When You’re Heavy Laden At Christmas

Hello, friends.

I feel a bit like old Zechariah, tongue loosed after months of silence.

The truth is, I’ve felt hushed these last months.  More aware than ever of the staggering magnitude of God and His abilities, and more deeply aware than ever of my lack.  Lack of faith, lack of sufficiency, lack of time, lack of energy…just not enough in so many areas.  And learning that it’s okay (like really, truly okay) to lean on Jesus in my insufficiency instead of trying to only half lean on Him.  I’m a desperately untrusting, stubborn independent  (?) kind of a gal.

I’ve been focused in on baring my soul to God and hushing my own expectations – and maybe even the expectations of others, too.  And with all that, I’ve been learning so much more about loving my husband and kiddos well.

I just haven’t had words for anything else.

Maybe I should also mention…we’re in the middle of a miracle.  You know how the doctor said we were done having kids?  Well, that’s what we thought, but God has graciously blessed us with another little blessing.  This miracle-child is kicking me as I sit here, a minute-by-minute reminder that God can do anything He pleases.

There are other changes – difficult relationships that keep us up at night, difficult decisions to be made – that are anything but easy.  Maybe you’re feeling some heaviness this Christmas, too? 

I don’t have any great wisdom to offer you.  Just this: take it to Jesus.  Fall on your knees, seek Him with honesty, and I promise you:

Whatever you’re facing, He’ll face it with you.

Grace, peace, and Merry Christmas!

With love,



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I’m Over Christmas

My brain feels like twice baked zucchini.

(Is that even a thing?)  I’m really just so tired.  And the holidays haven’t even started, but the very act of winding up for them is making me feel like curling into a tinsel-coated ball on my un-vacuumed couch.  Anybody else?

Don’t get me wrong, I adore Christmas.  (I’m not REALLY over it.)  I love Advent.  Thanksgiving?  A lovely holiday.  I’ll keep it.  But when did mid-November through the first week of January start to feel like a cross between a marathon and an obstacle course?  I just don’t have it in me.

The cleaning.  The decorating.  The baking.  The gift shopping.  The wrapping.  The numerous meaningful and sweet and enjoyable traditions.  The card printing, bag stuffing, box filling…it feels like emptying to me.  I start a Christmas list and I just want to crumple it up.

It is simply. Too.  Much.  Now in the policy of full disclosure, you have to know that it is all on me.  I do this to myself each year after well-meaning year.  I unpack my expectations long before the Christmas boxes get pulled out of storage, and they get piled on top of the gargantuan stack of everyday expectations.  Somewhere between gingerbread houses and stocking hanging, I lose the joy of it all.  It’s buried somewhere along with the missing pink Advent candle.  (That one went MIA a while ago.  If you see it, send it over, will you?)

Can I have Thanksgiving and Christmas without all the trimmings?

These traditions and rituals and all the cute yarn and jingle bell crafts are wonderful and well-meaning, and they really are special to so many people.  I’m not the Grinch of Pipe Cleaner Angels, believe me.  But I’m already barely keeping up with clean socks and addition facts and not serving chicken nuggets too often.  Pile on activities, lots of gifts (which adds up to serious cha-ching), all the time to make/wrap said gifts, parties, crafts (inevitably involving copious amounts of loose glitter and thus clean up for weeks), and then some “good mom” activities involving elves, trolls, or shepherds on the move…and I just can’t.

How about Jesus?  Can I just have Jesus and my people and a few great traditions that keep us all circling back to Jesus?

I want less stuff.  Less doing. More couch flopping and less sparkly presents.  More simple, less over the top amazing.  I want to see candid selfies on social media (anyone?), and I want to expect less and enjoy more.  I want to find joy in Pinterest, not condemnation that I should be making cowgirl hat cupcakes using gumdrops and Pringles®.  Yeehaw.  I am beginning to wonder why it is that I am so convinced that more is better!  More is greater!

Because more doesn’t feel like better and it doesn’t even feel that great.  It just feels kind of like…more to do.  More on the list.  More ways I’m not doing and being enough.

Are you as tired of not enough as I am?

I want to see my children’s eyes reflecting the sparkle of the Christmas lights, and I want to enjoy that very moment.  I want to not be so worried about all the other stuff.  If we’re going with more, I want more paper plates and more time for sock sliding competitions.  I want more crazy giggling and pillow fort building and less fretting about the mess (even if it involves glitter.  Please, Holy Spirit, work in me.)

How about more time meditating on one simple verse throughout the day?   Some more awe of Jesus and what He did for all of us.  Maybe I’m the only one feeling like I’m going to explode before the holidays even officially begin, but I am fed up to here with swallowing down the overwhelm like it’s my daily medicine and I should just take it.


Just, no.

If a shoddy back street stable and a handful of hay was enough to welcome the King of Kings to this earth two millennia ago, I’m going to guess that He’s okay with something simple from me, too.

Simple is okay, right?  It doesn’t all have to be so over-the-top amazing, friends.

Grace, peace, and more only of Jesus,


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To the Soldier Who Wants To Forget

Days of remembrance are not meant to be torture.

I see you, soldier.

I see your shoulders, squared in military discipline, weighed down with unthinkable memories.  I don’t know what’s behind your eyes, but every once in a while I catch a runaway glimpse in your thousand yard stare.  I see the pain bubble up, aged and potent.  Old, yet raw.

There’s a hunger for absolution or amnesia that bisects your heart, sucks the oxygen out of your lungs.

I’m just a civilian, not a soldier.  I get that I don’t get it.

I don’t know what you’ve seen.  I don’t know what taunts you, what won’t let you sleep.

I don’t know what part of your heart has been ripped out and left to bake on foreign soil, or what scenes play through your mind and weigh you down with unbearable regret.  I don’t know what ghosts accompany you when you’re alone, what phantom slithers through the rolodex of your mind.  Scalding, searing, wounding, and relentless.

I don’t know.

But I do know something.  Jesus knows.

You are defined by His scars, not yours.

He knew a day was coming when you could not stand what this life would throw at you.  He knew.  He knows and He sees.  And He is not repulsed or intimidated by your pain, your memories, your regret.

He is not, like me, unaware of the realities of war.  He has provided a remedy.

Time does not heal all wounds.  Only Jesus does.

And He uses His word and His people to help.

I see you standing in a sea of civilians who don’t know what combat looks like.  You may be surrounded by people who do not understand, but that is not the same as people who do not care.  There is very little in life more painful than watching someone you care about suffer while being unable to help them.  (I bet you get that more than most people.)

That’s exactly where your family is.  Your church.  Your friends.

We feel the edges of your pain, and we grope, blind and clumsy, trying not to dislodge scar tissue.  And honestly, we’re not very good at it.  No one teaches you how to be the wife, the child, the parent, or the friend of a combat veteran.  We are flying blind, scared to death, and doing the best we can.  The learning curve, as you know, is high.  We fall, a lot.  We’re sorry.

But we can’t do nothing and watch you hemorrhage your life away.

Help us.  Your pain is a locked room, and the handle is on the inside.  No one can enter, no one can help, unless you grant us access.  Teach us.  Please.

  • Let us grieve with you.  We don’t need the details if you can’t share.  Tell us, even a little, what you lost, and let us mourn with you.
  • Let us honor you.  You did what we could not, and that is worth recognizing.  To us, you are a hero.
  • Let us speak truth, and you do the same.  There may be pieces of your story that you aren’t proud of.  (Who doesn’t have those pieces?)  If that’s so, please let it out into the light.  If you can’t (or would rather not) share those pieces with your family, talk to a chaplain, a Christian counselor, or a mature Christian friend.  There is nothing that will shock Jesus. (2 Corinthians 5:21)  Nothing.  And if you never tell anyone, it will fester, and grow toxic, and poison you and your relationships.  It needs out.  Let it.
  • Let us know how to help you.  Is there anything that you notice contributes to flashbacks?  Tell us.  We can handle that crowds, loud noises like fireworks or popping balloons, and violent movies may not be helpful right now.  Just tell us.  Is there something we could do that would be encouraging to you?  How can we best communicate our needs?  Silence suffocates.
  • Let the healing happen.  Spending your life looking back is living with less than you deserve.  If you need a counselor, get one.  If they aren’t helping you, don’t give up.  Try another one.  If you need a psychiatrist, see one.  It is not weakness to fix what is broken.  It’s courage.

You are not alone.

There’s a whole lot of us, wanting to do life with you.  We like you.  We want to do Saturday barbecues, and Sunday dinners, and Monday football and Wednesday paintball with you.  And all the regular life stuff in between.  Does that sound too frivolous after what you’ve survived?

Life at home doesn’t look like a war zone, but there’s still a whole lot that you can contribute on so many levels.  We want to know you.  We aren’t perfect (in fact, we’re all in various stages of messed up and work in progress), but we can be fun, and we can be sad, and we can be noisy and obnoxious and loving.  We need your perspective, your experience, your story.

We need each other.  We need you, and you need us.  It’s a mutual need, a mutual gift, a mutual blessing.  We were created to crave community, and that is why isolation is so deadly.  Together, we make it.  Alone, we die.

We are stronger and healthier, together.

You are not unappreciated.

Can I just say thank you?

Thank you that because of you, I don’t get it.  Because of you, I’ve never seen war.  Because of you, I can sleep at night unafraid.  A gift like that…it’s unimaginably huge.  The words thank you will never be enough.  Ever.  But words and presence and prayer is all I have.

I pray a benediction over you, warrior.

May you feel the kiss of heaven settle, feather-light, on your eyes that have seen so much.  May you rest your battle-weary head on Jesus, who took your sin and your pain as His own. (Isaiah 53:4) May you lay your sorrow and doubt and anger at His feet and walk away lighter.  May your heart find healing and peace in the truth that His grace is enough. Always.

You are a soldier.

You are not forgotten.  You are not alone.  You are fully seen, fully known.

And you are beloved.

This article first appeared on iBelieve.com in May 2016!

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When You’re Just Living An Ordinary Life


I spend my life picking up socks.

That’s not strictly true, of course.  There’s dirty silverware and cups, desiccated vegetables and hardened play dough. There’s Duplo blocks and train sets and dinosaurs and dolls.  There’s throw blankets and throw pillows (which get…don’t you know…thrown.)  Did I mention socks?

It’s pretty mundane, this life of ours.  Swim lessons, play dates, and laundry.  Grocery shopping and the play ground and library, and lots of books and puzzles and singing things on television.  And if you know me at all, you might know that I’m kind of a move-on-to-the-next-thing kind of a gal.

I want to know the point of it all, because honestly?  It all starts to feel a bit pointless after a while.

The mess, the toys, the socks just keep coming.  Do you know what I mean?  My people need food, and the dishes need washing, and the toilet needs scrubbing again…and again…and again.

It’s an endless cycle of doing what’s needed, but it’s not exactly earth shaking.  I find my confidence shaken, my certainty that I’m really contributing anything of value in this life…well, shaken.  There are nuclear physicists and trauma surgeons and even my own Superman climbs mountains and carries people off of them.  I can find their place in the strata of usefulness, but when it comes to quantifying the usefulness of a sock-picker-upper?

I’m not so impressed.

It’s only when I look in the Gospels and see Jesus affirming the ordinary that my pulse begins to settle.  He meets people in the sweat and grime of their hustling lives, pinpoints their exact area of need, and then?  Then, when they repent and want to go change the world, He sends them home.  Live the difference.  Tell your people what God did for you.

Yes, occasionally, God takes someone from the dust and orbits them into national ministry.  But for every one of those glittering stars that the whole world knows, there are tens of thousands of faithful, ordinary, sock-picker-uppers.  Simple people who just tell it to their kids, live it out in the PTA meetings, in the break room, in the grocery store checkout line.  (Seriously, is that NOT a test of your Christian character?)

If you and I are loving our people the best that we can, even if it’s by picking up socks, that’s sanctified work.  Really.

Maybe we don’t need more epic and best-ever.

Maybe the truly rare stuff in life is just mundane, everyday faithfulness, made starkly beautiful with great love.

And when you really want to change the world, God is faithful to open up opportunities right in the middle of your ordinary.

I have a friend who’s homeschooling her 3 girls, runs the local 4-H program, mentors single moms, just completed her foster parent certification…and is gathering supplies for relief efforts of refugees in Syria.

Another friend read a good book on parenting and asked some moms at church if they wanted to read it through and send a quick note of encouragement to another mom each week for 4 weeks.  Sounds simple, right?  Friends, by the time she was done, she had 40 people signed up. 

Even simpler, one of the most life-changing people I’ve ever known is my BFF’s mom.  She had plenty on her plate, but she always made the effort to encourage her daughter’s and my friendship.  I loved going over to their house.  She always had a smile, a hug, and time to let 2 girls take over her kitchen to make a tea party.  She let us stay up as late as we wanted, sleep in till noon, and let the chores slide so that we’d have more time together.  It doesn’t really get any simpler than that, does it?  Her example shines bright in my life decades later.  I want that kind of a home.

I want to share that kind of lifegiving love with as many people as I can.  That, to me, is Jesus.

You don’t have to go brave the jungles of South America to shine the light of the Gospel (unless that’s where God calls you!)  Shine bright right here at home.

Love the ones you’re given – your own family, your coworkers, your neighbors, your church, your kid’s friend.  It’s love that makes all the difference, isn’t it, friends?

You really can’t minimize the impact of a faithful woman who loves Jesus and people with all of her heart.

Even if all she ever does is pick up socks.

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When God Does What You’d Never Expect

Imagine you’re a good Jewish girl, just going about your day.

It’s another hot one, the Palestinian sun searing through your roughly woven tunic and trickling sweat down your itching back.  Just another day, like any other in the 400 years of silence since YWH last spoke to His people.

It’s the silence that breeds doubts like bacteria, infecting every thought, every ritual, every waking moment.  If He is silent, then He must…surely…be angry.  And if you grow up under the spiked caliga of Roman oppression, surely, SURELY, God is not only angry…but disgusted.  Why wouldn’t He be?  You are the lowest of the low, the scorn of all the known world.  Even other Jews view you with a lip curled in disgust.

The water you haul from the communal well every day weighs your shoulders like the impossible burden of commands, rituals, and observances you follow because that’s what good Jewish people do.

You do what’s expected.  Period.

No, it’s never enough, but maybe…even though you live in a redneck town in the backwater of nowhere…maybe, you can keep YWH from consuming you.  Or hope that He really has forgotten you.

And then, in the suffocating heat, silence shatters with an angel’s voice, and everything you thought you knew about God shatters too.

He sees past the dirt and the flies, and the ignorance, all the way to your aching heart, and He knows.  He knows how you’ll never be enough, do enough, say it right.  How you’re just a filthy, despised, oppressed WOMAN who doesn’t count…and He sends an angel to say the last thing you’d expect:

“Greetings, highly favored one!  The Lord is with you!”

A sob catches in your throat as you look around the barren hut, rank with the smell of animals and sweat.  God, here?  Me, favored?  Because, you’re not Moses, or David, or even Queen Hadassah.  The weight of hell slips off your shoulders as heaven presses close, and for the first time in your backbreaking life, you don’t have to do it all, be it all, or get it all right.  Because God…comes to you.

He chooses…YOU.

Not the richest, or the prettiest, or the smartest.  Just an ordinary girl in a stinking mud hut in the middle of nowhere, forever caught up in the great story of redemption.

God does what you don’t expect.

He comes to our weakness, our vulnerability, and as we fracture into a million pieces, wracked by the million ways we don’t measure up, He says what we’d never once expect:

Blessed are you who mourn, for you will be comforted.  (Matthew 5:3)

It really never was about getting it right, doing it all, or saying it perfect.

It was coming to the bald truth that we can’t, and God loves us still.  He covers over our inadequacies, because that’s what love does.

Redemption, bold-faced grace…it’s here, and yes, YOU can be caught up in the redemption story…even (especially) if you’re just kind of ordinary.  Even if you’re the one who can’t get it right for the life of you.  Even if you’re disgusting and humiliated, even then…He sees with a jaw-dropping kind of tenderness.

Jesus, the Messiah, came not only to make a way for us to God…but to show us the face, the nature, the very heart of God.  He chooses ordinary ones, deeply cracked with flaws.

It’s our nature to exalt the pretty, the popular, the rich.  It’s His nature to lift the poor, the needy, the ugly and forgotten ones, and set them with kings.

We discount the quiet, the small, the mundane…and yet, that is the very DNA of the Kingdom of God.

God comes to mud huts and forgotten people.  He comes to hospital rooms and dark alleyways, cramped apartments in the ghetto, and desolate canyons in the middle of nowhere.  He comes on the sweaty days, the achingly cold ones, the dreary rain-soaked afternoons, and the sun-splashed mornings.  He comes when we’re on top of the world, and even more noticeably, when we’re anything but.

He comes how you’d never expect, saying what you’d never think He’d say.  He comes in an unexplained pregnancy, in the disorienting fog of sleep deprivation, in the pain of an illness or a searing loss.  He comes when you’re living under the soles of oppression, when you’re just trying to make it through another day full of ordinary chores.  He comes hushed when your soul’s so achingly crushed that you can’t even find the words.  And somehow, He gives the words, and He gives Himself, and you make it through because even when you’re not enough, He is.  (Psalm 94:17-19).

And yes, He comes in rainbows and smiles and flowers, but He can’t be limited to just the pretty and fun stuff, because that isn’t life.  He comes to our mundane, tangled up, ordinary lives, and He shows us that even in this, we’re the favored ones.  And yes, even in this, He is here.

It feels a bit like rejoicing, because the King…He chose YOU.  To live with you, to love you, to pick you.

And all that you thought you knew begins to shatter.

Grace, peace, and only-HE-is-enough,

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