Slowing down and paying attention

Poor me. All I’ve talked about for weeks is my elbow. I’ve spent the last week with my right arm immobilized in a brace. Most of the time has been spent half-snoozing, system full of pain-killers. Mindless Netflix episodes. A couple frivolous books. Trying not to criticize my husband for not doing all of my ...

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Poor me. All I’ve talked about for weeks is my elbow. I’ve spent the last week with my right arm immobilized in a brace. Most of the time has been spent half-snoozing, system full of pain-killers. Mindless Netflix episodes. A couple frivolous books. Trying not to criticize my husband for not doing all of my usual tasks exactly the way I would do them. Eating isn’t even much fun when it’s all about getting enough in your stomach to keep the meds from making you nauseous, and having someone else cut your food, and then shakily balancing food on an awkwardly grasped fork, hoping to end up with more in my mouth than tumbling down the front of my shirt.

Several friends, upon hearing about my injury, asked if it’s my writing hand. Yes. But I spend so much time typing that I didn’t think it would bother me much in that respect. Oh, what we take for granted. Signing a check or charge slip. Jotting new activities and kids’ sports practices on the calendar. Writing quick reminders on post-it notes. Grocery lists. Addressing an envelope. Filling in the answers in my Bible study book. Scribbling insights in the margins of books I’m reading. I typically spend lots of time with a pen in hand. A Tul medium point blue gel pen, to be precise. I love filling pages of any kind with my handwriting, smooth and glob-free thanks to my trusty pens.

But I jot things down because I can’t remember everything and there’s always so much to remember. Maybe I need to slow down and simply remember.

Interestingly enough, I just now got an email notifying me that a blog post of mine just went live on Devotional Diva, a site I’m excited to be writing for. Prayer for the Overwhelmed. The words I wrote weeks ago minister to me now. Huh. Funny how that happens.

I have no doubt that God is trying to teach me something. Slow me down and teach me to lean on Him in new ways. The first of these lessons I’ve already seen.

Friends — people I think a lot of but don’t know well — have sent me cards. Actually stopped what they’re doing after seeing my posts on Facebook, and sent me cards. I’ve gotten texts and gifts and food.

Apparently, there are still a lot of loving and thoughtful people in this world. People so much kinder than I am.

Friends with chronic conditions have shared their tips and encouragement. A woman with so many more health issues than I have has sent up prayers and offered advice for how to lean into the pain and not fight the body’s natural response. More people than I can believe have empathized, mentioning the time they had arm/shoulder/hand/knee surgery. (Where was I? How did I not notice or remember? Am I really so self-focused?) One friend has been without a voice for two weeks, unable to work — and yet SHE sends ME a get well bag of goodies. My sister tells me about the people from her work and church who ask about me. (On a side note, the people at C’ville’s First United Methodist Church and all the staff at Spencer Dermatology are among the nicest people I know.)

But the most humbling moment came when my friend Sherry walked into church Sunday. She has several serious medical issues and recently fell, hard, further injuring her already painful, messed-up back. She came into church, leaning on a cane, grimacing from the effort. Yet she threw her arm around me, hugged me, and said she’s been praying for me and worrying about how I’m doing.

She. Has been worried. About me.

I think that when we’re hurting, when we are facing a big change (whether tragic or emotional or physical), our natural response is to close in. Our world gets smaller. The pain defines us and gives us blinders to everything else.

But the people who make a difference are those who uncurl themselves, who come out of their circle of pain to reach out to others. Those who are not defined by their circumstances. Those who use their experiences to embody their compassion for others. Those who understand that even in pain, even in sorrow and hardship, God reigns. He never leaves. He’s not angry and punishing them. He loves and soothes and comforts and forgives and teaches and reveals and enlightens.

He reminds us that no matter how lonely we might feel, we are not alone.

We are not forsaken. We should not despair. We should, quite simply, love.

LORD, don’t let me waste this time. Don’t let me fill it with mindless noise and fail to hear Your voice. If I have to slow down, let this time have a new kind of value. Let my mind slow and my soul learn to wait. Remind me to listen. And teach me this kind of generosity of spirit. Help me love like You would. Amen.


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Luckily, I prepared the April prayer calendar before my surgery so it’s here and ready to go!

 

Time to stop being a control freak

Recently, on a night when I was hosting my book club, my husband walked in to the living room and started gathering our dirty dessert plates. I started off by rolling my eyes—of course he wants to take credit for being this great husband. By the time everyone left, the kitchen was clean, and I ...

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Recently, on a night when I was hosting my book club, my husband walked in to the living room and started gathering our dirty dessert plates. I started off by rolling my eyes—of course he wants to take credit for being this great husband. By the time everyone left, the kitchen was clean, and I climbed into bed, furious.

As I sat there, I started wondering why this made me so angry. Was it about him getting “credit” for what he did? Was he showing off?

No. I was mad because I could have done the dishes. I was going to. And every time Tim does something like this, I take it as a rebuke. I read into his attitude anger, disgust—the conviction that he had to step up because I didn’t fulfill my obligations.

And then I thought about Tim. And realized there was no way that’s what he meant. He was probably just trying to be helpful. Not criticizing my lack of action.

OK, so maybe hormones played into this a bit. But still, even taking that into account, I knew I was out of line. (And for the record, I apologized.)

A couple weeks later, my daughter called me, nearly in tears. She was back at college, and she needed to find her black dress, and she had seen it that day, but couldn’t find it now. She had already looked through all her clothes. She was frustrated, didn’t like any of my suggestions, and took it out on me.

There may have been some stress and hormones going on here, too (hers and mine). But I hung up the phone, upset, ranting in my mind. I wasn’t there. What was I supposed to do? And why did I feel like such a failure? How could the fact the she lost a dress make me feel as though I had personally failed her?

These two moments keep coming back to my mind. So I’ve been examining them, examining myself, wondering what they say about me.

The simple answer? That I’m a control freak.

When my kids or husband call me that, it makes me angry. Because someone has to make sure things get done. Someone has to pay attention to the big picture, and be sure that the details are handled, too. If not me, then who?

What I’ve discovered in the past 22 years of parenting is that it’s a whole lot harder to fix something after it’s done wrong (or too late) than it is to just do it myself.

But what has that taught my kids? To lean on me and not do it themselves.

What has that taught my husband? That he can’t win, and it’s not worth it to try to help.

What has it done for me? Raised my blood pressure, primarily. The things it has done are not good. It’s exacerbated my stress, added to my too-long to-do list, kept me from getting enough sleep, made it hard for me to relax, and strained my relationships. The people in my life have to be frustrated with me, and I’m tired of feeling like I have to pick up the slack.

So I’m done.

No, I’m not running away. But my mantra this past couple weeks has been “Don’t do it.” Forget Nike. I need to design a new logo with this much-more-catchy tagline: DON’T DO IT.

When my son had a paper due recently, I nudged him all day. And evening. And night. To keep moving. To hurry up. I drove him crazy—and justified that he needed someone to prod him because he wasn’t moving fast enough. It’s entirely possible that some steam may have escaped out of my ears. And even though I’m certain he thinks I was being controlling, I nagged much less than I wanted to, and I didn’t sit down with him and try to help.

I’ll call that a win. Even if he didn’t finish the paper until almost 1 am.

When my husband finished loading the dishwasher without me asking, I didn’t go in and say, “I was gonna do that.” Instead, I finished reading a chapter of my book as I sipped on my coffee.

The fact that these are ridiculous examples just goes to show how skewed my thinking had become.

I want control. I want to make sure things work. I want to accomplish stuff, check things off my list. I want to achieve, excel, succeed. I want to be the best. Do the most. I want to make it happen.

But I cannot control everything. I wrote a little about that last week, and I’m still trying to learn this lesson.

I have tried to do too much, and in the long run, it hasn’t helped anyone. Least of all, myself.

So I find myself saying no. Not out loud, necessarily. But just telling myself—OK, shouting loudly in my head to be heard above the chaos that reigns in there—NO. Don’t do it. Don’t volunteer. Don’t take over. Don’t worry if it’s not done just the way you want it.

Do not control everything.

Because it’s impossible, and it only leads to more frustration, more feelings of being inadequate, more failures. And because it’s not my job. It’s God’s. The Only One who can bring change. Who can impose order.

The One whose job I need to stop taking.

Calling all SuperMoms. Especially those who aren’t [giveaway]

Today is the release day for my friend Becky Kopitzke‘s book, The Super Mom Myth: Conquering the Dirty Villains of Motherhood. I got to read it early, and I loved it. Even though I’m kind of tired of everything related to being a mom. Don’t get me wrong. I love my kids. And you never ...

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Today is the release day for my friend Becky Kopitzke‘s book, The Super Mom Myth: Conquering the Dirty Villains of Motherhood.

I got to read it early, and I loved it. Even though I’m kind of tired of everything related to being a mom. Don’t get me wrong. I love my kids. And you never stop being a mom. But I am past the “kid” stage so I wasn’t sure how I would relate, even though I knew I would love what Becky had to say, because she’s awesome like that.

But I loved it. Here is my official review:

As a mother of three, I am sick of all the messes, whining and complaining (mine, not my kids’). I try not to worry about all the ways that I have failed in this holy role God granted me. But in The SuperMom Myth, Becky Kopitzke pairs her stories with God’s words and wisdom to soothe, convict, and repair my tired, tattered soul. She somehow climbed into my head and heard my excuses, justification, insecurity, and guilt—and helped me leave them behind. She is real and relatable, and did I mention funny? Her gentle answers reveal Biblical truths and fresh insights that every mom needs to hear. She points us all to the only Superhero who is infallible, reminding us that, by ourselves, cape or not, we can’t save the day. I’ll gladly serve as faithful sidekick to the One who can.

If you still have children at home, you should read this. If you know someone who has children at home, you might consider this as a Christmas gift. It’s a fun read—the material has depth, but you never feel like you’re having to slog through. It’s in bite-sized pieces. And it’s real and loaded with wisdom and truth. It’s the book I wish I’d had when my kids were younger and I was struggling with learning how to juggle the craziness that is life. You can order it at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or wherever books are sold.

I like this book so much that I’ll tell you what: Leave a comment below before Saturday, December 5 and you will be entered into a drawing for a free copy. My treat :-).

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The best way to love someone? Through prayer.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6, NIV When you sit down to draw a still life, you have to be careful to maintain a consistent position. If you get up to stretch and sit down a few inches ...

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Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6, NIV

When you sit down to draw a still life, you have to be careful to maintain a consistent position. If you get up to stretch and sit down a few inches to the right, the scene will look different. The spaces between objects will have changed, relative proportions shifted. Lines moving away from you will be at different angles. Even if you’re not an artist, you’ve probably seen this is another way. When your family poses for a Christmas photo in front of the tree, it might look as though it’s growing out of your son’s head. But if you shift a couple feet to one side, that is no longer the case. Because you found a new perspective.

When I decided to keep a prayer journal for one month (from Thanksgiving through Christmas) for my friend Peggy, I knew it would be a meaningful gift. But I didn’t realize it would be a gift to me, too.

Peggy’s life intersects mine in so many ways. She and her husband pastor our church. Our children are about the same ages, and we grew up attending the same school together for most of our lives. When I went forward, wanting to be baptized, in sixth grade, it was during Peggy’s slumber party (she’d taken us to her church’s revival). When I later found my church and discovered what it meant to have an intimate relationship with Jesus, I learned much of it from watching her.

Peggy helped me discover the power of prayer. So often we tell people we’ll pray and promptly forget, though. I wanted a tangible record of my commitment to pray for her.

So I chose a small journal and sat down every day to write out my prayers. I prayed for a different aspect of her life each day—her children, husband, ministry, leadership, faith life, friendships, extended family, work, finances, and health.

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When I intentionally prayed for Peggy and her family, asking for God’s protection and intervention, guidance and leadership, I got a new glimpse into Peggy’s life—her faith, her struggles—that I hadn’t seen before. In turn, I found a renewed sense of gratitude for her gifts—her joy, her welcoming kindness, her fun-loving personality. A greater respect for the weights she carries and for the responsibility of her position. A new awe for the strength of her character and the depths of her faith. And it made me a better friend.

Amazing things happen when we pray. God draws nearer. Rough edges are made smooth. Hardened hearts are softened. It was easy to pray for Peggy because I already cared about her. It may not be as easy to pray for someone you don’t particularly like—someone who hurt you, makes snide comments, lies, cheats, or can’t be trusted. But here’s the hard truth about Christianity: we’re called to embrace the teachings and practices of Jesus, and that isn’t easy.

Jesus tells us to pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44). To pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) and to pray about everything (Philippians 4:6).

But not just any old prayers will do. We’re to pray with thanksgiving.

Lucky for us, prayer and gratitude go hand in hand.

Pray for your enemy (or rival, or the person who offended you on Facebook) and you will discover that there’s more than one side to every story. Pray for the wife of a man you’re attracted to, and before long, you have one more good reason to avoid getting too close to him. Pray for the boss who sets a negative tone in the workplace and you might find yourself shouldering some of the emotional load he carries; your newfound compassion may change the dynamic of your relationship. Ask God to show you ways to give and you may realize your financial situation isn’t as dire as you thought.

The greatest gift you can offer to someone is your heartfelt prayer. Along the way, you will begin to see that, whatever your view, God is there.

And gratitude will bubble up. No matter where you are sitting.

(First published on the Tyndale blog, November 17, 2015.)

 

A letter to the women at Allume

Haughty eyes, a proud heart,
 and evil actions are all sin. Proverbs 21:4 Can you forgive me? I don’t like to admit this, but the reality is that I judged you. I looked at your skinny legs in your skinny jeans, at your fashionable tall boots, at the stacks of bracelets wrapping your slender wrists, ...

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Haughty eyes, a proud heart,
 and evil actions are all sin.
Proverbs 21:4

Can you forgive me?

I don’t like to admit this, but the reality is that I judged you. I looked at your skinny legs in your skinny jeans, at your fashionable tall boots, at the stacks of bracelets wrapping your slender wrists, at your taut, luminescent skin. I listened to your gracious southern drawls talking about intentionality and living life in grace and nurturing your precious babies and the holy calling of being a mama. I looked at your popularity—how many people you know, how many followers you have, which publishers you are with, what you have accomplished. You sang popular worship music and knew all the words and I made assumptions about your churches and faith.

In short, I walked in with a judgmental, divisive spirit. You came in to the conference as empty vessels, preparing to be filled up. I lugged in bushel baskets of ugly. I looked through lenses of envy and jealousy. I let my longing to be better ignite my insecurities about my weight and age and the church background I come from. I assumed you weren’t interested in anything I might have to offer, so I held tightly to myself.

I pride myself on my ability to look for similarities, to focus on what people have in common rather than dwelling on the differences. So I’m feeling especially appalled and ashamed that I fell so far and so quickly.

True, I may be in my late 40s and you might be 23. I may have a muffin top and no excuses while you wear a FitBit and manage to work out even with a little one (or two or three or four). You may be especially stylish and I may feel frumpy. But since when has surface stuff mattered to me? And why did I let it consume me?

Maybe it’s this: I sense that you are genuinely that selfless and gentle and kind, and I’m just not as nice as you are. And I don’t like it when I become—what was it Logan said?—Judgy McJudgyPants? And the more I didn’t like me, the more inferior I felt next to you.

But when I took the time to fight through my feelings, when I turned again towards God and away from the master liar, I rediscovered the beautiful truth: We’re not that different. We both love God—love Him so much that He has become our source. We’re not in competition. We’re on the same team, and we’re representing the same Kingdom. We’re inspired by the same Source, and even so, we’re not meant to be exactly the same.

What you’ve found with God does not in any way diminish what I have found or what remains available to me.

You will have stories I won’t, and you will use them to reach people I can’t. That’s good. It’s how it’s supposed to be. Forgive me for succumbing to the falsehood that there are not enough pieces of pie for each of us. Please grant me forgiveness for my ugly—and unfair and unfounded—thoughts.

We all know the story of the woman at the well. She went in the middle of the day, alone, because she was an outcast. But Jesus met her there. He saw through her charade and spoke truth to the innermost part of her heart, and she discovered something in the water He offered that she had never found anywhere else.

When I picture the women who taught us, I can’t shake this image: Women who draw their strength from the well of life, which is the Word of God. The idea that won’t leave me is that of each of you casting your bucket into the well with abandon—and withdrawing life-sustaining power. You don’t drink of the leftovers or rely on others to bring it for you. You lower your buckets and when you draw them back to you, they’re overflowing with living water, and you bathe in the overflow. Even more impressive, you go back again and again. And again. Because you can’t get enough. You’re not content to merely survive. You long to grow, to thrive. To live.

I spent so much time dwelling on this idea that I missed something. Apparently, I am the woman who walked alone to the well, certain that I would be judged, and I almost missed taking a drink because I made such an idol of who I thought you would think I was.

But you? You welcomed me with kindness. Your face shone with the reflected glory of God as you shared your stories. I spent a lot of time feeling like an outsider, but that’s not your fault. I could have gone to the well early in the morning, like the other women of the village. But I chose not to.

The beauty of it all, though, is that Jesus still met me. He still waited and He still had something to offer.

Because He always does. He whispers the truth of who He is, and who we are when we belong to Him. He reminds us that this life has nothing to do with other people and everything to do with Him. Period. I need to look upward, not sideways. I need to ask Him to change me, to help me learn to be content, to instill in me such a confidence in His love for me that I no longer measure myself against others. He sees me—with all the ugly on the inside—but He doesn’t run away. He pulls me closer and tells me the truth about myself. And reminds me what I already knew: I am forgiven.

So now I need to forgive myself. I hope you will forgive me, too.

I went into Allume focused on promotion and meeting people who could help me further my career. And boy did I miss the boat. Because this conference wasn’t about success, or even really about publishing. It was about nourishing the souls of women who write about God, about feeding the desire we each have to connect more deeply with Him through knowing others.

And it was a learning opportunity. A place where God could show me my weaknesses in His ongoing efforts to prune me, to refine me, to redeem me and mold me into His image. I have a long way to go. But you know what? I’m feeling a surge of gratitude in my heart that I have the opportunity to walk alongside you on this path.

I’m finally feeling what I should have felt from the start.

I’m thanking God for the beautiful women He allowed me to connect with—in spite of my insecurities and inner turmoil. And I’m asking God to nurture you, to open doors and allow you prominent platforms from which to tell your God-stories. I’m praying for your success in publishing, and I’m trusting that God will reveal new things to you along the way. I’m in awe of your authentic relationships with Him and I’m inspired to renew mine. I’m pledging my help to you, in whatever ways I can, from a genuine desire to see you go forward, to see you change lives.

It’s how I’m turning my prayers upside down today. With each pang of insecurity I feel, I’ll pray for all of you. And I believe that in the process, God will transform me. Because He’s good like that. Oh so good. And I’m so grateful.

Words you may need to hear: You are not alone.

Not ever. Even when it feels like it. Even if you haven’t heard from God for a long time. You’re not alone when you’re struggling. Or when you’re rejoicing. Wherever you are, whatever pain or struggles or loneliness or brokenness you’re feeling, God never leaves your side. Trust me, I know there are times it’s ...

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GRAPHIC you are not alone

Not ever. Even when it feels like it. Even if you haven’t heard from God for a long time. You’re not alone when you’re struggling. Or when you’re rejoicing. Wherever you are, whatever pain or struggles or loneliness or brokenness you’re feeling, God never leaves your side.

Trust me, I know there are times it’s hard to believe that. I’ve been there more times than I care to admit. But I believe with all of my heart that God always eventually reveals Himself. He always shows up.

Yesterday I asked friends on Facebook to pray for a friend of mine who was feeling alone and abandoned by God.

You can say what you’re praying… or what you hope God will do… or that you’ve felt abandoned too but later discovered God was working… or just that you’ve taken a minute to lift her up in prayer. Just something so she knows that she is not alone, that God hears her and maybe His answers will come through a stranger’s words for her? OK… go! (And thank you!)

The responses were so real. So true. Words from people who have been there. From those who have struggled. Some people simply lifted up my friend in prayer, and some shared advice. A few people have told me how much these stories and words of encouragement meant to them, even though they may not have been “for” them. But I beg to disagree.

God often answers our prayers through the words of someone else. And He may answer more than one person’s prayer at the same time—like when I finally sold my house, and realized that he answered my prayer by also answering the prayers of the woman who bought it. We build our faith when we share our stories, when we open ourselves up and reveal the pain—because those are the things that connect us. So I’m posting all of the responses (minus the names of the posters) below. Maybe one of these things is exactly what you‘ve been needing to hear!

  • I know the feeling of abandonment. There have been times in my life that I felt all alone only to discover that God’s been there the whole time. Don’t give up! Just give it to God. It’s all in His time.
  • Let go, let God!
  • There are people around you who care. They just aren’t saying so. Ask someone for a hug. Many people assumed I was ok until I told them I wasn’t. I guarantee there is at least one human who will stand by you.
  • I’m praying that God gives you a sense of peace and love. I pray that he also gives you strength and wisdom! I pray that you never feel alone again and know God is always with you! I Jesus name I pray… Amen.
  • Give yourself time to overcome your problem. Sometimes you end up happier in ways that you never considered. Reach out to a friend.
  • In the darkest night, know that the still presence of God exists for you.
  • When I was born, I was born abandoned, no one wanted me… IKR: How could anyone abandon a baby?? Well they did… Thanks be to God he placed me in the care of great parents who adopted me… However that feeling inside, carried way up into my adult life;aAt about 25 I was PRAYING and God spoke to me and said; “Don’t you know that from your very first breath, I have been the one taking care of you? What makes you think I’m gonna stop now?” He feels the same way about you! I am a witness he’ll carry you through! 🙂
  • God is with you all the time and many others care for you. I will pray for you.
  • Jesus knows our feelings and is an ever present help if we just sweetly speak His name.
  • Dear Jesus I thank you, because of you, we are never alone. You are our strength and our joy in the time of sorrow and disappointment. I pray comfort with your love. In Jesus’ name, amen.
  • God will never leave you ! He will NEVER give you more than you can handle. BELIEVE. Prayers lifted up for you.
  • This isn’t for me, but I needed to see this today. I didn’t even realize I needed to see it, as I sit here in tears. Thank you Kelly. I’m soaking in these words.
  • Praying for your friend to find peace, comfort and courage in Christ and his presence.
  • Praying for your friend to know that God is with her and that God loves her. He is holding her in His loving arms.
  • Trust his power and never doubt his strength… GOD is always there even when we are away from him…
  • Sweet friend of Kelly’s, you’re never alone. Jesus is always with you.
  • Just prayed for you to feel the love of strangers going out to you and for JESUS to envelop you in his arms to give you peace. AMEN!!
  • Dear friend of Kelly’s, since you are a friend of Kelly’s I know you love the Lord. Look up, and say,” Thank you Jesus for all the blessings (name as many as you can) you have given to me today.” Take in a deep breath of air and let it out slowly, and thank Him for each breath.He loves you so much and will never leave you. Tell Him how you feel and how you want to feel. Let Him take on your burdens and sorrows. If you can, smile as you think of how much you love Him and He loves you. Now, I pray that Jesus will give you strength and comfort and take away your sorrows and troubles and replace them with joy and happiness. In Jesus’ holy name….
  • Dear Kelly’s friend: I am going to tell you that life can really feel bad. I am going to tell you that we can feel alone, forsaken, hurting, bewildered and bitter and God is the same. He is the same as when we feel loved and nurtured and peaceful. I am going to say that you are blessed beyond measure because you are loved. I am going to tell you that you are being lifted up by total strangers because Kelly is such a lovely person and she loves you enough to reach out to all of us on your behalf. I am tough loving you because I have been in the depths myself and I know that GOD is the same and that you will come through this because you can and will find your strength in Jesus… It’s the way of faith. Believing for things that ARE NOT SEEN. But your time of healing will come. Now I am going to send you one of those crazy facebook hugs and whatever gives you joy I say GO DO IT! Our lives are short…lets do this together! <3
  • Praying and asking God to strengthen you at this time. We are all His creation and He loves us all! Just remember you were fearfully and wonderfully made.
  • I am in a season of rejection and living with a wounded heart. And yet. And yet. God has not rejected me and I am living in His love. The important thing was not to be right (or to be well thought of) but to love.
    Paul states that he was abandoned by t
    hose close to him—those he trusted. But then he focused on those who were faithful.
    Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. —Galatians 6:9
    So how can we love others as Jesus loves us and participate in the kingdom work to which we are called? By loving others when its hard, when it costs us something, when it’s not convenient. By choosing to be loving even when we are wronged, misunderstood and rejected.
  • What a blessed soul you are,with Kelly, busy as she is, calling in all who understand your pain. All these people and more, are reaching out to you as best they can—in so doing all of us are being lifted.We are the Body of Jesus Christ, His hands extended. I am thankful for your need being shared today, because it has drawn all of us closer to each other, and to our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Keep on believing, never give up. You can make it. <3
  • Feel, deal, HEAL…. allow yourself to grieve,then figure out how to deal with it (might include asking others for help), & then the healing will begin. Blessings and prayers for a better tomorrow….
  • My husband has recently encouraged me with the story of Naomi in the book of Ruth. Long story short, when Naomi and Ruth went to Bethlehem, Naomi wishes to be called “Mara” because she felt God had forsaken her. God showed his faithfulness and provision through Boaz in a time when Naomi felt she had lost everything (husband and two sons). Sometimes we will never know or understand God’s plan or what He is doing, but His promises are true. It sometimes does take constant reminder and encouragement. Thank you for posting this, Kelly. I pray all of this support and encouragement fills your friend’s heart with warmth and reassurance.
  • I don’t know your name or your circumstances, but God does. I don’t know the trials and agonies of your heart or the journey that brought you into the moment you are in. But I do know that God knows. And that His knowing, and our FEELING like He knows and cares, don’t always match. But it doesn’t make it any less true. Over time I’ve come to learn how He works and speaks in my life, and to recognize when He’s present…….so I pray that you learn these things about your relationship with Him, too, if you don’t already. Learning to keep my heart open when I want to close down, was challenging, being open to other possibilities and a bigger picture than the one I was seeing/experiencing, was challenging….but it’s been well worth it. You are not alone, even tho I get that it feels like you are. You’ve got unmet, silent friends out here, lifting you up. Keep inching…and as crazy as it sounds: Sing. Sing your pain, your fear, your doubt, your anger….whatever you’re feeling, sing it out loud….and see what happens. You might be pleasantly surprised.
    GRAPHIC we build our faith
  • Always and forever He is with you. His rod and staff comfort You. He leadeth you beside the still waters. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow you all your days. He is your Lord and Shepherd. He will not abandon you or leave you defenseless. He’ll fight for you, hide you under His safe protection. LOVE wins.
  • Prayers for your friend.
  • Life is a challenge. Remember those who care and love you can help
    you through!
  • Whoever you are, you are fearfully and wonderfully made by a loving God. God has a plan for you and although life can be tough and we don’t understand the trials, He can use our weakness and give us a peace beyond understanding. Please know you are loved and being prayed for by many.
  • Joshua 1:5 I will never leave you nor forsake you. We can ALWAYS count on God! He loves us more than we can imagine! Just bring your cares to Him….He is the only one who can take care of us.
  • Lifting you up in prayer. Pain and struggle are His way of getting our attention about something in our lives. Our perception of loneliness or abandonment my be His way of reminding us that we are never alone and if we abide in Him we ARE ENOUGH. Sending peace
  • Praying for you. I believe that God’s grace can see us through any trouble. God bless and keep you in the palm of his hand.
  • This scripture has been vital for me for years…it is my go-to scripture… “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 3:5-6
  • What I know for sure is that God is listening. Give it to Him and let Him do his work in you and for you. Lifting you up.
  • I saw this earlier today and have been thinking about it… all I can say is that I have felt abandoned by God many, many times in my life. But I’ve tried my best to maintain some sort of Faith in Him even when I didn’t feel like doing it. And He always comes through for me. Not always the way I wish He would, but He has given me everything I needed for every single day of my life. Keep praying. Keep trusting. He’s there. He never goes away.
  • For this one day, let go and let God.
  • My God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
  • Do you remember what you were doing last year on this day? Last December 19th? Whether it was a fabulous day or a regular day it is now a memory. Whatever your struggle is now, it will be history in the blink of an eye. Abide. Watch. Amazing things are ahead.
  • Sometimes God seems oh so far away. He is silent when I think I need answers. Or, He answers but I don’t like it. Sometimes I just don’t WANT to hear from God. But, whatever the situation, I have found Him to be faithful. His love is relentless and we who belong to Him will always find our way back to Him. It’s just the way God works. Praying for peace and clarity in whatever situation you find yourself.
  • God is the only one who will never leave us or forsake us we have to have HOPE—Having Only Positive Expectations of what God is doing in us and through us. He will bring good out of all circumstances and trials Romans 8:28
  • You are so covered in prayer by all of us FB prayer warriors. We are a team that know God is real and our Creator. I can assure you He cares for you because He made you in such a precious image. He stands by you and you can’t see Him. He hears you and whispers sweet breaths of love and comfort to you. He will bring forth a mighty answer in a gentle way. Be ready.
  • I don’t know you but will be lifting you up in prayer and asking our good Lord to wrap you in his healing white light!!!! Kelly, thank you, what an AMAZING group of prayer warriors you have. I have read every wonderful comment and your friend Jama’s post really spoke personally to me. I literally felt as if he answered an unspoken prayer for me through her post, even though it was not intended for me! So thanks for that and God Bless <3
  • God is our refuge, the lily of the valley. He is faithful to see us through. Keep praying daily. Keep the faith and I’ll be praying for you.
  • I pray strength for you for I know it’s not easy and more important GOD knows. Our strength is in God. Where else would we go, so we run to Him. His arms are wide open waiting on us to cry on his shoulders and when the crying is done he fills our heart with strength. He says when you pass through the waters I will be with you. You will make it through and there is strength on the other side. Jesus is our Strength.
  • Life breaks and falls apart, but the Cross says these are all places where grace is. Whatever is happening in your life, it will not be unredeemed…
  • To your friend—2 Corinthians 3 & 4—Blessed be the God and Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. God created you, so you have to be very beautiful. God will not leave you, He is with you all the way. You may not know this but God is carry you. (Praying)
  • To your friend: You are an amazing person, and through your struggles a light seeks you. It has me and I am still working to fully accept the light. Be strong. I am stronger now than before because of the struggles I have faced and you will be too. Keep your head high and praise our holy Father because without him we would be nothing. Bless you darling and have a great day. Enjoy your struggle the solution will find you.
  • “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.” Job 23:10 ESV

But don’t let it end here. What would you say to my friend? And to others?

Christ’s community is powerful when we all pull together in love. There’s so  much strength to sustain us when we open our hearts to each other. Thank you for sharing your love. It started as a gift for my friend, and ended up being a gift to many.

God: always magnifying, always illuminating, always multiplying. Amen.

 

A Mother’s Day letter to my kids

Dear Katie, Anna and Bobby, As you know, I’m not a fan of Mother’s Day. I want you to tell me you love me only if you really love me, not because some greeting card company says to. I want a hug from you (even you, Anna) only if you want to hug me. I ...

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Dear Katie, Anna and Bobby,

As you know, I’m not a fan of Mother’s Day. I want you to tell me you love me only if you really love me, not because some greeting card company says to. I want a hug from you (even you, Anna) only if you want to hug me. I don’t like the expectations that come with a holiday like this one—moms are supposed to get a day off, so I end up resenting anything I have to do. You end up feeling like you have to do certain things that you don’t necessarily want to do, and in my mind, the whole thing falls apart then. Besides, I don’t care for breakfast in bed. (Because crumbs.) I want you to know, though, that all you’ve done in past years matters because it shows that you want to make the day special for me, and I appreciate that. But I like the impromptu gestures more, so I hereby release you of all expectations for this and all future Mother’s Days. (Christmas, though, is still a great time to get me gifts. Oh, and birthdays. You’re only released from this one particular holiday.)

But you already know the biggest reason I’m not a fan of this day. Because it reminds me that Gran isn’t here anymore, and that breaks my heart. I know you miss her, too. But if I have learned anything from losing her, it’s this: You need to know how very much you matter, how very much you are worth, even if someday I am not here to tell you in person. She did that for me. She knew me and understood me like no one else. And I want to do the same thing for you.

So, without further ado, and because there’s no word limit in the blogosphere, here are some random things you need to know.

You are amazing. Each and every one of you. You’re all my favorite, but in different ways.

Katie, everyone says you’re my mini-me. And you are. But I have to remind myself over and over (and over and over) that you’re not me. You won’t do the same things I did, and if you do, you’ll handle them differently. That’s OK. It’s better than OK: it’s exactly how it should be. I want you to be you—because you are something special. I know you’re still finding your way, figuring out how to navigate your migraines and school and life, and it’s not easy. But I will always be here, believing you’re able to figure this out (and hoping I can help). Believing that you will triumph— because you will. Because you are smart and beautiful and able. And loved. So very loved.

Anna, we all talk about the way your father is wrapped around your little finger. That is absolutely true. But here’s what you need to know: I adore you, too. In some ways, you and I are very different, as are your dad and I. I don’t always understand the thought process you and he will follow. But I always love you. And I really, really like you, too. You’re funny and vivacious and generous and enthusiastic and kind. You have so much fun doing creative, thoughtful things for people (me included). You make me laugh, and I love the things that delight you (even when they happen to be furry felines that make me sneeze). You’re amazing. And you always make me proud. Always.

Bobby, although you are a stinky boy, I adore you. Your sweaty socks make me grimace, but I love that you will sit on the couch with your feet propped in my lap. (Don’t worry, your friends don’t read my blog so you don’t have to be embarrassed.) I love your sarcasm and sense of humor. I love setting up the perfect opportunity for you to make a funny comment. I love listening to you sing and play music—there’s nothing I’d rather have playing in the background. It never gets old. (Except to your sisters.) I want you to always have confidence in yourself—but reach outside yourself and think about other people, too. You have always kind of been the focus, around here—the first boy, the last child. But as you go out into the world, you won’t always be the center of everything you do, and I think that may be a hard lesson. But you have to know, it won’t mean you’re not amazing. Because you really are. I’ve seen glimpses of who you are becoming, and I can’t wait to see the man you grow into.

To all of you, I am sorry for all the things I forget. I know there are so many, but ironically enough, I can’t remember what they are. Please don’t think it means I don’t listen. I do. My brain just malfunctions on a regular basis. It’s tired. It’s overloaded. It needs an update. Maybe I have a virus or faulty hardware. But I do care.

Thank you for talking to me about the things that matter to you. Even when I can’t fix it, I love that you want me to. Even when you don’t follow my advice, I love that you asked.

I may like—and even love—the person you are dating. But no one will ever be good enough for you. I’ll point out all kinds of things I want you to consider, but in the end, I trust you to make a smart choice. Whoever you marry—if you marry—there will be struggles and issues. Money, insecurities, different opinions, worries about your children. All I want—all I hope and pray for—is that you will find someone who is good for you. Someone who pushes you to be the best you possible, yet loves you long before you fully become yourself. Someone who believes marriage is about for better and for worse, and holds your hand tight, whatever you’re facing. Because if you can face it together, you can come through it.

I love the gifts you give me. My favorites are the ones that you buy spontaneously. Not because of the money you spend (usually money I gave you to start with), but because they show that you know me. I love to get just the right thing for someone. And I love you for knowing what I will love.

I love your quirky senses of humor and the things that make you laugh. I love to just be with you because you’re all fun and interesting and affectionate (well, one of you isn’t a big hugger). But most of all? I love the way that you all want God to be in your lives.

I love that you love the people at our church, that you’ve found a place where you belong, that you’re enveloped by hugs every time you walk in the doors, and that when you’ve been away you run to see the people you’ve missed. As much as I love that you love our church, though, as you become adults, I want you to find your own way, find your own place, one that fits you and nourishes you and pushes you to always go deeper in your relationship with the Lord. I want you to ask the hard questions and wrestle with your understanding. I want you to search because when you do, you will find God. And it will be better, and deeper, and more sustaining than you ever imagined it could be. I love that in your hard times you lean on God and you’re drawn back to the church. I don’t want or expect you to find the same faith I have. I want you to find your own. I want you to come to understand, each of you, that God loves you as individuals. That He will go to great lengths for you. That we’re all part of one bigger church, and there’s something to be learned anywhere you go.

I want you to walk through your lives with your heads held high, with the confidence that you are adored, absolutely and completely, that you have a place in this world and that you will find it and grow into the fullness God has waiting for you.

I want you to know that I may complain, and I may be busy, but that I will do anything I can for you. And that sometimes, that means I won’t be able to help. Because sometimes it’s time for you to figure it out yourself.

And sometimes it’s time to let God show you something new.

I want you to know that I may claim not to be much of a kid person, but that you have made my life so much better, so much fuller, than I ever imagined it could be.

I want you to know I’m sorry for all of my failings. But my lack—in ability and focus and wisdom and tact—has nothing to do with the amount of love I have for you.

And I want you to know, more than anything else, that I am here for you. That even when I’m no longer breathing, my love is knit within you. It’s foundational to who you are, and even when I’m gone, that will remain. You will always have me loving you, whether you like it or not. Whether you’re easy to love at that moment, or not. Whether you’re sitting on the other end of the couch or traveling on the other side of the world. You don’t have to earn it. It’s simply a given. I can’t help myself. You’re such a part of me. And I love you.

Hope embodied

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13, NIV God is our source and strength. He is the bearer of hope. All true. But as I think about the lovely ...

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May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13, NIV

God is our source and strength. He is the bearer of hope. All true.

But as I think about the lovely friends God has placed in my life, I’m discovering a correlation between friendship and hope. Read more of this post at the Internet Café (one of my favorite places to share).

Gallery of Gratitude—Week #7

15 weeks, 15 letters, 15 minutes. To start the new year, 2015. It’s never too late to join us. Learn about the challenge here. Someone who helped you find God This could be anyone from a nationally-renowned pastor or Bible scholar to a grandmother who taught you to pray. It could be a friend whose ...

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15 weeks, 15 letters, 15 minutes. To start the new year, 2015. It’s never too late to join us. Learn about the challenge here.

Someone who helped you find God

This could be anyone from a nationally-renowned pastor or Bible scholar to a grandmother who taught you to pray. It could be a friend whose calm spirit draws you to her, while her words point you to the Almighty God. Maybe you’ve learned about God from your spouse, whose faith never wavers. Or from a child, whose enthusiastic faith knocks down your barriers of doubt and cynicism. Whether their influence has been small or large, whether it’s something easy to define or something abstract and elusive, reach out today. Let that person in your life know that their faith has inspired you or that the lessons they taught changed you.


When I first walked into what is now my church, I definitely felt like I didn’t belong. I didn’t struggle with feelings of not being worthy or have worries that my less-than-perfect past disqualified me. (I certainly didn’t think I was better than anyone else. But somehow I “got,” right from the start, that God welcomed me anyway.) But I was strong and independent. Liberal and outspoken. A career woman who, at that time, earned more than my husband. In this church, though they’d walked away from old traditions governing the way people dressed, most women wore skirts and conservative shoes, had long hair and little makeup. They usually worked, but the jobs came after God and church and other family obligations. Husbands seemed to have authority over their wives. People shopped at thrift shops and bought bargain brands, while I bought high-end shampoos and didn’t have time to clip coupons, let alone a sane enough life to remember them when I went to the store. Moms carried their kids around with them—contentedly, rather than constantly looking for ways to get a break, to temporarily escape their duties, as I did. When someone taught them, they believed what they were told, without question. They already knew the Bible stories. And when music played, they danced.

And then there was me. I didn’t dance. I didn’t lose myself in the Spirit. When I finally raised one hand in worship, I held tight to the pew with the other hand, anchoring me in this physical world. When we gathered at the altar to pray, I’d keep one eye open. I’d pray, but I’d also notice the stack of hands as we prayed for individuals, hear the individual voices in the jumble that surrounded me. I watched. I listened.

But from the start, even though a part of me held back, God drew me in. And one of the key people in that process was Bishop Robert Miller.

In my mind, when I remember visiting that first week, he was standing on the platform, tall and dignified. Thin, in a well-cut suit, hair combed back, sideburns and a big smile. He stood at the podium and preached. I don’t know what he said. But I remember being intimidated. He was so slick, so polished. So knowledgeable. So holy. Not long after I started attending regularly, I remember Bishop stopping by my office one day to see how I was doing. I wanted him to like me. I wanted to impress him. But I always wondered what he must think of me because I didn’t feel like I fit.

Yet he welcomed me anyway. And when he taught, I was hooked. In between bites of donuts and sips of coffee, he talked to the adult Sunday school class. And  I took notes frantically, afraid I’d miss something. I filled the margins with my questions, then I went home and looked up what I didn’t understand. He challenged and engaged me. His messages were always spiritual—stories of faith, deep studies of the Scriptures—yet they captured my mind. Every week, without fail, I’d follow along. And by the end, as he brought the message around full circle, as he tied up all the loose ends, I was surprised. Fascinated. Amazed how all of these different pieces fit together into something whole and inspiring.

In the last few years, Bishop’s son Nathan has taken over in the role of pastor, and he gets much well-deserved praise. But to so many of us at Grace & Mercy, Bishop played a huge role in drawing us in, in pointing us to God.

At church on the morning that I’m writing this, we were singing “How Great Thou Art,” and Bishop sang a verse into the microphone. Tears ran down my face as my heart felt like it would burst with love and gratitude. This man has shown me so much. He stood strong in his faith, never wavering, as I wrestled with my questions, as I struggled with doubts. And he never failed to pour out his faith for all of us. The man who once intimidated me has softened. He reaches out an arm to hug me when he sees me. He reads my words and offers encouragement. Kids climb in his lap and make him laugh. His eyes crinkle when he smiles. And when he walks into the sanctuary, we all stand taller. He’s given so much to each one of us and we want to make him proud. We want to show him that he did well. That all of his serving and teaching mattered. That he was a conduit through which God spoke—over and over. Through which God revealed, illuminated, restored. And loved.


Who helped point you towards God? Let that person know that they made a difference. And please share your stories in the comments. I’d love to hear them!

Still missing

I had another one of those brief, flitting moments again… the thought, “I ought to call Mom” sparking in the synapses of my brain. And then, the heavy thunk of disappointment. Because I can’t. However quick that response comes, it’s never fast enough to keep me from thinking about her in the first place. Because ...

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I had another one of those brief, flitting moments again… the thought, “I ought to call Mom” sparking in the synapses of my brain.

And then, the heavy thunk of disappointment. Because I can’t.

However quick that response comes, it’s never fast enough to keep me from thinking about her in the first place. Because every time I have a moment of longing, I then have to feel that same burst of sadness.

Yes, I’m sad. Still, over three years later. But today I realized it’s not just sadness—I think it’s actually loneliness.

Every relationship is a carefully orchestrated dynamic, a balance or blend of two different personalities. I like to think I’m the same person all the time, and I try—but the me I am with my husband, Tim, is a different person than the me I am with my book club or my friend Lisa or my group of writer friends. I’m a mom to three kids, but in each relationship, the dynamic is a little different—because I’m influenced by each of my children, who in turn are all different from each other.

I will only ever be the person I was with Mom—when I’m with Mom. Only she could satisfy that particular loneliness. I can come close when I talk to my sister or my dad, but it’s not the same. I will never have that particular relationship—its good aspects and its negative ones—again.

As she grappled with the fact that her time was growing short, Mom worried she would be forgotten. Even then, I knew the answer.

But now I’m looking at it from farther down that road. And I can tell you this. I don’t cry every day anymore. Once in a while I can talk about her without tears. But not always. And I can now recall again the ways in which she drove me crazy (as any good mother will do). She wasn’t perfect.

But those moments of disappointment keep coming, when I have to remember, again and again and again and again and again, that she isn’t here. That I can’t call her. That I can’t ask her questions or talk to her, and that she’s not waiting somewhere to hear from me.

But is she forgotten? Will she ever be? Emotions change. Grief lifts, ever so slightly, and changes over time. But the answer to that question? It’s simple—and yet profoundly, abundantly true.

No, Mom. You will not ever be forgotten. I will not stop missing you. I didn’t always love the person I was with/for you. I was moody and temperamental. I had a short fuse and thought you were too nosy, too bossy. But I also know you brought out things in me no one else does. That you appreciated parts of me some other people don’t even know exist.

So of course I miss you, Mom. But you know what else? I realized something new today: That I miss me—the me I was with you—too.

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