Monday, September 2, 2013

Seasons of Discontent

Today was Labor Day and by God's grace it was a glorious one. The weather topped out at around 80 degrees, but mostly it was in the 70's with a light breeze and some cloud cover which was perfect for the parade at the annual Septemberfest in Schaumburg. My daughter Caitlin was grateful for the milder temperature as she was marching with her high school band in her wool uniform along the two mile route.

I love parades. I love sitting curbside, meeting people, standing when veterans go by with flags and waving to scout troops. I love getting excited about bulls-eye candy (which I never ever see or eat outside of a parade) and sharing freebies with really little kids in front and grandparents in the second and third rows. It's an extra special bonus to cheer my daughter on.

It still feels like summer and according to the calendar there are almost three more weeks of it, but all the kids are back in school, Labor Day is over and the pre season football games are behind us. So for all practical purposes it is now officially fall.

Fall is my favorite season but the beginning of it always feels a little bittersweet. Like something precious has to be given up in order to get a better thing. I'm not quite ready to say goodbye to summer, but I'm looking forward to the next stage at the same time. The downside of fall (besides the fact that it leads up to winter) is the "start up" pressure. Getting kids back into school and adjusted to the routine that fell to the wayside for the better part of three months can be a challenge. I've been blessed as my kids are adapting very quickly (even with two of them at a new school). Yes...for those wondering, all three are high schoolers now! I suspect this transition was more stressful for me than it was for them. Some of that was the logistics of open houses, registrations, new lockers and gym uniforms and some of that was writing checks. Some of the stress was subconscious I think - a place where my brain and my heart are making a connection that my youngest children may be out of the house in four short years and home far less while they are here.

At work this is our busiest time of year as we re-launch the ministry programming that aligns with the school year. Classes that took breaks for the summer start up again with new volunteers and participants. I deal with that as both an employee and a volunteer. It can be tempting to panic when there are many unfilled volunteer positions and lots of demand for programming. Few if any of us ever feel ready when our "opening day" hits.

We were in a meeting a week or so ago when one of the pastors spoke about this time and how some of us react to it as a "season of discontent." The point was made that it's easy to resent and resist the changes that come with the fall even when you know once you're in it you're going to be glad about it.

Like everyone else I've spoken to I feel like summer flew by AND that it came and went even faster than the year before. We often end up feeling we've been denied our rest and start to wonder if we are truly prepared for the work in front of us. That's the temptation. To put on the brakes. To grab one last summer hurrah (which is basically what Labor Day is for many folks).

But I would also do well to remember something my sister said to me. In her words I had a "not so sucky summer."

She's right.

In June I met her in California for a fabulous five days of terrific weather, breathtaking scenery, excellent food, wonderful company and lots of relaxation.

In July we went to my favorite vacation spot on earth (Arcadia, Michigan) and spent another five days with close friends in beautiful weather on a gorgeous lake with great entertainment, enjoyable exercise and lots of relaxation.

In August we spent a weekend in Lake Geneva in a comfortable home with access to a spectacular pool, scenic hiking trails, charming shops and popular restaurants, and we were blessed with lots of relaxation.

So in retrospect, God has prepared me for the season in front of me and whatever deficiency I feel is not so much due to not being built up enough for the task ahead of me but to remind me to continue to look to the one who says His grace is sufficient for me in whatever season of life I'm in.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

What Heights of Love, What Depths of Peace

I've been feeling a little small lately. I wish that was a reference to a drop in weight, but alas I seem to be gaining mass more than losing it. Which makes me think of my favorite T-Shirt in the gift shop at the Museum of Science and Industry that reads "Do these protons make my mass look big?" Makes me giggle every time. But I digress...

I think the first image I saw that brought home the truth of Isaiah 40:7 and Genesis 18:27 (which remind me I'm like the withering grass, mere dust and ashes) was about a month ago when I was flying over the mountains on the way out to California.

I've been at the bottom of the foothills in Boulder, Colorado and looked up at the majestic objects that fill the sky and force you to crane your neck all the way back to see their peaks. I've stood at the top of the Continental Divide in Rocky Mountain National Park and been awestruck by the sheer vastness of the ridge of mountains elevated over 7,500 feet. I know how big they are. I've been among them. But they look pretty small from 30,000 feet.

Interesting how a change in perspective can actually give you some.

Last weekend we were at a party at a friends house and there was an inchworm crawling along a card table outside. It literally was no bigger than an inch, contracting and expanding it's little body to make the long, slow journey across the three foot surface.

And I started marveling at the imagination and creativity of God. The creator of the universe is looking down from a place far higher than the window seat of my airplane at the matchbox size world below and somehow has cared enough about wonder and details to make both mountains and inchworms. And people. Billions of them. In His own image. With pores and fingernails and hair strands which He has numbered! (Matthew 10:30 and Luke 12:7)

I'm just one person in a crowded region with a busy schedule. One person who was becoming increasingly drained by the pace of the activities. One person hoping for some rest.

And God provided.

First it was California. Five days in the sun with my sister along Highway 1 and the picturesque drive that is the Pacific Ocean on one side and rolling hills on the other (they call them mountains there, but after Colorado I can't bring myself to agree). Stops in Sonoma Valley, San Francisco, Monterey Bay, Carmel and Big Sur where the most pressing decision was where to eat and watch the sunset. It was heavenly.

Then two weeks later, He provided again. That most beloved retreat anyone who has known me twenty minutes has likely heard about, Camp Arcadia in northern Michigan. We didn't think we would get to go this year, a combination of a lack of finances and not registering in time for a very popular destination. Then the generosity of a good friend landed us in a cottage fifty feet from Camp property and about 150 feet from the beach on Lake Michigan. Five more days of sunset bliss along the water. Very few decisions, very much rest.

Spending time along those big bodies of water that go on and on to the horizon which you sometimes can't even see through the haze and the fog. Watching the sky transform into God's canvas with streaks of pink and purple and orange and yellow brushed onto the clouds while the waves crash up against the shore. Laughing and hanging with friends and family, reading books and playing cards. My vision was enlarged so my self importance could decrease.

For someone who is tempted to think too frequently of herself and far higher of herself than she ought, it was nothing short of grace to be humbly reminded "how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ." (Ephesians 3:18)

So now I'm back to the routine (as much as there is one in summer) and the pace is still quick and the work is still plenty, but the rest is still near. Because it isn't confined to the coasts of my retreats. It comes from the One whose presence is always with me. And I'm reminded of this song.

In Christ Alone

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand

In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
‘til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him laid
Here in the death of Christ I live

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt of life, no fear of death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
‘til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand

Lyrics by Stuart Townend, Keith Getty

Friday, June 28, 2013

A Very Good Birthday/Week

Last year I posted on my birthday and got more hits than ever before. It's because it was nearly 100 degrees in Chicago and I titled it "Hottest. Birthday. Ever." There were quite a few disappointed readers out there when they quickly realized I was talking about actual temperatures and not another porn site. I was tempted to reference the Stanley Cup this year since the Hawks Parade was downtown today and I have become quite the fan in my later years, but that seemed like another bait and switch. Especially since I didn't even go downtown with the masses when I had the day off. Instead, I preferred a quiet celebration with the immediate members of my family.

Truth be told, I've been celebrating for a week already. Through the generosity and kindness of my husband, mom/dad and sister I was able to fly out to California for five days, drive up and down Highway One along the Pacific Coast, hang with friends in San Francisco and take in wine country. Today the fairy tale continued with: a breakfast outdoors at Panera (that spinach and artichoke soufflé is a little slice of heaven); two rounds of golf with my son at the park district course my gramps always took us to when we were kids; a movie (Ry and I opted for Man of Steel while the girls took in Monsters University); and dinner on the roof top of Lou Malnati's to cap it all off. I should probably qualify that the golf course is five holes before you wonder how we got 36 in. Gramps was nothing if not frugal. It was a little swampy after the rain, but that worked to our advantage because there was only one other person on the course. So we used a lot of Mulligans. And a lot of balls. And we didn't keep score. Except for the two times we made par.

It gets better - homemade cards (including a poster), chalk signs on the driveway and decorations throughout the house - multiple phone messages, Facebook wishes (via Dan's account) and snail mail cards (so great to get something other than a bill). God has surrounded me with people who love and encourage me.

It had been about five-six weeks since I posted last because my life has been on hyper-drive for two solid months. I used to judge people whose lives I thought were unnecessarily busy. I'm in full repentance mode now.

If it's been too long since you had a respite from the chaos, I'd encourage you to take a leap of faith and just stop. Stop one thing. Stop everything. For a day. Or two. Or a week.

I didn't initiate my break, God in His mercy orchestrated it through the folks I mentioned above. I didn't deserve a break any more than anyone else, but if there's one thing I've learned about God it's how He delights to give His unmerited favor. Life had gotten so loud I'd have thought only the voice of thunder would have gotten my attention. But in His grace, God slowed my world down so that I could hear His whisper.

It's been a very good birthday.

Monday, May 13, 2013


Okay, MAYBE it's just the life stage but MAY is beginning to BE one of the most stressful months of the year. Open my calendar to MAY and it's comical. There are...

- Eight Baseball Games (for one kid)
- Three Band concerts (for one kid)
- One 8th Grade Dance (for two kids)
- One Gifted Expo (for one kid)
- One 8th Grade Graduation (for two kids, on same night as Gifted Expo for other kid)
- Two Youth Groups (all three kids)
- Two Prayer Events at church (Thank God, cuz they are likely what's going to get us through the rest of the list)
- A Silent Auction (blew it off - not very sorry about it either)
- Legacy Night (all three kids)
- Three Birthdays for extended family
- One Family anniversary
- Mother's Day (felt kinda short to me)
- An Ortho appointment (one kid)
- Another doctor's appointment (me-sigh)
- The annual church business meeting (on same day as one of the band concerts)

Oh and two full-time jobs.

My Star Wars crazed children said "MAY the fourth BE with you" to me on MAY 4th.
Get it?

"MAYBE I'm Amazed" is my favorite Paul McCartney song.

The Traditional Gaelic Blessing has four MAY's...

MAY the road rise up to meet you.
MAY the wind be always at your back.
MAY the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
MAY God hold you in the palm of His hand.

My favorite camp director is Chip MAY at

The Word "MAY" appears 1231 times in the Bible. I'm going with Psalm 19:14 for my MAY post closing...

"May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer."

Especially this MAY.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mom's Day

Mother's Day is kind of funny. Not ha ha funny, but an odd little effort to honor a role that roughly 80% of women over 40 hold. It's good there's a day dedicated to mother's, I guess, but I'm not sure how special it is when you consider there's also a Groundhog day, a Bosses day, an Arbor day, an Administrative Professionals day, a Flag day and so on. We honor lots of things. Or at the very least we mass market merchandise to them.

What's weird about the day is it alters your expectations - it's like the get out of jail free card in monopoly. You tell yourself I can pretty much do anything I want today, it's my day. I don't have to cook, clean, make decisions (unless I want to), run errands or deal with disgruntled children today. Which basically boils down to, I don't have to be a mom today. Because mom's do all that stuff.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying dads, kids, brothers, sisters, singles, aunts, uncles and grandparents don't do all that stuff too, I'm just saying it's definitely part of the mom repertoire of duties. So it's odd that there is a day set aside to honor mom and the way in which it's often done is to essentially take her out of the role for the better part of 24 hours. The thing is, it's hard to not do all the mom things for a whole day. Especially when the kids temporarily forget it's your day off and continue to act like you're their mom. And if our expectations are that there won't be any of the stressful mom duties and then those ugly duties call, we end up disappointed that someone swiped our get out of jail free card while we weren't looking.

Because there are dance recitals and travel baseball games planned on mother's day. There are kids who are tired and sick and cranky on mother's day. There are overpriced brunches and clogged toilets and dog vomit (actually experienced that last one today and we don't even have a dog, but we were sitting for another mom).

It shouldn't be about flowers and candy (though by God's grace and my brother and husband's thoughtfulness I got both) and trying to shirk all responsibility for a day. It should be the celebration of one of God's wonderful methods for caring for His people.

So there were ups and downs today and for a short while I was resenting the downs, but at the end of the day, I am reminded what a blessing and privilege it is to be given children to raise, nurture, guide, discipline, teach, comfort, rebuke, encourage, feed, clean and love.

And to bask in the home made cards. I hope I still get that kind when they move out.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Boston Bombing, Kermit Gosnell and Corrie ten Boom

So I'm not one to write much about current events let alone read all the posts, blogs and tweets that set the internet abuzz when an event as tragic as the Boston Marathon bombing happens or the lesser known murder trial of Dr. Gosnell. The latter is under the radar because the mainstream news isn't reporting it much but there are folks getting the word out about the late term abortion doctor that is on trial for murdering seven babies immediately after birth. These are complicated, messy stories that beg questions about how a good God tolerates such horrific evil. So I usually leave the analysis to more mature and wiser men and women of faith and find I'm often truly blessed when I read a God honoring post on their blog sites.

That was the case this week, which began with a post about Boston by Tony Reinke (you can read his whole post here and ended with one by Marshall Segal on both Boston and Gosnell. I also found some insight on Randy Alcorn's blog on the interesting effect pro-choice policy has on an act that would otherwise be equated to the Holocaust.

But none of these stories are readily available when my teenage kids come home from school and want to know why limbs are flying past people's faces after they ran 26 miles. Or why an eight year old boy watching dies. They come to me looking for answers because they trust me. I don't have all the answers, but there's Someone I trust too and that's Who I go to when evil runs amok.

First I talked to the kids about the shock of it all, because it's shocking. More so to Americans who don't see this kind of thing very often. I saw a Facebook post of a group of people in Syria holding up a sign that said something along the lines of "Our condolences...bombs go off here every day."

We're shocked at the evil in a person's heart that would cause them to kill what we would deem innocent bystanders. But the Bible speaks of evil in men's hearts from beginning to end. Genesis 6:5 says "The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." Ecclesiastes 9:3 says "the hearts of the children of men are full of evil." Evil hearts are a theme throughout the entire book of Jeremiah and the Gospels of Matthew and Mark both say evil thoughts come out of our hearts (Matt. 15:19 and Mark 7:21). So in a house where the Bible is continually read (and ours is one) we shouldn't be surprised when men do evil things. That's the problem with mankind. We're sinners. That's why God sent His Son to earth to live a perfect life and die a death we deserved. There is evil in the world and in us and it must be punished. God hates evil. But He loves us. So if the evil is in us, what can He do?

What He did was execute a plan He had from the start to both punish the evil and deliver us from it. He transferred the evil to His Son, who willingly took it all on our behalf so that by faith we can live free from sin and it's power. That's what happened on the cross.

But even those free from sin's power are still subject to it's influence. Evil is in the world (God cursed the ground when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit) and we should expect to see it. So that's where I started with the kids. We shouldn't be surprised by the evil.

But that's not a very comforting place to leave my kids. So next we went to prayer. We prayed for the victims, their families, the law enforcement and medical personnel, and the rescue workers. But there was still someone else to pray for and none of us were eager to do it.

The bombers.

How do you pray for bombers? How do you pray for a doctor that openly admits aborting hundreds of babies in the first, second and third trimesters and then even after birth with no apparent regret?

That's what brought me to Corrie ten Boom. If you've never read "The Hiding Place" I recommend you go to your local library check it out and read through every page. It's the true life story of Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsie who were in concentration camps during the Holocaust. It's a gut-wrenching story but an uplifting one and there's a passage in it that God brings to my mind again and again when I go into vengeance mode. Corrie and her sister are trying to read pages from the Bible that had previously been used as toilet paper without getting caught by one of the meanest female guards at the camp and Corrie's heart (like mine) is wishing God's wrath be poured out on the hateful woman. But Betsie imagines with great joy that maybe one day God in His mercy will allow her to share the Gospel with that guard who has abused, mocked and imprisoned her. She imagines it with great joy.

So here's what I discovered as I contemplated the Boston Bomber, Dr. Kermit Gosnell and Nazi Germany. I think somehow their sins are more offensive to God than mine. And that's why I don't want to pray for them.

When I realize that I'm a sinner and that compared to God I look like Hitler, I get how gracious it was of Him to save me. I get that I was rescued from my own evil heart. And if I really understand the Gospel, I get that I didn't deserve it. I didn't do anything so wonderful that it canceled out all the gross and offensive stuff. And it makes me want to give God glory. I mean truly sing His praises (even if it is off-key) because of all He's done for me.

Imagine if a killer gets that. That he/she is saved by grace at no cost whatsoever and that there will be no punishment from God for those sins. How much more would they want to glorify God?

When a prostitute came to Jesus and the religious leaders balked Jesus rebuked them and said she loved much because she'd been forgiven much, but those who are forgiven little love little (Luke 7:47). How much more would God be praised by men and women forgiven of heinous crimes?

That's how I can pray for killers.

Monday, April 15, 2013

In His Grip

Whenever a month goes by without my posting anything I feel this ridiculous responsibility to post something more meaningful. As if my six followers of kind family members care. But the truth is much of what I write is more a reminder to myself of something God revealed to me in a given situation so I can refer back to it at some point in time. When I reflect on paper (or in this case on screen) I'm starting to find the exercise more fruitful than the impact. Which is a roundabout way of saying the discipline of writing is becoming more important to me than what I share. So I've actually written more frequently in recent weeks, but also more privately.

All that to say, if what follows disappoints, my apologies. I'm taking a stab at relevancy worth sharing here.

March and the beginning of April have proved challenging so far. Work is busier than ever though my hours are back to normal (30 instead of the 40 I worked in February). We took a week off for the kid's Spring Break and did manage some fun "stay-cation" things like a trip to the Field Museum downtown, a date night for Dan and me and several sleep overs both hosted and imposed. We also did quite a bit of Spring Cleaning and began a big project replacing a bathroom floor (which I must confess is still in progress). Added to that were two more wakes/funerals and a crushing sense of how quickly this life passes. We're planning driving lessons for our oldest and 8th grade graduation for our babies.

Sometimes it feels like I'm on one of those waterslides that picks up speed around every bend.

As I've gotten older I've become more of a planner, though I am no rival for either of my sisters, it's quite an improvement for the youngest born. So while in my youth I was willing enough to fly by the seat of my pants, in my more mature years (I know it's debatable) I crave security and assurance.

And what I'm realizing is the security I crave I do not have, but the assurance I need is guaranteed.

The security I crave is the comfort of knowing what lies ahead, which is sort of stupid because if I always saw what was coming I don't think I'd find it all that comforting. Instead of trying to figure out what my circumstances are going to be, I'd be better served to remember Who is with me in the midst of them. I've often heard and repeated myself that Peace isn't the absence of conflict, it's the absence of anxiety in the midst of the conflict.

We talk about this a lot at work, which is par for the course when you work in a church. We often catch ourselves being surprised that things didn't turn out like we'd planned or that people reacted differently than we expected when in fact we should be astonished when anything goes according to "our" design. What's that saying? Man makes plans and God laughs. See also Proverbs 16:9.

So it's good to remember that on the slippery waterslide, with its ever increasing speed I have the firm grip of assurance that I won't drown at the end. God is good to remind me that I have this assurance in the grip of His grace and it does not diminish in my circumstances, however harrowing they appear. In fact, it's in the middle of the crisis that I most experience just how strong His grip is.

This was illustrated for me some years back just before Dan retired from the National Guard. Through the efforts of some wonderful veterans I had the privilege of participating in a spousal helicopter ride above Chicago's beautiful lakefront skyline on a perfect September day. We took off out of Midway airport where Dan's army unit drilled. At the time Dan was the company commander and I wanted to represent him well so I made the bold move of taking the outermost seat on the aircraft next to the door that doesn't actually close. And in line with the aforementioned fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants tendency I was wearing flip flops, a sweater and had left my naturally curly hair down for the day.

The crew was wonderfully patient and assisted us with our five-point harness seatbelt and before I knew it we were ready for takeoff. I'm not one to panic in general, I'm not afraid to fly and though I'd never been on a helicopter before if you'd taken my blood pressure six seconds before flight it wouldn't have been higher than 120/80. Six seconds after takeoff would have been a different story.

We went straight up 2000 feet in a shot and that's when the reality hit that I was sitting in the window seat and the window was not only floor to ceiling, but it was open.

And then we turned.

Do you know what happens when a helicopter turns? It tilts sideways so that the people to either the far left or far right are at a significant angle to the ground. Being the person to the far right it was at this point in time that I said (though no one could hear above the blades) "My God, what have I done?"

There was nothing separating me from the open air fall and the only thing keeping me in my seat was that five-point harness belt. And let me tell worked. I did not budge an inch. I did not slide a centimeter. I was no closer to the threshold of the open door than I was when we were parallel to the ground. I was most assuredly not going anywhere. And once I knew that - freedom reigned.

I was so confident in my secure status that I stuck my knee out the door over Lake Michigan to tease my mother-in-law with the photo op (that's what you see above - the tiny speck of white at the very top is actually a huge sail boat). I will never forget that day or that ride. But I find myself pleasantly surprised how God has brought it to mind again with a new means of blessing me -

"My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand" John 10:29

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Moving On

In the past five plus years that I've been on staff at our church we made the decision to become multi-site (one church in many locations), opened two additional campuses and birthed a Network to help plant and revitalize many more churches. Over time our staff has been gradually restructured into central and campus specific teams but the majority of those on "central" staff worked and served in the original campus. Until last week.

On Wednesday all employees working at the Arlington Heights Campus ate lunch together and expressed appreciation for each other. On Thursday sixteen members of the central staff packed up all their files, computers and books and on Friday we unpacked them in our new space on the second floor of an attached office building to our Barrington Campus. It was an emotional week. And not just for the ladies.

Some of the folks who moved offices had been in that original building more than ten years. Others were much newer but had managed to accumulate a good deal of supplies, paperwork and equipment in that short amount of time. A fair bit of purging had to take place before the move could be made.

Those of you who have ever moved (whether an office or a home) know that it's wiser to get rid of stuff you don't need or use anymore than to pack it, move it and continue to store it in a new place. But that doesn't mean it's easy. It takes a good deal of time and effort to discern what is necessary and beneficial for the future and what ought to be passed on to others or eliminated entirely. You can't make those decisions without looking at everything you've held onto in some detail.

What to keep? What to leave?

One of the perks of working in a church is how activities like this are approached. We always pray first. We also benefitted from the practical wisdom of our office management that had the insight to plan an annual cleaning day - many items that were no longer useful were discarded long before the move. But I think I'm most grateful for the leadership of a few pastors and one women's ministry director that have often reminded me to hold things loosely in this world because it's all temporary.

That's pretty counter-cultural in a society that values possessions with increasing passion. My kids generation has accumulated far more than twice as much as that of my parents. I remember when my mother surveyed my (third) baby-shower collection of gifts - it was a classic Winnie-the-Pooh theme. There were bookends (filled with books), photo frames, bedding sets, bumper pads, a quilt rack, dozens of outfits, knick-knacks, and a mobile among other items. She sighed and said, "When we brought you home there was a crib and a picture of Bambi on the wall."

I can relate to people who fear they'll get rid of something and then discover later they really needed it. After all, I was a Bank Compliance Officer for a decade. And though technology allows us to keep digital copies of literally everything now, we're still skeptical when we can't pull out a drawer and touch it with our hands. When we find we really need that special something, will it be there?

This is where faith comes in. Do I trust the God that tells me "My grace is sufficient for you" (2 Corinthians 12:9) that He really is all I need? Am I willing to let Him purge what He surely knows is not good for me and let Him replace it with what is better? Especially when I can't envision the better thing?

Late Friday afternoon I stood in a circle with the central staff team and thanked God for giving us the amazing building we stood in and for bringing the wildly talented, highly overqualified and supremely dedicated individuals in that circle to our staff. Then I moved to a newly painted, carpeted and furnished office of my very own and experienced what I call an Ephesians 3:20 moment.

"Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen"

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


So my oldest daughter has now attended her first dance. With a boy.

I have so many things to be grateful for in this experience, not the least of which is I survived it. I know, I know. It wasn't about me. But it did have a particular effect on my life. I am the mother of a teenage girl who up to this point in time has refrained from most of the social activities her peers have engaged in. And I got sort of used to it. It was nice, not having to navigate these waters. It was comfortable for awhile.

Not that it's all discomfort and white-capped waves now. They went as friends, the dress was modest, they opted for pizza in (instead of a fancy dinner out) and ended the night playing video games rather than - well, rather than so many other less desirable options. It was the best possible scenario for a parent who has realized she's not quite ready for this stage of life. Especially since when I was in the stage my motives were less pure, my decisions less wise and my dresses hideous. Blame the 80's. Fashion. Disaster.

It's both encouraging and humbling to see that my less experienced daughter is actually making more mature decisions. I credit a better foundation of faith for that. Actually, I credit God for that.

And she was a really good sport about all the photos I took.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Full Time

My last post indicated there was a lot going on at both home and work. Another week has passed and I'm almost embarrassed to admit this week has been busier. At the end of the first day of the work week, I surveyed the amount of work assigned and the amount of work completed at my job and mentioned to my boss it might be a good idea for me to work "full time" for the month of February. I think he may have been waiting for me to suggest it because it was approved and implemented immediately. This was the first week since before my 13 year old twins were born that I didn't have a weekday off. And my daughter Maggie was sick. Again. She missed two days of school with another bad cold. One or two of you might be making a judgment about my priorities for not being home with her. You might be right.

My niece is back in America (by way of Australia) and has been visiting Chicago since Thursday. My brother's birthday is tomorrow and we had a nice celebration together yesterday. There was a basketball game, a wrestling meet, a prayer event at church, a Science Olympiad Invitational (Caitlin took third place in one of her events) and a long overdue hair cut. That was the latter 1/2 of the week.

I did the grocery shopping on a Saturday for the first time in years. It was not pleasant. Though the 2 year old boy in the cart in front of me did make the long lines at Walmart a little more bearable as he showed off his matchbox car and played a little hide and seek behind his bag of cookies.

I did laundry and errands on Sunday after church. I know this is how a good chunk of America lives, but I'm still waiting to see how I'll survive it. My husband has been great - giving kids rides, helping with the dishes, dusting, and vacuuming. I suppose I'm waiting to see how he survives it too. The funny thing is what a difference ten hours a week makes.

The really funny thing is that we call 40 hours "full time." What's so full about 40 hours in a week made up of 168? It's a little less than 1/4 of the time. Which means I'm spending 3/4's of my time not at work. I know. I'm babbling. Here's the point.

I am so unavoidably limited in my fullness.

I struggle because the word "full" somehow implies complete to me. It has the connotation of getting something done. Finished. Like filling a coffee cup all the way up to the brim. I just put in a 40 hour work week and let me tell you, I'm not done. I didn't finish my tasks. There are empty cups all over my desk (both literally and figuratively).

So it was a relief this morning in church to hear the sermon about the last Beatitude, "Blessed are the Peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God." The pastor reminded us that there's a progression to the Beatitudes and the one before peace is purity. Purity is a little broader than we tend to think it is and yet a little narrower too. Purity extends to all aspects of my thought life, speech and actions, but it basically boils down to just one aim: holiness. As my man Shakespeare would say "therein lies the rub."

My whole life is a journey toward holiness - the problem is I'm never going to arrive this side of heaven. There are limits to what I will achieve on earth and how quickly it is done. I could use that as an excuse not to pursue holiness at all, but I'd be directly disobeying God if I did. He has called me to be a peacemaker. Not 30 hours a week or 40 hours a week, but 168 hours a week I am to bring the peace He has so generously given me in His Son to every person I meet, every building I enter, every situation I'm in.

That's what I call a full time job.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

What Comes Out

It's been a hectic two weeks. I've been aware of this based on my own level of stress and increased exhaustion. But I have been somewhat significantly less aware than many people around me. In my experience, you are rarely, if ever, the final authority on your own emotional well being. Unless of course, no one else has the dubious honor of witnessing it.

My point is that I'm not always managing my reactions as well as I think I am. I'm comforted to know that sometimes, by God's grace, I'm told I handle them better than I think I do, but such was not the feedback I received these past couple of weeks. I've had more than a few people ask me if things are busy at home or at work to which I answer, "Yes."

We have somehow gradually evolved from the family with few committments into a suburban flurry of activity typical of working parents with three teenagers. God bless Maggie for not being enticed into the mayhem that is organized sports, music, drama, dance, etc. The other two are making up for her lack of interest with basketball, wrestling, band, youth orchestra, science olympiad and youth group. There are practices, games, concerts, rehearsals, meetings and competitions pretty much daily. And the sixteen year old in the house is nowhere near getting a license. So we drive kids around. A lot. That's after work, grocery shopping, errands, dinner, dishes, laundry and the like. I'm not going to admit how seldom I clean, apart from surface clearing and Clorox Wipes. That's the daily stuff. I've had two baby showers, one wake, a museum visit, and a weekend out of town to boot. That's been the home life.

I can't begin to list the number of unusual projects and tasks at work. Well, maybe I can...two significant new hires and two more in the works, a complete office move for the entire central staff by the end of this month, reworking a slew of meeting times, locations and participants while launching new ministry goals and ideas for three campuses. The work hasn't just increased, the pace at which we hope to complete it seems to quicken daily. There was one day this week that it all escalated into an outburst on my part. Not a full blown temper tantram mind you, but a demonstration of one that is most certainly not resting in the power and grace of God. And it was brought to my attention. Twice.

I'm grateful that the first time it came to me was by the Holy Spirit through a gentle but firm conviction that I ought to apologize immediately to the co-worker who bore the biggest brunt of my frustration. I was glad I got that apology in before the second conviction came in the form of another co-worker who was present when it happened.

I'm a people pleaser so I don't like hearing when I've blown it. But I'm glad people tell me. It's part of the sanctification process. I'm also glad a day passed before the second notice. It reduced my defensiveness level a bit. Because I think the tendency is always to shift the blame - if not onto another person, then at the very least to the circumstances. So it's good that I've had this image in my mind for a few months from a DVD study we are doing in our small group at church. The study is called "What Did You Expect?" and the subtitle is "Redeeming the Realities of Marriage." Provactive title, don't you think?

It's been amazing. The first week's session included a little demonstration. The man teaching holds a full water bottle on the stage and shakes it vigorously then asks the audience why water came out of the bottle. Almost in unison everyone replies, "Because you shook it." Then he asked the same question again, but he stressed one word. "Why did water come out of the bottle?" There was a short pause before someone said, "Because water was in the bottle." Then he goes on to unpack the illustration of how we like to pass the blame - it's the one who shook me who's at fault, I couldn't help my reaction! But the fact is nothing comes out that wasn't already inside in the first place. If inside there is nothing but peace, gentleness and self control, then that's what comes out no matter how violently you are shaken.

Getting called on the carpet for spilling my pent up frustration was actually an answer to prayer. I've been asking God lately to show me more of my sin. Be careful what you wish for folks, this is one of those prayers He always seems to answer rapidly. Don't misunderstand, I'm not looking for a guilt trip over how very far short I fall of the grace of God. But I do desire that I would be more grieved over every offense I commit against the God who has given me every good gift I have ever received. That was a lesson learned during a Beatitudes sermon series at church. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. I always thought it was talking about God's comfort during times of pain and loss. It's true that God comforts during those times, but the Beatitude is actually talking about how those who mourn their sin, their offenses against God, will be comforted. We aren't left discouraged and hopeless knowing we will never measure up, never stop failing. We are comforted by the very person we are offending. And He promises we won't be sinning forever. Christ will come back and restore everything and we will be like Him, in His presence. For those who have placed their faith and trust in Jesus as their Savior, there is no punishment left for the many offenses. They were all placed on Him. No anger left. No wrath of God coming for those in Christ.

The more I dwell on that amazing truth the more I experience the supernatural peace of God which transcends all understanding.

And that's a much better emotion to have churning inside when everything is shaking.

Monday, January 21, 2013

My Indian Name is "Laughs-A-Lot"

So the non-PC title notwithstanding, I'm happy to declare that I have a growing reputation for laughing. A lot. While I was sick and out of work for an extended period of time, one of the first things some of my co-workers said when I returned was how good it was to hear my laugh again. I attribute that to the steady stream of humor in my Outlook inbox (some intentional and some not so much). It seems others believe it's more to do with how easily amused I am.

Friday night, Dan and I went to see Brian Regan (Google him) at the Chicago Theater. I had bought tickets for Dan's birthday and we were excited to see him in person after countless nights watching his bits on youtube with the kids. That's the beauty of Brian Regan - you can watch him with children in the room, because he's one of the few remaining clean comics. He had new material on this tour and it didn't disappoint. I'm sure I was heard snorting a few times (can't help it) and literally cried my mascara off in laughter. The opening act was great too. My favorite line of his was "I can solve all the traffic problems in Chicago with one word..."Goooo!"

I continued to smile from ear to ear on Saturday while walking through the Peanuts exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry with Caitlin. Some of Charles Shulz's best comic strips were plastered on the walls in the mouths of Lucy, Linus and good ole Charlie Brown. The smiles continued at not one, but two, baby showers at church later that afternoon.

Sunday was full of joy too while our church celebrated our 60 year anniversary with grateful testimonies and songs of praise.

Today was more like Friday night as I wondered again why I put mascara on. Dan and I had the privelege of attending Lou Malnati's annual manager holiday party because one of our friends was being honored for 30 years with the company. They were gracious enough to include those of us who had worked with him back in the beginning. After a series of video clips that rivaled the best late night comedy show efforts and a "Malnati Idol" Karaoke competition that put local venues to shame, I was undone. I can't do the performances justice with mere words, but I can tell you I was the one laughing hardest and loudest in the room.

On the coldest day in about a year, in a long season of winter in Chicago, it's good to have occasion to laugh. I'm grateful God wired me that way and gave me the fellowship of those who bring it out.

"A joyful heart is good medicine." Proverbs 17:22

Monday, January 7, 2013


While I continue to be grateful for the celebrations I enjoyed over the weekend, it seems they may have contributed to a setback in my recovery. I had to leave one of the church functions I mentioned in my last post early yesterday. I never made it to the second one, because this illness, whatever it is, has decided it's not finished with me yet.

That kept me from more visiting with my brother-in-law and from spending time with my husband who took a vacation day today (but in his kindness did some more laundry to keep us going a few more days). This illness has kept me from a lot of things that I had hoped to achieve during a long holiday break and it's tempting to think about regrets and what could have been. But a few days ago my amazing husband said something that has stuck with me. I was bemoaning the lack of progress made on home projects, the inability to go on a date (or two!) while we were both off work and had gift cards to spend, and the lost opportunity to invite friends over during a week we had nothing else planned. And his reply was "I guess that wasn't God's will."

Now depending on your faith and your current struggles, that can be the knife in the back or the balm in the wound. For me it was definitely the latter. Because there is nothing so comforting as being reminded that the all wise, all powerful, all merciful, totally compassionate and ever present God is in charge.

Of course that's only comforting if you know Him to be wise, powerful, merciful, compassionate and there.

I may never get the "why me?" or "why now?" questions answered but I get something infinitely better. Assurance that whatever my circumstances may be, they are still in the hand of a God who loves me and knows far better than I do what's best at any given moment.

Saturday, January 5, 2013


So...interesting week so far. This being the first week of the New Year I must admit I had different expectations of what the week would hold, but that's because I keep forgetting that God laughs while I make plans.

New Year's Eve was the quietest yet, with me on the couch for the fourth consecutive day. I made it out to the doctor's office to confirm I either had the worst personal virus in five years or an infection that somehow steered clear of my lungs. Either way, I got an antibiotic prescription, stocked up on kleenex with lotion, cough drops, ibuprofen and DVD's and settled in for the night. The twins left for a sleepover much to their big sister's delight and Dan and I loaded up the new bluray player with our library rentals. Eventually, Caitlin emerged from her batcave (aka the basement where the Wii and her brand new laptop reside) and informed us we missed the count down to midnight. Oh well. We hugged each other and went to bed.

New Year's Day was much the same. So was Wednesday. And Thursday.

On Friday, I finally started to feel better, which is good because the laundry was mounting and the food in the house waning. That night we got together with the Eder side to welcome my brother-in-law visiting from Florida. By 9pm I hit the brick wall hard.

Today I got to see my goddaughter compete in a gymnastic meet, have lunch with great friends and then go on to a 50th birthday party for my brother-in-law (this is the part where I'm supposed to mention that he's older than both Dan and me). It was a wonderful day. Not because anything super spectacular happened but because it was spent with people I love. I'm getting better at being in the moment (maybe because I spent a week on the couch, but still). It's so rewarding to just enjoy time together.

Tomorrow is a busy day - there's a farewell luncheon for a great couple from church that are moving out of state and an annual evening event for all the ministry leaders. These occasions will be celebratory too - more so than watching a ball drop in Times Square on New Years Eve - because they will be spent with people rejoicing in all the ways God has blessed us this past year.

And because we can trust God to give cause for more celebrations in the year to come.