Monday, October 31, 2016

I'm Guest Posting for Jen Michele this week!

Hi there! This week I'm guest posting over at Jen Michele's blog. If you haven't yet read Jen's book, Teach Us to Want, you really need to get it, read it, and soak it in. It was selected as the Christianity Today Book of the Year for 2015--need I say more?

Jen has a new book coming out next spring titled, Keeping Place: Reflections on the Meaning of Home. I'm honored to be sharing some thoughts on home with Jen's readers this week. Here's the beginning of my post, but click here to read the whole thing.


2355 N. Higgins Road, Morris, IL
Tiny pink tulips arranged in rows, wound through with green ribbon. Repeat. And repeat. And repeat.
This was the pattern of the wallpaper in my bedroom of our hundred-year-old farmhouse. I memorized the pattern of that wallpaper, stared at it for countless hours as I tried to fall asleep to the sounds of crickets chirping and the breeze rustling through the tall tassels on the cornstalks just outside my window.
Growing up on a farm was a lonely experience for me. Even though I was an introverted bookworm, I always wanted neighbors. People whom I could greet on the street and who would keep watch over my house at night. I wanted to know what life was like beyond those cornfields for people who were different from me.
Besides the wallpaper, I often stared at the back of my bedroom door, which I had plastered with the names of places I had cut from the headlines of the Travel section in each Sunday’sChicago Tribune. There, in bold letters, I read and re-read the names of places I longed to see.
“The Swiss Alps”
“Copenhagen is for Lovers!”
The back of my door was covered with place names, dreams that would carry me through turbulent high school years.
Read the rest of the post here at Jen Michele's place.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

When Your Post Goes Unexpectedly Viral

So it’s been an interesting week.

Earlier this week I noticed an uptick in subscribers to my blog. (Hi new followers! I’m happy you’re here!) I was thrilled, but I couldn’t figure out where these new subscribers were coming from, so I did a little bit of investigating.

If you could just picture me on a random Thursday morning, sitting at my kitchen table in my yoga pants and Cubs t-shirt, coffee cup in hand, opening my blog for the first time in, oh, a while. (Sorry, I’ve been writing a book so the blog has taken a back seat for this season.)

Imagine the little hiccup of surprise and then the groan that came from me as I realized that a long-forgotten blog post from 2011, a controversial one at that, had generated 174 new comments and well over a million (yes, with six zeroes!) views in the past couple of days.

(Let me just say right here that I am SO BUMMED that I never monetized my blog!)

Anyway, that post. If you’ve been around here since 2011, you may remember it. It was a post about modesty titled, “How Your DaughterDresses Matters.” Apparently the modesty issue is still around and still triggers a fair bit of emotion. To say the least.

So just this week, over a million people have read this five-year-old post and a few thought it necessary to get involved in the discussion. Except it wasn’t much of a discussion. It was a lot of name-calling and opinion-shouting directed at me and others.

Thankfully I have the power to turn off comments, which I did, and I also decided to pull the post for a while. I needed time to think and pray about this issue and decide what God would have me do next. And I needed to figure out how to respond.

As I’ve been pondering, two problems come to mind that I feel I should address.

First, let’s talk about modesty . . . again. Specifically, let’s talk about my post.

To those who called my misogynistic and who told me that I’m contributing to the rape culture in this country, I’d ask you to please read the post again, slowly this time. Because nothing in that post speaks of hating girls or women. Nothing. In fact, I am the most pro-women mother on the planet—I’ve raised three of the most intelligent, strong, independent women I know.

Furthermore, there is nothing in that post that calls out a certain style of clothing—that’s not a discussion I care to have. I’m not here to tell you WHAT your daughter should or should not wear—that’s a discussion parents and children need to have together. I also don’t believe you’re going to hell if you wear a bikini—I have no interest in that discussion either. I simply want you to think about what you wear or choose to let your daughter wear and WHY.

[Side note and gratuitous plug here: my book that is comingout next year is based on asking WHY. Any Christian parents who want to think deeply about instilling important spiritual values in your kids might want to keep your eye out for it next fall. *wink wink*]

But the second issue I want to address, and one that is much more troubling to me, is how the discourse in our country has denigrated. The comments I read this week were far worse than the comments of those from five years ago. People today seem to get upset so much more easily, blaming others and pointing fingers.

There’s not much room for conversation anymore.

For instance, many of the comments I received were along these lines: “Oh yeah? Well, when is someone going to start telling the boys how to act?” or “I should be able to dress however I want; boys just need to be taught to respect women.” Finger pointing and blaming.

The problem is, that’s not what this post was about! I could write a hundred posts on the problem with the way boys are not being taught to respect women in this country, but that’s not what THIS post was about.

See, here’s the problem that I see over and over again in our country and it’s why I want to get off of social media altogether some days. People default to knee-jerk reactions, immediately taking offence without regard to the writer’s intended audience, purpose, or context.

What results is what looks like the current political situation in our country. It’s not pretty.

Seems like everyone wants someone else to be responsible, to pay, to be culpable for their offenses. Our sense of justice is high, but our sense of responsibility is quite low. We want to blame, but we don’t want to take a good, hard look at how we are actually living our life that may contribute to a problem.

In my original post, I was not trying to place blame on anyone. I was simply writing as a mother of daughters to other mothers of daughters to challenge us to think deeply about being a little counter-cultural in this one area. That is all. I was not trying to address mothers of sons. I was not trying to point fingers. I just want us to think.

Culpability? When it comes to culpability I think we are ALL responsible for keeping girls safe, and this is one way, as a mom, I am simply trying to do that.


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Friday, September 30, 2016

When You Need to Remember: Seasons Change, God Does Not

I’m sitting on my back porch as I write this, curled up in a blanket, listening to the sound of pouring rain. Why am I sitting on the porch in the rain, you ask? I’m actually trying to keep my sweet 11-year-old dog from freaking out because we’ve had workers in and out of our house all week, and she’s a little upset by all the sawing and hammering and banging and drilling.

The poor dog is just about at her wit’s end with all the noise! So today we’re trying to stay out of the house, and even though it’s chilly and rainy, the porch seems to be the best place to stay out of the way.

Fall is here, finally, ushered in this week with clouds and rain and chilly temps.

We actually saw fall make its appearance last Sunday night. B and I were driving over to our friends’ house for Bible study. It had been a hot, muggy day, as most of the days of August and September had been this year, yet as we drove west toward our friends’ house, we looked up and saw a great big, black cloud dividing the sky almost in half. It was the strangest sight.

But that line of solid black cloud brought a cold front that ushered in our MUCH cooler fall weather. As usual, fall arrived with a bang—hot one day, cold the next.

Seasons change quickly around here.

I don’t know about you, but the sudden onset of fall temperatures usually has me scrambling for jackets and jeans after a summer of shorts and t-shirts. And I was NEVER ready with my kids’ wardrobes! I remember many a fall day when my girls went to school completely underdressed because I hadn’t pulled out the sweaters or jackets yet.

I remember feeling like a total mom-failure on those days. “My child is going to freeze!” “How could I have been so unprepared?” “Where even IS that bin of winter clothes?”

All of these feelings of failure are, I think, completely normal for us as moms, yet, I want to tell you something: those feelings of failure are lies. God has perfectly equipped you to be your child’s mom. Oh sure, we make mistakes, we forget things—hey, we’re busy! But YOU are just what your child needs.

We may not be ready for the changes, but they sure don't take God by surprise.

So maybe pull out those fall clothes now—it’s getting chilly—but put away those feelings of failure because that’s not who you are. You were crafted and chosen by God to do this job in just this moment, and he will equip you to do it.

Seasons may change, but God does not.

It’s a lesson I’m trying to remind myself of right now. With small house changes and big weather changes and HUGE life changes, I’m reminding myself that God is right here, walking beside me, equipping me to do exactly what he’s called me to do.

In every season.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

I'm assembling a group of warriors

Can I just be vulnerable for a minute?

As thankful as I am to even be saying this, writing a book is probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life.

In fact, as much as I love doing it, writing just about anything is really hard for me.

This week I decided to skip ahead and write the chapter of my book that makes me feel the most vulnerable because it’s kind of what’s on my heart right now. I tried to get around it, but I found that I just had to share a part of my story that I’m hesitant to share. It’s difficult and sad, and I would never want anyone to feel sorry for me or misconstrue why I’m telling this story now.

I think Satan just plain doesn’t want us to share our most vulnerable stories.

Earlier this week I sent a guest post to a writer-friend whom I admire so much, pinching myself that she even asked me to write something for her. I liked my post well enough, so I sent it off to her, but later that day I went back to read it again (“What did I send her??”) and found several sentences that I would have polished, changed, improved, if I hadn’t sent it quite yet.

I think Satan loves to have us second-guess ourselves.

This week I had a dream that has haunted me. This doesn’t happen often—I’m generally a sound sleeper—so when I remember a dream I have to take stock because it probably means something. In my dream I had gone back to teaching, and it was the first week of classes. I was excited to get to know my new students and to dive into the reading. The problem was, I hadn’t prepared and the first week was HORRIBLE.

I knew it, too. I hadn’t given my students any homework and, worse yet, I hadn’t had them write anything. Duh! It was a writing class!

In my dream (and even after I woke up), I felt like a failure. I felt like I wasn’t good enough, smart enough, prepared enough to teach a class I’d taught fifteen times before. I HATE not feeling good enough, smart enough, or prepared enough. It’s a pride thing I have, I know, but it eats at my very core.

And I’m pretty sure it doesn’t take a psychologist to tell me that I’m having some anxiety about writing this book. I’m worried that someone will read it and hate it or not think I’m smart or will tell me my theology is weak.

I think Satan loves to attack our weaknesses and make us think we’re not enough.

Yesterday I sat down to write and ended up staring at the screen for the better part of an hour, resulting in less than 100 words. (My goal was 1,000.) So I decided that the best thing I could do was simply put the writing aside for a while and work on changing sheets on all the beds in my house and sorting the mountain of the laundry that had collected in my bathroom. Those simple tasks sometimes clear my head, but I found myself angry and frustrated at my lack of discipline.

I think Satan likes to distract us.

You know what I think? I think I must be on to something if I’m feeling attacked in this way. I think I must keep listening to and following the Lord’s call, the job he’s given me to do, just to prove the enemy wrong.

And here’s what I know. I know that God never calls us to something without equipping us to do the job. Sometimes, though, he provides friends to come alongside to help encourage us in the work.

Joshua had Caleb.

David had Jonathan.

Mary had Elizabeth.

Paul had Timothy.

There’s a little story that I love in the book of Judges that perfectly illustrates this. Gideon was a leader and a warrior whom God had called to defeat the Midianites, but God did not want the army to defeat them in their own strength, so he whittled down Gideon’s army from 32,000 warriors to a mere 300. There was no way this measly bunch of fighters could defeat a cruel and powerful enemy.

But God.

So this rag-tag group set up camp and was ready to go in and defeat the Midianites, but the night before the attack, God visits Gideon and tells him this:

“Get up! God down into the Midianite camp, for I have given you victory over them! But if you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah. Listen to what the Midianites are saying, and you will be greatly encouraged. Then you will be eager to attack.” (Judges 7:9-10)

Do you see what’s happening? God is giving Gideon an impossible task, to fight the enemy, and then tells him to go spy on their army the night before the attack.

But in the kind and gracious way that only God could do, he recognizes Gideon’s fear and tells him to take his servant with him. “But if you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah.”

Throughout the Bible, God provides people to come alongside those he has called to serve him. He always equips, and sometimes he uses others to help.

I feel like I need to assemble a team of prayer warriors to come alongside me in this writing journey. If you are one who would commit to praying for me over the course of the next few weeks while I write this book, would you leave a comment with your email address today? I will then email you every Friday to let you know how my writing week went and what you can be praying for in the week ahead.

This is so humbling for me to even ask, and please do not respond if you’re not sure you can pray me through this. I won’t hold it against you! I just need a few people to sneak into the enemy camp with me and defeat him.

“The LORD is a warrior; Yahweh is his name!” (Ex. 15:3)

Monday, September 5, 2016

End of Summer Wrap-Up

Hi Friends!

I've written here exactly five times this summer. Five! That must be some kind of worst-ever record for me. But it isn't because I haven't been writing--I have. Just not here.

I thought I'd take a few minutes to catch up today since I haven't been around much lately. Our summer was great, and even though I haven't documented much of it, I've enjoyed every minute. We started out with a fun celebration of Julia's graduation from high school (lots of family came--the best!) and took a fabulous vacation to Kiawah Island, SC as a family. Both took place early in the summer, and for the rest of it, we were mostly home except for a quick trip to Dallas for the Declare Conference and a very special wedding of a very special couple whom B and I have mentored for the past six years.

The rest of the summer was spent getting ready. For what? For change. My heart doesn't do well with change, yet I knew that August would be a month full of it, so I needed some space this summer to process all that would be happening over past few weeks.

First, Julia officially left for college in early August. School didn't start until much later, but she took part in a wilderness program that her school offered prior to orientation. Poor girl (I say this entirely tongue in cheek) spent 10 days sea kayaking around the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior, which is supposed to be one of the best adventure trips in the United States. Who knew?! Anyway, she had an amazing time getting to know a small group of girls from her freshman class.

And now she's all settled in at college, loving life in her dorm, and trying new experiences like playing ultimate frisbee. Again, who knew?!

Two days after Parents' Orientation, I loaded up my car and helped Caroline move 800 miles from home for a graduate program in physical therapy. I spent about four days helping her get settled, exploring her new part of the country, and dreading the moment I would have to pull away from her apartment. But I did it. I actually managed to turn my car in the right direction, head down the highway, and drive home . . . without my middle daughter.

But you know what? I'm thrilled for her. She is in the absolutely right place for her--God has confirmed it over and over again--so how can I be sad? It's just that nagging old change thing.

In the midst of all of this, we helped Kate move into a new apartment in a new part of the city. She's so happy with her new digs, and soon I'm sure I'll be called upon for painting duty. All good.

We've had a fair amount of company this summer, too, which I love. Hopefully in this new season we'll have more opportunities to open our doors to those who need a place to rest. God has given us this home for a purpose, we believe, and its up to us to use it for His glory. Come visit us!

So now things have settled down a bit. In fact, this is the first weekend that B and I have spent alone in our home. To be honest, it's crazy-quiet -- much too quiet for our liking -- but we're trying to figure it out. Going for long walks, enjoying meals out, and taking bike rides seem to help pass the time. And our fall is looking so busy that we won't have time to be bored. It's just that the transition is . . . well . . . strange.

Yesterday at church we sat down and realized that everyone around us was an empty nester. A couple of people asked us how things were going so far, and I had to fight back tears for the fourth Sunday in a row. For years now I've had at least one child sitting next to me in church, and now, for the first time, I'm faced with the reality that this won't happen for a while. All of these changes are good and necessary, and I wouldn't have life played out any other way, but that doesn't make it any easier.

Everyone says it gets better, this empty nest thing. I'm going to take them at their word and start living life as if it already is better. I'm going to take a couple of trips this fall. I'm going to tell myself that this isn't forever--at least one child may be home next summer, and there are always breaks. I'm going to remember God's faithfulness to our family.

In the meantime, I'm already starting to plan my Thanksgiving menu. The girls will be home!