hoping for God with us.

This post is the other reflection I wrote for the Advent/Christmas Prayerbook, which is a combined effort of Liberti Church in Philadelphia and Restoration Living (an online space that I’m honored to write with and for).

Merry Christmas! May your holiday moments be extra special and meaningful, and may you experience a fresh sense of God’s presence, and how deep and wide his love is…for you.

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It’s the day before.

Maybe you feel rushed and hassled and hurried, or maybe you’re ready and eager and excited. You’ve been prepping for days, maybe even weeks, for Christmas morning. And it’s almost here.

Inside, as you’ve entered into this advent season, you’ve experienced a longing, a waiting, for what is to come – for you, for your family, for this world – the day we remember the significant birth of a baby, a baby who was birthed to save the world.

But this waiting, it hasn’t been without or depleted of this baby, of his life. He’s been in the waiting. His presence, his spirit – it’s been here all along. Have you seen it? Have you felt it? Have you embraced it?

He’s here. In the waiting.

And he will come. Again. In the morning.

His hope, his peace, his joy, his love – it comes again and again and again. Anticipate it. Participate with it. The baby that was born that night embodied all of this. All of what we need was wrapped in that swaddling blanket. He was for…us.

Stunning.

Perhaps tomorrow is less about what is to come, than what has already come. Maybe today, as we wait, God awaits, with us – to make his love, his compassion, more known to us, like as a mother whose love overflows as she holds her swaddled baby.

So tonight, light a candle. And as you gaze upon the flame, speak out loud, “Come, Lord Jesus Come…make known to us what you have already birthed within us, in your world. Come find the desolate places that need more light, more of you – your hope, your peace, your joy, your love. Come, Lord Jesus, Come.”

Tonight, as the sun sets, and tomorrow as the sun rises, may your anticipation transform into participation, with him, the Savior of the world.

See him…in the faces lit up around you.

Feel him…in the body and blood and skin you wear.

Embrace him…in the wonder and awe and miracle that marks the day we call Christmas.

“Come, Lord Jesus, Come.”

 

enough.

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It’s that week we begin focusing on what we have more than what we don’t have. A time to collect our thoughts on what matters most, and to allow the impact of those things and people to settle into the deepest places of our hearts.

Gratitude makes us smile.

Gratitude brings peace.

Gratitude creates joy.

Gratitude: a practice that births in us a sense of “enough” – material things, relational spaces, who we are.

This past year has been a bit different for me. Well, actually hugely different for me. I’ve had the invitation to step into (at times it’s felt more like “plunged” into), some really special places and platforms. A year ago, I would never have imagined that I would be writing and reflecting on these experiences. There are many days when my hair is tied back and my glasses are on and I’m scooting around on the floor playing with my children in my pajamas that I can hardly believe how God is using my story and voice and heart in such unique and sweet ways.

It makes me smile and it makes me cry. It makes me soar and it humbles me.

If you’re one of the people who have heard me speak – from a platform, in a breakout room, via a podcast or webinar or social media, or even in a living room – thank you so, so much…for shuffling through my humor and sarcasm and tears and scatteredness and stories and challenge and invitation…and receiving what I’ve shared. But mostly, for listening. I’ve felt heard and encouraged and affirmed and joined. That is a gift. Your listening hearts have been a gift.

I’m grateful for each of these speaking experiences, but even more so for what God has been and is doing through them. This is why so often my tears fall. He’s pursuing me, changing me, healing me. His spirit is renewing me…in gentle ways, in refreshing ways, in deeper ways. I’m finding more of him. I’m allowing him to find more of me. That little girl still inside me is receiving more of his love, more of his compassion. It’s been so, so hard to publically name and grieve the remnants of what still lingers under my protected heart, but I can tell you that it’s been so, so good. There’s more beauty there, underneath the ashes, that is rising. Oh, how my heart overflows with gratitude for this – more of Jesus’ love comforting me, soothing me, reminding me…that I am his and he is mine.

And then in how receiving more of him, his love, pays forward – in my story, in how I speak, and as I write – but mostly how it shows up in the relationships around me. It softens me. Grace always softens.

I tell people all the time, “I haven’t arrived anywhere,” but I know without a shadow of a doubt that I’m definitely in a place that I wasn’t before. Not only has my view of God shifted, but his view of me. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

And so gratitude…it overwhelms me. It gives me joy. It gives me peace. It makes me smile.

So, whatever your platform is, stand on it – upright and strong, tender and open. Whether it’s inside your home with your pajamas on or outside the home with your polished face on, may you know that this world needs your heart and voice and story. There’s none other like it. The people who surround you cannot miss out on you, what you glimpse of Jesus.

As you find yourselves celebrating all that is “enough” this week, may you enter the conversations and laughter and quiet moments with all of who you are…enough.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

one month. labor free.

It’s been one month of no work. I’ve absolutely loved it! Taking off the counselor hat has felt refreshing in glorious ways. But, I’ve also missed it. I’ve missed entering into life with my clients and speaking truth into their souls. And, I’ve wondered, how they’re doing, how their hearts are hurting and healing, and how God is moving in their lives. And then I found this…these sweet, blow-my-hair back “reviews” from some of my clients, sharing what that space has meant to and done for them. And I smile…SO big. Not because of what I have done or said, but because of what God has initiated and taught and revealed and whispered to them. I just got to be a part of it! Oh, my heart. What a gift to be a part of this…movement and healing and restoration, the mystery of how God works.

Read here. (Brings me to tears.)

So, what have I been doing?

I’ve been playing…with her. She’s loved it. I’ve loved it. We’ve gallivanted around our little town and the cities close by – laughing, exploring, enjoying, talking, watching, eating, learning, shopping, swimming, creating, holding hands. LOTS of hand holding. That’s been my favorite part. Why? Because for me, it makes all that we’ve experienced together not just about “doing,” but about “being”…together.

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We’ve shared a total of eight days all to ourselves. Lovely, isn’t it? It’s been almost three years since it’s been just the two of us. I’ve missed that and I know she has too. The places and moments and feelings – they’re seared into my memory, tucked away in a special and sacred place. And I hold them tightly, close to me. They’re a gift.

And tomorrow, she’ll step onto that bus, walk into school, right into the world. I’ll choose to let her go. I’ll choose to release her into a new space that will be a part of teaching her, shaping her, creating her. And that will be hard. So, so hard. I’ll choose to trust – a bus driver, a teacher, a system, a curriculum, and 20-some other 5-year-olds – to be her guides. Her world will expand. She’ll be exposed. Her eyes and ears and mind will be enlightened. She’ll practice using what’s inside her. She’ll find more of who she is. She’ll begin soaking in so much of what she needs to navigate through this world.

Without me.

And then I’ll choose to trust the One above who gave me these first 5+ years to be her first model and mentor and protector and advocate and safe place to push on and crumble with, that he is WITH her and that he SEES her and that he is ROOTING for her, and has been, and will be.

And then I’ll (try to) believe that the work he has done here in our home, between us, will be carried forward with her and through her, working itself out as it comes and is needed, maturing and strengthening in just the right doses and in just the right time.

My lands! I have A LOT of trusting to do!

But then, I might turn a little music on, a bit louder than usual, shake out some dance moves, because my days are going to be HUGELY different and quieter and a bit easier and there will be more time to work on the things that I’ve needed to set aside for five years. Oh! I cannot wait. Can I get a hallelujah!!!!

Oh, but there’s a little man who is about to turn three that’s still in my care. He’ll still be hanging out with me most of the week. I’ll play race cars with him until I have a low turbo murmur coming out of my ears, and experience a new kind of joy as I uncover more of his sweetness and energy and personality and masculine soul.

But, I’ll still be dancing. Maybe with him, maybe in my head.

So, as we celebrate this Labor Day – a day dedicated to the “social and economic achievements of American workers” and pay tribute to “the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country,” my tribute turns a little different direction. It’s a direction that points to the “contribution” of what I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of – the hard “heart work” that my clients have courageously accomplished in order to remove the obstacles in their lives that have perhaps been barriers to deepening their relationship with others, with God. And, towards those in my life and my family’s life who have, and will, so graciously contributed to and strengthened our well-being.

Thankful. Grateful.

Let’s welcome our final summer days, soaking in the remainder of the shining sun and bike rides and sandy beaches and green trees and fresh produce and deck nights with lights.

And then, let’s roll onward to what’s ahead.

But today…rest, relax, pay tribute to what matters most to you.

 

finding him. finding her. finding us.

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He strolled down the school halls like he owned the school. His dark brown hair, wavy mullet to follow, gave the perfect “I am too sexy” look. My eyes were drawn to those black, denim pegged pants, thinking he was the coolest male ever. He was the rebel, the joker, the teaser, the pleaser. And there I was, the new girl, the home-schooled girl, the girl in mauve glasses carrying her flute and wearing her matching navy blue and green whale sweater and turtleneck.

cdwed 001pic 20He flirted with me.

I giggled.

He smiled at me.

I thought he liked me.

He didn’t like me back.

So, I became friends with his sister.

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A decade later, we started dating.

Four and half years later, we got married.

Nine years later, we’re still saying, “I DO.”

We laugh, we play, we cuddle, we talk, we fight, we shut down, we retreat, we apologize, we forgive, we repair, we soften…and then we do it all over again and again and again.

We’ve worked hard. We’re still working. We’re still learning. We’re still discovering…ourselves, one another, what we signed up for.

When we started this, when we started, “ us,” we had no clue what really came with, “I DO.” No clue at all.

Choosing a mate can be exciting and daunting, exhilarating and scary. For many of us, we have this deep desire to spend the rest of our lives with someone – someone who we get to share our entire life with. I mean seriously, the benefits are amazing – companionship, intimacy, fun, protection, advocacy, love, belonging. The list could go on forever! Yet, we all know the statistics on divorce, the breakdowns, the fractures, the splits. We get it. Staying together in this world, this culture, it’s hard. Really hard. When we say, “I DO,” we don’t ever think it’s going to be us. We don’t ever want to be one of those statistics. We don’t ever want to be the main character on the next Bachelor/Bachelorette show because our love didn’t make it.

So, how do we choose? Well?

To stay connected, we have to know how to connect.

To experience trust, we have to know how to cultivate trust.

To offer love, we have had to feel loved.

To work through the disappointment, we’ve had to learn what to do with it.

To find a mate, we have to have found ourselves.

The dopamine only lasts for a certain amount of time. Yes, the “commitment” hormones kick in, but we have to choose to do the work.

I hope you have practice choosing…connection, respect, trust, love, forgiveness, humility, integrity, sacrifice, grace, perseverance.

I hope you know who you are – the good parts, the hard parts.

I hope you know who God says you are.

And then, have the practice of offering who you are to the world.

Because then, I think you’ll know when that same kind of person steps into your world.

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Celebrating the love within you, around you, how it shines through you.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

oh, how he loves…ALL of us.

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“Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

It’s a song many of us sang throughout our childhood. The words come easily, the tune, naturally. We sang it. We believed it. We believed that Jesus loved everyone. But, did we learn to love everyone? Did we practice loving everyone? Do we? Now?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have turned 84 this year. Many Americans and non-Americans remember his “I Have a Dream” speech. These words come easily. Yet, the courage and acceptance that is needed to live out his anthem, doesn’t always come naturally.

When I read his speech through more grown up eyes and ears and mind and heart, the phrases and words stand out to me in different ways, new ways, simpler ways.

This is a speech about a person’s dignity, not just about a person’s skin color.

This is a speech about a person’s well being, not just about sharing a meal together or holding hands.

This is a speech about a person’s soul, not just about fighting for equal rights.

This is a speech about having the opportunity to bring forth life…in us, in a nation.

This is a speech about what God dreams for his world.

Dr. King’s speech was profound and stunning and inspiring and dramatic in its day, but there’s something even more profound and stunning and inspiring and dramatic in his speech for us, today.

We live in a time where seemingly there is more fear and insecurity and shame and pride and anger and despair and suffering than ever. “Slavery” was supposed to have ended in 1965, right? So why do so many people today still feel enslaved, held back, unseen, dismissed, discriminated against, judged? For some, yes, their reach for freedom is thwarted by institutional power and policies, but really, when it comes down to it, aren’t these feelings perpetuated, knowingly and unknowingly, by people – their words, their jokes, their smirks, their bumper stickers, their t-shirt logos, their Facebook posts, their sermons, their handbook rules?

Our values, our beliefs, our faith…they pour out of us, sometimes without even a thought or intent. We live in a nation that is “for” freedom and justice. Yet, our actions often times send the opposite message. We want people to value what we value, believe what we believe, be what we want them to be. Life would sure feel easier if they did. But, that’s not real life. We aren’t all alike. We all step into this world from different places, stories that have shaped us and made us who we are today. There are so many categories we put people in, are put in. They keep us separate, distant, disconnected. Boxes and categories and labels don’t produce freedom. They don’t sustain justice. They don’t create together-ness. They don’t promote equality.

So, we have a choice. We have a responsibility. We have an opportunity…to love…everyone.

May we feel a sense of “urgency” in our own homes, in our own towns, in our own country, to create in our own small ways, an environment, a space where people feel welcome, seen, heard, accepted, free…free to walk with dignity and goodness.

May we “refuse to believe” that bitterness or hatred or violence is a means to a just end.

May we face the injustice and unrighteousness and wickedness with “soul force.”

May we have the “discipline” to fight for people’s well being and humanity.

May we come to believe that “…their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And…that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.”

May we, “not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

May we, “…be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together knowing that we will be free one day.”

Because, “…if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.”

No matter what skin color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status, income or weight…“all men and woman are created equal.”

Jesus loves all the children of the world.

Note: Words and phrases in quotations come directly from Dr. King’s speech.

You can read Dr. King’s speech here.

You can read 2 other racism-related posts here and here.

 

holiday cheer.

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“It’s the most wonderful time of the year. It’s the hap-happiest season of all.”

Glowing hearts. Glorious tales. Good cheer. Kissing. Singing. Parties.

We’re making our grand entrance into the most wonderful time of the year…right? Family parties, work parties, school parties, social parties – they’re starting to spread themselves across our calendars. Food and festivities and fun are awaiting us.

But what happens when you add the people? Parties with people? What starts stirring inside of you when you begin anticipating the people at the parties? How can it be that the people can make or break our holidays?

Let’s review some of the lovely cast members…

The grump. The one that greets you with that smirk or look or signs of boredom or no looking at you at all. Their face, their attitude, silently shouts, “I don’t wanna be here. I’m here only because I have to be.” They’re reading the newspaper, watching TV, positioned in isolation, tucked away by themselves. Yup, the one you totally don’t want to be seated next to at the dinner table. You feel ignored.

The talker. The words and stories are shooting out of their mouth like a bubble machine, floating around in circles with no direction, no intent. They’re really not interested in you or what’s happening in your life, rather, they’re eager for you to know, desperately know, that they are present and breathing and that there’s an abundance of things happening in their life, their world. You feel unseen.

The clown. The one that’s going to make everyone laugh, the center of attention. The one who wants to bring up the level of joy, all night. The one who enters conversations turning everything into something humorous and lighthearted, minimizing any sign of tension, shutting any deep feeling down. Their desire for harmony is well-intentioned, but they seem to miss any moment for connection and depth. You feel too much.

The social networker. The phone, the tablet, Facebook, Twitter, you name it…they drag the outside world into the room, into the space, already occupied with people, real people. They seemingly can’t get enough of other people’s lives, the outside news, the constant “noise.” They seem distracted and unengaged. You feel lucky if you have more than a 5 minute continuous conversation with them. Keeping up with everything “outside” seems more important than building anything meaningful “inside” the room. You feel unimportant.

The critic. They’ve got something to say about everything. Their ideas, their opinions, their thoughts…they fill the space between you and them. No matter what you say, no matter how you say it, they will correct you, enlighten you, try to convince you that their truth should be your truth. You feel dumb.

The disaster. The drama seems to have followed them everywhere since you last talked with them. Something strange or chaotic or awful or hurtful has once again entered their life. Their stories are unending, filled with lingering, run on sentences. All you can do is listen with amazement. You feel boring.

The star. The report as you catch up is nothing but wonderful and perfect. Once again, they’re doing everything right and good to further their life, their future, the world. They’ve got it all together and all you can do is stand in their shadow. You feel inferior.

The helper. The one who dutifully is making sure the party is running smoothly, paying attention to every detail, including that you just put your glass on the wrong surface. They’re picking up after you, cleaning up your mess before it even becomes a mess. They’re missing out on connecting with anyone because they’re frantically making sure all the “work” is done before the relaxing can begin. You feel intimidated.

There are a lot of seemingly selfish people during the holidays.

There are a lot of people who present themselves in irritating and annoying and unhelpful ways.

There are a lot of categories we could put them in.

There are a lot of people who want to be heard, be noticed, be liked, be valued…

Just like you. Just like me.

We’re all looking for and hoping for and longing for the cheer and joy and love, aren’t we?

So, what if this year, we focused on how we could share, dish out, the “wonderfulness” of this season on others instead of feeling entitled to experiencing it ourselves? Could we become selfish in a new way? Selfish by soaking in and digesting all that gets dished out to us?

Listening to him.

Paying attention to her.

Understanding him.

Appreciating her.

Respecting him.

Enjoying her.

So, that we can offer what they are looking for, hoping for, longing for.

So, that we can offer back to them exactly what their soul craves…

Delight

Belonging

Value

Security

Understanding

Appreciation

Love

Maybe, just the chance to be human.

I’m convinced that this was one of the gifts of the baby in the manger…God entering humanity, embracing our humanity.

This year, what would it be like for you to enter into the humanity in the room? What if the “wonderful” and “happy” already exists? In him? In her?

Maybe our “wonderful” and “happy” comes when we find it in others.

Maybe you being you and allowing you to connect with them is just exactly what this most wonderful time of year is about.

Because seriously, what would a party be without the people?