Monday, April 30, 2012

Going Back

It was Christmas Eve morning and my last day of work for a big bank in New Orleans. Mike's seminary degree had been completed many month before and we were ready to move forward, finally.

I had an exit interview at noon. They usually lasted about an hour, but my boss had asked me to return to the office until 5:00. On Christmas Eve. On my last day of work. After the exit interview. No one had ever gone back to the office after an exit interview in my whole three years working there. The exit interview was the official end of employment, keys turned in, final paycheck delivered. The last thing I wanted to do was go back.

So I told her I'd be back, and then I left after the exit interview to get on with Christmas Eve and the rest of my life. I didn't want to be a banker anymore. I was ready to be a pastor's wife. (As you can see, I wasn't even ready to behave like a Christian.)

Dena Dyer, with The High Calling, posted this on Facebook on behalf of The High Calling this morning:

Good Monday morning! Dena Dyer here. Today, I close a chapter as I end a position I've held at a non-profit for almost two years. It has me thinking: How can we end a job well? Not burn bridges? And show our integrity and faith by the ways we serve, even as our hearts and bodies move on?
And my friend and colleague, Lori Hatcher, posted this testimony today about integrity and how knowing the right to do and not doing it is sin. Lori, too, had to go back.

Yesterday, we had our monthly Hispanic worship service. It's the one Sunday each month we're asked to go back to church for an evening service. It's the one where I get to be the foreigner. I wear the earphones that get uncomfortable well into a sermon preached in Spanish. I need translation. I sing unfamiliar and unintelligible (to me) words and struggle to worship authentically anyway. During the fellowship afterwards, I ask of every foreign food being portioned on my paper plate, "Es caliente?"  I've long since given up on, "Que es esto?" I venture into my awkward Spanish. The whole thing's a little ridiculous, like working late Christmas Eve after you're no longer an employee.

Yet Spanish speakers from the Dominican Republic, Peru, Mexico, and other countries choose routinely to overcome these obstacles in order to be part of the body of Christ at CWO Church. Some are bi-lingual, but many are not. It's clearly more work for them than finding a Spanish-speaking service. I know this because once a month I go back in order to be the foreigner. I know now that they suffer through translation, static-y headsets, and singing hymns and worship songs with foreign words. Yet they keep coming back.

Last night, I looked around and noticed that the only Americans who came back were the ones scheduled to sing, usher, or were staff members. It made me sad, but I understand. It's hard work to go back and do what's foreign. Although I've rarely missed an Hispanic service, I'm guilty of not always wanting to go back. 

Last night I thought of what my presence might be saying to my Latino brothers and sisters who can't understand my words:

I love you, I'm committed to you, and you're worth the effort.
I want to empathize with what it's like to depend on a translator.
I can be at home here, even when I don't have the native tongue advantage.
I can [go back and] do what's foreign to me [through Christ who gives me strength].

Going back is always worth it, whether to work or to church. Not just to have integrity, not just to do the right thing so as not to sin, and not just because I'm a pastor's wife and I have to. I want to keep going back for two reasons: because I still struggle with wanting to and because the ways of Jesus, very often, still feel foreign to me.

So I'm going back to counting, too:

# 556 - 571
~daughters that hug
~a clean house
~morning coffee and strawberries
~10 days of self control
~eight glasses of water, exercise, and eating better
~perspective gained from Guatemalan images
~grace, even though He gave us His Word
~mountain tops and valleys
~text messages from Wayne
~Auntie Lynne's faith-full fight
~forgiveness when I don't go back and do the right thing
~that it happens less and less often
~His ever-present help
~going back

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Week {ending} :: Boundless

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”
― Maya Angelou

Your Spirit is everywhere I go.
I cannot escape your presence.
― Psalm 139:7 (ERV)

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Real Welcome

I pull into the garage and my dog and daughter meet me three steps into the kitchen. "Shh," she says. "Adrian's boss is here recording." 

I hear his lilting tenor waft sweetly through my disheveled house and I melt from the beauty of the sound and from the messiness of my house.

I have a valid reason not to get further into the house than the kitchen. I don't have to face him if I don't want to, you know,  because dinner has to be cooked and the morning dishes and after school snack leftovers await me in the sink and on every counter.

The kitchen alone is appalling.

Instead, I swallow my embarrassment and step into the den, where there are four loads of laundry. Neatly folded, mind you, but splayed unabashed across the love seat and the coffee table nonetheless. Bras, socks, and stringy, eight-year-old towels, most of the cotton fibers long gone.

I resist the urge to look at it. I force my gaze toward the sound of beautiful music.

I round the corner to the piano room and see Eric sitting at the desk with the recording equipment. Reagan's shoes have been kicked off. They lay where they landed in the middle of the floor. A blanket she was under two nights ago has been kicked in a heap to the corner. I spy two dirty glasses. I cringe on the inside but pretend, steel-faced, I don't see any of it on the outside.

It's Thursday—four, maybe five, full days since our last real effort at housekeeping. The place is a wreck, evidence of living fast and hard, with all the trappings of a complicated, American lifestyle complete with lots of stuff, mostly not put away.

When he finishes the song and presses stop on the computer screen, I smile, genuinely smile. My home may say that real, dirty living happens here and we were not ready to receive you, but my heart is saying, "Welcome."

I hope he judges me by my warm welcome and not my less than perfect presentation, because although community happens in a home, it also happens in the heart, and is often impromptu amidst life's messes. In either place.

What does your life say about you? Do you welcome others along the messy way?


Today's one-word: Community

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Second-Guessing: Zumba, Nachos and Friendships

It's Thursday night, our first session of the retreat, and I post a picture on Facebook because the overflow has to go somewhere.

Shelly comments that I'm in her neck of the woods. I reply while the Zumba video is telling the girls what move is next in Spanish. I swear those people on the screen are professional dancers, and I was never that coordinated.  I wonder if I would survive the humiliation of trying and failing. Right or wrong, as writers tend to do, I opt for a computer screen and a keyboard over Zumba's public embarrassment.

The conversation with Shelly continues like ping pong. I check GPS and we make a plan to meet halfway. I got caught up in the moment and now I have plans to leave the women I've come to fellowship with, to meet a blog friend I've interacted with very little, actually. Another decision I think might be a wrong one.

I can't sleep because I keep asking myself, "What are you doing?" The pastor's wife, the leader, is abandoning the crew. I'm very good at second-guessing and self-criticism. A sleepless night ensues.

At breakfast, I feel trapped with no way out when there's talk of everyone's afternoon plans. Some are headed to the beach. Some are mapping out a route through the Tanger Outlet. They all have plans—with each other. I quietly bring forkfuls of scrambled eggs to my mouth, head down, hoping not to have to confess that my plans don't include them. The eggs failed me.

It turns out, 28 supportive, amazing girls were excited for me. No one else at our church blogs, and they may read mine, but they aren't blog readers or commenters, not really. How could they possibly understand this? But they do for my sake, and it's remarkable.

My worries shifted to Shelly and our meeting. What if we have nothing to talk about? What if she wonders why I dragged my husband along? I had already dragged him to the retreat, the only man to carry the equipment and set up and tear down. I couldn't abandon him now. My roots are showing, I look terrible. This could go so wrong....

But she's driven 40 minutes out of her way to meet a virtual  stranger  friend. I tell Mike, "That 's remarkable," and he says, "You left our church ladies this afternoon. That's just as remarkable."

We lean on opposite sides of the table, into a shared love for the Lord, and for words, and common blog friends. The whole cyber world was right there between us in the flesh. The Kingdom of God, too. We compared foreign missions stories and pastor's wife camaraderie, article writing, and nachos.

All the second-guessing and insecurity had failed me after all. But I was right about something: it was remarkable—all of it. My sweet church girls who love me so, my husband who's a good sport, and Shelly, the other crazy blogger who changed her plans last minute and went out of her way to meet someone she's never met, all because real community happens on the Internet but is even better in real life.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

When We Retreat

Twenty-nine of us gather where the air is salty and the land ends in a huge space with the blue ocean beneath it, where there's room to breathe.

We speak Spanish and English and love. We all hold her baby, and wish we could nurse again. And then we do: we hold each other's burdens and confessions and tear-streaked faces close to the heart, deep in the spirit. And sustenance lets down, fellowship satisfying our hungry souls.

We learn about Lord, that the title means Master to a slave, that it doesn't denote diety, and we've misunderstood: when we call Him Lord, we've identify ourselves as slave. Our slave quarters are this edge of this earth where we cram into a blue room with the dizzy floor and watch wonder enfold before us when we opened the Word, Life. Living water is salt and light.

We Zumba and hug and laugh. We eat too much and talk too late. We are full so our praise spills out in alto and soprano. Relationships grow big and cross language barriers and cultural barriers.

We fill bags with our notes and our memories, and we hope to capture and keep what happens when we retreat from the normalcy and responsibility of daily life to uncork later when life gets dry. We drink in friendship and we are renewed. Blessings are bagged.

It's tiring because we're growing, just like adolescents during that one summer they sleep through.

And we feel the spring sun gently warm our shoulders. We crowd around and hold her, the one afraid. The one with regret that chooses the hard road to righteous. She raises hands most holy and cries out to righteousness Himself, and in it we are all healed.

A five minute writing on Saturday due to retreating through Friday.
This week's one word promt was   Together.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

For Joy in Your Homeschool Journey

I homeschooled my children for three years. To quote someone who described my homeschooling experience so perfectly, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...."

Homeschooling is hard. 

For those of you who homeschool, I'd like to share a resource with you that will be a blessing. And while I'm on the subject, I wish you more of the best of times than the worst, and many homeschool reads through great literature with your kiddos. 


Joy in the Journey: Encouragement for Homeschooling Moms by Lori Hatcher is a unique devotional written specifically with the homeschooling mom in mind. These weekly devotionals are crafted to carry you right through the school year, beginning in August and ending in May. Lori comes alongside you to support your homeschooling journey but also allows you to peek at hers. It is an open and honest look at the successes and failures of Lori’s homeschooling experience with lessons and encouragement found in both.

“Sometimes it’s easier to examine our own lives through someone else’s. I am willing to be that lens.”  (Joy in the Journey, 73).

She begins the year with a charge to keep your homeschooling focus a spiritual one and ends with thanking you for the many things you did as a homeschooling mom that went unappreciated.  This devo packs in practical advice for homeschooling, such as why homeschooling is hard, what to do when you struggle, how to handle being behind schedule, and how to overcome discouragement.

Joy in the Journey also gives spiritual perspective to the homeschooling experience. Through the lessons Lori learned firsthand during her 17 years of homeschooling, she shows you how to persevere, how to teach your children to love, how to have a horrible homeschool day, and how to finish strong.  Lori’s insight helps you keep your perspective, find joy in the academic and spiritual lessons, and remind you to laugh a little along the way.

Joy in the Journey will give you permission to reset your expectations, redeem second semester as a second chance, and remind you to pursue the standard of grace in lieu of perfection. If you are in need of encouragement and camaraderie, both practical and spiritual, as a homeschooling mom, you’ll find it here.  

To learn more or purchase a paperback or ebook, click through to Lori's site.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Way Home

Tomorrow night he arrives from his gospel wanderings. He left the hiking boots, walking stick, and his waterproof bible neatly in the corner, and turned the light off to his room at the children's home. It's the beginning of Mike's way home to me and the family of five God made out of us two. 

His feet will still be shod with the preparation of the gospel, because we never take that off. We wear the garment of the gospel always. It binds us in ways that even marriage doesn't: death will separate us, but the gospel never will. It's a thing of rare beauty on this uncertain earth, this never. And surety is a true companion on the long way home, because the journey homeward is rife with myriad twists and turns.

There's no other pilgrim with whom I'd rather sojourn, so travel safely, Mike.

Until Tuesday, when we resume our travel side by side, as we should be,

{If you're reading in email or a reader, you might want to click here to see the video.}

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Sunday Scripture :: Lord, When?

Then the righteous will answer Him,
‘Lord, when did we see You hungry,
and feed You,
or thirsty,
 and give You something to drink? 
~Matthew 25:37

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

How to Love a Missionary

I hear the water trickling in the sink and I doze in the shadow of the bathroom light. It's just after 3 o'clock in the morning, and Mike has risen earlier than planned. I peek and see him slipping into the Nikes and adding to his suitcase, last minute, the largest baby wipes I've ever seen. They're supposed to be a shower without actually taking a shower, and he's going to need them in the Guatemalan jungle.

I wait until the last minute, then slip out of bed and dress. We descend the stairs together. He starts the coffee pot, and I look for the thermal to go cups. The dishwasher sits silent, still dirty. I complain as I fish the cups we need from the top rack and wash them by hand. "I asked Reagan last night to run it. She can't even turn a nob."

He laughs.

I tell him, "We may be getting some of the big stuff right, but we're missing it on so many little things with them."

He dries the cup and the lid, then, turning me from the sink, he wraps me in his arms and says, "I love you."

I mumble, "And I love you," into his collar bone where my face is buried and add, "probably too much."

Coffee poured, bags loaded, we turn the wheel east toward the airport. He prays out loud, both eyes open to the road before him. We talk of nothing in particular, the early morning air damp and heavy, the rest of the world quiet and asleep.

I enjoy these moments immensely because we so rarely have each other's undivided attention. There's no music, no phone, no one else. And I can't think of anything I've ever enjoyed more than that drive at 4 o'clock in the morning.

At the airport, I hug a few others who arrive while he unloads suitcases from the trunk. Intent on the mission before him, he steps straight toward the opening glass doors to the ticket counter. He has already left me behind.

I yell, "Wait!" and he returns, his apology in his eyes. His goodbye kiss is hasty because he's already thinking of travel, the group, and his God-work. He loves Jesus more than he loves me, and I am glad of it, maybe relieved. I drive home a little jealous of how well he knows that Jesus is Lord, even over the one flesh He made us.

Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ.
~The words of Paul as recorded in 1 Corinthians 11:1

Sharing today's thought in online community.
Photos from 2010 Extreme Guatemala

Monday, April 9, 2012

And Light Flashes

It's dark and cozy-warm under cover. I hear the thunder roll heavy across the sky. The black undersides of my eyelids beckon me back to sleep. But rain pours down unrelenting, and electric razor touches a half-night's stubble. Two men, one grown, one growing, mumble preparation into the house silence. When the zipper whizzes past four corners of the suitcase, I know. These are the sounds of fallen earth.

The one where extra water was introduced with divine regret, and now cycles the earth with no permanent place to reside. It evaporates, gathers thick in the blue sky until the weight of it is too heavy and black to be borne, and crashes violent down again with loud cracks and brilliant streaks. And light flashes. Zigzagging its powerful way down to the ground.

Fallen Earth. The one with narrow gate that few will find. The one cursed, that produces only with man's toil, and even then, thistle and thorn. The one that rings with the sound of man's work, the kind that very life itself depends upon. It's strangely different from the happier sound of work's pleasure in the garden. The path is narrow and lightly trod because man is distracted now, busy eaking out meager existence by day and night. Walking with God in the cool of evening not even a vague memory, man the word over is subject to the prince of the power of the air.

And light mesmerizes.

So they go. They pack the gospel, the medicine, the friendship into carry-ons and heft the burden over shoulder. They cross time zones and water gulfs in the sleeping hours to bring hope, peace, life. And light flashes. Headlamps burn before the sleepy man and boy behind the three-o'clock-in-the-morning dashboard.

And light flashes. Blinks on a radar screen of airplane in air traffic control tower.

The only way to some villages is by foot.

Armed with goodbye kisses and warm momma prayers for her boys and the families they travel to, father and son begin their journey to reach fallen man that struggle against fallen earth, and are far from their God. This work, too, is fallen earth's work. In the garden, all was the right of communion. In the curse, all is hidden, a mystery, a choice. Christ in you; the hope of glory. And light flashes. The sinful heart bows and the light of the world sparks fire that changes a life forever.

Soul by soul, village by village, mountain path by rocky tail through Guatemalan jungle, step by step. The work of the Father and the Son done by fathers and sons, daughters and sisters, nine joined by Holy Spirit. And light flashes. A bride is prepared for Lord Jesus, radiant white.

Village of Tamarindo

And light flashes. The Son shines on new heaven and new earth. All have chosen. All is rightful communion again. And my sleepy eyes close in the wee morning hours, yearning for the sights and sounds of new earth.

An edited repost from 2010 as I help prepare Mike to leave with another group of 21 for Guatemala Extreme. One joins the team from New England, two from Mexico. The rest will gather at the airport from two local churches of different denominations (love that!) long before the sun comes up tomorrow. There are so many on this trip that some may be sleeping under the stars in the villages. Pray with me for safety as they do the work of fallen earth? Because prayer is also fallen earth work.

Pitching Base Camp

Joining Michelle as we put feet to the gospel this week.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


We're in between the cross and the empty tomb, the quiet place of faith-and-doubt-tension. We've come too far to turn back, but right at this moment, a rolled away stone seems ludicrous and laughable. Was it foolhardy after all?

The day dawns on our dead Savior. Disciples gather with sad quiet, their thoughts unspoken. Were we wrong about Him? He said it himself, "It is finished."

I never liked the Saturday between the sacrifice and the empty tomb. It is the day of darkest defeat. No heroic self-sacrifice, no death defeated. Only death and resurrected doubt.

They serve to make tomorrow's victory all the more victorious. . . in hindsight, of course.

Oh, Lord Jesus, would that I live every doubt-full day with hindsight.

Certainly, Christ made God’s many promises come true.
For that reason, because of our message,
people also honor God by saying, “Amen!”
(2Corinthians 1:20, GW)

Joining Sandra for the stillest of Still Saturdays.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Were You There?

It's Easter week, and it's been mostly quiet here.

There's a reason for that, and I'm explaining it over at Laced With Grace today.

Come along, won't you?
Laced With Grace
Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few (Ecclesiastes 5:2).

Monday, April 2, 2012


I keep a list of the ones I like. Ubiquitous. Evince. Scintillate. Ran across "umbrage" in our family devotion last week.

I love words, collect them, study them. I listen hard, until circumstances wound me. Then I want to fling out all the words and tell the stories and be healed. But they aren't my stories to tell, and my heart still breaks sad. Sometimes it's the price for loving hard. So instead, I hide my words believing it makes me stronger, less vulnerable, the best I can do. At least that's what I tell myself, and they're the only words I let myself use.


I toss the keys to Adrian. He's driving rather than riding, and it's just the distraction he needs for his words to break forth. They're beautiful like morning birdsong in late May.

Being privy to your almost seventeen-year-old son sounding out his life and figuring this way and that, and finding fragments that fit together—well, the sound of it makes me happy and satisfied some place deep down I can't quite pinpoint. The way morning birdsong does when it wakes you from a restful night of sleep. It's grace upon grace.

I think the words might have startled him had he not been paying attention to the road. I don't think he realized they were all just right there, anxious for his mouth to open. He had no idea he wanted to talk.

He normally opts to ride home from church, or anywhere really, with his dad. His father is always first choice, and I'm okay with that; he happens to have a good one. But tonight, he steps to my car with, "Hey, Mom, can I drive?" I oblige him for no reason at all, other than that he chose me. It's odd. And it's nice.

He puts it in drive and opens his mouth. A shock of words tumble out.

He talks of the one he thinks of most. His monologue turns to the One he should think of most, and the truth and consequence and agony of that. He tackles his future and who he is becoming as best he can with his less than 17 years.

He finally brims over, long after he's tucked the car neatly in the garage, us side by side in the parked car. He's still talking, hoping the headlamps that now shine on the unfinished wall of the garage will somehow shed light on his life dawning before him.

I mostly listen, mostly because that's what my mom did. It's what I love about Mom. She listened. And I also tell him I'm proud, because I am.

He's turned the key back upward, pulled them from the ignition, and hands them back, his eyes shining. The keys lay in my lap, something for my fingers to fiddle with like a worry stone. A place for my eyes to lite when I take then from his face. I do this periodically because I don't want to be so intent on his words that I shut him up.

But it's not worry I feel, it's release—words finally breaking the hold in me.

And they aren't even my words.

But there is healing in the listening—even for my sad circumstances that had nothing to do with him or his words.

It's startling, and evincing, and grace upon grace.

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