Some things stay broken

This post originally appeared in print for the Lincoln Journal as part of a weekly devotional series. http://www.lincolnjournalinc.com

I broke a crayon this week. It was a brand new, perfectly sharpened, royal blue Crayola that was just waiting to be used. I broke it accidentally while cleaning and just placed it back in the box with the others, knowing it could still be used despite the minor flaw. This was not the end of the world (considering we have 157 other crayons in this house), but my toddler made much haste in bringing the brokenness to my attention once she found it. 

“Mommy crayon broke! Fix it! Fix it!” She loves to point out imperfections. I can’t blame her; she comes by it honestly. I have an eye for things out of place. But she takes things a step further and insists they be fixed immediately. If a toy isn’t working her response is usually, “Daddy, go to the store and get batteries.” The girl knows what she wants and knows how to get it. 

Back to the crayon. She brings it to me in distress, hoping I can put the pieces back together. Without hesitation I say, “We can’t fix those. Some things have to stay broken.” Then I couldn’t help but think of Jacob and his story of wrestling found in Genesis 32. 

Jacob, son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham, did not have a good relationship with his twin brother Esau. When we pick up with Jacob’s story in Genesis 32, he is preparing to meet his brother and is fearful Esau will kill him. Jacob cries out to the Lord for help. Instead of audibly answering Jacob, God actually wrestles with him. During this wrestling match God touched Jacob’s hip socket and put his joint out of place. This seems bizarre but hang with me. I want to focus on what happens after the fight. In Genesis 32:31 we read, “The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.”

Jacob was limping.

He would walk with a limp for the remainder of his life on earth. 

Jacob appeared broken. He wrestled with God and walked away a bit scathed. His limp served as a reminder of the strength he found in the Lord, not the weakness he found in himself. Just as some crayons must stay broken… Some people stay broken too. May our brokenness point to our great Deliverer, the One in whom our strength is found. 

Favorite books of 2020

I set out to read more in 2020.

Then 2020 happened. I didn’t read as much as I wanted to, but I read more than the year before, so that’s progress! I wanted to compile my favorite books of the year (fiction + nonfiction) and share what I liked about each of them. Mostly for my own archive… but you might find it helpful too!

Nonfiction (Theology + Ministry)

Favorite: Delighting in the Trinity by Michael Reeves. I read this one in January 2020 and it set the standard high. It is a short book, but jam-packed with theology. One of the most relatable resources I have found on the doctrine of the trinity and the Holy Spirit in particular.

Runner-up: A Gentle Answer by Scott Sauls. Cannot recommend this book enough. Matt and I both loved it. Scott Sauls offers a different perspective on the ministry of Jesus: one that is much more gentle and meek than most of us have been taught. (I read this one right before election season and man, was it a balm for my soul).

Nonfiction (Motherhood + Life)

Favorite: The Lazy Genius Way by Kendra Adachi. First of all, Kenda is an enneagram one (like me!) so naturally I loved everything she had to say. This was an easy read and not self-helpy (new word, who dis) like many in this category can be.

Runner-up: Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren. Finding liturgical connection and rhythm in everyday life. This one makes you think deeply about *not so deep* topics like brushing your teeth and making a PB&J.

Nonfiction (Black authors)

Favorite: Mother to Son by Jasmine Holmes. Took me all of one day to read this one. I would encourage all mothers to read this and consider what our friends face as they are raising children of color.

Runner-up: The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby. If you are a white, evangelical Christian living in America – read this book. That’s all I’m saying.

Runner-up: I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown. Austin writes mostly about her life and upbringing. She shares simple stories that carry a lot of weight. A really thought-provoking read for me.

Nonfiction (Autobiography)

Favorite: Becoming by Michelle Obama. Not at all a political read which I appreciated. I enjoyed reading about her life growing up and I always love reading about life in the White House. (One of my favorite books from 2019 was Sisters First by Jenna Bush Hagar + Barbara Bush).

Runner-up: Dirt by Mary Marantz. She grew up in West Virginia and writes about how her upbringing influenced so much of her life. If you liked Hillbilly Elegy, you’ll like this.

Fiction

Let me start by saying: I don’t read a lot of fiction. I’m trying to read more but I have to really love a fiction book to stick with it. Send me recommendations!

Favorite: Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes. Basically a romantic comedy with some professional baseball peppered in. Yep, sign me up.

Runner-up: Lady Clementine by Heather Terrell. Loosely based on the life of Winston Churchill’s wife, Clementine, this read was very interesting and enjoyable to the end.

Runner-up: The Only Woman in the Room by Heather Terrell. Historical fiction seems to be my favorite. This one about WWII was definitely a page-turner.

Notable mentions

Missional Motherhood by Gloria Furman. This is well written and researched. Gloria walks through stories from the Old Testament and relates them to mothering. I’ve followed her writing for a while but had never read one of her books. I will probably read again this year.

The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul. If you know me, you know I read a lot of R.C. Sproul 😂. I flew through this one. If you’re looking for a resource on holiness, I highly recommend this read.

What have you recently read and loved? What is on your list for 2021? I want to know – leave a comment below!

Glory in the mundane

This post was originally print in the Lincoln Journal as part of a weekly devotional series.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

– 1 Corinthians 10:31

I have that verse written on a notecard and hanging above my kitchen sink. It is a reminder I come back to often when feeling stressed or anxious. I love writing scripture cards and placing them in different rooms throughout the house. Seeing them offers some much-needed perspective when least expected; like when doing the laundry or cooking dinner.

I’m often so caught up in the mundane moments of each day that I forget in all that I do I am called to glorify God. This is why I have that verse hanging above my kitchen sink. I feel like 85 percent of my life is spent washing dishes. Breakfast dishes, lunch dishes, snack dishes, dinner dishes… You name it, I’m probably washing it. Now when I am standing in my kitchen, I see that verse and am reminded there is great purpose in the small things.

I once heard a woman tell the story of how she worshiped while doing laundry. She said that instead of seeing all the clothes that needed folded and getting frustrated, she instead prayed over each piece of clothing that belonged to one of her family members. She folded her husband’s shirt and thanked God for a companion. She put away her children’s clothes and thanked God for a healthy family. This woman was doing exactly what the apostle Paul was getting at in 1 Corinthians 10:31 – she glorified the Lord in all that she did.

God deserves our worship. Worship is not confined to just Sunday mornings when it feels appropriate. He is glorified when we are faithful to serve our families, colleagues, and neighbors. He is glorified when we pray over our dishes or laundry, or whatever mundane task may fill your days. Our faithfulness in the small things matters just as much as our faithfulness in the big things. God not only calls us to those moments; He meets us there.

May we be faithful to glorify and worship Him in all that we do this side of heaven.

Prayer walks

This post originally appeared in print for the Lincoln Journal as part of a weekly devotional series. http://www.lincolnjournalinc.com

I love walking through our neighborhood early in the morning, listening to the birds and waving hello to friends watering their flowers. My two year old also enjoys walks (with lots of snacks, of course) so this is something we do almost everyday. Earlier this year, I had a decision to make regarding my work that would affect our family in a big way. I pretty much knew what I needed to do, but it was still a very tough decision to make.

Daphne (my daughter) and I would go on our daily walks and I would wrestle relentlessly with myself; internally debating the pros and cons of each choice before me. I tried to empty my mind by listening to music or podcasts, but the silence still felt cluttered. I needed wisdom and confirmation and all I heard was noise. I was seeking clarity in all the wrong places. Instead of asking God to guide my steps, I was blindly forging my own path just hoping He would tag along. 

I was reminded of these words from James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him.” The very thing I was seeking to help my decision-making was wisdom, and that’s the very thing that God promises He will grant when we ask for it faithfully. My answer was always right before me. I just didn’t have eyes to see it clearly. 

After I read that verse from James and started prayerfully asking the Lord to guide me, our daily walks became a source of inspiration and comfort rather than internal chaos. I prayed through every step; thanking God for His divine guidance and presence, and asking that He continue to carry me as I entered in a new season of transition. Now I can’t walk through my neighborhood without praying. Sometimes my words are tearful, other times they are filled with joy, but every single time I am reminded that God is with us and He is for us. He meets us in our mess and slowly starts to declutter, offering a better and more righteous way. I made my big decision mid-March and although it still was not easy, I know without a doubt it was right. It is deeply comforting to know that you are in a place God has called you. That is the nurturing work of the Holy Spirit, found (for me) most often in prayer. 

I encourage you to take time this week and work intentional prayer into your daily rhythm. Maybe it’s a neighborhood walk like mine, or a drive to the grocery store, or even 10 minutes alone with your coffee each morning. Open God’s Word and pray for wisdom. Ask for comfort, joy, and peace, and know that He will hear you. 

How to choose a devotional

Anytime I am speaking on the topic of women’s ministry, I’m almost always asked the same question: “What daily devotional do you recommend?” I don’t have a problem with the question itself, but I do fear we are putting too much hope in supplementary reading rather than direct knowledge of Scripture. This is where I could get on my favorite soapbox topic of Bible literacy… but we’ll save that for another post.

Let me first say this: You should always start with prayer and your actual Bible. Don’t trust another person to tell you what the Bible says. Her mind is not yours. Your success with using a devotional guide is directly tied to your own knowledge of the Bible. In the words of Jen Wilkin, “The heart cannot love what the mind does not know” (adapted from Romans 12:2).

However… a daily devotional book is not a bad thing. I am a busy mom and wife who does not have alone time until at least 8:30 pm. A quick devotional read in the morning and at lunch helps focus my mind and heart. I’m picky about devotional books because I’ve found (and purchased) a ton of crappy ones. Let me help you navigate those millions of choices with a few tips that have aided me over the years.

Here’s my five tips:

Start with Scripture.

We must approach devotional books as supplementary to our Bibles. If you open a daily devotional and find musings about feelings or opinions before you find a Scripture reference, I would advise you steer clear. Although many faith based books currently marketed to women look beautiful, they do not always include the density needed for a true understanding of the Bible.

Look for consistency.

Does the author hop around to a different, random passage each day? This often happens when writers are looking for a Bible reference to support their commentary, rather than writing a commentary in support of the Bible reference they have chosen. I suggest finding a devotional guide that walks you through a particular book or passage in a consistent manner.

Stick with your season.

Many devotionals are written with a particular audience in mind. This can be very helpful. The devotional I am using now (listed at the end of this article) is about praying for your kids. The author walks you through the entire Bible in 365 days and uses her commentary to point readers toward our own good Father. Remember: The Bible is about God, not you.

Presence of prayer.

If the devotional you are looking to purchase does not mention prayer or does not have daily prompts to lead you in prayer, I wouldn’t bother buying. Prayer is an essential part of Bible study. Many devotionals have specific prayers while others provide a general guide. Either way, always look for an importance placed on prayer.

Phone a friend.

Wondering if the book you’re looking at is worth it? Ask a friend you trust. Have her read it with you and think critically about the commentary. Discuss it weekly or however often you can; just don’t forsake the communal aspect of your learning. Get connected with a small group at your church and see what kind of things they are reading. Ask your pastor or ministry leader what supplemental reading they enjoy (trust me… we want you to ask).

What I’m currently reading: Praying through the Bible for your Kids by Nancy Guthrie.
Another favorite I’ve read: Savor by Shauna Niequest.
Other great places to start: New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp, In All Things by Melissa Kruger, Beautifully Distinct edited by Trillia Newbell, and the ESV Women’s Study Bible.

Beauty everyday

This post was originally print in the Lincoln Journal as part of a weekly devotional series.

The past few months have been tough on everyone. Whether you lost your job, started working from home, or cared for yourself (or a loved one) while sick – there has been a lot of anxiety to go around. Our world is dealing with big questions like pandemics, racial injustice, and human trafficking. Our families are dealing with questions equally as overwhelming; like sending our kids to school or attempting remote learning. All of this feels like too much to carry most days. 

When we find ourselves slipping into worry, we have to make a choice. We can either sit in those anxious thoughts or get moving. It isn’t practical to just forget about the things that make us worry, but we do have the opportunity to stop and breathe for a moment. We can change the current of our thoughts simply by being still and trusting the Lord. A great way to practice this is by seeking beauty in your everyday life. 

I wake up around 6:30 am every morning. First I make coffee, then I grab my Bible and sit in prayer for a couple minutes. Some mornings my prayers are deep, but most mornings they sound something like, “Help me find the good today” or “Open my eyes to the things I am missing.” 

As David wrote in Psalm 27:13-14, “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage.” I choose to see beauty and goodness in the stillness of my neighborhood on early mornings. The smell of freshly brewed coffee makes me smile. And just reading God’s word is enough to bring me to tears on most days. 

The scent of wildflowers, a perfectly flipped pancake, a bountiful garden in harvest… These are all reminders of God’s goodness. His creation reflects His own beauty, and by His grace we get to enjoy it. Look around you today at the things big and small, and ask God to show you something beautiful. 

Sunday already came.

It’s Holy Week. This is the most formative week for Christians in the church calendar. We fast, pray, mourn and rejoice as we remember the incredible atoning sacrifice of Christ.

This year things look different because of a global pandemic. We’re not physically gathering as a church body and that hurts. Most of us are working from home or have lost jobs, and we’re distancing ourselves from all social contact. Some days are scary, some days are borderline normal, but most days just feel slow and different. Altogether, we’re longing to be delivered from this struggle.

Remembering

Many have observed the timeliness of this longing coinciding with Holy Week. I appreciate that and do see some value there, but I want to be careful not to forget the purpose of remembrance. We are charged to “remember these things” so we don’t forget to give glory where glory is due. Jesus delivered us once and for all. That deliverance withstands all earthly turmoil.

We mustn’t only long deeply for the proverbial Sunday (Sunday is coming!) because we hope to be delivered. We anchor our deep longing in the solace of our Jesus and his sacrifice (Sunday already came!). Hallelujah.

Brief summary of Holy Week:

Below I paraphrase and tell the story in my own words. Please reference the gospels for a full biblical picture of this week. Reading my words may be helpful, but your personal interaction with the text is most important for understanding and clarity. You’ll find the gospel accounts here: Matthew 21-28, Mark 11-16, Luke 19:28-24, John 12-21.

  • Palm Sunday
    • Jesus makes his triumphal entry into Jerusalem as the crowd shouts, Hosanna!
  • Holy Monday
    • And so it begins. Jesus cleanses the temple by confronting the moneychangers and flips their tables. He begins to teach and curses a fig tree.
  • Holy Tuesday
    • Jesus again enters the temple, and a crowd gathers to hear Him teach. The religious leaders see this as an opportunity to trap Jesus, so they question him to usurp His authority. They soon realize they need to stop asking questions. The fig tree decays.
  • Spy Wednesday
    • Mary anoints Jesus with expensive burial oil, which angers Judas. He plans his betrayal as the Sanhedrin plot behind closed doors.
  • Maundy Thursday
    • Jesus spends time teaching his disciples and praying. He appeals to the Father on behalf of his church, as our Priest. Jesus institutes the Lord’s Supper. Judas departs. Jesus and the eleven go to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray.
  • Good Friday
    • Jesus is betrayed, accused, beaten beyond recognition, mocked, and sent to die – death on a cross. He cries out to Eloi (God) while he drinks the cup before him. He is forsaken, for our sake. The darkness of sin is swallowed up in the goodness of God.
  • Holy Saturday
    • The tomb is sealed. Jesus Christ has died, and descended to the dead. Jesus was made like us in every way through death – except His body would not decay in the earth. It wouldn’t be there long.  
  • Easter Sunday
    • The women head to the tomb. A few disciples came later. They didn’t find Jesus, but they found a stone rolled away and an angelic messenger. “You’re looking for Jesus of Nazareth? He’s not here! He is risen!” (Mark 16:6, paraphrased). Our debt was paid in full and we share in Christ’s triumphant joy.

Already, but not yet

This time that we’re living in? It’s the already, but not yet.

Christ already made atonement for us. We were born inheriting Adam’s sin, but the second (better) Adam imparted us a new inheritance: eternal life in union with Him.
This is the already.

Although we are justified through Christ and live by the Spirit, we are still in bodies of flesh. The world around us is not yet made new. We struggle with sin and are hurt by things like divorce, death, illness, and pandemics. Yet we are promised a day when Christ returns to restore it all, in His time.
This is the not yet.

We are not mere nomads, drifting along and searching for rescue. We have it. We savor it. We rejoice and remember. In our reflection of this Holy Week, may we remember the debt we did not pay and the victory we did not deserve, yet were graciously given.

Thanks be to God.

Helicopters, pride, and prayer.

I live near a hospital.

Like, I can see-it-from-my-front-porch kind of near. We’re far enough to still be a quaint little neighborhood, but anytime that helicopter takes off… our house shakes. We don’t have earthquakes in West Virginia but we do have low flying helicopters. I’m writing this while on my porch and there have been four come through within the hour. It’s kind of like when people live near train tracks. They’re accustomed to the nuisance. That’s how we feel about the landing pad situation in our front yard. 

Some friends of ours were thinking about buying a house down the street from us and their one question was, “Do the helicopters bother you? Can you sleep at night?” First of all, I have a baby so no, I don’t sleep at night. Then I really considered the question. For the first time since moving to this neighborhood I wondered about the people on those helicopters. 

You see, if you’re brought to a hospital by air the situation is critical. I had no idea how often it happened until I moved this close. Some days, there are 20+ landings and outgoing flights. Many of the people on those helicopters are in desperate need of peace and healing, and here I am talking with my soon to be neighbors about the mild inconvenience of a 30 second takeoff. That’s where my pride came roaring to the surface. 

All this time, God has offered me the honor of praying for strangers who I know are in distress. For their families who are following slowly behind on land, trying to make it safely and quickly to be with their loved one wherever they are headed. For the medical staff, so incredibly good at their craft to work in a critical environment. For the pilot, tasked at transporting such precious cargo. I could have been interceding on behalf of these people, yet I found myself wondering how many more times will my house shake today? 

God’s been teaching me about prayer lately. Not just the importance of prayer, but why and how we should pray. Does God need our prayers? No – he already knows what we need. But He wants us to ask, seek, and knock so He can bless us in answering (Matthew 6).

I am keenly aware of my pride since becoming a mother. I want my daughter to know the importance of loving your neighbor as yourself. That’s our second greatest commandment, for the love. I know it seems silly – to be talking about helicopters here – but I’m telling you, God used this to change the way I approach the world. I’m more open to see situations for what they are, not what they do to me. Is there something in your life that you see everyday? Maybe so often you don’t even notice it anymore. The same family who walks their dog in your neighborhood every night. That song on the radio every single time you get in the car. A phrase you hear over and over. Pay attention to those things. God is trying to teach you something.

Now when I see a helicopter, I stop to pray. A simple prayer of peace and healing. That God would have his way in their lives and ours, His Kingdom come. A prayer of thanksgiving and supplication to His refining grace.

I have a tendency of making everyday things spiritual. But I’ve prayed for this. I’ve asked God to reveal himself in the mundane, and even in my failure and pride. It is not fun to stand face to face with your sin and privilege. But THAT is where growth endures. It’s sanctifying. Slowly you start to look less like yourself and more like Jesus.

We will never be perfect but we are offered the solace of a perfect Savior. Will you let that be enough for you today? Pray for revelation and refining, a Kingdom perspective, and eyes to see the story you’ve been invited to live.

Let it be so.

Better together.

We’ve attended countless weddings over the last few years. Some were dear friends, others family, a few just acquaintances. There’s always an opportunity to share your advice whether it be in conversation or a card. Every single time I write this: You’re better together. Fight for it, never forget it.

That’s the best I have. Matt and I have been together nearly seven years, married for four, and the one thing I’ve found to remain the same is that two people wake up every day and decide to keep going. We didn’t understand it at first. How could you? Life is full of bliss and romance. But that wears off after you’ve picked up his underwear from the bathroom floor 138 times. (To be fair, he has cleaned countless globs of hair out of the shower drain).

Year one was fun. Year two was hard. Year three was full of growth and understanding. Year four was a whole new ballgame (hello, Daphne). I’m sure I’ll look back at this in 10 years and laugh. But God continues to see us through with patience and unfathomable grace.

I love everything Tim Keller has to say about marriage. Please read “The Meaning of Marriage” if you haven’t yet. Here’s one of my favorite takeaways:

“The reason that marriage is so painful and yet wonderful is because it is a reflection of the gospel, which is painful and wonderful at once. The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope. This is the only kind of relationship that will really transform us.

It transforms us. Just as our relationship with Christ, our relationship with our spouse should set us in pursuit of good works. Not because we are good but because someone loves us in spite of our not being good. When your spouse hurts you, don’t be surprised. Don’t try to get even. He’s flawed just as you are. The most transformative response you can offer is grace. Grace upon grace, to be exact (John 1:16)

I don’t always do this well. It’s difficult to offer grace when you’re mad or hurt. That’s not my go-to response. But we’ve set a standard for one another and expect better. We hold each other accountable. And when times are great, we make sure to still press in on the work to be done.

Our relationship with Christ is not even close to fair. It’s the opposite. He not only bore our shame but did so before we even cared. He loves us so fiercely. Can we not just muster up a fraction of that sacrificial love for our spouse?

When we want to get on Instagram instead of having a conversation, or would rather skip a morning prayer together for 15 more minutes of sleep… I’m reminded that this isn’t supposed to be easy. It requires sacrifice.

We’re imperfect and flawed and in desperate need of grace. We’re better together because we see God more clearly when we offer mercy. And marriage takes mercy.

The work of being together is nothing compared to the redeeming work it took to save us. As Keller reminds us, it’s painful and wonderful all at once. That tension has transformed the way I approach every relationship, especially that with my husband. This week marks four years since our vows and although life is hilariously different than I imagined, it’s sweeter all the same.

 

 

 

Loving & Leading

Father’s Day // 2019

Last August, our daughter was born. She entered the world, and ready or not, a couple parents were born too. I knew Matt would be a great Dad. Mostly because he was scared and unsure. That told me it mattered to him.

Marriage is this weird dance that you think you know how to do, but then you start stepping on each others toes and stumble off beat. Just when you find the rhythm again you say “hey, let’s make this interesting” and have a baby. The music changes and you’ve got to learn to dance all over again.

Matt is kind, considerate, and funny. He can make me laugh when no one else can. The way Daphne giggles when he’s tossing her in the air, it melts me. Watching him with her is one of my greatest joys. The best thing I could ever give my daughter is a loving father. I know she’ll see his heart and get a glimpse of another Father who loves her too.

As I’m writing this, its Saturday night and we’re sitting on the couch rewatching episodes of The West Wing. Daphne’s asleep after a long day. Earlier, you got her out of the bath and lathered her up with our favorite lotion. I laid out her pjs and you got her dressed. While I put her to bed, you picked up toys laying around the living room. We share the load and know the importance of leading sacrificially. You model that for me, and I’m thankful you do.

So today we celebrate you and all the Dads out there doing your best to love and lead your people.

Happy Father’s Day, babe. You’re doing great.