Respectfully, I disagree…

Oh, the internet. *sigh*  Oh, social media. *double sigh* Sometimes I love you and sometimes…well…you make me just a little crazy. Okay, a little crazier. Sometimes that’s a good thing: causing me to think deeply about what I believe and why, challenging my notions about life and health and parenting and marriage, and getting me to consider issues from different points of view. But sometimes…sometimes you make me tired. Like a whiny, demanding child. You beat me down and make me sad and wish I’d never read that article (or the comments), clicked on that link, or scrolled through that news feed.

So much negativity.

So many put-downs.

So much misunderstanding.

So much insulting.

So much shouting.

And not nearly enough listening.

Recent events have only served to heighten this insanity. And I, for one, have had enough. So since this is my blog and I can rant if I want to, that’s exactly what I’m going to do. In a very civilized manner, of course. I am a grown-up, after all. And if you choose to comment or engage in dialog, I would ask that you do the same. Because, really, you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry…er, crazy.

Without going into too much detail, I’ll simply say this: I am NOT a hater. Please stop calling me – and those like me – that. You have no idea what that does to my spirit. What’s more, I believe it’s possible to disagree with someone and STILL LOVE THEM. Crazy, I know. But still, true.

You see, I love my husband. I love him with all my heart. He is, truly, my best friend, my closest confidante, my greatest ally. But sometimes, I disagree with him and the choices he makes. Not just about what tv show we should watch or where to go for dinner, but real stuff. Important stuff. Stuff that matters. There are times when I adamantly believe he is flat-out wrong.  When that happens, I’ll tell him so. I’ll share with him my beliefs and my perspectives, and provide a reasoning for my position. But I don’t stop loving him just because I disagree with his choice. I will still walk through life with him. I will still cry on his shoulder and let him cry on mine. I will still hold him when he’s feeling sad our discouraged and celebrate with him when the blessings rain down. I will still laugh at his jokes…okay, maybe that’s going a bit too far.

I realize this is a simplistic example of a complex issue, but I implore you, oh friends of the internet, to please consider that there may be someone just like me who loves you very much but simply does not agree with your choice or decision. I will still share in your joys and sorrows, I will still celebrate the good and commiserate the bad.

Who knows? I might even laugh at your jokes.


Truth at the Kitchen Table

Tonight was our monthly Life Group date night: an enjoyable evening of grown-up conversation where all the boys sat on one end of the table and all the girls at the other and enjoyed delicious barbecue and the best peach cobbler this side of the swollen Trinity River. I’m still pondering how that qualifies as a “date” but whatever. The food was great, and peach cobbler makes me happy.

Over brisket and potato salad, we laughed and swapped stories and generally caught up with each other’s lives in this chaotic, swirling rhythm known as “parenting”. And then this happened – one homsechooling mom’s confession of the reality of homeschooling life – paraphrased, of course:

My daughter struggles so much with math. And I realized that I had fallen into a habit of sending her off to do her work by herself while I busied myself with all the other things I had to do. This rarely ended well, as she would get frustrated and then would start the yelling and crying and hitting…and it was a mess.

So I decided to try something different, because obviously what I was doing was NOT. WORKING. For the past week or so, I’ve been intentional about sitting with her while she does her math work. I’m not teaching, I’m not coaching, I’m not correcting. I’m just sitting. Right there, beside her. To let her know she has my attention. To let her know I’m available.

But I get distracted really easily, and I’ve caught myself daydreaming while I’m right there. And suddenly, I notice she’s crumpled up into a ball of tears and I wonder WHY??? Why are you so discouraged? Why are you so frustrated? Why are you trying so hard to do this on your own? Didn’t you know I’m right here beside you? I have all the resources of my knowledge and skill to help you with your struggles.  I was just waiting to give them to you! All you had to do was ask me.

It was as if God Himself had spoken those words right to my soul. I looked at my friend and said, “There’s deep spiritual truth there.”

Deep. Spiritual. Truth.

You see, I struggle with stuff, too. I struggle with insecurity and never quite feeling good enough. I struggle with my self-image and wondering if what God created is truly “beautiful.” I struggle with anger and impatience toward those I love as well as complete strangers…most of whom drive along Highway 5. I struggle with wandering thoughts and laziness and deliberate disobedience. And so I go off to fix it…to solve my problems. Because, really, after all these years of life experience, I should know better and do better.

But I can’t. I can’t fix these things. I can’t stop being insecure. I can’t look at myself in the mirror every day and honestly believe I’m beautiful. I can’t always stop those unkind and harsh words from slipping out, especially when I’m forced to drive 35 mph down Highway 5. I’m more often unsuccessful at “taking every thought captive” or working “with all my might” or saying “yes” to God when I really want to say “no.” And so I become frustrated. Discouraged. Crumpled up into a ball of tears.

And right there, next to me, sits my loving Heavenly Father. Waiting. Patiently.

If I’m still, I can hear Him say, WHY??? Why are you so discouraged? Why are you so frustrated? Why are you trying so hard to do this on your own? Didn’t you know I’m right here beside you? I have all the resources of My being and character to help you with your struggles.  I was  just waiting to give them to you! All you had to do was ask Me.

The Bible study I’m currently doing dives into the relationship between living in the flesh (our own strength, our own bright ideas, our own natural tendencies) and living in the Spirit (God’s strength, God’s wisdom, God’s character). As I prepared for my meeting this week, these words jumped off the page and into the scenario I had just experienced over a warm and crunchy bowl of melt-in-your-mouth-delicious peach cobbler:

Like the original humans, you will choose moment by moment whether to lean into Jesus or trust your flesh. You will decide whether or not you will live in an altar’d state. But knowing how close Jesus is – in all His power and His readiness to step in and take over every burden or situation – will change the minutes of your days. (Altar’d by Jennifer Kennedy Dean, p. 51, emphasis mine)

Dry those tears. Uncrumple yourself. And look to the One who has the answers, the strength, the victory to overcome any problem. Even fifth-grade math.


Super Summer Suppers: Grilled Ginger-glazed Salmon with Cucumber-Lime Sauce

Oh. My. Goodness.

I’m wiping drool off the keyboard as I write this. Seriously. That. Good.

Matt and I journeyed back to the Beach after a 30-lb. hiatus. Now that I have time to cook again, and I don’t have to be around any other people while I de-carb my body for two weeks, we figured it was a good time to dive back in. I dug out my newly-arrived Taste of Home magazine – which I have found terribly disappointing this time around – and figured I’d give it the old college try. Come to think of it, I never had salmon in college. I didn’t even like salmon in college. So I just gave it the old try.

This was my first attempt at making any kind of sauce using cucumber. I’m not sure if I got it completely right, but the moment that cool, spicy sauce with the sizzling hot salmon introduced itself to my taste buds is a moment I will cherish forever. I’m getting all dreamy just thinking about it. *sigh* My husband and I kept looking at each other and reapeating, “This sauce is REALLY good.” “No. Really. This sauce is REALLY good.” as we inhaled another bite. Our children weren’t as convinced, but they loved the salmon so it ended up being a win-win all the way around. Except for the poor salmon.

Cucumber-Lime sauce:

1 T grated lime peel (I used lemon)

1/4 C lime juice

2 T olive oil

2 T rice vinegar or white wine vinegar

4 t sugar (I used Splenda)

1/2 t salt

1/2 t ground coriander

1/2 t freshly ground pepper

1/3 c chopped fresh cilantro

1 T finely chopped onion (I used minced onion)

2 t minced fresh gingerroot (I used regular ground ginger)

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 large cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and chopped

Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor. Cover and process until pureed; refrigerate until serving. Or just grab a spoon and start eating.

Ginger-glazed Grilled Salmon:

1/3 c minced fresh gingerroot (I used regular ground ginger)

1 T lime juice

1 T olive oil

1/2 t salt

1/4 t freshly ground pepper

10 salmon fillets (6 oz. each)

In a small bowl, mix ginger, lime juice, oil, salt and pepper. Rub over flesh side of salmon fillets.

Moisten a paper towel with cooking oil; using long-handled tongs, rub on grill rack to coat lightly. Place salmon on grill rack, skin side down. Grill, covered, over medium-high heat 10-12 minutes or until fish just begins to flake with a fork. Serve with cucumber-lime sauce.

Nutrition information:

Calories: 327

Fat: 20 g (4 g saturated fat)

Cholesterol: 85 mg

Sodium: 372 mg

Carbohydrates: 7 g

Fiber: 1 g

Protein: 29 g

Diabetic exchanges: 4 lean meat, 1 1/2 fat, 1/2 starch






A Letter to My Son: 15 Things I Want You to Know on Your 15th Birthday

Dear Trey,

Today, you turn 15. As I write this, you’re not *quite* 15 yet, although you were hard at work to make your grand appearance. To think that 15 years have passed since that unforgettable day – that day when my whole world changed, when my dreams became reality, when suddenly everything I’d ever wanted was snugly wrapped in a soft white blanket and placed in my arms – doesn’t seem possible. But I look at you – now taller than me – and I know it is not only possible, but reality.

To think that you’re 15 kind of blows my mind. And yes, it freaks me out a little, too, though probably not for the reasons you think. I’m less freaked out about you getting your learner’s permit than I am about the fact that you are only three years away from adulthood. I’m less freaked out about you being old enough to hold down a “real” job than I am about the knowledge that you are closer to living under your own roof than under mine. I’m less freaked out about you being taller than me than I am about the realization that pretty soon my voice will no longer carry the weight it once did, that other, more important voices will be the ones demanding your attention and guiding your decisions.

And so, while I still have even the slightest bit of influence over you, while you still reside under my roof and are compelled to listen to my voice, I want to write this letter to you. Because these are the things I want you to know. Because these are the things I wish and dream and hope and pray for you. Because these are the things you need to carry with you. Because, no matter how old you get, these are the things that will always – always – be true.

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Tender Hearts, Leaky Eyes, and Calloused Knees


As a mom, I work hard to care for my children.  I do my best to ensure that they eat a healthy, well-balanced diet.  I encourage them to exercise regularly, through fun activities they enjoy.  I buy them clothes and shoes and school supplies.  I help them with their homework and participate in their school events.  I take them to interesting places, both local and far away, to learn about our world, to discover the beauty of art, and experience different cultures.

But far and away, the greatest thing I can do for my children is something they aren’t even aware of.  I pray for them.

Once a week, or sometimes every other week, I gather with other moms to pray for our children, their schools, and their teachers.  For a solid hour, we commit our children to the very God who created them, praying His words and His truth over them.  Over the course of a school year, we pray for every single staff member – including administration and support staff – by name.  We pray for school events and school teams and the PTO.  We pray for our volunteers and for sick children and for the school board.  We pray for bond elections and school board elections and zoning changes.  We pray…because it matters.

At the beginning of each school year, whenever possible we arrange a prayer walk around our children’s schools.  This year, I had the privilege of prayerwalking two schools for the very first time.  Though our groups were small in number – only four of us at each location –  the effect was mighty and powerful.  Though the methods were vastly different, the results were undeniably the same.

I’ll share specific details below the fold, details of what prayerwalking is, how to structure a prayer walk for your child’s school, and suggestions of prayer items and topics.  But before I do, let me urge my fellow moms: get involved.  Find a group and plug in.  Don’t let fear of praying out loud stop you from coming.  There is no better way to care for your children than to pray for them.  Your eyes may leak, your knees may grow calloused (literally or metaphorically), but I promise, you will look at your children differently.  You will be changed.  And so will your children.

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Lessons from a Funny Man

Today, the world was stunned by the sudden passing of Robin Williams.  A true original, his career was as unique as he.  From stand-up comedian to TV star to Academy-Award winning movie star to voice-over talent, his career spanned decades – and generations – creating timeless characters that made us laugh, made us cry, made us laugh until we cried, made us connect with our inner child, and above all made us think.  Because hidden inside his zany, crazy, manic humorous schtick, there was truth.  There was love overcoming hatred; there was beauty amid devastation; there was joy amid sorrow; there was triumph amid loss; there was a search for meaning, for purpose amid chaos and confusion.

Over the next several months, we’re going to hear celebrity after celebrity, person after person sharing stories and honoring “a great man.”  I never had the opportunity to know him personally, so I can’t speak to his greatness as a human being.  But I do know the characters he created, their enduring personalities, and the lessons I learned from them.  Lessons that provide great insight into this journey of life.  I’m sure many of us could share our own, but these are the ones that have stuck with me.

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Book Review: Teaching Kids Authentic Worship

teaching kids authentic worshipI know, I know.  Another non-fiction book in a span of just a couple weeks.  You’re probably wondering who are you and what have you done with my Debily?  But I promise, this is only small diversion.  Every once in awhile I *have* to read a work-related or ministry-related book.  I’ll get back to my regularly-scheduled brain candy shortly.

This book was loaned to me by my ministry “boss”, our children’s pastor.  Knowing that my passion is children’s worship, he didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that this would probably be a good book for me to read.  But since I don’t read nonfiction, it sat on my nightstand for several days weeks months years.  So long, in fact, that there are multiple – MULTIPLE – hot chocolate rings on the cover where I used it as a coaster during chilly winter nights. Yeah, I know.  Oops.

I won’t bore you with details, but the time finally came to dust off the cover, dive in and plow through.  And in the end, it was a little bit pat-myself-on-the-back and a little bit facepalm.  To be honest, it was actually a lot of both, but I don’t want to brag.

So for the pat-on-the-back bit, I’ll travel back in time 5 years, to the spring of 2009.  I had been asked by our elementary director to “come up with a little talk for the kids about worship.  You know, what it is and why we do it and why it’s important.”  Because apparently they just weren’t “getting it” – they were disengaged, half-heartedly participating, missing the blessing that comes with full-on worship of our great and amazing God.  Sure, I agreed.  No problem.  Piece of cake.  I mean, it’s what I do.  It’s part of my DNA.  It’s in my blood, man.  Except there was one slight problem: even up to the morning of “the talk”, I had no earthly idea what to say.  Or how to say it.  I’d been praying.  I’d been thinking.  I’d been asking God to show me, give me the words.  But every time I sat down to put pen to paper (or, more realistically, fingers to keyboard), the result was theological gobbledy-gook.  Definitely not the kind of material that would inspire children to engage in worship.  In fact, it was the kind of material that would disengage them further, or put them to sleep.  Neither outcome was particularly desirable.  As He often does, however, God waited until I was in the shower – sort of a “captive audience” kind of thing – to reveal a powerful message about worship, in a way that would be meaningful and relevant to children.  In a nutshell, it was this:

Worship doesn’t begin with “W”.  Worship begins with “A”:

Audience: We worship an audience of One.  True worship is focused on God and God alone.

Attitude: Worship is an attitude of surrender, of yielding myself to God’s word and God’s ways.

Actions:  Worship engages the whole person: our mind, emotions, and physical bodies.  God created us to worship Him with all that we are.

Pretty awesome, huh?  Now,  I will describe the content of this book in three easy sections.  Section 1: The Who of Worship.  Section 2: The How of Worship.  Section 3: The Why of Worship.  In other words: Audience.  Attitude.  Actions.  In other words:  I nailed it.  Or, rather, God nailed it into my brain, but I listened pretty well.  That, my friends, was the pat-on-the-back moment.

That was also the facepalm moment.  As in: I could have written this book.  *smack*  As in: I should have written this book.  As in:  it’s too late.  It’s already been written.  And now, blogged.

Regardless of who wrote the material, and who copyrighted the material, and who thought of it first, it’s great material.  Spot-on.  Biblically sound and absolutely necessary.  Inspiring for those of us who work regularly with children and desire to see them worship their God with passion and focus.

Ultimately, that’s the important thing.  And really, the only thing that matters.

Book Review: ABC: a Novel

abcThey say the third time’s the charm.  In the case of this book, I was desperately hoping that “they” were right.

For one thing, this was the third summer I’d checked this book out.  That must mean I was compelled to read it, right?  Then I wouldn’t have to check it out again next summer.

For another thing, this was the third time I’d checked out a book on my “unfinished business” list – books that I’d checked out but never read – only to discover that yes, in fact, I *have* read it.  Or at least, I’d read the first 62 pages.  After that, nothing looked familiar.

And I discovered something.  Two things, actually.

The first thing I discovered was that after the first 62 pages, nothing looked familiar because I either stopped reading or I stopped caring.  Or maybe a little of both. That’s certainly what happened this time.

You see, Gerard and Peggy have one son, Harry.  They live somewhere in the northeast near Boston, and they spend their summers on a lake where Peggy’s family has a cabin.  Nearby, there is a decrepit, abandoned house known by the locals as “the wreck.”  It’s a great place for the locals to engage in all kinds of illegal and immoral behavior when no one else is around, but during the summer, it’s a little boy’s wonderland.  A spooky old house to explore in?  You bet!  So Harry and his mom and dad are on an expedition to the wreck when the unthinkable happens: in the words of one reviewer “there is a crack as a floorboard, as Gerard’s knee, as his life and consciousness snap.”  Harry falls to the concrete basement floor beneath and dies instantly.  Inexplicably, in his grief, Gerard becomes obsessed with the alphabet.  Because he cannot absorb the magnitude of his own loss, because he cannot grasp the reality of his world shattering into such tragic shards, Gerard disappears into this quest for understanding: why are the letters of the alphabet arranged as they are?  And yes, the rest of the book is as uninteresting and perplexing as it sounds.  Gerard is so absorbed by his pursuit that he fails to notice his wife’s abandonment.  And shortly thereafter, mine.  I gave him a bit more leeway than Peggy, but by the time I had reached 110 pages, I, too was done.  Tired of being ignored.  Tired of this meaningless pursuit and the absolute refusal to face his grief head-on.

Which led me to my second discovery: “they” were right.  The third time was the charm.  I will *not* be checking this book out again next summer.  Or any summer hereafter, for that matter.

Book Review: Sisterchicks Down Under!

sisterchicks down underIt’s been 5 years since my last Sisterchicks adventure, so I decided it was time for another one.  Last time, it was Finland.  This time, New Zealand.  It’s quite honestly the cheapest vacation I’ve ever had.

I thought I’d be catching up with old friends.  But no, we were introduced to two new friends, Kathleen and Jill.  Kathleen happens to be my age, and she has moved to New Zealand with her husband whose filmmaking company will be on-location for 3 months.  Lonely and out of her element, Kathleen struggles to fit in with her new life.  Until she meets Jill.  The two of them hit it off at the Chocolate Fish Cafe, a local coffee shop, and soon are inseparable.

With unforgettable adventures that only girls can appreciate, these two friends take the Land Down Under by storm.  Sharing life together, they open up about love and loss, children and husbands, work and marriage and motherhood and shopping and decorating and the perfect cup of coffee.  Though the dialog seemed contrived and unrealistic at points, the storyline was tender and heartwarming, with enough unpredictability to keep me turning the pages.  Just like time spent with good friends, our visit was all too short, and I reached the back cover long before I was ready to say good-bye.

Farewell, Wellington.  Farewell, Jill and Kathleen and Tracy with her fancy truck named Bea.  Farewell, ill-fated garden gnome.  Farewell, Chocolate Fish and Dorothy with the beautiful red nails.  Though we’ve never met – and we never will, as you don’t truly exist – I know I’ll never forget you.

Look at Our God


We shout!  Say “Wow!” (WOW!)

Look at our God!

Look at our God!

It’s VBS week at Christ Fellowship, and you know what that means.  Okay, maybe you don’t.  Stir together a whole lot of excitement, blend with a huge dose of creativity, and throw in a few hundred volunteers.  Spread throughout the entire church building.  Marinate for four days straight, a couple hours in the morning and several more in the evening.  Cover with generous doses of prayer and sprinkle with extra grace.  This is no half-baked effort we’re talking about.

Or, to use a different metaphor: this is our World Series.  If Easter is our SuperBowl, then VBS is our end-of-season championship series.  The last blast of the “old” year as we prepare to usher in the new.  A best-of-four event where we seek to capture the minds, hearts, and souls of children and their families and share with them the love of Jesus through games, stories, crafts, music, and unforgettable characters.  It is a full-on team effort, requiring each of us to do our part and work together.

For me, personally, VBS is the most eagerly anticipated, most significant, most important event in my ministry wheelhouse.  Planning begins somewhere around mid-winter, song selection and choreography ramp up in  spring, and rehearsals and recruiting consume early summer.  If all goes well, I can ride the wave of excitement and impact all the way into fall, our new ministry year.  It’s not a responsibility – or opportunity – I take lightly.

Every year, my prayer is the same.  Show up, God.  Show us Who You are.  Reveal Your glory to us.  Let us see You here.

You know what they say: be careful what you pray for.

Because…you just might get it.

We shout!  Say “Wow!” (WOW!)

Look at our God!

Look at our God!

Over 1,200 children.

Over 300 volunteers.

People coming to our church.  Some to serve, some to be served.  But all of them brought for a purpose.

We shout!  Say “Wow!” (WOW!)

Look at our God!

Look at our God!

More than 80 children indicating a first-time decision to follow Christ.  To accept His sacrifice of love and forgiveness and let Him be the driving force in their young lives.

Lives forever impacted with the truth of the gospel.  Hundreds of families – parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins – hearing the good news of Jesus Christ and God’s love, many for the very first time.

We shout!  Say “Wow!” (WOW!)

Look at our God!

Look at our God!

Sidelined with illness, I was relegated to the role of spectator.  Helpless spectator, at that.  Unable to lead or coordinate the amazing group of youth and adults who had worked so hard to prepare for this week.

God raised up a leader.  He bonded that team.  He gave them focus and determination.  He moved me out of the way to allow others to use their gifts and shine far brighter than they ever thought possible.

We shout!  Say “Wow!” (WOW!)

Look at our God!

Look at our God!

And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better,  He infused that worship center with an extra dose of His Spirit.  A beautiful cacophony of praise to the God who loves us just as we are.  A sea of arms raised, of hands lifted high as we worshiped in total abandon.  A vision of heaven, of that moment when every knee will bow – as tiny, soft-skinned young ones knelt alongside those that were creaky, weathered, and worn – and every tongue will confess Jesus as Lord.

We shout!  Say “Wow!” (WOW!)

Look at our God!

Look at our God!

As I looked across that jam-packed auditorium, past the swirl of lights and jumble of sound, I was overwhelmed.  Overwhelmed by the passion of their worship.  Overwhelmed by the dedication – and grace and support and love – of my team.  Overwhelmed by the truth of their song.  Overwhelmed by the presence of my God.

At that moment, words failed me.  But if they hadn’t I’d have used words like Awesome.  Amazing.  IncredibleMoving.  Touching.  Inspiring.  Beautiful.

And probably one like Wow.

Look at our God, indeed.


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