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.


Book Review: You Herd Me!

you herd me

…and now for something COMPLETELY different.

I’m not usually a fan of nonfiction.  Matt bought me a book on Terry Francona for my birthday one year.  I have to dust it off every so often…like, literally.  With a dustcloth.  We purchased a whole set of books on marriage when we were newlyweds.  They’ve looked terrific sitting on our bookshelves for the past 20-plus years.  My mom gave me a book on leadership to read before the fall womens’ bible studies started up…in 2013.  The bookmark has been locked on page 59 for oh, I don’t know, perhaps the last 59 weeks?  What it all boils down to is quite simple: I don’t read nonfiction.  It’s like those vegetables your mom makes you eat when you’re a kid and then you can’t stand them when you’re an adult.  I had my fill of nonfiction in college and grad school, thankyouverymuch.  And now that I’m a bona fide grown up and don’t *have* to read nonfiction…then I won’t.  So there.

But as I was waiting yet again for my bookworm children to emerge from the library shelves bearing library bags that weighed more than them, I saw it.  Perched atop the “New Non-fiction” shelves, it’s plastic protective cover glistening in the fluorescent lighting.  Beckoning me with its promise of meaningless brain candy mixed with a dash of humor.  As if drawn by an unseen force, I hurried over, grabbed it off the shelf, and, before I even realized what I was doing, checked it out and slid it into my bag.

I’ve listened to Colin Cowherd’s show for several years.  I like his direct, assertive style.  Though I don’t always agree with his point of view, much of what he says makes a lot of sense.  Sure, he’s arrogant and pigheaded and stubborn and doesn’t listen to anyone who disagrees with him, but that’s what makes him such a great radio host.

And now he’s got a book full of that stuff.  Nearly 300 pages of rants, jabs, tirades, opinions, soliloquies, pontifications, ruminations, musings, thoughts, and editorials.  Mostly about football and basketball and baseball, but a little bit about hockey and golf and NASCAR.  Some of it is good.  Some of it is meh.  Some of it I don’t understand – like contract negotiations and betting lines in Vegas.  Some of it I just don’t care about (see “hockey and golf and NASCAR”).  But all of it is – in the grand scheme of things – distraction, escape from the big, serious issues.  You know, the stuff that matters.  This is just fluff.   Fun stuff.  The stuff that gives meaning to our weekends and provides fodder for the watercooler.

And that’s what makes this a great read.  You heard me.

Thanks, Dad

A longtime friend and I were catching up recently.  He shared with me that his father had recently passed away, a man I knew only briefly but definitely someone I would characterize as “one of the good guys.”  Having lost my own father, I can empathize with his deep sadness and sense of loss as well as his need to connect with those who knew his dad.  As we reminisced a bit, he made the following statement:

What a great experience my dad made available to me.

I knew what he meant.  On the surface, at least.  But as I pondered his words I realized there was a deeper meaning.  Maybe I was suffering from road-trip brain, the result of too many hours trapped inside the car with my children and only the underwhelming west Texas landscape visible outside the car.  Maybe I was sleep-deprived from sleeping on so-called “luxurious” feather pillows that are really not all that luxurious in my book.  Maybe I had fallen victim to an excess of overly oxidized fountain Diet Cokes, that sweet nectar  that proves God loves me and wants me to be happy.  Or maybe, just maybe, it was God, once again whispering His truth in my ear, helping me to rediscover His blessing and revel in His goodness.

You see, my friend came from a family of limited means.  His dad was not some well-to-do CEO of a major corporation.  He didn’t drive fancy cars or take lavish vacations several times a year.  He was a humble man, a hard worker, someone who labored faithfully for years behind the scenes, doing a job that many of us would – and did – take for granted.  Though I didn’t know him well, I know he must have been a kind and loving man, because he opened his heart and his home to other people’s children as well as his own, fostering several and adopting my friend.  Despite his lack of wealth, my friend was able to attend a high-quality, upscale private Christian school and eventually a private Christian college.  He spent his summers sailing and hiking and waterskiing and learning archery and backpacking all over northern New England (and even a little bit of Canada).  He enjoyed the opportunity to study in Puerto Rico for a couple of months in high school.  Certainly not what one would consider a “deprived” childhood.

Dig a little deeper into that phrase, though, and there’s a treasure to be uncovered.  A treasure that reveals the heart of our heavenly Father, our Abba.

What a great experience my dad made available to me.

My friend’s dad chose to father my friend.  He certainly wasn’t obligated or under compulsion to.  But, through the beauty of adoption he did.  And because of his sacrificial, unselfish love, my friend had opportunities beyond anything he could have imagined.

My Abba chose me to be His child.  He certainly wasn’t obligated or compelled to.  As the ultimately perfect, infinite God over all creation, He was complete in Himself.  But, through the beauty of adoption – the price being His own son – He did.  And because of His sacrificial, unselfish love, I have opportunities beyond anything I could have imagined.

What a great experience my dad made available to me.

As my friend reflected on his life, on his father’s legacy in his life, he recognized the blessings he enjoyed because he was part of this family.

As I reflect on my life, on my Abba’s faithfulness in my life, I can recognize the blessings I enjoy because I am part of His family.

What a great experience my dad made available to me.

Opportunities to minister to the homeless in New Orleans, deaf children in Tennessee, and orphans in Uganda.  Opportunities to share the gospel to hundreds of children each week as the “music fairy.”   Opportunities to lead volunteers – youth and adults – to discover their God-given talents and use them for His glory.  Opportunities to befriend other calloused-kneed moms from around the state through the mission and ministry of Moms in Prayer.  Opportunities to share God’s truth through writing and speaking, being a part of building up the body of Christ.

What a great experience my dad made available to me.

Opportunities to learn about God’s world and His creation.  Opportunities to study and practice my calling in the safety of a supportive, caring Christian community.  Opportunities to use my skills in the “real world”, touching real lives, forging “real” professional relationships, honing my craft and furthering my understanding.  Opportunities to do what I love and love what I do.

What a great experience my dad made available to me.

The opportunity to be a wife, to experience firsthand the blessing and beauty of marriage.  The opportunity to be the recipient of true love – though not in the Princess Bride sense: a love that is faithful, unconditional, and sincere.  The opportunity to become a mother, a realization of a lifelong dream.  The opportunity to nurture that life within me and then, at the appointed time, bring it into the world.  The opportunity to be the guiding force in these two precious lives, teaching, directing, and preparing them to use their own God-given gifts for His glory.

What a great experience my dad made available to me.

Opportunities to be a part of something bigger than myself: a thriving church, a loving family, a broad circle of friends, a diverse global community.  Opportunities to discover my place in this big world and be reminded of the small but important role I play.  Opportunities to travel and experience the uniqueness of each geographical locale, its people and its culture.  Opportunities to be awestruck by shooting stars in Africa, overwhelmed by snow in summertime in Utah, delighted by pristine Hawaiian beaches, mystified by mossy and humid South Carolina swamps, humbled by majestic Canadian mountains, dazzled by crystal-clear New England lakes, and energized by London’s urban perpetual motion.

What a great experience my dad made available to me.

Yes, my friend was correct.  This life – no, this abundant life – is a great experience, all made available to me because of my Abba, my father, my Daddy.

And all I can say in response is simply, Thank You, Dad.

Book Review: Jacob’s Oath

Jacob's Oath coverThis is the summer of the the new arrivals.  Here is another gem I discovered in those lovely bookshelves at the front of the library, those shelves that allowed me to avoid climbing the staircase only a couple weeks after my knee surgery.  Yay for new arrivals!

It seems as though I am drawn to WWII historical fiction, but books written from unique perspectives.  The Pearl Diver (one of my favorites) was written from the point of view of a Japanese woman deeply affected by the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.  Tree of Heaven was narrated by both a Chinese soldier and his Japanese female servant, both prisoners of Russians in a remote viillage decimated by war.  Jacob’s Oath is the story of the first – and for a time, only – two Jews to return to Heidelberg following Germany’s surrender.

Jacob, the first to return, is the sole known survivor of the Holocaust, a refugee from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.  He watched his beloved brother Maxie die at the hands of a particularly cruel and ruthless SS thug known as “the Rat” – a nickname bestowed more for his appearance than for his actions.  As Maxie’s life ebbs away, Jacob promises to avenge his brother and vows to kill the Rat.  His oath brings him to Heidelberg, not only his hometown, but the Rat’s as well.

Shortly thereafter, Sarah appears.  Though Sarah escaped the horrors of a concentration camp, her experience was no less horrific.  Hiding in a bombed-out basement in Berlin, she experienced near-starvation, freezing temperatures, and the kind of brutality toward women that turns your stomach inside out.  Only the kindness of a Russian soldier spares her from being raped and abused to death.  As this soldier takes her under his care, he provides not only the medical attention she so desperately needs, but also the means to travel to Heidelberg and begin her new life.

As Jacob and Sarah meet and eventually fall in love, we, like them, dare to hope for a happy new beginning.  But looming all along is Jacob’s oath, and the impact it will have on his new-found happiness.  To be perfectly honest, oftentimes in a book like this the storyline becomes so drawn-out and heavy-handed that I just stop caring.  But not this time.  I found myself just as anxious as Jacob, just as frustrated as Sarah, just as conflicted, just as anxious.  Gut-wrenching page after page, I found myself alternately enraged with the unfairness and injustice Jacob and Sarah endured, and thrilled and delighted with their resiliency and determination.  And while a truly “happy ending” was impossible, it felt complete.  Finished.  As if a literal and figurative chapter had closed and a new story was ready to be written.

Well played, Martin Fletcher.  Well played.


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