The Hardest Person to Embrace

I see the moon and the moon sees me.

God bless the moon. God bless me.

-Nursery rhyme

//I bought a bouquet of muted fire. Orange roses for $3.99. For a whole week, I’ve been longing for them. I passed them by last week because it felt like a waste when I didn’t need them. Oh, but I do.

I need them dearly.

This week was my birthday. Thirty-eight years is beautiful, my friends. I love being this age: caring less what others think, slowing down just a tad, and still feeling like a total goober when I want to. (I get the biggest kick out of making my kids squeal and giggle right before bed time.)

I love the rest I feel settling into my beautiful bones. I relish the satisfaction taking the nap on a perfectly sunny day. I love writing in the middle of a March thunderstorm. I drink buckets of coffee, dream big dreams, and try to let things go.

There’s this one thing

Jesus said, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list.

But there is a second to set alongside it:

‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’

This one lesson. This second thing after the first one: loving myself.

I can’t love you unless I love me.

We all love ourselves, right?

As a kid, I did most certainly. I thought I was queen of the neighborhood and Barbie doll’s biggest rival. But years of pouring out my life, losing myself, wandering in the desert, and searching for my true home, I realize the truth. Loving others well comes after I learn to love myself. God already does. //

I’m still working on it.

A big thunderstorm is coming in a few minutes. I love it: the rain, the clouds, the green surging up from the ground as water pours. Maybe I will eat a piece of dark chocolate and cut the stems of the roses sitting in the porcelain pitcher and smell them until I know the words by heart:

…These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them. (MSG Matthew 22:39)

May the hardest person to love be the first we embrace.

May God’s words hang on my outstretched hands, my beautiful bones.

Retreat + Freebies for You

This post is part of Five Minute Friday. Check out details for the upcoming retreat.

Have you subscribed to my Friday newsletter? I’m giving away two ebooks and a journaling worksheet through Easter.



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Aching for Friends

I call it the holy ache: what I felt when I walked one Sunday afternoon around the block, this desperation to be seen, known, and appreciated pounding in my chest.

Should I reach in my back pocket and relisten to the message from E.? She always makes me feel better. 

But I know the ache will return after an hour and my heart will nearly thump it’s way out of my chest. This ache often twinges like anxiety, but it’s not. It’s my ongoing need for companionship.

We all have this need: friends. It’s like going in for heart surgery, finding them, making them, and keeping them. But especially, to release them.

Let me explain

I’ve won friends over years, neglected more (and lost a few), stalked them, been rejected by them, judged them, and forgiven them. Most I keep in my back pocket there on my phone.

There are local friends: down the street kind of friends. We take walks together and talk real life.

There are meet at Starbucks and sip sugary mochas together: therapy kind of friends.

Then there my friends who live in the town I once called home, Liberty. These are the surrogate family friends, occasional spiritual guide friends who go beyond meeting half-way to pick up my kids and still invite them over for sleepovers because we’re-all-cousins-kind-of-friends.

Also, and definitely not least, are the unexpected friends from all over: South Africa, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Michigan, Australia, and so many places in between. Some of these I’ve never met face to face but we are as close as sisters can be. We are just a button away. Friends to text a note of desperation or victory: “Pray,” or, “It’s benign.” So we celebrate with heart emojis!

These friends I keep in my back pocket. I set the phone on the counter. Blooms spill out of my pocket with their love.

Friends never fill the holy ache completely. I’m coming to learn, they never will. None of us are supposed to.

Five Minute Friday Retreat

This week is spring break (aka home with interrupting kids), so I did not write this in five minutes flat. That’s O.K. The Five Minute Friday crew is forgiving and cool like that.

P.S. There’s still room at our summer retreat in Kansas City



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The Power of Lament

Every day and every night I hear Your Word, (Whoa oh oh oh)

Every day and every night I do everything I can to help but nothing ever works

How do I live with peace and power?

Oh, Lord, Hear my plea.

-Kyle H.

The last time I let myself rage at God was back in 2014 on highway I-35. Overcome with a flood of emotional pain I didn’t know how to process, I pulled off the interstate in the pouring rain so I wouldn’t kill myself or someone else. My chest heaved and tears flowed. I drove aimlessly around a parking lot for what seemed like hours until the pain stopped and I drove home safely. That moment was one giant ugly cry, but in it, I felt the relief and power that is lament.

That day marks a turn in my journey of admitting I needed some major heart healing.

Lamentation is a dangerous thing for many of us. We fear looking the fool or our family and friends calling us crazy. It may appear and feel terribly uncomfortable, but there’s a cathartic power in expressing our anger, sadness, and hurt to God. What if we were like King David, who praised God, questioned Him, and cursed His enemies all in the same breath? I think we’d all be a lot healthier.

In Broken Hallelujahs: Learning to Grieve the Big and Small Losses in Life, Beth Slevcove guides the reader through an exercise called the Prayer of the Tantruming Child. (Isn’t that great?) Get it out in a lament to God. She gives permission to engage in an all-out tantrum (not in front of kids, bosses, etc.). She says, “Go ahead; give all you’ve got to God. God can take it; just read a few of the psalms and you will see.”

As strange as this may be in a stuff-it-down-put-on-a-pretty-smile Western culture, I believe lament is crucial.Tweet This

Lately, I’ve been feeling the need to unearth some small disappointments, ones that never seem to come to the surface. But I feel them feeding my emotions with irrational bites that come out of nowhere. One of those disappointments is not having any leads with my book proposal.

Those pages stacked up on my shelf are a little grief I’ve shoved into my heart’s dusty corners. Really, I haven’t touched the thing in months because I’m pretty ticked off at God. It’s time I came clean.

My Lament: Getting Honest with God

Merciful Father,

I am a pen, dashed to pieces. I was usable, now I feel used. You promised me You’d come through when I gave you my faith, my time, my pen. As I write I now, it is all Yours. But what the heck is going on?

What’s next? Where am I going to find direction? 

I’m lost in a desert of effort and exhaustion. I still myself by your oasis, and I sleep for days.

I chased after you—what I thought was the intersection of You and my story, the story YOU gave me. But it didn’t come together. It didn’t make sense.

I feel a mess. I feel like I’m walking a glass floor and I will fall through to jagged cliffs below. 

This is not free sailing, this is an effort forgotten, a waiting game.

I’m waiting to be rejected again. 

Pick me up. Show me the way—the narrow place where words make a difference.

The assurance mountain, fortified by Your Presence. Here no one will touch me. Don’t let them touch me, Lord. Keep me protected. 

Show up! Give me a marker or an invitation—which way to go. I won’t move until You say the word.

You were closest to me in my suffering. When I cried out in pain, You showed up and taught me how to pray. You taught me how to see. You taught me how to listen and give up. And be.

Teach me to rest in the unfixed places. Teach me which way to go. I trust only You.

A Two-Word Conclusion

It’s been a few days. I don’t have a light-bulb consolation, but I do feel lighter.

Lament helps.

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Why Being Outside with Kids is Holy

By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse. Romans 1:20 (The Message)

We swat pinecones with tree limb hockey sticks under a frigid sky.

We pick black shells out of a woodland stream. We climb apple trees intoxicating us with heavy, honey-scented fruit. We wade into a shallow tidal pool as a pod of dolphins splash just feet away. Like a watermark impressed on paper, each out of doors moment with my children is a sacred reminder of feeling God’s divine presence.

We kayak a placid river until our arms ache.

We bike trails, dig in sand pits, and explore estate gardens. We hop on petrified wood, throw a summer snowball fight, and pick forty pounds of strawberries. When we’re outside, my two squirrelly children become the people they were meant to be, the unique individuals I believe God sees them as: attentive, reverent, and exuberant.

When my children were small, we planted two blueberry bushes in our hot suburban yard. By the age of four, they could expertly pick the ripest berries (tickle it, and it falls off in your hand). Tiny eyes noticed every ripe vegetable, invading bug, miniscule snail, and budding flower. My kids learned to study the God’s world with a concentration few adults have, including myself.

Attentiveness bears the seed of quiet regard for God and His world.Tweet This

We can miss this when we’re confined within four walls of home, school, and yes, even church.

A few years ago we walked up to the Grand Canyon from our minivan. The kids griped from two days of cooped-up cross-country car riding. When we peered over the edge, the expanse carved a deep, color-filled, yet complex portrait, which I can only call transcendent. We wondered and worshiped silently.

The children climb to the tippy top of a pine tree and swing from monkey bars backward. They run, skip, and trip everywhere they go. Outside they move like the rockets they are and explore this one life with gusto, in motion and delight under big prairie sky.

Being outside together gives us balanced perspective of our smallness in light of God’s magnitude.Tweet This

Everything comes into focus in a field or by a lake: the harmony and beauty of our Creator silences our earthly busy and awakens all our senses. We get lost right in nature’s supernatural beauty. God reaches out and finds us right where we are.

I remember watching my daughter at the age of eight lying on her belly on a rocky precipice as she sketched Yellowstone Falls. No fear, only her colored pencils moving reverently across paper as she offered God her whole heart on a page. I saw her joy. I felt mine. The holy invaded. I’m still reeling from the adventure.

Discuss + Reflect

  • What is one thing you enjoy doing together as a family in the great outdoors?
  • Have you ever seen something so wonderful in nature that you felt like God made it just for you?
  • How do you feel after a beautiful day at the park, a ballgame, or a trip to the zoo? Do you think God is with you in those experiences?

Family Activity: Sacred Nature Scavenger Hunt

Go to your favorite place to explore the outdoors: backyard, park, nature center, etc. Using a camera phone, have each family member take 5 photos (or more) of something unique or amazing in nature. Share the photos together and talk about how these things show us what God is like. You may want to print the photos and make a collage to put on the fridge and title it: “Beautiful Things God Made For The (Insert Family Name)’s. Save some of the objects to decorate your home and bring God’s glory inside for everyone to enjoy.

Free Devotional Book

A kid-friendly version of this devotional appeared in a recent MOPS e-book Starry-Eyed Kids. Subscribe to my newsletter between now and Easter, and I’ll send you a free copy of the book! There’s twelve amazing devotions and even a place to record your own family adventures. 

What are you waiting for? Get outside and get your holy on!Tweet This

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Abandoning the Need to Do It All

//When you’re not a stuff person, it’s really easy to become a do-it-all junkie. I can’t even tell you how eager I am to get started spring cleaning my burgeoning closet and my basement junk room! Kids toys? Let’s throw them out the window! Spring cleaning makes me feel lighter, accomplished, and free to think. It’s a stark contrast to my mind.

I’m a recovering Yes-girl. For almost 30 years, I’ve gotten my identity from doing what others couldn’t, being capable, reading every detail, and being the first to raise my hand, right there on the front row. Really, I wish I could maintain this break-neck pace, but it’s not sustainable.

I am abandoning my need to be abandoned to expectations: mostly mine. Friends, I am so doggone weary from trying to achieve and attain: I have lost my focus. //

A couple of years ago, I went after this writing life with such ferocity, and stopped striving for the deepest purpose that satisfies me: enjoying God and glorifying Him.

This week I’ve hardly written a word, except in my journal. It has felt so good! Writing is my thing, but I have to be blunt here: it is not my main thing, no matter what it looks like on the outside, no matter what I say to try to fool you into believing I’m self-published, independent, and sold out to the words. Honestly, I’m not right now. I’m sold out to cleaning up my life so I can run toward the things that matter: my family and our heart for God, our upcoming vacation, and trying a new venture for my own spiritual well-being. Words are simply a means to an end.

So let’s get to what matters. Maybe it’s a radical soul closet clean-out or simply sitting down to actually finish a book.

My advice? Abandon whatever’s holding you back from stuffing your life with God. Tweet This

Now pull your hair back. Let’s get to work, with abandon…

Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! -Hebrews 12:1B-3 (MSG)

Giveaway and Five Minute Friday

Hey, that rhymes! Check out the magazine I’m giving away to my subscribers this month here.

This post is part of Five Minute Friday. Check out all the creative writing fun and the upcoming retreat.

(// indicates the words I wrote within five minutes.)

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Ask God for a New Name + Giveaway

“Ask God to give you a new name.” As I sat in Emily Wieringa‘s session on redemptive memoir at She Speaks last year, I pondered her challenge. A new name? I wondered if this would magically transform my writing. Emily’s a skilled writer and visual artist. I’m a poet, so I was rolling with her…sort of.

The name she was drawn to was Annabelle. Funny enough, she didn’t like the name at all. Yet when she discovered its meaning, she experienced a glimpse of God. Annabelle means lovable. For much of Emily’s life she had starved herself and rebelled in different ways because she was so hungry for love. (For more of her story, read her amazing memoir Atlas Girl.)

Resistance and Pride

I’ve always been proud of my name: Christina means Christian. It feels sort of first-century church chosen and a bit exotic. There were always a lot of Christa’s and Christy’s growing up, but I was the only Christina. This was both empowering and isolating, because as much as I want to stand out, I also want to be just like everyone else.

Emily’s challenge stuck in my brain, and I figured what have I got to lose? It felt a little weird and Holy Spirit woo woo, but I took a shot in the dark and did it.

I asked God for a new name. His answer prompted me to question if I had made a big mistake.

Sydney.

“Excuse me, God? That’s the name I almost named Abby (my daughter).”

Her small, sweet, and soon-to-be firey demeanor didn’t suit her to be a Sydney. She was definitely an Abigail.

“Are you sure? Why Sydney? Ummm…didn’t you know one of her besties has that name already?”

I guess I was hoping for something foreign and mysterious like Hadassah or Maulan.

But, Sydney.

What’s in a Name

The name means well-watered land, “derived from the Old English elements sīd (extensive, wide) and ieg (island in a river, riverside meadow).” The name indicates “someone who dwelled on or near the wide, riverside meadow, or from the wide island.” (BabyNameWizard.com)

It conjures up an image in my mind of a cross between an isthmus and an island. Green land mostly surrounded by water. Connected but alone. I am an extensive piece of land with plenty of provisions. I pictured Prince Edward Island, a lush green wide island with gorgeous beaches, connected to Canada by a vast bridge.

Maybe Sydney is the little meadow of a peninsula I visit when I need to think and write without distraction. I sit down at the picnic table and let the wind whip my hair while I am surrounded by blue water on three sides. The ground is always wet there and usually verdant.

Thinking about my new spiritual name, I pictured this woman: creatively strong, inspirationally artistic, a spiritual seeker and guide. Not without struggle or loss, she could still be bold and gentle, beautiful and natural, a follower and a leader. She lives in the middle of movement and peace and, there, she is at home.

The more I thought about my new spiritual identity, the more I started to accept the person I have always been. 

A mother, a wife, a creative, a writer, a daughter, a sister, a thinker, a feeler, an adventurer, beloved.

I’m pretty sure I wept as I wrote the poem to Sydney, but it’s a little blurry. (There was a lot of tearful writing last fall.) You see, this is who I’ve always longed to be: someone at peace in the thick of life. A receiver and a giver of truth and beauty and justice. A well-watered, solid oasis.

A new literary magazine, The Faithful Creative recently published the poem. Here’s an excerpt:

Sydney

You are the wide island, an isthmus.

Your sands reflect daybreak,

Your shores deepen into future night.

You are a songstress of grace

When there seems to be no path-worn way.

 

You are wild and free,

Open to wind-whispered kisses,

Cathedrals made of pines,

Conifers, arching over, calling forth your voice,

To mingle oxygenated praise to the Most High.

To read the rest, purchase a copy of The Faithful Creative here,

Subscriber Giveaway

Subscribe to my newsletter by Friday, March 24 at 8 A.M. CST and be entered in a giveaway for a digital copy of The Faithful Creative. Existing subscribers will automatically be entered.

Dare to ask, “God, give me a new name.” Find His love for you unchanged. Tweet This 

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