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wandering around in circles

Wandering In Circles

“They are wandering around in circles. The desert has closed them in on all sides.” -Pharaoh, Exodus 14:3

My goal was to be published at age twelve, married at eighteen, parenting by twenty. Great wife, awesome mom of many, world-famous writer and illustrator, living on an idyllic farm when not doing overseas mission work.

However, such goals as these are not easily met. They are not like soccer goals, which stand firmly on the ground, waiting for you to arrive. A soccer goal is made up of strong structure and a springy net, ready to absorb the force of your efforts. Life goals often seem more like fireflies. You glimpse them, go for them and make a snatch, only to open your fist and find not a glimmer.

Last night, in the dim lighting of our living room after Lenten devotions, prayer, candles and singing, I told my mom that the past year has been a series of closed doors for me. But, I assured her. I am strangely okay with it. There have been articles rejected, ideas shot down, applications denied galore. I have been told “no” by people and by God. Don’t go there. Don’t fall for that. Don’t sign up. Don’t take that opportunity. So often I get a “yes” to try out, to apply, to submit, to knock on the door, and yet the doors have nearly all been locked.

Many of my “goals” have eluded me, and though some of them were silly, others were near to my heart. The hardest dreams to let go of are the ones we must choose to say goodbye to (and God offers us a surprising number of opportunities to choose in this life.) I sometimes look back with regret and ask myself for the millionth time if God “really said not to” do such-and-such, or if I was just too afraid to try, but He does not tire of my questions. “Yes.” He says patiently. “Trust me on this one. I’ll explain it later.”

Some things are truly out of my hands. I cannot be a homeschool mom with the snap of my fingers. I’m not sure how I planned to get published as a preteen, but that opportunity will never come again! Overseas missions have, as of today, not been an option for me. But some of my other goals seemed almost nearby, like a firefly that keeps sparking on ahead of me on a pathway. Some of them, I’d go as far as to say, I have held in my own hands. And then God asks me to open them and, just as I fear, the firefly buzzes free.

“Where are we going?” I ask Him. Haven’t I seen that tree before? And just when I thought we were going uphill, we take a steep turn downward. We appear to be wandering aimlessly, and this is perhaps my greatest fear of all. Am I truly going nowhere?

And yet “nowhere” with my hand in His, is really a wonderful place to be.

I think back on the Israelite exodus. God told them, basically, to “go the long way ’round.” This greatly confused Pharaoh, just as God had said it would.

Speak to the Israelites and tell them to go back and set up camp in front of Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, opposite Baal-zephon. Camp there next to the sea. Pharaoh will talk about the Israelites, saying, “They are wandering around in circles. The desert has closed them in on all sides.” Then I will harden Pharaoh’s stubborn heart even more, and he will pursue the Israelites. Honor will come to Me throughthe actions of Pharaoh and his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Eternal One.

Other translations say that Pharaoh thought they were “tangled in the land,” “confused” or “lost.” But they were far from lost! God knew where they were the entire time and, not only that, but He was practically leading them by the hand.

I get tired and dejected and rejection stings in the moment. I watch others succeed and unwisely covet their accomplishments. But quiet and sure I hear God’s voice, just before I despair. He’s telling me that to “make known to me the path of life” He will take me on detours and often winding roads. He will spend as much time as He needs to “lead me on paths of righteousness.” However, there is a destination in sight, one better than those I dreamed up at age ten, and it is His right hand that will lead me to it. Therein are “pleasures forever more,” so I’m going to take a deep breath and enjoy the journey.

(Psalm 16:11, Psalm 23:3, Psalm 25:4)
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apples of gold {12 blogs I love}

apples of gold: 12 blogs I love

“A well-spoken word at just the right moment is like golden apples in settings of silver.” Proverbs 25:11 The Voice

Craft your words, Solomon tells us. Make them tasteful, beautiful and useful. Apply your skills to your words. 

This verse comes to mind when I think of my favorite blogs. There are certain bloggers who make my mind work faster, my heart beat more exuberantly, my own fingers itch to write. I’ve recently had a few people ask what blogs I follow and who I recommend. I didn’t know whose names to drop in the moment, so I’ve spent a little time dwelling on the question and come up with a tidy list of lovely spots throughout the web. These are the blogs that I truly read, not necessarily the top-rated or best designed, but personal favorites. You will notice a lot of diversity, but that’s just me! Obviously, there are lots of blogs I read that are not on this list (please don’t be offended if you don’t see yours!) but these are just a few I think you guys might want to check out. I’ll see in the comment sections where I lurk…

For deep thoughts on politics, philosophy and more, not to mention awesome videos: Thinkaedo

For honest and intellectual thoughts on feminism etc. : Sarah Bessey

For musings from a really smart young lady on pretty much everything: My Holy Joy

For excellent tech advice and sweet, old-fashioned blogging: Gretchen Louise

For lots of wisdom from a mother’s heart: Five In Tow

For-duh-Ann Voskamp: A Holy Experience

For wit, humor, wisdom and a taste of my beloved Haiti: Livesay Haiti Weblog

For truly lyrical writing on all our deepest human yearnings: Lanier’s Books

For a passionate, raw and poetic perspective on loss, pain and this beautiful life: Natasha Metzler

For a refreshing moment pondering art, life and Jesus: Emily P. Freeman

For real food, real life and real good advice: Trina Holden

For pure, unfiltered encouragement and wisdom and sometimes a few words from myself: Kindred Grace

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hospitality for millennials

hospitality for millennials

Sitting at a recent family meal, my siblings and I began to discuss a predicament we had all noticed, but never fully understood. Upon discussing some of our friends belonging to our generation, we concluded that “we” (meaning millennials) are very willing to exhibit hospitality, but have never learned how. We were raised on the sermons about biblical community and gospel-centered relationships. We’ve read the articles on the importance of the home and made dreamy speeches on The Inklings and The Eagle and the Child, vowing to someday have a group like theirs and a fitting plot of land on which to eat, drink and be merry with them.

However, we also have been offered an array of other things during our growing up years. Social media, one-parent homes, extremely busy agendas, fast food, temporary living situations, working moms and education on everything from geometry to indefinite pronouns. At home, however, our educations were lacking. Very few of us were taught to cook, clean or host guests. A college man (to use a much out-dated term) recently confessed to me that he’s never washed a window and doesn’t “know how.” Girls my age joke about the fact that they can’t bake a box of brownies. Homemaking is so 1950’s. Luckily for us, vintage is IN.

In other words, the heart is there. Almost every twenty-something I know wishes to be a good friend. The education and the training, to put it formally, are what lacks. Therefore, as someone who grew up in a very unorthodox home in which I was taught to cook, clean and run a household, I give you Hospitality for Millennials (alternately titled “Hospitality for Dummies”!) Though you are going to have to look elsewhere for lessons in baking cakes and scrubbing sinks (I’d recommend your grandmother,) I can offer you a few helpful hints on being a good host or hostess.

1. Try to be at least somewhat organized

If there is one thing that stresses me, it’s disorganized or nonexistent plans where solid plans should be. When you are making arrangements for a friend or relative to come stay with you, get the times down and then write them down. Consult and/or notify other people who will be involved (housemates, for example.) Don’t make other plans which will require you to abandon your guests. Clear your schedule as much as possible and ask them via text or, if you really want to go the extra mile, in a phone conversation, what they’d like to do while they’re there. Plan the meals, prepare the space and just generally be prepared for their arrival. This not only alleviates any stress that could come with their arrival, it makes your guest feel special and welcome.

2. Raise your standards of what categorizes a “clean house”

Before your guests arrive, clean your house. No, I mean actually clean it. The space they are seeing and using should be picked up, the floors should be clean, the furniture dusted. Actually sanitize the bathroom. Wash the bedding the guest will be using. If you’re able to get this done, it’s the little details that will finish the atmosphere. Light a candle (they aren’t just romantic, they’re inviting to virtually everyone.) Water the houseplants. Wash the windows, especially if you have glass front door. Make sure your house not only looks, but feels and smells welcoming.

3. Provide food. Real food.

Nothing, NOTHING is more inviting than a delicious meal. Consider what time your guests are arriving and plan accordingly. Offer them coffee or tea in between meals. Will breakfast be their first meal at your home? Consider getting up early and cooking for them. Otherwise, plan on cooking for them later in the day. You don’t have to be a professional chef to create an enjoyable meal. Pinterest has a boatload of quick and easy recipes. Even if you just purchase a few cans of cinnamon rolls, your guests will at least feel welcome and full after breakfast! Sit down together and enjoy eating and talking at the table. This is the best kind of bonding time!

4. Be at ease

I think this is a big one for my family. When we have guests over (which seems to be very often lately,) all or most of us sit and visit with them. We don’t book tight appointments with our friends and family. We don’t let on if there are a million other things we could be doing or if we wish we weren’t staying up so late, seeing as we have to be up early the next morning. We simply relax and enjoy our time with whoever has come through our door. Of course, there are exceptions. Many times I have to leave the conversation in the living room to start cooking in the kitchen. My dad is very often at work when we have guests over, or sleeping after a night shift. My mom keeps laundry going pretty much all day, no matter who is at the house! But we aren’t on our phones much and we aren’t complaining about being too tired, busy or bored to hang out longer. The guest has a certain privilege in your home. He or she determines when they go.

In general, hospitality is just The Golden Rule applied to details. Put others before yourself. Be as accommodating as possible. Create the time, space and atmosphere for your friends or family to open up and do what they came to do: spend quality time getting to know you a little better. And last but not least, don’t forget that your guests could always be angels in disguise. Yeah, I see you watering those houseplants.

everly

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of seeds and fruit

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“Well, at least you planted a seed.” 

It’s what one Christian says to another when witnessing does not lead to conversion or our values are put down by non-believers. It has biblical roots in Matthew 13 in which Jesus tells the parable of the sower. In this parable, the seed is the gospel. We drop it here and there and sometimes it springs up and sometimes it doesn’t. Only some of the seeds that take root sprout and only some of the sprouts mature to fruit-bearing age.

What I have been thinking about lately is the fact that I so often confuse “planting a spiritual seed” with forcing my Christian lifestyle on other people. Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe in defending the greater good. I believe in using my voice and my vote and my influence to further God’s will on earth. It’s when I make an unbeliever feel weird or guilty for not living like I do, that I’ve missed the point.

What is the mark of a believer? The presence of God’s spirit. If someone does not have the spirit, they cannot bear the fruits of the spirit. It is pointless and harmful to expect or request these fruits from non-spiritual people.

An example would be sending a girl out of a youth group event for immodest dress. Now, if it is a girl who has grown up in the church and is dressing provocatively in order to spit in her parent’s face, it might need to be addressed. If, however, it is a new girl or a girl who is a new Christian or not a Christian at all, telling her that her appearance is unholy, that her choice of dress is causing others to sin and embarrassing the congregation is not only ridiculous, but hurtful.

If a woman comes into a crisis pregnancy center looking for help, chances are she thinks she’s pregnant and she’s not too excited about it. She might feel like she can’t afford another baby. Maybe the pregnancy is the result of rape and carrying that man’s child is the last thing she wants to do. Perhaps her boyfriend is pressuring her to have an abortion so their parents don’t find out. In any case, she’s in a crisis and she’s looking for help. In this situation, sitting her down and lecturing her on the Bible’s teaching of abstinence is going to pour cold water all over this critical situation. She is not there to learn about what your god says about your body parts. She is here for help. If later on, through the actual seed you planted, she comes to know Jesus and desires to follow him, she will seek out answers about how to live in a way that glorifies God. At this point, however, she needs information and a shoulder to cry on (along with having her physical needs met, whatever they may be.)

Our job is not to police other people’s sex lives or even spiritual lives. Our goal should be to show love, offer help and point to Jesus. He will take care of the rest. Mark Buchanan put it nicely when he said, “The only kind of control the Bible endorses – indeed, commands – is self-control.”

So I must ask myself this new question when I interact with those who don’t know Jesus, Am I trying to plant a seed, or merely demanding to see the fruit?

Because if my eye is on the results, I’ll never pour in the proper amount of love (which is usually a little more than I plan on giving, isn’t it?) I’m here to give Jesus, not a list of sins. We all fall completely and vastly short of the glory of God no matter what we do with or how we dress our external bodies. The seed is from God, the fruit is His work and to Him does all the glory go.

(a good article on the modesty issue I mentioned is How to Train Your Men to be Abusive by Shannon Coe)

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a warning for hipsters (and myself)

beach pic by pops

Peaceful and passive.

Two words I hear thrown around a lot these days. I try to think of the difference by imagining two different dads.

Passive: the dad who doesn’t come come to the school play, or stick up for you when you’re being bullied, or give up drinking when the courts want to take you away.

Peaceful: Atticus Finch.

And what worries me is that my generation tends to preach peace, but practice passivity. Somehow, we’ve come to think that anything serious, convicting or (heaven forbid) offensive is hostile and un-Christ-like. Don’t speak your opinion about politics, because we want people to make personal decisions. Don’t draw attention to the needs of those in Africa, because that might make someone feel guilty about their lifestyle in America. Don’t give feedback because that could start a disagreement.

Use your voice to talk about the weather and your favorite recipes, use Instagram to share pictures of your rain-washed windows, but don’t stamp anything down, don’t express anything solid, don’t take a stand. We use the excuse of trying not to judge others in order to protect ourselves from judgement.

The silence itself can feel like judging at times, you know? The absolute quiet during times of turmoil. The still, when the world needs someone to simply hold out their hand and say “peace” aloud.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but having an opinion isn’t a sin. And voicing it isn’t either. If you can accept that this isn’t a sin and that isn’t a sin, why not accept what I do with my words as holy too? Why not open your mouth and join the conversation once in a while? If not, we’re at risk of becoming part of the bystander effect.

I know that Facebook is loud and Twitter is whiny. I know people are plain mean sometimes. I know we judge and mock and laugh and sneer. I know. Sometimes silence is golden. But sometimes your voice is vital.

Scripture tells us not to have an unhealthy craving for controversy, quarreling about words and creating constant friction. (1 Timothy 6:4-5) It tells us to have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies, for they only create quarreling. (2 Timothy 2:23) This kind of behavior is contrasted with kindness and gentleness (Titus 3:2)

Does this then mean to keep our mouths shut at all times? To never voice an opinion, at least not in public? To avoid offending another at all costs?

At risk of diminishing the point I wanted to make with the scripture above, that holding one’s tongue is so often the best thing to do, I want to defend the defensive for a moment. I want to express my opinion about expressing opinions. I want to voice something about voice. (You get the idea…)

The apostles were often our examples of screwing up. Jesus called them out on multiple occasions. Think about that for a moment. Jesus called people out. He also tore through the temple violently removing the business people and completely chewed the church leaders out, calling them vipers.  But the apostles were also examples of living in the light of Christ. Paul, when he had turned from sin and began following Christ, continued to have a loud and bold personality. He preached until he was arrested and then preached in prison and then immediately preached in public again when he was released. In Galatians 2:11 we hear that he “opposed Peter to his face” in front of a crowd of people…Peter who so loved our Lord and tried to honor him with his life.

Though we are asked to be humble, we are also asked to be bold. Though we are asked to lead a quiet life, we are also warned against putting our lamp under a basket when we’re supposed to keep it on a stand.

God gave us the truth in scripture and we’re taught that it is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness. He also reveals new things to each of us throughout our days on earth. With kindness and gentleness, I believe we are meant to spread this truth. With much love, we are equipped to express ourselves to one another and even reprove one another for the furthering of the kingdom. This is part of our freedom in Christ, part of our calling.

So hipsters. Instagrammers. Tweeters. Me: Don’t confuse foolish quarreling with sharing what God is teaching you. Don’t confuse peace with passivity. Don’t confuse a quiet life with a dangerous silence. For perhaps God gave you your voice, your thoughts, your opportunities for such a time as this.

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