Tag Archives: Christianity

panic mode.

We have a 3-to-6 week window in which to have a baby.

And to put together a garage sale, and organize/clean/prettify our house and also sell it. And finish construction enough to move into the new house. And I just gave myself a heart attack thinking about all of it.

P.S. I am out of brown paper bags.

Here’s what’s been done to our middle-of-nowhere farmhouse this past week:

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Door knobs, and locks! This is a big deal.

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Actual garage doors. Also big.

It doesn’t seem like much. I am overwhelmed whenever I am out there. Piles of scrap lumber everywhere. Red dirt everywhere. Wood shavings–everywhere. I know it’s all coming together and it just takes time, but I’m losing the vision and I’m getting discouraged. There’s just so much to finish, and so many other things to do in our current house, in our church, and in our community.

Here’s what I don’t get to watch: Caleb, busting his rear end at his job during the day, and out at the property in the early morning and late night hours–mowing, drilling, wiring, hammering, sweeping, sweating…he comes home, picks the stickers out of his shoes, and rinses the sawdust out of his hair. I watch him sleeping comatose beside me, and I know how hard he is working just for us. His dedication is unreal and his energy is almost inhuman. I go back and forth between feeling incredibly grateful to distressingly guilty on a minute-to-minute basis.

This is where we knew it would get hard.

Y’all, this is soooo just…life. At times it’s tiring, overwhelming, and discouraging, especially when we don’t physically see any progress being made–but God cares about us. He is always working behind the scenes.

We sign on the dotted line, in theory knowing full good and well what it should take to actually follow Him–but the experience turns out to be more trying than we imagine. We question His techniques and His time frame, and we get impatient.

God is faithful. He stays working.

Exhaustion sets in. Our feet are sore, and it’s unbearably hot outside, and there are freaking wasps everywhere. We have so many other things on our to-do lists. People around us question. We worry. We doubt. Are we done yet, God? This is not turning out like I thought it would. Will things get any easier? Aren’t you going to help us? Are you sure this is what we were supposed to be doing?


I’ve been teaching my Sunday school class about the part of the Bible where the Israelites keep being unfaithful to God–which if you’ve read the whole Old Testament (I hadn’t), you would know that this is an ongoing theme that pretty much describes the case 97% of the time.

In preparing for the lessons I would ask this question over and over again: “Israelites, REALLY, for the love of GOD, you have your marching orders. How do you keep getting into these predicaments? How is this hard? Has God not told you? Has God not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. No, strong. And courageous. I said COURAGEOUS! Do not, I repeat, DO NOT worship other–DOH!”

After almost a year of studying this sort of business in the ancient land of God, the Israelites developed a reputation with me for sucking majorly.

But after a small season of stress in my own life, I get it.

Bad kings dictated. Invaders invaded. Wars raged. It got hot and food got scarce and there were undoubtedly wasps everywhere. (Because wasps are inherently evil and should be eradicated from the face of this planet.)

God’s people had heard. Some had even seen. They all knew.

But fragile human minds can only take so much–especially when we are not fully leaning on and listening to God during times of trial and uncertainty. We invite temptation in our attempts to do things out of our own power. We forget the basics and make things way more complicated than they need to be. We quickly become spiritually discouraged and tired, and then lazy and weak.

This part of our nature is not anything to be proud of. It’s not anything to coolly accept–but if we’re at least aware of it, we can take steps to fight it.

A wise man once said: “Knowing is half the battle.”

the battle

 

But an even wiser man said this:

philippians ch1vs6

 

 

God is working. He works in the wee small hours of the morning, and well into the scary darkness of the night. When we’re tired, He is energized and moving, sweating, and covered in sawdust, and fighting off wasps. He won’t stop–and NOT so that our little selves can have the house of our dreams for a few measly years here on Earth.

God is constantly working in us, so that many people can have an eternity of Heaven with Him. He is loving. He is faithful. He keeps His promises.

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Claiming it.

Here are somethings that make me want to throw up: The flu. The anxiety. Winter. House-building. Sick children. Seeing the trash can roll around in the wind at the end of the driveway. Watching Flicka 3 (kill me now). Cooking spaghetti when it turns out I wasn’t really in the mood for spaghetti after all.

January always gets me down, you guys.

Here’s what all the popular kids do lately:

Work out. Eat paleo. Volunteer. Read real books. Be awesome at your job. Be awesome at your home. Be all things to all people at all times. And don’t get sick.

I’m only barely scraping the surface of our already ridiculous to-do lists. We have an awful lot of responsibilities and it’s the most important ones that make me feel like I am failing at life:

Read the Bible at 5:30 a.m. Memorize scripture. Watch out for the devil because he’s prowling like a lion, but don’t worry about anything because God takes care of birds. Be joyful about everything and have faith because God does miracles all the time. Don’t be selfish. Love everyone but don’t tolerate what is evil. Fight the good fight. Tell everyone about Jesus. Act like Jesus. Talk like Jesus. Think like Jesus. Be like Jesus.

That whole be like Jesus thing is giving me fits. If I had read that requirement in the Bible before signing on to be a Christian, I would have given up before I even started. No one can do that ever in their own power, and not even with the help of the Holy Spirit can they do it perfectly and all the time. I cannot even comprehend Jesus’s patience with all the knuckleheads he encountered on a daily basis, and in my wildest dreams I cannot imagine even attempting to do the same thing, especially on days when I am crying out to God myself for peace and understanding. That doesn’t mean I will just give up on trying to do the things that God wants of me, but I’m human and TRUESTORY: it’s hard.

And I gotta say: I don’t get the prosperity gospel. According to my facebook feed, a good quarter of my friends are planning on 2014 being super-duper in every way, “claiming” everything from houses and cars to scholarships and lottery winnings just falling into their laps by the end of December.

If claiming it worked in such a way, starving people in third-world countries would have food in their bellies. Homeless veterans would have a roof over their heads. Childless couples would have babies pouring out of every room. People dying from cancer wouldn’t be paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for healthcare because they could be cured overnight by drinking organic pomegranate tea or some junk.

I know miracles happen. And I know that the world is not perfect and it’s just not our home. But I also know that there are certain things we most certainly can claim: God promises us peace in this life when we follow him. He does not, howeverpromise us nice cars and expensive watches and dream-houses in which to watch “Good Burger” over and over on Netflix.

He also doesn’t promise that we’ll be the picture of perfect health. He doesn’t even guarantee us that we’ll have food and shelter and physical safety at all times. In fact, Jesus said kind of the opposite:

As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.”And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” –Luke 9:57-58

And then again here:

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.…” –Matthew 16:24-25

There’s a cost associated with following Jesus and it really should be so much more than the measly sacrifices most of us don’t even make.

If Jesus was undercover among us right now, do you think he’d be hanging out with all the people driving BMWs and wearing blingy jewelry because they “clearly” have the most faith?

Forget comfort. Forget everything that the rest of the world deems important. I can picture a modern-day version of that bible excerpt:

“But Jesus,” said the lady, “Let me first have my own babies and then I will adopt all the orphans like you said,” And Jesus said to her, “Giada has marble counter-tops and her own line of kitchen knives, but the Son of Man has no good place to chop fresh garlic, because I’m too busy sharing a meal out of the trash with this homeless child, yo.”

I may not own a fancy car but there’s a crap ton of stuff I think Jesus would totally call me out on.

For now I think I will focus on this: pointing to and praising God through all my failures and successes;  through sickness and health, and through my victories and disappointments. Whatever happens to me and my family, let it all go to glorify God. And I will go ahead and claim a little something while I’m at it: God will give us the courage and the strength and the calmness to make it through whatever He has planned for us this year.


Man in the Mirror

So how ’bout that Beth Moore and her bible study on the book of James?

If you’ve experienced Beth Moore ever, you know that she’s a teeny little blonde lady whose intensity will scare the bejesus out of you, and that’s just through a video. I’d die of fright and fall into a puddle of my own pee if I ever saw her in person and she looked at me with her actual eyes and smiled at me with her teeth which I’m betting are sharp enough to bite right down to my bones. Not that I think she’d bite me; well, she might, and that’s a chilling thought to be sure. I know I went to a really dark place just now, but Beth Moore freaks me out, you guys.

That said, the woman can rock a bible study, amiright? The video sessions and the workbook have pretty much completed the very easy task of massacring my brains. Also, the book of James: if you’ve ever been a little Catholic girl in a swarm of hot-headed Southern Baptist youth-groupers and you accidentally may or may not have said something to the effect of: “Well, you can’t really be saved if you’re always acting like a psycho-heathen baboon on meth, can you?”…well, this particular part of the New Testament is heart-warmingly validating on multiple levels. Take a listen:

But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.

If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

James 1: 22-27

But wait! There’s more!

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?

So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.

Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”

You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?

James 2: 14-20.

BLAMO! I wish I had memorized more Bible back in the day. It would have felt great to whip that one out and lay it on the table.

I’m not one to get all proud and cocky, at least not in the past year of my life and between the hours of 3 and 4 a.m. But these passages do speak to me, even more so now than they would have in my teenage years. And not because they’re great verses to present to other people–I am more and more convicted by these words every time I read them.

Why is that? Beth Moore posed this question: When was the last time you were changed by the word of God? Not when was the last time you were touched by the word of God, or the last time you were sentimental over it, or felt guilty because of it, or the last time you agreed with it….but when was the last time you heard His truths and were so impacted that you actually changed?

Personally, I love to get this little baby out of my pocket: “I’m not a stark-raving alcoholic anymore. BOOM. What more do you want, God?”

And here’s God: “Every. Flipping. Thing.” My temper. My impatience. My spending. My dishonesty. My anxiety. My free time. My hands and my arms and my legs and my back. My thoughts. My heart.

So many times I pick up my Bible and I read, and I eagerly nod my head and I pray and I thank God for what He just showed me…and then I turn right around and blow up over something miniscule like my dog is looking at me cock-eyed (which, coincidentally, he does all the damn time.) I tell God that my life is in His hands one minute, and the next minute I’m freaking out because my lunch plans fell through. I say my prayers and I have my quiet time, but then I hop in my car with a to-do list and all my quiet thoughts and calm vibes and good intentions go right out the window and suddenly I’m throwing up gang signs at the morons who won’t let me get in the exit lane.

I am exactly like the man who looks intently into a mirror at his own natural self, and then turns away and forgets completely what he looked like. I pig out on the word, and then I just sit there and burp til I doze off.

We can do bible study after bible study. We could analyze and philosophize until we’re blue in the face, but still not get the point. Sure, we could mentally understand the point, but until we get off the couch and do the point? We’ve missed the point. Salvation through faith alone–it’s awesome. Know what occurs naturally with true faith? Good works. This, btdubs, is happy information for Baptists and Catholics alike.

I’m trying. I really am. I’m doing the bible studies and teaching my children and memorizing scripture and giving things to the poor and bringing food to sick people, all the while trying to remember to switch the clothes from the washer to the dryer. And if you’re like me, you’re probably asking this question: “When do I get perfect, God? Come on already!”

That is one sneaky bastard of a thought, and it pops up time and time again in my head, especially when I’m surrounded by awesome Godly women who have totally nailed this “doers-of-the-word” thing. My friend Libby is calm and wise. My friend Kayla is caring and thoughtful. My friend Lynette is chill every minute of every day. My friend Stephanie is a solid rock of common sense. My friend Paula has more energy than a hyperactive labrador puppy on crack-cocaine. My friend Kim could people-charm the KGB. My friend Kristy invented every craft on Pinterest. My friend Tiffanie is a beast on a bicycle–if beasts look like Kim Kardashian except way prettier. My friend Shanna’s voice sounds like a combination of Fergie and Jesus.

But you guys: Comparison is a torture device of the devil. God put certain talents into certain people for certain reasons. Separately we are limited, but together we could take over the galaxy, or at least the tri-state area.

I can’t be all things to all people. I will never ever have all the answers. I will always be striving and seeking and asking and knocking. Sometimes I will slack off and regret it. Some days I may scream out with my whole heart and tears will burn in my eyes and my body will ache from running to Him. I am not going be perfect, not here on this earth and not by my own power ever. I might read the book of James 50 times this year and still not understand every sentence, but one thing is clear: Love God, love others. The two go hand in hand.


Lights.

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

–Jesus said that in Luke 4:18-19. He really did. It shocked the crap out of all the haters. Which is awesome because who doesn’t love to shock a hater?

This morning I snarfed croissants and enjoyed stimulating conversation with a friend of mine. This chica is super thoughtful and edgy and honest; she really inspired me and my brain is still churning hours later. Seriously, you can probably smell the smoke.

So here it goes:

Church.

Church and Christianity.

Church vs. Christianity.

Christians in the Church.

True faith. True love. Honest motives. Unselfish behavior.

Family. Friends. Sacrifices. Giving. Prayer.

How does it all fit together? What does it look like to really be in love with the Lord? How much of what comes out of people’s mouths is true? Why are so many “Christians” such jerks about Jesus? What’s with those people who are really “shining”–and how the hell do they do that?

Years ago I wrote a post about why church in general is awesome and why I love and need the people in it. I will not back down on the points I made.

Here’s what I am to understand:

Church is a coming together of believers, so we can spur each other on, and keep each other accountable.

And also roll up fatties of fellowship and fun.

Church is supposed to be a powerhouse, a place where we come and gather strength and encouragement and inspiration, so that we can go back out into the world proclaim good news and junk.

In theory. That’s what we’re supposed to do. And hopefully, in general, that’s what the church does do.

But I know there’s a growing number of people who are not convinced–and not impressed. They look at us “Christians” and the only things they know about us as a group are 1. That we don’t cuss or drink as much, at least not in public, 2. That we quote the Bible when it suits our purposes, and 3. We think Obama is pretty much the antichrist.

(I do not think Obama is the antichrist.)

I’ve heard people say “I love God, I love Jesus; I just hate the church. The people there are hypocrites. Church is pointless. I can watch church on TV. I can worship God on my own.”

I get it. I’ve said that myself once upon a time. And I was asked, at that time, “If you love Christ, and Christ loves the church, then how can you hate the church?”

The church was not designed to be a bunch of meanies that stand around judging everybody. The church wasn’t meant to be a place where a bunch of self-righteous rich people come to feel good about themselves once a week. It wasn’t meant to be a place where teenagers go on Wednesday night to eat pizza, listen to a rock band, and then talk about Jesus for 2 minutes in between gossip sessions.

People are not perfect. Christians are not perfect. But God’s love IS perfect.

The church is meant to be the hands and feet of Jesus here on earth. The church is meant to be good news to the poor.

We can’t do that if we’re focused solely on ourselves 95% of the time.

And I certainly need the accountability that being actively involved with a group of fellow believers brings. I need the encouragement. I need the wisdom and advice of those who are strong in the faith and more knowledgeable than me about the teachings of the Bible.

And the church needs me. It needs me to be part of “the team”. The “team” has goals: Love others. Bring the good news. Be lights in a dark place.

I can’t bring sight to the blind or freedom to the oppressed all by myself.

I can’t even make a dent.

It’s soooo not about not drinking or cussing or bible-thumping, or even Obama.

Guys–if you love Jesus, then the church is a team you want to be a part of. You gotta get in on this. It needs you and all your spunk and talents and hopes and dreams and even your heartaches and disappointments. If you think the team sucks, well by all means, please–come help make it better.

Humanity is one hot mess. We’re warm-blooded, quick-tempered, impulsive, emotional drama-queens who strive painfully for perfection but time and time again we fail epically. But Jesus loves us, and He loves His church.

And sometimes we do get it right.

It’s about reaching out, and helping people. Feeding the hungry. Clothing the naked. Taking care of the orphan and the widow. Loving the unlovable.

Even more than all that, it’s about being human and banding together to help accomplish the task of spreading hope. And I can think of no greater hope than Jesus.


word on the street

Here was soccer practice last night: my team was running around like lunatics while they waited for their turn to shine under the bright team-portrait lights. I stood idly by watching the madness, and I guess I just look like the kind of girl to chit-chat with, and you know, share a life story–complete with political views and spiritual struggles–with.

People talk to me. Well, I talk to people. Well, actually I more or less run my mouth until I look like a total jackass, and then people feel comfortable talking to me since they figure they can’t possibly look any stupider than I just did.

It’s a gift.

Really.

I enjoy talking to people when I’m not totally wigging out (’cause I got the anxiety!) As I listened to some of these ladies talk, I realize that every person has so much baggage. We all struggle and strain and fight the work that God wants to do in our lives. Sometimes, if we’re particularly feisty by nature, we create our very own custom-made hell-on-earth.

It’s not just me.

The thought is both relieving and sad.

I’ve been there. I’ve been too tired to go to church. I’ve been so lonely I could just die. I’ve had the knock-down drag-out fights with my husband and I’ve screamed at my kids for a week straight.

I’ve also drank myself into a stupor every day by 3:00 in the afternoon for a good solid 3 years. I’ve cried in my closet partly because I was ashamed of being drunk and partly because I was too drunk to do anything else. I’ve given precious pieces of my heart and body to people who didn’t love or respect me. I’ve brought down mad dishonor on my parents. I emotionally neglected my daughter and I flat-out ignored God, saying things like “I’m just not into Jesus right now.”

But the whole time, Jesus? Was very much into Toni McClung. And He pursued me super-duper hardcore and He fought for me and when I was at my rockest bottom, He walked right in, paid the price for everything that I had done, and everything that I would do and everything that I haven’t even done yet. He redeemed me.

Say that with me: redeem.

I am worth something to Him. I don’t deserve it, I don’t fully understand it, but He calls me His own. He calls me Daughter.

I see these people, these moms and dads and these children out there on the soccer field and they talk to me and my heart hurts for them. It literally hurts, and I could cry over their pain. I know.

I know loneliness and fear and panic and anxiety and desperation and hunger and sadness and despair and depression and anger and rage and hurt and pain and loss. I know the frustration and the impatience and the feeling of being overwhelmed and powerless, and I have had the shakes for something that never fixed anything–only made it all worse, worse than I could ever imagine. Sometimes I still get the shakes, actually.

I always had trouble understanding that church term: my chains are gone. I used to think: “Chains? Really? My life is good. Really good.” (a Nacho Libre quote for the win!)

But I get it now. My alcoholism, my laziness, my pride, my sins: it was absolute slavery. Jesus wanted me to be free. And though those very human feelings still come up and temptations still rear their ugly heads, they don’t own me and they don’t define me, because He calls me Daughter.

It’s not about church or church activities or church people or the church building. It’s not about things I do or do not do or about acting right and avoiding wrong. It’s about loving Jesus with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength because He first loved me; He died for me and for all people.

And that’s…awesome. Awesome is what it is.


Fear: Can I Be Honest?

Today was our big art day downtown. It was cool.

If by “cool”, you mean being so worried about getting lost in downtown Oklahoma City that the second you drive north of the Hwy 37 exit, you get a killer migraine. Cool, as in your anxiety disorder kicks back in with a vengeance, and suddenly your car is closing in on you, and giant 18-wheelers are for sure trying to run you off the road and you feel like you’re going to vomit.

And when you actually get where you’re going, you really do worry that that’s exactly what will happen: you have to breathe in slowly through your nose in order to keep from literally barfing, because here you are: out of your element and waaaaay out of your comfort zone, with folks you don’t know, in a place that–you’ve been told by dozens of people–is unsafe.

Did I mention my previous dealings with anxiety? It gets to me sometimes.

I’m ashamed of this. I am ashamed of my fear, however rational it may be.

It’s not like I’ve never been in neighborhoods like this before. Having kids, though, has changed my perspective on, well…everything.

The place looked pretty happy and wonderful, to be honest. Sunny little house on a quaint little street on a bright and beautiful morning. Painting with the world’s most adorable children in a shady and spacious backyard. Peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches all around.

It’s no different from my everyday.

But what about the kids? Is it their everyday? Who paints with them? Who jump-ropes with them? Who sings and plays and makes lunch with a complete serving of vegetables, everyday, for them? Surely their parents, or a kind grandma, or babysitter?

Right?

And what about their moms and dads? Who invites them over for chit-chat and coffee, and who brings them casseroles when everyone in the family has the flu? Who comes over to their house and prays in their driveway after they’ve had a miscarriage? Who can they trust to watch their children in emergencies and who do they turn to in times of tragedy?

I don’t know.

I do know that the people who put on this week-long day-camp for the kids in this area did it for a reason. A block away from where we played, women walk the streets, selling their bodies. You can see them at any given time of day. There’s trash, and bars, and hypodermic needles, gangs and violence and abuse.

There are predators. There are people who would seek to “groom” some of the beautiful 10-year-old girls that were painting smiley owls with me today.

And it makes me sick to my stomach. It brings tears to my eyes. I can paint and play and eat lunch and leave it all behind. I will go back to my “lily-white world” 30 minutes away. But what about the people who live in the other houses on that same street? What about the children? What happens to them, when the sun goes down? Where is their retreat? How do they live in fear?

I have to wonder this: They are either 1. miserable, or 2. not afraid.

And if they are not afraid, I wonder if 1. they are distributors of fear, or 2. they have taken every precaution necessary against those that would hurt them, or 3. They are at peace with God and they believe that they are right where they need to be. Or two of those. Or all of them.

I prayed hard on the drive in. I wanted to be calm, cool, and collected. I wanted to be. But I was scared, I really was. I’m about as maniacal as a box of kittens. My street cred is so low that a hardened thug would probably bless my heart and give me a sticker. (I’m counting on that, in fact.)

I didn’t want to drive down a street where mean, haughty eyes stared me down. I didn’t want my hands to shake. I didn’t want to feel like I was an outsider, or worse–an intruder, an easy target. I tried to call to mind a verse that I love, and was surprised when I actually remembered it–and even more surprised when it actually comforted me:

“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

If God told me to paint with these kids, then He was in my car with me today, warding off evil semis and vanquishing my highway enemies. His hand was on my shoulder as I navigated those city streets and He opened the door to the house just as I was about to faint on the front steps.

And if He called these other people to minister to the men, women, and children of this neighborhood every other day of the year, then He is with them when they put on their tennis shoes and hit the streets. He passes out nail polish and encouraging Bible verses and He hugs the prostitutes. And He has the strength to do it all again the next day.

If you couldn’t already tell, today was the first real day I stepped outside of my comfort zone for Jesus. (I should mention that my comfort zone consists of…my house, and maybe the church as long as I’m surrounded by people who I’m used to, and maybe Target–but only the new one, in Norman.)

But I pray that it won’t be the last. I hope they’ll have me back despite my awkwardness and my utter lack of leadership during the painting session.

I also pray it won’t be the hardest place I go. My sister had this to say in response to my idea of one day doing an art camp in Africa or South America with my friends: “What about those people on ‘Locked Up Abroad’ ? You know, you just can’t go to a place that’s not safe.”

(Honestly, I was more concerned with the zombie apocalypse breaking out on the plane ride over the ocean.)

I get it, I do. But I can–I can go. I might be meant to do just that. And when are we truly safe? We could be killed anytime, any place. No one knows what tomorrow brings.

It won’t matter to God in Heaven that we were super smart and graduated from really good colleges. It won’t matter that we stayed away from gluten and drove cars with high safety ratings. It won’t matter what the balance was in our savings account, and God won’t care about our chevron-patterned throw pillows. God will say: “I made you strong–did you help people who were weak? I gave you the ability to speak and write–did you tell people about Me? I put a sadness in your heart for orphans–did you adopt? I made you creative–did you share that gift with others?”

I so often waste my gifts and blessings and strengths. But today, I was right where I needed to be. We sang songs. We played games. We ate lunch and painted pictures, and we hunted eggs. Mia and Merrick popped confetti all over themselves and me and the other kids. People were smiling, laughing. It was a good day.

IMG_1428 IMG_1431 IMG_1434IMG_1437 IMG_1438

We'll be picking confetti out of our scalps for years to come.

We’ll be picking confetti out of our scalps for years to come.

Today I finally met the kids that I have been thinking about and praying for since March. Only now I will be praying for them by name, with their beautiful faces in mind.

Thank you to everyone who helped make this painting party possible by participating in art lessons this month. We earned enough to buy supplies for today and for Friday, with some canvasses and paints left over for the community center to keep on hand. Art for you=art for them. Great job!


My Dog and Art Students and A Visitor

Today Merrick stood at the back door yelling out Darcy’s name about 3 times before he realized she wasn’t out there. When it him, his shoulders slumped and his eyes filled with tears, and we’re going on day 3, folks.

We had to put sweet Darcy down. In the 5 days it took for the vet to get back to us with her initial test results, Darcy went from a vague health issue, to complete and total shutdown mode. Her lymph nodes were rock-hard and ridiculously swollen. Poor little thing couldn’t bark, couldn’t eat, couldn’t go to the bathroom. She didn’t feel like moving much and it was getting tougher and tougher for her to breathe. Her cancer just ate her up. I was doubtful that she’d make it through the weekend. So we took pictures:

Our best friend.

Our best friend.

The sweetest dog in the world.

The sweetest dog in the world.

Our family dog.

Part of our family.

So fluffy and beautiful! So loving and wise!

So fluffy and beautiful! So loving and wise!

Definitive proof that Noah came from outer space.

Also, definitive proof that Noah is a freaking alien.

And we said our good-byes.

Darcy, in happier, healthier times--in front of the house that didn't exist yet.

Darcy, in happier, healthier times–in front of the house that didn’t exist yet.

Wednesday night was hellacious. Merrick was beside himself: “I can’t sleep when Darcy’s not alive!” This morning he insisted on paying tribute to Darcy, in the form of vocalized song. “Okay,” I said. “What song shall we sing?” thinking he’d choose something amazing, like Kenny Loggin’s “Meet Me Halfway”, his current favorite.

Instead we sang 50 choruses of “You Don’t Know You’re Beautiful” to our dead dog.

It was less than epic.

Other than us adjusting to life without Darcy, things around here are good. Caleb and Mia are at camp. Cheyenne is still in Maryland. And I am giving art lessons like a fiend:

This little thunderbolt forced me to learn how to draw sharks.

This little thunderbolt forced me to learn how to draw sharks.

IMG_1387 These cousins were dead set on trees and sunsets.

And I’m having a blast. I hope the kids are, too. My Thursday girls went home and put on an impromptu painting party of their own:

Behold these gems: the kids in my town are going to put me out of business.

Just look at these gems. The kids in my town are going to put me out of business.

I love it. This was my wildest dream: kids spreading art around. They did it! It happened! It worked!

Shut up.

Nobody will ever know how much these children bless me.

And speaking of being blessed, I had the privilege of spending time with a beautiful young woman who came to stay with me yesterday. This girl had a sparkle in her eye and a permanent smile on her face, even though this year has been so tough for her. We talked about loneliness and making mistakes and helping others and loving God. Her take on these things brought tears to my eyes; I tried to come up with advice but everything I said felt miserably short of anything remotely wise. I searched for words of encouragement, but my mind mostly drew blanks. I had paid my dues in high school, but maybe I was just too old and too far removed from the life of a modern teenage girl to be able to relate much.

Last night, I read this in Angie Smith’s I Will Carry You:

“We aren’t going to feel whole in this life, and we will long for something we don’t have. Something that will fill the nagging void that intermittently stings and knocks us to our knees. And all the while, Satan taunts us, telling us our faith is small. To hurt so deeply is a sign that we live in a fallen world, not that we serve a small God.”

…and I almost leaped out of bed at 11:30 p.m. to share it with her. But I didn’t because I am restrained like that, so I’m sharing it now.

I’m still reading books about miscarriage and death. That’s my pain right now. I am so, so lonely for my baby and it still hurts. I have so many questions. I doubt myself. But I do serve a God who is big and in charge; I’ve got to remember to turn to Him in my loneliness.

We might think we’re oddly matched up with random people for no apparent reason, but there’s always a purpose. This sweet girl did much for me yesterday, and I hope that she realizes how special she is and how much God loves her.


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