You just never know.

Ever since the house blessing, I have shifted the way I see life. Instead of going through life assuming God only shows up when something good happens, I now feel God in every space, muscle, move, step, dialogue, breath, and moment. He's in it all. It's all His. And I look back on the last couple of years and feel as if I have experienced an awakening to this Truth. I type this as my two-year-old sits doe-eyed across from the television while she gnaws on her toenail, half her foot shoved contortionist-style in her mouth. Even in this what-is-wrong-with-her moment, God is here. And though I know that - I know He's everywhere, I often forget that. I find myself tra-la-la-ing or bah-humbugging through my day and then wham-o, I smack heavy and hard, face first into the take-your-breath-away God who was there all along.

And you just never know. You just never know when it's going to hit you or how or why.

For instance, a couple of months ago my parents upgraded their kitchen stove. I offered to put the old, and still very much working, stove on craigslist. I received a few leads, one of which has changed me forever.

Tasha recently moved with her young children from a women's shelter into a low-income apartment complex. The apartment management is less than managing, and Tasha has been without a stove since she moved in. She cooks all her family meals in the microwave. She found my stove post on craigslist and contacted me. I told her I would hold the stove for her, she would just have to pick it up. Except Tasha doesn't have a car, let alone a vehicle big enough to transport a stove. She said she'd ride the bus just to give me the money so that I would continue to hold the stove for her. I explained to her that the nearest bus stop is five miles away, and even if she could get here with the money, she would still need to get the stove to her apartment, eventually. That wasn't going to stop her. She was desperate. At one point she text me, "I would do anything - walk anywhere - to provide for my family. And we need this."

As you can imagine, at this point I had no intention of selling the stove to her. The stove was hers, a gift - God's provision, but we still had the issue of getting the stove to her.

I talked with Matt and we worked out a plan, thinking we could get the stove into my van, and deliver it to her over the upcoming weekend.

But before I could communicate that with her, she text me again, "Nevermind. My brother found us a stove. He is connecting it. Thank you anyway."

I text her back, praising God for the provision, and that was that. Or so I thought.

Within a day, she text me again. Except this time, it wasn't about the stove. She wanted to pray for me.


I didn't know what to do with that. Like really? Me? But. But. But you are the one who just left the shelter. You are the one living in some dump. You are the one willing to walk across the city for a stove you can't even carry home.

And you want to pray for me?

As my eyes filled with tears, I text her back. "You can pray for me. Some days I lose my temper with my kids. And I want to be more patient. Thank you. How can I pray for you?"

And that was the beginning of our friendship - our prayer-ship. Right there. Because of some stupid stove and craigslist.

You just never know.

It's been a couple of months since I met Tasha. We've still never really met, but we text often. This morning I woke to a text from her - one of my favorites so far. "Today is a day that the Lord has blessed us with so rejoice in it and give thanks to Him. Jesus loves you and so do I. Amen."

I will cherish that text. And I cherish Tasha. I've even wondered if she's real or if she's actually an angel.

Because God's in it all. Even craigslist and hand-me-down stoves.


Each year I honor Lent differently. One year I gave up Diet Coke (per my husband's suggestion - sometimes it really sucks to have someone who knows exactly what is going to hurt you the most). One year Matt & I designated days to fast and pray together, a commitment that proved all the more challenging as I was nursing at the time (nursing = HUNGRYALLTHETIME).

This year Lent is coming at the absolute most perfect time for me. I am not even two weeks into life with my third born and while I have never felt so full of love, I also feel terribly distant from God. I haven't opened my Bible in over a week, and my prayer life has taken the form of frequent cries for help from my exhaustion. I should be leaning into God now more than ever, and instead I am beating myself up for not doing all the stupid things I think I should be doing because I am sinking in the depend-only-on-myself-the-control-freak pit of quicksand.

So it's time to snap out of it. And since I am spending between 4 and 5 hours every day nursing this delightful little baby girl, I have the perfect opportunity to spend some time with my Jesus.

Here's the plan. And yes, y'all are invited to hold me accountable. Girlfriend needs a butt whoopin'.
  • I will check my personal email and facebook accounts no more than 2 times a day.
  • I will check my blog reader no more than once a day.
  • I will use my iPhone for the basics only: phone, text messaging, weather, maps, contacts, calendar, alarm.
  • I will not use my iPhone to check email or facebook. Nor will I use it to play any games.
INSTEAD, I will . . .
  • Read my Bible.
  • Pray.
  • Read my Bible app or Christianity Today app on my iPhone.
  • Read a Christian book or devotional.
  • Read one of the downloaded reading plans on my Bible app on my iPhone (YouVersion rocks).
  • Complete my BSF lessons.
It's important to note that I have put several restrictions on my iPhone usage but I have also given myself several exceptions. Reason being, my iPhone was practically made to be used while I'm nursing. When I have only one hand available, it's much easier to read on my iPhone than it is to open a book.

The two things I have not limited are the television and general Internet usage. I can honestly say that over 75% of my downtime is spent checking my email, facebook, and blogs. And much of the time I spend nursing I am simultaneously playing a game on my iPhone. Those four things need to be limited. They are the time sucks in my life. I don't watch a lot of television, and when I do, I am usually watching an episode of Parenthood or a Buckeye basketball game with my husband - it's one of the few things we do together after the kids are in bed.

Finally, we are kicking off the Lenten season today at the Catholic church down the street. We are going to get ashes as a family. It's a gorgeous church in walking distance, and it will be the perfect place to set the tone for this beautiful season of remembering Jesus and the life He gave us.

What about you? Are you honoring Lent in any specific ways?

Everything I learned about giving I learned from the tithe

Disclaimer: I have a LONG way to go before I have a good grasp on tithing and giving. I can't stress that enough.

Not quite two years ago, Matt and I made the decision to get serious about tithing and giving as neither was an area producing much fruit in our lives. I will share with you what God has revealed to us through our searching and journeying and failing and praying. Did I mention we are still learning and growing and failing? Lots of failing. Lots of humbling.
  • Let me start with the definition of tithe. Tithe literally means "a tenth part." You can give 2% or 8% but you cannot tithe it, much like you cannot call 5 eggs a dozen (great analogy, Rebecca.)
  • Semantics aside, our goal is that all of our tithes and offerings are acts of worship. This is one of the reasons I love writing the check. It helps me to stop and be aware of what I am doing, praying and praising as I write. But don't get too excited, I am guilty of treating this action just as I treat the water bill, without reverence.
  • We are called to have a steward mentality and eternal perspective. Being a good steward of God's money (and resources) involves many things (saving, investing, giving, tithing, just to name a few). Ultimately we will give an account of our lives, according to the fruit of our deeds (Jeremiah 17:10). I love this quote by Matthew Henry: "It ought to be the business of every day to prepare for our last day." Being a good steward of God's resources while maintaining an eternal perspective is where we try to position ourselves, and try as I might, I fail miserably at this all the time.
  • I want to share a quote from Randy Alcorn's book Money, Possessions and Eternity. He does a good job of helping me understand how the tithe applies to my life today in the era of grace. "[Tithing] is a meaningful expression of dependence on God and gratitude to him. Tithing requires calculation. When we deal specifically with the amounts God has provided, we assess God's goodness to us . . . Tithing was, and can still be, a built-in reminder at every juncture of life of our unlimited debt to God." Dontcha just love that?
  • The tithe (10%) will always remain non-negotiable for our family (Please don't read this as legalism. I pray you understand that this is what God has revealed to OUR family. I'm not implying this is what God commands for you. That's between you and Jesus.) In the Old Testament, the tithe was the starting point for giving (I love the passage in Exodus 36 when the Israelites were actually restrained from giving materials to build the tabernacle because they had given more materials than needed!) The model of paying back to God His firstfruits was the tithe, and as I've studied the OT, I found that it was more than paying 10% off the top. There were actually multiple tithes required of the Jews - their tithes and offerings well exceeded 10% (Deuteronomy 14). In the New Testament, every example of giving goes beyond the tithe. The way I see it, there is no evidence for less than 10% of giving anywhere in the Bible. For us, the tithe is a base figure. It is merely a starting point for our giving.
  • Can tithing be legalistic? Of course. As can any other spiritual discipline. The dangers don't only include legalism, but also complacency. When we view tithing (or church attendance or volunteering) as a box to be checked, we've missed the point completely. But when we approach tithing (and giving, among other things) with prayer and a worship-filled heart, we put ourselves in a space to receive the eternal and internal blessings that God promises to those who honor Him (The story of the rich young man in Matthew 19 is one of my favorites. He's promised eternal reward for giving to the poor, and it is in this passage when Jesus tells His disciples that they will receive a return of hundredfold for their sacrifices.)
  • I have to wonder what it communicates to God when we don't tithe, when we don't give him the firstfruits of His provisions? I think that is when we begin to say, "God, you can't handle all my needs, not to mention my debts and loans and the demands of this crappy economy. You can't handle it, but I can." What if instead we said to God, "I don't know how this is going to all work out, but I trust that you will provide. Therefore I give you the firsts of this paycheck, before I pay a single bill or make a single purchase." This is also a good space to pray that God shows you what is (and what is not) a need, not to mention showing you ways that you can save money when you didn't think there would be enough - this is an area where God has humbled me big time. I sometimes feel like Veruca Salt, spatting, "I want an Oompa Loompa! I want an Oompa Loompa now!" I so deserve her fate, a bad egg who is dropped down the garbage chute. But God's mercy is so good. In time, I find myself getting used to life without the coveted Oompa Loompa, ultimately experiencing contentment with less.
  • To the point of being able to give like no one else, my suggestion: start with the tithe. Start with the building blocks that are revealed in God's Word. And then don't stop. Continue to ask God to stretch your dollar, your heart, and your pocketbook. Not for you, but for the blessing of giving.
  • I so appreciate the comment from my dearest friend Mary Kate. She said, "I cling too tightly to my 10% tithe, because giving it all can seem terrifying." I can SO relate. The tithe isn't my ticket to spend the other 90% on whatever I damn well please. It's not for me to clear my conscience, so to speak. All - all 100% - belongs to God. I don't get to do whatever I choose with any of it. The 10%, the 90%, the 100% - it's all His. And it's His to do with as He pleases.
He who has God and everything has no more than he who has God alone. - C.S. Lewis

The spirit of giving?

I know I'm about to step on all sorts of total-money-makeover toes, but my heart is unsettled and twisted so here it goes. I'm not a big Dave Ramsey fan. But before you throw your shredded credit cards at the computer, I praise the Lord for the many many people who Ramsey has helped snowball their way out of suffocating debt. And I mean that.

Okay, so here's my beef. For starters, I can't quite wrap my head around the live like no one else so that you can live like no one else philosophy. Does Ramsey mean for us to live like no one else TODAY (by driving a junker and shopping Goodwill) so that during our retirement years (whatever those are) we can live more comfortably? luxuriously? Or does Ramsey encourage folks to live like no one else TODAY so that when they reach eternity, they can live like no one else? The latter might be more Biblical, sort of, but is that what Ramsey is saying? I get the sense that he means the former, and that is where he loses me. It is in that concept where our culture has interfered with Biblical Truth. God doesn't motivate people to live simply or frugally so that one day they can live a grandiose lifestyle. Our culture tells us that's how it should go, but that's not God's way.

Secondly, I don't agree with his seven steps to financial peace (and can someone please define financial peace?) The steps begin with building an emergency fund and are followed by getting out of debt, saving, investing, saving for college, paying off your home, and then building wealth. Building wealth is step 7a. Step 7b? Oh you know, that thing that we're supposed to do . . . um, um, oh right . . . giving. You know, that act of being Jesus to the world that we are commanded to do over and over and over and over and over again. At least that's the way it goes in my Bible.

Look, I'm not discrediting that there is Biblical support for saving and investing, in fact, each of the seven steps on their own are valid. But who is to say that God wants each of us to follow them in that order? And the God I know would never ever ever put giving last (after building WEALTH?!) That's just not the Jesus I know. (I realize that Ramsey puts tithing up at the front. It's not one of his seven steps, but he absolutely prioritizes it. But tithing and giving are two separate issues, and to my disappointment, too many believers aren't doing either one. For what it's worth, tithing means 10%. Tithing is not monthly leftovers or an arbitrary number. It's 10%. That's what a tithe literally means. You can't tithe 3%. That's giving 3% and calling it 10%. That's lying. Okay, I needed to get that off my chest, phew).

All that to say, I don't know why I was surprised recently when I saw on Dave's facebook page that he is promoting a Give Like No One Else challenge. My initial thought: Awesome! Seriously, now that's what I'm talking about. At least that's what I thought. Until I clicked on the link. And realized that in conjunction with the giving challenge are cash and prize giveaways. Dude, are you serious?!

Why oh why oh why is it necessary to motivate giving with materialistic reward? It's as if he's saying, "Hey, the Bible teaches that the true spirit of giving produces eternal fruit, but who needs eternal rewards when you can win a Kindle right now?"

And before you get me all wrong, it's not about the money or the stuff. For heaven's sake, I'm one of the wealthy ones! It's about the heart. It's not about the car or the square footage or the label. It's about our grip. And that's where we've screwed it all up as Christians. We're too busy pointing fingers at so-and-so's such-and-such when we ourselves can't get past a toilet-submerged iPhone or the collapsing economy of the richest damn country in the world. Relative to someone else, we all have too much. Yes, you. And me. But it's not the too much. It's the letting go. If God asked his faithful servant Abraham to sacrifice his long-awaited and only son Isaac, you better believe he wants you to let go of your insert-most-treasured-earthly-possession-here. It's not the I-saved-for-5-years-to-own-the-car-of-my-dreams that matters. It's that if God speaks to your heart to sell your precious wheels and do something else with those resources, would you? Could you? Without hesitation? It's all a matter of the heart. It's holding loosely to our money and stuff knowing that at any moment, God might have other plans.

Because let me tell you, following Jesus doesn't come with health and wealth. That's a crock, and a sickening one, if you ask me. Remember Paul? He followed Jesus nearly to his death by stoning. He traveled BY FOOT hundreds and hundreds of miles to share the Gospel, without earthly possessions. All he had was faith, and that is all he ever needed. And that's all you and I need no matter how badly we want to convince ourselves that we need or deserve or own x,y, and z.

So why do we have such a gosh-darn hard time giving selflessly and sacrificially? Why do we need earthly incentives when that is not the Gospel? Why are we consumed with establishing financial peace when our dependency should never ever ever ever be on ourselves?

And that is my biggest beef with the Dave Ramsey culture. How can we put ourselves in a position to trust God with every single penny He has bestowed to us if our goals are retirement funds and college savings? There is only one goal that matters, and it's going to manifest differently for each of us. That goal is glorifying God with the resources He has given us (and He gives to each of us separately and differently). It is finding contentment no matter if we are climbing our way out of debt or sitting on a hefty cushion of savings. It's trusting God when He tells us to save or buy or let go or liquidate or sell or give or give or give or GIVE. It's praying over every check we write and through every payday. It's turning to Scriptures before we turn to a so-called financial guru.

And let me tell you, I'm just as big a failure as the next guy. I make greedy, selfish choices every. single. day. Without fail. My flesh craves Target and Pottery Barn clearance and a black Range Rover with tinted windows. I am human, watch me spend. But God is BIGGER. He continues to stir in me a love for giving because it glorifies HIM. And for every day that my lifestyle doesn't match the one I deem more comfortable, He blesses me with something internal (and eternal) such as His peace. His comfort. His contentment.

I hesitate to even post this because I'm just as big a hypocrite as anybody else. I suck at letting go of a certain appendage better known as my MacBook Pro (among other things), and I'm really good at pointing fingers at that family with the heated driveway (or worse yet, coveting that heated driveway everyday during the month of February).

But God has brought me a long way. And I have faith that if I continue to lean into Him, He will continue to do a good work in me. I want to take this amazingly blessed life that He has given me and turn it all over to Him. And as I stumble in big fat ugly ways throughout this journey, I can only pray that I develop a greater sense of what it means to depend on Him. And I don't ever want to fall out of love with giving from my heart for His sake and not my own selfish motives.

So hear me out. This isn't about Ramsey. I clicked on what I thought was going to be an encouraging link about giving and was terribly disappointed. And I was reminded that much like my two-year-olds favorite exclamation is "Mine!" we are all in desperate need of a reality check. I pray that more people turn to God for financial direction and are filled with a desire to give for one reason and one reason only, because He first gave to us. And for that we can never give too much.

I love to study.

I began studying the Bible a few months ago. Like really studying. Intensely. Reading each verse accompanied by commentaries and translations and original text - learning the context and the history and the language.

It has been one of the most life changing efforts in my entire life. I imagine you think I'm exaggerating, but I'm not. Up until very recently, I thought the Old Testament was way too complicated and had little relevance in my awesomely hip 21st century life. And the New Testament? Well it's all about love and Jesus and disciples and a crazy whack book called Revelations and that's all you need to know about that, right? But wow, I was so so so so so wrong.

I'm only three books into my study (Genesis, Exodus, and Leviticus) and I have never been so in love with three books in my entire life. Can you even imagine my love when I get to the New Testament? I can hardly stand the wait.

I mention this only because since I started studying the Bible I find myself yearning for the next chance to read and study. But it's not as simple as opening the Bible. I require physical space to study - for writing (I write all over my Bible) and note taking and journaling and space for a computer open to online commentaries (Biblos and Precept Austin are two of my best friends). So finding time to actually study the Bible isn't as simple as it might seem. But the longing I feel as I wait for the next chance to study is such a precious gift. It's indescribable. I'm constantly hungry for more God. More of His Word. More of His teaching. And that in itself has changed who I am.

I'm most at peace when I'm in His Word. Actually hearing it. Allowing it to speak to me. And when something doesn't make sense or doesn't sit well, I become a scavenger, hunting for the context or history or language to make the pieces of the puzzle come alive. And I am so blessed to live in this era with hundreds of websites and resources at my disposal. Sure, I find myself reading commentaries from folks of different theological backgrounds, but it is beautiful to read diverse teachings from folks who have one thing in common: a desire to better know God. It is in those moments that I find myself deep in prayer, that God would speak Truth to me through His Word - not theories or educated guesses. Truth and nothing less.

If you have never actually studied God's Word, I highly encourage it. Start with Genesis. It is by far the most exciting book I have ever read. Seriously, I have a love affair with Genesis like you wouldn't believe (I spent an entire day on the first two verses. It was heavenly). And just study it. Word for Word. Verse for Verse. It will bless you in ways you cannot imagine.

And let me know about it, please? I'm not only hungry for more God, but I'm hungry to connect with others who share this passion.

And for those of you who have done a formal Bible study, such as BSF (Bible Study Fellowship), what do you think? I registered for BSF and will begin in the fall, but I'm not sold. One of its greatest selling points for me is the childcare. Supposedly it's stellar. And that's the biggest obstacle for me as I study God's Word. It's hard to study when I have two adorable toddlers climbing on me. I love the idea behind BSF, but I also like the freedom that comes with studying at my own pace. I like setting my own rules, and when rules are presented, I often enjoy breaking them, and I wonder how I'll fit into a program that carries its own set of expectations. My attitude going into it is that I'm simply learning God's Word - it's a learning journey. I'm not looking to make friends or engage in therapeutic conversations. I simply want to better understand the Bible. I think I'll enjoy BSF if that remains my attitude. What do you think?

So what about you? Do you study the Bible? And if so, what are your favorite Bible study resources? Please share!

There is a dark side.

I initially started this blog because I don't scrapbook and yet I wanted to keep the memories we are creating as a family. My posts are usually positive & light-hearted. But there's an entirely different side of memories that I don't blog about. Frankly, I'm ashamed because they are dark and who wants to relive the darkness.

I am a mother. More specifically, Monday through Friday I spend 11 nonstop waking hours parenting two toddlers all on my own. And during the course of that 11-hour day, I screw up royally and often.

And though the screw-ups sometimes outweigh the parenting successes, I don't blog about them.

I didn't blog about the times I screamed so loudly at my kids that I'm certain my neighbors heard me.

Or the time I chucked the kids' beloved truck out the back door because I could no longer tolerate the fighting.

Or the time I cupped my son's face so tightly that I couldn't stop staring at his cheeks for fear I had left a mark.

Or the time I let my daughter throw her body on the floor, wailing because I wouldn't pick her up, because I was too flustered in my attempt to make dinner.

Or the times I pushed my kids away as they crawled into my lap to read a book because I was too engrossed in an email or worse yet, facebook.

Or the times I have physically walked out the front door because I was certain that if I heard one more child cry, I would surely lose it.

If it sucks for you to read my failures, trust me, it really sucks for me to type them. Sucks. Sucks. Sucks.

Just yesterday I pulled my kids into my lap and apologized profusely for losing my temper. Sweet Henry looked at me and said, "Temper? It's lost? Is it on your back? Where did it go, mommy?" I nearly cried at his innocence and yet I wanted so badly for him to understand that I was sorry.

He'll get it eventually. It certainly won't be the last apology he hears from me.

And fortunately for me, I have Jesus.

Seriously, truly, I don't know how to do this job without Jesus. Every minute of everyday I get to start fresh. Last night, after a rough day, I went for a jog (Thank you, Matt, for allowing me that time. You are such a gift to me.) As the sun went down, in 20 degrees along ice-covered sidewalks, I was overwhelmed with emotions knowing that my God will restore all the crap that I create as a mother. He adores my kids even more than I do (how is that even possible?) and when I screw up and act like a lunatic, the Lord fills my home with grace and mercy, blessing each of us amidst the mess of our lives.

I am so far from a perfect mother. And yet God knows that I am the best mother for Henry and Harper. And so when I fail and fail and fail, God forgives me and renews my soul so that I can turn around and show my children love even when I would rather crawl into a hole covered in shame.

Henry & Harper, there are not enough words to tell you how much you two mean to me, and there will never be enough I'm sorry's to make up for all the mistakes I made, am making, and will make.

And thank you Jesus. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you.

Preserving Christmas

Until a few days ago, my son didn't know about Santa Claus.

But in the last week, we've had several interactions with folks who have asked my son a question that I never expected to hear so frequently.

"What's Santa going to bring you?"

I never ever ever thought this would be such a tough question for me. When the clerk at the grocery store or a friend at lunch asks my son about Santa, he stares at them blankly until I pipe in and save face. More for their sake than my son's.

And because my son is perceptive, he now knows that when someone asks about Santa the answer is Yes Ma'am! and PRESENTS!

Isn't it fascinating that of ALL the questions one could ask a child during this season, the ones so often asked are, "Will Santa visit your house this year?" and "What's Santa going to bring you?"

Not, "What are you doing to celebrate Jesus' birthday?" Because that's the question that I want to hear my son answer. And at 2 1/2 years old, my son UNDERSTANDS birthday. He can sing Happy Birthday and tell you about presents and games and he most definitely can tell you about cake. Henry LOVES birthdays.

So whether or not I want my son to know Santa, he's going to know Santa. It's the American way, for goodness sake. And because it frightens me that at such a young age my son is already making the connection between Santa and Christmas and presents, I am trying my darnedest to preserve CHRISTmas. (For the record, we have every intention of practicing Santa. But my prayer is that Santa will never trump Jesus. A girl can pray.)

Here are a few things that my family is doing to keep Christ in Christmas:
  1. Jesse Tree. I LOVE this advent tradition because of its emphasis on Jesus and because it doesn't involve picking candies out of a cardboard display. If you don't know Jesse Tree, I encourage you to learn about it. This is quickly becoming my favorite tradition of all time.
  2. Service. This year we are serving as a family alongside The Manger. It's a great fit for us because our children can participate. I think service is important year-round, but it seems that there are more family-wide opportunities available during the holidays.
  3. Family. Although our children are young, it is important that we spend the evening together - as a family - decorating the house for Christmas. This year, our son put the star on the tree and our daughter danced to carols as we decorated. We created a memory that is a fantastic reminder of Christmas' true meaning - a celebration for Jesus.
  4. Give. Rather than focusing on gifts for those who have excess, we are shifting our priorities. At the top of that list: giving to those who truly need. My friend Marla introduced me to giving opportunities through Samaritan's Purse and Gospel for Asia's. I love these opportunities for many reasons, and it's especially neat to look through the catalogs with Henry as he excitedly identifies the many animals available for gifting. This type of giving engages our children and allows us to have a hand in making a difference in another family's life.
  5. Fast. Why wait until Lent to practice fasting? In an effort to focus on the holiness of this season, I am praying about what is in my best interest to go without. Fasting is such a challenge for me. I always gain a heightened awareness of my awful selfishness leaving me humbly on my knees.
Those are only a few of the things that we are doing this year. What about you? How is your family preserving Christmas?

Gnawing on celery.

In just the last week, I spent . . .
  • countless hours numbing myself from my reality as I stared blankly at the television.
  • numerous hours facebook-stalking mere acquaintances as I mindlessly clicked through the photo albums of total strangers.
  • a deafening amount of time running my mouth to friends in an attempt to process another stupid decision I made out of pride.
  • a dictionary's worth of words rambling on and on and on to my sister about things that no longer matter because I was simply caught up in a moment.
  • a sickening number of brain cells anxiously pondering the what ifs of my seemingly uneventful life.
  • a disturbing amount of time nagging my husband about schedules and future plans and last night's miscommunication.
  • a saddening amount of energy beating myself up for the way I reacted to my children as a result of my own selfishness and lack of sleep.
I'm no math whiz, but if you added up all the hours spent on the activities listed above, I have a funny feeling that they would closely match the number of hours I spent physically awake last week (which is a whole heck of a lot).

And that's what pisses me off. It didn't take much self-reflection for me to realize that I spend a ridiculous amount of time seeking to fill my empty bucket by grasping for things of this world, my own inner demons, the reassurances from others, and a whole bunch of cultural trash.

Not God.

Not His Word.

Not prayer.

What the hell is wrong with me? Why am I clearly hungry for the very thing that Jesus promises to give but instead I continue to seek the very thing that is making me more hungry? It's like I am gnawing on celery to satisfy my appetite but I'm burning more calories in the process.

It makes no sense.

Yet I continue to follow the path of insanity, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

In chapter two of Radical, Platt describes a group of church leaders in Asia who risk their lives in order to unite and study the Bible for days at a time. I am praying that I might possess merely a fraction of the passion for God that those men possess.

I am praying that God will awaken in my heart a deep and abiding passion for the gospel as the grand revelation of God (Platt, 40).

Because here's the truth: God's promises never falter. They never weaken. They never cease.

And because He promises to deliver blessings, goodness, and rewards (in addition to providing for my needs) to those who seek Him first, I am asking . . . praying . . . begging for God to position me in a way that I am open to His fulfillment. To the joy and peace and contentment that can only come from Him.

I'm sick of clogging up my soul with crap making it damn hard to open my heart to God's voice.

I'm only two chapters into this stupid book, and I'm a complete and utter mess.

Fortunately my God is meeting me exactly where I am at right now. And for that I have never been so grateful.

For more reactions to Chapter Two of Racical, check this out.

Quitting comfortable.

I'm unsettled.

My dear friend and mentor, Marla, mentioned reading this book, and because I like to live on the edge, I joined the read-along over on her blog. We are one week into this thing, and already it's been a wild ride leaving me all sorts of rattled and jumbled.

Not exactly the feel-good book of the year.

And though my heart is SO not ready, Radical is exactly what my soul needs.

I am overflowing with so many thoughts and emotions and realizations, but I am far from being able to articulate most of them.

And though I fear the vulnerability that comes with putting my crap out there, stick with me as I begin to process one of those realizations that is really working its way down, down, down into a more digestible form.

David Platt, the book's author, is on a mission to take back our faith from the American dream. On page 7 he writes, "somewhere along the way we had missed what is radical about our faith and replaced it with what is comfortable."

Comfortable. Comfortable. Comfortable.

That's exactly what I am.


And that's when it hit me. Comfortable is exactly what I don't want to be but I'm so afraid to quit.

You see, in my heart, I've always had this urge to do more - something bigger - something more profound than living this cozy life in the 'burbs, surrounded by the cushions of my generous family and dear, dear friends. Even yesterday I found myself in a conversation with a friend, telling her that if my husband was up for it, I'd move to a "lesser" part of town (aka, the ghetto) as a way to reach out to a hurting community. Take it a step farther, and I'd even move to a lesser part of the world, if my husband felt called.

But I'm realizing that much of that desire has little to do with Jesus and a lot to do with me. You see, I can visualize myself in the ghetto (just a few highway exits away from my warm and hospitable extended family) opening my door to neighboring Americans who happen to have a smaller checking account balance than we do. I can even visualize myself in Africa singing Jesus Loves Me with children who look nothing like my own but still call me Ma-Ma and think I'm somethin' special because I'm from America.

But here's where it gets ugly. I'd be willing to move in the name of Jesus, to a place where nobody knows my name, but I haven't been willing to open my doors to equally "needy" folks in this sheltered and thriving community because of my own selfish motives. Sure, I've thought about it. But then satan slips in and tells me, "Why would you want to do that? They'll just think you're crazy once they really get to know you Jesus freaks, and heck, they don't need your hospitality anyhow." You see, I don't want these people who know me as "the sweet girl next door" to know me as the "Jesus freak." Because that'd be plain awkward.

And about Africa. In my cute little daydream, we're sitting in a circle, singing songs and braiding hair. It's like something you'd sail by on It's a Small World. We might stay a while, pass along a box of Bibles and leave behind a generous check, and then return to the land of greed and consumerism via an air-conditioned 747.

But if Africa was really Iran, and those cute little kids were actually men with weapons accompanied by death threats and severe persecution - Are you kidding me? Keep me the hell away from that.

But here's the radical reality. Those terrorists in Iran are just as deserving of God's Kingdom as those beautiful African babies. You see, I don't want the radical calling. I'm only cool with being called if it's cute and returns me safely to cozy.

And my have-known-me-as-the-girl-next-door-for-four-years neighbors are EXACTLY who God is calling me to love IN JESUS' NAME right now. Forget inner-city fantasies. God has me in this zip code, within these walls, at this very time. Why the heck would He call me to serve in a different community if I can't even get my stinkin' act together in the one where He currently has me? Especially when this community comes with freedom of religion?


But before I let satan tell me I suck, because trust me, I'm tempted to end this entire blog post with those two words in bold font - all caps, I am going to thank GOD for humbling me enough to realize what desperately needs to change in my life.

Comfortable. Comfortable. Comfortable.

I live in the most comfortable country in the world, and it's about darn time that I step out just a smidge in an attempt to share my Jesus.

Am I really so darn selfish as to not glorify God in my interactions with those around me? Do I really have so little faith that I don't believe God will take care of what people think when they see us pray or read the Bible or make a decision based on Godly principles as opposed to secular ones?

Thank you, Lord, for speaking directly to my heart and soul as I begin this radical journey. And help me as I take steps of faith toward you and away from me. Because my nature tells me to think of me, me, me. And then me some more.

But I know, deep in my heart and at the core of my soul, that there is so much more to be gained when I think of You. And I never ever want to quit that.

*For more reactions to Chapter One of Radical, check this out.

Crazy awesome.

Two years ago, shortly after the birth of my son, we made the decision to sacrifice a second income so that I could be home with our boy.

Actually, it was God's decision.

Months after my son was born, I applied for a position with the school where I was a long-term sub, and naturally, I thought I had the job in the bag. As it turns out, I didn't get the job. Oh-holy-humbling. I felt so defeated. And disappointed. Especially because with two incomes, my husband and I thought that we could afford to start trying for a second child - a decision that we knew came with huge financial responsibility (my first c-section cost over $30,000).

Anyone else notice all that was wrong with our perspective? God sure noticed. My over-confidence in job security. My insistence that a certain level of financial security equated to our ability to carry out OUR plan. Even the lack of confidence in God's ability to provide for us as we tackled medical bills.

So there we were, living humbly on a single-income, still paying off medical bills from my pregnancy and delivery, and wondering if we'd ever be able to afford more children (yes, we have health insurance, but it didn't cover all of our bills). Though I very much tried to live in the moment with my then six-month-old son (he was and still is the delight of my life), I couldn't help but feel discouraged that God's plan apparently wasn't my plan. I was praying for a part-time-work-from-home-school-counseling-job (or the impossible) and, in an effort to get back to a more positive mindset, I began taking daily jogs.

One Saturday morning, I grabbed the dog and my running shoes and headed out for a quick jog. As we made our return home, we came to a ditch and my foot slipped on the early morning dew still covering the grass. My foot planted in the ditch as my body kept moving forward. I heard three awful pops and landed face-first in the grass, the dog still by my side. I knew right away that my ankle was broken.

Fast forward several days - I'm rolled into the OR for surgery on my very-broken ankle. And guess what? Ankle surgery ain't much cheaper than a c-section.




Now we had medical bills out the wazoo. I was physically unable to even pick-up my crazy-busy six-month-old. And my hopes of jogging my way to sanity were shot. (We can never thank our families enough for helping us to survive those eight weeks that I lived on crutches.)

And to top it all off, eight weeks of being confined to the couch and bed resulted in something I wasn't quite expecting: a pregnancy.

Oi vey.

Of course we were thrilled, but deep-down, I was frightened. Everything that had once given me security had been taken from me - my physical abilities, financial stability, even my self-worth from a job. And throw in the challenges of a soon-to-be-toddler and pregnancy hormones - Yikes! Thank you, Jesus, for giving me a patient and level-headed husband!

Fast forward almost two years. My son is more delightful than ever. My daughter is beautiful and healthy. And I'm jogging again (I even completed a half-marathon in May).

And remember that flippant and impossible prayer I delivered in the midst of my defeat and disappointment - a prayer for a part-time-work-from-home-school-counseling-job? Well I forgot about it. But guess who didn't?

The one-and-only, always-faithful, nothing-is-impossible-for-Him, crazy-awesome God.

Two months ago I accepted the impossible: a part-time-work-from-home-school-counseling-job. I am so not kidding. It is as if God was saying, "I never forgot about you, but I needed the timing to be perfect. Your timing, Ali, was not my timing. Your securities are not my securities." I am so blown away by His faithfulness.

And in case you were wondering, we paid off all of our medical bills. Thousands and thousands of dollars worth of bills. All before I accepted the job. All on one income. Because with God, ALL things ARE possible.

Gosh, He is so stinkin' good.