Dearest Ladybug.

Darling Ladybug,
You are an absolute joy to know. I watch with delight as I stand nearby, privileged that I get to be on this journey with you as your mom. Terrified of all the things I could do wrong, hopeful for all the things He will do right.

I watched you today, brilliant, you.
You problem solve and work so hard. You are one of the most determined people I have ever met – and your personality shines so bright. You are just adorable. And I don’t only mean that in the precious cute pigtails sort of way. I mean, you were created to be adored, dear one.

You are beautiful. Stunningly beautiful, little girl. You are lovely in ways I never knew such a little girl could be. I see already the beauty that you will grow into. And I, as your mom, get all worried for what that will mean.
I worry that you could easily get caught up in finding your identity in your appearance.
Or I worry that you will hear how cute you are as the first words anyone says to you for the next several years, and that will leave you concerned about your looks all the time.
I worry that your outward appearance will cause people to miss out on the brilliance that is your beautiful little personality. You are so smart. It just blows me away. You’re brilliantly creative and you sometimes need encouragement. You love people, and you want to be with friends whenever you can.

Darling one, I see your Creator in you so, so evident. He put so much life and love in you. And I truly treasure and adore you, and getting to be in relationship with you.

I get sad sometimes, thinking that soon it’ll never again be just us.. that you’ll only be my only child for a short while longer {though you’re already not, as your baby brother or sister has already changed things up}. But soon, I won’t be able to comfort you each and every time you’re afraid because I’ll be tending a newborn. And I worry that I won’t make you feel as loved as I ought to. But I’m reminded that His love overcomes. And that I can have hope in His promises. And that your identity and my identity is in Him. And my dear girl, you are His masterpiece.

I love you, darling daughter.
And I treasure getting to watch you grow.
I look forward with anticipation and joy to the years to come.
– Your Mom.

Being Churched.

Makes me think of the phrase “getting schooled.”
But that’s so incredibly unrelated.
It’s super late when I’m writing this. So you know, I’m delirious.
And I’m high. I’m high on excitement thinking about a passionate idea I have to possibly love a friend well. An idea that gets a community involved to pour love into the life of some folks I adore, and more importantly folks that He calls His masterpieces. Whew, Jesus is so good.

So, being “churched.”
It’s a phrase I’ve often heard within the church, and as with many things, it’s a phrase that’s used to separate & divide. It’s used to say whether someone has been “churched” or to call someone “unchurched.” It sets a line – them and us, or us and them, depending on which side of the conversation you’re privy {or un-privy} to.

This week, I met a Mom {for the second time} while at the park nearest my house. She was joining our moms group for a walk around the Lake & I was thrilled to have her company as I panted my way around the lake, sweating and wondering why they can’t call them practice contractions instead of Braxton Hicks contractions. Anyway…. This mom & I are talking when she says, “Praise the Lord!” in response to something noteworthy I must’ve said and can’t currently remember…

I’m going to pause to go into a side note here, and will resume the story shortly:
Anytime someone says something that even hints that they know the Jesus that I know, something inside me leaps {and not just the baby in my belly, either}. I get this excited anxious yearning to know if they really know who I know, or if they know someone by the same name who’s vaguely familiar to me, too. I search for ways in my heart and mind to ask the right questions that will draw them out in a way that lets me see what lives inside them… is it Truth or are they bogged down by the lies they’ve been sold?

So she says “Praise the Lord!”
And my inner monologue starts going, wondering who she is and where she met Jesus and if she knows the Jesus I know, and what she’s been set free from. It’s like I’ve discovered that she might be from my hometown, and I want to know if she knows all my favourite places – if she knows the people who I love the most.
So I quickly respond, trying to get a word out over the excitement that’s going in my mind,
“Oh! Do you go to church here in Lakeland?”

She explains that she used to, a few years ago, go to a megachurch I’ve heard quite a few things about… and that she doesn’t go anymore – but she sends her tithe every month.
I realized that I probably made her feel shame.
Because rather than asking her the questions that matter – the questions that draw out who she is and if and how she knows who I know, knows the love that I do, I asked her a question that put her identity in Christ somewhere else.

I wanted to tell her how I don’t actually think that church on Sunday is how the church was meant to live and breathe and grow. I wanted to tell her that I understand! That it’s amazing that she still gives to a ‘church’ that gives no life to her! I wanted to tell her so many things, but I was just. in. shock.
I was in shock that I looked for a way to identify her by something so trivial.

Because, really, since when does going to church on Sunday have anything to do with whether or not you know and love Jesus? Since when is that a measure for your spiritual growth?

I won’t wander into ramblings about all the reasons I think churches are living out what we were intended to be as community when they do it opposite to how our culture does.
I’ll just say that I think it’s a sad thing that the primary measure of someone’s walk with Christ in our culture is whether they go to a church building on a Sunday… where they sit when they’re there, how many other events they attend by that church throughout the week, or any of those superficial, self important, business minded things.

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve watched throughout my life who sit in churches on Sunday mornings and don’t know the first thing about what it means to live a redeemed life. People who don’t know the first thing about what it is to love your enemy. People who proclaim Jesus while they fill their coffers with all they can and hate the people around them. People who have no hope, people who by all the measurements I’ve been taught to use by this system would pass with flying colors. But people who I see no evidence of the Truth of the Gospel in their lives.

Similarly, I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met who haven’t stepped foot into a church in years that have spoken His Truth to my soul in ways I never imagined I’d understand. People I watched the previous folks shy away from. People who showed me what it is to live and breathe in the freedom of His Redemption.

Being “Churched” has
nothing
to
do
with
it.

Being redeemed & living a life changed by Truth that inevitably sets you free and causes you to live in a place of generosity, hope, courage, and love is what it’s all about.

I pray that the next time I’m compelled to ask a question in hopes of getting to know someone’s journey with Jesus, I’ll ask a simpler and more loving question that gives them space to speak in freedom and grace.

Dear John. | { Marriage }

Dearest Husband,
There are moments when I’m reminded of the absolute gift I’ve been given in having you for a husband. And in those moments, it’s one of my life’s biggest regrets that I don’t spend pretty much every minute of every day telling you that I adore you. That I treasure you. That it’s my life’s greatest joy {after having been set free in Christ} to have you as a best friend.

I have a husband who’s truly a help mate, and who challenges me to be so. A man who strives to lead me to Yehovah daily. A man who is creative, thoughtful, hardworking, loving, unbelievably patient, and kind. A man who has lived out grace to me.

Knowing you is one of the most wonderful, challenging, delightful, worthwhile, and amazing things I will ever experience.

I love that I get to know you even more as you grow even more into your adulthood – into parenthood – and as you lead our family to where the Lord is convicting you to do so.

It is my prayer that I will properly respect your leadership, that I will appropriately value every. single. moment. I have the opportunity to spend alone with you, and that I will begin to adequately express His love for you, my love for you.

With love, His love,
Your Wife.

Intentions.

I use the word “intentional” a lot.
It’s my preferred synonym of purposeful.
It means, to me, that something was valued enough to put care, thought, intention, and purpose into.

And I’d venture to say that John & I are pretty intentional about a lot of things.
I’d also say that I’m absolutely the most intentional about relationships in my life.

I’m an incredibly relational person. I love to be around people, and though I do like to go to the bathroom alone, there aren’t any other places I can think of where I don’t adore having company.
I love people. I love getting to know people and their stories. And I commit to folks something serious.

And here’s the thing…
{I realized when prompted by someone else’s question that I don’t talk about it much}
I love people for one reason:

He loved me first.

I am convinced that I wouldn’t love people if this weren’t the case. I might do nice things for people. But it would be about making myself feel good. Or from a sense of obligation {still about making myself feel good.} Or to be accepted, or to be loved in return, etc., etc.
The point is, I might still be a generally nice person on the surface, but it would be self-serving.

The only reason I ever make it past the point of self serving in my relationships with people… to the point of never losing hope, of being patient, kind, humble, any of that… is because HE gives it to me.

And I’m not quick to explain that, necessarily. Maybe because I don’t want to freak out my friends who don’t know Jesus by being all, “Hey, I love Jesus so I want to love you.” And have them run in the other direction. Of course, I would hope that they all know by now what I’m all about.

The thing is… I don’t pursue these friends because I want to convince them that they need Jesus.
I want to pursue these friends because  they were created by Jesus. Because He calls them His masterpiece.
Because even in all the brokenness of all the people around me all the time, I see His beauty. I see His glory shining through. And because He wants to know them. And He wants people to want to know each other. And that’s why I pursue people. That’s why I want my door to always be open. That’s why I struggle to say no anytime people invite me into any part of their life {be it real relationship or just a party.} That’s why I find it incredibly difficult to let go of relationships AND why I find it incredibly difficult to not be honest with people in relationship.

The thing is, I desperately want all my friends to know the beautiful freedom that comes in knowing Jesus.
Because it saved me.
Because He set me free from all the things that were binding up my soul and keeping me in darkness.
Not that I don’t obviously have my moments, but the general direction of my life and my heart is in the way of contentment, joy, and LIFE.
I want that for everyone I encounter. But I don’t necessarily wear a t-shirt that says it. I don’t necessarily tell anyone that at our first meeting, or even at all. I do want them to want to know me, too, and hey, they don’t necessarily have the love of Jesus as their motivation to want to do so.

I do, however, make it my intention to go about showing them that in everything that I do… and telling them that with my words whenever they give me the opportunity to.

Cloth Diapers and other things dads don’t talk about

Men are comfortable being warriors, providers and even husbands/lovers. But we don’t talk about being dads unless a joke is involved. TV shows such as Home Improvement and even The Cosby Show made men in the father role seem a bit dopey. Example: Mr. Huxtable might have been an MD but he was often bested in a verbal wrestling match with one of his youngest children. All wrapped in humor but the message is clear “Dads aren’t to be honored and followed.”

Well, thanks to a recent comment by one of our readers, I realized that while I do write about being a man and husband my parenting hasn’t gotten much attention here.

You asked for it.

To start I thought I would cover some of the “baby stuff” because we are just now in the toddler stage.

Cloth Diapers. Until we became pregnant, diapers didn’t cross my mind. Just like most people, I assumed that when the baby came you rip open a package of disposable diapers and that’s the end of it. Of course, nothing is that simple. Diapers, like anything we create, must exist after we use them. So landfills get millions of diapers a year and most parents just ignore the fact that someone has to live with that mess. We all get the final effect of water quality being ruined, adding more steps before water is drinkable.

Thinking about all of that there were still moments when cloth diapers seemed like a strange alternative, my goal was to have complete success with elimination communication but that was unrealistic. The amount of laundry and handling dirty diapers weren’t what I dreamed about when we started our baby journey. Still, knowing all the stats of diaper waste kept coming back around and once my wonderful, beautiful wife attended a cloth diaper meet up we were hooked. Lots of support and experience later and cloth diapering is the only way to go.

Makes me smile to know we don’t have to contribute to destroying the planet and we save money every week on diapers. Especially now with Baby Next on the way the money savings becomes a big deal. Of course this isn’t as simple as just using cloth diapers, the water used and other resources do have an impact. The goal for our family is to move closer to have a beneficial impact on the planet we were given.

Parenting is hard work no matter what you choose. Knowing that I am even more convinced that making informed choices that are the best for our family, our community and our planet is not just nice but vital.

Like Heaven?

Just recently I finished the very controversial book LOVE WINS by Rob Bell. Lee Anne had read the book and mentioned things that got me intrigued. Took me a while to start the book and even longer to actually finish it. In the book Bell seeks to open a discussion for anyone interested on the often misunderstood and heated topic of heaven and hell. My struggle with these ideas started early in life, largely due to my tendency toward using stories to understand life. Our understanding of these “places” and the stories they create in our hearts do a lot to arrange the way we live.

Heaven and Hell: these two words bring to mind everything from babies with wings to large hairy biker guya.

Is this heaven or hell?

When driving the other day (ok I drive a lot every day) a song came on and for some reason I got this vision of humanity having a HUGE dance party with singing and music. A wedding cake style stage was rotating with children of all colors, nationalities and ages singing with the kind of enthusiasm that kids have when they love the person they are singing about. Circle upon circle of break dancers and pop-lockers surrounded the stage, all doing the kind of moves reserved for the Red Bull final rounds. Then instruments from saxophone to guitar marched around the whole event, hitting every note to the rhythm of the dancers. From out of view, came old men running into consecutive hand springs and flips across the front and back of this dancebration.

Without reason I turned, in my mind, to the right and caught the Messiah watching this whole thing with me.

He was smiling.
I was crying.

Then it struck me, this whole thing. All of humanity celebrating and creating this blend of musical dance party was the ONLY appropriate response to what He did for us. And He loved every moment, His smile was like seeing all the best moments of your life – only much, much better.

Could this be like Heaven?

Giving thought to heaven and what it means that our Savior said the Kingdom of Heaven is here makes a HUGE difference in the way everyday life is lived.

Here again

In the place between desiring the connection we share and being driven crazy by my anatomy.

Seems like it would get easier but as our bond grows stronger it becomes more difficult to suppress my healthy want for you. When we are apart I must constantly remind myself that nothing else will satisfy. Your touch, the smell of your skin, the warmth and intimacy we share…. None of these can be had without being in close proximity.

So as often before, on travel days, I long and desire and hurt and wish and want but ask the Creator of these good things to help me wait.

You are worth it. The us we have been in marriage is worth denying my own cravings, no matter how natural and even good they are, denying them to enjoy you even more when my heart finds its way home again.

But for now, I am just here again.