Wednesday, September 18, 2013


I don't know about you, but I would much prefer to be giving than receiving help or hand outs. However, many situations in the last two years have put us in situations where we are the ones needing the help, needing to ask for assistance, just needing.

It's a hard place to be. Feeling vulnerable and having to humble yourself to the reality that sometimes you can't do it on your own.

Within the mess and chaos, stumbling through one difficult situation after another, God provides. The biggest provision God has given us is our community. The family of believers and friends that He has placed us in. Without our church family, we would have been up a creek without a paddle many times.

It was them who sat with me in the hospital when my husband had surgery, them who helped me clean the house while I had a baby with RSV and a husband who couldn't stand.

It was them who gave us $1000, $500, $300  and more to put towards what we needed, they who have kept us afloat.

It was them who came over on a sunny afternoon to talk of parenting and faith and making it through hard times.

Them who brought us meals when we had a miscarriage, when we were grieving in ways we never knew we would. Then those who brought us meals in celebration of our precious gift, who sat and held our daughter in the hospital with smiles and laughter full of joy for the blessing that we had all been asking to receive.

Those who have prayed for us, laid hands on us, interceded on our behalf. Those who have fought for us, with us, against the evil one who seeks to destroy.

Those who have watched E countless times without asking anything in return. Those who have served us, loved us, cared for us.

Those who have made this passage come alive. Acts 2:42-47
"42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe[a] came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved."

The church's purpose lived out in our life, that we would receive God's love and provision through the kindness, love, and generosity of those He has placed in our life. 

How do you do this mess called life without community? How do you go through your rough patches, through all the valleys and droughts, without people surrounding you? Telling you to keep going, keep walking. How do you keep from falling down under the weight of this world without your community holding you up? 

Our family would not be where we are, even if far from perfect, without our community.

I look forward to the day when we can give instead of need, but for now, with humble hearts we thank Jesus for the family who has stood beside us when things were crumbling.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Here's to the Dads

Has anyone noticed how commercials and sitcoms portray the modern dad? A fumbling goofus with little knowledge of how to raise or even care for a child. Someone who is inept at even the most basic of household tasks, is often lazy, and drinks an inordinate amount of beer. One commercial tonight (the one that sparked this rant) had a woman on the phone with a credit card company saying her husband forgot to pay the bill. When the woman on the phone resolves the issue she asks if he is "off the hook" the wife responds, "oh no, last week he went out for milk and brought home a puppy." Really, a puppy? I don't know about your husband/father but mine would never go out for milk and bring home a puppy, he might bring home the wrong type of milk, but not a puppy.

I would even say this commercial is a tame example. Look at Homer Simpson, Al Bundy, and  Ray Romano. They are hapless men who seem to know little about functioning as a parent or even adult in some circumstances. Often Dads are portrayed as selfish slobs who tune out their wives and children as they watch football and drink beer. This is not reality, at least not for many of the dads I am privileged to be around. 

I should also note that I do not have a good relationship with Dads. Mine was a deadbeat who hasn't seen me since I was sixteen. If anything, I have every reason to think Dads are selfish jerks who abandon their children and wives. But I don't, because even though my Dad was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a stand up father, I witnessed many who were.

Are there men out there who aren't stepping up to the plate of fatherhood, a resounding yes! However, what are we saying when our portrayal of men is inept, lazy idiots? Aren't we giving men a free pass saying, "it's ok, hunny, you are just like every guy I see on TV, that must be the norm." Shouldn't men be challenged to step up, to be the warriors that they are made to be. Warriors for their morals, for their families. 

Men were once seen as strong and fierce, now downgraded drastically to weak and lazy. 

BUT, here is the ray of sunshine. Men are fighting back. I see it everyday when my husband comes home from one job early to play with our daughter for an hour before going to the next to provide for us. I see it when he gets up early on a Saturday morning to be with E so that I can have a small break. I see it when he and I talk of mediocre fatherhood and the righteous indignation he has for laziness and ineptitude. I see it in my friend's husbands who sacrifice their football games to take their daughters on a date or their son's fishing. The dad's who give up their video games for pink tulle and ribbons. The men who not only look after their own children, but fight for other kids to love and know Jesus. I see it when my husband sacrifices yet another free day to put his energy into the jr high students at our church. 

You see, I am blessed to have a husband who loves and cares for his daughter and I the way he ought to. A man who most likely hates that I am saying all this about him, because he is humble and doesn't like attention. A man who sacrifices day in and day out for his family, who didn't run away when things got hard. A man who makes mistakes, yes, but has character and integrity that puts many to shame. It's not just my husband either. It's many more who are standing up against this age of fatherlessness. Who refuse to let the stereotypes define them. Men who are rising up and acting their age, knowing the great responsibility that has been given to them. 

So here's to the dad's who are not content with the status quo. Men who fight for their family, for their manhood. Men who know they have been called to a mighty task and face it with bravery and strength. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

A Life of Gratitude

Do you ever feel like your circumstance is sucking the life right out of you? That you just want to stay in bed until the clouds break and the sun decides to finally peak out and offer you a ray of hope? Do you ever feel like nothing is going right?

I know you have. Everyone has. And if you say you haven't, my guess is that you are either A. in denial or B. an ultra optimistic person.

In recent months, I have felt much like a wanderer, wading through a desert with no oasis in sight. Truthfully, my soul has felt the dryness of the sand. Parched. Thirsty. Worn. There has been little joy, little relief from the day to day stresses of not having enough, not feeling enough, not being enough.

It's draining. That lack of joy. You bleed out, life removed.

Through some divine act (I'm not a big reader, especially when stressed), I have been reading a book lately called 1000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp. Her writing is everything I aspire to, poetic and profound. Her words paint beautiful, sometimes painful pictures of life and loss and how to live in gratitude in the in midst.

She calls it eucharisteo. Simply meaning: to give thanks. Her goal: notice and record 1000 gifts. Her result: a life of gratitude.

As I have read I have been smacked hard with the fact that I am living with a major lack of gratitude. My focus has shifted, the foreground of joy obscured by dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs. There is no denying life has been difficult, that wouldn't be genuine. There is also no denying that I have forgotten the good that God is giving. Those peaks of sun, the rays of hope that light up the darkness of stress and fatigue. My sight has been so obscured by the negative that I have lost all view of the positive. Selfish. Prideful. Ungrateful.

In my distress I have cried out to God. I have whined, I have complained. I have pleaded for an end in sight. I have been silent with frustration. I have not given thanks.

A life of gratitude doesn't begin when things are in order. A life of gratitude comes from knowing the Giver of good. From knowing that He is enough, even when the world around us is falling apart. It comes from finding the good gifts that Abba Father has been giving you in the worst of times.

Ann didn't focus on writing down gifts that God gives that are profound. She didn't focus on the answered prayers, or materialistic gifts. She focused on the mundane, the day to day. She found thanks for the obscure gifts that God gives. The little things like a child's laughter, a husband's warm embrace, the way the sun pours into morning windows. Little glimmers of God's goodness to us.

That focus on the small, seemingly insignificant gifts is what shifts our focus. The foreground becomes clear, we begin to see the good in life. We begin to see God in the little things. The Good Creator. The scales begin to fall off our eyes and we begin to see with a clear perspective. If I can shift my focus to all of the good that the Good Giver has placed in my life, won't the negative become background? Negative replaced with positive. Yes there will be difficulties, yes life is hard, but is there not much joy to be had each day?

Romans 12:12: "Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer." (ESV)
Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (NIV)
God commands us to rejoice in hope. There is no qualifier, no "if you feel like it." He commands us to put off anxiety and clothe ourselves with prayer and thanksgiving. This doesn't mean that we will get what we ask for, but that "the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard our hearts" Isn't that wonderful. What a gift. With prayer and thanksgiving comes the peace of God. A life of gratitude leads to joy and peace in Christ. Because even when life doesn't make sense, when everything falls apart, He stands. Being thankful for what God has already given you (read: Christ on the cross) and for what he is giving you each day (read: the gifts we often overlook) will lead to a peace that transcends all understanding. 

Now the hard part. The practice. The discipline of gratitude. It's not an overnight epiphany, it is a marathon. Something done after months of training and discipline. Days upon days of intentionally noticing the good gifts of the Father. So, following in dear Ann's footsteps, starting tomorrow I will begin my own 1000 gifts. Keeping record of the good in my life, in hopes that my focus will shift. That I will move from a place of dry desert to healing waters. 

Discipline. Practice. God's goodness displayed in the mundane of life. 

Who's with me?