Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Why I'm Hosting an IF:Local

I sat in the darkened theater surrounded by 2,498 strangers. I knew only one person in the room—my friend, Rebecca, with whom I had traveled to Austin, TX.

I fidgeted in my seat, self-conscious and nervous as I always am in a large group of women (I have issues), waiting for the event to begin. Lights dimmed. Sparse stage. Heightened sense of anticipation.

The music began and 2,500 women rose to their feet in worship.

And suddenly I was among friends.

Twenty-five hundred friends all asking the same question: “If God is real, then what?”

In other words, what kind of difference can we make in our world if we truly believed that God is real, that He is FOR us, and that He has good work for us to do for Him?

Important questions in this day and age. Questions of life and death, really.

Over the past year I have thought often of the words I wrote down in my notebook last February.

“We are at war and the prize is faith, and we let Satan have it all. the. time.”

“The story is not about us. It is about a God who can do anything.”

“In every transition in life, Satan will bring a spirit of fear.” 

“You cannot hold on to the past and take hold of the future. It’s time to move on.”

“Jesus is very precious about his church.”

“God has put purpose and potential within you, but it is all for His kingdom. You have to lay down your life.”

The IF:Gathering changed me. It challenged me. It caused me to look at things in my life in a new way and to be renewed in my calling to pursue Christ and the work He has for me.

When the weekend was over, Rebecca and I looked at each other and said, “We need to bring this home.” We returned to our little tree-lined neighborhood excited about IF and wanted to share that excitement with women right here in our own community.

Over the past several months I have prayed about what God would have me do with all of this. I’ve had conversations with my husband, with friends, with pastors. And I’ve prayed some more.

In the end, I’ve felt led to bring an IF:Local gathering here, to Wheaton. I’m taking small steps of faith and obedience in this every day. I have no idea how God is going to pull this off—it feels kind of big—but I know without a doubt that He will show up in a big way and that women who come to the event will leave changed.

A small group of amazing women who share this vision have come alongside me and we’re making strides and decisions and we’re dreaming big dreams for our community.

So if you’re in Wheaton, IL on February 5 and 6, 2016, you are more than welcome to join us. We’ll make sure we have plenty of room.

And if you’re in the area and interested in being involved, please let me know. (You can find my email address on my “About” page or you can just leave me a comment below.) Even better, if you attend an area church and want to help spread the word—everyone’s invited!—please let me know that as well.

This isn't about a church or a person or a movement. It's about women who want more--more of this abundant life that Jesus promises to us. More of HIM.

God has big plans for us, friends. I know this. He wants to be involved in our lives. He wants us to be brave. He wants us to live to the glory of His name.

Won’t you join me?


You can find out more about the IF:Gathering here. Registration for both the Austin and Local gatherings opens next week, so get ready!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Most Beautiful View

This summer I had the incredible opportunity to spend a day in one of the most beautiful places on earth—the island of Capri, just off the Amalfi Coast in Italy. This tiny island is both rugged and sophisticated at the same time. Its beauty is utterly captivating.

B and I, along with our daughter, Kate, had just come off what was, for me, a harrowing chair lift experience (long story that you can find on Instagram) and decided it was time to find some lunch, so we stopped in the first restaurant we found. Turns out, it was a good choice—the pizza was amazing and the views of the Mediterranean Sea were spectacular.

We were seated in the middle of the room because all of the tables next to the windows were taken by tourists enjoying the view. Everyone, that is, except for the table next to ours, which was occupied by an American family—Mom, Dad, and two teenage-ish daughters.

On their phones.

All four of them.

Heads down. Thumbs scrolling.

I watched them, stunned that this was even happening. (Don’t worry. There was no chance that they’d even notice me staring at them.)

Did they not realize that the spectacularly blue Mediterranean Sea was about a thousand feet straight below them? Did they not see the picturesque whitewashed houses with their bougainvillea vines blossoming red? Did they not appreciate the stunning atmosphere of Capritown with its cobblestone streets and ritzy shops that smelled of expensive leather?

What on Facebook could be so important that this family would barely even glance out the window?

Their food came and I thought surely they would put the phones away—doesn’t everybody do that? But nope, there they sat, eating and scrolling and not talking.

(Except for one sister to say to the other, “Oh, hey, did you hear that Tiffany bought a prom dress already?”)

I seriously wanted to send all four of them packing! They didn’t deserve to be there, in the most beautiful place on Earth eating some of the freshest tomatoes on the most delicious homemade pasta they will ever taste.

If it hadn’t been for my daughter kicking me under the table, I probably would have leaned over and said something to them.

More than being annoyed (although I was this, too), I felt sorry for them. Here was a family that had probably long ago given up trying to talk to each other. Here were parents who were relieved that their daughters had found something to do. Here were girls who were glad to not have to interact. It was all kind of sad to me.

Recently a friend mentioned that in their house they have “No Phone Zones,” and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about that. This friend said that the kitchen table was one of their most sacred No Phone Zones because that is where all the important work got done. The family work. The work of talking to and learning from each other. The work of acceptance. The work of communication.

Sacred work.

The view at the kitchen table is a holy view—the eyes of children and parents looking into one another’s and finding love and restoration. Here is where we look past the blue and green and brown to look into the hurts or joys of the day. Here is where we check in to see if everything is all right.

Here is where we look deeply, intently, purposefully at the most beautiful view on Earth.

Do me a favor today, will you? Establish your table as a No Phone Zone. Take a few minutes to look one another in the eye, for this is where love begins and ends. Spend a few minutes checking in, taking account of each other’s day.

And then spend a few more minutes, lingering over the view.

I love telling stories and I love that you read them. I'd so appreciate it if you'd sign up for email updates (you can do that on the right hand side over there), follow me on Facebook or Instagram, or leave me a comment below. I'm so glad you're here!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

When the President's Struggles Look Very Much Like Mine

Earlier this summer the New York Times ran an article about President Obama’s recent show of emotion in which he admitted to unexpected tears over his soon-to-be empty nest.

The Times reported, “Mr. Obama has admitted that he has been blindsided recently by fits of sadness, many of them prompted by the thought of his daughters — 14-year-old Sasha, who graduated this month from middle school, and 16-year-old Malia, who will go to college next year — growing up.”

I get it, Mr. Obama. I really get it. Funny how they do that, isn’t it? Grow up?

And how we parents have no say in the matter. It’s really unfair.

And yet . . . our kids will grow up and leave us one of these days. It’s just a simple fact of life that not only they, but we also, have to get used to. Even the President isn't pardoned from this one.

It seems that in my stage of life many of my friends are going through the same thing. We’re bracing ourselves for the inevitable, almost like bracing yourself for a head-on collision or a plane crash, which is exactly what this feels like sometimes. We’re just holding on for dear life.

I received an email recently from a friend who is struggling with many of the same emotions that President Obama has confessed. Her oldest left for college a few weeks ago, and she realized that her family would not look the same again, not even be under the same roof again, for a long time.

My friend said that she’s just not sure how she’s going to do it, how she’s going to be O.K. amidst all the change going on in her family, because, as she honestly admitted, “I don’t feel O.K. right now.”

Oh boy, do I ever get that. I really do.


Sometime about halfway through my motherhood journey I recognized this little habit I had developed. I realized that periodically throughout each day I did a mental check of where each of my children were, physically. I’m a visual person anyway, and picturing where each of them was at any given moment gave me a sense of stability, like the ground underneath me was still firm.

It was much easier to conduct my mental geographical checks when the girls were younger. Their elementary school was right around the corner from our home; I even knew where they sat in each classroom. Middle school and high school got a little trickier because I didn’t know where, specifically, they were throughout the day, but at least I knew the halls they were roaming.

In college, the mental checks became even more difficult—I knew they were at school and not somewhere else in the country—but the geographical checking in started to loosen its hold on me, even though my kids were never far from my thoughts.

The fact of the matter is I don't know where my kids are all the time. I can't possibly. 

I fool myself into thinking that by mentally checking in I have some small bit of control. The truth is, I don’t have any control. None. And I never really have.

And that’s exactly when the ground shifts beneath our feet, doesn't it? When we realize we don’t know exactly where our kids are every minute of the day. Or when we begin to recognize that they have formed opinions different from our own. Or when we send them off to foreign countries and they choose to stay.

We glance around at our family landscape and we see that this tribe that we have grown, watered, and nourished for the past 18 years will never look exactly the same again. It’s like the ground was never really firm beneath us, only made of sand that is now wet and slowly moving underneath our feet, morphing into a new shape.

Our kids grow up. They grow out. They grow away.

My job is to prepare, to love, and to loosen my grip.


I've read lots and lots of posts lately from sad parents sending their kids off to college. Some, especially the first timers, sound almost despairing:

I just dropped my baby off at college and cried for the entire 15 hour drive home.

What will my life be without my child here?

Who will I become if I don't have to do his laundry?

Come home, little bird! Come home!

I will never say it is easy, this letting go. Plenty of moments I have to stop, take a deep breath, and give myself a little pep talk that goes something like this: “You’ve done well. Your kids are prepared. This is what you’ve raised them for, so step back and watch them fly.” 

(And a whole lot of other back and forth that I won’t go into now lest you think I am a complete lunatic.)

Sometimes the pep talk works; sometimes it doesn’t.

When the pep talk fails, I go back to playing the "where are they?" game. Ridiculous.

Parents, our grown up kids don't need us to keep track of them every minute of the day. They don't need us to visit them at school during the first month (hear me, mama?). They really don't need us to call them every day (I once had a student whose mom called him five times a day!). And they certainly don't need us to show up and do their laundry (they should know how to do that by now).

You know what our kids really need? More than anything, our kids need our prayers. Because here's what I know, what is more sure than my daughters' location on this earth, more comforting that thinking I have done anything to keep them "safe." God hears me. He hears every mournful sigh I breathe. He hears every plea on their behalf. And he answers. I've seen it.

Another thing I know, more certain than the sun coming up each morning: He knows my kids. He knows their dreams. He knows what they yearn for. He knows what their strengths are. And He loves them so much more than I ever could, so I can be confident He will do what's best for them. 

To President Obama and my dear friend, here’s what I would tell you about your kids: You have loved them well. They are prepared. This is what you’ve raised them for. Now step back, let go, and watch them fly.

They are going to be just fine.

And so are you.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

What I Learned at an Alan Jackson Concert

My husband and I went to a concert with some friends last night. For us, the evening meant the last concert of the summer and a chance to enjoy a perfect night, a yummy picnic, and Alan Jackson.

Yes, we do still live in the ‘80s.

(Here’s how old we are: AJ didn’t have his first hit until we had been married five years. Yikes!)

Anyway, after our picnic we headed to our seats, anticipating all sorts of toe-tapping and two-stepping.

(Well, maybe not the two-stepping. B isn’t much for dancing.)

We settled in. Great seats. Happy campers.

Until a guy sat down in front of B. A very tall guy with even taller hair, and my husband, who isn’t short himself and doesn’t usually have trouble seeing over the tops of people’s heads, leaned over and said, “I can’t see a thing.”

Sorry, honey, I’m not trading seats with you because the woman in front of me was probably about four feet tall, I’m not even exaggerating.

I looked at the guy in front of us, and the first thing I noticed was that he and his wife were smiling. Huge. They were laughing like kids and saying things like, “These are really good seats!” and “I’m so excited! This is going to be great!” They seemed almost giddy to be there.

I took notice because who is really like that?

The concert started and that’s when the fun really began. You would think this guy had won the lottery for life. He was clapping, jumping up out of his seat, nodding his head, sometimes lost in his own little world of music. And his wife was the same—pure, unadulterated joy at being at just that place at just that time.

They got up and danced—a lot—which then made us get out of our seats and do something that sort of looked like moving to the rhythm but might not be called dancing. Only because B couldn’t see through the guy and if you can’t beat ‘em (or see over them) you might as well join ‘em.

But you know what? That made the concert more fun. And soon all the people around us were dancing and singing to lyrics we haven’t sung in YEARS.

And it made me realize that pure, unadulterated joy is missing from my life. Oh sure, I am joyful. I’ve got the joy, joy, joy.

But that childlike bliss. That’s something different.

It’s like the kind you used to feel when you were a kid and your mom let you go outside on a rainy day and splash in the puddles in your pajamas and rain boots with no umbrella. You’d jump and jump and make all kinds of ruckus just because you could. And finally you’d be wet to the skin, laughing so hard because you just did that wonderful thing in your pajamas with the rain coming down.

That kind of joy.

I sensed that this guy, whoever he was, lived like this every day. That every day is a new experience to be had. That every experience was an opportunity for wonder. That every moment a chance to be filled with a glorious expression of awe at even being able to be a part of it all.

This man’s sense of joy and wonder was contagious. His friends seemed genuinely happy to be there. We actually got up out of our seats and danced. The people around us did too.

All because this guy—a grownup, adult man—was just. so. happy.

Can you imagine how he approaches his work each day? Yea! I get to go sit in a cubicle and crunch numbers for eight hours without talking to another human being. But I get to take a 15 minute break and a 30 minute lunch, which will be awesome. I will get to solve problems and handle difficult employees, too. And then tomorrow I get to do it all over again! What a fantastic life!

And, of course, it got me to thinking. What if I lived like that? What if I approached my day with that kind of attitude? Like, this is going to be so awesome, man!

I wonder if it would make the bigger obstacles seem just a little smaller and the small problems seems tiny. I wonder if every negative thought could be reduced by even a small percentage just because I approached life with a sense of wonder, awe, excitement even.

Because here’s the thing: as Christians, we have everything to be amazed about, everything to be thrilled about, everything to be downright giddy about. We are free to get up and dance and to live these lives we’ve been given with unabashed glee. Of all people, we should be rockin’ that jukebox (sorry, Alan) and throwing caution to the wind.

So today (and hopefully longer) I’ll be thinking about the Alan Jackson-loving man, giddy with excitement and thrilled to be in the moment.

And maybe, just a little more often, I’ll try to live my life like I’m jumping the heck out of the puddles.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

When You're Trying to Remember Who God Is

“Remind me who God is.”

These words keep ringing in my ears, a mandate from a grieving friend.

“Remind me who God is.”

She was desperate, hungry, despairing as we stood near the casket of her 26-year-old son. We hugged hard and she grabbed my shoulders, looking me square in the eyes and repeated her edict.

“Remind me who God is.”

That was two weeks ago, and her words keep ringing in my ears, my mind, my heart.

They say nobody should have to bury their child, but as I learned at a very young age the “shoulds” don’t mean much when reality is your only experience. Sure, nobody should have to bury their child, but they do. All the time. My friends just did, and my parents did too.

I’ve been short on words these past couple of weeks. My knees have felt weak. I haven’t slept well. I just keep thinking about the nightmare that our friends are living right now.

And I'm trying so hard to remember for myself who God really is.

Who is God when reality sets in? When real life comes knocking with a blow so forceful that you can’t stand against it? Who is God when everything you’ve planned for and dreamed of is altered, not just slightly but forever?

Death. Divorce. Illness.

Life has changed; it will never look, feel, taste the same as it did before.

And who is God through it all?

It’s OK to wonder—I know this. It’s OK to question and to doubt—examples abound throughout the Bible of people who really wondered about God. I mean, where would we be if we didn’t actually wonder about God? We’d be lemmings running for the edge of a cliff.

Wonder is OK. Wonder may even be good for us.

This morning I came as close as I could to feeling my way toward an answer. An answer that I can live with for now. And it may not even say as much about God as it does about me.

I read the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the book of Daniel. These were Daniel’s buddies who refused to bow down and worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s golden statue. The story in Daniel 3 tells us that the king gives them one more chance to “do the right thing” and bow before his shiny likeness, but still the three refuse.

Here’s their rationale: “The God whom we serve is able to save us.”

That’s it. They believe that their God can do anything, even rescue them from a blazing furnace. It’s simple. It’s direct. It’s pure faith.

“The God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty.”

But that’s not even the end of it. They go on: “But even if he doesn’t we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”

“But even if he doesn’t . . .”

These words, strangely, give me so much hope. They have strengthened my faith in the past and they help today as I process the death of a too-young man.

You see, these words tell me that God can do anything—ANYTHING—but he also sometimes doesn’t intervene. This has to be OK because He is God. A powerful, mighty, all-knowing God who sometimes allows his children to suffer. 

What it also tells me is that we don’t always know why. Sometimes we can’t know, and sometimes we won’t know until a long way down the road, but God always knows His purposes. And while I don’t get it just now, I can trust that He’s got this.

The other good thing I know from this story in Daniel 3 is that God will never take us through that suffering alone. Remember the rest of the story? King N. throws Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into the furnace—he’s cruel that way—but he watches from a distance (also cruel if not creepy). What he sees when he looks into the fire is not three men walking around, but four.

He is certain he only threw three men into the fire, so why are there four men walking around unharmed? Because God had provided a rescuer. Some believe that Jesus himself walked through the fire with the three men; others believe it’s an angel. Whatever or Whoever it is, the point is that God did not leave Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He provided a comforter, a rescuer, a way out.

Here’s the thing about grief: it sometimes feels like there will never be a way out of it. Sometimes it feels like a furnace, an actual blazing furnace, and that you will indeed die before you see the other side of it. It feels never-ending.

But here’s what I know about God: He has not left your side. He is there, walking right beside you, weeping with you, feeling the intensity of your pain, mourning your loss. He grieves with you. He does. Because He loves you.

“Remind me who God is.” Words I’ll be pondering for a long time.

Today I’m just beginning to remember.