Embrace {A Five Minute Friday Post}

Wow, it’s been awhile.

I can’t begin to explain the last months or years of my life and the way circumstances can sneak in and rob the energy or desire to write. Some days I can’t even begin to wrap my brain around life enough to put words to it.

It’s been a season of listening. Of learning. Growing. Changing.

Of practice.

Practicing the hope I preach. The faith I stand on.

Practicing belief.

And trust.

Messing up and practicing mercy. And grace. And forgiveness.

And today, suddenly, I can write again. The air has cleared enough, the weight lifted enough, the timing just right… enough.

For words.

So today I once again join the Five Minute Friday crew in taking five minutes to write to a theme, unedited, and sharing it with you. The word is embrace.

Start:

Oh, the things I never knew I’d be asked to hold. The weight I had no idea I’d be expected to carry. And the failures in trying. The times I dropped the load and wept, knowing I couldn’t carry it any longer. The shame and the fear… that I’d said “yes” in my naivety and pride to carry this burden, only to find myself weak and inadequate and not-enough… and that in this revelation, my “yes” would destroy everything. Not just me. But my children. My marriage. My world. Too late.

With a passing pat on the back, cheer of encouragement, the light of hope, I’d pick the weight up again and keep walking. Keep trying. Keep believing.

But sometimes the right thing is the hardest thing.

And sometimes the right thing looks like the wrong thing. And it feels like failure and guilt and condemnation and despair… if we let it. Because that weight has a voice. A loud one. A demanding one. A controlling voice.

It demands our service while playing a tape of lies to motivate us in fear. Lies that say, “A good person would never…” “A good Christian would certainly…” “A good mom wouldn’t dream of…” ” A good wife always…” And with tears streaming, we press on. I pressed on. I wanted to believe that I was better than my fears told me.

But you know what? I’m really not. And that’s the thing.

I want to be the glittery image of all things put-together and right and disciplined and controlled and, well, perfect.

I want to live up to my idea that my worth comes from my achievements and my successes and my heroism.

And this keeps me lugging that weight around, hoping that just around the corner, I’ll arrive. I’ll cross the finish line and get my medal, my medal of value and worth and lovability. I’d be worth love. If I could find that finish line…

But then He stepped in. Shook His head with the most tender compassion. “Did you think I’d leave you like this?” He said, gently coming to my side. I wanted to make Him proud.

“See?” I said. “Look at me! I’m doing it!” My legs shook under the crushing weight.

And He knew.

He gently lifted the weight from my shoulders and set it down. My arms ached. Shoot, my whole body ached. And it felt so good, SO GOOD, to set it down. I almost felt like I could fly. “It’s time,” He said. “Time to put that away. I don’t need you to carry that. I don’t need you to do or be anything.

I just want you.”

And now I could see the burden more clearly, now that it wasn’t bearing down my soul.

Rotten. Filthy. Decaying.

Worthless.

It had been such a strong voice, so confidant and driving.

But it was nothing. And everything. And still only death.

And He took it from me.

Wrapped in His love, I finally felt myself rise. Felt His affection, not for how far I’d traveled or how much I’d done along the way, but for being.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. -2 Corinthians 12:9

My ragged, frayed clothes didn’t put Him off. In fact, I sensed they drew Him to me.

This road had been long. Hard. Treacherous. And He’d been with me, step for step. The times I thought I was strong enough to carry… He’d been holding up the back, letting me struggle. And grow. And change.

Because sometimes it’s in the adversity that we discover who we are. Who we’re meant to be. Our true worth. And it will never be because of what we’ve done, who we know, the size of our bank account, or brain, or home.

This is what I’m learning to embrace. Not to hide my mess and call it clean. Or to pretend and call it real. To try to bandage and cover my cracks and crevices and craters of heart, soul, and mind… but instead, to leave them exposed.

Because THESE are where my need lies. And it’s only in my need that I meet my endless lovability and grand worth.

In Him.

 

Introducing my newest “baby” – According to Corban!

That’s right!

My newest “baby” has entered the world!

I actually wrote this sweet story about six or seven years ago when I was a new mama. I spent hours learning to both live as a human and nurture, feed, love, and entertain toddlers. This meant trying to get laundry done, dishes cleaned, showers taken, food eaten… all the while having someone calling, pulling, yanking… or, if things were suddenly quiet, drawing, cutting, smearing…

And if you’re a parent or teacher or childcare worker, you know what all of those … mean.

Trouble.

Well, for the caregiver. The kid is usually having a great time! Thus, According to Corban was dreamed up. While scrubbing the floors, my son Corban was sure I was begging to be a horse on his adventure. Pillows were bridges needed to cross carpets of lava. A bath was an ocean full of his favorite wildlife. Our backyard was his personal jungle, complete with wild animals, the perfect hiding places, and lots of dirt. And worms.

AND, a little sister tagging along in his shadow.

It charmed my heart (when I could get over my desire to actually keep something clean and could just play with my kids). One night, around 1am, this story hit me and I couldn’t sleep until I got it all down. Twenty-some-odd revisions later, my firstborn (though not first-published) picture book has entered the world. I hope it’s as much fun for parents as for children. The current 5-star review on Amazon seems to say my goal is a good one!

Pay special attention to the mama in the background and the way Corban’s imagination grows and shifts to interact with her (without ever leaving his imagination!)

You can watch the book trailer here:

According to Corban is available on Kindle, paperback, and hardback!

Feel free to share the love!

Book Review: Of Stillness and Storm

Hello friends!

I have the great pleasure of reviewing Of Stillness and Storm by Michèle Phoenix, a leading voice for Missionary Kids (having been raised as one herself). You can read more about Michèle here.

Michèle also has history with Black Forest Academy, which is how our paths originally crossed. Learning that we are both writers, love Jesus, and love MKs, we’ve stayed in touch over distance and time.

Here’s a synopsis of Of Stillness and Storm: 

“I felt torn between two worlds. Each with its own mystery. One more captivating than the other, but the other more real and breathing.”

It took Lauren and her husband ten years to achieve their dream—reaching primitive tribes in remote regions of Nepal. But while Sam treks into the Himalayas for weeks at a time, finding passion and purpose in his work among the needy, Lauren and Ryan stay behind, their daily reality more taxing than inspiring. For them, what started as a calling begins to feel like the family’s undoing.

At the peak of her isolation and disillusion, a friend from Lauren’s past enters her life again. But as her communication with Aidan intensifies, so does the tension of coping with the present while reengaging with the past. It’s thirteen-year-old Ryan who most keenly bears the brunt of her distraction.

As a mother serving in the mission field, this story hit close to home at times. No, I’m not in Nepal and my living conditions are considerably better (though you’d wonder on days where my internet services feels even less available than Lauren’s in the story).

Even so, this story has something for any person pursuing a life of purpose or calling or meaning. At what cost will we pursue that ambition? Whether we believe our “mission” is from God or we have a self-determined drive, what are we willing to give, or sell, or lose in the process?

That is something Michèle processes through her story of a family serving in Nepal. Even though the signs are everywhere, that their son is struggling, the she is struggling, her husband can only believe that God will work it out since He has called them to this service.

What do we do in these situations? How many well-meaning families have ended in divorce, suicide, depression, or complete burnout for the sake of what one or all believe is God’s purpose for their lives? How do we determine the difference between the God whose call trumps the health of the family, and a God who loves each and every one? The God who Himself rested? These are hard and deep questions, and while not given an absolute answer within Michèle’s story, are certainly addressed and played with.

Which makes it terribly uncomfortable.

Before that sends you running, let me explain.

Good and important themes often make us uncomfortable. And they probably should. They make us confront hard realities, stories we’d rather ignore or shove down, possibilities we want to believe don’t exist. What? A family serving God while having to deal with emotional affairs? Physical affairs? Troubled and rebellious children? Mental illness? Medication for depression? Suicide? Divorce? While not all of these present in the story of Lauren and Sam, the themes of their story make us look long and hard at the cost some families are paying in the name of “calling.”

Setting the mission aspect aside for a moment, Of Stillness and Storm also deals with emotional boundaries in a marriage and outside. Lauren finds herself in conversation with an old friend, right during a time where her heart toward her own man is muddled. Sam is gone a lot, serving the indigenous in their host country, leaving her to single parenting, transitioning into the new culture, and bearing the weight of a life that keeps catching her off guard.

Then comes Facebook and a new message.

Oh man, how I’ve had to guard my own heart at every instance in my marriage. How easily the enemy sneaks in with whispered promises of “better” or “more” or “see?” and how those lies can devastate whole families. Lauren knows this, of course, but refuses to really acknowledge the way her heart is moving toward this old friendship. This dangerous clinging to naivety only furthers her along the road of strain in her own marriage, family, and heart. Again, another issue that Michèle tackles with rawness and which, of course, made me uncomfortable. 🙂

But not so uncomfortable that I could put the book down.

No, the realness of their story kept me attached and I couldn’t let this sweet family go. I had to know what decisions they’d make. I had to know if Lauren would hand her heart over. I had to know if Sam would save his family or the villagers. I had to know if Ryan, their son, would finally adjust to life in this foreign country or if he’d crash and burn. Partly I had to know because my heart wants to know, too, what I think about God. Am I in a place to give my heart slowly and ignorantly to the destruction of my marriage? Do I believe God calls us to sacrifice our marriages and children for what we believe His causes are? Would I choose my children or our mission?

While I still have much to process in these themes, I found the story riveting. It wasn’t meant or written in such a way that I feel obligated to make big decisions for my life right now. But it did raise these themes to my awareness, themes that I’ve watch from the sidelines in some of the families I’ve served alongside… the quiet divorce and the family silently leaving the field. The expelled child whose actions send the whole family away. An affair amidst emotional and verbal abuse. It happens. And I hate that it happens. Of Stillness and Storm is one story of one family walking these tightropes.

It’s a worthy read. It’s an important read.

You can get it here.