Archives for April 2014

Returning to the Classroom {My New Job – MORE Writing!}

In 2011 I left my job as a high school English teacher to home school my children.  Well, on the surface that’s why I left.  But, it was a loaded decision.

I found my identity in teaching.  I was a good teacher, often complimented by students and parents alike.  I took great pride in my job and loved teaching each and every student.  But, when my family began to fall apart, I could not hold teaching and family together.  I tried.  The last few months of my teaching career were nothing short of embarrassing. I fell far short of my standard {which is…each child is someone’s daughter or son.  I will not waste that child’s time because that parent has entrusted him/her to me}.

I felt God calling me to stay home.  Away from teaching.  Away from outside distractions.  He was calling me to be a wife and mom.

So, I walked away.

And it was gut-wrenching.

And I let tons of people down. Parents, students, fellow teachers.

But, I could tell no one…either I do this or I {will probably} lose my family.  I did not reject teaching, I chose my family. A decision between my husband, God, and me.  I had no heart energy for defending my choice.

For the next two years I home schooled Hannah and Owen.  And while I missed teaching teenagers, those two years were a complete JOY.  I love{d} spending time with my children. They are a delight.

I rested, focused.

It was a good season…and then life turned again.

This time, our marriage never recovered.

So, as a single mom, I began looking for employment again…a bit discouraged.  With some dread.

But, God.

I am excited to return to a school I love this fall.  The high school Hannah will attend next year:  Parkersburg South High School.

Yay!

Best of all, I get to teach what I love:  Creative Writing.

creative_writing

I will also teach fine arts and {potentially} some other arts electives, but I am super excited about the opportunity to create my own writing curriculum and {prayerfully} build a program in which students engage fully in writing…to discover what they think, how they feel, where they have been, and where they are going.

Did I say “YAY!” yet?

Because…YAY!

Thanks, Father, for this gift.

{And may I still be calling this a “gift” this time next year ;)}

Looking for Something to Listen To? {Good Stuff}

Last Sunday I spent about five hours in the car alone. You should know: I HATE being alone. Yet, I know it’s essential sometimes. During this time, I listened to these three sermons and spent some time praying.  Whew. It was good time for my weary heart.

I hope these messages are good for your heart too. I agree wholeheartedly with two of them.  One gave me pause in a few places, but I question everything.  (So, that’s my disclaimer;)

Louie Giglio – Wounded: Stop and Stare– If you’re suffering or have ever suffered {all of us}, this message is for you.  Giglio suggests we focus on the cross, viewing our hurts in light of His love and sacrifice.  If you’re like me, you’re waiting and perhaps working toward healing.  But consider this:

“Our healing doesn’t begin when we make other people pay.  Our healing begins we realize we made Jesus pay.”

If you’re in the midst of a storm, please listen to this.  It’s heart changing.

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Andy Stanley- Putting Religion in Its Place – We want answers for life’s mysteries. Is there an afterlife? Will I see my mom again? What does the Bible say about divorce? Does the Bible say we have to give ten percent of our money to the church?

Religion tries to answer those questions. Religion is about answers, order, predictability. Unfortunately, life isn’t about any of those things. Life can be messy. Religion has a place in our lives, but Jesus taught us it’s not the first place. When religion takes first place, it begins flexing its muscles at the expense of mercy.

My favorite quotes from this message:

  • Jesus consistently prioritized people over his own religion – his own customs and his own traditions.
  • Jesus would disregard the law for the sake of someone in need.
  • God didn’t create people for the law. He created the law for people.
  • Don’t leverage the law of God to hurt the people of God.
  • When you don’t know what to do, do what love requires of you.
  • Jesus never let theology get in the way of ministry.  He never leveraged theology in order to mistreat a person or to say, “I’d really love to help you out, but this is what I believe.”
  • Religion allows others to feel less than.
  • You are more important to me than my views.

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Matt Chandler – Acts: The Second Wave – from the message: Paul begins to speak, and the Bible says Lydia’s eyes are opened. Her heart is opened, and she hears Paul, and she is baptized. What you have here is a wealthy businesswoman who is an extremely successful businesswoman who is moral and religious and at church but is not necessarily a follower of Christ. She is morally upright, and she is actively involved in church, but she has not laid her yes down and said, “I am a follower of Christ, and my life will be shaped by following Christ.”

Yet it’s in this space that Jesus steps in and saves. Such were some of us. When I say that, I don’t mean some of us were women with houses in London and Paris who were in the fashion industry and lived moral lives. I’m saying this was some of us in that we were religious and morally good according to the world’s standards (whatever those are). This is where Jesus found us. We were Christmas/Easter people. We were church folk. We would have defined ourselves as Christians, saw ourselves and, in comparison with others, we looked really good.

Then in the middle of that, Jesus saved us. He rescued us. There was a turn there from us no longer just being church folk…

Happy Easter!

Mom, Where Do They Get Their Hope? {Good Friday}

What are you reading?

The question came from an 8th grader who comes to visit me almost every morning.

A devotional, I reply.

A what? What’s that?

A devotional.

His scrunched face communicated his confusion.

You, know. A devotional. There’s a page for each day of the year.  This one is written as a prayer, but includes Scripture.  {I keep trying to explain.}

Well, what’s that? Do you get a new one each year?

I continue explaining, showing him Everyday Prayers, my favorite devotional…

With my heart lodged in my throat.

Why do I assume that everyone knows what a devotional is? What Scripture is? Because I do.  I think if you live in America, then these terms are as common as cake and coffee.

Friends, they’re not. And something about this boy never having heard these words made my heart hurt.  Not because I want him to be well-versed in Christianeze, but because I wonder what he knows of faith and Jesus.

Savior Jesus.

I share this discussion with my kiddos as we are driving last night.  Mostly retelling the story to remind them that the way we talk about Jesus and His Word is a gift – to all three of us.

Our faith is not a “have to” but a “get to.”

And then Hannah says, “I don’t understand where they get their hope.  The kids who don’t know [about Jesus]…where do they get their hope, Mom?”

And my heart – which is filled with much hopelessness right now – whispers…

Yeah, mom, where do they get their hope?

Whew.

As I try to move on, settle in, and let go…Where is my hope coming from?

From today and Sunday.

hope-and-the-cross

My hope is found in this day over 2,000 years ago when Jesus hung on a cross and died for my sins.

It’s found in…

28 Early on Sunday morning,as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb.

 Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint.

 Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.”

 The women ran quickly from the tomb. They were very frightened but also filled with great joy, and they rushed to give the disciples the angel’s message. And as they went, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they ran to him, grasped his feet, and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid! Go tell my brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see me there.” Matthew 28: 1-10

Wow.  Just wow.

His is risen.

Jesus conquered death.

Giving me hope. Giving you hope. Giving the world hope.

Because we need hope. Life is hard.  Suffering is plentiful.

I am a victim, but that’s not my identity. Some things will be fully healed only by your second coming.  Let me be okay with that, even as I trust you to use my pain for the benefit of others.  Scotty  Smith

Some things will not be completely healed this side of heaven, so I find hope in Him alone.

He is risen!  Have hope.

Happy Easter, sweet sisters.  May your day be filled with worship of your Creator.

How Do You Carry Another’s Burdens? {Feeling Safe and Welcome}

Each morning I write.  {Notice…I don’t post, but I write :)}

This morning I wrote about community, walking alongside one another, shouldering the load… the things I wrote about last week.  I find I do not know what I truly think until I write.  So, I’ve been bouncing this topic across the page for months, asking God to provide wisdom…help.

After last week’s post, several discussions followed.

How do we REALLY shoulder another’s burdens?  How do we know if we’re shouldering too much and the relationship is unhealthy?  Can we care or love too much? If we love too little, why?  Where’s the balance, the line?  And, on and on.

Whew.

Honestly, I do not have any magic answers.  God has not seen fit to divinely inspire answers  in my heart.  I am nooooo psychologist.

But, I am a Jesus follower.  And, He has commanded me to…

Share burdensDear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godlyshould gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. 2 Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. 3 If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. Galatians 6: 1-3

Love othersSo now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples. John 13: 34-35 and Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. 1 John 4:7

So, how?

How we can love others and shoulder burdens better?  How we can create safe spaces where vulnerability is the norm and no one is nervous or fearing failure?

Have you ever walked into a Bible study or church or a meeting nervous?  Afraid you had the wrong answers?  Afraid someone would find out that you’re not a Bible scholar?  That you’re a sinner?  That you didn’t grow up in the church? That you’re divorced or aborted a baby age 20?

Afraid you’ll have the wrong answers?  That you won’t be enough?

Yep, me too.

So, I am asking you…sisters, how can we put away the expectations, the measuring sticks, the competition, and the {icky} conversations, and sit at the table together?  {I KNOW this is happening in some places. But, I also heard from many of you that it’s not happening in your world.}

I’ve been asking God this question over and over: How can we be about you, Lord, every single day?  Not one day a year, month, or week, but 365 days a year?  How can we gather and laugh and cry…and feel SAFE.

How can you feel like…the wrong answer is ok; your lack of Biblical knowledge is accepted; your sin is revealed and others are willing to walk with you; your lack of church background is irrelevant; your marital status? no big deal; and your shame from that abortion years ago? “We are sorry. So sorry. How can we help you?”

Why? Because you are enough. And, we are ok with you – whoever YOU is in this season.

I am really asking…how? How do we create these spaces, this level of comfort and safety where vulnerability is welcome, not so we can judge and fix, but so we can carry and love?

Will you share with me how you’ve felt less than and how you feel we can all get past that?

I can’t wait for you to join this conversation, but in the meantime, I am amazed at how God’s leading me to resources and ideas as I seek His face.  I read this today…

They stayed out for nearly an hour. I’ve not seen them do that before. It isn’t that they didn’t want to be together, but before it wasn’t so easy. Now, they had a bench to sit on. And the bench made all the difference.

People want to talk about things. They want to relate and live in community and converse and be together. Sometimes they just need a bench. They need a place to get the conversation started, a platform that allows them to linger and find one another. The small group I lead every Wednesday night is like a bench for freshman girls, a place for them to come and share their lives and hopefully, see glimpses of Jesus…Every community needs a bench.

Emily Freeman, Chatting at the Sky

He shows Himself, huh?  When our hearts truly desire to follow and love well, He leads.

Just yesterday I took this picture:

bench

Something about this bright red bench in the midst of the leafless branches and whipping wind struck me as inviting.  A bright fixture among the dreary trees.

Something in me knew I needed a bench before I even read about benches this morning.

Actually.

We all need a bench, don’t we?

What kind of a bench do you need?  A place  to sit and chat about your favorite TV show?  {Life can be so lonely.} Or a place to share your deepest shame?  {It’s hard to feel safe in this world.} Or both?

Today, I hope you pray about your bench – the one you have or the one you wish to create.  Perhaps God will lead you to a bright red one in the park, or he will ask you to begin building a bench for you and others…board by board.

{Looking forward to hearing your hearts!}

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I thought I’d share some of the resources I’ve been reading…

Incourage is also talking about the bench principle and giving away a cute bench necklace.

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Don’t let the “dents” of life convince you that you’re forever damaged with no value. Nothing is final with God. He doesn’t discard us or label us destroyed simply because we have a little damage. In his awesomeness, God has a history of taking our “dents” and using them to fulfill his destiny. Look at his track record…Dented, Not Destroyed

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Thinking back on this moment, I’m gripped once again by the power of transparency. Clearly, the lady at the front desk was significantly farther down the early menopause road than I was. It seemed easy for her to mention it casually; it’s something I’m still processing. But her mention of it made all the difference for me that day.  It could be anything we’ve experienced, though. Depression. Infertility. Bankruptcy. Terminal or chronic illness. Betrayal. Abandonment. Layoffs. Loss of a child or spouse. Abuse. Divorce. Anything. If we’ve survived, no matter how worse for wear, our stories can encourage… Three Little Words

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I’ve been reading these books about community – about vulnerability and the good that comes from sharing who we are – out stories.  

Daring Greatly:  How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown:    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; . . . who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” —Theodore Roosevelt

Every day we experience the uncertainty, risks, and emotional exposure that define what it means to be vulnerable, or to dare greatly. Whether the arena is a new relationship, an important meeting, our creative process, or a difficult family conversation, we must find the courage to walk into vulnerability and engage with our whole hearts.

In Daring Greatly, Dr. Brown challenges everything we think we know about vulnerability. Based on twelve years of research, she argues that vulnerability is not weakness, but rather our clearest path to courage, engagement, and meaningful connection. The book that Dr. Brown’s many fans have been waiting for, Daring Greatly will spark a new spirit of truth—and trust—in our organizations, families, schools, and communities.

Breathing Underwater by Richard Rohr:  The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous is America’s most significant and authentic contribution to the history of spirituality, says Richard Rohr. He makes a case that the Twelve Steps relate well to Christian teaching and can rescue people who are drowning in addiction and may not even realize it. To survive the tidal wave of compulsive behavior and addiction, Christians must learn to breathe underwater and discover God s love and compassion. In this exploration of Twelve Step spirituality, Rohr identifies the Christian principles in the Twelve Steps, connecting The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous with the gospel. He draws on talks he has given for over twenty years to people in recovery and those who counsel and live with people with addictive behavior. Rohr offers encouragement for becoming interiorly alive and inspiration for making one s life manageable for dealing with the codependence and dysfunction (sin) rampant in our society

This book I am loving because I can offer a “bench” at my house once I clear the clutter, allowing time to focus on what matters – bench-sitting – not on all the stuff that requires me to wash, clean, and cook it.

Organized Simplicity:  The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living by Tsh Oxenreider: Simplicity isn’t about what you give up. It’s about what you gain. When you remove the things that don’t matter to you, you are free to focus on only the things that are meaningful to you. Imagine your home, your time, your finances, and your belongings all filling you with positive energy and helping you achieve your dreams. It can happen, and Organized Simplicity can show you how.

Handling Deep Grief and Heartbreak {We Don’t Know How}

Today’s post was supposed to be about my weight.  I’ve been wrestling for days with what God’s saying to my heart about the 70-some pounds I have gained since my marriage crumbled.

Yet, no matter how I worded it or how deep I dug, nothing seemed cohesive.  I threw up all over the screen – a smattering of words and emotions and scripture and self-loathing.

Then, I realized…the events that spurred me to listen to God about my weight and begin again are too fresh – too raw. They simply aren’t ready for audience.

I asked God if there’s something else or if I should remain silent today…

Then, an email from a friend… this post.

And, I knew…these are the words I must share.  These are the words my heart has been screaming for months – words I could not articulate.   I have felt, and I am feeling exactly as this post describes.  And this way…

I walk into a room {rarely do I walk into a room in this season} and people scatter or avoid, looking at me with sad – or maybe rolling – eyes. It depends…on what part of the story they know or what part they think they know. It depends…on if they’ve suffered and can relate or think God’s chosen them to live in perfection as an example to all of us who can’t seem to love Jesus enough.  {Yeah, that was sarcastic and probably not necessary, but I just can’t take it out.}

I walk into a room and no one asks…How are you?  And, I feel they don’t care.

I feel they have no interest in helping me shoulder the load (as selfish as that may sound).  Selfish or not…it’s too heavy.

Because…

If you have lost someone you love or walked through a divorce, it can feel as though that furiously personal storm destroyed everything that mattered to you, and you wonder how you will survive.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

That’s why I BEG you to read THIS…{here’s an excerpt}

One might hope that the place where heartache is understood and honored more than any other would be the community of faith. But I have arrived at a more sobering conclusion:

At times, the Church has no idea how to handle deep grief and heartbreak.

Not long ago I met a woman who had lost a child in a random accident. A few months later she told her Bible study group that on some mornings she honestly didn’t think she could make it. Someone saw her cue and declared, “Just remember this verse: ‘I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength!’”

The grieving woman took a risk and voiced her pain, and instead of being heard and given the space and grace to struggle, she was silenced by a verse that clearly she hadn’t lived up to. And how could she miss the clear implication that if you’re not strong, then you’re not relying on Christ.

How unutterably sad.

God didn’t give us His Word to use like a weapon or some kind of Hallmark card we can pass across the fence and keep some distance.

It is a weapon, but one designed for use against our enemy, not against our sisters. It is meant for encouragement, not for pat answers in the midst of real pain. Just because something is true doesn’t mean you must voice that truth in all circumstances. Shortly before His arrest, Jesus told His grieving disciples, I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear – John 16:12.

His followers really needed to hear certain truths – things that would eventually help them – but hearing them at that moment  would have crushed their spirits. So Jesus held His peace.

Oh, that we would read and embrace that memo!

Why do we do that? Why do we try to “contain” those who suffer or attempt to “fix” them? Do we think suffering is an embarrassment? Do we feel personally ineffective in our faith if we can’t make the pain go away? Do we think it detracts from the power and goodness of God when one of His daughters limps around wounded?

For whatever reason, heartbreak makes us most uncomfortable…

Paul tells us that when someone walks through the kind of heartbreak that feels suffocating, crushing, and overwhelming, the body of Christ must move in to help bear the weight. No one should have to try to carry such a burden alone.  

(Click and read on…it’s good!)

Indeed.  We are all uncomfortable with sadness and suffering {What exactly do you say as you go “through the line” at the funeral home? It’s awkward.}

But, sometimes we have to pray, dig our heels in, send the text, make the call.  WE have to risk saying the wrong thing because I assure you – the “wrong” thing is often better than nothing at all.

No one wants to feel they are not welcome in the club because they aren’t happily married.  Because they’re broken. Because they’re questioning.  Because most days they do not know which way is up and some days they can’t find Jesus.

Honestly, there should be no club.  No outside and inside.  Perhaps that is the problem.

Besides, we are all broken in some way.  All sinners. All falling short…

Every. Single. Day.

Does the falling short have consequences? Yes.  Always.

Regardless…

We all need people surrounding and loving us.  Reminding us that we matter to God and others.

And, you are, friend.  You are loved by Him.  And so is the person you’ve been avoiding.  So is the person who hurt you.  So is the person that you’ve failed.

Do you need to send a text?  Check in on the one who is hurting?  Or, perhaps just say…I love you. Thinking about you.

I do.  I need to get better at looking out and not in.

At being the Church.

{Just a side note…I love the church/Church).  I really do.  I hope you don’t hear judgment of the church or others here. Instead, I pray you hear encouragement to come alongside others even when you have no words, no answers, no understanding…nothing.  We are called to shoulder the load and to walk alongside.  That’s when God works best anyway.}