Love is: Laying Down Your Life

Prepping talks for the Cru Red River Region Staff conference this coming weekend. Looking forward to seeing my staff friends who serve on college campuses all over Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas. One of my favorite Bible study tools for the New Testament is the Discovery Bible:

9780802441591This wonderful resource is great for folks like me who haven’t *yet* had the opportunity to study Greek. Different symbols, words and numbers help add depth and understanding to verb tenses, translation and emphatic words used in the original New Testament text.

For example:

John 15:13 reads:

“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”

Initially I read the verse to mean the greatest act of love is to physically die in someone’s place (like Jesus taking our place on the cross for our sin). I picture jumping in front of a would be assassin and taking a bullet for someone I love. Laying down my life. (And yes. I have been watching “Alias” on Netflix. In the middle of season 3. Go Sydney Bristow!)

But it turns out the word life in Greek is psyche (from which our English word psychology is derived). This explanation of life is the inner life of a person, the personality, or ego.  It’s what gives a person individual distinction before God. So rather than bios (the duration of earthly life or existence), Jesus is teaching that laying down our lives (feelings, desires, affections and aversions) is something we do over and over.

The verse right before this one about laying down our lives reads:

“This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.”

Love in this verse is agapao–unconditional love which seeks a person’s highest good, an unselfish affection for another without the expectation of receiving anything in return.

We are to love one another by laying down our lives for one another. Again and again.

This is greater love. Dying in someone’s place is a one time event. But choices to daily lay down my ego, laying down my agenda, lay down my rights and seek another’s highest good is the selfless way Jesus demonstrated love.

My challenge today:

How will I lay down my life for those I love?

Do you have any other thoughts to add to these verses?

 

Leadership and Apologies and the Open Letter to the Evangelical Church

I don’t use the word “retard” or “retarded” anymore when I refer to myself after I mess up.

I have two author friends, Amy Julia Becker, author of “A Good and Perfect Gift” and Gillian Marchenko, author of “Sunshine Down.” They both have daughters who have Down Syndrome. Knowing a bit of their story and their heart, I understand with a new awareness why flippantly tossing that word around is hurtful. This is true even when my intention has been to make fun of myself and not directed at another to harm or insult. In the past I have used the word, but now that I have faces and a connection with my friends, I have woven the understanding into my daily life and word choices.

I don’t put my hand up to my head and form a pretend gun and act like I pull the trigger when I feel frustrated with someone, or try to be funny and use that motion with “you’re killing me” when something ridiculous happens.

I had a friend and former student who took her life in this manner. I am personally aware how this action, even when done in jest, can be hurtful.

I have several African American brothers in the faith. Men I admire and respect. Men of impeccable character who are adoring husbands and dads. I have heard them share stories of how they, or their sons, have been pulled over by the police and mistreated. How, when they walk down the street, women move their purses to the other arm when they walk past. My friendships with these men have opened my eyes and my awareness to the reality of the injustice they experience on a regular basis.

Over time my circle of relationships has grown. Life experiences and challenges have introduced me to new worlds across different landscapes: ethnic, socio-economic, religious, cultural, life-stage, lifestyle, to name a few. I’ve watched courageous women and men navigate parenting kids with special needs, walk through divorce and being a single parent or trying to build trust in a blended family. I’ve seen first hand the heartache of infertility, the joys and challenges of adoption, prodigal kids, broken engagements, addiction, chronic pain, depression, job loss. As my awareness has grown, so has my appreciation for people who walk a path different from my own.

Relationships grow awareness.

Awareness brings about change in attitude and action.

As an Asian American woman, I have experienced first hand both blatant and unintentional racism. Everything from being teased on the playground as a kid to more recently when a well-intentioned missionary spoke slowly, in broken English, and asked me, “You China?” To which I answered in perfect English, “Well, actually, I was born in Wisconsin.” She still went on to ask, in slow, broken English, “You Mommy, Daddy China?”

Two women I deeply respect, Helen Lee and Kathy Khang, wrote an “Open Letter to the Evangelical Church” earlier this week and a group of 80 Asian American leaders issued a call for dialogue and building bridges after multiple cultural misses from influential leaders in the church. You can read more about the situation here in this article by Christianity Today. Nearly 800 have signed in support of the letter. I have added my name as well with the hope that this important conversation will continue; where relationships will deepen and grow awareness, and awareness will bring about change in attitude and action.

I don’t in any way question the intention of any of the men involved in the offensive depictions. Intention is rarely the issue. I think the issue being brought forth is a call and the need for continued conversation. Good leadership is willing to graciously address hard issues, and good leadership graciously receives and responds to feedback, and when needed offers apologies.

Darrin and I, just a couple of weeks back, had a friend and co-worker who asked to talk with us. We didn’t know what it was in regards to, but we held this friend in high esteem and looked forward to connecting. It was brought to our attention how our inactions brought about hurt, frustration, disappointment and a blocked goal of completing what this co-worker had been tasked to accomplish. Our friend was gracious and kind. We were genuinely sad and sorry for what we did (or in this case didn’t do). All of us believed the best. Darrin and I didn’t try to excuse our actions or get defensive. Once we understood how what we did affected our friend, we were able to see from their perspective and apologize from a place of identification and understanding. We were grateful that our friend cared enough to express to us our miss. We wouldn’t have known otherwise. The beauty of reconciliation is that now the air is clear. No hard feelings. Our relationship has been restored and even deepened as friends and co-workers.

All of us make mistakes. Leaders make mistakes. Sometimes intentionally, most of the time unintentionally. All of us have much to learn from one another. All of us can take away a new level of awareness through what we walk through and experience.

I welcome your thoughts.

 

Truly Terrific Banana Bread Recipe

Oh, it’s madness around here. Our oldest heads back for his second year of college on Friday. Darrin has been and continues to be in ministry meetings to prep for the coming school year. Our middle son is registering today for his junior year of high school. The crazy junior year. Our youngest is trying hard to convince me why hosting a sleep over with multiple girls with the goal of staying up all night is a good idea before school starts. My brother and sister-in-law are dropping of their two oldest off for college, so they, along with their youngest, will be staying with us tomorrow (yipppeeeee!!!). But this also means we need to unearth the flat surfaces around our home and tidy up a bit. a lot.

So my brain isn’t all here.

But this morning I baked banana bread for Darrin’s team. The smell wafting through the house is heavenly. The recipe is from my mentor in college, Shelley, and it is one of the few recipes I have memorized. As I’ve shared it with friends over the years, they all agree it’s a winner. Moist. Consistently tasty. A reason to smile when your bananas go brown. So here I am sharing it with you without needing to check a recipe card:

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Shelley’s Banana Bread

4 or 5 over ripe bananas

2 eggs

3 T milk (I use rice milk because of Julia’s allergies)

1 T vinegar

1/2 C veg. oil

mush bananas, add the above ingredients and mix.

I don’t like washing multiple bowls so I add the dry ingredients on top and then mix it with a spoon before I blend it into the wet ingredients.

2 C flour (baking secret: stir flour w/ a spoon and spoon into measuring cup. This makes the bread fluffier)

1 1/2 C sugar

1 t baking soda

1 t salt

stir dry ingredients together on top and then blend everything together

add poppy seeds (about 2 T)

1 t vanilla

spray 2 baking pans with Pam and divide the batter evenly (see photo above)

bake at 350 for 40 minutes and check w/ wooden tooth pick.

Enjoy!!

Thank you, Shelley, for sharing this recipe, and for sharing your life and wisdom. Forever grateful to God for you!!

Halfway Around the World

The jet lag and cold medicine worked together in tandem. At different points during our four hour bus ride out of the city I would find myself suspended between a dream state and the reality of being halfway around the world. And there, in the half awake, half asleep state with my eyes closed, I would hear women speaking different languages, or speaking English with different accents. Now back on this side of the world, I find myself wondering: Did we really travel halfway around the world? Was it all a dream?

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I stop during the times when it feels like Central Asia was a lifetime ago and close my eyes. My heart returns halfway around the world and I picture the faces and hear again their voices. Beautiful women, women of character, courage and depth. Their different accents represented different countries: Brazil, Finland, countries in the Middle East, New Zealand, South Africa, Norway, Australia, Trinidad, Canada, Central Asia, England, Russia, and from all across the United States. Fifty-two women. Six infants. Different sending agencies, different life stages, teachers, business women, expats in the oil industry. The group was mostly composed of women who had lived and worked in a different land, for different lengths of time. They were at different places in their spiritual journeys, carrying various life experiences, some carrying deep pain and disappointment.

I was tasked to teach from the Bible and share my life and journey with them. I taught from one of my favorite passages of Scripture: John 15. The theme was Abiding in the Vine: Revive, Renew, Remain. I taught about all the things closest to my heart.

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Leila, wondrously gifted in asking questions and listening, met with women during the afternoons for spiritual direction and led times of guided prayer during personal reflection time. Her years and experience studying Spiritual Formation at Talbot Seminary blessed the women with both space and skill in navigating the deeper places of the heart.

Before we left this side of the world, we invited a group of prayer warriors to pray and fast for us. We sent them our schedule. Their prayers and the prayers of so many made all the difference on the other side of the world. My cough kept me up most nights. I coughed through meals, conversations, everywhere, all the time…EXCEPT for when I spoke. Several women commented their surprise about the talks being cough free. It was as if an angel covered my throat and kept the cough at bay.

Unlike here, on this time conscious side of the world, where conferences are broken down to the minute, and speakers have time keepers, I never once looked at my watch when I got up to speak. This gave room and space for me to go off on rabbit trails, elaborate on stories, and not feel rushed to squeeze everything in. It was pure joy to speak at this retreat. I was reminded so clearly, with a room full of women from countries around the world, that God is not an American. And I was also reminded that the truths from the Bible transcend language, time and culture. I felt honored and humbled to have time with these heroes of the faith. And in my heart I sensed God giving a nod of confirmation in this international setting to continue to teach in different capacities with different audiences and contribute to Kingdom building through speaking and teaching.

943241_514625625240758_3823783_nOur accommodations were top notch. Turns out, because it was off season, the five star hotel was cheaper than staying in the city at a Ramada Inn. Both our husbands thought we would be at some kind of campsite using outhouses. Leila and I were giddy with happiness as we sunk into our comfortable beds and looked out at the view of snow capped mountains outside our balcony. Meals were prepared by the hotel. I tasted flavors I had never known.

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The initial invitation to come and speak at this retreat came from Jenni a year ago last May. Darrin and I met Jenni almost 20 years ago when she was a student. Now she is an incredible mom of four girls, speaking the language, driving like the nationals and skillfully dodging potholes and cars that don’t really use lanes. She has lived through winters with frozen pipes and no hot water and has come to love this country she lives in. Jenni took Leila and me around the city for several hours after our bus returned and before our flight took off. Time with Jenni, seeing her world, watching her warm up soup in her kitchen, overhearing her conversations with her kids and husband, seeing how God has worked in her life and the woman of character, depth, maturity and excellence and beauty she has become was my personal highlight. A close second was traveling and ministering with Leila.

IMG_1777Thank you to all who prayed for us. Thank you especially to Darrin who not only took care of me and the kids the entire week before the trip while we were all sick (seriously, it looked like a MASH unit downstairs with me passed out on the bed and each kid on each couch), but then he came down with the same virus the week I was gone and still held down the fort.

IMG_1891This trip, and the many wonderful people I met, the country and all the sights and sounds will be treasured in my heart all the rest of my days. I’m thankful for the blessing of photos, souvenirs, and the ability to close my eyes to return again and again to a beautiful land halfway around the world.

Grateful Goodbye

The heels of my boots clip-clopped against the asphalt as I rushed back to my car. High heels still sound so grown-up and mature in my ears. I was late to pick Julia up but wanted to squeeze out every possible last moment because soon the miles would change from tens to thousands. I blinked back grateful tears as I pulled out of my parking spot. My mind replayed the history of our friendship. Twenty-four years ago we met. We were both recent college graduates attending a Cru winter conference before heading south to Arrowhead Springs for staff training. We had mutual friends who introduced us. At the conference we decided to become roommates and from there we became fast forever friends.

I was drawn immediately to Donna’s tender heart for the Lord and her missionary zeal; perhaps in the same way Jonathan was drawn to David in the Old Testament. Though our temperaments were different, we were bonded in Kingdom vision. Our hearts were captured by our King. It was obvious loyalty to Him ran deep in Donna’s life. We spent hours talking, praying and worshipping in the little prayer chapel on the grounds of the Cru Headquarters (Campus Crusade for Christ back then). We dreamed of going together: Yak Back to Mongolia. We were willing to go where no one wanted. We were willing to go to the farthest corners of the world to share the message of God’s love and forgiveness.

Twice we returned too late from a pie eating study session down in San Bernardino. We waited in her car talking and singing songs like “The Battle Belongs to the Lord” by the front gate until the top of the hour, usually two a.m., when the guard would come by shaking his head to let us in. We shared secret crushes, we discussed discipleship, ministry philosophy and difficult passages in the Bible. We waited together in anticipation to find out our first campus assignments. She would be at the University of Washington. I would be at her alma mater, UC Berkeley.

I’m convinced part of the reason my monthly financial support came in so quickly was God allowing time for us to be in the same location to continue to deepen our friendship. When I arrived in Berkeley it was Donna who first took me to Fat Apples and introduced me to Peets Coffee. My first summer assignment was to staff the Lake Tahoe project. Donna remained in Berkeley to continue raising her support. Twice, on my days off, we met half way in Sacramento.

We roomed together at our first staff training in Fort Collins, Colorado. The training took place every other year. We sat together mesmerized as the vision for Manila 1990 was shared with the 5000 staff. Together we decided we would go. We walked the grounds of the CSU campus praying and sharing secret crushes. We watched the married staff and the mom’s pushing strollers and wondered about their lives–wondered how they maintained an eternal perspective in their daily lives in their different seasons.

The following summer I received special permission to join her Pacific Northwest staff team so we could minister together in Manila. We started off roommates but circumstances caused the bulk of the team to relocate to Bangkok, Thailand. I stayed back in Manila and over the course of the summer fell in love with my co-team leader, Darrin.

By Christmas time Darrin and I were engaged. The following summer Donna and I walked the grounds of CSU. This time as we talked she shared her secret crushes and I wore an engagement ring on my left hand. She was one of my bridesmaids at the wedding following the conference.

The next staff training found us again walking the grounds of CSU. She shared her secret crushes, I waddled next to her trying to keep up with short breaths, with swollen ankles, seven months pregnant. She looked over at me. Our paths were going in different directions. I was living out the life she always wanted. Donna went on to do everything I wanted: she attended seminary and got her Master’s Degree, she spent a year living overseas on Stint (short term international mission).

We joked about writing and giving a talk together called “Flies on the Window” about marriage and singleness. The flies on the outside want in, the ones on the inside want out. Though we loved much of the path God had us on, we were blessed with enough trust to share honestly about the harder parts.

Donna ended up living in the apartment across from me and Darrin and we served for a time together on the UCLA campus and finally, after years of failed attempts, spent an entire summer together overseas in East Asia. She was there the day Jonathan was born and the day he took his first steps. She was with me in the emergency room when Jonathan received his first and only stiches.

Eventually Donna met and married a godly, handsome, artistic Frenchman named Didier. I was honored to stand with her as a bridesmaid. The Lord led them to minister in France. Now Donna is the mother of three wonderful kids. Her oldest daughter is Julia’s age.

God has been good to us. Our paths, though very different, cross and recross despite the miles, despite the years. Today we met halfway for one final lunch. We had months of catching up, but conversation came effortlessly. We picked up where we left off and went deep quickly. On December 12th Donna and her family will return to France to minister in Paris. God has burdened their hearts to reach the lost through the medium of the arts. I’m grateful to Didier for sharing his gift of photography with me. The photo he took of the grapes from a vineyard in France now graces the header for my new website. How fitting my first post with my newly designed site would highlight my friendship with Donna. You can check out their website and other photos Didier has taken by clicking his name the photo credit at the bottom of the page.

I’m grateful for friendships that span the seasons of life. Grateful for the memories made with Donna over the years. We have both grown, matured, and lived through good times and hard times. But through it all our heart and vision for the world and the Lord remains the same. Donna continues to bless me by her courage, example, willingness and tender heart towards the Lord. Please join me in praying for her and her family as they pack, say goodbyes and transition to life in France.

My eyes are filled now with tears as I type and think about our goodbye and the miles, but my heart is full of gratitude to be blessed with a lifelong friend like Donna.

I love you, Donna, and miss you already. Look forward to the next time we are together!

What are some of the blessings you’ve received through friendship?

SKY VBS Bible Lesson for Grown Ups

(My apologies for taking so long to share the posts about SKY VBS Grown Up Version. Just returned over the weekend from dropping oldest son off at college. *sniff, sniff* This is post two of four covering the lessons from SKY VBS for the Coffee Connection Time. If you missed the first post, you can read it here)

The first day of VBS we offered tours to the parents of all the different stations throughout the church. The transformation of just about every inch of the building was quite astounding. I think the tour helped to reassure new parents by giving them a first hand look at the world their kids would be enjoying and talking about. The second morning between the amazing mini-massages the lesson from John 11 was shared. We had a wide range of women at different places in their spiritual journey and different levels of familiarity with the Bible. My hope was to take away the intimidation factor for women new to the Bible by having them hold, read, and turn the pages in a directed way. The first morning the women broke up into groups of three to read and discuss the passage before I shared the nugget. They read and shared what stood out to them and what they learned about Jesus. The next day I had them each read a verse around in a circle. The idea was to make it easy for women to participate no matter what their religious background. This brings us to the Bible lesson from the third day…

The passage the kids learned was Matthew 26:36-27:31. Yes, it was a long passage. The passage picks up after the Last Supper where Jesus enjoys His last meal with His disciples. Jesus knows the end is near and asks His three closest friends to join Him at the Garden of Gethsemane. They come along but fall asleep. Jesus prays in anguish asking if it was possible to not undergo the excruciating torture and death that awaited. In the end He surrenders, “Thy will be done.” What follows is the mob comes to forcibly remove Jesus and brings Him before the courts and religious leaders. Peter, one of Jesus’ main disciples, after declaring loyalty during the Last Supper, turns around and denies knowing Jesus repeatedly. Three times. Just like Jesus had predicted. The passage continues with the next day with Jesus before the courts, His brutal beating and the long walk carrying the Cross to Golgotha.

Since the passage was long and time was short, I focused in on chapter 26 and from it drew out three little nuggets:

  • In Jesus’ darkest hour He brings His closest friends along. Jesus regularly met with the Father alone in prayer (40 days in the wilderness, Mark 1:35 in the early morning, while still dark, Luke 5:16, often slip away and pray). But in His time of need Jesus invited others to be with Him. Most of us find it difficult to ask for help, to express our needs, to show vulnerability in real-time. Jesus models for us the importance of bringing people into our pain and struggles. As we bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2) it helps us to carry our own load (Galatians 6:5). How are you at bringing people in?


  • Jesus’ prayer “not My will but Yours be done” is the crux of the Christian life. The posture of a heart and life yielded, surrendered, willing to go anywhere, do anything for and with God. We sometimes lose heart and become will-less, or we muster up our own strength to grunt through the Christian life and become will-full, but Jesus demonstrates a heart WILL-ING. A willing heart. May you and I keep our heart in check and follow Jesus’ example of willing. How is your heart? Will-full? Will-less? or Willing?


  • Failure is not “if” but “when.” Peter, impulsive, passionate, rough-around-the-edges, sometime clueless but truly a man with a heart of gold. He experienced failure against the One he loved and left everything for. I find it comforting to read about Peter and know I am not alone in my own failures. And failure is not the end of the story. Sometimes the hardest person to forgive is myself. How do you handle failure?

The Bible verse the kids memorized for this day was Isaiah 40:31. My friend, Simone, shared the Amplified version with me and I find it fitting to end this post with such a soul-filling verse:

 But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up [close to God] as eagles [mount up to the sun]; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired.

Again, for the ladies who participated in our Coffee Connection time, if I overlooked an important point, please share below. For the rest of you, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section and invite you to pass this along if you find it helpful. :)

Women Leaders: Strength and Dignity

As the month of May winds down to a close, I find myself reflecting back on some significant “firsts.” Earlier in the month I had the honor of speaking at the first Asian American Pacific Islander Women’s Leadership Conference. Women, along with some incredibly supportive men, from across the country and from as far as the UK gathered in Southern California. We represented leaders from different churches, parachurch organizations and seminaries. Our families originated from throughout Asia. Our experiences were as varied as the languages we or our parents spoke, and the countries we or our parents came from. But as we shared our stories, we found common ground in our struggles and challenges. Friendships were forged. Some were rekindled. We left encouraged, understood, inspired, validated and hope-filled. We were not alone as we sought to live out God’s call on our lives.

The middle of May found me traveling for the first time to the Chicago area to attend the first Redbud Writers Guild retreat. Thirty of the fifty-eight of us gathered as we pursued living out our tag line of: fearlessly expanding the feminine voice in our churches, community and culture. Again, our experiences were varied. Our journey as writers was as unique as the fingerprints found on our laptop keys. But as we shared our stories, we found common ground in our struggles and challenges. We received input, we brainstormed, we dreamed. Names, faces and voices connected. We left encouraged, understood, inspired, validated and hope-filled. We were not alone as we sought to live out God’s call on our lives.

In both settings I found myself looking around and wondering out loud, “How in the world did I end up in a room together with such amazing, high-caliber women?!” Both settings included women leaders with multiple advanced degrees, hearts aflame with love for God, ministry experiences across the country and around the globe, vision for being a part of righting the wrongs in this world and the shared agreement to build up rather than compete against each other. We were intentional about acknowledging differences while remaining unified. In both settings we knew as women leaders our collective voice gave us strength to contribute uniquely in the various spheres of influence we walked and ministered. In both groups these women leaders held a high view of men. And we understood through advocacy, mutual respect and support from good and godly men that men AND women together paints a fuller, deeper picture of God’s character and the message of Hope for our hurting world. Not surprisingly, both of these groups have been positively influenced by the Synergy Women’s Network. The message of Synergy resonates in our core how we are created as image bearers, warriors and how together with our husbands and brothers we are to walk in the good works God has prepared beforehand for us to walk in (Eph. 2:10).

My heart is concerned and saddened by the confusion and nastiness I often see online as it relates to Christian women and leadership. I have godly friends on both sides of the theological spectrum. I have studied and read side by side the writings on the various passages in the Bible addressing women and leadership written by men and women who love God wholeheartedly. This blog purposely does not include a book list and blog roll. I don’t want readers to draw conclusions and dismiss my writing based on who I read or don’t read. I welcome dialog, discussion and have come to believe reading widely is helpful in broadening our understanding of who God is and how we reflect Him through our culture, gender, gifting and experiences.

My fellow Redbud, Stephanie, tweeted this Chinese proverb today:

When sleeping women wake, mountains move.

The women leaders I have been privileged to link arms with through the API Women’s Leadership conference and Redbud Writers Guild display strength and dignity that is feminine and powerful. Their faith, character, vision, and voice will surely cause mountains to move. Mark my words.

 

 

Wee Little Piggy

Big week coming up. I’ve been invited to share my cancer journey at MOPS (mothers of preschoolers) at EV Free Fullerton Church Tuesday morning and the following Tuesday as well. The Awesomes will be joining me which makes sharing this talk especially meaningful.

Thursday I leave for the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference to be with 400 people I’ve never met. I’m flying into San Francisco, renting a car and driving down to disappear in those breath-taking redwood trees off Highway 17. Between now and Thursday I am trying to figure out how to pack five days worth of clothes into one of those overhead bin carry-on pieces of luggage. And really the big questions are: how many pairs of shoes can I smash in? and will there be enough room for my feather pillow?

Since this is my first time attending the conference, I have been assigned a “buddy” to answer questions and help prepare me for our time. My buddy, Janneke, has been wonderful. After I shared with her about the editor finding me and where I was at with the editorial team reviewing my book proposal next month, she suggested I look into the Non-Fiction Mentoring Clinic. I had seen information about this writing clinic on the conference website but didn’t give it any thought because it was by application only and I didn’t think I qualified. The deadline for the application was last Wednesday. Only two spots were left. Well, in the course of a few hours last Wednesday, I was accepted into the clinic and assigned a skilled and knowledgeable mentor who will work with me and four other writers. And it turns out one of those four is my buddy! I look so forward to having the personal input and a place to ask questions, receive feedback and help on writing and the writing world.

I just keep alternating between pinching my arm and screaming into my pillow. See, I really think I need to bring my pillow…

God continues to open doors and provide above and beyond what I deserve and desire.

I needed some new eyeliner. Scanning the miles of make up in the Sephora store I concluded,

Best to go with waterproof.

As you can imagine, between sharing the cancer journey, news about Jonathan and colleges, and all this writing world everything my emotions have been all over the place. Tears could flow anywhere at anytime about any number of things.

Yesterday morning, on the one morning I planned to sleep in, I woke up in the quiet of the early, early morning. I sat wrapped up in a blanket with my Bible and journal asking the Lord how to stay grounded in the midst of all these new things going on.

There is one who scatters, and yet increases all the more. And there is one who withholds what is justly due, and yet it results only in want. The generous man will be prosperous and he who waters will himself be watered.                (Proverbs 11:24-25)

It was as if God spoke to my heart the way to stay grounded is to hold on loosely, be generous with helping others, not to compete but to seek out good for others. Focus out and up and not on myself or the outcome. I was mainly thinking about writing, but I think these principles also translate into other areas of life.

All this book and writing stuff has been a crazy, wild ride. Thanks for being part of it. Thank you for your encouragement. Appreciate and ask for your continued prayers. It feels like the pace is picking up and a picture that captures how I feel is this:

“Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!”

Don’t Confuse Harmony With Intimacy

She was walked down an aisle–the aisle, scattered with colorful fall leaves by a dad who prayed for her and for that moment from the time she was born. The sky was brilliant blue. Her mom and dad, both godly and faithful, gave her away. Family and friends watched with misty eyes as vows were shared and the symbolic two color sand was poured into the vase. Layer upon layer the sand represented lives impossible to separate. The supernatural exchange when two becomes one. Every detail had been attended to, and both the bride and groom, like every bride and groom through the ages, entered this new chapter of life with every intention of a marriage that would stand the test of time.

Just weeks earlier a group of women, young and old, sat in a beautiful home and lavished gifts of kitchen supplies for her home and advice for her heart. One by one we shared out of our experience and our hopes for her future with her soon-to-be husband.

This is a paraphrased version of what I remember sharing:

Don’t confuse harmony with intimacy.* Marriage is hands down the hardest relationship you will ever experience. Just because two people love God and each other doesn’t make for an automatically “good” marriage. It takes work and intentionality. You may be tempted to “just  get along” and think that you have a good marriage. The danger of pursuing harmony is that getting along may be at the expense of sharing what you want, what you need and most important who you REALLY are. A good marriage is one that is marked by intimacy. Intimacy is knowing and being known deeply. And it’s messy. It often involves conflict. And vulnerability. It’s risky. Humbling. Sometimes scary. It takes an investment of TIME to listen, untangle, explore, understand, reconcile. But intimacy is incredibly worthwhile. Your marriage is worth fighting for. True harmony comes from the hard work of pursuing intimacy. Don’t settle for short cuts.

And so the challenge for them, for me, for us, is to pursue intimacy in our relationships. Invest the time, the hard work of knowing and being known. A relationship book I have found to be helpful and recommend highly is “How We Love” by Milan and Kay Yerkovich.

What are your thoughts about harmony and intimacy?

*I’ve been sharing this little nugget at bridal showers the last two years. Truth is, it was Leila (of the Awesome Threesome) that came up with the initial idea. She is ever wise in the relationship department. I have taken her thoughts and elaborated a bit and then woven in some of my own. But trust me, if you want incredible relational insight, seek this amazing woman out. I can’t tell you how my life has been enriched because of her wisdom, example, and deep love for God. Those of you privileged to know her can attest to these truths.

This post is dedicated to Mr. and Mrs. Matt and Nicole Harrelson with love and prayers. May you enjoy a marriage that enjoys true harmony because of deep intimacy….