Thursday, December 22, 2011

It's A Holiday!

Merry Christmas from Lark & Bloom! Can't believe it is already Christmas. Didn't we just celebrate Labor Day? Wouldn't it be nice if you guys could all come by my house for hot chocolate, cookie decorating, carols and, flag football for you guy readers? What is a masculine holiday activity anyway? Fire! We could build a bonfire.

Many of you I have never met in person, but I carry you in my heart and I thank you for inviting me into yours as well. Lark & Bloom isn't even a year old yet and I have already been BEYOND blessed by you guys. Thanks for reading and letting me share my life and thoughts with you. So thankful.

 I will be taking a break from blogging until January 1st. Need a bit of time to re-fuel and work on a few other writing projects. I am looking forward to a fantastic 2012 with some fun posting series in store. 

In the mean time, I pray that you all enjoy time with your dearest relationships and spend some time dreaming with God about the year to come. Thought I would leave you with one of my new favorite Christmas songs. Blessings!

Monday, December 19, 2011

It Is A Silent Night In North Korea

I write this bundled in my bed with water, some chocolate covered almonds & reflections I have been mulling around in my head all day. As I mentioned it is night here, so in North Korea it is morning. The sun may be out, but in many ways it is still night in North Korea...

This morning I woke up and read the news as may recall my post on Coffee With Gaddafi from this summer. Catching up on news is a regular part of my morning routine. This morning when I read the news I froze. 

What? Kim Jong Il??? It is amazing how the world can change while you sleep. Twitter & facebook were full of posts on the topic. I'd check the news periodically and watch interviews of people in North Korea weeping on the streets as they gave interviews. Weeping from the loss of a leader. 

This was a man who kept his entire country isolated from the rest of the world while personally having a movie collection of somewhere between 10,000-20,000 films. While 2 million North Koreans died in the mid-90s from famine - he was spending $800,000 a year on his favorite cognac. Not to mention the political & religious persecution. This wasn't a nice man. And yet, his death left a nation in tears. Stunned & shocked.

Moments when famously unjust people die, I seem to have a deep pause of reflection. Maybe you remember my post Reflections On Bin Laden? I got some very negative feedback from some people for that one. And yet, here I go. About to write another one...

I wonder what it was like for him in those last moments. Was he remorseful?  He must have known he was disliked by nearly the entire world. How much did that weigh on his heart & did he think of it in his last fleeting moments? Did he feel alone?

Even more I wonder about his son, Kim Jong-un, who will be his successor. A man in his late 20s who is grieving the loss of his father. Not only that, but who just took on the weight of nation and the baggage of his father's choices. Does he agree with his dad? Is he scared? Will he have the courage to change things? I can't imagine being in charge of a hated government and a nation crumbling. Much less to work with people who are a bit eager to showcase their nuclear capability. 

I bet he didn't sleep at all last night. It is a silent night in North Korea. A pause, a break, an end and a beginning. People desperate and frightened. A young man burdened with unimaginable weight. I wonder what God is doing. I know He is moving from household to household comforting & revealing Himself as a good shepherd.

I know He is giving Kim Jong-un an invitation. An invitation to be different, to do the right thing, to love instead of hate. An invitation to know Him. Comforting a son who lost a dad. I know God is pursing him. I hope Kim Jong-un is listening. 

It's a nation starving in every way. No one knows what the next chapter holds. It is a silent night & a holy night. A night where Peace comes and comforts those who mourn. A Plan who enters when all things seem confused. A Shepherd who gathers those that are lost. It is a night that a King visits a kingdom and offers leadership. The night when Jesus looks at Kim Jong-un and tells him it doesn't have to be this way. 

Lets all pray for North Korea on this silent & holy night. Jesus was born in a manger thousands of years ago with nights like this one in mind. This is why He came in the first place. To bring hope to the darkness.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Far-Sighted Girl With A Near-Sighted Problem

Whoa. Look At Those Eyes.

How about a moment of vulnerability? You know, coming clean about my past and all that...well. When I was a little kid, I had a lazy eye. Yes. It is true. One of my eyes seemed to love looking at the bridge of my nose.

As you may be able to imagine, the solution was a large pair of glasses. Not just glasses but the kind of glasses that were about a centimeter thick and made my eyes appear the size of oreos. It was not the coolest thing for a kid. I also had to sleep with a special boot/leg brace thing when I was small, but that is another story. 

In addition to having the lazy eye, I am incredibly far sighted. The lazy eye has been fixed but I still have to wear my contacts to allow me to see anything remotely close to my face. Its funny, because I am far sighted in pretty much every way. I love to look at the horizon and think about what is coming next. I am a long term thinker and spend time imagining all that the future holds. 

I am made that way I suppose. A dreamer and a visionary. We are actually all made to be far sighted. To fix our eyes on Heaven. To live in a Kingdom reality where our lives are not simply about our career, hobbies or personal gifting. We were made to live beyond ourselves. 

But I have a problem sometimes. More often that I would like to admit. I begin to have near-sighted problems. I start focusing only on what is right in front of me. I pick an issue and stare at it until I have a headache. I hold it up so close to my face in attempt to see it better and in doing so, I block all views of anything else. I become obsessive. We all get bogged down sometimes due to an unhealthy focus on a small piece of a bigger picture.

Perhaps it is obsessive about a fear. What if I risk and God doesn't come through? There must be something wrong with me. I don't know what but I know there is something wrong. Maybe I have a chronic illness? Maybe I have a mental illness? You might laugh, but I have met a large number of people who have at one point thought they were actually loosing their mind. 

Or maybe you are so obsessed with not failing that you forget that you God ever even called you. Will people follow me? Does everyone think I am an idiot? Can they tell I am insecure? If I blow this they won't give me another shot. God is having doubts about if He can use me.

We get obsessed with what we are not. We get obsessed with who we are not. We get obsessed with who we will never become. We fixate and freeze. Unable to look beyond the thing we have put smack in front of our eyes. We blind ourselves. 

Our perspective is off. Headaches begin to plague us, and our vision gets blurry. 

I was made to see clearly. I am a far sighted girl who acts nearsighted sometimes. It is a pain. It is frustrating and I do it to myself. My big God fades into a blur in the distance and I only focus on what is immediate or what feels immediate. 

I can't see the big plans of God that are laid out in front of me, when I only focus on the challenge that is looking me in the face.  I am a far sighted girl with a near sighted problem. Good thing God does Lasik for free.

Monday, December 12, 2011

I Slept On Sticks Last Night

My 2 year old sleeping with his drumsticks

I'm really not sure why I woke up. But last night at 1:30 am I woke up. I did what I do anytime I wake up in the middle of the night. I go check on my kids. No clue why I do that, perhaps it was just a habit I got into when they were infants. 

I went into Tait's room to check on him. He was on the verge of sliding off his bed, so I went ahead and slowly pushed him back into the middle of the mattress. That was a mistake I immediately regretted. He woke up. Great. And now he was crying. Even better. Seeing as how his half-asleep cry session was my fault I snuggled up next to him to help him go back to sleep. 

Here is what you need to know about my son. He LOVES to play drums. His little arms are constantly banging out rhythms everywhere we go. Unlike most kids his age he doesn't care if his stuffed animals are in his bed or his blankie is next to him. He sleeps with his drumsticks. Not just one or two, but he sleeps with however many he can find before we tuck him into bed. Last night he slept with six drumsticks. 

As I  snuggled next to him he stopped crying. I tried to lay very still so he would drift off into sleepy bliss. The only problem was the six drumsticks. They were jabbing my face. He had them laid next to him on the pillow and I plopped my head right on top of them. It was really uncomfortable, but it seemed to be the ideal spot to snuggle Tait back to sleep. I laid there for about 10 minutes. Then he finally went to sleep. 

Why I laid there I was thinking about how it is 1:30 in the morning & the last thing I want to do in the middle of my groggy night is lay on top of splintered sticks. Finally when I could tell he was out I hopped out of bed, rubbed my scratched face and went back into my bedroom. Once in my bed I got under the covers & pulled the blanket over my head. 

Since being married I have slept with the covers over my face. Jady can't sleep if there isn't a fan blowing & I seem to wake up every hour with the need to drink a gallon of water if the fan is on. Jady promises that the fan has nothing to do with it, but I find it hard to deny the fan is the culprit. Either way, I started sleeping with the covers over my head. 

I laid there thinking about the sticks and the fan. The little things we do to serve the people we love. Somehow laying there on Tait's sticks and hiding under the covers from Jady's fan made me smile and think about how fantastic they are. I love the sticks and the fans even though they aren't my personal preference.

Jady sacrifices things for me. Like not having a laundry schedule that runs with military precision ( or any precision for that matter). And when I am old and my joints ache my kids will sacrifice for me. To take care of me and make sure I have an extra cushy chair when I come to visit. It's just what you do when you love people. Sacrificing makes us love them more somehow. It reminds us that they are worth a bit of discomfort and a bit of having it our way. 

I have known so many friends who chose or rejected marriage based on the things they would have to sacrifice. Not the big important things. But the things like where they buy their clothes, what music they listen to and their preferred way of communication. They looked for who required them to change the least instead of who they could love the most.

When we prefer others, we love others. When we prefer ourselves, we love ourselves. I'm not the best at this. I'm not even good at it. But I am thankful for nights of sleeping on sticks and the way they remind me to love.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

5 Reasons Why RG3 & I Are Practically Twins

This is a pic taken while decorating cookies with my kids at Baylor...who is that in the background?
RG3 my friends.

In case you missed it Robert Griffin III (aka RG3) won the Heisman tonight. My sweet little 5 yr old started sobbing when she heard the news. "I'm just SO happy!" she said. I couldn't agree more. Baylor is the best school ever & deserves a big win. But, I'm also happy that RG3 won because - he is basically my twin. Don't believe me? I have five reasons:

1. We both went to Baylor & studied Political Science. I am a Baylor alum. AND I studied Poli Sci. Same great taste, same interests...this is looking 'twin'ish to me. 

2. We both wore our hair in braids today.  Okay, his are cooler than mine I will admit. Mine was the kind of braid you do with your bangs when you are growing them out. None the less we rock the same hair. It's sorta like that language people say twins have with each other. We totally have that with our hair.

3. We both know what MAFU means. Jady was the chaplain for the Baylor football team for a few years in the mid 2000s. One day some of the team came for dinner after practice. Thank God Steph Keogh came to help me cook...never seen that much pasta in my life. MAFU is a term the team uses. They let us in on it. I'd tell you, but its kinda a family thing.

4. We both won prestigious awards while we were students at Baylor. Obviously, RG3 is a super famous Baylor bear. Tonight he won the Heisman. That's a fantastically outstanding accomplishment. What you may not know is that I won an award at Baylor too. My sophomore year I won "Baylor Beauty." It's a beauty pageant. But it involves competition and, I'm putting them in the same category. 

5. We have the same last name. Okay, what says 'twin' or 'family' like having the same last name? And we DO. We are both Griffins. Enough said.

See what I mean? It's like RG3 and I are twins or something...crazy the similarities. Anyway, congrats RG3 & Sic 'em bears!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

I Want Africa For Christmas

Here are two of my four kids...I'd like the other two for Christmas.

I visited Africa for the first time when I was a sophomore in high school. We were in Egypt and Sudan. Two nations whose beauty have marked me forever. Perhaps you have been there? Then you know I am not talking about the landscape. It's the people. With their deep skin and knowing eyes. Then they smile. It's a genuine smile. A grateful smile. They have earned those smiles. Years of hardship, pain I would prefer to forget, and a future that is uncertain. And yet they live. And yet they smile. 

It has been a privilege for me to visit five African countries so far in my 30 years. I fall in love more each time. This December marks 2 years that we have been in the process of adopting from Uganda. We have a little boy & a little girl that are waiting to be a son & a daughter. 

That is the first thing I want from Africa for Christmas. I want my kids. I want to hold them. Tell them all the reasons I chose them. That they were wanted, fought for and needed in our family. Some days the wait seems like too much emotion to handle. Other days it seems like a distant goal - one that is often referenced but never achieved. I think of them everywhere I go. I want my kids for Christmas. 

The second gift I want from Africa is their wisdom. They celebrate life in a way that I can't seem to muster. I have been in a room of women dying from AIDS and I have heard their laughter. The kind of laugh that comes from deep joy, not superficial satisfaction. I have sat in a refugee camp in southern Sudan and watched tribal dances erupt spontaneously whenever they locate another villager among the thousands of displaced people. They have an identity in who they are and who they belong to. And they know how to celebrate their family. I want the wisdom of Africa in my heart.

So many things from Africa that I want for Christmas this year. Here is a clip to a video that says it better than I can. 

I pray that no matter what is on your wish list this holiday season, you get a bit of Africa for Christmas.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Lightning Not Fireworks


I remember sitting in my English class the first day of my freshman year of high school. Mrs. Weathorn handed out all of the paperwork, assigned our textbooks, and walked through the syllabus. We had about 20 minutes left in the class period & we all set back waiting for her to launch into Great Expectations with typical English teacher gusto. 

Oh, but that's not what happened. We instead spent the remaining 20 minutes learning lightning safety. Where to stand if you are in a field & lightning strikes, not to shower during a thunderstorm b/c you can get electrocuted through the water pipes, an electric shock can hit you if you are on a cordless phone and the phone line is hit... So many facts and scenarios regarding lightning. 

My whole class sat & listened in a mixture of fascination and horror. Then came the doozie. She told us about the time she was struck by lightning. In the parking lot of our high school. Whoa. 

Lightning. It's beautiful, fierce, wild and powerful. Such a display of wonder in the sky. There is another thing I have watched in the sky that is somewhat similar. Fireworks. 

Fireworks are a man-made version of lightning. Beautiful colors, flashes, bangs, people stop to 'ooh' and 'ahh'. But fireworks are safe. You know exactly where to stand so you can see them, but not get hit. You know when they will start & when they will finish. Plus, there are usually conveniently located restrooms & food trucks available to make your viewing experience as comfortable as possible.

Where am I going with this? Well, I think we do this with God sometimes. We stop watching the super natural and watch the spectacular instead. We like our flashes of light, but only in controlled environments. With a start & finish point. With a comfortable seat. With nice weather. And some BBQ. 

The bummer is that fireworks don't change anything. They fizzle out before they hit the ground. Lightning sparks fires, splits trees, sends waves of electricity through multiple mediums and leaves a visible mark. Obviously when God hits us, it doesn't kill us but rather it brings us life. 

But we are marked. We are changed. There is risk involved because we are not in control of it. When people are hit by lightning they talk about it for years afterwards. Like my teacher - she talks about it to each class she gets. I have never had a teacher talk to me about a firework show. 

That's because fireworks are 'nice'. They aren't powerful. They don't travel through water and metal. 

So often we can tend to want the pretty looking relationship with God. "ooh' and 'ahh'. A nice controlled environment that appears to have flashes of light in the sky. Well, they do have flashes of lights. Just fake lights that fizzle and never land on anyone. 

We were made to be hit by 'lightning'. The supernatural move of God. Marked so deeply that we tell our story to everyone. And they listen. Not because we are master storytellers, but because the story is that good. We are meant to risk. To run into spiritual thunderstorms and experience the altering power of Christ. And then be the means by which that power travels. 

We were made to experience the supernatural, not just watch the spectacular.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Just Movin...

Hello there! You may notice a lack of activity at Lark & Bloom this weekend. We are moving into our new house over the next few days, so my fingers will be unloading boxes instead of typing. Hope you all have a fabulous weekend & thanks for all the birthday wishes!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Lessons From My 20s: The Best Is Yet To Come

Okay, everyone! We are officially here. I turn 30 tomorrow, so this is my final 'Lessons From My 20s' post. I had no idea what I was going to write about in this series. The challenge was a great way for me to reflect on where I have been and what I learned along the way. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I have.

I've learned many lessons. Some I won't even be aware of for years. One thing I know for certain...the best is yet to come. Always. God only gets better. He takes us from glory to glory, so as much as I loved my 20s - I am looking forward to my 30s being even better. I think being 30 sounds fabulous. It will be fun. It feels so grown up...but I will soon be a mother of four, so I guess I am grown up. Gasp.

I had planned to write a big and profound post tonight...but both of my kids are sick, so that isn't going to happen. Oh, well. Simple is better sometimes.  Blessings to you all and thanks for reading! See you in the 30s.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Lessons From My 20s: Bad Ideas Have Mass Appeal

Well, tomorrow is my last day in my 20s. So many lessons learned so far in life. I have certainly learned that bad ideas can get really popular. Stupid trends have mass appeal. I wrote an entry last spring noting some of these stupid trends I participated in. Enjoy! 

Homecoming Mums. A very stupid trend in the south...

We were riding in the car home from IKEA and I thought about a really stupid trend from jr high...which got me wondering...What are the dumbest trends I've taken part in. Here they are. Don't judge me.

1. Pillsbury Dough Boy Shirts. Who came up with this??? Great for Pillsbury, bad for everyone one else. I honestly don't know why this had such mass appeal, but I had one. I wore it often with my wide leg pants. It's such a wonder I didn't have a boyfriend.

2. Long chains hanging from jean pockets. Okay, I didn't personally have this, but I dated several guys who sported this look. Which means I was attracted to this trend, and that is far worse. Point? Whats the point? Maybe they were supposed to look tough, but I doubt James Dean would have worn one.

3. Beanie Babies. Why did we believe that these were going to be super valuable and we should all collect them? I didn't exactly collect them, but I did get some as gifts. I kept them because they were supposed to be worth millions by 2025 or something. Obviously, that didn't quite pan out.

4. "You Go Girl". I think that I may have said this phrase a few times in 2001. A decision I deeply regret. Thankfully, this phrase is no longer in use with the exception of a few middle-aged white women.

5. Spiral Perms. In elementary school, my parents had a brief lapse in judgement. This included letting me get a perm. A spiral perm. Permanent spirals are never good...its very similar to vertigo. Which, is what you would get if you saw pictures of me in first grade.

6. The Macarena. Apart from the 'Bunny Hop' this is the dumbest dance. I proudly danced the macarena. I think it is because it is one of the only dances I could do. Still, this whole macarena thing should never have happened.

7. Rope Sandals. Yes, it is what you think. Sandals made out of rope. Perhaps you don't remember this trend. I'm not sure if it was a wide spread thing, but at Midway High School or Highland Baptist Youth was. I had them & I looked like a hippie...which isn't my best look. And they smelled.

8. Brick colored lipstick. I don't know why all lipstick in the late 90s was the color of a faded brick, but it was. Including mine. The cast of 'Friends' pulled it off...but no one else. Actually they didn't either, but their haircuts carried them through.

9. Uggs with all day gym wear. The only person who need this outfit is an aerobic eskimo. I did this a few times in college...hey, I was in a sorority. What do you expect?

10. AOL Chatrooms. Ha! Yes, I did on occasion visit chat rooms. Thankfully Facebook came along and put an end to these. I hope.

Okay, those are my top ten. Feel free to write yours in the comments.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Lessons From My 20s: There Are Some Things Only Art Can Say

If you are just now visiting this blog, I am turning 30 on Friday. I have spent the past month writing lessons that I have learned in my 20s. Today's lesson...There Are Some Things Only Art Can Say
Sophie painting in a church service at Mosaic in Seattle.

I wish this was my idea. I wish that this was my title even. But I stole it. Jady preached a sermon several years ago with this title. As I sat in my seat listening I was stunned at the truth in what he was saying. 

There are some things that only art can say. It's not because artists are reclusive and lack social skills, so they are forced to draw out what they feel like a twisted game of Pictionary. Some realms of communication and expression that cannot be translated into any other median are left to be expressed by art alone. Some aspect of God that is delivered through our senses. Through vibrant color, a snapshot of a photo. A chorus that captures the inmost places of your heart. The poems that draw out your imagination & the smells that are produced as food is cooked with skill. 

Here are some photographs that say a lot. I'll tell you what they stir in me.

I can't take my eyes off this photo. Something about humanity. The strength of love's tender resilience. It speaks to the soul of beauty. It makes me feel secure.

An image of creation. The unexpected colors, and the blur
of the fog...
A firey peace fills my heart when I see it.

The childlike places in my heart smile. I am reminded of the wonder of life. The imagination spins and I begin to dream. What can God do next. What lies beyond the expected?

Movement. The physical expression of an internal pulse.
Oh! To feel something so deeply that my body's response is
movement. Action.

My husband is a very smart man. One of the smartest I know. He has severe dyslexia & school was always a challenge growing up. He was told that he was stupid. He was openly made fun of by his 5th grade science teacher. The school counselors told him he should just go to a trade school instead of finishing high school. When he told them he wanted to go to a four year college, they smirked. Told him that he couldn't do it. So much pain, fear, frustration. He had numerous conversations telling people that he was bigger than his dyslexia. One day he was having a particularly hard time with fractions. He went to bed that night feeling the heavy weight of defeat.

Knock, knock. It was his mom.  "Get out of bed Jady. Come to the kitchen table." She had written the math problems that he had been trying to solve on a large poster board. She gave it to him along with some paint. "Paint over it."And he did.

The harassing and accusing math problems were covered with swirls of color. Strokes of creativity took their place. Every ridiculing and doubtful conversation represented on the paper was overcome with beauty. He went to bed that night feeling free. He had said something that night. He had said that he was an overcomer.

Art brings beauty. Art brings comfort, hope, joy, reflection. A perspective of wonder. A dynamic tale told through our senses. Art says something of God to our hearts. We are all artists. Music, writing, dance, culinary, crafting, drawing, paint, many forms.

We are all artists with stories to tell. Get out your pens, paint, guitar, ballet shoes...and say something. Say it loudly from the deepest places within you. Be moved. There are some things that only art can say.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Lessons From My 20s: Conquer Yourself, Then Conquer The World

I only have 4 more days in my 20s! Today's lesson: Conquer Yourself, Then Conquer The World.
A little conqueror.

I have been known to be  bit zealous from time to time. Charging ahead with passion in my heart. So many things to conquer! Nations to see, people to tell about Jesus, injustices of all kinds waiting to be righted...So many things to do! 

In fact, I was so preoccupied with the things to do & the places to impact that I didn't have much time to tend to myself. Who cares if there are dishes in my sink? Or if my checkbook doesn't balance the way it should? So what if I gossip sometimes? There are bigger fish to fry! 

I have been around long enough to see great people with great passion be outgrown by their dreams. They were a mess inside. When the wine came, there wasn't an adequate wineskin to hold it. They were so busy chasing their big moment, that when it came - they weren't ready. 

They were stuck in small thinking. They didn't know how to control their emotions & were unstable. They hadn't denied themselves their 'wants' and were stuck in debt. People who didn't take purity  seriously? Their cutting corners eventually landed them in sexual addictions. Big ditches.

For me, I noticed at about age 26 that I had a tendency to be lazy. I was ambitious in heart, but lazy in action. If I didn't think it was super meaningful then I didn't do it. If it wasn't fun, then I didn't do it. The problem with that? Do you know what happens when you don't value doing the small things well? Companies go bankrupt. Marriages break up. Machines get glitches & buildings crumble. If you don't value the small things, then people stop being blessed by your ministry. If I am lazy in the little things, I sabotage the big things. 

Self-discipline matters. I'm not talking about all your ducks being in a row. We will all be messy until we get to heaven. I am talking about pursuing growth. Walking in accountability. Changing when God prompts you. The dreams God has put in our hearts are worth it. The world doesn't need more people with big dreams. It needs people who prepare themselves to do what it takes to see the mission accomplished. If you can't handle your urge to buy shoes when you don't have the money, what makes you think you will have the strength to fight human trafficking? 

I don't want to fold laundry or do dishes. But the big things in my heart require a foundation of small things. I have to value them. I have to do them well. I can't cut corners and have sustainable growth. Get your heart under control. Get your messy places cleaned up. Let people in to help keep you accountable. Create a solid internal structure that can support your visionary hopes. Conquer Yourself, Then Conquer The World. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Lessons From My 20s: Divorced Men Need Widows & We All Need Baptist Preachers

Setting up for church...we need each other.

I am sure that you are curious about this title. This was a realization that I came to years ago, but I came up with this title today in church. Let me take you into what I saw this morning...

I was sitting on the front row as I always do. Behind me there were three older women. Two African American women in their 60s and a much older white lady - probably in her late 80s. They sit together every week. This fact alone lights my spirit up. Growing up they wouldn't have been in the same church much less been able to be friends. What a beautiful thing progress is. 

Fast forward to the offering. At this point the band is playing, but everyone is sitting while the ushers pass the offering baskets. While we are all sitting down, I notice a man who sits against the wall in the corner at the front. He is a middle aged man who is divorced. I guess he didn't have anyone to sit with so he just sat against the wall where he had been worshiping. I noticed him as I was handing the offering basket to the person next to me. The old lady behind me saw him to. To my shock, she stood up on her wobbly feet. With her beautifully hunched back she carried herself across the front of the church. She had this man in her sights. She had him in her heart. With what appeared to be great pain, she bent down to him. I don't know what she said, but tears welled in his eyes and a grateful and somewhat embarrassed smile touched his face.

Together they walked back to her row. The band was finishing up and he took a seat on the row with this older lady & her two friends. They welcomed him with big smiles and warm gestures. Squished in a space that normally accommodates 3 people, this new family of 4 settled in. 

I turned around because this mans tears and the ladies kind faces made me start to tear up. As I wiped my face I noticed the shoes of the man next to me. Shiny loafers with khaki socks that matched his Dockers. They belonged to the Baptist missionary who was the guest speaker this morning. His message was powerful & I listened with eager ears the whole time. There was a tender smile on my face as I listened to the four voices behind me "Amen" and " Uh Huh" the preacher. 

How beautiful. This building full of people who don't belong together. Races that have historical division, socio-economic gaps, married, singled, denominational differences. All crowded into our rows, but making space for each other. Making space for our differences. For our backgrounds and preferences. How beautiful is the Church. 

We all need each other. That middle aged divorced men needed an elderly widow to take his hand and walk him to a place where he belonged. On a row with her two black friends. I needed a clean cut Baptist to stir me for the Word of God in a fresh way. We need each other. 

The Church needs our differences. We find so many things to argue about.  We all think we are right and fight to prove it. We write articles about whether Jesus would have been a Democrat or a Republican. If it is or isn't the end times. Can we drink alcohol and follow Jesus? Exactly what is the role of women & husbands or many reasons we criticize each other.

It's ridiculous. I'm pretty sure Jesus wouldn't have been a Democrat or Republican. Perhaps He would have been in support of a theocracy, but my money is on Him just being a king. We come up with reasons why we don't need each other. We disqualify one another based on our arrogance. 

The beauty of the Church is that we can all belong to it. The power of the cross is that we all need it. The joy of heaven is that it is all of our home. 

I love the Church. I love the diversity of opinion and strengths. To do what God is calling us to do in this generation we need each other. We need the old ladies welcoming the lonely. We need people like me wearing my Urban Outfitters clothing to listen to a Baptist pastor & soak up his wisdom. We need humility and honor in place of judgement and pride. We need Jesus at the center. We need each other.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Lessons From My 20s: Three Solid Opinions

Tonight I am sharing with you three opinions I have formed in my 20s. Don't hate me if you disagree. I'm right. I'm sure of it. 

1. Seattle Is God's Favorite City

Okay, I know God doesn't have a favorite city. BUT if He did play favorites...I'm pretty sure Seattle would be it. I could write for 10 million years about how much I love Seattle.The water, the mountains that surround the city & a bustling metropolitan center. Hundreds of local restaurants, cozy coffee houses and fashionable boutiques on every corner. If you haven't been you MUST go. Stop reading my blog, go to expedia & plan a trip. You won't regret it. Make sure you visit Mosaic Community Church when you are there.

2. Dogs Are Better Than Cats

Here is my dog Baxter. He sits by the window and watches us come & go. I have had two cats in my life and neither of them did this. I only liked one of the cats & that is because it acted more like a dog. I don't want to hate on cats, but ...well...dogs are better. I can list the reasons why, but then I would get hate mail in my comments section. So, I am going to leave it at this. 

3. Make Time For Play

Remember when you were a kid & your friend comes over to the door and asks, " Can Elizabeth come out and play?". Well, you probably don't remember it quite that way since your name is most likely not Elizabeth. But you know what I mean. We made time to play. To be silly. And we asked our friends to come and do it with us. Adults need it. 

My friend Erika invited me to play last week. She invited me to come with her and try on glasses. There we are in the pic above. We laughed really hard that day. I do need to sit in a coffee shop & have a heart to heart with my friends, but I also need to play. To be silly & ridiculous. To laugh at inside jokes and play pranks on my other friends. Grown ups need to go outside and play too. Stop being so serious. 

These are three random opinions, but  I did solidify them in my 20s so they qualify. Happy Saturday night! 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Lessons From My 20s: My Words Are A Fire Hazard & Can Do CPR

Only one week left before I turn 30! Today's Lesson From My 20s: My Words Are A Fire Hazard & Can Do CPR. ***One small disclaimer. I have taken NyQuil for a cold so ignore typos please!***

Here I am saying "I do." Some of the most powerful words I ever said.

A few years ago I preached a sermon from James 3. I taught about the tongue and it's ability to spark a fire. Honestly, it was a pretty good message I delivered. Too bad I didn't take better notes for myself. I have learned the hard way that life & death is in my tongue.

We all know how awful it is when we say something intentionally derogatory. When we criticize and judge others with our words. Perhaps even worse is when we do it on accident. So many times I have spoken without thinking and created a whole mess. Shared something that was private information & exposed someone. Once I replied to an 'annoymous' comment on my blog whose words were less than supportive. I should have just kept silent and carried on instead of responding. My response wasn't harsh but it would have been better not to defend myself. Turns out it was an old friend of mine from growing up. My hasty reply hurt our friendship. I burned a bridge. 

I do love it when my words build up. I wish I was better at this. Giving honor and encouragement both in front of people and behind their backs. What a blessing to find that my words helped someone and gave them some wind in their sails. It is something so simple and yet so difficult.

The effects of words on the listener seem obvious. Clearly they will make someone feel small & insecure or edified and confident. But I have learned a good deal about how my own words effect me. When I build myself up by my own bragging I get deeply insecure. I am afraid of someone realizing that I am no all I say I am. 

If I minimize the gifting of another with a well placed criticism or doubt-casting question I steal someone's honor. I'm not sure if you have ever stolen something, but it just sits in your gut. I feel horrible about what I have done. I not only demeaned another person directly, but I muddied up their reputation. 
I carry around the weight of my own words.

The same is true when I say things that are life giving. I feel the presence of God. When I honor another person and build them up in public then I am also giving honor to God. That feels so good. It feels freeing, light and hopeful. 

I have learned that my words not cause both fire & life in others, but they cause fire & life in me as well. I carry the weight of my own words. What I carry is either accusation, doubt and shame or honor, hope and joy. It is up to me. It is up to wether I am willing to control this tongue of mine. 

Keep an eye on sarcasm & witty distain. Let encouragement and words that offer help flow. It may not seem like it, but your words are a fire hazard & they can do CPR.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Lessons From My 20s: So Many Thanks

I am thankful for so many things today. Most of all, I am thankful my God is "I AM".

Happy Thanksgiving! Like many of you I spent the morning counting all my blessings. It seems a bit cliche, but it is amazing what it does for my soul. I am thankful for my husband, my kids, sweet friends who love me near & far, my family of origin who love me no matter what. I am thankful for my house, that I am healthy, and have access to plenty of food & clean water. I am thankful for things big and small. 

But what I really focused on this morning was how thankful I am for God. Most simply, I am thankful that He loves me. He has every reason not to. Yet He chooses to look at me and see destiny inside my frail bones. I am grateful that no matter what is going on around me, my God is there. 

I read this verse over & over again today. Reminded again of the power of His love for me. It is the biggest blessing of my life.

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, 
nor angels nor demons,
neither the present nor the future,
nor any powers,
neither height nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
- Romans 8:38-39

I pray that you each had a blessed Thanksgiving today. I pray that you were surrounded by people who love you. Most importantly, I pray that you know the love of a God who is near. Who never gives up on you & will never let you go. Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lessons From My 20s: Marry The Right Person

Okay, this is perhaps one of my favorite lessons!

How cute is my husband?

I was 21 when I got married. Looking back that seems so young, but I was in love. It was the best decision I ever made. 

Love has been the topic of conversation for centuries. Literature, paintings, traditions are full of the pursuit of love. I'm sure it has always seemed like a muddled idea, but in our generation 'love' is incredibly confusing. 

We see shows where people fall in 'love' within a matter of weeks while elaborate dates are set up for them. Movies are portraying the incredibly romantic journey of some fictitious couple. Social media sites allow us to update our status regarding our relationships. It's all so easy. Falling in love seems to be almost pre-scripted.

We are all so good at falling in love. I'm pretty sure there is even a Pandora station for it. Our problem these days seems to be staying in love. Life is hard. Relationships are hard. It takes a lot of work to make something work. Twitter has taught us how to have conversations in 140 characters or less. Intimacy doesn't happen in 140 characters. 

I love being married to Jady. Here are a few reasons why he is the perfect man for me:
  • He loves Jesus more than anything else.
  • He loves me regardless of all my shortcomings & he doesn't expect me to be perfect.
  • The man loves fashion & wants to go shopping with me. 
  • I am dumbfounded by his creativity sometimes. I don't know anyone else who is as creative as he is.
  • The man could lead an army. Really. He can rally people like no body's business. 
  • He wants me to have my own dreams & helps me make them happen.
  • I like to dream big & run hard. He dreams bigger & runs harder. I love it.
Honestly, this post could go on for pages. In my 20s I have learned that love isn't for cowards. Marriage doesn't solve all my problems. Life has ups & downs. I want Jady next to me for all of them. I married the right man.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Lessons From My 20s: Flip Flops Aren't Shoes & Other Fashion Advice

My series continues. Ten more days until I turn 30! Today's lesson from my 20s : Flip Flops Aren't Shoes & Other Fashion Facts.

With some friends on a trip to the Middle East. These clothes do not fit us.

I started off my twenties wearing flip flops, jeans & t-shirts. Throw in the occasional sweatpants tucked into a pair of Uggs. Yikes.My friend Kendall & I once made a list of clothes we would never wear again. The top of the list?  Goucho pants. 

Whose idea were those? They flattered no one. Since that first photo was taken I have learned a few things about clothes. The main difference being that clothes & pajamas are different. Unless you have the flu and need to run to Walgreens for NyQuil then you have no reason to leave the house in your pajamas.

It doesn't take much time to get into a pair of jeans and a cute shirt. In fact, it takes the same amount of time that it takes you to put on your yoga pants & hoodie. Speaking of jeans. It is so worth it to invest in a pair that fit you well. I am a skinny jean kind of girl, but maybe you love your bootcuts or your boyfriend fit. I don't care what style you like, just please please please take the time to find a pair that look great on you.

If the pockets are in the wrong place your behind looks fat. If they are too short then you will look wider.  If they sit too low then you create a muffin-top. Just because they button doesn't mean you should wear them. 

Go to a store and have someone help you. Not just anyone. Someone who has good style. If you don't like the way the sales person is dressed find another one who looks how you want to look. I started slowly filling my closet with pieces that were flattering and easy to mix & match. I wake up and put on a top & bottom without much thought. 

I also used to think that flip flops went with every outfit. They don't. Unlike a high ponytail they don't go from day-to-night. They aren't shoes. I encourage you. Try to wear actual shoes from time to time. The kind with a heal and a toe. It feels good plus you look way more put together. 
Guys take note. These are great shoes.

Far too many people dress like they are a 16 year old on a camping trip. What happened to looking like adults? Comfortable doesn't mean casual. Look nice. It's not that hard. I have two kids and about 3 minutes to get myself dressed on an average morning. Grab the blouse instead of the old college sweatshirt. Unless you are actually going camping.

Okay. That was a bit of a ramble. Buy clothes that fit well. Set your Rainbow sandals aside & help me bring back the laces.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Lessons From My 20s: Passion Can Push You Past Your Excuses

In my twenties I have found that I am full of excuses. Some of them are silly and others of them are legitimate reasons why I shouldn't be able to do something. I'm sure you have your own, but I will let you in on a few of my classic 'go-to' excuses.

  • I can't afford it
  • Someone else would be better for it. 
  • I don't have the time.  
  • I have kids. 
  • No one asked me to do it.
  • It may not work.
I really could go on and on. I shouldn't lead because people won't follow me. Or I dont' know exactly where God is leading me next & I don't want to self-lead. So I won't move.

I sit. I wait. Waiting for more money, more time, more resources, no family responsibilities, a fool-proof plan, and some kind of guarantee. My excuses aren't ridiculous. Take adoption for example. We are currently adopting 2 kids from Uganda. 

We are living lean on what we currently make without adding in the two new kids. I know that I am not a perfect parent. I don't have tons of time. I currently have 2 kids, so I don't NEED to adopt. Uganda didn't call and ask me to nor did God write with fire on a wall during my quiet time. It may be really hard. It may not work the way I imagine.

BUT. I trust that God will provide more as our family grows bigger. God will shape me & I will grow in motherhood. I can make time. I can quit Pinterest, and re-organize my life. I will put good things down to make room for more important ones. I trust that I heard God even though it was a still & small voice. When it gets hard, God will give me the strength I need.

We all have tons of reasons why we shouldn't do what God asks us to. Or what we dream about. Passion pushes us past our excuses. I am passionate that kids don't grow up hungry, lonely and abandoned. So passionate that I will look at every reason 'not to' and walk past it. 

Passion does that. We don't need to work on ridding our world of excuses, because there will always be a new one. We need to work on growing and increasing our passion. If you really burn for something, you will make a way for it. God makes up for our lack. In our weakness He is strong. 

Re-charge your passion. Read about the issues God has put in your heart. Pray about them. Learn more. Fix your eyes on who Jesus is. Talk to Him. Remember what puts fire in your bones. Remember the moments & conversations that have shaped you. Do something. Act. 

We have to quit waiting for all our ducks to be in a row. They won't be in a row. Just move forward. Live the Gospel. Be passionate about Christ & His plans for this earth. His plans for the people alive on the planet today & the issues facing them. 

Cut out the mediocre things. Live the meaningful ones. Cultivate a passion that pushes you past your excuses. You never know. You just might change the world.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Lessons From My 20s: Rome Wasn't Built In A Day, But It Could Have Been

In twelve days I turn 30!!!!  I shall continue on in my series of lessons learned in my 20s. Today's lesson: Rome Wasn't Built In A Day, But It Could Have Been. 

Jady preaching at Mosaic in Seattle. It wasn't built in a day. 

We all know the phrase 'Rome wasn't built in a day'. Someone didn't come up with an idea & poof there was Rome. It took time. Perseverance. Generations built Rome. A long line of visionaries completed the mission. Most things worth building take time.

When we moved to Seattle this saying flew through my mind regularly. Mosaic Community Church won't happen in a day. Year one isn't going to hold all the church's full-fledged ministries. Our church culture won't be fully established and solidified. It will be brick by brick, person by person.

It is important to remember that great things come at great cost. It is worth the time to build well so that your handiwork remains for the civilizations that come after you. There is no substitute for time. 

There have been many undertakings in my life that seem big to me. I mentioned in an earlier post how I want things to happen immediately. I am no good at waiting. I have to remember that I am no greater than the Romans & it may take me longer than I want to build what I am building. God even took 6 days to create the earth. 

The problem with building something monumental & putting in the time is you can so easily loose hope and vision for the task at hand. Where do you get the hope to keep building day after day, decade after decade & generation after generation?

Seattle had some hard days while we were trying to plant Mosaic in those first years. I had to remind myself of two things. 

1. It takes time. I have to choose to persevere as long as it takes to see the promises of God completed. 
2. God could do it now. If I am going to keep striving for a big dream, then I have to believe that God could do it today. Maybe this is the day it happens.

If we don't live with the commitment to run the race no matter how long it is AND the faith that God could bust in at any moment and complete the task in a second...then we stop. We get weary of pushing on if we don't believe that today could be the day. Likewise, if we don't have the willingness to persevere then we simply sit around waiting for a 'miracle'.

It doesn't matter what you are building. It could be a marriage, a ministry, a business or a personal breakthrough of some kind. I have learned that to build Rome I have to have the mindset of 'however long it takes' AND the heart of a child with great faith. That combination is how we stay in the game. We have the courage to wake up again & put in another day's work. Knowing that at any moment God will come in with a game-changing play. 

With God ALL things are possible. Rome wasn't built in a day, but it could have been. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Lessons From My 20s: Baby Steps Still Go Somewhere

Okay, I'm gonna be really honest. I hate being patient. I want to run in top gear go as fast as I can as far as I can. The other day I was expressing my frustration that there are certain things I am not able to fully do yet. Dreams that haven't materialized and giftings that aren't as mature as I would like. There are days I am so frustrated internally at how far I still have to go until I can accomplish some of the things in my heart to do.

You DO realize that you aren't even 30 yet right? This is the sort of wisdom my friends offer that I find deeply irritating. Yes. I am 29 (two more weeks people. Get the birthday presents ready) almost 30. Yes, God has given me the opportunity to do some pretty cool things in my twenties. However, I am very driven. I always want to do more. 

I have big goals & impossible dreams. I want to do them ALL and I want to do them NOW. This is where I have to remind myself that things happen in increments. You don't jump over mountains. You climb them. One step at a time. Sometimes going more horizontal than verticle. Slowly gaining altitude. 

I have to remember that a gun doesn't suddenly go off and I just run right into the race I have been dreaming of. Looking back I see how things that seemed so insignificant & so small were things that allowed me to slowly gain altitude. 

Regularly starting to pray for the things I am passionate about. One Step Higher.
Being diligent with the job in front of me. Even if it isn't my dream job. Lungs expanding to hold more oxygen.
Valuing my role as a mom of little ones and not trying to jump ahead. Gaining solid footing.
Keeping faith alive in my heart for the things of God. Another step.
Supporting others who are ahead of me. Even if they are standing where I want to be. Step, step.

Little steps on normal days. Things that build my character. Increasing my capacity. It happens slowly. Gradually & almost unnoticed. Ever so slight adjustments. Baby steps. 

But when I look back, all these baby steps have taken me somewhere. It seems unimpressive and slow. It can be frustrating & I can minimize their importance. God doesn't usually move us along in our journeys by leaps and bounds, but rather with baby steps. And baby steps still go somewhere. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Lessons From My 20s: Encouragement Lasts

Here I am with Jady. My biggest encourager.

I used to blow encouragements off. I hated when everyone went around & encouraged each other. It seemed so insincere. Of course, they are saying something nice. You are making them say something to me. I didn't listen to what people said. Or I thought I didn't.

I listened when it was close friends or family. I'm thankful that my family encourages me pretty much every day. They say the sweetest things & I am beyond blessed by their words. Over the past few years there have been some hard places personally. Suddenly I found myself getting hungry for someone, anyone, to tell me something they see in me. I was dying for encouragement. 

 I have learned that what people say really does matter. Their words wedge themselves into my mind & I recall them when I need some wind in my sails. Encouragement isn't sappy, it is powerful. It charges my spirit and reminds me that what I am doing & who I am matters. I matter. 

Here are three of my favorite encouragements I have ever gotten:

"You are a queen among women & of admirable conversation." - a member of a short term team I led.

"You are lionhearted. I can see it in you." - Ben Loring

"Joan of Arc. Something about you reminds me of Joan of Arc. Your passion could rally armies." - a girl in my dorm freshman year.

These aren't people super close to me. But I remember their words. It reminds me that what I say matters. Even when I think people aren't listening to what I am saying, my encouragements plant themselves in their hearts. 

I've learned that encouragement isn't some flowery, feel-good thing. It gives power to people. Encouragement matters. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Lessons From My 20s: I Need To Laugh Every Day

These two keep me laughing.

I think we all know that laughing is good. Life gets stressful and sometimes you just need a bit of comedy. Not only is it fun to laugh, but it has tons of health benefits. I'm not going to go into all of that. Google it if you want to know all the health advantages.

Often at the end of the day I realize that I am way too serious and wound up. So, I do something that makes me laugh. It lightens my load and gives me some perspective back. 

I thought I would share with you some of my favorite 'go to' videos for when I need some comic relief. Enjoy & please let me know your favorites. I'd can always use more you tube videos.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Lessons From My 20s: People Aren't Statistics & Their Lives Aren't Data

I am 16 days into my Lesson's From My 20s series. Whew! Are you tired yet? Today's lesson is : People Aren't Statistics & Their Lives Aren't Data.

My dad in Indonesia with an emergency relief team after the Tsunami in 2004

I was 23 when the Tsunami struck in 2004. The news was flooded with images of destruction and grieving people. Too many to take in. I remember seeing so many faces and looking at one homeless family after another. Another child who lost their parents. Another parent who lost a child. They start to simply feel like numbers. Somewhere along the way they became a news cycle and not a life.

We are an information culture. Percentages & statistics invade ever aspect of our lives. Toothpaste commercials even tell us what percentage of dentists recommend their product. Facts. Figures. Numbers everywhere. Numbers that eventually become numbing.

The people the numbers represent begin to become irrelevant.

* Every day 1,000 babies are born with the HIV virus.
* 300,000 children right now are forced to fight as child soldiers in armed conflicts
* 43% of marriages will end in divorce or separation in the first 15 years
* In the United States 9% of people are unemployed
* Approx. 250,000 babies are born each day...

Life becomes a fact. People become a demographic. It is hard to see people as people. Lives as stories. I have learned that I have to fight to see the one among the masses. I have to stop, look someone in the eyes and ask what they have seen. The 300,000 child soldiers are 300,000 individual kids with hearts that long for hope. The 43% of couples who divorce are individual people who fell in love and something went off track resulting in heartbreak. Every person has a story. Each story matters.