Wednesday, March 2, 2016

I'm Still Blogging

Just a quick note to those who follow me here or have somehow found their way to my page, I want to let you know I LOVE that you have found my musings and hope that they have been meaningful to you. Although I am no longer posting here, I am still writing.

I'd love for you to check in at Saturated In Seattle

Thanks so much,


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Project 52: From Where I Stand

I stand as messenger!
I’ll never forget those dark eyes, never. If I close my eyes now, 17 years later, I can still see them. I can still see the spacing of his lashes and prominent pupils due to the shadowy-dim light. His girth suffocated me as my face was pushed into the all-weather carpet, burning its roughness onto the left side of my face. Without a thought of possible repercussion, I mustered all I had within me and let out a blood-curdling scream for help, except my body betrayed me and no sound came from my lips. I felt my vocal cords constrict, and my mouth open, but no sound escaped. I tried again, telling myself that it was my fear choking me and that if I could just relax, then my voice would work. It didn’t. The silence was deafening; literally piercing my ears. Silence from him. Silence from me. And still, sometimes, the quiet can become too much for me. I remember thinking that this six-foot-four, 275-pound African-American man would give up after trying for what seemed an eternity to destroy me, but he didn’t. My thoughts quickly changed to wishing he would just hurry. I have no comprehension to this day how long the physical attack lasted. I only know I allowed the emotional portion to affect me a good share of the years since.

I felt like a rag doll; limp, lifeless and hopeless when I was finally left all alone in the dark. I didn’t cry---not right away. I picked myself up, cleaned up the best I could, and then I cried. And cried. And still to this day, I cry.

I cry for me. I cry for him. What has to happen in a person’s life to bring them to such a place to commit such violence without regard for another human being?

Weaving in and out of various parts of the story in an attempt to focus on where I am standing now, this week’s theme, I skip ahead nine months to share that with my husband of now 23 years by my side, I gave birth to a beautiful reminder of God’s Sovereignty, a bi-racial baby girl that resulted from that traumatic night; and a few years later found myself part of Pacific Northwest’s Speakers Bureau for Crisis Pregnancy Centers, focusing on both educating the public and fundraising. (I am incredibly, incredibly passionate about the issue of pro-life! Incredibly!).

At one such speaking engagement at Beasley Coliseum at WSU, I was teamed up with an African-American man. We had never met before and to be honest, I do not remember what he even spoke about. However, after the event was over, he approached me, pulling me aside, and with tears streaming down his cheeks, he said, “I want to ask you for forgiveness for my “brother”. Will you forgive him?” I was completely caught off guard and the strength that I had been mustering up all day betrayed me and I fell at his knees and sobbed like the little girl I so desperately had been trying to hide for a very long time.

I don’t remember my co-speaker’s name, but I have never, never forgotten his words. I have pondered them in every possible way; I’ve turned them over, upside down and back again. I’ve mulled them over, looked for a hidden agenda, trying to believe there was something there I wasn’t seeing. Friends, there wasn’t. His words, however, were not his own.  He was merely the messenger because they were the words of Christ, “Forgive them” (Luke 23:34).  

17 years later, I, too, stand too as a messenger. Over and over again, I find myself standing in the expanding space between injustice and forgiveness, loving the unlovable, forgiving those who have wronged; those who have crudely dismissed the beauty and value of one’s life and forever altering others in seemingly unforgivable ways. Standing in this place of Hope happened to me. I wish I could say I have this amazingly loving heart and I sought out ways to show love to the unlovable, but I didn’t.

Somehow in the midst of my seething hatred, wishing ill-will of my attacker so much so that I have literally made myself physically sick and praying for vengeance, God filled me with compassion, broke my heart for what breaks His and allowed me to surrender all those warranted thoughts to Him and rely on His strength and leading in my life. I trust---I absolutely have to—that God will deal with each injustice in a far better way than I ever could. Injustice is something I cannot comprehend no matter how hard I stretch my imagination or try to put myself in an offender’s shoes. It’s ugly and it robs us of our security, dignity, and innocence while often jostling our faith in both humanity and God. Turning a blind eye to injustice is an injustice in itself!

I refuse to turn a blind eye to it---I run toward it now. I write to prisoners, through the Prisoners for Christ organization, study the Bible alongside them, write notes of encouragement, direction and prayers over them. When I mail my letters, it is only the beginning because I vow to continue to pray over each prisoner. I have no idea if the words I write are meaningful to them or are life-changing, but I do know I am showing them Jesus the best way I know how. I stand with my arms outstretched toward heaven in humble thanksgiving for the forgiveness that I have been graced with and desire with all my heart to share that freedom with those held captive (physically and emotionally) by their own unforgiveness and sin. I stand as messenger.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Project 52: Heart/Love (What I Know Now)

A good start to my forever!
Thinking about this week's theme of "heart/love" for the Project 52 challenge I accepted for this year, I asked my girls', "What should I write about this week?" Both responded simultaneously, "Tell us how you fell in love with Daddy".

So at my girls' request:

It wasn’t love at first sight. How could it be? I was eleven. He was twelve. And we had never spoken a single word to one another, let alone made eye contact. And yet every day after lunch, I literally held my breath as he would pass by my class where I would be waiting outside with my peers for our teacher to let us in. I knew nothing about him other than he checked
box 1 on my list of “must have qualities” when his reeling attractiveness found in those incredibly beautiful hazel eyes and dark hair strutted by. I spent insurmountable time thinking and dreaming of him, and even ducked into the girls’ bathroom to freshen up my cherry flavored Lip Smacker and enormous bouffant, I called bangs, with super-hold Aqua net Hairspray. I suppose I thought if he noticed me, I would stand a chance. What I didn’t know then that I know now is that any girl simply attracting a boy with her looks might not attract the quality guy she desires and vice versa.

I thought of him off and on over the next couple of years, but rarely saw him once he moved onto high school. However, in 1990, about 4 years after my initial stocking encounter, during his senior year and my junior year, we ended up having a class together. By this time, I didn’t really like him, but my heart didn’t get the message and still skipped a beat when our paths crossed-- and I still carried my Aqua net for just such an occasion. He had made quite a reputation for himself as the star relief pitcher for our school’s baseball team. His ego preceded him; he was downright cocky--and that squashed the initial attraction I had for him. However
, box 2 had been checked, because being athletic---‘nough said. I guess in some small way; I was still hoping there was more than meets the eye with him. Deep down, I felt there was. What I know now that I didn’t know then is that sometimes people over compensate to hide their inadequacies or pain. How a person appears to be in one setting is not necessarily who they are on the inside.

Ironically, it was the two of us always getting into trouble in the class we had together. He was the class clown and I was the only one caught laughing! Check box 3: I love a guy who can make me laugh! Between having to do push-ups and sit at a banquet style table pushed up against the blackboard at the front of the class as a consequence for our disrespectful behavior, I realized I was, in my awkward way, flirting with him. I wouldn’t have gone out with him though. Worlds colliding---introvert, hot-mess-me and cocky-popular-seeming extrovert him---it would not have worked. What I know now that I didn’t know them is that opposites attract and if you are meant to be it will work out, even if it comes at a high cost and a lot of work.

He was awarded a scholarship for baseball (still loving that box 2 is checked) and went to an out-of-state college. That was that. I dated, fell in mad like with someone I thought I would marry and your dad did not cross my mind for a full year. The next fall, I started classes at a local college, and because it was local, I looked around to see if I would know anyone. And there before my eyes, stood your dad. And again, my heart skipped a beat. I walked over to him and hit him---don’t worry, it was one of those playful, flirty hits we girls do from time to time. He looked me in the eye and smiled. He smiled-- and my heart melted. Check box 4: A contagious smile---it didn’t matter that his teeth were jacked up; it actually made his smile all the more lovable. He asked how my summer was and I proceeded to talk all about how I had replaced the alternator in my 69 Chevelle SS (love me some muscle cars!). His eyes glazed over, so I kept talking (this is why people don’t believe I’m an introvert). What I know now that I didn’t know then is that not all guys are into cars and when a girl works so hard to impress a guy, she might be over compensating for her own inadequacies.

Your dad did not sit next to me in class and I knew I blew it. I spent my first class of college learning a lot---just not about Psychology---well, maybe it was Psychology, just not from the instructor’s lecture. What I know now that I didn’t know then is that real life experiences will often teach you more than a book (but don’t discount the beautiful truths found in books---a good many have changed my life)!

Unexpectedly, your dad called me two days later and asked if I wanted to study for an upcoming test. Check
box 5: My guy must spontaneous! I could hardly speak. I agreed to the non-date-study-date for Saturday and looked forward to wooing him. Writing my genuine thoughts here for you, I am asking myself, “What the hell is wrong with you? Woo him? It was a study date for Pete’s sake---and remember you don’t even really like him"! (Also, I might be the last person on the planet to use the word “woo”) Friday after classes, I was walking down the steep hill to the lower-parking lot, lost in deep, reflective thought as the sun shone down on me, adding to the all-over warmth I was feeling that day, when all of the sudden my moment of tranquility was disrupted by what some would call music. All I heard was bass! Bass, my dear children, is only one---count it—one--part of music! I turned to look who had such god-awful taste in music and there…wait for it…was your dad wearing his Ray Bans with one wrist draped over the steering wheel of his lowrider truck. I hoped he wouldn’t see me and I started to turn away when he gave me the ‘sup-nod. I wondered in that moment if a date, study-date or otherwise, was just a waste of time. Clearly, we were not a good match. What I know now that I didn’t know then is that we are often closed minded and judgmental of the things we see and hear and assume our way is best and right.

Though I didn’t think your dad and I would end up together, I was incredibly intrigued by him; so much so that I couldn’t get him out of my mind, so I left our study-date in place. Saturday came and I cleaned grandma and grandpa’s house, literally scrubbing the floors on my hands and knees. I then showered, did my hair and make-up, but then chose to wear sweats. This was very intentional. Very. I wanted to look my best, but not appear like I was trying too hard. What I know now that I didn’t know then is when we are focused so much on our outer appearance, often we are not working on the inner aspects of our heart.  I was not emotionally and spiritually working to be the best God desired me to be for my future husband. However, I rocked a good pair of sweatpants---if that’s even possible!

I was not the only one trying too hard to look casual. Your dad showed up wearing a mamba sock, which is the 90’s version of a do-rag. He had his ear pierced and was sporting (I use that verb so loosely here) a huge earring of…prayer hands. Was it cool, you ask? Uuuuuhhh not in the slightest. I am dying laughing as I recall this image that he dawned for quite some time---which literally caused your grandpa to run out of the house to warn grandma about the hoodlum their precious baby girl was “entertaining”!  My list had a box labeled “fashion sense”. I am certain I don’t have to tell you this box did not get checked.
What I know now that I didn’t know then is that sometimes boys try too hard, just like girls and that the image we work so hard to achieve is often not the image of Christ.

I heard your dad arrive before I saw him. Know how? Bass! I rolled my eyes and thought, “Here goes nothing”.  As bizarre as I found him to be, I also knew there was something worthwhile there. I ran out to meet him and before we even walked back into the house he turned to me and said, “Hey I’m hungry. Can I take you to dinner?” Check box 6: My guy needs to be generous. So we went, the two of us in his lowrider; he in his mamba sock and I in my sweats. We were the definition of “hot mess” before that term even came into existence. I wish we had thought to take a selfie. Oh, wait! Those didn’t exist---or cell phones---or even email. Though that dates us, it does not change what a journey toward love sometimes looks like. We talked about this and that for hours, literally hours, (check box 7: good conversationalist and stellar listener) when he finally approached the subject that terrified me most: music! Flash backs of just the day before flooded my mind and I pensively squeaked out “I love music, just not rap”.  He listed group after group; groups like The Smiths, Talking Heads, The Beautiful South, Ten Thousand Maniacs, etc. most of which I was unfamiliar with. He saw the doe-eyed girl sitting across from him, evaluated her, maybe took pity on her, and slowly eased her into his love for all genres of music, starting with the Beautiful South, which I loved. (Check box 8: sharing his passions with me). We talked for hours like we had known each other forever. What I know now that I didn’t know then is that there is a whole world to be learned through the perspective of others. Our perspective is often incomplete.

I’m sure you’re dying to know about our first kiss. It was…uneventful to say the least. I wish I could say that the skies parted and angels sang as sunbeams bounced off our embracing bodies (don’t say, “Eeww”), but instead, I was on the phone, mid-sentence, when your dad leaned in for a quick kiss. You’re familiar with my gigantic horse teeth, right? Well, so is your dad! I quickly hung up the phone and we had a do-over. This is where you could say, “Eewww” because it was damn near magical. I didn’t actually write this on my childhood list of “must-haves”, but heck, check box 9 for obvious reasons. I asked your dad later why he chose that moment to kiss me. He said he had been watching my lips for some time and he just couldn’t wait a second longer. Almost sweet. More impulsive though, which is the exact opposite of who you know your dad to be! What I know now that I didn’t know then is that reality rarely matches our dreams and sometimes your first kiss is bad. God’s grace landed us a pretty great second kiss though! Another thing I know now that I didn’t know then is that it’s really hard for guys to take the lead and we need to be both patient and gracious.

Over the next four months we didn’t study a bit! That first study date was all about biology, but not the kind you find in a text book or under a microscope! I was smitten with your dad and fell for him so quickly it scared me. I didn’t want to lose him. I would do anything and everything for him, even sacrificing little things like sleep and big things like my self-respect. (read between the lines, my loves). What I know now that I didn’t know then is that true love really does wait. Girls that feel they have to compromise their morals and values or let go of them all together either by pressure or by their own initiative are not in a healthy relationship. Our choices remain with us forever.

 On my 19th birthday, he sent a dozen roses to my workplace. Having worked at the town’s grocery store, people asked me about them all day long. I literally gushed and blushed all day, and honestly, the more I talked about him, the more I loved him. The next day, the day after this romantic gesture, he took me to Lookout Point, better named “Make-out Point” a place known for…hummm…how do I say this tactfully for my sweet children…a little nooky. No nooky took place, no hand holding, no kissing. Instead, confusion and tears filled that little lowrider as I sat listening to him break my heart. He said he thought he loved me, but he wanted to take a break to see if what he was feeling was really love or just infatuation. I rolled my eyes, but had to accept his words. I was devastated. I felt my heart would never be the same again.  What I know now that I didn’t know then is that guys are really stupid sometimes. Wait! I knew that then! What I know now that I didn’t know then is that even guys struggle with their feelings and need time to process! I also learned that a broken heart is never wasted when we learn more about who we are and what we genuinely need in another person. Some guys are worth waiting for.

Time passed and I was stuck sitting next to him in assigned seating. I can’t believe I passed my classes, because I am pretty sure I didn't hear a single lecture due to my wildly nervous heartbeat. I wrote your dad a poem a few weeks after our breakup. (Yep---that’s the kind of hot-mess I was back then--kind of wish I was still that girl), gave it to him at the end of class, and ran to my car, like a little girl. It was practically the equivalent of the “Do you like me? Yes, or no?" notes we wrote in third grade; though slightly more romantic. Slightly! I drove home, biting all my fingernails off, praying that he wouldn’t reject me again. He called and asked if I would come over. I can only point to the fact that my Chevelle’s awesomeness got me there in record time. When I arrived, he opened the door, and just like you might see in the movies, he boldly said, “If you take one step into this house, you’re saying yes to forever!” Check box 10---romantic! Me in my overalls, because I was still working that angle, took the most pronounced step ever over the threshold and said with the biggest smile, “OK”. And that was that! What I know now that I didn’t know then is that if it is really meant to be, it will come back around.

We dated several more months, incessantly talking about every topic under the sun. Your grandma even remarked how we talked more than teenage girls---and we did. Daily, for hours and hours at a time. Then one day, it dawned on me that we had never talked about what we were going to school for.  I was pursuing my teaching certification in special education and he…wanted to be a pastor! A what?!!!! Well, that did it. I was not cut out to be a pastor’s wife. And, my goodness, he definitely was not cut out to be a pastor---I mean don’t you have to take a polygraph test and be holy and pure and--- this was not the life I wanted. We argued and in tearful frustration, I yelled, “Well, don’t ask me to marry you, because I will say no”. Don’t get me wrong, box 11 had been checked a long time ago when I learned that his faith was genuine and that he loved the Lord, but marrying a pastor…that was a box some other girl had on her list, not mine. What I know now that I didn’t know then is that God has given each one of us a gift, and a dating couple should talk in depth about the compatibility of those gifts early on.

The next day was Thanksgiving of 1992 and your dad brought me to grandpa’s church, the church we attended, which was completely empty (and cold). He suspiciously locked me out of the room, which totally upset me and brought to mind the argument we had had just the day before. What I didn’t know for several minutes (and it was minutes) was that he was struggling to light the candles he had brought. Once he did, he unlocked the door and grabbed my hand as he escorted me to where the candles were arranged among a dozen pink roses and a white box tied with green yarn (green yarn!!!! Is that not totally endearing all on its own?!). I smiled and thought, “There is that sweet surprise element of his again”! Then I cringed because I had not thought to get him a Thanksgiving gift. I reached for the box and began to pull the green yard off the box, but he stopped me to ask if I had smelled the roses. Glancing up at him, I responded,“Yes, they’re beautiful, thank you”. While keeping my eyes locked on his, I bent forward and smelled them again for good measure. I began to pull at the yarn and again he interrupted, asking, “But did you smell this one?” It was as odd as it sounds and as I looked up at your dad, I could see he was trembling---like really, trembling. It was cold in the church, but not so much to warrant such trembling. To humor him, I exaggerated my smell of the rose he was pointing out and there nestled inside a pale pink rose was a solitaire engagement ring. It was my turn to be impulsive and so before he could even say a word, I jumped up and yelled over and over again, “YES! YES! YES!”. He reached for my hand and said, “Wait! I haven’t even asked you yet”. He then had me sit and he slowly kneeled, seeming to compose himself a bit, and proceeded to tell me everything he loved about me and how we would always talk things through and how it would be hard, but it would be worth it, and I believed every word he said. I had forgotten all about the box with green yarn until he handed it to me several moments later, saying “This is actually something for both of us. It’s going to be hard, but I believe in us and will do whatever it takes”. Inside the box was a workbook titled, “Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts”. Check Box 12: hard work doesn’t scare him; in fact, he embraces it. What I know now that I didn’t know then is that God’s plans are bigger and better than ours. He can take our differences and make them beautiful. Your dad and I complement each other, complete each other in the most remarkable ways. I also learned that marriage is work and the sooner you start working on it, the better!

I was over-the-moon in love and happy and looking forward to a bright and beautiful future as Mrs. Dennis Wellman Schneider. On August 20, 1993, box 13 was checked---as your dad promised to love me as long as long as we both shall live. He isn’t afraid of commitment or hard times because He trusts in God’s sovereignty and knew long before we said, “I do”, that a marriage made of three strands is not easily broken. I could write about the 23 years that have followed thus far, but I don’t think I have to tell you how the story ends! He’s my happily ever after, my lobster, my love you more. What I know now that I didn’t know then is that praying together is the best way to bond two hearts together and when God is truly in the center of a marriage it puts everything into proper perspective.

I’ve learned a whole lot of lessons; most I never saw coming primarily due to my naivety, and many I could have avoided if I had taken the time to cultivate the person God designed me to be before diving into a relationship. I’ve learned that not all boxes will get checked. I’ve learned that some boxes will appear that I didn’t even know I needed. Your future spouse is not something you order from the GoodToGod Catalog (you like that, don’t you?). Creating a checklist is not such a bad place to start--- for yourselves, beginning with Proverbs 31. Ask the Lord to nurture those qualities in you so that when the right guy comes along, you’re not starting behind the eight-ball, like your dad and I did. I sit here praising God for His merciful grace over our marriage and hope so much that when you look to us, you see Him there too and are encouraged to weave a tapestry of three of your own one day.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Project 52: Eyes (Wondrously Known)

"My eyes are my favorite part of me; but not because
of how they look, but for how they see". (Frau Feuerameise)
While running errands on a cool dusk evening in late September, I noticef an older bedraggled gentleman hunched over, shakily holding onto one side of his walker, while attempting to a hold his large cardboard sign for passer-byers to see with his gnarled fingers of the other. As I rounded the corner, I saw that he was wearing only one shoe and the other had no laces. He had dropped his sign and was struggling to pick it up.  I was immediately endeared to him; maybe it was because he had a grandfather-like quality about him, maybe it was because I could see that his needs extend beyond the simple plea scrawled on his sign as I looked into his milky grey-blue eyes, I don’t know. I was running slightly behind, but decided to park and walk one of the gallon-size Ziploc bags filled with various necessities I keep in a box behind my seat, over to this man. As I struck up a brief conversation with him, he told me that he had children and it was them that he was on the corner for, not for himself. They needed milk and school supplies; neither of which were in my bag, mind you. I put my hand on his shoulder, looked him in the eye and told him I was deeply sorry for him and his family and that I would pray for him. He thanked me for my kindness as he reached out to grasp my hand for a brief moment before we parted ways. It was a sweet encounter I will never forget, but not because he was a precious old man, which I am entirely endeared to, or because I gave him one of my necessity bags. No! It was because I understood moments later that I was not meeting his greatest need---to be seen, to be known.
I realize that the territory that I am about to embark comes at the risk of sounding slightly haughty. I assure you nothing could be further from reality because after my brief encounter with this dear man, I rounded the corner, briskly walking back to my jeep pretending I didn’t see the haze of my breath drifting heavenward, and was struck, as if by lightening, by the fact that I had never asked the man his name. It seemed so simple, so little in the grand scheme of what I was attempting to do that I have bypassed this noteworthy detail dozens of times without this thought ever crossing my mind; but this night…this night I could not escape the mournful, heart-crushing pain that accompanied this realization. This level of grief was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced because with it, after copious contemplation and soul searching, I understood what it really means to be seen, to be known and the undeniable significance this is for all people (I think herein lays a glimpse into the meaning of the “Love your neighbor as yourself” commandment--Matthew 22:39). For days, and even now, when I recall this story, my soul aches so deeply, so intensely, that my prayers scarcely grasp adequate words to convey my sincere sorrow and conviction for not seeing God’s child. I did not see Him.

I have often asked the Lord to break my heart for what breaks His, to give me His eyes to see the lost, the weary, the broken, and that He would show me how to respond in a meaningful way. And all this time I thought my sensitive heart was a fractured replica of His. Maybe it still is; but I know in the deepest part of who I am that God has called me out beyond my comfort zone and into an area where I have no choice but to trust Him to lead me. It is here where real faith stands. And it’s here that I have been fearful to set my anchor.
Author, Francis Chan, reminds us that “God’s definition of what matters is pretty straightforward. He measures our lives by how we love”. The question then becomes, “How do we love?” It is not a matter of if or who, or even when, but how do we love?
If we were to pull apart Psalm 139, we would see how Christ loved us. Though I will not dissect each verse for you here, I have to point out at least verse one: “Oh Lord, you have searched me and you know me”.  This word know is not a mere encounter. In the Greek, “yada” is a verb meaning to “know relationally and experientially. God Knows [our] hearts entirely” (The Complete Word Study Dictionary).

“To know” can be based on factual knowledge as well as relational knowledge---and I suppose it is the later that I reference as I attempt to write out my thoughts.
I believe one of our most basic needs and deepest longings is to be known. Sure there are those of us who, on one hand, fear being really known---at that ugly, gut level that even spooks us from time to time, but on the other hand, we have a tremendously, desperate desire to belong, to feel a part of something grander and deeper and all encompassing. We know to reach this place; we must become real. As I write these words, I can’t help but to think of one of my most treasured childhood stories, The Velveteen Rabbit, written by Margery Williams:

[in response to asking if becoming real happens all at once]"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get all loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."
Our fear of being known often keeps us from being real, raw, and vulnerable with others, but what if I told you that we are already known. All our flaws, fractures, scars; all our shame, regret, embarrassment; all those dreams we’ve been fearful to breathe to life, all those tears we’ve cried---all of it---all those pieces that make up the real us—what if someone saw all of us? What if…

John Piper paraphrases 1 Corinthians 8:3 beautifully when he writes, “Deeper than knowing God is being known by God”. God knows us from the inside out. Contemplating on the incredible fullness of this phrase, I understand that I not only belong to Him, but am loved, and adopted by Him. Being known, being connected to Christ, is nothing short of intimate and privileged and saving and friendship and…profoundly humbling.
This realization not only deepens my awareness of what it means to be seen, to be known, to be loved, but also the primacy of grace and the necessity of it to precede our relationship with Christ. In other words, “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Without His gracious and sacrificial love for us, we would not have the ability to love Him. God is the source of our love and it is the Holy Spirit who enables us to love. When we know God, we can love as He does (1 John 4:6-7).

As Christians, we have often made our lives all about us knowing Him---but we often skim over the fact that He knows us---the real us---and He profoundly loves us in ways we cannot possibly fathom and made us His own.  C.S. Lewis wrote in his book, The Weight of Glory: “To please God—to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness…to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work, or a father in a son—it seems impossible, a weight or a burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is”.
To be known, to be truly seen by the Lord is a tremendous gift of grace. And in turn, I want to live Christ all the more boldly, all the more loudly, all the more intentionally. It is enough for me to be known by Christ. More than enough. It’s actually who I am!
So I take this new found appreciation for what it means to be known, to be seen, by God and think of the shoeless man on the corner---the man whose name I will never know—and know God sees him, the real him, his needs, his hurts, his dreams---and because God is gracious, He will prompt our hearts to know how to love others the way He does. Without a doubt, there will be times our faith will be tested, where we will wonder if we are on the right path, or doing enough ,or even the right things. God sees the motives of our hearts and when we trust Him to led us in unchartered oceans, where sometimes we fear dropping anchor, He meets us there, firm and secure, and works in and through us to show His love to all people.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Project 52: Motion (Grace in Forte)

Watching my daughter practice piano day after day, I can only describe what I see as nothing short of graceful. I could bask in this sunbeam of her for hours upon hours, if she would allow me. Mesmerized by her heart and mind extending out through her fingertips and fill the air not just with a collection of captivating notes, but with something it lacked before; something like insurmountable joy and hope, I find that her music breathes life into our home in a way other things cannot. Unfathomable joy ushers in completeness; rivaling other elations I cherish, like uncontrollable giggles of children or the slipping away of the sun’s brilliant radiance at the end of a long summer day. Her music steadies and comforts my soul. It’s not about the songs she plays, but the passion, intention, and purpose all filtered through her sieve, or soul, of tenderness. Her character is meek and her gentleness can be felt even in the forte of whatever song she chooses to play.

Grace is motion; it is movement. It is not without purpose, determination, or strength. And as I think about the different things I have assigned grace to, things like pirouetting ballerinas, the sweeping motion of an eagles’ wings, the glide of ice skaters, Meg’s piano playing… I have realized how much I have misunderstood a colossal part of grace. Grace is not light of touch or wispy like stratus clouds or soft like velvety bunnies, and yet somewhere along the line we have always assigned grace as such—an elegant tenderness; but this is what grace resembles once reflected off the One who placed it within us to begin with. When I sit back and think about the intentional placement of the pianist’s fingers, the dedication needed to master a melody, the strength, determination, energy both necessary and required to share a piece of themselves in this way, it baffles my mind. Grace is intentional. Grace is a practiced, quiet strength. It is led by determination to go beyond the expected. Grace is the active expression of Christ’s love through us (Col. 3:4, paraphrased).

In His book, The Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennan Manning pens the profound, yet simple words that reside deep within my own heart: “My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it”. When we experience the goodness of Christ in our lives, that is grace. That is His immeasurable strength, determination, intention, and unconditional love and acceptance for us-- and through us. I am completely humbled day in and day out at how much I desperately need Christ’s grace and I am completely grateful (and baffled) for the fact that His grace is not just enough for me, but more than enough so that I, in turn, have excess grace to share with others. Grace requires strength that surpasses ours, enduring practice, and deliberate intention. Often, we are called to exhibit grace to those who have hurt us, sinned against us, or the unlikable. On our own, we will feel uncomfortable and unqualified. Out of the overflow of what has already been given to us, and a reliance on Christ’s strength, not ours, we intentionally practice grace over and over again. And in the crazy, hectic-ness of life where life is so loud, grace abounds. Grace in Forte!

I love that I have the honor and privilege to watch Christ express Himself through Meg in her music. She is a beautiful expression of the love of Christ.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Project 52: Blue (Really, it's about Baptism)

Project 52's Topic this week: Blue.
When I was a little girl, I colored pictures of water blue. I suppose that's why I chose to take my picture of water for this challenge. Ironically, it does not capture a bit of blue. I'm going with it.
When I was 9 years old, I was a buck toothed lanky girl who stood at least a full head and shoulders taller than my peers, and although I felt incredibly awkward in my own skin and didn’t really have an understanding of who I was, I knew my Jesus and boy, did I loved Him. Sunday after Sunday, I sat in one of the 30 fabric covered pews flanked by floor-to-ceiling multi-colored stain glass windows with my mom and dad sitting strategically intertwined between my two siblings and I. I could predict church as well as Johnny Carson could predict the answers to clues in sealed envelopes. Church was not mysterious. It was predictable. I knew church. I knew the pastor’s sing-song rhythm so well, that I could practically count down the seconds and number of syllables until his inflection and seemingly calculated rise in tone began before he would slam his fist onto the pulpit. Echoing in the rafters and reverberating in our ears long after, that thud sent an urgency through our bones, guilting us to action, “less you be damned to hell”. It was a place that scared the bejeezus outta me (is that a bit sacrilegious here?) and at the same time felt entirely sacred. The only explanation I have to explain this seemingly oxymoron experience is to say that I felt the Lord’s presence in the face of legalism.

There were unspoken expectations and it seemed everyone played along. It was Sunday- Funday! I probably shouldn’t say that because wearing itchy wool skirts and pretending I liked being there wasn’t fun. If I can take an inch of liberty here, I would say, I bet it is actually Sunday-Funday for Satan. He loves when we put on those masks and act as if we’re OK. He loves when we compare our wool skirt to the pretty petite girl’s across the aisle. He loves when we sing songs about “oh how we love Jesus” and yet have just cursed Him the night before. I bet that sly little smile pulls at the corner of his mouth and a gleeful giggle escapes. We may be fooling the other wool skirt wearing chicks, but we’re not foolin’ anyone else, especially ourselves. That phrase, “fake it until you make it”, does not, absolutely does not apply here. I faked it. I faked it for the first 20 years of my life. And when I was 9, I started to realize that there were expectations of me that expanded beyond my outward appearance. And so I was baptized.

I remember checking the box on the envelope that I usually disassembled each week in order to have more space for drawing. I put it in the offering plate and that was that. A few weeks later I was baptized in front of the church with several other kids my age. My pastor asked me two questions prior: “Do you know Jesus as your Savior?” And “Would you be willing to sit on your knees once inside the baptismal so I can reach you?” (See, even at 9 I was taller than our pastor). My answer to both was “Yes”. I remember entering the baptismal and feeling absolutely elated. I swear they trucked in salt water because never have I buoyed that much. I tried to kneel, but I kept floating. The pastor managed and I was immersed “by the powers vested in [him] in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost”. Baptism done. That’s all it was. And I thought nothing more of it for many years.

I have attended church my entire life so I have had the honor of witnessing hundreds of people profess their faith publically in baptism. The idea of baptism always stirred at my heart and when my own daughter asked to be baptized when she, too, was 9, I felt the weighty, albeit, honorable task of making sure she understood what it symbolized. When I was in her same position I believed two things about baptism and honestly, I do not know where these ideas came from. First, that it was something you had to do if you genuinely believed in the Lord, and secondly, that it was a washing of the spirit, performed to obtain a clean slate. What I did before the age of 9 that I felt needed a clean slate is beyond me!

As my faith continued to be cultivated, the more I learned to love, love my Jesus and the more I felt compelled to understand His beautiful Truths for myself. I leaned that those two ideas I had at 9 were not so far off the mark, but there was so much more to it and it had nothing to do with me. Romans 6:3-10 became pivotal verses for me as I dissected each with a ferocious hunger. Though I could easily write in more depth about my discovery, I will simply say that baptism is ALL about Jesus, not about us. It is an emblem of Christ’s burial; signifying death to sin’s rule over our lives, to our unbelief, rebellion, idolatry, etc. and His resurrection; signifying a new life of faith, submission, and unfathomable, gracious, and sacrificial love. It’s a sign of belonging, of union with Christ in His suffering, but also in His glory. This is what we are declaring when we are baptized! Doesn’t this just give you gooseies?!!!  Don’t misunderstand me here, I am not saying that baptism unites us with Christ---FAITH units us with Christ! Broken down so eloquently by author, John Piper, we understand that: “…we show this faith, we say this faith, and signify this faith, and symbolize this faith with the act of baptism.” If we believe, we publically proclaim it through baptism. He died and rose so that we might have life---and life to the full (John 10:10). When we rise from the water, it is symbolic of the covenant we have made with Christ. (It is not the covenant itself, just as a wedding ring does not make us married. It’s a symbol).

You see, when I was 9, I made baptism about me, not Jesus. I didn’t know better. And a couple years ago, that weighed so heavily on my heart that I desired  to be re-baptized with all the understanding and genuine love I have for Christ now. So, in a horse trough at a very special ranch (Raven Rock Ranch), where I had felt increasingly close to the Lord and witnessed His glory more times than I can count, I was baptized. I desired to be baptized with the imagery of Christ’s brutal suffering and His un-surpassing desire to give me (and you) life. Kneeling in the trough filled with water warmed by the afternoon’s sun, I closed my eyes and felt my heart pierced with a pain I’ve never experienced before; and as I was about to be lowered, my eyes filled with tears for Him, for God’s Son. I cannot fully comprehend that sacrifice. I cannot understand that level of love. I had the honor of my husband and our good friend, Tim to stand by myside and together slowly lower my body until it was fully covered by the refreshing, life-giving water of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirt-- Whom I know witnessed this act of outward expression of my faith for them. A second or two passed before I broke the surface of the water and felt the warmth of the sun shine upon my face. I raised my hands toward the Son, giving thanks for the life He gave on my behalf and the life I now have because of Him. I am a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). My daughters stood just outside the trough and witnessed what can only be described as one of the most meaningful events of my life.

My Baptism August 13, 2013
Yep, that's a horse trough. I'm classy like that!
Water. I love water. Everything about it, but especially it’s nourishing and life-giving, thirst-quenching attributes. I can’t help but to think of Rev. 21:6, which says, “He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. To him who is thirsty I will give drink without cost from the spring of the water of life”. Without a doubt, Christ is the merciful Living Water that brings the dead to life through His amazing grace!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Project 52: Guilty Pleasure

Note: Project 52 is a one year photography challenge. I love photography, adventures, and challenges, so naturally, I fell in love with this idea! As I looked over the list of topics for the year, I felt inspired to write a bit as well on each of the topics. It's been awhile since I've put much on paper, but I assure you my desire to write authentically and live boldly for Christ are just as much a part of me as always. Week three's topic: Guilty Pleasures. Although I have many, spanning from shoes to delicacies, I chose the one I hold the most dear to my heart---and honestly, could not live without: Books!

I love books. I really do. I love everything about them from the feel of their nearly smooth, weightless pages that beckon for my fingers to purposefully glide across them; to the rustling coo they make with each turn.  I read intentionally and yet, ever so slowly, lingering maybe longer than necessary at intersections of words because I long to relish in the feeling of connectedness as long as possible. And if I am writing to a fellow book lover, you know the tantalizing smell of books…some describe it as "musty" or "old", but I believe it’s the smell of wisdom, dreams, and love all bound together with string with the hope of sharing one’s soul with another. The smell wafts just beneath my nose and comforts me much the way a warm blanket just taken from the dryer might.

I’ll admit that some books plead for me to read them over and over again, while others sit content, collecting evidence of time, among my shelves watching over me as if to say, “I did my job well the first time around, but I’ll serve as a reminder of the time she discovered such and such or learned about this and that”. A few of my affectionately battered books stack seemingly haphazardly on my bedside table, while others rest, for now, on specially reserved shelves. Margins scrawled with thoughts, questions, names of loved ones, or prayers for understanding, guidance, or strength; phrases underlined, specific words circled... *sigh*, the mere picture brings peace to my heart. These books are my companions, delivering balm to my sometimes weary soul, offering encouragement when the storms of life seem to close in, teaching me lessons yet to be learned or, let’s be honest, to be relearned. Books are very much a part of who I am. Upon finishing each book, I hold it near my heart and feel as if I have gained a better sense of who I am. They nourish my soul in ways most other things cannot.

I love bookstores. Colorful spines, compelling titles, varying degrees of height, thickness, and depth, and genres galore greet me at the door and I feel as if I am home. If I thought it appropriate---heck, if no one would look my way, I would spin gloriously throughout the store with my arms outstretched, like Julie Andrews’ character, Maria in the Sound of Music. My mother taught me better however, so I’ll save those types of shenanigans for my real home! It is a rarity that I visit a bookstore and not walk out with an armful of books. I have absolutely every intention of diving into each and every one---and I am optimistic that I will! The guilty pleasure piece comes in when I admit that I have a plethora of unread books at home just waiting for their chance to breathe truth into this marrow of mine. I really have no business purchasing more books.

Several years ago, my silly husband asked me if I had ever noticed the big brick building on the left as I am driving into town. Brow furrowed, I questioned, “You mean, the library?”. You see, his sweet self was trying to feed my love for books while attempting to be a better steward of our finances. Of course, I know where the Library is and I frequent it often. However, I love, love marking in my books, which is funny for this type A girl, who likes things neat and orderly. This Type A girl would never think to destroy public property, hence the need to buy books. Asked why I mark in books, I can only say that it’s because I crave that connectedness, that mingling of thoughts with the author’s, and the necessity to digest in a tangible way (that is why I write).

I treasure the Word of God more than any other book simply because the connectedness, the level of belonging, of feeling held and loved and led-- as I am--- no matter what season of life I am in, surpasses any other book I’ve ever read. It is often referred to as the Living Word because it breathes life into me day in and day out. I see something new no matter how many times I’ve read it. Without a doubt, it is my life, my love, my joy, my teacher, my inspiration, my encouragement, my identity… my everything. I read a quote just today that explains my great, great love for the Word of God better than I could:
“God’s Word. A love letter to my heart. A tool box for my hands. A shield for my mind. And a sword to use against the devil. What a gift”
Lysa Terkeurst.