Audio Books for your SUMMER ROAD TRIP

We are driving to Texas to visit my family this summer: About 14 hours from our door to my mom’s door, one way.

That’s a lot of time in the mini-van, people. Everyone wonders how the boys do, but I’m the worst passenger. The kids love road trips because they can watch movies and play on their devices and the time passes quickly. But halfway through the trip I’m stir crazy and driving Matt nuts (“Why aren’t you talking to me?? You don’t love me anymooooooore!” I’m only exaggerating a little.)

We’ve learned that audiobooks will save our marriage from road trips. They keep me occupied, entertain the kids if we don’t want them rotting their brains with 14+ hours of screen time in a row, and help Matt stay focused and alert while driving.

Since we make the drive to either Texas or Colorado every year, and last year we drove the 20+ road to Disney World, we’ve listened to a LOT of audiobooks.

If you’re going on a road trip this summer and looking for some audio book recommendations, I am your girl. Here are 11 audio books/series your whole family will love (plus 3 more at the end that are mostly for adult or teenage ears.) Continue reading

God does what He wants {Psalm 115}

I’ve been thinking about idols lately.

Last week I prayed Psalm 115. It starts off so lovely,

“Not to us, O Lord, not to us,
But to Your name give glory
Because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth….”

But verse 3 takes a turn, announcing

“Our God is in the heavens;
He does whatever He pleases.”

Not exactly a characteristic of God we tend to paint on rustic wood hangings or put on artisanal coffee mugs.

When we want God to do what we want, is it a form of idolatry?

But that gets at the root of idolatry, doesn’t it? We want a god who does what we want. Continue reading

Tell Me True Things {Real Life Parenting Lessons}

Last week my youngest son had a melt down. (He’s had meltdowns this week too, it’s not that uncommon.)

I can’t remember what caused this particular fit. Maybe homework, which he doesn’t enjoy, especially if his brother doesn’t have any. Maybe it was because I was making him read (finishing first grade unable to read causes him great anxiety, plus “reading is dumb.”) Or maybe one of his brothers had done something to set him off. Who knows.

I also can’t remember if I stayed calm and helped him deescalate – it’s nice if one of us chooses to be the adult in a meltdown situation. But let’s be real, there’s just as much chance that I wasn’t in a place to be calm, and responded to the fire of his temper tantrum with the gasoline of my anger, leading to both of us needing to apologize. It happens. I can’t remember.

What I do remember is holding him in my arms afterwards, feeling the anger drain out of him and the remorse rush in. I think this is a cycle for lots of children, and even adults: anger, bad behavior, regret and remorse, self-loathing. But the pattern is clearer in this child than I’ve ever observed, you can practically see the changes marching through his little body. Continue reading

5 Things I learned from ONE: Unity in a Divided World

I read One: Unity in a Divided World fully intending to write a review of it when I finished. But it turns out that this was an Esther book for me, a “for such a time as this” book, a book whose message I needed desperately at this exact moment in my life. So I’m responding far too personally for a normal review. It felt like a wise and experienced friend took me by the hand to tutor and disciple me in the art and beauty of reconciliation, forgiveness, oneness with myself, others, and God.

To sum up: I LOVED THIS BOOK. I highly recommend it, and I think you should read it, whomever you are.

Here are the top 5 things I learned from reading Deidra Riggs‘ wonderful book:

#5 I have to deal with my own heart before I can address injustice or enter discussions about unity.

When I bought this book, I expected it would lead me to think about unity and diversity. I ended up thinking far more about forgiveness. Anger. The conflict in my own life.

I expected a book about the issues out there in the world. What I got was a book about the issues in my own heart, in my front yard, in my church, my friendships, my world.

I don’t have all this figured out; I’m on the same journey you’re on. I struggle with wanting what I want when I want it. I struggle with making sure my anger doesn’t guide me when faced with injustice or naysayers or angry people who try to quiet me down. I have to work at not putting other people down so that, when compared to my version of them, I come out smelling like roses. (ch. 1, A Soul that Hears Well)

#4 I need to move from the judgment seat to the mercy seat.

Our tendency to take on God’s role of judge stands in the way of our experience of reconciliation and unity. God sits on both the judgment seat and the mercy seat. But only He can see all and know all and only He can judge. He has shown mercy to us, so we can trust His judgment.

When we face a situation that makes us estranged from another person…we might consider the incident an opportunity to hear and embrace God’s invitation to us to move from the seat of judgment to the seat of mercy when viewing the other person… (ch. 3, What Do We Do About Evil and Injustice?)

I am in the midst of some pretty major conflict at the moment. I’m having imaginary arguments with real people in my crazy brain and since I’m making up both sides, I always win.  After reading this, I’ve begun picturing God standing before two chairs. I’m sitting in the judgment seat, making my case of why they are WRONG and I am RIGHT. I look in God’s eyes and hear Him inviting me. So I get up out of the judgment seat and move over into the mercy seat. I receive God’s mercy, I ask Him for help to see others through eyes of His mercy.

This has been one of the most life-giving spiritual activities I’ve ever engaged in.

#3 Brokenness is God’s way in, but we break in different ways.

ONE uses glass as a beautiful metaphor for brokenness. Hot glass will break when you put cold water in it. Sometimes it cracks down the middle, sometimes it explodes. Deidra says our hearts are like this – too much stress, pain, hurt and we either break open (making room to let God in) or break apart (often causing tremendous damage to those around us.)

When we allow the world around us to divide our attention and distract us from believing in the power of God to overcome evil, we surrender our faith to the storm. This is the true danger of brokenness. When the world – with its worries, fears, grief, and strife – presses in on us, we can succumb to the impulse to look away from God, instead of toward Him. The true danger of brokenness is that we allow it to keep us, even lead us, away from God, from others, and from ourselves…

In your own life, have your heartbreaks and disappointments served as an open door or a dividing wall? (Ch. 7 Our Breaking Point)

#2 Being agents of God’s reconciliation and redemption in the world requires the Holy Spirit and Holy Imagination

Our world is full of chaos, and evil is REAL. We can’t just join hands and sing Kumbaya. But we also can’t give in to fear, and we’re motivated by fear more than we realize. We run away, we hide, we avoid, we stick with old ways of doing things rather than asking God what new way He might be making through the fear and chaos. And without meaning to or even realizing it, we often act as if evil is greater than God, as if there is no hope. ONE invites us to “surrender our imaginations to the will and the wonder of the Spirit”:

When we see the world burst apart under the stress of terror and fear, oppression and despair, we are the ones who know this is not all there is. We reach forward, expecting that God is doing something new, even when we find it impossible to believe. We reach as far as we can, and then the Spirit of God extends our reach and transforms our perspective so that is one with His. (Ch. 8 Beyond Our Wildest Imagination)

Amen.

#1 I prioritize white voices when I read about Christian faith.

Years ago, I began intentionally diversifying what I read and watched. Some of this was the result of bringing a brown body into our family (and being embarrassed that it took that for me to see how white our books and entertainment tended to be.) But also as my awareness of racial injustice and violence grew, I realized I’d been seeing the world from a very white place. And I wanted to fix that.

As I read ONE and listened to Deidra’s depth of experience and compassion handling issues of forgiveness, I am embarrassed to admit I was surprised. I expected to learn from her about diversity, about racism, about her life and story. But I wasn’t expecting to learn to learn to see Jesus in new and deeper ways in my own life. Why was I surprised to learn so much from a woman of color (whom I respect and have already learned much from)?

Because my Bible teachers and the writers I tend toward, the writers available to me, have primarily been white. I have sought out men and women of color to teach me about diversity, but I’m realizing I wasn’t expecting them to have much to teach me in other areas. That is gross and ugly to me, but I think it’s important to confess.

Women and men of color have a perspective on all things of faith, and I want that broader perspective. But it will take work to get it. I watched a conversation on Twitter last week where multiple women of color shared that when they are asked to submit for Christian magazines or online outlets, it is nearly always and only in the area of diversity and race. I am a part of that problem.

I have much to learn.

Have you read ONE: Unity in a Divided World yet??

I wish I’d read this as part of a book club, it is a book that lends itself beautifully to discussion. Instead, I’ve talked about it non-stop to people in my life, and I’m talking about it here. Read it, and tell me what you think!

I read One: Unity in a Divided World fully intending to write a review of it when I finished. But it turns out that this was an Esther book for me, a "for such a time as this" book, a book whose message I needed desperately at this exact moment in my life. So I'm responding far too personally for a normal review. It felt like a wise and experienced friend took me by the hand to tutor and disciple me in the art and beauty of reconciliation, forgiveness, oneness with myself, others, and God. To sum up: I LOVED THIS BOOK. I highly recommend it, and I think you should read it, whomever you are.

Saturdays are for Sunshine

Thank you Jesus for…

Sunshine and quiet mornings and back porches and Nebraska in the Springtime

Your nearness during a long day of anxiety producing medical tests, and a clean bill of health and medical insurance and good health care.

Little boy bodies that still fit on this Mama’s lap, boys who start every day with hugs and kisses and knowing they are loved (filling my heart with love in the process.)

A new day, new mercies, new life.

Why I Wake Early by Mary Oliver

Hello, sun in my face.

Hello, you who make the morning

And spread it over the fields

And into the faces of the tulips

And the nodding morning glories,

And into the windows of, even, the

Miserable and the crotchety-

Best preacher that ever was,

Dear star, that just happens

To be where you are in the universe

To keep us from every-darkness,

To ease us with warm touching

To hold us in the great hands of light-

Good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how I start the day

In happiness, in kindness.

 

A Mother’s Day Message for ALL Women (Even the single & child-free, and especially the longing to mother)

I love being a mom, and I love my mother, but Mother’s Day is hard for me. I had so many Mother’s Days single and longing-to-be-married-with-children. So many Mother’s Days my church (accidentally, I’m sure) reinforced a hurtful message that as a non-mother I was somehow less of a woman, less worthy of celebration. I know women who’ve chosen not to be mothers, and I know many who have lost their mothers. And I love so many women who are bearing up under the pain of infertility and pregnancy loss.

It’s hard for me to celebrate a day that is exclusively for some women and not others, and that for many, makes hard things harder.

So a few years ago, I decided to intentionally celebrate all the women in my life on this day. In that spirit, here is a Mother’s Day message for all the women in my life: Continue reading

Faith, Public Opinion, and the Cool Kids Table {Thoughts on James 2}

 

When I was in the 6th grade I got made fun of for my clothes. I was smart and shy and I had Wal-Mart brand shoes. Stacy Edwards came back from the bathroom one day and told everyone I was a loud pee-er. To this day, when I use public restrooms, I try to “pee quietly.” Whatever that means.

My 9th grade best friend was a bass violinist named Lori whose family took me to church, and who was a good and faithful friend. Sophomore year, I had 4th period with kids from the popular crowd, who invited me to eat lunch with them. I stopped spending time with Lori and our studious, steady friends, now seeing them as a social liability. I had a shot at acceptance with a group I’d always felt outside of, and I took it.

What if I’d never been made fun of for having the wrong clothes and peeing wrong? What if I’d chosen to stick with friends who were loyal and kind rather than chasing acceptance and popularity (which always stayed just out of reach anyway.) Continue reading

What’s Making Me Happy (May)

Lots of hard and hurt, politics are driving me nuts, and it feels like the world is falling apart at the seams. So I’m deliberately turning my focus to things that make me happy. “A thankful heart is a happy heart.”

Blue skies and blooming flowers.

Spring FlowersAfter a depressing late April cold snap (bring those plants inside, drag out all the cozy clothes I packed up), early May in Nebraska is GLORIOUS. I grew up in the land of perpetual summer, but have learned to love the changing of the seasons. But the change from winter to Spring will always be my favorite.

Lincoln has a lovely Sunken Garden in the center part of the city. It is an explosion of color in the summer, but while we wait for that, they have the most gorgeous varieties of tulips blooming. It makes me happy every time I drive by, and this week we took the time to stop and walk around. Goodness abounds.

2017-05-04 20.18.57

Yes, I laid down on the ground to get a picture of one of my favorite Lincoln landmarks. Matt’s expression in this photo makes me laugh.

Breakfast Restaurants

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7 Things College Students Taught Me About Parenting

I’ve mentored and shepherded college students through local churches for over 20 years. When our oldest was in middle school, he considered Matt and I oppressively involved in his social media life and dating (“dating”, since he wasn’t allowed to date until we felt he had proven he was mature enough to handle his own heart and someone else’s…not that many of us are that mature ever).

We are not helicopter parents, and explained to him that our insistence that we be involved in his 13 year old decisions was a result of an occupational hazard: Both of us spend our professional lives helping college students deal with the baggage they picked up in middle school and high school, particularly from social media and dating.

For our kids, that means:

  • Phones are plugged in at night, in common areas of the house (not bedrooms.)
  • We have access to their texts and all social media accounts, and in middle school and early high school we checked all of this regularly. If you want privacy, then have your conversations face to face or write in a journal. There’s no privacy on the internet.
  • No dating in middle school, and not in high school unless we have seen a proven track record of wise decisions, honesty and openness.

Our oldest is the only one to experience this yet, and he found us pretty annoying. But now that he’s finishing 11th grade, and mentoring 7th graders through the middle school ministry? He says, “Ugh, why do middle schoolers think they need to date, it’s so dumb!”

We get it wrong often enough, it sure feels good to have parented long enough that our kids can see we were right about at least a couple of things.

In addition to making us extra cautious about dating and social media, we’ve also learned some pretty big parenting truths over the years. We get to hear people’s stories – so many stories – from students with present, involved, loving parents, and from those with harder stories.

I’ve learned a lot I want to imitate, and a LOT I want to avoid.

Continue reading