Sunday, October 23, 2016

destination home : the promise concert 2016

the irony doesn't escape me.

for the past three years i've had the chance to work on the promise concert -- a fundraiser dedicated to making homecomings possible for vulnerable children in georgia and around the world. promise686 is an organization helping both foster care families and those who choose to adopt.

so, that irony ...
though, typically, a beautiful event raising money, somewhere in the middle of it, i am always struck with how brutal the reality is for so many.

this concert is a group effort taking many volunteers, but over these past few years, i've had the privilege of being the one to fuss over the ambience of the evening. i'm not going to lie, i love that job. i love turning a yard or a century home or (especially) an airplane hangar into something really pretty. i love figuring out how to design tables and colors and centerpieces in a pleasing and picture-perfect way. 

but then, somewhere in the midst of all that pretty-making, i find myself completely overwhelmed with the pain of those children who are living really, really ugly lives. because though i know the importance of the right aesthetic elements, it all starts to feel a bit insignificant when i hear the stories and see the faces and feel the hopelessness of the kids represented in this evening. 

last night, sitting with beautiful friends at beautiful tables on a beautiful georgia night, i listened to cassie's story. a story of sexual abuse and abandonment. a story filled with deep pain and family betrayal. a story, though one of courage and hope now, was once on the path to total destruction. and i am almost embarrassed to be sitting in my new dress and carefully selected shoes in my privileged environment when i cannot even begin to fathom the depth of this young woman's despair -- when i simply cannot comprehend even one hour in her own childhood shoes as a victim of incredible abuse. did i really spend so much time hunting down the right table decor? did i really stress over the font or the fabric or the most frivolous details of this evening when there's a girl with a story like this? and not just one girl. but thousands of girls and boys and children in our state; across our country; all over our world. 

we ordered cool, neutral-colored globes to decorate each table. they went well with the sleek black lanterns and the gray metal across the airplane hangar, but absolutely paled in importance when i think of the children around our real globe -- our world -- the little ones who don't have a safe place to call home.

under the direction of my dear friend and amazing event leader, julie sawyer, my job was also to make sure our guests had a good time and that they were comfortable. i'm serious, after the decor was arranged, that was my evening's assignment -- responsible even for making sure we closed the massive hangar door should the temperatures drop and people begin to get chilly. 

ironic though, because as comfortable as i wanted our guests (and, yes, even myself) to be, listening to the program i began to squirm in my seat. i squirmed to know the hours and energy this event cost when i cannot possibly know the cost of pain in the hidden corners of every direction we turn. every. single. direction. there are over 150 million orphans across our globe. one hundred and fifty million. that means if you grouped them all together in one place they would actually make up the 10th largest nation in our world today. is it possible that the 10th largest nation on our planet could be children without parents? children without a place to call home?

and foster care's statistics aren't any better.  there are over 13,000 children needing foster homes in the state of georgia alone and currently only 3500 homes available to meet this need. those numbers don't work. i don't have to convince you the enormity of this problem. 

i realize there's value in helping throw a great event. i get it. i get that people will write checks and want to return if the party is fun and the air is filled with festivity. and, honestly, i know it's how God has gifted me in helping make this stuff kind of happen. as superficial as that can all sound, i am pleased when God uses my wiring for His glory and purposes. 

but that doesn't mean, i don't get the irony. just because i care if the candle is cream or white or off-white, doesn't mean i don't get the insignificance of that flame when there are so many children being burned up in the fires of real neglect and need.

so there it is. those are the facts. that is my frustration and my embarrassment and my i-don't-even-know-what-to-do-next all rolled up in a few words. that's where i land at the end of each fundraising concert each year. i hear a few compliments and words of praise for how well it went or how good it looked and though i'm, of course, pleased, i'm also completely perplexed at how we can all go on living our comfortable lives when such horror is happening in every corner of our globe. our globe. not the pretty ones on our well-appointed tables, but the one we all call home. i am perplexed and dismayed at my own forgetfulness and apathy in the comforts i can so often take for granted.

so, yes, i'll post pictures of our lovely evening. i know some of you care to see them and i'm happy to share. but, what i'm asking in this blogpost is that even as you are appreciating the pretty pictures,
maybe stop and ask what you might do or give or be. is there a place on this globe -- near or far -- that God is, perhaps, asking you to step into? maybe it's providing the finances or maybe it's providing a family. there are many opportunities to come alongside the fatherless and that's why putting on a great event is important: raising money and raising awareness. maybe even raising the level of uncomfortableness in our own lives.

i know it's what our heavenly Father wants. in fact, promise686 bases it's entire ministry on the very heart of God.  He is "a Father to the fatherless ... God sets the lonely in families, He leads out the prisoners with singing."  ~ psalm 68:6

director, andy cook, and his promise686 staff

(don't quote me on this andy cook) but i will probably always say yes to helping at event like this because even though it makes me stare hard into the unseemly places of pain, it also reminds me there are so many doing so much to make a difference. promise686 is an organization faithfully taking one right step after another to do what it is asked. this ministry physically and financially comes alongside families who are fostering and adopting kids. currently, they have raised up and trained over 900 active volunteers specifically serving foster families. in addition, over the past 7 years, they have also raised great amounts of money for families who desire to adopt but cannot afford to do so. amazing stuff, for sure, but trust me, they have even bigger goals. please, take a look at their website and check out what's going on. 

the truth is, maybe we all need to squirm a little in our seats. whether we are caught up in our designing of events or just way too comfortable in our daily lives, maybe we are better for the  opportunities to squirm and feel the pierce of someone else's pain. 

not just to feel uncomfortable, but to be moved to do something. just something. one thing. anything.

                       "i am only one, but still i am one. 
                        i cannot do everything, 
                        but still i can do something;
                        and because i cannot do everything,
                        i will not refuse to do something
                        that i can do."  
                                                   ~ helen keller

the silent auction -- awesome job katie, lori and kim!

music by kurt scobie

so, yes, i was a little obsessed with the airport venue! 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

the 2016 presidential election: what would Jesus do?

lately, it appears the only thing americans might agree on is the sad realization that no potential savior is running in this obscene race for the presidency. none. no one. nothing. not even close.

there's no man or, for that matter, woman, who is going to save our country.

no way.
no how.
no sirree bob.

with some strange unanimity, we shake our heads knowing the presidential race of 2016 is more in line with all things ridiculous, than with anything close to restorative or redemptive.

regardless of our favorite party or politician, we shuffle around in heavy cloaks of national embarrassment.

and where that seems terribly bleak and beyond worrisome, i'd like to argue that, perhaps, even in this knowledge, it might be possible to find a shred of blessing. because the truth is, our country's hope has never been in a human. our country's salvation has never been in a process, a policy or a program.

not even in our choice of party.

sorry, but no.

it's only in Jesus.

he doesn't push propaganda, but offers peace.
he doesn't promise an economic plan, but assures an eternal one.
he doesn't pander for our votes, but desires our victory.

in the past few weeks i've read one comment after another purporting what Christians should or shouldn't do in this election. mostly, i find myself nauseous when reading the responses: some almost claiming that Jesus, of course, would be in full support of their party and its practices.

i have to tell you, i don't think there's much about any of these parties, at this point, which Jesus would get behind.

but you wanna know what Jesus would do?

it's likely Jesus would invite himself to donald's house for dinner and he would speak words of healing to hillary over a cup of water at the city well ... and he would love them. he'd wash their feet, he'd hold their hands, and he'd even die on a cross for them. yes, even them. because he loves -- not what they've done, not what they do, certainly not what they say they are going to do. but, oh, how he loves them. anyway.

because he loves people. broken people. people like them. people like you. people like me.
all of us who mess up every single stinking day of our lives. he loves us. anyway.

when we aren't sure how to handle ourselves in this time of election, maybe we could think about how Jesus handled Himself when He left the throne room of heaven and exchanged it for the throngs of (us) sinners here on earth.

how did He come?

he came humble. born in a manger and raised by carpenter. Jesus rode in on a donkey (but, please let's not read too much into that donkey thing, okay)? he walked in dusty sandals on dirty streets. he fellowshipped with those on the fringe. he called on criminals, sat with sinners and lunched with the tax collectors. his platform wasn't a popularity contest, but a person committed to people.

he came as human. "who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men." (philippians 2:6) though Jesus was God's Son, he came born to ordinary-mary and every-day-joseph not to parade as majesty, but to put on the very flesh of common-man himself.

he came for the unhealthy. over and over again we see how Jesus spent His time not with those who had it all together, but with those who were mostly falling apart. he didn't align himself with the pharisees or the sadduccees or with a bunch of garbled policies, but with new mercies. mercy for real, broken, messed up people. i know it is sometimes hard to understand, but Jesus came for the sinner, not for the saint. "Jesus said to them, "it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." mark 2:17

he came as hope.  and isn't that what we all want? no matter our party or our politics, we all, each one of us, desire hope. in fact, it's why our nation is so unanimously devastated in this election season. clearly, there's no one running who is able to provide a whole lot of hope. but, dear ones, that's when we stop looking to THEM and start believing in HIM. "hope in the Lord! for with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption."  psalm 130:7 i love that word - plentiful - when we're all looking for just a smidge of redemption and hope from this race, Jesus is offering us plenty.

i know november is looming. heck, election day actually falls on my 48th birthday -- talk about depressing! for the past several months i haven't been able to think about my vote without feeling a little sick to my stomach.

and here we are less than a month away.

it sure feels like an all-time low for our country, doesn't it? but maybe there's something good in this new kind of "low." prophetically, isaiah 5 says this about what can happen when we hit rock bottom (and i have to think for our nation, we are pretty darn close to that bottom): "so people will be brought low and everyone humbled, the eyes of the arrogant humbled. but the Lord Almighty will be exalted by his justice, the holy God will be proved holy by his righteous acts. ... to those who say, "Let God hurry: let him hasten his work so we may see it. the plan of the Holy one of Israel -- let it approach, let it come into view, so we may know it... woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight."  sounds kind of familiar, doesn't it?  (go read all of isaiah chapter 5 if you get a chance).

but, wait a minute, jody, at the beginning of this post you tossed out the word "blessing."
where possibly can there be any sort of blessing in this most embarrassing debacle?

so glad you asked.

here's the deal: if this election shows us our need for something more than our country or our campaigns or our cooked-up-versions-of-ourselves can provide --- than yes, that's blessing. that's seeing the problem, the need, the impending disaster of mankind. that's showing us our utter and complete hopelessness.

and that's exactly why Jesus came.

he came to fill that hole in our broken humanity ---

not as a policymaker, but as a peacemaker.
not as one leveraging his position, but as loving his people.
not as a willful charlatan, but as a willing sacrifice.

i know at the end of the day someone will have to show up in the oval office and see to the business of running this country. i am fully aware it's not an issue we can choose to ignore. and, honestly, i don't know what to do about that. but what i do know is that perhaps this very election will be the thing which will make clear to us another issue which we also can't afford to ignore. an issue of even greater importance --- not who is living in the white house, but who is alive in our heart.

just something to think about.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

doing their laundry

i've got a couple of college kids heading home for a long weekend. first time back since they went in august. and you want to know what i'm most excited about? after hugging their necks and hearing every single detail about college life (that they are willing to share) i'm excited to do their laundry.

yes, you read that correctly: i'm eager to serve my kids. 
it doesn't demean me, it doesn't define me, but it delights my soul to take care of them.
i know society sometimes looks at moms who don't have professions outside the home as maybe missing their calling. maybe, to some, it looks like i'm settling for something less or even something a bit lowly. i mean i carried a triple major in college, surely i should be contributing something more in my community.
but i don't think so.

i can't dream of anything i'd rather do more than this. (though i do, on occasion, have the loveliest dreams involving travel journalism).

no, not every day do i feel like clicking my heels over making a chicken casserole or unloading another basket of laundry -- of course not. but as these kids are growing -- and some mostly gone -- i am beginning to realize, even more, what a privilege it is to care for them. they do a lot for themselves -- as they should. that is the goal people. but some of you will agree: as we, stay-at-home or working moms, watch our kids' independence come better in sight, we might better know the gift in just being a mom.

does this make me a super mom? not at all. but as my kids are slow emptying our home, it makes me more than ever want to be a serving mom.

(an important side note to my children: you know better than to abuse the spirit of this post. it's not a license to be lazy, it's simply a little declaration of your mama's love).

Thursday, September 29, 2016

sisterhood: rejoicing or jealous?

women, why is it we have such difficulty following the command, “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn?" (romans 12:15).

okay, let me tweak that a bit ---

most of us are pretty good when it comes to mourning with those who mourn. we’ve got that down pat. it comes in our wiring. it comes in our wheelhouse. it just comes. we feel for each other. we feel each other’s pain and problems and pressures. we are easily empathetic. when disaster or disease strike we are on the ready with a casserole and our very best condolences. we can typically put ourselves in each other's shoes, innately knowing, if it was us, we'd certainly want a shoulder to lean on and a friend to weep with. so we come quickly, we hug tightly, and we love exceptionally our hurting friend.

but what about the friend who isn’t hurting, but is, instead, covered in the hazy glow of something beautiful or good or even great? 

what about her? ---

the rejoicing friend.

the winning woman.

what about the one who isn’t doubled over in disappointment, but is dancing in some kind of divine appointment?

in my years -- almost-a-half-century-of-them-yikes -- i have watched women do a great job ministering to the broken, but turn right around and struggle with those who are seemingly blessed. i have watched the obvious reluctance in supporting each other in the victories, the accolades, the awards and the generally wonderful stuff. i almost hesitate to write these words. surely not. maybe it’s just me. maybe i’m the only woman alive who can tend to struggle when others succeed. maybe i write these words only to find out that i’m exposed: the sole woman holding the cards of petty insecurity and embarrassing envy.

maybe. but my guess is i’m not entirely alone here.

we might mourn well, but when it comes to the rejoicing part, let's face it, our ugly, human nature can, on occasion, take root and cause us not to celebrate, but instead, to accelerate toward the tendency to compare. 

and it’s all fair territory ---
homes. careers. children. husbands. figures. faces. wardrobes. vacations. even our spirituality.

like …  i want to be happy for her in that new beautiful house or in her next exciting endeavor; to sincerely cheer her on in her latest book deal or her child’s streak of straight A report cards; to wildly celebrate her diet success or her blossoming career achievement.

i want to do that. i even intend to ...

but behind our weak rejoicing rests something which recoils a bit. it’s our sin nature. it’s the ugly evil one who wants nothing more than to make us doubt ourselves; to doubt our own design; to, in fact, doubt our Designer. wondering, if maybe God might have been a little stingy when it came to the granting of gifts in my life. thinking, perhaps He held back a bit when it came to doling out talents or treasures for me.

is it possible, that we are actually prone to think that way?

can you see the power of satan’s whispered words?
can you feel the destructive nature of his devious little lies?

women. it’s time to stop him -- dead in his tracks. if given just an inch he will always slither his way into that ugly, little opening and leave deep his venom of envy and insecurity. he knows how we are wired. he knows where we are weak. this is the same slithery serpent who met eve in the garden -- the same persuasive snake who tempted her into longing for something more -- something more than God's perfect provision.

i’m taking part in a women’s conference this weekend. several thousands of women are gathering tonight at the wisconsin center in milwaukee for momcon 2016. alongside my friend, alexandra kuykendall, i get to speak friday morning to a group of moms and i’m thrilled. but i’m also scared. public speaking, oh goodness, let me tell you, it puts me smack dab in the middle of that uncomfortable place of insecurity. i’ll do my thing and i’m asking the Holy Spirit to help me do it well. but this conference is a place where i will have ample opportunity to compare myself to others. it occurs too naturally. it takes place too readily. i don’t even know it’s happening and then BAM there i am listening to some other woman’s well articulated words or watching the audience warmly respond. there i am enamored with her captivating personality or staring at her super cute shoes.

and i find myself comparing.

not rejoicing or joyful, but fighting off jealousy.

theodore roosevelt said, “comparison is the thief of all joy.” actually God kinda said it first in corinthians, “but when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” (2 corinthians 10:12).

without joy? without understanding? yep, that just about sums us up when we choose to meander down that nasty path of comparison. that same path where, without doubt, we will always meet up with our friends discontentment and discouragement. oh, woman, turn back. don’t travel there. tread not toward this temptation. walk away and be set free with God’s truth. you are “fearfully and wonderfully made ..."  (psalm 139).  dear girl, "you are (actually) made in His own image." (genesis 1:27).

with three daughters, i realize this isn’t just a grown woman’s struggle. it takes place at all ages and in all areas. i watch my girls compare themselves in the social media realm and i have to wonder how we are ever going to make it through all of this and be completely satisfied with who we are and how God made us. with the power and influence of immediate access to everyone else's life it feels like we are reaching epidemic levels in this terrible business of comparison.

and i am not sure i can offer a quick and easy fix.

but, almost exactly a year ago, i began to unpack this unrelenting issue when i agreed to gather for a long weekend with 12 women on a lake in northern idaho. we were strangers. most of us had never before met. i realize that sounds incredibly sketchy. (i know, seriously, who agrees to go to a remote lake location with total strangers for three days)? the purpose was to form a sisterhood. a group of women with a variety of talents and gifts who would be willing to come alongside each other and rejoice in one other.

and that is exactly what happened.

this group of girls -- sisters -- supporting one another has been such a powerful reminder in my life to rejoice with those who rejoice; to sincerely celebrate the small and big victories in each other's lives. because God has wired us uniquely. we don't all have the same talents or treasured gifts. but together we create a beautiful tapestry of God's glory when we use them to honor His name.

these girls in idaho; you, there in your kitchen; me, here in my hotel room ... wherever we are ... whatever God has called us to do ... we can be beautiful threads in God's grand design.

peace with our identity will never be found in aimless wanting or in envious wishing, but in worship of Him and celebration of one another.

maybe you don't have the same gifting as her. but girlfriend, believe me, you've got something else so beautiful to add. see yourself, not as makeshift, but as the masterpiece you are. 
remember, my friend, the God of all creation created you! 

Friday, August 5, 2016

#1 on the college list

a can of febreeze. that's it. that's the single, only item purchased for our son heading off to college in just a couple of weeks. 

one. solitary. can. of. febreeze.

he came home with it from the grocery store last week --- proud, sure of himself and, i could tell, feeling quite accomplished. that college list thing? yep, he's all over it. he's on it. off and running that boy is.

that boy with his one can of febreeze.

and some of you begin to chuckle because you might remember my posts from the last two years when our daughter -- our first born -- headed to college. (click for emily's dorm room) you remember the crafty bedskirts, the homemade headboards and the chalk-painted dresser. maybe you remember the preparation, the attention to detail and the oodles of time and energy we poured into her new place. the design hoopla of dorm sweet dorm ... and then some.

and now child number two gets ready to leave. the son. the boy-man. the outdoorsy-kinda-guy. the one who would be happy with nothing more than his eno, his hyrdoflask and a big bag of beef jerky. (oh, and the febreeze. yes, let's not forget that).

last week when he brought home his air freshener, i just had to ask. i asked him why he made that his first (and only) purchase. i mean, come on people, let's get real here: we all know the list for college supplies is long. maybe it doesn't include homemade headboards for the guys dorm, but there are still some things this son of mine is going to need living in a state separate from his parents.

his answer regarding the febreeze: "well, mama, i don't really know. it just seemed a good place to start and i'm pretty sure we'll need it."

how self-aware, i thought. good for him. he might not seem ready, but, perhaps with his easy-going-it-will-all-work-out attitude, he, actually, is.

you know i've pushed him a little on this topic. feigning nonchalance, i've casually asked if he and his roommate have discussed things like who is bringing the sofa, the microwave, the mini-fridge or the x-box. i realize we aren't going to whip up a design sample-board or even come close to determining a coordinating color scheme, but still ... there are things. my mind goes to the nittiest grittiest things like toilet brushes and shower mats and laundry hampers. i mean, how can it not? i'm a mother. i've been running a household for over 25 years.

when asked if his roommate, kevin, and he have talked about any of these things, he rolls his eyes and comes back with, "oh mom, we're good. we're just gonna pick up things as we need them."

(and, you, who know me, laugh. again).

let's be perfectly clear here: my son knows exactly what he's doing. oh yes he does. he's been around his mama for almost 19 years and he knows he is driving me plumb crazy. he knows my home (or dorm) decorating fingers are flat out itching to pick out a comforter and some throw pillows.

he rolls his eyes.
he smirks.
shrugs his shoulders and chuckles under his breath.

because he knows me.

but, what's more: i know him. 

i know i can't pin this kid up against the wall in target and demand he select a shower caddy and a foam mattress pad cover. it won't work that way. i've been his mother far too long. and this boy who sees himself as a bit of a survivalist (living, mind you, in suburban atlanta) is heading off to college soon --- but in his way and on his terms. and if it means sleeping in his eno and gnawing on a stick of beef jerky, then so be it. at this point, after almost two decades, the boy has shown his true colors. and though i'm pretty sure his future places of abode may have nothing to do with color schemes or design detail, i also have the beautiful knowledge that God spared nothing when he designed my boy. He made him exactly like this: simple, easy and definitely not one bit worried about what his freshman dorm room will look like.

and i love him. just as he is.

it's true, there's a pretty good chance i might try to hang a picture or curtains in his dorm when he goes, but the real truth i need to hang on to is that my son (with his one blessed can of febreeze) knows exactly who he is and is, actually, pretty darn ready to do this college thing.

though college lists contain a whole lot of important stuff, i have yet to lay eyes on the list from samford university where tyler will attend. i don't know, maybe the very first item listed for the boys' dorm is, indeed, a can of febreeze. that's possible. in fact, quite believable. but, regardless of what any college has suggested, i know, for us parents letting go, the #1 thing we want on our kids' list is the confidence that they know who they are, and even more importantly, they know Whose they are. 

and there's always parents' weekend to hang those curtains ...

Sunday, July 24, 2016

lost and found

he took time to call and let us know what he'd found. said he had no idea why it just now appeared, but there it was one morning, sitting on the counter in the camp office.

"right away i knew it was a special bible," he told me.

"jody when y'all bring the kids up to camp next week, stop in and i'll make sure to get this back to you."

and so we did.
yesterday, we brought home our son's old bible, left at summer camp who knows how many years ago.
sweet to see, again, that little, blue leather bible we gave tyler on his 10th birthday.
marked up, worn out and, yes, one summer, sadly, somehow left behind.

lost, but found.

tyler is now almost 19 and too old to attend camp highland. but last week his younger siblings were there. no telling what they all left behind. the camp's founder and director, bill chapman, probably won't be making a personal phone call concerning a discarded towel, a single tennis shoe or a forgotten toothbrush, but how grateful i am that he called us about tyler's bible.

after retrieving the kids and the bible, we loaded up the car: tired campers, musty sleeping bags and suitcases stuffed with all levels of foul looking laundry ...  and we began our trek home from this dear place in the north georgia mountains. with my husband driving, i had the chance to thumb through my boy's old, blue bible. a reunion of sorts. and though i struggle remembering anything these days, i clearly remembered the moment -- the birthday -- when we gave it to him nine years ago. what's more, i could picture this bible on his nightstand. for many years i'd go into his room in the morning to wake him and find the bible close by my sleeping son.

it was this bible he read from after accepting Jesus as His Savior many years ago. bill was absolutely right, it is a special bible. and i'm thankful to have it back.

but this next morning,  as it sits here on our own kitchen counter, i keep thinking about not lost and found things, but about lost and found people, particularly kids. maybe it's that my own kids are getting older and now at an age where they are faced with decisions determined by their personal beliefs. they are well into a season where their faith isn't about something their parents wrap up and present to them like a birthday gift. no, that might kind of work when they are little, but at some point it has to become just them and Jesus. our job as parents -- pointing, directing and guiding our kids spiritually -- will always be important, but there certainly does come a time when we must move out of the driver seat and allow them to take over the wheel of what they really, truly, absolutely believe.
... or don't believe.

and for so many, i know this is a time when parents watch their children fearfully. 
afraid they will become lost. flounder. fail. even, fall away.

it's a scary time.
it's a real time.
and, inevitably, it's a wake up kind of time.

with 4 of our 5 kids already crossed over the teenage line, i know, full well, what it looks like to begin letting go -- of all things: physical and spiritual. and because (thankfully) i have teens who talk pretty freely and share (at least some) things with me, i know, also, the temptations and tests they face daily. i don't know it all perfectly, but i have an idea of what this world is worshipping when it turns its back on belief in God.

i also cannot ignore what the studies say: surveys are showing that somewhere between 70 and 80 percent of church-raised kids leave their faith after graduating high school. that's an awful lot of kids being raised in noah's ark themed nurseries saying no to religion as young adults.

at a heartbreaking and more personal level, i've watched this happen in my own world with friends and family.

no matter what we might assure ourselves of, or comfort ourselves with, we know that it is entirely possible that those little ones singing sunday school songs in our backseats might grow up and someday cease in sharing our beliefs.

it happens.

recently i had a conversation with a woman who's daughter is running fast and far from Jesus. the faith her parents taught her as a child she now deems "a mere fairytale." this mother-friend of mine wept to know how lost her daughter has recently become.

the rejection is real.
the heartbreak is real.
but, real also, is the hope.

there is hope. and that's the message i wish us all to hold tight to. like that little, blue bible and that phone call from our friend, the camp director, bill. getting lost is all too possible, but, oh, dear ones, the joy of being found. and, the good news: it's exactly why God sent His son -- to find.

to find you. to find me. to find all of us who have wandered away and become lost.

Jesus, God's son, came to rescue, to redeem and, ultimately, to reunite God with his children.

in that recently found bible is the story of the prodigal son -- the boy who left home and ran from his family and his faith.
maybe it resonates with you.
maybe you can imagine.
maybe you know exactly what that story looks like in your own home.
or maybe you just fear it.

but, loved ones, the story doesn't stop with the boy's running away, but with the father's running toward him. when the father saw his world-bruised son limping up the lane, ravaged and repentant, he ran to him, embraced him, and celebrated him all they way back to his home.
how lavish this father's love.
how lavish our Father's love.

there's hope!
there's no place too dark, no sin too deep, no wound too wide that cannot be run to and wrapped up in the wild love of our Father's eternal embrace.

"but we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of your was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found." ~ luke 15:32

that prodigal son's return party wouldn't have happened without the pain of his wandering away. i don't get why that has to happen, but, perhaps, sometimes it does.

maybe sometimes we have to be truly lost, in order to be truly found.

is it possible, that for some, it is better to leave and lose and, even get lost a little, in order to authentically live? to live, not in our pretending faith passed smoothly down from our parents, but in the gift of real grace that only God can really give.

there's not a parent out there who wishes their child to leave his faith or become lost. it goes against every part of our parenting instinct. of course we all pray that our children discover a deep and authentic relationship with God early on and never have even one day of doubt.
i pray that for my children, too.

but, we know, that isn't always the way it works. and in light of all that i am hearing and watching around me, i want to encourage those of you who have experienced otherwise. moms and dads, i don't know what kind of wandering or rebellion you might be facing, but i want to encourage you to hang on. hang on to the hope that our faith isn't based on a mere magical fairytale, but is about a real Father who will run hard the distance to redeem His children.

and like tyler's bible, it could take some time. it might even return a little worse for the wear, but there's joy to see it recovered and restored and (re)placed right there on his night stand.

the parenting road is not an easy one, but be reminded: our children, first and foremost, belong to Him. they are the sheep of His pasture and our good, good Father sent His own Son to come to the lost, to find the lost, and to bring them back to His fold.

  "and when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. and when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'rejoice with me, for i have found my sheep that was lost.' just so, i tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance." ~ luke 15:5-7

Friday, May 27, 2016

clinging, graduating and skydiving

he was 18 months old and he followed me everywhere.


like i couldn't cross the kitchen without him toddling after me, arms outstretched and hands clinging to my legs.


you know what i'm talking about. ever have a little one like that?

that was my oldest son.
my tyler.
the one who graduated high school last night.
the one who walked across the stage with arms stretched out receiving his diploma. and he didn't toddle. no, at 18 years old it is now a strut, a saunter, a smooth step and confident gate in the direction, not of his mama, but of his future.

it's the way it should be, and yet, i cannot help but remember this boy as a toddler who never wanted to leave my side. out of our five children, tyler was by far the most clingy. a true mama's boy. a child slow to warm up to new situations, a little boy who cried when dropped off at sunday school or preschool, a baby who always wanted to be held.

and now he's 18 and taller than me. his voice is deep, his shoulders broad, his hugs, quick, and i am pretty sure he hasn't clung to my legs in well over a decade. and this morning he will wake as an official graduate. he will head off to college in a couple of months and another chapter of life will begin. it happens every day, all the time, around the world ... and, yet, to this mother sitting here this morning, it seems almost impossible.


he's nothing like that little toddler guy, but everything like him as well.  i know, that doesn't make sense. it's confusing, this mama thing. the changes didn't come overnight. i had some preparation. little by little i've been watching my boy turn into a man. i've watched him grow from clingy and crying to confident and capable. i've watched him grow from a child afraid to a young man full of adventure.

and it's an amazing thing.
it's beautiful.
it's a gift.

recently i did a short post about his great love of adventure. and while assembling a few pictures into a photo collage, i just had to laugh. was this really the same little boy who clung to my legs as a two year old. this young man out in his kayak, up on a mountain, flinging himself off a cliff? was it really him? how did this happen?

and how fitting that, yesterday, graduation morning, my son, the same boy who wouldn't stay in a room without me, went skydiving. he and a few of his friends celebrated their graduation day by jumping from a plane 14,000 feet up in the air.

as freaked out as that made me, i also couldn't help but think it perfect. these children who go from sticking like glue to our sides to, yes, skydiving. this is what motherhood feels like: one day we are doing our best to make dinner with them attached to our hip, and the next, we are releasing them to go jump from a plane 14,000 feet in the air.

yes, of course, somewhere in between there were sleepovers and summer camp and solo bicycle rides and a few thousand soccer games ... but for a moment it feels like we are the ones who jumped. because, we all know, when our kids jump -- be it from high school or preschool or planes -- a part of us jumps too.

whatever they do, wherever they go, a little piece of us travels along.  because "go" and "do" they will. and should. life is meant to be lived, not clinging to our mother's skirts, but as an grand adventure embracing what God has already written for us.

a few months ago, i was at the brooklyn flea market in nyc. i stumbled upon an old world map from the 1800s, brought it home and had it framed for tyler's graduation gift. on the back of the frame we wrote: "have I not commanded you? be strong and courageous. do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." ~ joshua 1:9

and so the next adventure begins, tyler. 
go! explore! dream! discover! we are excited for you, son. and we take great peace in knowing God will, indeed, be with you wherever you go.

and wherever that might be and whatever God will call you to do ... just know, even if you don't need me in the same room anymore, i'm still here. i'll always be here. i love you.

"adventure is worthwhile."  ~ aristotle

Sunday, April 10, 2016


they aren't my siblings, they're my children. but as a mother on this #nationalsiblingsday, i (of course) have a message for them. it's the same message i've been repeating since they were little and playing out back in the sandbox:

love each other well.

kids, God willing, you will probably have all kinds of friends; old friends and new friends, good friends and great friends. but, for the most part, you pretty much only get one set of siblings.

it's true, some days you'll wonder what God was thinking when He plunked you down under the same roof with this sister or that brother. you'll look at them like they have three heads and they'll look at you like you don't have anything close to a heart. you won't get them. they won't get you. you won't like them and, yep, you guessed it, they won't like you.


and other days will be golden. you'll laugh and tell jokes and climb trees and collect bugs and ride bikes and watch movies and eat ice cream and share secrets and scrape knees and hold hands and play pranks and throw balls and hike rivers ... and grow up ... together.

but that doesn't mean there won't be times when you'll feel like they are all picking on you.
and you'll probably wonder why God had to go and pick them all for you.

but God did pick them. He picked them and He chose you. He designed your family. He determined the number. and, yes, He even knew the challenges. believe me, He knew the potential for drama and difficulties. He was well aware of the hardships and the hurts. (sort of interesting, don't you think, that the very first sibling relationship in the bible ended in murder. unfortunate, but true).

no one ever said that having sisters and brothers would be all sunshine and roses (just ask cain and abel).

but here's the deal ---
though it probably won't be the most perfect relationship, it is one worth pursuing.
though it possibly won't be the easiest relationship, it is one worth embracing.
though it's not always the smoothest relationship, it is one worth cementing.

it didn't happen by accident, it happened with design.

it happened for a purpose.

and kids, let me encourage you ...

look for that purpose.

seek it out.

value it.

care for it.

cherish it.

i know sometimes they frustrate and irritate and agitate. (remember, i am their mother). and what's more, i have siblings, too. i once got so mad i threw a juice glass at one sister. i stole clothes from another and called my brother every kind of bad name in the book. and that's only the tip of our family iceberg. i know it's hard. your dad, even he, with only one sibling to worry about, has stories of tying his sister to a fire hydrant and of her locking him out on the roof. let's face it, kids can be mean. teenagers can be ugly. even adults can have issues.

we all know how siblings tattle and taunt and, sometimes, i suppose, even torment ... but, hard as it might be, try to remember, the design is for treasure. 

that's been one of my greatest prayers for you, kids ... that, even in your inevitable sibling-trials, you would learn to see each other as treasure. as a gift. as something sweet and very good.

when you are young ... and when you someday grow old.

give each other grace.

learn to see past the differences and the division and love anyway. my siblings, we are all in our 40s now and though we haven't by any means achieved the pinnacle of sister-and-brotherly-perfection, we are willing to work together to build bridges to each other.
i wouldn't trade that willingness for anything.

sometimes it's hard work.
sometimes it's holy work.

it hasn't always been easy. in these 40+ years of sibling-hood we've weathered all kinds of things --- long distance. divorce. cancer. alcoholism. religion. politics. parenting. but we love each other and even in our differences we are not willing to dismantle what God beautifully designed all those years ago back on 171st street when the youngest of us came home from the hospital and we became complete.

kids, don't waste time fighting WITH each other, but make time to fight FOR one another.

3 john 1:4 says, "i have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." and, oh yes, this is absolutely true. but for us mamas, just after hearing that our kids are walking with Jesus, comes the joy of hearing and seeing and watching them walk well together ... in love.

my awesome siblings! (don't you want to know which one was involved in the juice glass throwing incident)?

Friday, March 25, 2016

sweet 16, california and counting

turning sweet 16 this week, the trip was meant to be a gift for our sarah. but without doubt, it has been a gift for me --- this weekend away with the two oldest daughters. california beaches and sunshine and the sweetness of good time spent with my girls almost all grown up.

one daughter just turned 20 and the other just about to turn 16.  these are the years not always set aside for a mother. these girls are busy with their college and their high school and their friends and their figuring out of life.

it's normal. it’s how it goes. it's what is supposed to happen.

they stop playing with their baby dolls in the next room over and they head out into the space of their own lives. it's real and it's right. and i imagine, it's the way it generally works.

but as mamas we watch it take place and we feel the pang. somedays we can't help but gasp at the abruptness of it all. one day, tiny children holding tightly to our hands and the next day those same hands are just a wave on their way out the door.  a quick kiss or a brief hug and off they go to their older-self things.

and i'm glad.

i'm glad they are finding things away and apart from me. i'm not saying it is always easy, but i know that it is good. they cannot grow up and be the women and men God has designed them to be out there without separating a little bit from me right here.

no, we're not talking about a total severing, only a tiny shift. somewhere between sever and shift there is a sweet space. a space to which they can return and a space from which they can roam. we don't always strike a perfect balance. we can’t. believe me, after twenty years in the business of mothering, i can tell you there is no perfect in parenting. it doesn't work that way. instead we dance --- around it and in it and sometimes all over it. they figure it out as they go. we figure it out as we go. it's the unspoken agreement we strike when they are first placed in our arms. there aren't operating instructions. there's no formula or road map or 100% right way.

our first morning at the hotel and wide awake ridiculously early (east coast to west coast issues) i sat in the coffee shop near a fireplace. across from me was a young woman with a book perched on the convenient shelf of her very pregnant belly. even with only a few sips of coffee in me, i couldn’t help but notice the book's title, baby wise. twenty some years ago in my first pregnancy, i, too, could have been found with this book perched on my belly. and because i have a penchant for striking up conversations with strangers, i was compelled, of course, to tell her. (--- not really about the belly thing, just that i had read the book).

the young mama-to-be excitedly explained this was her first baby and with great hope in her eyes, quickly went on to ask, "so, did this book really work?"

i thought of the two girls back in my hotel room oblivious to any time change and not anywhere close to awake. their tall bodies stretched out in beds, beautifully snoring in their deep morning sleeping. i couldn’t help but smile remembering the role of this book in my early parenting. remembering the days of new-baby-sleeping. remembering how i continuously consulted these pages as if they held every answer to the success of my newborns. by the time our family was complete, this book was ear-marked and water-marked and 100% mother-marked. the schedule, the feeding, the sleeping -- i was determined to make it work. dedicated to doing it right. and, mostly, of course, just desperate to get a little bit of sleep myself.

when you are in the throes of new mama-ness, it is hard to imagine the day when, with your daughters, you might travel to a hotel perched on the coast of california and eat fancy salads in rooms with beautiful views. when you're chasing toddlers across the sand and vigilantly hovering as they dance and dig in the surf, it doesn’t seem possible that someday your girls will sit still and quiet and content themselves with their suntans and their cell phones. (of course you'll watch them, but it will be for other reasons).  but in those early days it's downright foreign to think you might someday share makeup and jewelry and shoes and secrets. that kind of stuff doesn't quite compute when, in early-motherhood-survival-mode, we are desperately counting hours each day. hours of napping and hours of nursing.

"yes, it worked," i told her. it did. scheduling and planning and preparing ... that all does work. perfectly? no! but it works. it helps. for awhile. and then they grow up and we no longer worry about how long they nursed or how well they slept, because suddenly there are other things that consume us. other books to read. other things to count and consider. each season bringing something new.

i don’t have to count the hours in their schedules any longer, but i certainly do count the blessing of hours spent with them. and though i can’t credit any book with the sweet relationship i share with my girls, i am certain what we have with our kids does begin at the very beginning. it begins in those new baby moments when we count hours of sleep and wet diapers and spoonfuls of oatmeal. we count. it counts. every bit of it counts.

i wished this young mother the best, grabbed my coffee and headed back to the hotel room to wake up my girls. the sun was out and it was time for them to get up. motherhood might look a little different now with children who are teenaged and taller than me, but i assure you there is so much that is just the same.

in all of it, whether at the very beginning or somewhere in the midst of all grown up, we must remember the very best thing we can count is the blessings.

sometimes they even take pictures of you!