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Monday, August 31, 2015

lie: part three.

word of the day: lie \ˈlī\ to make an untrue statement with intent to deceive; to be in a helpless or defenseless state

“You’re just one person.  What difference can you make?”

So, Jen Hatmaker.

When we moved to Ohio, I opened up 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. It had been sitting on the back pages of my Kindle for a couple of years, and my friend, Jess, told me I needed to read it. So I did (I try to do everything Jess does. She’s a key member of my council). And it wrecked me. Wrecked me, you guys.

The premise is simple. Hatmaker took seven areas of excess: food, clothing, shopping, waste, possessions, media, and stress. She spent one month on each area and reduced her life down to seven things (although each month “reduced” down differently). For instance, during the food month she ate the same seven foods, during the clothes month she rotated the same seven articles of clothing, and during the stress month she paused to pray seven times a day.

I opened the book thinking I would change as a consumer: buy less, waste less, give more. And, while that did happen in ways (I make homemade croutons with stale bread and recycle now, for goodness sakes), I closed the book more cognizant of my need to serve the least. To get past the excess in my life and to bring Jesus to people.

enter this lie.  

Loving people requires action. In my experience, people who need Jesus don’t just flock to my house. They don’t just turn up on my front porch and ask for homemade cookies (although I’d be lying if I told you I hadn’t prayed for that a time or two).

So, Satan thwarts this mission if he can convince me that I can’t make a difference anyway.

I have two counteracting perspectives to this lie.  Hatmaker helped me come to the first and she did it while talking about spending of all things. In her quest to be a better steward of her money, she was discouraged that her “race against the machine [was] silly.” Translation: You’re just one person.  What difference can you make?

Her response?

When I look at our earth’s resources and all the humans it needs to sustain, I have to adopt an “as for me and my house” perspective on responsibility.  Stewardship is like that. I won’t answer for the way another Christian mismanaged money. I won’t be charged with another person’s irresponsible consumption. Nor will I get credit for how another faith community shared or sacrificed luxuries for the marginalized.

I’ll answer for my choices.

And I’ll answer for mine, too. Someday, I’m going to stand before God and make an account for the way I lived my life, and I’d like to be able to say that I gave it my best shot. That I tried to love people well. That I didn’t just wait for them to come to me.

I might not change the world in big ways. I probably won’t end world hunger or find a home for every orphan across the world. But if I step off my front porch, I think I can at least make small differences. And I’ll gladly answer for those.

My second perspective, though, comes from one of my other favorite writers, Bob Goff. He wrote the book Love Does and champions the idea that love requires action and that from those actions can come great things.

Goff took this principle and (to put it far too succinctly than it deserves), allowed his children to meet and host foreign dignitaries in their home for sleepovers, became the American consul to Uganda (rescuing hundreds of kids in the process), and started a tradition in which their entire neighborhood puts on a New Year’s Day parade complete with a grand marshal and a 100% participation rate.  

I like what Donald Miller (now it’s a trifecta of authors) says about Goff in his book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years:
I asked Bob what was the key to living such a great story, and Bob seemed uncomfortable with the idea he was anything special. But he wanted to answer my question, so he thought about it and said he didn’t think we should be afraid to embrace whimsy. I asked him what he meant by whimsy, and he struggled to define it. He said it’s that nagging idea that life could be magical; it could be special if we were only willing to take a few risks (167).

I want whimsy.

I want to believe that big things can happen even if I don’t expect them to. And that loving people is a choice that will never fail.

Anyway, people like homemade banana bread too much for it to fail.  And, thanks to Jen Hatmaker, I’ve got an excess of baked goods made with overripe bananas.
Lily likes to help me bake. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

lie: part two.

word of the day: lie \ˈlī\ to make an untrue statement with intent to deceive; to be in a helpless or defenseless state

“That’s too dangerous. You’re safer where you are.”

The following is a real conversation which took place between Jake and me before I traveled with the girls in a car alone across nearly 4 states. It has not been exaggerated (although, as you'll see, one of my natural tendencies is exaggeration).

Me: I'm feeling anxious about the trip. You know, I'm just worst-case scenario-ing.

Jake: Ok. I like to think through situations in advance too. So, worst-case scenario: the car breaks down. What do you do?


Jake: What?

Me: Really? That's your worst-case scenario?

Jake: Yes. Why? What's yours?

Me: Oh, I don't know. We could crash and die on the interstate. Lily could run out from underneath the bathroom stall at a rest stop and be kidnapped. I could be kidnapped from the parking lot of the rest stop leaving the girls alone and screaming. The car could break down and then someone could prey on our misfortune before the police get there.


End scene. The struggle is real, people. And yes, bless Jake for even attempting to engage with my inner-monologues.

I am afraid of everything. As a child, I went to bed each night convinced that a.) my house was going to burn down b.) I had leukemia or c.) the rapture was going to happen and leave me behind (whoever thought 'Left Behind: The Kids' was a good idea?). I couldn't even spend the night at my grandma's house because I was convinced my parents were going to die in my absence.

Fear is the ultimate robber of joy, if you ask me.

This lie is tricky (okay, yes. They are all tricky; they're lies after all) because it's relatively true. It really is safer for me to stay inside my house at all times.

But, much like "ease," God never promised me that this life should be safe.

When I get bogged down by fear or when the thought of something terrible happening to the girls physically tightens my chest, I try to remind myself of two things:

First, and again, God promises to never leave me. He promises the same for Jake. And Lily. And Norah. He is with us. Always. (I particularly like the reminder in Psalm 139.)

Second (and this is a harder one for me swallow), preserving this life isn't the end goal. Before Jake and I went to Africa, I was flat-out terrified. I sat on a park bench the night before we left bawling my eyes out mostly because I had convinced myself that we were, indeed, going to die. Many well-meaning people tried to offer encouragement: "Don't worry. Nothing's going to happen to you."

The people were well-meaning, but the advice wasn’t helpful. I knew that something could happen and that they had no way of knowing that something wouldn’t.

So, before we left on that trip, I had to come to terms with the fact that I could die. And that if I did die, God would still be Good. That His plan would supersede any that I could come up with on my own. This didn't make it easy (I wrote once about still feeling afraid during that trip), but it reminded me again that I'm not the center of the story and that my life will continue even when this one ends.  

This is the most paralyzing lie of all because it is really meant to do just that. I think Satan whispers this one when we are given an opportunity to do something for God. In my experience, when I succumb to the lie, it is at the cost of a relationship with a person; the cost of bringing the kingdom to someone who desperately needs it.

And that's what Satan wants, isn't it? To keep me  from doing the very things Jesus asks of me. If he can convince me to justify my own fears, he keeps me motionless and from bringing the Kingdom to earth.

Even so, mom and dad, you can keep the Left Behind: The Kids series at your house. No need to push the limit up in here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

lie: part one.

word of the day: lie \ˈlī\ to make an untrue statement with intent to deceive; to be in a helpless or defenseless state

“Your life is harder than everybody else’s.”

I’ve always had a particular proclivity for self-pity.  (In fact, I wrote about it once already back when Jake started medical school.  It seems fitting that this lie would rear its head again here at the start of residency.)
Sometimes I wonder what it’s like to be a person who doesn’t succumb to deep puddles of self-focused melancholy (much like I wonder how people express their feelings without embracing the use of hyperbole). But, as it is, I am a person who does.
This was the most recent individual selfie I could find.  People are happier readers when they have pictures to look at, right?  Also, go Indians!  I love Cleveland sports.
I can list a lot of hard things that have happened to me in my life. Like when Lily was born and Jake was gone for the first three weeks studying for boards.  Or when Norah was born and Jake was gone for the first three weeks in Ohio.  Or when I was up nursing Lily in the middle of the night and it hurt so bad that I said every curse word in the book (sorry, mom and dad). Or when Norah thought the 4 month sleep regression should start at 5 months and LAST 4 months. Or when I moved to Ohio.

enter the lie.

It shimmies itself in during those hard moments; the times when I’m at my wit’s end and gives me a glimpse into the “easier” lives of the people around me: Her husband was around when their babies were born. Her babies sleep through the night.  She doesn’t even know how bad breastfeeding can hurt. They didn’t have to move to Ohio. (The list is extensive.)

This lie causes two major problems.  First, it takes away my perspective. Just so we’re clear, my life is not hard.  There are people who read this blog who have lost children, lost spouses, and lost marriages.  Who have battled infertility and depression and severe anxiety which I will never know.  There are people who have raised babies for years at a time while their husbands served overseas.  I’m sure you cringed reading about my “calamities,” and I don’t blame you.

Even more problematic, this lie isolates me from the people who matter the most because it breeds resentment. In those moments of self-pity, my instinct is to avoid the people whose lives seem easier than mine. Unfortunately, those tend to be the people I need the most (which is obviously not a coincidence).  

The counteracting Truth is tricky, too, because God never promises that this life is meant to be easy.  Jesus repeatedly asks people to give up everything they have to follow Him.  The cost of following is high.  It’s worth it, but it’s high.

He does promise to be with me, though (again and again and again and again). He also promises that perseverance and growth (both good things) come from pressing on through the trials (James 1, among other references).

I don’t want to play the game of Whose Life Is Harder than Whose? It’s not fun or productive or beneficial in any way (and, I could be playing How Much Can I Get Done Before the Microwave Beeps? for crying out loud).  

I want to live a life in which I acknowledge that, yes, sometimes this life is hard.  Sometimes I am thrown curveballs that others don’t have to dodge or am given a high hurdle when someone else’s is shorter. But I also want to live a life in which that’s okay.  In which I am not always just waiting for my life to be “easy” again or ranking my difficulties on a scale of bad to worse.  I want perspective and people and to celebrate ALL the various things that come my way (and the way of others).  Because there’s always good to be found. Even in the hard times.

This life is a dot on the line of eternity.  All God asks me to do is love Him and love others well. When I am able to shift my focus to that and remember that God promises to never leave me even in the most challenging of times, the lie that my life is harder than everybody else’s becomes moo.

It’s like a cow’s opinion. It doesn’t matter.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

lie: a series.

word of the day: lie \ˈlī\ to make an untrue statement with intent to deceive; to be in a helpless or defenseless state

I once wrote that “I could probably write a 328 part series about the lies I believe on any given day.”  

The themes of that post, written a little over a year ago, have been on my brain since we moved to Ohio.  Specifically, I keep thinking about this:

The first eight definitions of the word “lie” have to do with something that remains motionless. Helpless. Defenseless. That’s what happens when we believe a lie isn’t it? It is meant to paralyze us. Take away our direction. Keep our boat in place. 

It always helps me once I detect the lie. Instead of a weight that hangs heavy around my heart, it becomes a fly that just needs swatted away once in a while. It’s still annoying, yes, but it’s not enough to keep me from paddling.

Every day, a million thoughts go through my head.  Many are good and some are bad and a few sneak in parading as good which are really bad (I’m breaking all my own writing rules here about choosing strong adjectives).  The latter two categories, in many cases, are lies, and if I’m not careful, they really do have the power to paralyze.  

I can’t stop thinking about all the lies.  So, I think I’m supposed to write about them.  

I don’t really want to write about them.  That’s why I’ve been posting about how much I love my dishwasher and about how much I hate Eastern Standard Time and about all the hilarious things Lily says.  It’s easier to be clever than it is to be vulnerable.  

I’ve been working to name the lies. isolation, entitlement, and fear tend to play dominant roles (although I don’t like to give them the satisfaction of capital letters), and in writing about each one individually, I hope to expose the lie and counter it with Truth (a well-deserved capital letter there).  

If this is the introduction, then here is the thesis: There are two things I need you to know if you intend to read any subsequent posts in this series.

First, my propensity to believe lies is not new.  It is not a result of our move to Ohio.  I believed all these same lies my first semester of college when I cried behind closed doors every night, or when I kept getting rejected from teaching interviews, or when Jake and I went to Africa, or when Lily was born and I didn’t feel particularly happy about it.  You name a chapter in my life, and I’ll name all the lies I believed.  I only say this because the lies I believe might also be the lies you believe even if you’re living in a totally different life stage than me.  Lies are tricky that way.

Second, lies have to originate somewhere, so if I’m going to talk about them, I have to talk about Satan.  He is the accuser (Job 1:6); the father of lies (John 8:44).  He is on the prowl (1 Peter 5:8), and his end goals are death and destruction.  The worst part is that he is smart, and he knows how to make a lie sound pretty good. How to make it your idea.  How to twist the truth just right. How to prey on your most vulnerable moments. He doesn’t want us to find the lies because then we expose his voice behind them. And when we expose his voice, we expose the fact that (spoiler alert) he doesn’t get to win. God does, and there is (I’ve found it) great hope in that.  We can beat the lies.  

I don’t intend to write a 328 part series.  If it starts to get too heavy, I promise to take a break to write about clever things like how I’m pretty sure Jen Hatmaker can see into my soul or how all I want to do every moment of every day is watch The West Wing.

In any case, if you choose to stay tuned, I hope the lies I wrestle with on any given day can help you wrestle with and name yours.  What good is this life if we can’t go through it together, after all?

Monday, August 17, 2015


word of the day: nine \ˈnīn\ the ninth in a set of series; to perfection (as in, to the nines)

My due date baby is nine months old today.  There's something about the nine month milestone that gets me.  She's been out now as long as she was in.  When I first found out I was pregnant, she was the size of a sesame seed. Now?
Nostalgia is getting the best of me.  

Second kids don't get all the attention that first kids get.  In my proud early mom moments, I probably tried to tell myself that I would pay Norah all the attention that I did Lily.  That she wouldn't slip under the radar and that I wouldn't be that mom who forgot to take pictures of the successive kids.  

(I know, moms of more than one.  I know, ok?  Stop shaking your heads at me.)
It's literally impossible to pay as much attention to your second kid as you did your first because you literally don't have the same amount of time to give.  You have to split time between the two.  Plus, if your first born is anything like mine, they tend to demand more than what should otherwise be deemed "fair."  (Lily: "Don't look at Norah, mom.  Look at me.")

But there I go again, taking the attention away from Nor (my little fanboy. would only an English teacher come up with a nickname like that?).

I suppose I could feel guilty about it.  Wish for a way to give her an amount of time that I physically don't have.  Instead, I'm so happy that this life is all she has known.  A life with split time between her and a big sister who, I think, will eventually realize how wonderful she really is.  (Lily: Norah's laughing me, mom!  I'm funny.)
One of my favorite parts about being a mom (right up there with reading books all day and coinciding nap times) is figuring my kids out. Knowing them. Watching their personalities develop, their strengths emerge, and their abilities blossom. It gives meaning to the phrase "I know you better than you know yourself" because I get to watch their character grow from the start.  
Now, I don't know that I could really tell you what Norah's character is like at nine months, but I see elements of compassion and joy and toughness. Lily is her big sister, after all. (Lily: I push her down by the window.)

But, here's what I do know: I know that she fits our family to the nines.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015


word of the day: home \ˈhōm\ one's place of residence; relaxed and comfortable

Lily, Norah, and I traveled back to Des Moines at the end of July.  The trip was made up of four 8 hour days of travel on either end of the stay and could not have been made possible without strategically placed Flinkmen in Illinois to allow for a mid-way stop.  I could probably devote a whole post to the trip itself, but I also think I could sum up the reason for its success in a single word: Bribery.  

But that’s not really what I want to write about.

Before we left on said trip, I found myself trying very hard not to use the phrase, “We’re going home” when talking about the trip in advance.  A small thing, but I’m always thinking about words, so I tend to focus on verbiage.  Avoidance of the phrase felt like a small pledge of allegiance to Cleveland. You know, still doing my part to “cleave” and all.  I think I was kind of desperate to feel like Cleveland was my home.  I mean it is my home.  But sometimes it doesn’t feel like home.

Des Moines is my home too, though.  I mean, Lily slept in a room that was mine as a first grader and Jake and I spent the first seven years of our married lives there.  

“Home” is an intangible I suppose.  It can be defined, but it also can’t.  It’s a place, but it’s also kind of a feeling.  It’s muddy.  

I started typing tonight thinking that this would end with me saying that I finally understand the intangible nature of “home.”  That home is wherever there are people who love my family and me (because I’ve experienced a lot of that in a few different states over the past few weeks).  
There’s certainly truth in that, but really, what I can’t stop thinking about is how I never feel fully at home unless I’m with Jake.  I’m more relaxed and more comfortable and less crazy whenever he’s around.   I thought I’d go home to Des Moines and dread coming back to my home in Cleveland.  Instead, I just wanted to get back here, so I could be with him.  

(Is this the sappy anniversary post I can never bring myself to write?)
Our life in Cleveland isn’t easy (whose life is anyway?), but when I step back and gain some perspective, I remember that we’re here, and we’re together, and that that’s home.  And I like that.  

So, now I’m home.  And I spend 12 hours a day with a two-year-old and a nine-month-old.  On that note, if anyone from the Food Network ever happens to read this, I need you to know that I have your next hit show.  It stars me, and I will cook particularly ordinary meals while two tiny humans move quickly around at my feet.  It will be chaotic and relatable.  Mid-cooking montages will include helpful tips on how to manage cooking with toddlers, babies, or both (e.g., chopping vegetables in advance during nap time in case you have to cook dinner one-handed, strategically placed tupperware drawers, and bribery).

If you’re not on board with bribery, you wouldn’t like my show.  Or going on road trips with my children and me.  

(I'm sorely lacking a winking faced emoji right about now.)