and he waits until it is the right time, until we are ready to let go. And then, while the enemy is off rejoicing that he's ruined it for you, God is there, picking up the broken pieces and reassembling them into some strange mosaic you could have never imagined. You created this masterpiece out of all this rubble? All of these shattered mirrors and severed dreams... everything I thought lost... you redeemed.

Redemption. We don't even realize it is happening until it has happened and then we are surprised by joy, surprised by gladness, surprised that it all worked out for good, even though he said so over and over again in that one book. The goodness doesn't knock out the fact that what happened to you, to me, to us, wasn't dark and miserable and lonely and fierce. It is a smile with hard-earned, angel-wrestling tears of gratefulness to have felt very deeply and to continue to survive in spite of such deep hurt.

The bad and difficult events in your life have not happened so that God could do something good with you. They happened because there is an enemy who wants to see you beat down and separated from God. The miracle is that God is bigger than that, so big that he can take the downward spiral you feel like you are on and slowly ease it back to a slow road of recovery, put a bend and hill in here and there, and before you know it you can see how he worked that spiral right into a winding country lane.

It's amazing. And that's one thing I've been dwelling on late in 2008 into 2009. The others will have to wait for another night.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A Soul That Sparkles

Gemstones, also called precious or semi-precious stones, are pieces of attractive minerals, which — when cut and polished — are used to make jewelry or other adornments. Most gemstones are hard, but some soft minerals are used in jewelry because of their lustre or other physical properties that have aesthetic value. Rarity is another characteristic that lends value to a gemstone (thank you, wikipedia).

We women of 5 stones community church and all women in the body of Christ, should consider ourselves "gemstones" -- God is constantly tumbling us along the shore, cutting away the grime and polishing our souls until they shine: "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Phil. 1:6). Each of us sparkles in unique ways; we are rare, beautiful, gifted, valuable... the apples of His eye.

This blog will serve as a place of reflection on being and becoming a gemstone here -- what is God doing in my life to polish until I shine, or shape until I catch His light just right? How can we work with the Lord to see more clearly the gifts He's given us? What does the Word say about women? What is our role as women in Christ? And how do we come closer to knowing and serving Him?

It will also be a place of resource -- as I read or discover books, websites, videos, tapes, etc. that seem worthwhile in this pursuit to be a woman of God, I'll stick 'em here.

And, of course, there'll be times to just laugh at this existence. God knows we need it, right? We stumble along enough to allow for a few guffaws at our trip-ups.

So, here's to sparkling and shining --

-- Sarah