Be Brave Today

Sometimes my family sits around the TV with a big bowl of popcorn and we watch movies.

Home movies. The kind we made years ago with a video recorder when my now teens were toddlers.

This stroll down memory lane makes my kids laugh. They point at our big hair and wild clothes and their childish antics. It makes me realize how fast time has flown, how old I’ve gotten and how many times I used to say “be careful” to my adventurous children.

No, seriously. In every video, I say it over and over. Don’t get too close to the edge. Watch the waves. Don’t get in over your head.

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I am not brave.

I like safety. I like control. I like comfort.

When I said yes to God, I didn’t know where it would take me, but I knew I couldn’t live another day for myself, in my safe “be careful” world. I didn’t know leaving behind my known comfortable life and the American Dream would take me on a journey of wild obedience.

But it has.

There has never been a wild thing about me–not my hair, my clothes, my lifestyle, my past. Nothing. I have always lived a calculated, well-planned, safe life.

But now, with a God-sized yes tucked under my belt, people assume I am courageous.

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Four Things We Can Do in Our Pain to Help Ourselves and Our Neighbors

My husband reached for his phone and his finger paused mid-dial. I turned to ask him who he was calling, but I stopped as a shadow of grief clouded his face and I knew . . . for just a split second, he forgot she was gone.

I put my hand over his and reminded him forgetting was also part of healing.

Losing Rhonda, my husband’s sister and my dear friend, left a void in our family two years ago. Life has moved on, like it tends to do, but it’s different without her amazing laugh and fun personality. Grief is the kind of pain that constantly changes but never completely goes away. It’s the kind of pain you have to live with.

Pain is often the norm in our lives, not the exception. Think about all the seasons of life and how each brings beauty and happiness and often pain along with it. I once heard we wouldn’t recognize joy if we didn’t first know pain. We experience it in so many ways — through physical suffering, depression, financial struggles, betrayal, new seasons, and grief.

Pain feels helpless. And sometimes hopeless.

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Recently, our family took the challenge of memorizing Psalm 23 together. My husband and I learned it as children, but it was fun to relearn the passage with our kids as we quoted it verse-by-verse around the dinner table. As I listened to my 8 year old say, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,” she stopped and asked, “What does that mean?”

“It means that every life will have valleys of pain, but Jesus is with us, so we’ll be okay,” I answered.

Continue reading over at (in)courage…

Nothing Is Wasted

My little one brought me a photo album she found in the bottom of the closet. She curled up beside me and opened it. We snuggled on the couch while we slowly flipped the pages.

She stopped at an old picture of me, standing against a car, looking forlorn. “What’s wrong with you, Mom? You look so sad.”

I looked at the picture and wondered how it ended up in a recent photo album. A flood of memories hit me hard. “I was sad. I wanted to be a mom so bad. I lived in sadness because it took so long. Those were my wasted years,” I said, surprised at how bitter my words sounded.

“What does that mean? Wasted?” she asked.

I wished I could take back the words. “Honey, I just couldn’t see very far in front of me. I sort of lived out of focus.”

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She thought about my answer and flipped the page to a more recent picture of the two of us, laughing.

“Well, maybe there’s no such thing as wasted years.”

Her words hit me hard. There are no wasted years.

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The Question God Wants Us To Ask

“Aren’t you tired?” She asked over pizza while our kids giggled around us in the booth. “I mean, you’re a mom and you have a busy life, you write and have Mercy House and now you’ve added Fair Trade Friday to your plate.”

Good friends ask hard questions.

I think about her question and stifle a yawn before I answer.

“Yes. I am. Tired.”

Good friends give honest answers.

I thought about my hectic day of carlines and deadlines…. I remembered the early morning wardrobe drama and the tears over a lost library book and then the very full day across town serving refugee women in my city.

After a long pause, I answered, “I spent the first 30 –something years of my life wavering between the pain of the past and chasing the American Dream and I was always asking God the same kinds of questions–to help me, to heal me, to give me more of something.

But when I changed the question to  “What can I do for you, God? Instead of what can you do for me? He answered.

When I stopped trying to fix my problems and tried to help others fix theirs, God helped me. He healed me. He gave me something deeper and more fulfilling than I could have dreamed. I’m overwhelmed and tired, but I don’t want to live any other way.”

If I had to name a regret in my life—it would be this: That I didn’t discover the breathtaking beauty of serving others sooner.

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It’s not only helped other people; it’s helped me.

Continue reading at (in)courage….

 

How Are You? Really.

My thoughts were a million miles away and I didn’t even hear her call my name the first time.

When she said it the second time, I realized I’d been lost in thought.

“Hey, Kristen! How are you?” We were new friends.

On the outside, I had it together. But there was a swirling storm inside. I looked better than I felt.

I was living out my yes to God. But I was having a hard day. I was tired and overwhelmed. I had more questions than answers and mostly, I felt so alone. I was facing impossibilities and I just wanted to quit.

“How are you?” People ask that question all the time. It’s a greeting, something to fill an awkward pause. But few wait for an answer.

This day, my friend did. She asked and then she waited.

Maybe I was desperate for the waiting. Maybe it was the kind of day where tears just brim. Maybe she really cared.

I believed the last and I decided to tell her exactly how I was doing.

I shared my burden, the struggle, the unknowns. The dark clouds began to clear.

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Sometimes healing starts with a question.

I let her in. And she tasted my brokenness. As I wiped my tears and apologized for my awkward answer slash confession, she asked me what I wanted to happen. How did I want God to answer this big question mark in my life?

And so I told her. I confessed a dream I had told few people–a big, impossible dream, a best case scenario answer. I felt silly saying it out loud.

But I also felt bold. Like speaking it meant something.

She listened and then she did something so powerful. She didn’t say, “I’ll pray for you.” She prayed for me. Right there, in a hallway, with people passing by. She grabbed my hands and asked God for the impossible on my behalf.

Nothing changed. But everything was different. I felt like I had let someone in and more importantly, laid the weight of burden down.

That was nearly a year ago.

Last weekend, I saw my friend again for the first time since my hallway blubberfest.

And I got to share the most profound news with her….

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