Saturday, March 28, 2015

Walking Into Holy Week Looking for Peace? It's Here.

There are some days when I run from it, some days I try to ignore it, and some days I just have to say it.

I hate the devil.

There. I said it. Let the attacks begin.

You see, as a believer in Jesus Christ, I believe that there is also an opposition to him. In fact, His greatest opposition is Satan. Present tense. Because Jesus lives, Satan also lives. The Bible tells us that one day Jesus will return and Satan will be locked away forever (soon, please!), but until that day, we have to live in a fallen, fallen world in which Satan wields great power.

(Gosh, I didn’t mean to get so deep so fast here! Bear with me.)

I’ve been reading the gospels through Lent with Margaret Feinberg’s 40 Day Lent Challenge, and I’ve been struck by, well, lots of things. This week, especially, God has used His word to speak directly into some things in my life.


It’s been a hard week; I won’t deny it. As much as I’ve valued privacy, and still do, I just have to share a little bit of what’s been going on. I’ve been crushed by disappointment this week as a student I’ve mentored for the past two and a half years has just walked away. From school. From her life here. From relationships. From everything.

My head is still spinning.

And I can’t help but worry about the steps she is taking.

And I wonder what more I could have done to help her.


Back to the 40 Day Lent Challenge. (I know, I’m all over the place today. Sorry.) This morning I read John 10 and was especially struck, once again, by Jesus’s “I am” statements in verses 6-18.

“I am the gate for the sheep.”

“I am the gate.”

“I am the good shepherd.” (He says this twice, so he really must want us to pay attention to it.)

And then I read these words in John 10:10 – “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life” – and I was reminded yet again of my student. What she cannot see right now is that what she thinks will bring pleasure to her life is really sucking her dry. That the people she thinks she wants in her life will destroy her. Because the enemy of our souls will do whatever he can and use whatever tricks it takes to make us think that a rich and satisfying life involves doing whatever we want without any answer to authority in our lives.

Jesus tells us the opposite.

Follow me, He says. Submit to MY authority. Seek MY kingdom and there you will find what is truly rich and satisfying in life.

Oh, sometimes it’s so hard to see, even in my own life. I want my own way. I want to control things. I want to be in charge of everything. I am a petulant child, stomping her foot to get people to listen to her. But when I try so hard to make my own way, things inevitably fall apart.

When I submit to Jesus, when I give up trying to do things my way, I find the deep, satisfying peace I’m looking for.


I read a helpful note in my Bible this morning.

“The world still lives in darkness and it cannot understand the realities of life or of God. Divine revelation is inaccessible to the world. In fact, when the light of God penetrates the darkness, exposing the ugliness of the world’s life, many people flee deeper into the darkness because they prefer it to the light. Only the transforming power of God’s Spirit can provide understanding and help people see clearly as children of God.”


So why do I hate the devil? Because he is a thief. He steals joy. He steals peace. He steals love. He steals understanding. He causes division and strife and makes us see the differences between people when we should be looking for anything, anything that will bind us together in this crazy fallen world.

The good news--the really. good. news.--is that Jesus came so that we wouldn’t have to fight against the darkness anymore. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)

So this week is Holy Week. Lent will be over and on Easter Sunday we will celebrate the Light of the World who has come so that we can have peace and rest and a rich and satisfying life. I choose to rest there, in that peace that surpasses all understanding.

Because this week? This week I don’t understand much, but I do understand where my satisfaction lies.


Friends, forgive me if this post is hard for you to read. I just sat down and wrote what was on my heart this morning, and I’m putting it out there without much editing because I think it’s what God wants me to do today.

This Easter week, I pray that you will know the peace that Jesus came to bring to each one of us.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Some Days

Sometimes, when things go a little dark and quiet over here, it’s usually because I have to process. And it’s never a good idea to process on a blog because, well, someone might read it and my blood and guts might be spilled out on the internet for everyone to read and readers might actually bump into the fact that I’m human.

This past week was one of incredible humanness for me.

I don’t have a snazzy story to go with the lessons I’m learning this week. I don’t have a cute illustration to show all that God is teaching me. All I really have is honesty.


I have felt sad this week. A friend suffers, and I feel helpless to relieve the pain. Another friend dies, and I feel sorrow for the years I’ve missed. I sense tension in relationships and it spills over into my home, taking captive those I love the most.

I have felt helpless in situations way beyond my control.

I have felt grief over losses too big to comprehend.

All of this in just one week.

And to top it all off, we got six inches of heavy, thick, soul-sucking snow this morning.


Some weeks are just like this, you know? Issue upon issue upon issue piles up and the weight bears down until you think you might snap. My shoulders were never meant to carry such burdens.

Neither were yours.


Good Friday is coming, and in a way this scares me just a little because every Good Friday we have a family tradition: we watch “The Passion of the Christ” together. After church, after taking communion, after walking out of the building in darkness and silence, we gather at home to watch the most heart wrenching movie I’ve ever experienced.

“The Passion of the Christ” is hard to watch, and yet, I force myself to do it because I think it’s good for me to be reminded that Jesus suffered too.

There’s that scene when Jesus, having been beaten nearly unrecognizable, is handed his cross and he’s expected to carry it up the hill to Golgotha, the place of his crucifixion. Blood and sweat drip from Jesus’ forehead where his executioners have smashed a crown of thorns into his skin. Bruises already begin to show around his swollen eyes, nose, and lips. His anguish is palpable as he stumbles slowly uphill, step . . . by step . . . by step.

Finally, Jesus falls, unable to carry his cross any longer, and a stranger is summoned from the crowd to carry it for him. The man is strong, healthy, vibrant, but this heavy cross is hard for even him to carry and he stumbles too.

We know the rest of the story. Jesus is nailed to that cross, unjustly accused, and dies the same tortuous death as the thief next to him. In just one day he experiences sorrow, helplessness, grief, and much more.

He knows my burdens.


Thank God the story doesn’t end there. Thank God for Easter. Thank God for the heavy stone being lifted away and for an empty tomb.

Thank God that he sent someone stronger, healthier, and more vibrant than me to carry the burdens I cannot bear.

Some days I just need a savior.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Savor Life with Shauna Niequist {and a giveaway!}

Edited to add: Random Number Generator picked number 3, so Robin Dance, a copy of Savor is on its way to you! Congratulations!


Lots of my blog friends lately have been talking about “old school blogging.” Blogging has changed so much lately, and we long for the old days of memes and comments (*ahem*), and sharing the posts of others.

And book reviews.

And giveaways!

Never fear, friends, old school blogging is back! Right here. For today.

No promises about tomorrow. [Oh, who am I kidding? Most of what I do is old school anyway.]

Last week I received a review copy of Shauna Niequist’s new book, Savor: Living Abundantly Where You Are, As You Are, and I’m so excited to tell you all about it today.

The first thing you’ll notice about this book is that it’s beautiful. The cover is linen, so those of us who are tactile will love simply holding this book. The pages are sturdy and thick, and the layout is simple yet beautiful.

The next thing you’ll notice, especially if you’ve read Shauna’s other books, is that this is a different format for her. This is a daily inspirational book, small snippets of Shauna’s writing that will make you think, smile, or act.

You’ll probably notice, if you read Shauna’s blog, that she’s taken some thoughts from her older posts; other entries are new. That’s OK. It’s nice to be reminded of the lessons Shauna has learned along her journey. Each entry is accompanied by a Bible verse that you can chew on throughout the day.

One of my favorite things about the book is the question at the end of each entry. These questions can serve to challenge you to further thinking or even to action. Here are just a few, but they’re all really good:
“Sometimes it’s not sin that’s most difficult to throw off—it’s the otherwise good stuff that gets in the way of our becoming who God is calling us to be. What do you need to let go of today?” (April 13)
“Marriage is like so many other things: we get out of it what we put into it. Married or not, what are you bringing to the people you love? What would it look like to bring your best self in this season?” (April 30) 
“We become family by the choices we make as we respond to each day, whatever that day brings. Who has become family in your life, because you’ve chosen to invest deeply?” (September 11)
Now, I’m all about daily Bible reading and deep Bible study. This book isn’t for that.

But sometimes we just need a shot in the arm as we slug down a cup of coffee before flying out the door—just a little thought to help us focus our busy day—and that’s exactly what this book is for.

Over the past couple of years, after coming to a point of burnout with her work, Shauna has encouraged us to slow down, to take time for friends and family, and to savor life’s small moments. This book will help you do that.

Want a copy of your own? I have good news! Shauna’s publisher has graciously offered to give one copy of Savor to one of my dear readers. 

To be entered into the giveaway, you only need to do two things:

1. Sign up to receive email updates from me. You can do that just over there --->. (If you’re already a follower, just let me know in the comments.)

2. Leave me a comment below telling me one way you like to slow down and savor life with those you love.

Easy, right?! I’m looking forward to hearing from you!


This giveaway will remain open until Monday, March 23.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Guest Posting at Grace Table today -- Will you join me?

Have you heard about Grace Table? Grace Table is a new blog that focuses on hospitality and all the ways we can make room for others and for God in our homes and in our lives. I have really enjoyed reading this beautiful blog over the past few months, and this morning I am honored to be featured over there.

Thrilled even!


Here's a little sneak peek . . .

I recently redecorated the guest room in our home. It’s the first time we’ve had a real guest room, and the only reason we have it is because our oldest daughter graduated from college and moved out.

For good.


There’s a void here now.

A room sits empty.

So, with a little physical and financial effort, I have transformed that empty room into what we hope will be a space of refuge, retreat, and rest for those who need it. (In fact, it turned out so great that I might want to claim it for my own!)

Head on over to Grace Table to read the rest!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Top Five Things I've Been Doing Lately

Now that Downton Abbey season is over, I just can't seem to stop thinking in terms of Top Five lists. And since I've been keeping you more up-to-date with the Grantham clan than my own life, I thought I'd just spend a few minutes catching up.

How you doing? 

I know, it's a little hard to have a quick conversation here, but really, I'm interested. How are you doing? And what have you been doing during this long, dreary winter? 

[By the way, there's a comments section for the answers to those questions. You should try using it sometime. I usually try to respond to your comments, and I really do want to know how you're doing.]

Anyway, as I said earlier, it's been a while since I've caught you up on my life, so here, in no particular order, are the top five things I've been doing lately.

5. Arizona-ing

It's spring break at the college where I teach, but not at my daughter's high school, so I took a brief trip by myself to visit my parents in Arizona. 

This is my lovely mama and me enjoying 80 degree weather. And lunch. People say we look similar--what do you think?

4. Retreating

So I came home for about three days, and this weekend I'm heading out to a retreat with the Redbud Writer's Guild. Any time I have to talk about my writing causes a certain amount of angst for me, so, yes, I'm already nervous. 

Prayers appreciated.

3. Spring Breaking

I know, I've already mentioned that it's spring break, but seriously, how did we get here so fast? Next week when we return to school I'll only have seven weeks of classes left. Forever.

I think I might have mentioned before that last year was going to be my last year of teaching, but for those of you keeping score (and for those of you who may be confused), THIS year is absolutely, positively, my last year. I resigned last semester and will not be back at the college next year.

Yes, the emotions are all over the place on that one. More to come, I'm sure.

2. Yoga-ing

Over winter break, Caroline and I decided to try out a new-ish yoga studio in town since they were offering a free week and, well, hot yoga in winter. Am I right? We both loved it--in fact, we went four times in that first week! So now I'm learning (some would say practicing, but I'm still learning) how to do yoga. My family thinks I'm crazy because I want to talk about it all the time, but it's so much fun! It's only been two months, but I can tell that I'm getting so much stronger. 

This one may stick.

1. Warming

When I left for Arizona last Friday we had about a foot and a half of snow on the ground and the wind chill that morning was -6 degrees. (The day before, the wind chill was -12.) When I got home yesterday, it was in the 50s and the snow was almost gone. Rumor has it, we might see 60 over the weekend.

All I know is that my students are going to be SHOCKED when they come back next week.

In a good way.


So there you have it, a basic update on my life. And now, because I care and because I really do want to know . . . HOW ARE YOU??

Comment below. *wink wink*

Oh, and one more thing. Be sure to come back next Monday because I'm hosting a good, old-fashioned giveaway. One I am sure you're not going to want to miss.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Top Five Lines from Downton Abbey S5:E9 ( or "in vino veritas")

Ah, friends. I’d say those Downton writers really know how to wrap up a season. And how to keep up salivating for more.

This week’s episode, the finale, was really fun, wasn’t it? So many lovely moments that just can’t fit into my Top Five. I’m thinking of Robert and Edith, Robert and Cora, Robert and Sybbie. I guess Robert is finally coming around and becoming the man he was in Season 1.

And then there was the moment with the Russian Princess. Oh my! Would you say she has a chip on her shoulder . . . or was she happy to see Violet again? That entire story line was a little bit perplexing to me this season. I’m kind of happy to see the Russians trot off to Paris where they can be miserable together.

But the Russians do bring me to my first favorite line of the night, which, of course, belongs to Violet.

[Note: I don’t always put them in order, but this week I am. Because I want to. And because my favorite line is definitely worth waiting for.]

5. So the Russians have left the building and Violet remains, yet again, alone. I was glad that she finally confessed her somewhat sordid background to Isobel—she came across as a very real person. She confesses something else to her BFF as well—that she’s a little sad to put her latest near-tryst with Prince Kuragin in the past.

“Sad?” Isobel asks.

To which Violet replies, 

“I will never again receive an immoral proposition from a man. 
Was I so wrong to savor it?”

The passage of time can be so cruel.

4. So the family travels quite a distance (we aren’t quite sure where—Scotland?) to visit the Sinderby clan in their much-larger-than-Downton rental house because, you know, they are family now. Sort of. And they have to make a show of it for Rose’s sake, I guess.

Or Robert just wants to get in on some premiere grouse shooting.

Anyway, while most of the house is gone, Mrs. Patmore creates a nice dinner for some of the staff because, “When the cat’s away, we mice might as well play a little.”

She’s invited just a few people to share in the special meal: Carson, Mrs. Hughes, herself, Mr. Bates, Mr. Molesley, and Daisy, to which Carson crinkles his bulbous nose and says, “Daisy? To wait on us, I assume.”

Mrs. Patmore quickly puts him in his place when she ever-so-calmly replies, 

“To wait on us, yes, and to eat with us. And if that thought’s too democratically overpowering, you can share what I’ve made for the housemaids."

Cudos to you, Mrs. Patmore!

3. While they are visiting the Sinderby’s, the Millenials decide to take a little walk so they can chat some distance away from the ears and sneers in the really big rental. Atticus divulges that he’s been offered a job in New York, and he and Rose seem all smiles about this. Tom talks about moving to Boston, which Mary continues to dismiss. Denial much?

Edith understands her sister better than Mary might think. “Poor Mary,” Edith mocks. “She hates to be left behind when everyone else is getting on with their lives.”

Not so fast, Edith. Mary once again comes out on top with her quick, albeit cruel, wit.

“It isn’t that. It’s just the thought of 
being left behind with you.”

Once again, Edith is left agape and everyone else just shrugs their shoulders as if to say, “That’s our Mary.”

2. My final two favorite lines from this episode are in a near dead heat—they were both great for different reasons. But my number one favorite line just squeaked in ahead of my number two favorite for reasons which you will see when you get there.

This favorite line was probably one of yours, too, because it was just so hilarious.

Bates and Thomas are cleaning the guns [side note: Baxter reveals that Thomas knows his way around a rifle and that his father was a good shot. Hmmm. Will this information be important somewhere down the road?], and Molesley offers his sympathy, yet again, to Bates for Anna still being in prison.

Bates feels helpless and claims, “I’d cut my arm off if I knew it would do any good.”

Thomas smirks, 

“Oh, I don’t think that would be sensible, Mr. Bates. 
We can’t have you wobbly at both ends.”

Oh my word! Just too funny.

Cringeworthy, but funny.

1. OK, you’ve probably already guessed my favorite line of the episode, and it gets this spot both because of the delivery and because of the scenario.

Dear Carson and Mrs. Hughes. We’ve seen this coming for some time now (remember them walking hand in hand into the sea at the end of season 7?), and finally our deepest Downton desires have been met.

While everyone else is upstairs drinking spiked punch and singing Christmas carols, Carson and Mrs. Hughes sneak downstairs. Carson explains that he has purchased the house in both of their names, despite the fact that Mrs. Hughes has already revealed to him that she’s destitute.

No matter. Carson wants her in on the deal. In fact, he wants her in on the rest of his life, as he so sweetly declares to her with tears in his eyes.

Mrs. Hughes pushes back. “Suppose you want to move away and change your life entirely. You don’t want to be stuck with me.”

“Well, that’s the point,” says Carson.

“What is?” Mrs. Hughes is starting to understand.

“I do want to be stuck with you.”

“I’m not convinced I can be hearing this right.” The puzzle pieces are beginning to fall into place.

Carson comes in for the kill: “You are if you think I’m asking you to marry me. . . . Well?”

“Well, you can knock me down with a feather.”

Isn’t that just lovely? But we’re not there yet. My favorite line is still coming, but I had to set the scene because it was just so sweet.

Finally Carson tells Mrs. Hughes to take as long as she likes because, “One thing I do know, I’m not marrying anyone else.”

She smiles and hands him a drink. Carson says, “What exactly are we celebrating?”

“We’re celebrating the fact that I can still get a proposal at my age.”

“And that’s . . . it?”

Now Carson looks pained; the distress on his face is obvious until Mrs. Hughes puts him out of his misery.

“Of course I’ll marry you, you old booby! 
I thought you’d never ask.”

And everyone in the room said, “Ahhhhhhh.

We thought he’d never ask either!


With that, Season 5 is a wrap. I’m sorry to see the fun of Downton Abbey come to an end, but does it ever? So many unanswered questions are left for us to ponder for the next nine months until a new season is born.

Will Atticus and Rose move to America?

Will Tom and Sybbie ever come back as he promised three times in this episode?

Will Mary make Edith’s life even more miserable when she opens her eyes and realizes the truth about Marigold?

Will Isobel change her mind and realize that she just can’t live without Dickie Merton?

Will Thomas find a reason to use a gun?

And will Robert ever get a new dog, this time one with a more suitable name?

Until next year, good bye, Downton! And thanks.