Love Stops Short

I love to love. The feeling I get when that deep seated emotion rises to the surface of my being and encapsulates me in its powerful, unharnessed wave, pulling me in and pushing me out. It lingers, saturating the shoreline for a brief moment before it is sucked back in and its strength renewed. Love is powerful. It has a source. It has boundaries, and it can be extinguished. Without a doubt, love is a complicated thing.
Continue reading

Once Upon a Time…

FullSizeRender (5)Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, a doe-eyed baby girl kissed with dimples and sprinkled with heavenly prayers was placed in the arms of two naïve “kids”. They loved one another and this princess with every ounce of their being, but had no idea just how much this princess would teach them about life, love, and happiness. Today, twenty-one years later, they continue to find themselves completely honored by the privilege and gift of her in their lives.

You see, this is not just any ordinary princess dressed in pink and donning a crown; this one has no need for such grand flare and dismisses such things as “silly”. She’s a blue jeans kind of princess who unknowingly leaves behind glittery sparkles wherever she goes. Her smile alone lights up an entire room and is more than contagious; it has the ability to lower guards and invite others into friendship because somehow it communicates what words struggle to do and accepts others no matter what. It is grace-filled and loving. IMG_3766

As you might expect, this princess is both witty and sassy. She is strong and speaks her mind–fully unaware that the Truth that lives within her is a light to others. Her unique perspective is a breath of fresh air because although she speaks her mind, she doesn’t realize the depth her words hold. In the chaos, in the mundane, where most others stop at the surface, she dives deeper searching for meaning and soul. She has a desperate need to know and to be known. She is respectful and honoring to others for who they are and where they are without judgement.

Her creativeness is abstract, witty, and innocent, which reflects the jazzy rhythm of her heart and the way in which she takes on each and every day. She goes with the flow, holds no agenda, and yet lays her head down each night completely filled–sometimes filled with happiness, while other times overwhelmed by the injustices and pain surrounding her. She longs to do and be more. She is discontent to leave things as they are and knows she has a responsibility to be part of the solution–if she, if we, only knew what that was. She wears her heart on her sleeve.

FullSizeRender (12)Her parents were convinced early on that she was given an extra scoop of emotion because her passion is truly unmatched. Unmatched! Sadly—naively– her parents used to want to harness some of her wildness—often mimicking recklessness– tame it, make it more presentable to the world, help her not to feel so deeply that at times she was incapacitated. The thing is, this princess is a warrior child and even in the moments where she was brokenhearted, her heart was also constructing a plan for how to take action. She prays, writes, yells, cries–and at the end–she picks herself up and warriors on.

You see, her now middle-aged parents dreamed of their princess from the moment they knew she would soon enter the world and be their responsibility. They dreamed of lazy summer days picking flowers. They dreamed of cuddles on the couch reading Jane Austin or learning side-by-side in whatever life threw their way. They pictured a delicate, well-behaved princess dressed in pink and fitting into their well-crafted dreams for her–for them. They knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but they believed the Son would still shine over them in the difficult times.

Never in their wildest dreams did they envision the hurricane that stormed into their lives 21 years ago, forever altering their lives, forever etching memories–some being hilarious–such as the time she clung to a scantily dressed, headless mannequin in the window of Victoria’s Secret screaming at the top of her lungs that *this* was her mother, which alarmingly alerted all strangers and security in the mall to believe, briefly, that her “real” mother was a child abductor as she tried prying her delightful 3-year-old from the bare leg. (this was not funny at the time)

While some memories are hilarious, others have left chinks in Princess’ armor, which cannot be buffed out, nor does she want them to be because they serve as a reminder of where she has been, what she has learned and why she is loveable as she is. Her value and worth have nothing to do with those chinks, but everything to do with the hand of the One who held her through each and every trial, the One who forgives and gives grace, the One who lavishes love without regret or the expectation of repayment. Her scars now serve as a well-worn path to the rugged cross where she is reminded that she was born for so much more than all of this—that this life is temporary—and that she is still the object of His affection no matter what she does. She is His. In these great battles, she didn’t realize that she was teaching her parents to trust God, rely on Him to protect and guide her.

IMG_3906Those initial dreams the princess’ parents had, had been incomplete, lacking the depth and life that princess has added in an array of unexpected ways. The couple was blissfully naive. No one dreams of fighting, tears, heartache, death…and yet, the Son still shines, love lives on–strengthening, evolving, with each new lesson.

It’s the princess’ twenty-first birthday today, a day that floods her parent’s minds with memories of old and dreams for the future. Ultimately, it’s a day that fills their hearts with so, so much gratitude for the gift of her–and all, all that she is to them, to the world. She probably has no idea the impact she makes when she walks into a room let alone how she has literally made her parents’ lives richer, fuller, happier. She probably has no idea that she has taught them to love more.

I know it’s her birthday, but I kind of feel like it’s mine because without a doubt, we were given one of the greatest gifts in all the world the day she was placed in our arms. Wishing you the happiest of all birthdays Dear Abigail. I love you with all I am and all I ever hope to be.

MoomaFullSizeRender (7)


Wasted No More

IMG_3712The truth is the majority of people are wasting their lives. Admittedly, I’ve wasted a good portion of mine. Because of pride; and some out of ignorance. Some spend their entire lives seeking fulfillment or happiness and though they find it in an array of areas, it is fleeting. Always. And when joy fades, the search begins all over again, but this time with a chink in our armor that reminds us that we failed somehow, somewhere. Sometimes this takes a toll on our identity because we no longer know exactly where we fit or what we need (or should) be doing; we just know it’s something beyond us.

We desire to be a part of a bigger, grander plan. It’s not that we think we have to do big things, but we want to be a part of something. We want to belong. We want to know our lives account for something beyond our expiration date.

Today marks the sixth year since my Daddy entered Heaven’s gates, the sixth year since he ran into the loving, outstretched arms of his Heavenly Father, the sixth year since he last felt pain, cried, worried, planned, dreamt…. It’s been six years—and not a single day has passed that I do not see his crooked smile in my mind’s eye or hear his voice encouraging me to keep going, to keep perspective when life feels so chaotic, uncertain, or overwhelming. Sometimes I still think I smell his aftershave or feel his rough and calloused hand in mine. I think it’s because I want to more than me losing my mind. I’m easily swept up in the memories of him and have lost moments of time to grief and tears—sometimes unexpectedly. I miss him Every. Single. Day. And every single day I think about both what his life and his death has taught me.

My dad died a young man; he was only 61! He did not get to see many of his “fifth quarter” hopes, dreams, and plans come to fruition. And boy, did he have a great retirement planned—He talked about it for years; literally years. He financially planned, ravenously read about various places and things he hoped to go and do…. To say, “he was giddy with anticipation” is a gross understatement because I’m pretty sure I caught him drooling a time or two when he’d share his next great idea! And although he was filled with so much joy in his dreaming and scheming, he was also counting down the days until its reality. I can still see the way his pale blue eyes danced as he dreamt out loud to anyone willing to listen.

calf-362170_960_720My Dad was a man who lived humbly. He was a dairy farmer for more than half of his life, then a custodian. He didn’t care about worldly possessions, but the ones he had he counted as blessings…gifts from the Lord and would have readily given them up to help someone in need. To the world looking in, he would appear to be a regular Joe, a man who perhaps didn’t achieve as the world pressures. He did not chase after the mighty dollar; he did not seek after prestigious positions, or dress to impress. He was meek, dedicated to his work, devoted to his family and friends and eagerly looked forward to helping others. He longed for little and gave everything. He was humble. He was sacrificial. He was fulfilled. He did not live to the world’s standards and it didn’t bother him for he did not strive to look like the world.

Over the course of his last few years, it was not uncommon for him to crave communion with Christ. He longed to be in His physical presence and would weep as he tried to envision the glory that he would soon encounter. My dad knew he’d run to Jesus if he ever had the chance. He got his chance– and I know he is on his knees singing his heart out to His Lord and Savior.

At his memorial service, where over 450 people attended, I heard countless stories of how my Dad touched their lives in remarkable ways…mostly through his attitude and his servanthood. As someone who knew his heart well, I can say I believe he had the right idea about life for he was a man fulfilled, longing to bring glory to Jesus in everything he did. He did not waste a single day…not one! If my Dad were to read these words, he would shake his head and with tears in his eyes say, “No Beloved, I have barely scratched the surface of living a life worthy of the calling”. “The calling” that he would refer to is a life basked in the hope of Jesus.

As I have spent much time reflecting these past six years since my Dad passed away, I have been repeatedly reminded that life is not about mastering or attaining many things, like the world reflects; it is about being mastered by one great thing! My Dad’s life counted for something eternally…I want to be consumed by that same fire! I don’t want to leave anything left unsaid, anything left undone. I want to use ALL of this life I’ve been given to give God complete glory and honor. Nothing else matters. Literally. #wastednomore

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” Matthew 22:37


Fishing For Peace

fishing-909554_960_720My Dad loved to fish. No, I mean, He really looooved to fish. It was more than a hobby for him, it was his time of respite, his time of drawing near to the Lord. He needed this time as much as he desired it. He made time for it, even if it meant heading to his favorite fishing hole while dark claimed the atmosphere for a couple more hours. The tranquility beckoned him and throughout my entire childhood and even into my early adulthood, I witnessed his response to such peace while standing hip deep in his patched up waders in the glimmering swift waters: pole in one hand, the other lifted heavenward. I witness his face flush with gratitude and his eyes glisten when words failed him. I witnessed his heart outside his chest and learned of a love basked in utter peace amidst raging waters. I did not realize the gift this was until many years later.

Each weekend, my dad towed us kids along on his fishing expeditions–probably so he could keep an eye on us more than actually teach us any real skill. I won’t pretend we liked it. He fished year round, winter (Steelhead season) seemed to be his favorite–and my worst!  As a young girl, getting out of bed when it was still dark, dressing in layer upon layer to go sit in wet, smelly sand for hours at a time, while Dad fished felt a little like a punishment. However, my younger brother, sister, and I always managed to find mischief along the sandbar or create massive sand murals with pieces of driftwood–and inevitably, each excursion to Gold Bar or the Stilly River ended with all four of us, dad included, swinging our legs off the tailgate of Dad’s ‘66 baby blue Ford, while eating warm bologna sandwiches (how we didn’t end up with food poisioning is nothing short of God’s grace!). Smiles and giggles filled the truck as we drove back to the farm. And as wonderful as these Saturdays turned out to be, I still resolved that nothing could be more boring than to sit and watch a pole for hours on end in hopes to get a “nibble”. I believed that until I was 26 years old. (Therefore this is an old story!)ebay346645

Though I had not gone fishing with my dad for many years, I had decided that when I traveled home with my then 9 month old daughter, Meg, I would go with him. I don’t know why I thought it would be any different or why I was now subjecting my baby to this seemingly torrid event, but something drew me.

I suppose I wanted what my dad had found there all those years, whatever it was.

Sipping strong coffee from the lid of Dad’s green dented thermos, I sat with Meg on the slight incline of the sandbar, watching my dad. I loved everything about him in that moment, especially his crooked smile or the way he would bite his lower lip while putting fresh bait on his hook. He waded out into the river a little further and cast his line again. I watched how the river glided swiftly past him, over fallen trees, and boulders; continuing downstream, narrowing in places, skimming the sandy bar, and eventually spilling into another body of water. I loved watching his line plunk into the river, creating a series of expanding rings, until they disappeared. I was enthralled by the interlacings of regal simplicity and splendid authority.

I had sat on the banks of this river more times than I could count, but not until this day did I pay any attention to its fluid movement and how it formed itself to the shape of whatever object stood in its path. The river was never without motion. I had seen it bursting with energy as its upstream source aggressively pushed its mass into this stream. I had seen it flooded as well as low enough to count the speckled rocks littering its floor. I have seen it nearly still, just ripples carelessly riding on its surface. Still, always in motion.

stream-341772_960_720I turned my face to the early morning sun, letting its warmth seep into my soul. The thought-provoking words of Horatio G. Spafford (1873) came to mind in that moment, a precious hymn I sang as child, growing up in a small Baptist church: “When peace like a river attendeth my way…” I hummed the song repeatedly as the melody soothed my wounded soul and the words caused me to contemplate what peace really means. “Peace like a river”, I whispered to myself as I sought out the characteristics of the river only 15 feet before me.

“Peace like a river”. The book of Isaiah uses this analogy twice, though the Bible addresses the topic of peace 251 times. It is the thing that we seek, bend over backward to meet. However, peace is not only as Webster’s defines: “A state of tranquility or quiet”, but experiencing this while meeting many bumps and unexpected twists and turns on life’s journey. Peace is not something that we can attain on our own merit, despite our best effort.

If you are like me, you may have attempted to eliminate activities or remove yourself from certain draining situations in hopes of finding peace. For many of us, we reason that we’re too busy to really have peace in our lives and that perhaps once we make it through this season, then…we can have peace–that restfulness that we seek. However, we are not meant to live life in the stillness of a…a pond! Think about that. How would we demonstrate our character, our faith, our reliance on Christ if we lived within the safety of ripple-less waters? Peace can be found within the raging waters of life if we continue to go back to the Source of peace, the Prince of Peace

Christ is the upstream tributary, or source, that feeds into the river. Rivers are constantly being renewed by active, ongoing motion. It is not filled once and left to fend for itself. Christ encourages we who are thirsty, we who are in need, to come to the fountain (Is. 55:1) Here, He fills us with His life-giving water.

This filling enables us, like the river, to spill out into another body of water, overflowing into the lives of those around us.

Sitting on the wet sand banks, holding my sweet Meg in my arms, kissing her plump cheeks and inhaling her sweet baby fragrance, I understand the analogy of “peace like a river”for the first time ever–and in that moment, I released my preconceived notions that life should be easier, without so much pain, and heartache and embraced the fact that my seasons of adversity have actually led me into the arms of the Prince of Peace.

Undoubtedly, storms of adversity will wash over us, attempting to steal our attention from the One who gives us peace. Beloved, don’t let them. Keep going back to the source.

Christ desperately grieves for us when our hearts and souls are in unnecessary turmoil (Luke 19:41-42).

I can’t help but to think of the parable about the disciples out at sea when a terrible storm began to rage; violently tossing their boat about the outrageous waves, completely and unequivocally terrifying them. I imagine as they saw Jesus walking among the perilous waves toward them, they believed He would save them by calming the storm. They knew He could; they’d seen Him perform miracles before. However, their thoughts were  interrupted as Jesus called out to them, “Take Courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid”. It is here that you would expect Jesus to calm the storm. He did not. Not until after he climbed into the boat.

I believe we can identify with the disciples here: believing that peace is equated with rescuing—from calming the storms of life. “The point is not that we don’t have anything to fear, but that [Christ’s] presence is the basis for our courage” (Beth Moore). His peace is the fruit of His spirit at work in our lives.

With the “winds still raging, He said, ‘Take Courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid’”. We can have peace when we authentically surrender to the trustworthy, sovereign authority of Jesus and keep going back to the “well”, while chaotic uncertainties and exhausting stressors surround us. (Sigh! Can you possible grasp this?)

I set Meg down in the sand and encouraged her to play, when I discovered a brutally weathered and beaten oyster shell. It revealed a life of being carelessly tossed about in the continual motion of the waters. I flipped it over, rubbing my thumb along its smooth, iridescent inner shell, thinking that perhaps an irritation the size of a grain of sand had made its way into its life, forming a pearl, a treasure of great value.

jewelry-420018_960_720I had been wounded to my very core 18 months earlier when I had been raped, conceiving a child, my Meg, as a result. To say my heart had been hemorrhaging all those months as I attempted to understand where God was in all of this, is a gross understatement. I went from blaming Him for the situation– because He allowed it to happen, angrily accusing Him of not loving me; to a place where I fully embraced Genesis 50:20, “What Satan intended for evil, God intended for good”. In this moment, holding Meg, my precious pearl– a seeming reminder of incredible pain–she was/is infinitely more of reminder of the peace that God grants us when we surrender to His authority.

My chin quivered and my nose began to run as I contemplated this beautiful, tangible lesson I believe God orchestrated specifically for me this day; this day that I had gone fishing for peace with my Dad.

I bit my quivering lip, trying to compose my emotions as I ran out to my Dad. With Meg in tow in one arm, and the oyster shell in the other, I called out “Hey Dad, look what I just found”! We paused for a warm bologna sandwich, while sitting in the warm cab of his truck, and through heavy, gut wrenching sobs, I shared with him what I believe the Lord had taught me there on the banks of the Stilly River.

Meg’s name means “pearl”. She was named Meg for that meaning. She was brought into this life through a horrific situation, but without a doubt, she is my pearl of great value. So great in fact that a Merchant I know so very personally sold everything He had for her…and for you…and for me (Matthew 13:45).

woman-591576_960_720Our identity is not in the bumps and bruises that we accrue; rather our identity is the One who freely gives us peace in the trials of life. He sees you as His pearl, nothing less!

The oyster shell, 16 years later, still sits on Meg’s dresser and serves as reminder that pearls weather storms of life and peace can and will accompany us when we surrender to our sovereign Lord’s authority.

I went fishing with my dad that day and caught a whole lot of peace!

Restless Heart

bench-889222_960_720My heart has been thirsty lately–and when I say, “thirsty”, I mean parched. I’ve been distressingly pained with a desperate longing; anticipation of a fullness– or a completeness– I know exists because I’ve experienced its sense of peace and belonging –and often euphoric effects sporadically throughout my entire life.

We’ve all experienced this inconsolable thirst. When it isn’t stifling us, it drives us. It drives us to pursue external things or experiences that represent life to us or distinguishes our carefully constructed identity–material things, career ambitions, skills we possess as well as how we look, sound, and attract others to us. We try to fill the longing in our hearts with external platitudes—the part of us that everyone sees—and though they have their place in importance, they cannot, cannot fulfill the deepest yearnings of our hearts.

We cannot solve an internal issue externally and yet we try over and over again. When one thing doesn’t fulfill or sustain, we try something else.

In a world where performance and efficiency are everything, it is easy for many of us to stuff away these heart desires and focus on what we know to do, what the world tells us to do, and what has proven to gain some satiation. We’re good at replacing our internal needs with external things, like principles and programs; like work and church activities; like organizing and planning.

Busyness replaces meaningfulness. Efficiency replaces creativity. Functional relationships replace love” (Brent Curtis).

We live from what we “ought to do”, rather than from what and how we desire to do it. I believe we are all born with this thirst, this longing, this internal quest for adventure, intimacy, and beauty that, when pursued, lead us to discovering meaning and fullness in our lives.

Perhaps, we think what our heart longs for (even if we cannot pinpoint what it is) is unattainable–and we just have to live with unsettled feelings. Perhaps, we’ve come to believe this longing is some disorder, or we’re asking too much from life; or we’re dreamers, so we ignore the gentle ever-present whisper beckoning us, calling us to so much more than all of this, to so much more than external joys and pains and everything in between. Those who stuff, ignore, or discount these desires eventually lose heart–which in my opinion, is both a coping mechanism as well as the greatest loss of their lives.

No matter how you describe this thirst, it is the most important thing about us.

It’s important because the longing–the ever-present pull of our heart-strings toward something more is in actuality the voice of Christ—because it is “in the heart that we first come to know and learn to live in His love”. The heart–though many may discount its place or its role in our day-to-day activities, is crucial. It is here, in Christ– found in the deepest longings of our heart– that we find fulfillment.

Our exterior actions for Christ begin in the heart.drops-of-water-578897_960_720

“The heart is the wellspring of life” and its fount overflows with our faith, hope, and love (Proverbs 4:23). It is where we resolve to live sacrificially, to be a servant, to love in action and not merely in words alone, to be present. I cannot help but to think of Isaiah 29:13, where God laments, “These people…. they honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me”.  This verse alone tells me that our hearts are important to Christ. It is where we—our identity—begins.  (Side note: I have spent a fair share of my life paying lip-service to Christ, rather than living completely sold out for Him. I have also spent a good share of my life looking for Him in the external).

I’m not sure how I didn’t stuff the longings of my heart during those years of external searching; during those years of utter shame and brokenness. I suppose somehow I knew (or learned) the longing I had always felt was in actuality Christ whispering my name, calling me Daughter, Beloved, Forgiven. I remember as if it was yesterday, and not 23 years ago, the afternoon I literally fell on my knees and begged the Lord to allow me a sip of His life-giving water. He surpassed what I deserved, what I desired. He filled my cup, and once it was full, He kept pouring. It spilled over the edges, soaking the ground, saturating my soul. As my buried my face in my hands, sobbing, “thank you, thank you, thank you”, I realized He was the desire of my heart!

So struggling this week, really struggling, with this unquenchable thirst, my initial reaction was to call my friend, go for a run, read, garden, open my hives (I’m an amateur beekeeper–so thrilling I can hardly tell you) in hopes to lull this unnerving thirst–and admittedly, I did do some of these things (OK, all of those things!)–but it donned on me (I’m so slow sometimes), while on my knees in my garden that I was going about it all wrong. I wasn’t going to the source of my joy, my life, my love. I was trying to find joy and contentment (the desires of my heart) without Him.

Why do I do this? Why do I fall away from Him?  I resonate with Paul, who cried out “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate to do” (Romans 7:15) I am so prone to wander, it’s ridiculous.

Here’s the thing–that thirst—that constant pull on our heart-strings, that beckoning whisper that reminds us that there is more to this life—that’s God calling us back to Him, reminding us Whose we are and who we are in Him. I have a lot of favorite verses, but today, my favorite is Hebrews 13:5, which reminds us that He “will never leave us or forsake us”. I am grateful for the thirsty times as well as the moments of utter saturation for God is in both.


If I Had Parenting to Do-Over Again…


Schneider Girls keepin’ it classy!

It never ceases to amaze me how many young mamas, friends and strangers alike, ask me for parenting advice. I don’t think it necessarily has anything to do with the fact that my girls have grown into delightful, God-fearing women, but more so because as women, we want to learn from one another; we need one another. In terms of raising children, we want to know what worked and what didn’t work so we can adjust our course, if need be.

Sometimes we’re so desperate for answers, direction, or just need to feel we’re not in this unpredictable venture alone, that we’ll even heed the advice of perfect strangers. Such was my experience yesterday. A woman I had never met before and I found ourselves thrown together for a short period of time. Naturally, we struck up a conversation—about our kids. When I told her my girls were now nearly 21 and 16, she peppered me with questions, wanting to learn any inside information I might have, about what she should be doing differently or better or what she could expect in the future for her much younger son. Later that day, I found myself chuckling over the fact that I had shared the good, bad, and ugly of my parenting with a stranger and vice versa! Admittedly, I didn’t catch her name and I doubt out paths will cross again, but boy, was that an awesome conversation. It solidified to me just how much we need one another. We need to share our experiences, to build one another up, and walk this often tumultuous road shoulder to shoulder.

When I was pregnant with my first daughter over 21 years ago, I read every parenting book I could get my hands on. I underlined, highlighted, dog-eared, and thoroughly studied those books in more depth than I did any of my college text books. I prayed. I pondered. I daydreamed. I cried. I stressed. And I completely underestimated my ability and God’s sovereignty—but I didn’t know that for years to come.

All I ever wanted to be was a mom. However, I felt unprepared no matter my studious ways. Being a parent is one thing, doing it well is another thing entirely. Like most moms-to-be, I desperately wanted to raise my kids well. I wanted them to be well-adjusted, have the ability to think critically, communicate effectively, love all people, be givers, not takers, follow directions, live humbly– while at the same time understand they are treasures that exceed value. I desired with all my heart that my girls would know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they belong to Christ and desire to live first and foremost for Him—not because we want them to, but in response to His love for them.

FullSizeRender (2)I envisioned being that spontaneous mom that would pull over to the side of the road when something in nature called our attention to it, so we could explore it in more depth. I dreamt of making thousands of wishes together as we blew tiny seeds from dandelions across the park week after week. I knew we’d dance in the rain, and splash in mud puddles until we were soaked through– and then do it all over again. I imagined oohing and ahhing over treasured creatures found in tide pools and eating sandy sandwiches while at the beach. I anticipated watching thunder and lightning storms late at night while huddled together under woolen blankets, just like I did with my own mama. I dreamt of telling stories around campfires and gorging on too many s’mores, not caring that bed time passed by an hour ago. Perhaps what I looked forward to most was cradling my girls in my arms after a long day of play together—and singing and praying over them as their heavy eyes found their way to a peaceful night sleep. I don’t think my dreams are unique to me. I think most mamas-to-be dream great dreams. We smile as we get swept away in thought. We run our hands over the soft cotton baby clothes, close our eyes and can practically picture our angel. For many of us, our DNA screams MAMA!!! It’s what we’re born to do and we know we’re going to be good at it.

Until we’re not.


First haircut. Not what either one of us expected.

Until our thoughts start bombarding us with questions like:  what if I don’t know how to teach her all the things I’m supposed to or want to? What if I break her? What if I can’t nurse her? What if she doesn’t stop crying? What if she doesn’t sleep? What if she fails in school? What if she’s rebellious? What if she does drugs or gets pregnant or hates me, or… I had these questions and more. I didn’t obsessively worry about them, but the more I thought about them, the more I want to know the answers. I wanted to prepare. I wanted to plan. I’m just wired like that. (I like to think of it as being pro-active; my husband likes to think of it as being hyper-alert—tomato, tomatoe)! I wanted to know if there was anything I could do to combat certain behaviors or ensure I would raise a great, healthy, and happy child? So I called my mom—sobbing– because now I wasn’t only feeling unprepared, but feeling as if I might actually mess up a human being. I shared my concerns and short-comings with my mom, asking her how I was possibly going to manage to raise a child. I remember her words as if she had spoken them yesterday:

You’ll figure it out as you go”—Not what I was looking for, but she was right, I did.

Admittedly, our parenting has often looked like a plane sputtering along, thirsty for fuel, wearily doing what needs to be done, while other times, it has looked terrifyingly reckless and out of control– nose-diving toward jagged cliffs. This isn’t to say there haven’t been moments that feel very much like riding on the wings of clouds toward a setting pastel sunset, but there are fewer of these moments than I’d like.

It doesn’t mean my parenting is broken. It means my initial idea of parenting wasn’t complete.

Parenting is an act of enduring, sacrificial love and though I might have known this on one hand before my baby girl was placed into my arms, I understood it on a whole other level on the nights I cried myself to sleep because the day was so horrible. I beat myself up too often and didn’t ask for God’s help often enough.

FullSizeRender (3)Some days I am a stellar, on par kind of parent and others days I royally suck. Truth! So when people ask me for parenting advice, I tell them that I am perhaps the last person to ask because I am still learning.

However, if pressed, here are MY TOP 20 PARENTING TIPS: (Disclosure: some of these were learned through years of sweat and tears, others I am still actively learning)

1. Submit yourself before the Lord. This is not about you, but about Him through you.
2. Make self-care a priority. When you are filled up, you are a better version of yourself to share with your kids.
3. Parent intentionally, be present every single day.
4. Set realistic expectations for both you and your children—make them known to your kids.
5. Consider their learning style—not just what comes naturally for you.
6. Listen, even to the rambling and the inaudible words of their youth. If they don’t see us listening when they’re younger, they’ll assume we won’t listen when they’re older.
7. Whispering gets just as much attention as yelling. It quiets our stressed out kids (eventually) because they’ll want to know what we’re saying. My girls said they knew when I whispered it meant serious business!
8. Pray over and with them constantly. Some of my fondest memories are of my girls and I blubbering our way through some of our prayers.
9. Give them over to the Lord and allow Him to have His way with them. (This is hard and often painful—especially in their teenage years)
10. Allow them to fail, fall, and make mistakes.
11. You can be an authority without being an authoritarian.
12. Don’t rescue them (enable), but be there to help pick up the pieces afterwards.
13. Don’t do their homework, even when it’s obvious that other kids’ parents are—Kids need to take pride in their work, not yours.
14. Model godly character; and forgive yourself when you don’t.
15. Don’t stress about the little things. For example: It’s OK if your child’s outfit doesn’t match or if they go to school with two different shoes on. If they feel uncomfortable, they’ll fix it on their own. Allow them to be creative, even if it’s not your style. (When my daughter was in second grade, she decided to go to school in a pajama top, skirt and rain boots with her hair resembling a rat’s nest. And to top it off, she used her “Mary Poppins umbrella as a cane!) I cringed on the inside, smiled on the outside. She kept up with this creative dress for about a week. Now, she is entirely into fashion and make-up and has an amazing eye!)
16.Remember love is hard work. It’s not always stories and snuggles. Love means saying you’re sorry. And it means forgiving your kids when they mess up.
17. Allow your kids to see you cry, laugh, struggle, problem solve, pray.
18. Remember you are parent first, friend—later, much later!
19. Respect is earned, not just from them, but from us to them as well.
20. Treat them as little people—don’t underestimate their thoughts, questions, and ideas.

My girls…I cannot say enough about them. God’s fingerprints are all over their lives and boy, does that ever make my heart swoon. FullSizeRender (4)

Yellow Roses; A Father’s Day Tribute

IMG_3711Today, marks the sixth Father’s Day, the sixth year of heart-to-heart conversations gone by, the sixth year of missing my Daddy’s big bear hugs and whispered, I love yous. I can still see him as he was, however– in his baseball cap and Levis, with that familiar side-to-side walk. I can still hear his calming voice and see his crooked smile as he’d cock his head to one side when he’d greet me, “Hey-ya Karyn”. When I close my eyes, I can almost feel him–his gruff hand in mine, smell him–his Old Spice soap, hear him–his laugh–ahhh, my heart smiles and weeps with the memory.

I wish I had held onto more of him when I had him here. I wish I had listened more intently to his words of love as well as admonishments; loved more deeply; given more freely. I wish I had hugged him a little longer; visited more often. I wish I hadn’t taken him for granted.

I wrote the following post a year after he passed away. And although it is not the anniversary of his passing,  it seemed fitting to share it today, on Father’s Day. I miss you like crazy, Daddy and love you abundantly more. Abundantly!!!

Written July 13, 2011

IMG_3712One year ago today as the warm sunshine poured through the large windows of room 335, I laid next to my Daddy in his hospital bed kissing his cheeks, his hands, his forehead… a million times over, embracing a precious memory with each kiss, saying good-bye, I’m sorry, and thank you with each remembered story. Though my mind has been swept over with these memories as of late, I do not write this morning from a place of sorrow so much as I write from a place of gratitude. Just a few thoughts and memories…

I kissed and nuzzled his cheeks a million times that day, feeling as though I couldn’t stop, not wanting that kiss to be the last one I ever gave him. His cheeks were rough despite hospice’s attempt to shave him. I found it endearing however, as my mind wandered to the days when I would sit on the bathroom counter and watch him shave after he’d come in the house from a long day of milking or working in his yard. I always loved watching this ritual. Still, to this day, I can see him shaving two or three upward strokes, then rinsing the blade in a sink of warm, sudsy water. I can still hear the tap, tap of the blade against the side of the sink and smell the distinct fragrance of his shaving cream. He sure got mad when I’d steal it to shave my legs as a teenager. I can still hear his voice as he’d yell from the bottom of the stairs, “Karyn Lee…bring it down here”. He didn’t even have to clarify what “it” was. We both knew.

His shaving cream wasn’t the only thing I would “steal” from him. To this day, nearly 20 years living outside my parent’s home, I have a reputation for stealing Dad’s flannel shirts. It didn’t matter if they were the “good flannel shirts” or ones he wore for milking or yard work. I just adored them and everyone knew it. Often, I would hear my name being called from the bottom of the stairs but it had a different ring to it. He wasn’t mad, like he was with the shaving cream. It was more like “I’m flattered, but honey, you gotta stop doing this”. Once he called me, a year or so after I had moved out and gotten married to ask if I had stolen his new flannel shirt! I didn’t…honestly… but still to this day, I cannot live down the fact that I would take his shirts and make them my own. In fact, my youngest niece calls me, “Aunt Flannel”, which makes me laugh because I only wear flannel shirts when I garden. I guess I still want to be just like my dad. I don’t have any of his shirts now and that crushes me. There was just something about his shirts that no one else, not even my dear husband’s shirts have. I guess I felt safe wrapped up in his over sized shirts, close to him somehow. Sure wish I had stolen just one more.

I held one of his hands almost the whole day, kissed every finger, traced the lines, and winced at his countless scars. I love those big, rough, and calloused hands. I always have. They spoke volumes about the kind of man he was– strong, able, learning, giving, sacrificial, loving. I still recall what it felt like to hold his hand, to have him give that little extra squeeze right before he’d let go. His hands engulfed my hand and I loved it. I always felt like his little girl when I held his hand…even when I was all grown up and had children of my own. I miss holding his hands, praying with him, and working alongside him. He taught me everything with those hands–how to tie my shoes, ride a bike, sweep a floor, milk cows, pull weeds, hug, love, give, serve…

One of his absolute loves was working in his yard. He had an amazing gift that dazzled people who would pass by. Though, like a true gardener, we never call it “work”, for it is something that feeds the soul in a way that nothing else does. I had the privilege to have my hands in his yard this week, to pull his weeds, to prune his Rhodies, edge his flowerbeds… The most difficult thing for me to touch were his roses…yellow, vibrant roses…these were his pride and joy. I saved them for last. And wept as I breathed deeply the sweetest scent…a scent I didn’t realize I associate with my dad no matter where I smell it.

On my knees already, I buried my nose into the spent pedals I’d just pruned and allowed the Lord to wash over me, to touch me with his tender grace once again. His mercy touched my brokenness and I knew I was safe and loved completely even without the touch of my dad’s hand or being wrapped in an oversized flannel. My Heavenly Father swooped down and held this broken heart of mine and reminded me of words I had read just that morning, “However serious we believe Good Friday is, we are confident that Easter Sunday lies ahead of us.” Meaning, that no matter what disappointments, frustrations, hurts, injustices, or loss come our way because of our faith, our hope in Christ, we KNOW Easter Sunday—the day of Jesus’ resurrection—and the fulfilling of His promise– is right around the corner. Christ did not promise an easy, painless life. He did promise however, that Heaven would conquer all in the end (Easter Sunday).

Death will be overturned and the fragrance of yellow roses will fill the air, I am certain of that!

My Dad’s heart desire was to meet Jesus…boy, did he ever speak often of this desire and believed as my favorite author, Brennan Manning, does that “Death is not the ultimate, but rather the final breakthrough into the waiting, outstretched arms of the Father.” He could not wait to see Jesus face to face. I often picture my dad on his knees before the emerald throne singing, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty” with tears of great joy streaming down his cheeks and with a heart that swells with such love, such gratitude for ur Heavenly Father. I miss my Daddy terribly but I KNOW Easter Sunday will come for me too– and one day, I, too, will run through heaven’s gates. I will embrace my Lord, my God first, but then I am hugging my Daddy!

Until that day, I am hugging him in my heart.

But You Can’t Shoot Them

family-1432936_960_720Like most, my mind has been whirling with emotions, ranging from heart-break to anger and every emotion in between, over the violent mass shooting that took place earlier this week at Pulse, a LGBT+ nightclub in Orlando, Florida. 50 lives were brutally and prematurely ended while an additional 50-plus were tragically wounded, causing an uproar over issues of gun control and our constitutional rights, in addition to an outpouring of support for the victims’ friends and family members. I have always loved seeing our nation– and world beyond– rally in the face of tragedy. It reveals there is still good in the world. And as much as I relish in bringing together community, wide-ranging in races, religions, sexual orientation, etc., I fear this support from fundamentalist Christians will wane and judgment of the LGBT+ lifestyle will resume.

No one wishes violence like open fire or hostile, hate-filled physical vengeance on others, but somehow we turn a blind-eye to snide remarks, jokes, boycotting businesses that support LGBT+, or even physically distancing oneself from this community in any means possible (I personally know someone who won’t get into the same car with an openly gay person). Instead, florists, caterers, and other businesses who refuse service to those in this community are applauded. Obviously, these prejudices are not tied to physical damage, but more so to emotional damage. And as Christians, we seem to be OK with that. Even if we are not engaging in this mistreatment, we also are not taking a stand in support of our brothers and sisters. It’s this mentality of:
You don’t have to like them, but you can’t shoot them.
You don’t have to serve them, but you can’t shoot them.
You don’t have to support them, but you can’t shoot them.

How big of us to draw the line there.

The problem with drawing the line there is it allows those outside the LBGT+ community to continue to look upon them with contempt, disgust, with suspicious stares—essentially continuing to intentionally oppress them. Without a doubt, this mars the image of Christ—the very characteristics of Him which drew us to Him. I cannot help but to think of 1 John 4:19, which reminds us that “We love because He [Jesus] first loved us”. Gosh! What if He condemned us like we condemn this community? What if He refused to wash our feet, take our burdens, forgive us, die on the cross for us? We did not earn that grace. We cannot earn that grace! Instead, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Can I tell you just how much that means to me?!!!

I can already hear the words of my nay-sayers. “But… being gay is a sin. We have a responsibility to call them out”. Ahhh, my dear friends, my heart aches over this on-going debate. It is not an “Us vs. Them” issue. It’s not about turning a blind eye or watering down the Word of God. On the contrary!

The Word of God needs to be lived and breathed and shouted—and remembered! God’s Word is a message of Love, not hate; not judgement—but gosh—I’m not sure the world, primarily this community, knows one another

I’ve wondered as a Christ-follower, if I’ve missed the fine print somewhere—you know that seemingly unspoken expectation that we’ll band together to “love the sinner, but hate the sin”, which for the majority of people I know looks a lot like drawing the line at physical violence, not at hateful words, actions, or inaction. Does that fine print also caution us against showing this community love; that they have value, and purpose; that they are just as loved, accepted, and forgiven by Christ as we are? Though I am generalizing, I have to ask, how does the church–people desiring to imitate the character of Christ; desiring to live to a higher purpose/calling– justify this behavior?

Sure, we show love when someone has been shot and killed, but can we show love and compassion in the day to day activities? What the hell is the difference? I wonder what Christ would have done?

This is not merely a Christian issue, it’s a people issue.


Just Say, “Thank You”

relaxed-498245_960_720Perhaps you have heard phrases such as, “under promise, over deliver” or “plan for the worst, but hope for the best”. Phrases like this are said by realists. They know unexpected things happen and therefore their goals, endpoints, or dreams don’t always have the desired outcome, so they plan upfront for a possible miscarriage of hope and expectation. This is wise in terms of business or finances, but in terms of most other areas, it is more detrimental than helpful. And admittedly, this is my default setting in relationships. After talking to many women, I believe it is for most of us; we deflect.

We meet someone and make excuses for why they shouldn’t or won’t like us or expect too much from us. In conversations, we dismiss compliments, minimize who we are, what we’re capable of, the things we have accomplished as well as successes we have earned– and on the same token we treasure those very things we hide from others. We worked hard for them. We even find our parts of our identity in them.

We undervalue our self-worth continuously—and when it comes to building friendships, it either weighs us down until we’re immobile and isolated or we timidly tip-toe our way into friendship, feeling our way around, deflecting—which, honestly tows a fine line between humbleness and pride—until we feel we are accepted and know to what level we are accepted.

The reasons we do this may vary from one woman or situation to another, but of the few women I know, we do it to beat others to their certain judgement of us. We know our weaknesses, so we point them out to others before they point them out to us or gossip about them behind our back. It’s a coping mechanism; a form of self-protection against our own insecurities, a way to control what people will think of us. It’s that whole, “if you can’t beat them, join them” anthem.

This helps no one. It belittles who God made us to be. He did not make us to be insecure, to make excuses, or even to try to win the approval of man. I know this in my head, but my actions reveal a different story.

Here’s a classic situation: I invite people over to my house. And even though I have cleaned profusely, cut and arranged fresh flowers, prepared a meal, the moment someone compliments something about my home, I make excuses for why their compliment isn’t really true. I might even beat them to the punch, if I see that they have noticed something unflattering. I point out how our house is in the remodeling stage and parts of it are unfinished, resembling the 70’s. I tell them that although I love decorating (And I do! If I did not go into teaching, I would have gone into interior design), I don’t really know what I am doing. I point out the miss-matched this and that or the…. In reality, I worked hard for that miss-matched item and I like that it’s slightly weird. I like that my house isn’t done being remodeled because I would miss dreaming and planning how I would fix up my fixer-upper. stamp-895383_960_720

I do this all the time. I struggle, I mean really struggle,  to accept a compliment (even if I really am having a good hair day!). I have a great friend who used to call me on this each and every time I would start to deflect. She would stop me mid-sentence and adamantly say, “Just say thank you”. This was hard for me. Saying thank you implied I agreed with the compliment, which wasn’t always true and even if it was true, I feared being mistaken as prideful. Still, I knew my continual rejection made others uncomfortable. They had gone out of their way to say something nice and I rejected it, which communicates disbelief and lack of trust in that person’s words. I don’t know about you, but I want my words to be taken seriously and as truth—they are an outward expression of my character.

So, I practiced. I know this sounds silly, but I did. As they say, “Fake it until you make it”. My mouth would say, “Thank you” while my head would be swimming in doubts. I literally had to remind myself of the Psalmist’s words, I am fearfully and wonderfully made; I know that full well”. (Psalm 139:14). Admittedly, I do not, yet, know that “full well”– though my heart longs to. I want to graciously accept His compliments and live boldly and unapologetically from that sacred place. And it is sacred, not something to discount.

What has happened over the years of just saying “thank you” is I’ve learned to genuinely smile when someone sees something good in me. It doesn’t matter if they don’t have the back story or see the imperfections. What they see is good. They like it (or me). A complement is flattering and accepting. It reveals to us that we are not invisible, worthless, or discounted. We have been seen and appreciated, which is what we seek and continuously pray for year after year—sometimes through painful tears. God uses people to share His acceptance and love for us in countless ways and I am certain giving compliments is one of those ways.

The excuses we make are nothing short of toxic. It doesn’t matter if they’re based on fact or falsity. If they keep us from leaning into the truth that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made”, then our eyes on more on ourselves than on Christ. It is my prayer that God would seize my heart and help me to believe and live from who He says I am in Him, not in the world.

hands-1047634_960_720Thank You, Lord Jesus for never giving up on me; for loving me like You do; for finding me beautiful and special and delightful. Thank You for giving Yourself sacrificially on my behalf because You wanted me; saw value in me; knew me. Thank You Lord for caring for me, taking my burdens and shame. Thank You for forgiving me and wiping my slate clean—again. Thank You for your gift of eternal life with You. Thank You for loving me with an endless love.

I’m so glad He doesn’t come back to us with excuses as to why He doesn’t deserve our gratitude and praise. Can you imagine how we’d feel if He discounted our praises to Him?

Just Say Thank You

The Secret Life of a Waffler

food-863484_960_720A Waffler, not to be confused with makers of the sweet morning delicacy, is one who bounces between one or more things indecisively; one who is torn; plagued.

I’ve always known I was a Waffler. The battle has existed from the time I was a wee girl, which even then led me to play a role I was never meant to play; the role of the “good church girl”. Growing up in the church, I became bilingual—fluent in Christianese as well as World, but it was a role, not reality.

I wanted my words and actions to be pure of heart, honoring to Christ, but they weren’t always because they were often done out of expectation. I wanted to believe all I heard, but some things begged for answers to questions I feared to ask. I wanted the love songs I sang to the Lord on Sunday mornings to genuinely reflect my heart, but they didn’t. How could I say I loved someone I didn’t really know? I wanted the words in the Bible to jump off the page and penetrate my heart and morph into this intimate relationship with Christ that I kept hearing about, but rarely saw. I wanted God; I wanted to feel Him and when I didn’t, I just kept following all the rules— the self-imposed rules, the subliminal rules, and the rules bellowed from the pulpit week in and week out. Boy, did I know the rules! And boy, did I hope they would lead me to Christ.

As a young girl, I was certain the rules lined the yellow brick road, which would eventually lead me to Jesus.

The-RulesI like rules and boundaries. It makes succeeding—winning– easy. But what I discovered in this quest to know Christ more and who I am in Him is that rules do not equate relationship, nor do they equate salvation or anything else except to meet the expectations of others. And this is where I have struggled—and I think many of us have– because we’ve deceived ourselves into thinking if we _______, then God will ______. We’ve made our relationship with God contingent upon what we do, rather than what He did!

I struggle with my identity in Christ. I really do. I am fully aware of all the things that should disqualify me from God’s acceptance, forgiveness, and love. My defects stifle me and tarnish the relationship Christ desires for me. I do this by believing that Christ sees me as I see myself. In my head, I know this is far from the truth, but my heart consistently clamors to catch up.

I think so much of our Christian faith is spent in evaluation mode; looking inwardly, measuring ourselves against “God’s Standard” (which by the way is often man’s mislabeled standard) or adding and subtracting this behavior or that behavior in hopes to meet…I don’t know…holiness (I guess that’s what we’re after), that we spend more time thinking about ourselves than worshiping Christ.

Holiness means to be “set apart”. God sees us as such; clothed in His robes of righteousness, not in our inadequacies and sins.

I do not have His eyes. I cannot see what He sees.  I cannot even comprehend what He sees, but I believe in Him—and that has to be enough; has to be! As I write these words, I can practically hear the words of Hebrews 11:1 being whispered in my ear:

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”.

Without a doubt, I believe God’s Word is infallible. I know, to my core, I can trust every word, every promise written. I do not question it. So if I don’t question it, why am I not living as if “He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world” (Romans 8)?

God is FOR us—not against us.

But we live as if He is. We replay our past sins and failures and live from the platform of condemnation when God clearly states that “in Him there is NO condemnation” (Romans 8:1). In order to truly live freely and embrace our identity in Him, we MUST accept and believe this. He did not come to live as man and die a brutal death for us to essentially die with Him. No! He came so that we might have life and life to the full (John 10:10).

I wonder what would happen if I started reconstructing my identity based strictly on God’s Word?

Who Does God say I am?

bible-1068176_960_720God looks beyond my defects, faults, failings, inadequacies and sees something I have yet to comprehend: my worth, my value; that I am His daughter. His beloved. His Delight. In Him, my identity is secure. It’s not contingent on what I do or not do.  It’s based on what He’s done.

I think that’s it…we, like Peter (the dude who walked on water), have to keep our eyes on Jesus because when we don’t, that is when our enemy whispers all our self-doubts, shame, and insecurities over us and we begin to sink. God’s view of us hasn’t changed, ours has.

I am learning I must affirm the identity Christ has assigned me and learn to live from this place for Him. I cannot do this if I keep feeding my insecurities. I am not discounting my past, sins, or failures; I’m just refusing to live from them anymore. I want freedom. I want Truth. I don’t want to waffle anymore.

Recent Posts:
The Greatest Lie Ever Told