Remembering 9.11.01 and The Opportunity to Live Like Family


When I awoke 14 years ago today, I had taken up permanent residence on Cloud Nine.  I was counting down the days until I stepped fearlessly from the security of my childhood and jumped into the arms of my love for all of life.  It was just 11 days before my wedding.

Little did I know, it would forever be a day that Americans would tether their personal history to.  We’ll always remember where we were, what we were doing, and how we were feeling on that day; the day that stands out like a soar thumb in the span of 87,235 fingers.

Since that day, my husband and I have decided to bring 3 precious children into the unstable aftermath of those gruesome moments.  It was actually a no-brainer.  That day not only wrote a story of terror, death, and defeat.  It resounded a symphony of one of humanity’s greatest distinctions- the ability to show sacrificial, unconditional love to strangers.  Co-workers and first-responders instantaneously became brothers and sisters as they gave their lives to rescue those trapped.  The immediate need for care and comfort made childless women into mothers.  And children, ages 1 to 100, sought out the shelter and safety of a strong father’s embrace.  It was the day that all of America felt like family.

Today, the world is still spinning and the future is still uncertain, but my children are thriving.  We’ve witnessed thousands of brave men and women sacrificing everything to defend our big, American family. Yet, our hope is not found in this world and our security is not anchored to its future.  Our definition of living is affixed to the everyday, immediate opportunities we all have to love sacrificially and unconditionally; the opportunity to live like family.

(Repost with edits from original on Sept. 11th, 2011)

Dear Olivia {Trust in the Mystery}

Dear Olivia,

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You just started third grade, and I’m beyond proud of you. Everything about new beginnings is scary. Facing uncertainties can shake all our securities into a pile of smoldering rubble. And because you were gifted to feel things deeply, you would much rather give into the gravity of doubt; and crumble. I would to.

I have to remember that all these hard things are building the strong places in your soul. My sweet, praying friend was helping me process and pray through your tear-filled first day of school, and she texted me this:

“Her uncertainty will turn to excitement anticipating the goodness of God!”

For people like you and me, sweet Livvy, the emotions of fear and excitement are just a hair’s width apart. We must train ourselves to CHOOSE to feel the latter more deeply than the former, because of one reason…we can TRUST in the Mystery.

Last week I turned 35 years old, and the older I grow, the less answers I have. Our confidence can’t come from understanding life or knowing the future. We can only TRUST because we know God cares and he says we matter.

“To matter in the scheme of the cosmos: this is better theology than all our sociology. It is, in fact, all that God has promised to us: that we matter. That he cares.”- Madeleine L’Engle, A Circle of Quiet

It was so hard to force you to loosen your fierce hug around my waist, walk away from your tear-streaked face, and leave you hurting and scared in a new place. But I knew you could do it.

After a long day of waiting and praying, I picked up your bright smiling face and heard you exclaim, “That was the best day ever!”

Thank you for choosing the way of excitement and trust, and letting the hard things build such strong, confident, God-filled places in your soul.

“We are mostly unaware of the divine intention in much of what we do. Entrusting ourselves to the Mystery, we move forward fearlessly, knowing that the future of the planet probably does not depend on what we do next.”- Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust

My Summer Read- The B.I.B.L.E.


I’ve only recently become an avid reader. I always really wanted to be “that person”; the brilliant and interesting one that always has a good book recommendation and chooses to read for pleasure. But, I always found myself frustrated because I could NEVER finish a book! I approached reading with the intention of only growing and learning. While this is not a bad thing, it’s not very fun. I found myself starting many non-fiction books, growing through the wisdom of the first few chapters, then loosing interest.

The one thing that awakened my love for reading was when I allowed myself to fall in love with fiction; to start reading great stories. To read simply for pleasure. To get lost in complex characters with familiar struggles in captivating settings. It’s easy to think we can only learn and grow from instructional books void of narrative and imagination. But I found myself learning and growing in the reflection of fictional characters experiencing life and overcoming obstacles in their created worlds. And I started ENJOYING books and FINISHING them! In fact, I’ve found if I throw in a fictional story ever third book I read, it helps me finish the deep, ultra-meaningful ones I find hard to get through.

This summer, my church is reading through the New Testament together and we are on Week 1. There are so many ways to approach studying the ancient text of the Bible, and I committed to this reading challenge with fresh eyes and the desire to suck meaning out of every scripture. I quickly found myself sitting down on a mountain with the disciples, listening to the profound teaching of the Rabbi as he delivered this new concept of the Way and the Kingdom (Matthew 5-7)…and even though I’ve read and studied this before, I had so many questions. I was eager to pull out pen and paper, write down every question I had and email my pastors for answers. But I stopped.

Questions are good, and wanting answers is definitely a good thing. But, the best teachers don’t just give you answers. They give you a bit of guidance and encouragement, and the opportunity to experience the answers in a hands-on way; called LIFE. The lecture is great, but the lab is essential.

I picture the disciples sitting criss-cross applesauce around Jesus, each one raising their hand over and over again like eager Kindergartners with puzzled faces, as Jesus delivered his mind-blowing lecture on the mount. But the Bible doesn’t say Jesus provided a Q & A session after his sermon. He did mention a concept that was perhaps a foreshadowing of how the disciples would get all their questions answered…

“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.” -Matthew 7:24

He indicated that wisdom would come from doing. The lab would bring understanding to the lecture. And the chapters that followed turned into narratives of doing. The disciples took their notes from the Sermon on the Mount and put into practice this new way of living everywhere they went.

This summer, I’m approaching the Word of God, not as just the answer book to all of life’s hard questions that will help me learn and grow. It’s my summer read for pleasure. I know I’ll have questions and will want immediate answers. But I think I’ll leave the questions looming as I get lost in the stories of the disciples following the Rabbi with audacious faith and insane courage. I’ll let the stories play out, and see if my questions get answered as the characters learn and grow through experiencing life and all it’s nuances in the first century. This summer, I’m going to read the Bible for the sheer enjoyment of it, and emulate the disciples in my quest for understanding by walking out the words of the Rabbi in the practice of everyday life.

“The essential religious experience is that you are being known through more than knowing anything in particular yourself. Yet despite this difference, it will feel like true knowing. This new way of knowing…takes away your anxiety about figuring it all out fully for yourself, or needing to be right about your formulations. With this access point, God becomes more a verb than a noun, more a process than a conclusion, more an experience than a dogma, more a personal relationship than an idea. There is Someone dancing with you, and you no longer need to prove to anyone that you are right, nor are you afraid of making mistakes. Another word for that is faith.” – Richard Rohr from “Yes, And…”

Seeing In The Fog

“Are you trying to be who Jesus wants you to be?

Or do you trust him to bring out who he has already created you to be?”

-Emily P. Freeman

Autumn in Idaho is my favorite. Last October, on a bright and bitingly brisk weekend, I attended a retreat in the mountains with a group of ladies from my church. The setting is one of my favorite places. It’s our rustic and cozy church camp, tucked away in a sandy-curved beach with the most breathtaking view of Lake Cascade, framed by forests of ponderosa and tamarack trees. As my friends and I drove along the river-hugging highway towards our destination, I anxiously anticipated seeing this spectacular view with wide-eyed wonder. My soul longs for the opportunity to breathe in these spaces, a generous gift crafted by the Creator for my weary, suburban-dwelling soul.

If you asked me just a few years ago to join a group of ladies for anything, I would have said, “No, thank you.” Or maybe “Heck, no!” Growing up like most girls, I was hurt by jealous, gossiping, controlling, judgmental “friends”. But who wasn’t. My interests tended to put me on the outside of the homemaking, image-obsessing conversations dominating the relationships of my gender. And unfortunately, I’ve spent a lot of my life in the church being intimidated and insecure around strong, capable, amazing, faith-filled women when I knew I didn’t have my crap together. I looked at society’s standard for the quintessential woman, and determined I simply was not enough, didn’t have enough, and could never be enough. The checklist of all I thought Jesus wanted me to be was overwhelming and exhausting. And in the vulnerable moments of my current life when I feel like I don’t measure up, that checklist gets up in my grill and taunts me with the haunting reminder, “You’re not enough.”

When we arrived at the church camp, we got busy finding our rooms, unrolling our sleeping bags, and chatting with the gals. Soon it was dinnertime, and the sun set without warning. It was dark and I hadn’t even gone to the beach to soak up its life-giving beauty. Oh well, I made a date with the lake for the morning.

We spent those evening hours in sweet worship, singing “Christ is Enough”. Other women shared how they experienced the same challenges as I did, how they didn’t like to be around women, how they didn’t fit the mold. What freedom comes from hearing someone else share in vulnerability, “Me, too.” Through times like these and honest conversations with women, I’ve learned we need each other. We all have our stuff, we all need more of Jesus. It might seem emotionally easier to isolate ourselves and claim that we simply don’t fit in, but we all struggle with the same things. We need each other’s perspective. We’re made to struggle together, to triumph together. We are better together.

After a comical round of embarrassing moments shared around the campfire and an uncomfortable few hours of sleep on a thin bunk mattress, I woke with the sun and an eagerness to see the lake…and a desperation for coffee. I stumbled out of the cabin to a thick, white shroud of fog so heavy it hid even a glimpse of my precious lake. Unbelievable! With headphones and journal, pen and Bible, I sat in dining hall with the company of my coffee… in close proximity to more coffee. I thought about the 40 ladies with me at that retreat, how we’ve each had to face the relentless lies that we are “not enough”, and how the life-sucking checklists we make for ourselves follow us around like a cruel, taunting bullies. I wanted freedom. For me, for all of us.

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{my notes}

These sweet words in Psalm 4 jumped right off the page and into my soul:

“Why is everyone hungry for more? ‘More, more,’ they say. ‘More, more.’

I have God’s MORE-THAN-ENOUGH, more joy in one ordinary day.”

This is the ammunition I needed, a gift from the Creator, to face our culture of scarcity and every reminder that lies about my worth. I already have God’s more-than-enough. I have worth because HE is more-than-enough. And He loves me. Endlessly. In Emily P. Freeman’s book, “Grace for the Good Girl”, she says,

“You are not accepted because you are good.

You are free to be good because you are accepted. 

You are not responsible to have it all together.

You are free to respond to the One who holds all things in his hands. 

You do not have to live up to impossible expectations.

You are free to wait expectantly on Jesus, the One who is both author and perfecter of your faith.” 

I decided to take a walk on the beach and let this sink in. I walked down the creaky wooden steps into the thick curtains of lung-clogging fog. I turned on my Pandora station, and the random selection of these words by Sleeping At Last came blaring through my headphones:

“You are enough.”

These little words, somehow they’re changing us.

“You are enough,”

So we let our shadows fall away like dust.

“You are enough.”

These little words, somehow they’re changing us.

Let it go, let it go, “You are enough.”

So we let our shadows fall away like dust.

I about laughed my head off, amazed at this holy moment. Of course, God would send this through the interwebs to my earbuds to be my much-needed soundtrack. I walked along that sandy peninsula, tear-streaked cheeks stinging in the fog, breathlessly soaking up all these life-giving gifts. The Psalm about God’s-more-than-enough, the randomly selected song with those transforming words, and the craziest thing was…I still could not see the lake. The lake that is faithful to be there in all it’s glory every time I make this trip to the mountains. How I longed to see the lake, but the fog had done the most amazing thing. I began to look closely at all the things along the beach that I COULD see. The fog had frozen water droplets to every detail of every little thing. I saw each branch of each bush, each blade of grass, even a delicately frozen spider’s web. I thought the grand beauty of the large, always-present lake was incomparable. Now I know, all the tiniest details of the living landscape are important, beautiful, and are enough. When the heavy fog of expectation settles into the lake of my soul, I will focus on what I CAN see, and trust Jesus is working out all the delicate details of who He has created me to be.

Doing Great Things BECAUSE of God

{a post I wrote a few months ago, and forgot to publish}

Dear Ellie,

Last week was Holy Week, and one I’ll always remember.

Your dad and I have been leading a small group the past few weeks, a one-night-a-week chance to practice gospel community and share from open hearts the good news that transforms us. You’ve proudly taken on the self-appointed role of “Small Group Assistant”, and I love watching you help prepare treats, put out chairs and open the door for our friends. I’ve been surprised to see you plop yourself down in between all the grown-ups and wait in anticipation for our discussion.

This nine-year-old-business is a complex state of affairs. You have one foot lingering in carefree childhood, and one foot in hot pursuit of growing up. This mama’s heart is in a constant state of complication – breaking for losing the little girl you’ve been, but overjoyed to discover who you are becoming.

During small group, we talked about grace-how grace is a person and His name is Jesus. We each shared how we’ve encountered this grace, and how it completes and defines and sustains us. We listened to Melissa talk about how this grace has wrapped up her heart for girls in the Philippines, and has completely captivated her future – as she leaves Tuesday to share this grace with those lost and broken girls.

We prayed and laughed and said goodbye. We tucked your brother and sister in bed, and you whispered, “Mom, can I talk to you about something?” My heart fluttered a little, because talking to you about anything – little things and big things, silly things and complicated things, the answerable and the unanswerable – is my absolute favorite thing.

We snuggled into the covers of my bed, and there you laid your heart bare. You told me that ever since you got baptized last year, Jesus has been so real and you’ve come to really understand and feel and experience his love for you. In your precious nine-year-old vocabulary, you shared the very best news with me; how “when you were a kid” you thought you knew all about God and the Bible, but now you realize you have so much more to learn and discover and enjoy; how you love to worship and you really believe the words you are singing to Jesus.

With such heaviness and conviction, you told me you realized you’ve sinned a lot and you haven’t treated people like Jesus would. Since you have literally grown up in the church, you’ve heard the cartoon-ed and flannel-graphed story of Jesus dying on the cross. But, I just knew you were ready to hear the appalling, gory and gruesome details of all the Jesus experienced as he took on the sin of all humanity; the extreme suffering he endured – for you and for me. We sobbed and wept and soaked in this holy moment as waves of His unfailing grace crashed over our hearts and our minds. With this realization that Jesus undeservingly took our deserved place of execution and death, I was completely overwhelmed with the platform for which you and I now stand.

You see, every parent believes and desires their child to do great things. Big things. Great big, important things. In my life, there are many times I look around and see the great things people are doing FOR God, and wonder if I’m doing enough. But when you’ve been completely wrecked by the amazing grace and undeserved love of Jesus, you realize ANY and EVERY great thing you do is BECAUSE of Him. And His definition of great is always different from mine. All the great things we do BECAUSE of him could include cleaning toilets, snuggling babies, putting out chairs for small group, sharing a holy moment of repentance and grace, or rescuing girls out of sex trafficking in the Philippines.

Our platform is grace, and the only way we are able to stand is BECAUSE of him. What seems little to us is BIG to him. What seems insignificant to us is SIGNIFICANT to him. Because you know his grace and are passionate to learn more about who Jesus is every single day, you will {no doubt} do great, big & small, important things-not for Him- but BECAUSE of Him.

Waking up a Chemistry Experiment

Dear Olivia,

I marvel at God’s strategy when He made you.  As some kids grow and develop, it’s normal and natural to see one disproportionate feature they might have to “grow into”…big feet or hands, a giant head, long and lanky legs.  For you, I know it’s been tricky growing into your oversized, proverbial heart.

I know that sometimes, as a girl with a 5 year old psyche and an overdose of sensitivity and compassion, it can be like observing an unpredictable, explosive chemistry experiment .  And this is what I have come to expect most mornings.

I trudge into your bedroom, usually not surprised if you’ve turned perpendicular, upside down or are half way falling off the bed.  With as much joy and singing, I gently rock and roll you until I see your beautiful face amidst the sea of a tangled, blonde mop of hair.  Then, I brace myself.

Somedays it’s not so bad.  Somedays it’s World War 3.  Today, it turned into one of my favorite mornings ever.

I awoke you bravely, with just a mild bit of warfare.  Later, I was in my bathroom getting ready, and you came in teary-eyed and mopey.  Expecting to hear a dramatic monologue about not having anything to wear and desperately needing my help, I was surprised to hear, “Mom, I feel really bad.”

Hearing such a sincerity in your voice, I paused all my primping and asked, “What do you feel bad about?”

“I feel bad about all the people I’m mean to,” you said.

“Who have you been mean to?” I ask.


For probably the first time in your young life, I embrace this tender moment as the Holy Spirit tugs on your heart and brings you to repentance.  I stumble through trying to explain in 5 year old terms what this means.

“Jesus is leading you to be sorry, because you have some bad in your heart.  That bad is what causes you to be mean to me and others.  And you have to give that bad to Jesus, because He’s the only one that can forgive you and replace it with His goodness.”

I lead you through a momentous prayer.  As you repeat my statements, you experience by faith, the life-saving, overwhelming, amazing grace of Jesus…a moment I will hold in my heart forever.

Your God-given sensitivity sometimes causes you to react quickly and feel things deeply, which can seem like a disadvantage.  Today it was an advantage, as it lead you to recognize the bad in you, and your desperate need for the only One who can take your bad and replace it with His good.  Your simple, immediate, faith filled response is exactly what Jesus was talking about in Mark 10:14.  Lord, help me learn to always respond like this, too.

Love you, proud of you, believe in you,



{Set a Fire}

Dear Ellie, 

Last night was one of those magical moments that I just don’t ever want to forget…one that I believe will shape your faith; a moment so beautiful and full that I will always hold it dearly in my heart.

I was so tired.  You probably noticed. All evening, I was fighting exhaustion as we did homework, read books, brushed teeth, and got your brother and sister in bed.  It’s the end of the school year, and we are limping across that finish line.  I knew your brother and sister needed to go to bed early, and as we often do, we made a whispered promise.  You know, the one where, when your sister isn’t looking, I quietly tell you that after she falls asleep you can get up and come in my bed to read and chat.  You know these are my favorite times, and I know they are yours.  

I didn’t mean for it to happen like this, but after I kissed you all and tucked you all in, I crawled back in my bed, tank empty, and found your ipod in my covers.  I shuffled through my worship playlist and found a song I NEEDED.  

I didn’t remember our promise, I just put in the earbuds and lay lifeless, absorbing the words and the notes and the sweet violin chords…drinking them deeply into my thirsty spirit.  

Your sister must have been super tired, because it wasn’t long and I faintly heard the heavy thud as you jumped off your top bunk (I can’t believe your sister never hears that) and your footsteps as you ran down the hall to my room. 

You lept into my bed (you do everything so athletically & passionately, something I adore about you) and snuggled up under my arm.  Without words, I handed you my right earbud so we could listen together.  You probably saw my eyes closed, my lips moving slightly as I silently sang along.  You probably saw the tears streaming from the corners of my eyes directly to my pillow and making wet puddles.  I know you wondered if there was something wrong, if you should be concerned…but I think you know I wasn’t sad.  You knew I was so overwhelmed with love for my Jesus, so dry in my spirit, and so desperate for His “living water”.  I don’t mind that you witnessed this moment.  I know it made you realize your mom is not invincible, not super mom, and not able to do anything in her own strength.  And I heard you singing, too.  And those tears became tears of unspeakable joy to know we shared such an amazing moment…worshipping together from a raw, tired, desperate place…and experiencing such an indescribable peace as Jesus himself touched our hearts and reminded us that “His beauty and love chase after us every day of our life” {Psalm 23:6}.  

I’ll never forget those few beautiful minutes…I hope you never do.

Love you, proud of you, believe in you…