Saturday, May 20, 2017

Make Kindness Your Mantra - The Glorious Table

“Hearts don’t break around here.” ~Ed Sheeran, singer/songwriter
During spring break I was poolside, soaking in the sun and feeling happy to have a good pair of sunglasses and an engaging book. Sunny music interwove itself with my good feelings, courtesy of my daughter’s newly created spring break playlist. The songs ebbed and flowed around me, largely unnoticed until a certain lyric emerged out of the fluff. The singer crooned, “Hearts don’t break around here,” and I had an epiphany.
That’s what I want! When people look at me, I want them to see kindness swirling about me like Pig-Pen’s dirt cloud from the cartoon “Peanuts.” I want my heart to create a force field of safety that protects the hearts of anyone who gets close to me. I want to be a giant, walking source of comfort and healing. I want kindness and care to radiate from me like a soothing balm.

I think it’s clear that being a “hearts don’t break around here” person is also what God wants for me. His Word encourages his people to behave this way from beginning to end. It seems this kind of living was his goal for me all along. The Garden of Eden is a clue that extreme kindness was the original plan. God put two naked people in the garden, and I’m quite sure this wasn’t evidence of poor planning on God’s part but purposeful design. His plan for us was an extreme vulnerability, body and soul. This makes sense in an environment where sin hasn’t been conceived because it’s the recipe for extreme connectedness. Life outside the garden is much different and more dangerous. But as God’s ambassadors of peace, it’s our job to reclaim bits of the garden, carry them around in our hearts, and offer them to others...
Read more at The Glorious Table today!

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Thursday, March 30, 2017

For When You're Mad at God - The Glorious Table

The problem with crying for days is it tires me out—mind, body, and soul. Coherent thought drains away. Gumption to struggle through is gone. Finding my tears can’t change the outcome is a shock, my mind numb to what’s next. The only reality seems to be the ugly pit of feelings I find myself in, slack and spent.

That’s when my tears change from the salt of sadness into the fire of anger. When I think I’ve cried all there is to cry and yet more tears flow over my raw, cracked skin, something boils up inside. I’m mad. Mad, mad, mad! My heart cries, “Unfair!” and demands to know if God sees me. The list of credits I’ve logged to my account through obedience, walking hard roads, and following calls is held up in my shaking fist as proof I don’t deserve this. I don’t want it, and I’m screaming in frustration at my inability to bend God to my will. Suddenly yesterday’s truth of comfort, that everything comes from God’s hand, feels like a sharp prod pushing me into a dark and scary place.

Read more at The Glorious Table!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

We Can't Dance - The Glorious Table

We can’t dance. You might even use the word terrible if you saw us trying.
I’ve always blamed it on a lack of practice rather than a lack of skill. Scott and I were high school sweethearts who attended all our Christian high school’s formal banquets together. I shopped for the perfect dress, stocked up on Aquanet so I could get my hair just right, got my nails done, and called the florist in time to have exactly the boutonniere I wanted. Scott vacuumed his car and gave it a good shine. He rented the shiniest tux he could find and requested a hot pink cummerbund to match my dress. We did everything our public school counterparts did. Except dance.

We didn’t miss the dancing; our high school dating lives were full. But then there we were, ten years later, married with little children and suddenly wishing we had better moves to pull out at weddings and events. It looked so fun and effortless to swing, cha-cha, and mambo. We’re both athletic and smart. We can learn this, we thought, so we bought a Groupon for dance lessons.
You know what we got out of those lessons? Laughter. Lots and lots of laughter, coupled with the freedom to let our dream die.
We arrived at our first lesson with high hopes, shiny shoes, and butterflies in our stomachs. Our instructor promised she could teach anyone to dance. She used Scott to demonstrate. I watched intently and counted her steps. My turn. Deep breath. Chin high. Hand in Scott’s.
We counted and stepped. She corrected and we tried again. Our sixty minutes evaporated. We left feeling hopeful and determined to practice. Week after week went by. Our instructor was patient, but I was not. We seemed destined to achieve only 60 percent of the steps.
It wasn’t pretty, folks.
I'll tell you how it all turned out at The Glorious Table!

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Extending Grace leads to Freedom - The Glorious Table

“There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you take nothing personally.” ~Unknown
My mom’s words instantly dissolved the road rage that had been growing in me the moment before. In its place, tenderness and then laughter bubbled up.
“Maybe they are late for their daughter’s piano recital. Maybe they are so caught up in an exciting book they’re listening to on cassette tape they don’t even realize what they just did. Maybe they are on their way to the hospital to have a baby–how exciting! Maybe they are a circus performer late for their high wire practice; we certainly don’t want them to miss that!” she said.

I didn’t want any of those poor people to miss the things my mom described. Suddenly I was for them rather than feeling put out by them. The inconsiderate driving I had witnessed moments before lost its sting when my mom talked like this.
Her words gave me freedom: freedom to care about the concerns of others more than my own, freedom to give them the benefit of the doubt, freedom from angry eyebrows and a desire to get revenge. They freed me to be the person I wanted to be.

Read more and take the Believe the Best challenge at The Glorious Table today!

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Thursday, January 12, 2017

When What You Have Doesn't Feel Like Enough - The Glorious Table

(I'm writing at The Glorious Table today about one of my favorite topics - facing fear head-on! Join the discussion over at The Table today!)
I know the catch in your lungs that tells you you’re not enough, that today’s needs outstrip the strength in your bones and the fight in your gut. You heard God call, but you feel deep inside that it’s beyond you. Your heart and mind begin to wrestle.
What if God asks something of me I can’t do?
What if I’m the only one?
What if I find out I’m just not good enough?
The “what-ifs” gather, mob-like, threatening to knock you down. They want you to despair and run away. Fear separates from the crowd, sidling up to you like an old friend. He warns you that protection is the only sane course of action. He tells you there’s no shame in retreat. With fear whispering in your ear, you desperately want to lie down and curl up into a protective ball.

What if I ruin my children?
What if I can’t survive the pain?
What if God isn’t really trustworthy?
These “what-ifs” get so loud that they often make us miss the biggest “what-if” of all. What if fear isn’t a friend? What if it’s playing both sides like a secret agent and is actually the leader of the enemy mob? Maybe the pounding in your chest isn’t meant to be a warning of danger, but a herald announcing adventures and miracles that fear wants to cover up?
What if the fight against fear is really our biggest battle?

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Story of Esther - in honor of adoption month

When she asked the question, the dam broke. I'm surprised she could even understand my answer through the sniveling. With my newborn second son cradled in my arm and the phone balanced between my chin and shoulder I threw caution to the wind and told her all my fears. We didn't know each other that well yet, but she was an experienced mom of 4 kids and had called at just the right time to ask me how life was at home with my new little one. She reached through the phone with her voice and sternly told me that I would be fine, my boys would be fine, LIFE would be fine. She beat back the wild fears that had overtaken me and calmed my heart with these words, "The best gift you can give your child is a sibling. Stop worrying about all material things you might not be able to give and think about all you've already given him by giving him a brother."

Fast forward 20 years and it's pretty obvious that we've taken that advice and run with it! My brood has grown from those two to eight. My friend Diane has also put her money where her mouth is and she too is the mother of eight. We both have six the old fashioned way and two by adoption.

Her adoption story is the culmination of the bedrock belief she shared with me so many years ago. God uses the greenhouse of a family to form character and personalities and produce strong, healthy adults out of the little bundles that start out in their Mommas' arms. There is something profoundly powerful that happens within the four walls of a home. So when she and her husband were faced with a plea to adopt two little boys who had no family, their answer quickly became, "How can we not?"

Never mind that most of their children were grown and having children of their own and this would mean going all the way back to the toddler years. Never mind that living in Thailand as missionaries makes the adoption process wildly complicated, confusing and expensive. Never mind that it's hard. The stakes were high. The boys needed a family and Dave and Diane were willing to share theirs.

Diane & Dave with their youngest two biological kids and two adopted boys.

Attachment is a big buzzword in adoption circles. Creating connection and helping orphaned children be able to form a healthy attachment to a parent is the primary goal in adoption. Attachment has gained it's priority status for good reason - it's the magical power of family. Attachment equals trust. Trust equals courage. Courage equals obedience. Obedience equals progress and growth.

Attachment happens so naturally and beautifully when a baby is born into a healthy, intact family. The daily activities of feeding and care wrap tiny yet strong webs of connection around the baby and it's parents. Without a conscious thought of why the baby turns into a toddler who believes the things his parents are teaching him are true. The toddler turns into a child who will calm down and believe his mom who tells him that he will survive the bee sting and she knows what to do. The child turns into a teenager who will dare into the unknown finding confidence in the encouragement of his parents. Adoptive parents are on a quest to reclaim this power for their children. It's hard, hard work but it's possible. It's redemption and restoration; beauty from ashes.

Before adoption counselors and attachment seminars, there was an adoptive dad who seemed to get it right all on his own. Mordecai gave his adopted daughter, Esther, the magic of family and she gave the world the gift of her courage and obedience. Esther was actually Mordecai's cousin, the daughter of an uncle whom he raised as his own after her parents died. They were all alone in a foreign land where they had been carried away into exile. None of their circumstances made a healthy home easy. They had every reason to be a wildly dysfunctional family. Esther endured deep trauma: the death of her parents, forced relocation to an unfamiliar hostile culture, a single adoptive father and then a forced marriage. How am I so sure they weren't the mess you would expect them to be? Because of what Esther did.

The king of their captor's country was looking for a new queen and used a beauty contest as his tool to find one. Esther's beauty made her quickly rise to the top of candidates and her humble spirit caught the attention of the king. She was chosen to be queen which at first blush seems likes she won the lottery until you put yourself in her shoes and realize that she was really a victim of human trafficking. She had the strength to endure gracefully. When the crisis came, she was alert and strong.

Through a series of events recorded in the book of Esther, the Jewish people found themselves on the wrong side of an evil, yet powerful man in the king's court. His nefarious trickery ended with an official royal decree ordering the extermination of the Jewish race in Babylon. Mordecai caught wind of the evil man's plans and brought it to the attention of his adoptive daughter, a Jew and the queen of Babylon.

Esther didn't immediately jump into action. She knew the stakes were high here and that a misstep could cost her everything. Mordecai had encouraged her to make a plea on behalf of her people before the king but her first action was to confirm his instructions. She knew that even the queen would put her life on the line to presume that the king would want to see her unrequested. Her heart must have been in her throat as she waited for Mordecai's response. Is this really what he was asking of her, to risk her life?

Mordecai's response in chapter four, verse twelve is very clear. He knew he was asking for the hardest obedience yet his words were strong. He called her to be brave and to trust him with her life, death, and legacy.

12 When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, 13 he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

Esther's answer was immediate and total. She had formed a habit, one step at a time, of trusting Mordecai's love by obeying his instructions as he was bringing her up. Those steps led her to this final, important act of obedience. One that carried with it risk and uncertainty like she had never faced before. The circumstances of Esther's life didn't add up to a woman who should have the poise and confidence to do something like this...except for the miraculous power of family. Her attachment to Mordecai led to trust. Because she trusted him, she was able to be courageous in the face of danger. Her courage gave her the power to obey. Her obedience was evidence that she had become a woman of principles and depth who's mission was bigger than her own life. God brought beauty from ashes and used the orphan girl to become a hero to her people because Mordecai had been willing to be a hero to her.

God offers this to us too: attachment, trust, courage, the ability to obey, and a purpose beyond our own lives. We are His adopted sons and daughters who come from trauma and circumstances in our lives that should keep us bound in fear and selfish motives...except for the miraculous power of family, the family of God. He shows us the power of attachment in our own lives and we grow in our trust in Him. We trust Him a little and test the waters with obedience that is little and safe. We grow up a little as we find out that He is trustworthy and gain enough courage to take the next step. And before you know it, He has built a heart that is ready to say "yes" to obedience that is risky and makes the heart pound. Obedience like adopting two little Thai boys who need a family.

Mayra and I shopping in a Thai market with Diane.
My girlfriends and I go on many adventures together but can't seem to remember to get a decent photo of them!

My friend Diane, is living her advice to me. She is choosing to beat back her own wild fears because she trusts her father and He is telling her to go. Her sons, like Esther and all the rest of us adopted sons and daughters of God, will grow up with the restored ability to walk into dangerous obedience because they've learned how to trust. Adoption is a beautiful thing. It's all about wresting redemption out of brokenness and beauty from ashes while being a mirror for our own souls.

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Everyday Satisfaction - The Glorious Table

As I fill my plate, the odds are stacked against me. Even with the aid of a forgiving waistband, I almost never lick the plate clean at Thanksgiving dinner.
This celebration elevates the average dinner’s protein-vegetable-starch trifecta to an Olympic level. Why settle for one kind of potato when you can have baked, mashed, twice baked, and sweet? Who would eat only green bean casserole when squash can have marshmallows and pecans toasted on top and still be called a vegetable? I don’t know about your house, but at mine, no one asks if I would like dessert; instead I’m invited for a tour of the dessert table as if it’s round two of dinner.
I routinely forego breakfast on Thanksgiving Day. In fact, the big dinner is quite often my only meal of the day. It takes absolutely all my stomach space to fully experience it. I lean back in my chair and eat slowly to maximize the number of bites I can take without risking combustion. It’s just that good.
The dinner table’s lure isn’t solely in the deliciousness of each individual dish; the combinations are what make Thanksgiving magical. Turkey becomes divine with Grandma Herrick’s homemade cranberry relish sparkling in its crystal dish. Gravy seeps its way through the potatoes and stuffing, casting a spell over everything it touches. The total package exceeds expectations, making you unable to put the fork down until you have completely obliterated the idea that you could feel hungry again in the near future.
I’ve usually changed into sweat pants by the time our football team comes on the big screen so my belly can stop crying in pain. I lean back and sigh the big Thanksgiving sigh of utter satisfaction. I am absolutely full, and I go to bed breathing deeply of the amazing smells the house still holds.
We should be chasing this kind of satisfaction every day, not by risking a 300-pound weight gain through the pursuit of a huge daily meal, but in a determination to be satisfied and completely full by the life God has offered... (Continued at The Glorious Table.)

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner