Sunday, August 18, 2013

Fall Beginnings

Every first week of school hits me like a gush of wind when you open the door on a windy day. It's like we are walking out of the slow-paced last weeks of summer and open the door to the fall and WHAM... Hello, fall! Hello, freshmen! Hello, dinners and meetings and small groups and discipleship and where did my husband go?

But we love it. Each fall brings with it the hopeful question of, "Lord, how will your kingdom come to Southern Miss this fall?" 

Andrew and I heard a story from a different ministry in town. A man working with this ministry asked a child, "Do you know Jesus?" The child answered, "No, where does he live?" While many or most of the students walking on Southern's campus know about Jesus, he has just as much relevance to their life as this little boy. "Where does he live? I think he lives outside of my day to day living. I think he lives on churches on Sundays. I think he lives in the future when I want to settle down and have a family. I think he lives only for the put-together, for the pure, for the shameless." 

Would you pray with us that this fall we would be able to communicate the real Jesus to these students? That they would know He is for the broken. He is for their coming and their going. He is for the depths of despair they feel and He is the author of the joy that springs up in their hearts. 

Last week we had several leadership students in our house for two days helping us to think through and plan what ministry will look like this year. Andrew and Mitch are the only full-time staff this semester, so the need is great for students to step in and take leadership roles. We were so pleased with our students' excitement... not about a group called "Cru", but about the opportunities they would have to invite their friends and other students to come behold Jesus. 

On Friday we helped freshmen move into their dorms. Today and tomorrow Andrew will be manning a booth on campus to hopefully meet new freshmen and invite them into our fold. Tomorrow night we are hosting a leadership dinner challenging and training students to facilitate small gospel-centered community groups all over campus. On Thursday we will be hosting a freshmen cookout that will be a kick-off to a three week co-ed Bible study. Next Tuesday will be our first large group meeting. 

It is a busy week ahead, but one we enter into with great joy and hope. Lord, may your Kingdom come at Southern Miss as it is in heaven.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Thoughts on Motherhood, Year Three

When I talk "school" with other moms, I normally tell them that we are leaning towards home schooling Wilson for at least his elementary years. Part of that is because of the school district we are in right now, part of that is because I'm at home anyway and am certified to teach, but most of this leaning is because I can't even think of giving him up yet. That is the big picture. If we shot a rocket up above our lives and looked down from 10,000 feet you would hear me saying, "Please don't grow up Wilson. I want to hold onto these moments with you." 

But can I tell you a secret? If you shot that rocket back down into a normal day, a normal minute, to maybe 10:35 a.m.... you would not hear me say that. I would be saying something like, "Wilson, I can't play trains right now. I have to fold these clothes. Can't you just play by yourself?"

Can anyone piece together this dichotomy in my soul? I really can't explain it. It's so troubling to me. I want so badly to live in the moments how I feel as a whole.

I think this is where I am in motherhood right now... learning how to love Wilson well in the midst of life. Learning how to die to my idols of control and order and me-time. Pleading with God to teach my heart that everything I need I have in Jesus... so that I can be freed up to seek out and meet Wilson's needs.

I know that he needs me to put down my iphone. I know that he needs a conversation more than he needs a clean room. I know that he needs to hear about Jesus more than he needs a lecture on why we don't turn our milk upside down.

And, oh, how I need the grace to be able to do these things.

I've been wrestling in prayer with it for awhile. Do you know the Lord is gracious to give all that we need to obey Him?

And so while He is teaching my heart not to make too little of motherhood, would you believe that He is also teaching me not to make too much of it either?

As I've shared before, we had a miscarriage in the fall and are now hoping and waiting for another. When we were waiting to get pregnant with Wilson it felt like the whole world was getting pregnant without us. Now it feels like the whole world is having their second or third. I catch myself thinking foolish thoughts like I'm on a separate, lower rank in the mom world because we only have one.

And so I've been thinking... How can I be feeling the same ache now as I did before Wilson? And the answer is as simple as this: I'm making too much of motherhood. I've turned a calling into an identity. I have been called to the sweet, sweet task of nurturing Wilson, but right now he is the only child I've been called to. My identity is not a mom. My identity is a daughter... Of a King... Who so lovingly entrusts me with work in His kingdom. I am privileged that part of that work right now is dear little Wilson.

Oh precious Father, please mold my heart this year to not make too little nor too much of this sacred kingdom work of motherhood.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


I've always been a fearful person. When I was younger, this fear was lived out mostly in the midst of storms. I have very clear memories of putting on my bicycle helmet and getting in our hallway whenever there were any tornado watches.

Last year when we moved to Hattiesburg, my fears got obsessive. I felt like I no longer had control over my thoughts. I couldn't sleep at night. I had panic attacks that came out of seemingly nowhere. I was imagining the worse case scenarios in absolutely every moment. When I was driving, I was picturing what it would be like to crash. When I was in a grocery store, I was thinking about a shooter coming in the building and where my nearest exit would be. When we were eating, I would imagine Wilson choking on his food. When we were in bed, I was thinking of our plan of escape if a burglar entered our house. And at the sound of every helicopter flying, I just knew they were coming to drop a bomb.

I know it sounds crazy. In the midst of my thoughts, I knew they were crazy. But what was so frustrating was that I could not make them stop. It was an obsession. An idol. Fear was something that I was worshiping... because it gave me a perceived sense of control.

I wish I could tie up this story with a nice bow and say that fear no longer has control over me, but that is not quite the case. I'm still in the mess of it. But there have been some sweet stories of rescue in the midst that I wanted to share. Jesus has continually been rescuing me from myself.

In November we had a miscarriage. It seems strange to say this, but in a way it was a rescue. There was a two week time period where we were not sure if the baby would grow or not... and looking back, I realized that the waiting and fearing was worse than the losing. In a book about fear, "Running Scared," by Ed Welch, he talks about how when we fear we are factoring in everything but grace, the most true thing. The miscarriage was an alter for me to remember that God's grace was truly sufficient for me. Everything bad that I had imagined, did in fact come true... but I didn't imagine, couldn't imagine, how gracious He would be to me in the midst of it all.

And then there was last Sunday. You do not truly know me until you see me during a tornado watch or warning. The first warning at 2:30 had me pacing, biting my fingernails, shaking... Andrew finally said, "Let's go to a sturdier building so you will calm down." We got Wilson up from his nap and drove to the USM library, me checking on my phone on the way to make sure it was open during the Mardi Gras break. It was open until 6. Inside, I felt calm and safe. We went back home. Second tornado warning. Wilson was back asleep for his second-try nap. I didn't want to inconvenience the family because of my fear idol... but oh did I long to go back to that strong building. Andrew saw it in my eyes (and pacing, and shaking) and he said, "Let's go." On our way out the door, we heard the weatherman say it had touched down and could be a mile wide. That's when I started saying "Jesus"... I've never said his name so many times in 15 minutes. We left our house to drive the mile to campus... just missing coming face to face with the tornado by maybe 15 minutes. As I said Jesus' name over and over on our drive, I heard in my head "The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous run into and are safe." Inside that library I felt like nothing could touch me or my family. The lights flickered for a minute, and we had no idea that the tornado was ripping through the campus right in front of us.

Now, I am still very much broken. But Jesus did something in my heart on Sunday that I hope I will never forget. He reminded me that fear is a flimsy a shelter... but His name: Jehovah Jireh (God who provides), El Roi (God who sees), El Shaddai (God Almighty) is a Strong Tower. In the same way that I longed to run back to the library on Sunday (because I had tasted the feeling of safety I had there), I am hoping that moments of fear will bring me to a place of running into the safety of His Name. And that is my ongoing story of rescue... may Jesus keep rescuing me from myself.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Lesson in Suffering

We had a miscarriage.

I know some families choose to keep this loss private, but it has been a significant part of my growth and I wanted to process it in writing to share with the few friends who read this blog.

If there were such a thing as an easy miscarriage, then we got as close to that line as we could. I can imagine a million more terrible ways for it to have happened and so I feel very grateful. But really,  if any of those million other ways happened to us I'm sure we would feel grateful too... because God's story for our lives is always the best story.

Here are some of the things I learned about God, suffering and myself during this whole process...

God is good. His goodness to us was such a pillow to lay my head upon every night. The day I took the positive test I cried. I cried for an hour straight. I cried because something didn't feel right... I cried out of fear that this pregnancy wasn't going to carry through. I told Andrew and everyone else that I cried because I was overwhelmed (I was too ashamed to admit what I thought was pessimism.). But I cried because I felt God, even in the beginning, preparing my heart to swallow bitterness.

But God was good to me to start preparing my heart in the beginning. I see that now.

God was good to prompt us to tell some of our closest friends what was going on as we had one and then two ultrasounds that showed no growth in the sac. There was a horrible two week time period of not knowing if this baby would grow or if it had stopped. Having sweet friends call us, pray for us, and encourage us during this time was God's goodness. This may have been the first time I really knew and felt when friends were praying for me.

God was good to allow me to be in the doctor's office, about to have my third ultrasound, when I started to bleed. After the final ultra sound to show, again, no growth...  I was able to see my doctor straight away. I cried because I was sad but I also cried because I couldn't believe how good God was to allow me to be at the doctor's office when one of my greatest fears was that I would be home alone with Wilson when it happened. He knows. He cares.

And God has been good to carry us through these last few weeks of the aftermath, especially through sweet friends and family who have loved us so well.

Suffering is bitter, but it is mostly sweet.
I feel ashamed to call this loss suffering when I compare it to so many different hurts in this world... but there was pain and it is surely a wound that will never leave us. Oh, it was bitter. The hope of life and the loss of hope. The waiting and not knowing. The roller coasters of thinking everyone is making too big a deal of it to wondering why no one is talking about it.

But it was and is mostly sweet. There was much time spent in our Father's arms... and who can leave His arms without feeling overwhelmed with love? There was amazement in how incredible our friends and family are. There was wrestling in prayer, which toned my prayer muscles. There was a pull in my heart towards His Word... a place that I found much rest. Our pastor happened to be going through Habakkuk and leading us through wisdom on how to suffer well. At times it was all too much grace for my heart to contain.

I have to admit that there were times when I wanted to pretend like it wasn't happening. I wanted to tell myself that I was really fine and I needed to move on. In God's providence this was a very, very long process (about six weeks). My body did not allow me to move on, and in the end I was thankful that God instructed me that suffering well means entering into the suffering. Acknowledging the pain and dealing with the pain was much more helpful than ignoring the pain... because it reminded me I had a need and drove me to my Savior.

I am prone to love myself first. It's never fun to see sin in your heart, but it's particularly painful when it happens during suffering. I saw some ugly things in my heart during this time. One of those things was a sense of entitlement. The day after the miscarriage I went shopping for some Christmas decorations and found thoughts going through my head like, "I deserve to treat myself. I deserve to have this be the best Christmas." I immediately seized these thoughts... what truth is there in them? It is true that God loves to take care of His children, but I did not deserve these blessings any more than I did before the miscarriage.

I also found myself, at first, becoming numb to others' suffering. I wanted to believe that our pain was at the center of the universe and everyone else should push pause on their pain for just a few moments and tend to our needs. That's a terribly ugly thing to admit, but it is true. But the more we were loved on by friends and family, the more humbled I became... and it made me think that this is what the writer of Hebrews was aiming at when he asked us to consider how to "spur one another on towards love and good deeds." By being loved, I felt spurred on to love others more than myself. I have a long way to go.

But I think the most incredible thing we learned in this whole situation was that God will not forsake us. The worst part of this was those weeks when we didn't know if I would miscarry or not. The imagining what the suffering would be like was worse than the suffering itself: Would God let us fall forever? No. We tripped and He caught us. He did not forsake us.

Thanks to all who loved us so well during this time!! We are indebted to you.

"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Just a Thought

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer's;
he makes me tread on my high places.

Habakkuk 3:17-19

Just a thought I've been having lately. We're never promised that we won't have some high places to walk in this life. Places where we feel like we might lose our footing and fall... forever. Places that feel like absolutely nothing could be more frightening. Places that make us come face to face with the truth: We don't have the control we long for.

No, we are never promised a freedom from these. In fact, we are told to expect these moments.. or months... or years. But what we are promised is a God who will equip us to meet these high places with sure footing; We will never experience and endless fall.
And even sweeter, He becomes the Rock on which we stand. He is the Rock that is higher than I. He sets me secure on the heights of Jesus.

For who is God, but the Lord?
And who is a rock, except our God?—
the God who equipped me with strength
and made my way blameless.
He made my feet like the feet of a deer
and set me secure on the heights.

Psalm 18:31-33

Sunday, October 21, 2012

How infant baptism has blessed me

A disclaimer: I'm really not meaning (or wanting) for this post to stir up discussion or debate about infant baptism. I just wanted a place to process through my thoughts and give thanks for how it has been a means of grace and a blessing to our family.

I admit that infant baptism was once so foreign to me that I actually couldn't imagine that a true follower of Christ could even consider baptizing their children. Later in life, mostly after being around Presbyterians that I (in shock) realized were following Jesus, I tolerated the idea. And now, after much wrestling, the baptism of children in our church is no longer a stumbling block but a blessing to me.

This is why:
1. It is a means of grace that reminds me God is dealing with our family as a unit. Of course he deals with our individual hearts, but there is something very sacred about the institution of family. And something to be noted that throughout the course of history, God has dealt with his people in community... mostly as families.

"For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy." 1 Cor. 7:14

I know that "holy" here does not mean righteous before God; It means set apart. Because Andrew and I are both following Jesus, our family is set apart from the world. Called to be different. That calling (hallelujah!) is for our children, too. While I have always believed there was such a thing as generational sin (judgement being passed down... which can be broken, for sure), I am just now seeing the beauty of generational blessing as well. As God deals well with us, He deals well with our children. Incredible grace!

2. It is a means of grace that reminds me that Wilson (and our future children) is a part of the church body. His baptism was a sign, among other things, of his joining the visible church. He is under the caring arms of not just his physical family, but his spiritual family too. He will never have to feel the sense of being on the outside trying to work his way in. He is on the inside already, and at some point  he will have to make a decision. He will either affirm these truths he has been taught and realize the hope in his baptism or he will turn away. Our hope, of course, is that he will never remember a day of not knowing Jesus.

3. It is a means of grace that reminds me of my own helplessness. This morning as I watched another sweet baby being trusted to Jesus, I thought of God's pursuit of my own heart. Although I would like to think that it was a decision that I made... that something in me was so good and holy that I chose the truth... I know what really happened. I know that the Lord was the one who pursued me. I know He graciously opened my eyes to the great chasm that separated us. I know He lovingly explained to my heart how He had both fulfilled righteousness and punishment for me. And it was His Spirit that inclined my heart to trust.

So whether a baby or a 13 year old... God chose to love us from the beginning of time. Seeing that sweet baby baptized (and Wilson's baptism) reminds me that He is the author of salvation. Not man.


And so while I am not ready to be an apologist for infant baptism, I do want to give thanks for how it has blessed our family richly. Mostly because it was something that I, for so long, scoffed at. Isn't it amazingly true: The more we learn... the more humbled we become.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Jesus of the American Dream

Our church just held a Bible conference that hosted Mike Campbell, a pastor from Jackson, as a speaker for three days. He gave us a lot of challenging truths to process through... places my heart tends not to go. Places that I would rather think are for someone else.

On Saturday night he talked through a passage in Matthew in which John the Baptist sends his disciples to ask Jesus, "Are you really the one?" What a puzzling question. Of course John believed He was the one. Wasn't it him who cried out, "Behold the Lamb of God!" when Jesus first approached him? Wasn't he the one who said he wasn't worthy to baptize Jesus? Hadn't he already established that Jesus was the One?

But John was in jail.

Jesus was not fitting his paradigm. He must have been thinking, "Surely if he were the real Messiah, I would not be in bondage. He is coming to make all things right, after all."

John was trying to fit Jesus into his expectations, rather than submitting his expectations to Jesus.

The pastor asked us to think about this question... How am I trying to mold Jesus (the Creator of the universe, mind you) into the person I want him, need him, think him to be? This is the part where I reflexively started to think about how other people do that. How other people make him into a Jesus of their American Dream. What a silly thing... something I would never do. I believe in the Jesus of the Bible, thank you very much.

But then, graciously, the Lord started bringing things to my mind. My longings. What do I really treasure? I long for a beautiful home, with a manicured back yard. I long for perfect family dinners and pinterest holidays. I long for instagram worthy moments in my day and envy-producing vacations. These are treasures in my heart. Where is Jesus? He tends to be my means rather than my end. What a terrible thing to reveal. But it's true. Although it's true that all good things come from him, it's not true that His purpose is just to give me those good things.

He IS the good thing. Period. Everything else is undeserved blessings that should just point me back to Him.

And so, of course I believe He is the one. But when Wilson has a melt down, or when I don't have enough money to buy a Pottery Barn rug, or when I'm struggling to communicate with Andrew, or I'm wondering if we can ever put down roots somewhere.... If I am quiet and listen carefully to what my heart is saying in these times, will I hear "Are you the really the One?" or will I hear "I will follow you wherever you take me. You are the good shepherd."

I'm praying that God would give me the grace to run from treasuring anything but Himself.

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