Saturday, May 21, 2016


I am Clay.

Clay does not mold itself.

Clay does not tell the Potter how to shape it.

Clay does not reshape itself into what it wants.

Clay doesn't even know what it should become.

What DOES clay do?  What is the role of the clay?

The purpose of clay is to submit.  The purpose of clay is to be soft, moldable, and easy to shape. THAT is it.

It's such a passive purpose.  And I am not prone to passivity.

What does this mean for my life?

I think it means that the main, best, and perhaps most fruit producing activity on my part is to surrender.  To cultivate humility.  To grow in deep, deep trust.  Trust that what the Potter wants to make from this lump that is my life is more beautiful than anything I can shape...and more purposeful in His kingdom than anything I could craft.
That HIS design for my life turns me into exactly who he wants me to be - the truest, most beautiful version of myself - all I am made, designed and purposed to be...

...and all from a love that is beyond anything I can imagine.  From the One who is the source of ALL love.  The very one who says he IS love.

And what do I have to do?

...simply lay down the tools.

                            “Yet you, Lord, are our Father.  We are the clay, you are the potter;
                                                                     we are all the work of your hand.”               - Isaiah 64:8

Thursday, April 21, 2016

A Story and Resolve

On Wednesdays and Saturdays I walk/run with a group called Step Forward.  It's composed of the men and the women in City Gospel Mission's addiction recovery programs.  Volunteers walk and run with these brave men and women who are in recovery in order to encourage them as they train to participate in the Flying Pig race.  Tonight I was walking with my friend that we will call Stephanie, and while I was walking with her we were passed by another lady we'll call Sam.

Sam is mentally a bit off.   Sam mutters things sometimes and wonders around often looking a bit out of it.  She's hard to relate to for these reasons.  I messed up her name as she passed and Stephanie told me to not worry about it...that Sam had been talking to the voice in her head a lot today anyway. Then Stephanie continued with more of Sam's story....and what I heard broke my heart.

Sam has schizophrenia.
Sam was born in a mental institution.
And then following in her mother's footsteps, her own child was born in a mental institution.
...and then to top that off, a security guard was the father of Sam's child...a man who was literally being paid to protect her...
Sam combined crack with schizophrenia (which is a horrific combination according to Stephanie).

...And Sam is now wondering around in recovery.

After hearing these thoughts, I first thought of the horror of living with schizophrenia.  I absolutely cannot imagine.  Having dealt in the past with the hellishness of severe anxiety in my life, I just can't fathom how horrific each day might be in her own head.
Then my mind went to a picture of being born, of literally starting your life, in a place that was so sad, and broken, and cold, and one there celebrating with balloons or cake or presents....
The sheer contrast between her start in this broken world and my start in this broken world just wrecked me.  My parents held and comforted me and wanted me.  My parents took me home to a loving place with the intent to care and raise me in beauty and in strength...

How unfair.  How utterly, terribly unfair.

And I know better to play the unfair game.  When we start on the unfairness in this world we end up comparing apples, to oranges, to tangerines...there's no end to the philosophizing and there's no clear boundaries with the lines of unfair vs. fair.  But regardless, my heart drops with sorrow at the difference between our lives.

And truly if I believed this life was the end, I don't know if I'd be able to move forward and engage.

One of my first thoughts after learning of Sam's story, was of heaven.  I've often thought that one of the most beautiful things about heaven will be to see the people who in this world don't have much that is truly valued by the world....for those we might call the "least of these" here, to be able to soar in beauty
I long to see them free from chains, addictions, illnesses, wheelchairs and braces, limps, and bodies and minds that won't work right... see the fullness of the beautiful creations that God made them to be...To see them free from all the bondage they experience in this world.
Oh that freedom will be glorious - so utterly glorious.

My wrestling with unfairness ends in one spot.  It's true I cannot understand the unseen and the whys of it all...and I must leave that in the hands of an almighty, loving God.  But the thought that I come to in the end is this.

I've been given much.  So much.  In so many ways.
And God says that to those much has been given, much is required.

How dare I squander this life.
How dare I look at someone like Sam, and then go and squander what God has given me.

And the resolve is not out of dreaded obligation or duty.  It's just simply the only response.  The only response that makes any amount of sense is to wonder how can I make the world better for the Sam's of the world.
And then to do it.

Because I've been given gifts.
And you have too.
And it's an absolute honor to use them for others.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015


From last month:

That's what I am today.
And since this is the last time I will be able to turn something that has a 3 at the beginning of it, I feel it's important enough to document the moment.

As I reflect over this last year, I am grateful.  It's been a beautiful year....with many happy moments.  I contrast it to a couple years ago when I was turning 37, my friend Sandra asked me at my birthday dinner what I was looking forward to in the coming year.  I looked at her with a blank stare.  I could think of nothing...
And so dear Sandra with her kind heart tried to help me think of something that might be good about the coming year...  Gosh I love her.

BUT this year, turning 39, I am not at all in that place....and I am grateful.  When I look at the coming year, I can think of several things I'm excited for.  I can think of paths that I'd like to take. Journeys I'd like to pursue.  Dreams I'd like to chase.  Places I'd like to see.  And I am hopeful.  Hopeful for what may be.

And honestly - with the passing of time I now tell myself that I'm either getting closer to seeing some dreams come true in this life or I'm getting closer to going home to be with Jesus....both are big huge wins.  I guess I'm just happy I'm moving forward in life and not going backward.  This is a good thing.

I was talking to my sister yesterday and reminiscing about something we did awhile back.  She realized it had been 10 years since the event and it seemed like so long ago to her...and not quite so long ago to me...
I looked at her life ...she's had 4 babies in those 10 years...and I basically said, "Well maybe it's because nothing has happened in my life in those 10 years."
And we laughed because the contrast in her life and mine these past 10 years couldn't be more diverse.  She's had these beautiful 4 babies come into our lives and change our family in such beautiful ways....
....and I'm still here.  Living in the same place and practically wearing the same clothes for pete's sake...And it seems like nothing has happened.

But I stop.
Because that is not actually true.
There are some AMAZING things that have happened these last 10 years of my life.

In the last 10 years...

I've traveled to Africa and seen the Rift Valley and been woken up by a donkey and met Beatrice and spoke to people in a church and a school and watched giraffes look both ways before crossing the highway
... and I've lived with a warthog for a couple of days on the Masa Mara Reserve.

I've had people with AIDS sing to welcome me and adorn me with a handmade necklace.  I watched a little boy orphaned because of his parents' death from the disease and I've been humbled and realized I am not as lost as I feel.

I've hiked in the rainforest of Tanzania and the desert and the moorland with 19 porters and guides.  I've gone 8 days without a shower and been surprised at how bad life smells when that happens.  I've sat on a chair in the nighttime of Africa on a mountain above the clouds and watched the sun set with my dear friend Stacy and a guy named Ed from Canada.
I've stood in the middle of the night under that same African sky and been taken aback by the beauty of the stars above me while everyone else was asleep.  I've been nauseous at 19,341 feet and I've summited Kilimanjaro.

I've rode in a rickshaw with Pastor Shinde and my friend Cindy to a slum in Mumbai and went to a school in another slum where I ate a vegetarian McDonalds "burger" with peas in the patty.  I stood before young girls who filed into a room - girls who've been rescued from brothels in India where they were raped night after night - and struggled to not break down and weep before them because of the horrors they have known...

I traveled to Equador and met Melanie - a girl I sponsored through Compassion International - humbled at how they saw me as family...and amazed by such beautiful work being done by this organization.
And coming home due to exhaustion and flight circumstances I had a near mental breakdown in the Miami airport and am pretty sure my name is on a wanted list there - I will pay extra money and take longer trips to avoid that airport the rest of my life...

I've seen the coast of Italy with the painted buildings of the picturesque town called Vernazza, and saw the Eiffel tower and rode on a train with my mom, and almost missed a train with my mom, and ate crepes in Paris and saw the Louvre and rode on a boat through this romantic city.

I body boarded on Napili Bay for hours with Lauren on Maui and drank Mai Tai's at the Luau on the beach and drove the road to Hana and saw these beautiful pools on the way there that are truly one of the most breathtaking sights I've even seen in my life.

Riding bikes in Nova Scotia on Prince Edward Island made me feel like Anne of Green Gables.  I nearly drove into a barn scaring my mom to high heavens and I "clinked" some of the best mussels (on the planet apparently) with my friend Kristie before swallowing them down whole.  I saw the most beautiful field of yellow flowers and watched a gal do an Irish Jig while I watched her wishing I could do the same.

And while I'm at it...I did take Irish Dance lessons for a bit in these last 10 years.

I visited the Monahans in Sicily with Mom, Sandra, and Matt and ate gelato and saw cathedrals, and realized I absolutely love gnocchi and pistachio.  I drank wine and ate sun-dried tomatoes while looking over a vineyard.  After missing our flight in Rome, mom and I did a whirlwind tour of that amazing city and walked it til our legs nearly fell off.

I've mixed concrete for Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans by hand in wheelbarrows in the July heat....and wondered why we didn't just pay a concrete mixer truck to come do it?

I've prayed with and tutored gals living in India over the internet who've been rescued from sex-trafficking - seeing their smiling faces and marveling at their excitement to spend time with me and thankful they are in a safe house.

I've been humbled, amazed and blown away by the stories of men and women who are recovering from addiction here in Cincinnati through City Gospel Mission.  I have been honored to be accepted and counted as friends by these brave souls who've given up nearly everything for the desire to be healed.

I hiked the Inca Trail with my friend Lindsey and ate meals in the mountains with my British teammates and marveled at how they held their silverware...and how it really made a lot of sense to do it that way.

I've laughed so hard with girlfriends under the twinkle lights in my backyard, I could scarcely bear it.

I've been a first hand witness to a miracle of God - seeing a sweet niece who wasn't expected to live, do just that.  She is beautiful beyond words. might not be babies...but I cannot say...absolutely cannot say...
that nothing has happened in my life in the last 10 years.

I guess what I'm saying is this...

There's more than one way for life to be beautiful....for me...AND for you.  What unexpected beauty have you known?  Acknowledge it.  Cherish it.  Live it.




Dead Woman's Pass - Inca Trail: Peru, South America

Look at Me

I was standing in church the other day ready to sing.  As I was looking up to the stage,  all of the sudden I was overcome by seeing someone up there who wrecked me.  I don't even know her personally.  But I do know a bit of her story...and from what I know she is someone who has been through some tragedy and pain...and who God has redeemed and blessed and brought into a new and beautiful place.

I looked at her and almost instantly I felt emotion rising up in me.
Jealous of God's redemption in her life.

How ugly it feels to even type that.

The tears started coming.
I struggled to sing.
I stood there wrestling.  Wondering.  Longing.
Perhaps even a bit angry.

I felt "held out" on.
Left out.
Empty and void of blessing

...nowhere near truth.

But regardless, I was wrought.

And that's when I heard it.  In that wrestling match in my mind, I heard it.  The Lord broke through and it was so very clear and unmistakable.  I could not deny it.

"Look at me."

So Gently, So lovingly I heard Him say, "Look at me."
In my soul I felt...
"You are looking around - trying to make sense of your life from gazing at others.
This has never worked.  Your life only makes sense when you look at me."

I stood in that thought for a moment.  I shifted my eyes, my mind, and my heart.  The shifting brought me back to peace and to the lover of my soul who knows all things and who works all things for good.  And who IS love.

I am just like Peter on that boat in the sea of Galilee.  My gaze so easily moves to my surroundings.  It wonders to the wind and the the impossible the the void.  And in the middle of that disastrous mess the Lord says, "Fix your eyes on me."

I think of C.S. Lewis' book "The Horse and His Boy" where Aslan the Lion meets Shasta to tell him how he is at work in Shasta's life story...
Shasta, however,  shifts the conversation and asks about the life of his friend Aravis...and why Aslan had done something different in her life.  Aslan simply says, "I am telling you your story.....not hers."

God is telling us our story - as we walk - he is guiding, leading, directing, and our job is to abide. Focus our eyes.
Look at Jesus.
And feel all else slip into the distance.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Words and Blessings

There are some words that you never forget.  They are spoken once and they go somewhere deep deep inside where they become a part of the story of your life in an irreversible way.

I remember some such words from this story of my life, and this morning I was reminded of them.  I was reading Job while on my porch swing...and at the end, it speaks of God's ultimate blessing over his life - that after the sorrow and grief had overtaken him and he had walked a road of severe disastrous pain...that the Lord blessed him more in the later part of his life than in the former part - the part he had lost so tragically.

This passage always takes me back to sitting in the front row of Lifespring Christian Church during Jason's memorial service.  I was 27 - widowed, confused, overwhelmed, sad, exhausted, lost.  In the last few days I had been driven around by family and had made decisions that made no sense to me.  I had walked through coffins and was told to pick out one for my husband.  I had been taken to various grave plots and had to decide which one to bury him in.  I had looked through his clothing and had chosen out something for him to wear in the coffin....I had sat in a funeral home and had to ask everyone to leave so I could have one moment with my face in his shirt, breathing him in and crying my eyes out before I had to hand it over...

...choosing a coffin instead of a couch or a crib, picking a grave plot instead of a vacation destination.  It all made no sense to me.

Maybe this feels like to much to read.

But it is the real deal.  It is part of the story of who I am.

As I sat in the front row of that beautiful service to honor Jason's life... I will never ever forget the moment my dad spoke..and what he said to me.

He bravely got up in front of the crowd.

He told the story of Job in the Bible.

And when he got to the part where God blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first, he looked right at me.  I vividly remember his eyes being red with tears as he basically said, "I believe that is what God will do for you."

I have never, ever forgotten those words.  Those words spoken with such love from my dad who loved me and hurt so much for me.

Those words spoken in Job about a heavenly father who holds a love for his creation that has a depth that no human can understand.

I think of those words dad spoke...and I choose to believe them.  Because I do know the love of my heavenly Father...I have experienced it time and time again.

Words and blessings.  They matter.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


I'm realizing that so much of life consists of learning to live in the place of tension.  I'm not talking about tension among people and relationships, but rather the tension between the reality we are now living and the future that is coming.  It's the space between the "today" and the "tomorrow."  The "now" and the "not yet".

And we all have this pull in some form or another.  It's a rare moment in life when we don't feel it.  Our present realities are not what we hope for - we long for something better, different.  There are jobs we long to have, degrees we work to earn, healing that we pray will come, redemption for which we wait, freedom from our bondage.  And the space in-between...the space between the promise and the fulfillment of it can be a desert wasteland where we wrestle with ourselves, struggle to believe, doubt God's goodness, and surrender...again, and again, and again.

I have an old dog named Tucker...a sweet chocolate lab that is 15 years old.  We still go on walks most every day, but they are at a snail's pace.  I might stand while he sniffs the same tree for 5 minutes...and I stand.  And I wait.  And I stand some more.
I am used to this pace now.  I have a neighbor who works at my school.  She laughed about how polar opposite this "dog walking version" of me is compared to what she sees at work.  I am a runner, sprinter, multi-tasker to the extreme at work...I whisk to and fro in order to get my work done at insane speeds....
AND then she sees me walking my dog.  Barely moving.  The paradox of it throws her off...
Tucker is not the young dog he once was....and yet he is still here with me.  I am in the space between.  And I actually have come to enjoy this pace with my sweet buddy as it's become a time where I think and pray and observe and slow down and meander. I'm learning to relish this space and live this space and see it as MY LIFE.

This is the challenge isn't it?  In all of our "in between" moments.  Our moments between the job we don't want and the job we do want....our moments between the longing for a child and the child's arrival...our moments between the diagnosis and the healthy again...and for the love this whole season of singleness that myself and so many girlfriends are in...

Between the "now" and the "not yet"

I'm learning that the space between is where a serious battle is fought.  If we let God work, the space of waiting is where much growth happens, and it is definitely where life happens.  I sometimes have to fight to believe that this IS my life...and that this IS a valuable piece of my story.  What feels like a middle space and time of waiting is critical in ways we may never understand.  But it is critical just the same.
I look at those in the Bible who stood in this place.  Abraham was promised a child and 25 years later...he was STILL WAITING.  Was the promise bad?  What his desire for a lineage wrong.  NO.  It was, in fact, God given. Hannah went to the temple every day to pray about her longing for a child.  She wept.  And she wept often.

It seems that we can go to two extremes in this place.  We can kill our desires out of a sheer need for emotional survival.  In doing this "killing" we deny our hearts and perhaps the very God-given desire that's been placed in us.  I wonder if Abraham went to this place...I wonder if he had moments where he said, "I don't really want a child.  My life is so much easier without a son."
In some ways this path can feel easier.
The other extreme is that we can settle for a pseudo fulfillment that is less than abundant.  We sell out to things that we know are not God's plan, but the sell out can seem better than nothing.
Neither of these extremes is living with an honest heart of trust and faith.

It takes much courage to stay in the live this moment we are in fully - holding the longing and the barrenness of it side by side with the trust and belief in God's goodness and abundance.  It is faith stretching.

May we be among those who live wherever we are well.  May we live this moment...this EXACT moment with joy and faith and beauty and trust.  I want to pull every shard of growth and rejoicing out of this place - believing what God says in Romans that "every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good."

Where is your tension?  For what are you waiting?  What can you do to see this very moment as your life - as a space to be lived fully?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

He Accomodates

I was watching the A.D. Bible series on tv, and this evening,

I think of the resurrection of Jesus.  When he revealed himself to the apostles and they were in the room hiding from the Romans, Thomas was the one who said he would not believe - unless his put his hand in the nail holes in Jesus' hand.  He needed to touch him.  He needed proof.  The events were too incredulous and in his human frailty and weakness, he wanted the hard facts in order to believe the truth.

What would we think Jesus would do to that request?  We would think he would expect that Thomas would buck up.  We might think he would insist Thomas believe without evidence...that he consider the past - all that Jesus had done...and would just believe...
but What absolutely amazes me is that in that place of doubt, Jesus meets him right his weakness.  He sees Thomas's desire, his lack of faith and belief, and he acts by showing him the nail scars in his hands.  He gives Thomas the proof that helps his mind conceive truth.

The kindness in this act overwhelms me.  That the Lord of the Universe sees my frailty, sees my struggles, sees the many places where I am not where I should be...and he accommodate me.  He accommodates my needs...even when they are ridiculous.   He reveals himself to me even when he has done it over and over again...because he loves me that much.  He loves me enough to see my human, sinful condition and to meet me right there.  To meet me where I am in order to move me to another place.

Such beautiful love.

Such graciousness.

And what an example for me to follow.  In my God appointed life's mission to love others with the love of Christ, am I meeting people right where they are - in their brokenness, and frailty? Am I this accommodating and accepting?  Or am I judgmental?  May I be as gracious with others, as God is to me.  May I continually realize and recognize that such grace is offered me by my Savior and my brothers and sisters...and give that grace freely to everyone around me.  May I be one who offers love.  Deep love.  Love that expects nothing back.  Love like Jesus.