Thursday, June 30, 2016

Make Yourself Comfortable... or Not?

I pulled in to the pick-up parking spot at Walmart, having checked in on my grocery app at home that I was en route. And let me just say, for the record, that although I broke up with Walmart long ago, they've totally wooed me back. Oh, yes, indeed. I'm smitten. In fact, I'm in love and I think everyone else should be too.

I'm going to be the boss of you. Get thyself on the Walmart grocery pick-up bandwagon. If, in fact, your local Walmart has this amazing, life changing service. Because it is indeed, life changing. I can sit in my pajamas (or yoga pants if I dressed up for the day) and order my groceries online. The website saves your favorites, so after the initial order, it's easy breezy lemon squeezy to git 'er done. I pay online and choose a pick-up time for the next day.

Then, I receive a notification just before my time slot to let me know my order is ready. I check-in on my app and the GPS tells Walmart how far out I am (7 minutes, people. I'm 7 minutes from this lap of luxury). I pull in to the designated spot and then it's like magic.  The nicest people on planet earth come to my car window to confirm any substitutions on my order and have me sign off on it. 

For the record, I think they recruit from Santa's elves because these people couldn't be more pleasant and happy and kind-hearted. 

Seriously get outta town for the next thing. They load my groceries in my van. And tips are not allowed. Once that's done, they offer a friendly good-bye and in about three minutes -- voila -- I've "grocery shopped." It's the ultimate life hack. It's changed my quality of life. Now, I truly only see "People of Walmart" on that website where other less fortunate souls post photos from their ventures into the Walmart because they lack my super power of grocery shopping online. 

(For the record, I not only order groceries. Aside from the ridiculously lovely produce that I think they must keep hidden from their store displays, I order hair products and office supplies and all things Walmart. All. The. Things. Online. And loaded into my car by Magical, Friendly Elves).

Anyway, so back to my story. On Monday, I pulled into my spot. I turned off the car and watched for the Elves through my rear view mirror. And watched. And watched. And waited. And glanced at my clock. After about 7 minutes in (I've NEVER waited that long), someone came to my window. She was completely flustered and said there was a computer glitch and they were "gathering my order."

So I nearly died of heat stroke. I live in Texas, y'all. It's June. As in, something akin to the temperature of the sun's surface. 

So I just nearly died. And waited. And sweated. I was so uncomfortable. Then came the ultimate insult. A black SUV with a mama in work out clothes who looked like she actually does, in fact, work out, pulled in next to me. In about 3 nanoseconds, her car was loaded and she was on her way.

For the love, Walmart. Why? Why did you pick on ME? What did I do to deserve this? What did I ever do to you, but brag all about your online grocery greatness on social media (and now my blog) to recruit other shoppers? 

I waited 15 minutes. Y'all. That's 15 minutes of my life I will never get back. And I was hot. And it totally frustrated me that it took me FIFTEEN WHOLE MINUTES to get my groceries into my car.

The next day, I was texting with my Canadian son about his ongoing job search. I realized I had to come clean about the ugly truth of myself. Here's what I sent him:

"Just sitting here with my prayer journal and realizing what an idol I make of being comfortable. In life. In circumstances. In our privileged world, we expect & demand comfort. 

But the gospel tells us this is actually contrary to our calling. Jesus wasn't about comfort. He was about God's glory. So, I'm asking the Lord to help all of us lean in to the discomfort & rest -- even there."

So, just to break it down for you. I am the biggest wimp ever. I am the most privileged, spoiled brat there ever was. The morning after the Great Walmart Incident, in the mirror of the Scripture, I saw myself. And it was not pretty. Not one little bit.

Because I worship my comfort. I worship my ease. I want and desire and seek to have things come easily. And when they don't, I find myself feeling horribly envious and sorta angry about the LuluLemon Mama who whips into her parking spot and gets her groceries in no time flat while I'm just sitting and waiting and dying in the Texas summer afternoon heat. Which makes me feel as though LIFE IS SO UNFAIR.

And it is truly ridiculous. Bless, God should really be rolling his eyes at this wayward daughter of his. Just to make my point perfectly clear, I'll offer more evidence. I've offered Exhibit A. Now, Exhibit B. I've been all Bitter Betty the last 12 weeks because Frontier Communications. 

If you are a fellow victim of Frontier Communications coming in and ruining your Verizon FIOS, I could probably stop right here. If not, here's the low down. My internet and television cable services have been totally whacked out since this transition happened on that fateful April 1st day. No April's Fools Joke here. Spotty service. Or no services. Dozens upon dozens of calls. Tech Repairs being dispatched but not for days on end. Messed up billing. Blah. Blah. Blah.

Ten days ago, Frontier gave me the opportunity to make another new friend on the Great Frontier Call Chain. I knew she was my new BFF when she introduced herself. Her name was Heather. AWESOME! So, Heather and I had a nice long conversation and we laughed and talked and chatted all about the whole long saga. And after I offered her my rant in the most humorous, consensus-building way I could, I joked, "Listen, I know this is a First World Problem. I know I need to talk myself off the ledge. Because there are starving children in Africa, and I'm all 'help me! My On Demand feature is GONE.' I can see myself here. But can you still help me?" 

Except really... it's not a laughing matter. It's not at all a joking matter. That in our instant internet, social media, text messaging, microwave, ultimate convenience world, we have become Idol Worshipers. We have fallen prey to the Culture of Comfort above all else and we bow to our own comfort and ease. We, the followers of Jesus Christ, are such idolaters and we are too busy chasing our own comfort to call a spade a spade. 

We whine and moan and complain about things that interrupt our comfort and ease. And in all that "Woe is me, my Wifi went out!" we are missing the point altogether. We are missing the truth that could free us and set us on a path of true gospel living.

Comfort is not found anywhere in the gospels. It's not found anywhere on a Biblical list of "things to seek and obtain" or "things promised to all believers." Quite the contrary. From beginning to end, the Bible tells us over and over that we are to put our own comfort aside. Examples too numerous to count shout loudly at us that choosing to follow Jesus means chucking our comfort aside. Forsaking it. Forgetting it. Dismissing it.

Jesus himself. God's one and only Son. Part of the Triune God. Became uncomfortable for his Father's sake. He left the ultimate reality of heaven and all of its glory in order to confine his diety into flesh and blood. He did the most uncomfortable things to bring his Father glory. He endured and withstood and suffered and was forsaken in one horribly, earth shattering moment in order to fulfill his purpose. 

He who calls us to follow him made it clear as day what that would entail. What God is asking of us when he calls us to his narrow path is nothing less than what he sent his son to do as well. 

Embrace being uncomfortable. 

Put yourself aside. 

Put others first.

Yearn for things that have yet to come.

Endure the discomfort of restless waiting seasons for promises unfulfilled.

Jesus did all the uncomfortable things. Going hungry. Being tempted. Walking long and dusty roads. Serving others who don't get it. Being challenged and ridiculed and mocked. Coming to offer his very life to save those who plot his death. Asking friends to pray with him in his times of greatest angst only to find those friends asleep. Not once, but three times. Bending low to wash the filthy feet of those who argue over who will be seated in the place of honor in heaven. Even as he had explained his impending agony for their sake.

Following Jesus means dismantling our idol of comfort. It means finding a way to rest in the truth of living as an alien. Living for an invisible kingdom and serving an invisible God. It means doing things that are counter intuitive. It means setting our own desires and ease and comfort aside and saying, "Not my will. But yours."

It means going the way of past heroes of faith. Those who were called to build an ark in an evil generation that had never seen rain. It means returning to the scene of your murderous crime to have an audience with the Pharaoh and be used to help set your people free. It means wandering in the desert sometimes, for forty long years, waiting and waiting for the Promised Land. It means going to the dreaded Nineveh. It means standing firm against a giant. It means choosing to be obedient to pray even if you get a slumber party with lions. It means bowing only to the One True God and being thrown into fiery furnaces. It means being imprisoned, stoned, beaten, shipwrecked and bitten by vipers to spread the gospel story because you were made to SEE when you were blinded by the glory of God on a road to Damascus.

All over the world even today, there are great heroes of faith who truly get that living out the gospel means forgetting all about comfort. And they would be baffled by our laziness and lack of fortitude here in the Western Church as we worship at the feet of comfort over obedience. 

Because they gather to worship Jesus in underground churches at the threat of death. They memorize Scriptures because owning a Bible is forbidden. They exist in refugee camps while terrorists and extremists override any ounce of freedom or comfort they ever knew.  

They endure. They live in conditions lacking in any sense of "comfort", with their eyes clearly set on the Everlasting kingdom to come. They put one foot in front of the other, day after day, knowing that their "our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all" (2 Corinthians 4:17).

And for the record, when they think of their momentary troubles it has nothing to do with how slow the wifi is, whether or not their cable's On Demand feature is working or how long they have to wait for their groceries to be loaded in their car. Their momentary troubles have nothing to do with whether they lack the funds to go on a vacation like everyone else who is posting on Facebook. And their momentary troubles do not include whether they have a cute wardrobe, perfect hair and a house that looks like Fixer Upper.

While we bow to the idol of comfort, they cry out in surrender and worship to the glory of a God whom they serve and trust despite the threat of violence and the reality of suffering. And like Paul, they do it gladly, for the sake of the gospel. 

Because their affections are properly ordered. They value what is most valuable, and it has nothing to do with how quickly or easily they can access life's amenities and luxuries. They esteem Jesus, the suffering Savior, above how smoothly their day is going.

They live by Matthew 10:28-30:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Jesus promises rest. Not ease or comfort. He promises that the yoke of salvation frees us from the idol worship of comfort. He offers us the great exchange of grace to cover all sins and the gift of adoption as sons for our earthly troubles and distractions. He says it is all worth it. 

Being uncomfortable here and now for the glory of eternity. It's quite a deal. To say yes to being an alien and stranger in this world as we fix our eyes on Jesus and do whatever he calls us to do.

Destroying any pursuit of comfort for the pursuit of obedience.

For example, choosing to love loosely as you foster a child who needs you, although it will bring great discomfort and will feel bittersweet.

Loving generously, even if its not reciprocated by your wayward teen or difficult family member.

Forgiving often because you were forgiven ultimately, even though that co-worker is really hard to work with.

Extending grace to those who least deserve it, because you were granted the grace of the Savior. When the cashier is rude. The grocery pick-up is slow. The customer service rep isn't helpful.

Going wherever Jesus calls. Surrendering your dreams and ideas and hopes for the sake of the immeasurably more that a limitless God might ask of you. Being still and waiting when it feels so ill fitting. Because you choose to believe that He acts on behalf on those who wait for him. Living counter culturally, no matter what. 

Saying to yourself, day after day -- following this Jesus will include discomfort. And I can stomach that. Because He is far more valuable and treasured and cherished than any ounce of comfort I might find. 

Holiness over comfort.

It's choosing to be okay with not making yourself at home here and now because you will be making yourself at home then and forever. 

Smashing the idol of ease, moment by moment, for the pathway of Jesus. Knowing that it will be worth it when you see him face-to-face and he says, "Well done. Good and faithful servant." 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

My M.O.S.S. Decree (Moms of Senior Students)

Dear Self,

For the love, woman. Get a hold of yourself! Get a grip. Oh yes. Here you are. Your teeny tiny first born baby is officially a senior in high school. And in the last few months, you've used about every cliche in the book to describe this epiphany approximately five thousand times. 

"Time flies!"

"How can this be? This can't be right."

"But I blinked and now he's a senior."

Yeah, yeah, yeah. We get it. You are in a bit of denial here about the truth. It seems unreal. You are suddenly recalling every sweet older mother who ever told you to enjoy them because it goes so quickly. And you are feeling rather red faced about how you secretly rolled your eyes at them.

Because you realize that they were right. They were absolutely right. And not only that, you find yourself repeating the same phrases to your sister-in-law and the young moms at church and  school. Thankfully, you have refrained from repeating them to the younger mom in the grocery check-out line. At least so far. It's just a matter of time.

Okay. Listen, here's the deal. It is true. Because here's the facts. About seventeen-and-a-half years ago, you had a baby. The year was 1999. At one point, you calculated which year he would graduate. 

And it was June 2017. 

As in, less than one year from now. 

So, yes. Here you are. You are officially a M.O.S.S. Which means a Mom Of Senior Student.

So, here you are writing a decree to yourself. This blog post serves as your grand proclamation. Publicly writing a letter to yourself. So that you can go back and reread it as many times as necessary. And maybe, just maybe, it might prove useful to another M.O.S.S. 

First of all, let's begin with addressing the past. Suck it up, buttercup. Quit lamenting this. Really. Dry it up. You have a choice to make. You can either spend this season crying over the loss of time or considering regrets or feeling sorry for yourself or wondering what in the world you are going to do when he goes off to college. (News flash-- you get to do this two more times). 

In other words, you can WASTE this precious season trying to wish it away... OR, you can get your game face on and embrace it. 

Embrace it. Here you are. You guys made it this far. And for that, you should be thankful. Don't take for granted that you have this privilege. Of God entrusting you with this child who is growing up into a fine young man. Be thankful! Be thankful for his good health. Be thankful for his intellect and abilities. Be thankful for the very mere fact that your son is indeed a senior.

When you think back over all the days that led you here, quit feeling sad and wanting to go back. I mean, really. Would you want to do it all over again? When your mind wanders to that darling little chubby faced toddler, just re-frame those memories. Instead of feeling sad, feel thankful. CHOOSE THANKFULNESS. Be thankful you survived the Great Angst. That night you literally unraveled in tears because you didn't know whether or not to encourage the use of a pacifier. 

Oh, yes. It felt life or death. It felt like the future of all humanity was riding on that decision.

You might want to choose to laugh at your younger self.

Be thankful that you all survived reflux and projectile vomiting. And separation anxiety. See? Those older ladies were right. It didn't last forever. See now nicely he goes into a classroom now without you. 

Be thankful at how he overcame some of those elementary struggles and pitfalls. Playground politics. His hatred for reading. The nightly tears over reading homework all the live-long kindergarten year. You had even forgotten about that massive struggle until you walked into his room the other day and he was reading a big fat novel. It sparked that memory and you both had a good laugh over it, although he had no recollection of the struggle that was so very real for a good ten months.

Be thankful, by the way, that there are so many of those early struggles of which he has no memory. That's God's grace. Becoming a big brother and learning to share the attention. Oh, the mommy guilt you heaped on yourself. And just look. He does not recall it one single bit. 

Indeed, feel free to look back. Remember it all well. Recall all the ups and all the downs. But not with a sense of wishing this season away. Quite the contrary. Look back and feel thankful. For all the battles won. All the battles endured. Even the battles lost. Be thankful that God has brought you this far. Embrace every bit of it as just part of the journey. It is all part of the story.

The story of your now senior. The story of you. The story of your family. And the story of God's faithfulness. 

Now that this little letter to yourself has addressed "re-framing" the past, let's take a second to consider the present.

This time is precious. This is a time like no other. This is a magical time of soaking in every second with your son as he begins to step one foot into his future while keeping one foot in his incredible last year of high school. Don't you remember? Don't you recall the way you hounded your parents to give permission for every "last time" event in which you wanted to participate? 

"But Dad, it's the last time that it'll be the first home game for football!"

"But Dad, it's the last time for me to go with my friends to plan out our LAST EVER prom!"

Remember how your dad firmly said, "If you start one more plea with 'but it's the last time', then it'll be the last time I ever say yes."

Um, yeah. Remember milking every last opportunity as if your life depended on it?

Just let him. Let him enjoy all these milestones that he has earned. Let him enjoy these friendships that have been so important and that will soon change. Let him make all the memories. Let him celebrate all that he has accomplished. 

Find every moment you can to be present with him and to have the quick conversations. To steal him away for a Sonic drink. To sit and listen to him recount his day as he plops on the couch after school. Even if he is nasty sweaty from soccer and he is sitting on your furniture.

Let him.

Dream with him in this unique transition year. Host the friends. Throw the party. Take the pictures. Have the fun.

And be intentional. Be intentional to put down the phone. To create a calendar in this season with margins. Be intentional to say no to lots of other things so that you have the margins to say yes to your family. Be intentional to spend time as a family. To linger over dinner. To make the dinner that you can linger over. Be intentional to seize the tiny moments. Have the freedom in the task list to assist where needed with this son who is a senior. Make this year a priority when it comes to the things you've thought of doing with him and for him. 

Paint the senior parking spot. In August. In Texas. 

Do the senior photos. And enjoy them.

Have mother-son dates. However brief or infrequent.

Tap on his door to go sit on his bed at the end of the day to check in.

Plan times as a family. And help him plan times with his friends.

Take the college visit trips. (Who are we kidding? The kid bleeds green and gold, but go look at other colleges anyway).

Do the things you may not love to do. Like watching Manchester United games on the "tellie."

Spontaneous 11:00 pm trips for Honey Butter Chicken biscuits at Whataburger. You don't have to eat one, just go along for the ride.

Attend all the soccer games. Cheer loudly. 

Pray for him and with him and over him.

Plot the family celebrations around graduation to really mark the moment.

Stop and plan and plot and make lists. Keep it simple, but be intentional. This is a special season. Soak it all in. Gather with other M.O.S.S. to build a village and pray and help each other through this. Take the photos to mark the little moments. Even when he balks. Steal the hug. Let him know you're proud and you believe in him.

And then set your eyes on the future. With great hope and anticipation and joy.

Yes, joy.

Here's the kicker. 

This is actually not the end. 

I know, I know. For over 17 years, you've had this mental image of parenting for 18 years and then it just being over. You lay awake at night wondering if you've taught all the things, given all the lessons.

Can he really survive at college knowing only how to cook ramen noodles, pizza rolls and your homemade chicken and dumplings?

Did you teach him enough about how to study hard and balance that with making memories?

Have you commended Jesus to him enough and showed him joy in the gospel? Have you instilled a strong enough spiritual foundation?

Because the sand is flying through the hourglass. The clock will strike midnight! 

Um, no. Listen, self. Your days of mothering are oh-so-far from over. You will always be the mom. You actually will NOT send him on his merry way next August and wash your hands of all things motherly. It will not be a moment of: Be a mom and raise a kid? Check. DONE.

No, you will always be his mom. So, don't have this sense of dread like it's all coming to an end. Yes. Some things will change. You won't be in the know on his day-to-day schedule like you are now. You won't see him as often. You won't be in the loop as you are now.

But you will always be his mom. He will always need you, although those needs might change. He will come home. He will rely on you and call on you. You will still aggravate each other at times. And you will still worry. Your mother's heart will always wrestle with fears and anxiety that you have to run to the Father in prayer to help you settle.

Instead of dreading the future like it's some black void of nothingness where you will be useless to your son, look forward to the future. Your relationship will change. As it was meant to be. But as you've always told him: he will always be your baby. 

Consider all the exciting things to come. Know that great, great things lie ahead of him. And ahead of you. Know that all these years of planting seeds and correcting and guiding and coaching are going to bring fruit. The harvest lies ahead. 

You will revel in such ridiculously wonderful things like when he discovers God's call on his life and begins his profession. When he builds his own family. When he realizes that some lesson you taught way back when actually had merit. (Although he may not utter the words that you were right).

Be the woman who can laugh at the days to come (Proverbs 31:25). Be the mom on her knees always, thanking God for this son he has loaned you. Releasing him to God's big plans for him. Trusting God to continue to guide you as he has these first 17 years. Be the mom who is steadfast in prayer. Who is generous with love and grace. Who laughs readily. And often. Who listens well. And celebrates and rejoices in every season.

Listen, you. Be the woman who knows that the Lord is the God who was, who is and who always will be. Let him be Lord of the past. Look to him to be Lord of this season. And trust him to be Lord of the future.

Got it, self? Find every last bit of joy in this senior year. Every day, be thankful for all that has been. Be present in every moment that is. And be excited for every moment to come.

Alright. Now, little M.O.S.S. self. Let's do this!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Baylor and Stanford: We are Missing the Point

Just a month ago, I sat at Baylor graduation, cheering on our "Canadian son" as he earned his degree in Engineering. It has been such a privilege to be Ben's surrogate parents while he's been in Texas for college, and he has had an amazing experience at Baylor. 

The day after graduation, we toured the campus with his family and walked by the home of the president. I vividly remember making the off hand comment that under Starr's leadership, it seems Baylor has seen a lot of good things happen.

Within 10 days, I read this blog post from a rape victim at Baylor.  She tells her own story of meeting with and communicating with Ken Starr regarding her own case and how he said he could do nothing, according to university policy.

Suddenly confronted with a different perspective, I have been quite confused over these last few weeks. The endless debates and blog posts and sudden experts and newspaper articles and ads. The social media opinions and Twitter wars. The mud slinging and the smug reactions.

I've stayed silent because I just couldn't find the words. Honestly, I also never see the merit in adding my voice to the loud grumbles of debate unless I have something new to add to the conversation.

As I've pondered over this situation, let me say this. The issue of rape is not new to me. As you may recall, my dear friend offered her own story of being raped at college when she was a guest blogger for me last November. 

I've known that Baylor was beefing up their counseling services over the last few years. I've know that even prior to all this media attention, Baylor had a speaker share her rape story at chapel, with the intent to crack open the conversation and stop the silence. The hope was to talk about prevention and standing up for the victim. Even if you are a friend of the perpetrator. Counselors were manning the exits to receive those whose own stories reflected the chapel speaker's story. And I know that there were those who came forward as victims, friends of victims or even friends of the rapists who had chosen silence.

In the light of all this publicity, I've had so many conflicting feelings about Baylor. And then the Standford case hit the news.

I finally found some words on Saturday and posted this on Facebook:

On Baylor, as a Baylor alum: My years at Baylor were precious to me as my Baylor story is one of finding safe haven and home during a tumultuous time in my personal life. I've felt sick to know that victims have the opposite Baylor story. May they find hope and a tiny measure of healing knowing that light IS at long last shining into the darkness of silence. Let's rise up, Baylor nation...Let's throw all we can at becoming the place where NO ONE is silenced, shamed or victimized. Let's quit pointing fingers and start offering a warm embrace to those who deserve to know they are heard. They are loved. They are honored as we work to right what was wrong. This is not about football. This is about the value of young women. #Baylor #sicem

Here's what I want to say. Here's what I want every single reader to really grasp.

In all the media circus and attention, we are missing the point. 

This is not about Baylor. Or our reputation among others or our sense of Baylor pride. This is not about Stanford. This is not about Ken Starr or Art Briles. It's not about football or champion collegiate swimmers. 

And for the love of any ounce of justice here, this is not about debating who knew what when.

All that conversation accomplishes is perpetuating the he said/she said problem that seems to be at the heart of every rape case from the very beginning. 

No, dear readers, this is not about dissecting the time line of each case.

This is about a rape culture. This is about each and every one of us. All of us who live in a society where we debate things like whether the victim was to blame because she was drunk. Or, whether the college administration acted properly or the NCAA should give out the death penalty.

And in such conversations, we miss the point completely. Because we miss what is most important.

And that is the victim.

Finally, Joe Biden offered such insight and compassion and truly, the words I wish I had written, when he wrote this letter to the Stanford victim. At last, the point of all this uproar was seen, heard and addressed.

The point in all of this is the young women. The point in all of this is that we have to own, as a culture, that we fail young women, not once but twice, when we send them off to college where young men are not taught to properly respect and value a young lady. And then, we react by debating the guilty party and the particulars, instead of responding to the individual pain and creating solutions to stop the madness.

The conversation should be laser focused on how to change the statistic that one in four (or one in five, depending on the source) women will be sexually assaulted. That number should be the outrage.

We need to quit wasting our breath and our energy debating about the university, the sports program, the administration -- the anything -- BUT the victim and how we help her and prevent others from becoming victims.

We need to be rallying every ounce of breath and energy behind conversations about her well-being, her recovery, her worth and her value. And we need to be creating prevention programs that work. We need to be discussing how to stop the "boys will be boys" mentality. We need to be equipping parents to instill a deep sense of respect for others. 

We need to be considering how to properly celebrate and applaud what is truly most valuable in a young man. It is undeniably his character and not his athletic contributions. Or at least, it should be. I'm afraid our celebrity worship culture is part of the problem here.

We need to be training our youth, from an early age, how to look out for others. How to right wrongs. How to stand up for what is right even if you stand alone. We need to empower those who know or suspect a problem in a young man to actually come forward and speak out. 

We need to rush to the aid and healing of the ones who are the real story here. And that is the beautiful, precious young women. They deserve our attention. They deserve our conversation. They deserve our listening ear, because I know they all have something to say. They all have lessons to offer us that we need to learn. If we will only turn our heads from the white noise and focus in on their voices instead.

If you want to assemble an incredibly productive and educated task force to address this problem, then gather the victims. Let them speak into where the failures occurred and what needs to change. They actually know better than anyone else. And I'd venture to guess that being part of keeping even one other woman from having their pain would be quite empowering for them. It would give them an avenue to bring purpose to all they have lost. After all, they are unfortunately, the true experts to every facet of this issue.

This rape culture is not a Baylor University problem. Or a Standford problem. Or even a college problem. 

This is happening in high schools too. It's not just among teenagers. You even see it on the news when an adult teacher is charged with an inappropriate relationship with a student.

At this point, I'm honestly sick of seeing some guy's photo. I'm tired of hearing how Baylor is awful. Or how Ken Starr deserves or doesn't deserve a full page ad. How Art Briles is the scapegoat or how some sick dad cannot hold his son responsible for his despicable actions.

We are standing around arguing over which life guard was supposed to be on duty. And all the while, someone is drowning.

It's all a distraction to the ones who actually deserve our attention.

The young women. The ones whose own brokenness cries out for something to be done. For initiatives to be formed. For safety to be a priority. For responses to be compassionate and quick and loving and healing. For the person to matter more than the sports record.

Listen, she is screaming in a room and not being heard. She needs us to be looking her straight in the eyes, with great kindness.

She needs us to say, as individuals and as a culture, that we see YOU. We hear YOU. 

YOU are what matters. YOU are what is paramount to any other debate or conversation.

What are we going to do for YOU? What are we going to do to stop others from having your same story?

You are a dear, darling, precious and valuable treasure. And your story matters.

YOU are seen. 

And YOU have our full attention.   

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Big News, Big Dreams and a Bigger God

My word for the year is actually two words -- dream BIG. Countless times this year, the following verse has crossed my path:

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.
Ephesians 3:20

So, I've hand lettered this verse on my kitchen chalkboard to remind me multiple times a day what this year is about for me. You see, at first, I thought it was about dreaming all my dreams and then God showing up to make them come true.

Uh, no. Not at all.

The truth that God has made very clear to me is this. I am to focus continually and intentionally this year on asking him to give me a bigger understanding about how limitless he is. 

I am to concentrate on thinking the truest thoughts of who he is and being filled with a sense of wonder about the miracle of the gospel.  

I am to surrender my thoughts, ideas and dreams to him, exchanging them instead for a deep sense of trust in whatever he has for me. I am to hand him what I have in mind and rest in a deeper understanding and confidence in who he is.

And so, I have dug deeper. Prayed more. Refocused my thoughts over and over and over.

A funny thing has happened along the way. 

The more limitless and grand and wonderful that God is to me, the more I feel called to be brave and to jump into endeavors that have felt like too much to me.

The truth is that they are too much for me.

But they aren't too much for a God who is both sovereign and personal. He is a God who is simultaneously omnipotent and intimate in the way he loves us enough to invite each of us in to his plans.

Today, I am taking a jump. It's a leap that has felt scary, thrilling, exciting, surreal and awe inspiring.

Today, I publicly announce that I have a book. Yes. I have a book with my name on the cover and you can buy it.

It's not the book that I've avoided because I couldn't find words and telling my story or any other feels daunting. 

It's actually a Scripture coloring book, filled with 50 of my hand-drawn Scripture illustrations. It's been a deeply personal project. A labor of love. And a step that I am beyond confident is exactly what I'm supposed to being doing right now.

This book has a story all its own that began 38 years ago, when I was a little 7-year-old girl. An avid reader, I began to dream of becoming an author and illustrator. From an early age, I found escape and solace in creative outlets, filling sketch books with doodles and writing stories in my head. Creativity has always been the language of my soul.

Two years later, I wrote my first “book” when my Dad was diagnosed with cancer. As he recovered from surgery to successfully remove the cancer, I was too young to visit him in the hospital. So, I began creating daily pages of illustrations and poems to send him. I eventually put my creations together in a three-ring binder that my Dad treasured.

Life continued, and my dream was nearly forgotten while I became busy with the tasks of growing up. 

Then came December 22, 1988. I've learned, like many of you, that sometimes a life-changing event occurs and its impact is so far reaching that you cannot grasp it until it is viewed in hindsight. On that rainy day, another surgery was scheduled to remove another cancer. The prognosis for Dad was good. But, as the surgeon began his work, he found previously undetected liver cancer. We were told three to six months. I was 17 and a senior in high school. I felt numb as I left the hospital to drive home. Suddenly, I was startled to see the most brilliant rainbow spanning the sky. A very certain thought filled my mind – that God would see me through this and would never leave me.

As Dad fought another battle with cancer, I created more drawings to encourage him. This time, I illustrated Bible verses. Daily at first, I would bring a page for Dad that he would tape to his hospital wall in a collection that filled the room. When I left for college, I mailed a page each week while my Dad’s battle continued. 

On May 14, 1990, my Dad went home to be with Jesus. I added the second pile of drawings to the original three ring binder. 

As I have walked through days of grief, I often have thought about writing my story. I even mentally titled the book The Promising Rainbow as a nod to that moment when I felt God’s presence so profoundly. 

This book of Scripture illustrations is the full circle of hand-drawn pictures from daughter to father. It’s the fruition of the seeds planted from tiny, uncertain offerings in my effort to give back to the Dad who had given me so much. 

This book is a baby step to tell the story of the Heavenly Father who gave his all to make us his children.  He is the Father who paints his promises in the stormiest of skies and pours out grace upon grace.

As I edited and refined and perfected the designs for this book, I prayed for wisdom about the whole project. And it blows my mind where God has led me with this book.

This isn't just a book for you to enjoy. It's a book that is my come back story. It's a project to redeem and buy back what cancer stole from me -- all the things that I allowed to define and distract me from all the things God intended for me. I'm done being defeated by it. I'm proclaiming the goodness that comes even from loss.

So I'm going to use this book for others who are battling cancer. This book is a buy one/give one product. For every book purchased through my Etsy shop using this link, I will give a copy of the book to someone who is fighting cancer.  If you purchase the book on  Amazon, I will also give a copy to a cancer patient if you contact me with the confirmation of your book order. 

Listen, for everyone who has a dream buried in doubt and unbelief, I'm telling you to be brave. I'm asking you to go for it. Join me in just taking a step or a leap or a big giant jump. Seek with all your heart to think and believe the truest things about God.

Our God is crazy-big and much more limitless than the boxes we create that constrain him.

Let's blow those boxes up. Let's blow away our doubts and excuses and just do the things that we cannot shake from our minds.

That's what this book is all about for me. 

And I'm giggling at the next things. 

Oh, friends. This book is just the very beginning and the first step. I'm already working on the next project. And, I've got a sketch book that I'm doodling in to flesh out a really "NO WAY" idea. I'm asking my "ALWAYS A WAY" God to lead me wherever he wants.

Won't you join me in throwing off the obstacles and hindrances and just running? Let's run our races with abandon, using all our talents, time and energy on this earth for the kingdom's sake.

May we dare to color outside the lines.

Photo credit: Kaitlin Simmons of Zac and Kaitlin Photography

Thursday, May 26, 2016

If Not, Would I Still Think God is Good?

"I love you!" I shouted at him as he left.

"I love you, too!" he answered, as always.

"Drive safely!" I added -- also part of our regular script -- just as the door slammed shut. I give the quick command for safety as if it would somehow meld into a force field protecting my teenage driver. I know it seems ridiculous, but I compulsively add the desire for safety every single time he leaves.

It was a split second. I mean, truly, only a split second. A hesitation in my spirit that compelled me to jump up and run into the driveway to tell him not to go. It was so quickly dismissed that I didn't even remember it until about fifteen minutes later.

When my phone rang.

And I knew. I knew when I saw my son's name on the incoming call. I knew that this was the call no mama wants to receive.

"Mom, I've been in a wreck," his voice was calm. Slightly agitated, but calm. "I'm okay. But I think the car is totaled."

"But you're okay? You're sure you're okay?" I asked, hoping I was somehow coming off as calm as he was. 

He answered in the affirmative again and then told me which intersection I would find him. I told him I was on my way. 

As I raced out the door, I hollered back directions to my daughter to call her Daddy and give him the news, quickly reassuring her that her brother was okay.

I grabbed my keys off the hook, got in the van and started the car. And then sat in utter confusion. 

Where is Main Street? How do I get to Main Street? 

I've only lived in the area for over 20 years. And my mind could not compute where Main Street might be or how to get there. During the ten minute drive, I continually corrected my route, realizing I truly was beyond logical thinking. Repeatedly, I asked the Lord for protection for my son and for there to be people who would put him at ease until I could get there. Like some broken record, I said it over and over.

The late May day was a beautiful mild spring day, unusual for Texas. A gentle breeze swayed the trees and the promise of better things was held in the flowers blooming in yards and street medians. It should have been a good day. It should have been a relaxing, sipping sweet tea on the porch kind of day.

But it wasn't. And the calm from my son's voice belied the scene I witnessed as I pulled up to the wreck. Nothing could have prepared me for it. It was the sort of horrific scene on the side of the road that makes you gasp.

Except my son was in the middle of it. There. Standing, talking to a police officer. In the middle of over a dozen emergency personnel working the scene. With three fire trucks, an ambulance and multiple police cars. And there was my son's car, just behind a small SUV that sat on the driver's side.

I was looking at the undercarriage of a small SUV. The other car had rolled to the driver side.

I could not make sense of what I was seeing. I uttered a word I would never say in church. And threw my van into park as I sprinted toward my son.

The only thoughts I had were, "Dear God. What has happened here? What trauma has my son just seen and been a part of? Are there people trapped in that car? Did everyone live?"

I grabbed him in a tight hug and then pushed him out in from me so I could look him over, head to toe. Just like the first time I ever held him and counted his fingers and toes.

Not a scratch. Not a wound. Not a mark to be found on this treasure of mine.

"Are they okay? Is everyone out?" I asked the police. I was holding my breath and deeply exhaled when the officer said it was only the driver and she was safe and unharmed.

It was unfathomable to me. This young man who will always be my baby. In the middle of the chaos. Standing strong and sure, answering every question by the officer. And reassuring me. Telling ME it was okay.

My 17 year old. The teenager on his way for a soccer workout. He was being the adult.
You can officially fire me now as the Mom. 

Because my son was far more composed than I was. He grabbed me close and held me by his side for a moment, sensing my need to be propped up. I was strengthened by his tight hold and it was enough to kick me into gear. I began giving direction to clear out his car of all belongings, as I called my husband and then stopped to talk to the firefighters and police to try to sort out what had happened.

My son was north bound on a green light. The other driver was southbound, turning left in the intersection at a flashing yellow arrow. She failed to yield. And my son couldn't brake fast enough to avoid the impact. He had the where-with-all to think, "if I can slow down enough, maybe I will just clip it on my passenger side." I could see the skid marks on the road where he tried to break. His airbag deployed. He later told me that he left the car running, threw it in park and then ran to the overturned SUV. He and a few bystanders tried to free the other driver. But they couldn't get to her. By then, she had huddled into a sitting position on the driver window, which was on the ground. Her vehicle rested inches from the curb. We wonder what might have happened if the car had smashed into the curb on that driver's side where she sat. The fire fighters had to break out her back window for her to climb out.


Without a scratch.

Not a mark on her either.

The paramedic turned to me and looked me in the eye to tell me, "M'am, you've raised a very polite young man. He handled everything beautifully."

Oh, yes. I take full responsibility. The mom who couldn't remember how to drive to Main Street, uttered a cuss word repeatedly and then needed consoling by my teenage son who had just been in a car accident.

Why yes. I'm a rock star. I take full credit! He obviously gets his calm demeanor from his frenzied mother.

The whole situation still feels surreal. Two days later, I just cannot compute it. So many thoughts are vying for my attention.

The hardest one is that I could have lost him.

What if the call came from a police officer or emergency personnel because my son couldn't call? What if he had been seriously injured? What if the other driver had been? What if the other car had small children or babies in it and someone lost their life? And what if my son had seen that or even been the responsible party in the accident?

What if?

If not a good outcome, would I still think God is good? That is the question that is haunting me. Would I still settle in to this glorious feeling of gratitude that God is in control? Would I still look heavenward and proclaim his sovereignty? 

What if? 

I would like to think that I would still turn my eyes upward to my Father. I would like to think that I would still proclaim him good even if life was not. I would like to think I would still choose faith. It's easy for me to contemplate this situation because I have the luxury to do so. Sitting from a place of a good outcome. Holding my son near me. While some of you long for such a thing.

I cannot fathom. I cannot imagine how you feel or how you put one foot in front of the other, when stuck in the weighty quicksand of grief. 

I feel a renewed sense of responsibility to never take for granted the luxuries that I have. 

That night, I wanted to sit in a tight little circle, with each of my three children tucked safely under my arms and then refuse to ever let them go. Anywhere. Ever again.

I woke up the next day, thankful. In the aftermath of what could have been a very different outcome, I am feeling the inexpressible joy of gratitude. For things that I had pretty much ignored in my usual bustle of life. Like having him here to cook for, clean up after and assist with all manner of needs.

It's so cliche. How life is fragile and fleeting. As I wonder if I would still think God good if he had chosen a different outcome. 

I am thankful that we had the recall on the airbag fixed just a few months prior. And that the airbag worked. I am thankful that the other driver was safe and unharmed. I am thankful for the kind and friendly and amazing emergency personnel. I am thankful that no one was in front of me every time I course-corrected on the drive to the accident scene. I am thankful for bystanders who rallied with my son to try to help. 

I am just thankful.

And as I went into his room to wake him the day after, I was thankful. For the luxury that it is. To wake my son up for another day. 

I uttered the millionth prayer of gratitude.

"Thank you for sparing my son, Lord. Thank you for preserving his life. Thank you for every time you prompt me to pray for my children's protection."

Then it hit me.

God spared my son. 

He did not have to. He did not owe that to me. I did nothing to deserve such a marvelous display of mercy. I did nothing to deserve the miracle.

And this Father who spared my son did more for me than he did for himself.

Because he did not spare HIS son. He did not spare his only son because he wanted to make us his children.

What kind of love does that? What kind of Father is this? Who gave up his own son for me? For you? 

And then he pours out grace upon grace.

To protect my son and perform a miracle on a regular day in May.