Yesterday was a bad, bad day. And it was the most frustrating kind of bad day: the kind where nothing goes wrong so there’s nothing to blame. A bad day needs a bad guy, but this day was totally innocuous – in fact, it contained more good than bad. And yet, at about 4:00 I texted him and said, “I’m feeling so…bleh.” He texted back that he was feeling the very same way and didn’t know why. Also, yes, we text each other inside our own home and I’m not sorry about it. The cloud hovered through dinner and well into bedtime – we just could not shake it loose.
Brief topic swerve: There should be some kind of law against both spouses feeling down on the same day. Or God should have wired in some bad-day safety valve or something so there’s SOMEONE to save the sinking ship. End of swerve.
Cliff prayed for us as we drifted to sleep and asked our good Father to give us peace, but also to give us some insight as to what was making us feel the funk in such a deep way.
This morning, I got up with the sun, seeking coffee and Jesus and answers. I’ve been going verse-by-verse through Colossians (a fully-stocked treasure chest if ever there was one) and ran right into this brilliant beacon of a verse:
Reading this verse was like flipping on a light switch in a dark hallway. I remembered the things we talked about yesterday: News surrounding the pandemic, the rioting in our city (we had a fatal shooting on Saturday), the online arguments of people who annoy us, the upcoming election and the responsibility of the Church in the midst of it all. We also worked to build a solid plan for homeschooling an 8th-grader while staying faithful to our jobs. Turns out, there is a whole universe of worry-stirring things surrounding us, so even though nothing technically “went wrong” in our day, we are feeling the symptoms of soul sickness. The strife and chaos of our world has been building, churning and slowly seeping into the deep places of our humanity, messing with our peace and stealing our joy. Our world is toxic with anger and anxiety right now and those who want to live free of it will need a really good gas mask.
For me, Colossians 1:15-16 was exactly that. It was the filter I needed to 1) reveal my unhealthy dependence on an ordered world and 2) move me back into an utter dependence on the goodness of Jesus. Every seat of power, realm of government, principality and authority – EVERY one exists through Him and for His purpose. I can trust Him with it or I can worry about it, but I can’t do both.
Today, trusting Him looks like trusting Him – but it also looks like:
- Limiting the flow of toxins from the outside world to my interior world.
- A fresh commitment to gratitude throughout the day.
- Seizing some intentional minutes to meditate and take runaway thoughts captive.
The stuff our world is facing right now is no joke. I believe it’s possible to be healthy in the middle of all the sickness, but it won’t happen accidentally. If you also feel suffocated beneath the weight of it all, I encourage you to pick three things you will do today to care for your soul and safeguard your joy. I promise you’ll be glad you did!
My son was eleven when he found out his father was dying. He absorbed that news with grace and grit as he entered a world of nearly-constant negative changes.
When he was twelve, he and his pack-of-friends received clearance to ride their bikes pretty much anywhere they wanted, as long as a parent knew where they were and when they were coming back. They tore up the streets of our little mountain town. Freedom on wheels. I always knew that Josiah was, at least in part, escaping the sinking sorrow in our house.
When he was fifteen, he went to summer camp and I was so thankful he had that chance to be away from the heartache, from the feeding tubes and suction machines and just live out his actual age. One day in, we called his youth pastor to bring him home immediately, please. He walked in the door just moments after his dad died. He bought his first suit to wear to his father’s funeral. I walked in on his arm and in spite of all the pain of that moment, I remember thinking: There has never been a better son. He helped carry his father’s casket, and stood by me at the graveside, arm tight around my shoulders as we watched the final chapter of Steve Stern’s life-on-earth story.
And then…we worked to build a new life. We went to weddings together and movies together and danced to Elton John in the kitchen together. We read the same books and talked late about philosophy and theology and girls and friendships and 70’s music. We laughed and cried and hoped together. We argued about school together. We made good things happen inside of all the hard.
When Joe was sixteen, he traded in two wheels for four, and he began asking some dads in our church to coffee. He doesn’t drink coffee, he just wanted a bit of their time to ask a question. Just one question. “What does it mean to be a man?” He gathered data and read books and articles. He worked to fill the hole in his eleven-year-old heart. He worked hard to find answers and truth. This strategy was both impressive and heartbreaking, and it revealed the ways that I would never be enough.
When Joe was seventeen, I fell in love with another man. Josiah handled the changes with grace and grit, because that’s what he does. He never questioned my judgement. Never complained about my newly divided focus. Never asked for anything. He and Cliff are equal-but-different kinds of smart. Josiah is Tolstoy and Tolkien and Cliff is business and big tech. I have watched their dance….the dance of learning to know and trust and try to discover who they would be to each other.
Brief aside to say: Josiah is not super easy to know. He is like a whole universe stuck inside a snow globe. You can see all the stars – just right there on the other side of the glass, but you can’t quite get to them. He’s not looking for friends with the cure to the sorrow he carries, he’s looking for friends who will tie a rope around his ankle and wait silently while he explores that sorrow and pull him out when he’s been there too long. This refusal to take cheap or easy exits out of pain is one of my favorite things about him, but it doesn’t make him easy to know. His truest friends understand him and love him this very way. He loves them back in the very same way. The rest of the world could learn a lot from them.
When Joe was nineteen, he gave me away at my wedding. He cut his hair for me, trimmed his beard for me, and walked me down the aisle like the boss that he is. We hugged and cried hard before he handed me over to Cliff, who promised not just to love me, but to love the four kids who came with me into this arrangement. As I stood on that stage, hearing Cliff’s vows to my people, I wondered: What is this moment for Joe? Is this a win or a wound?
Recently, around a late night fire pit conversation about what causes anxiety in our lives, Joe mentioned that his greatest fear is losing me. I felt Cliff hear that. Felt his body shift to accommodate the weight of that information. The next day at lunch with only my husband, I said: “You have to promise me that if anything happens to me….” Before I could finish the sentence, he said, “I got Joe.” He looked me square in the eyes and said it again. “I’ve got him, Bo. I will always, always have him.” And we sat, tears streaming over the weight and depth of the love we feel for the ten and for the one.
Today, Josiah is packing up his whole world and moving to another city in the middle of a dumb pandemic. He and his best friend, Ethan, have turned their bikes in for a U-haul and if that isn’t adulting, I don’t even know what is. Yesterday he called to tell me they would like to stay with us tonight. I said of course! and then asked, “How’s your heart, bud?” After a pause, he answered softly: “Good. Anxious, but good.” And all the years of Josiah and every brave moment he’s ever had came swooshing back to me in one gush of pride and fear and longing for everything, everything, everything to be made whole and right for him.
I mentioned the moment to Cliff on my way out the door. After hours of meetings, I returned home to find my husband working from a laptop on the kitchen counter while a huge pot of red sauce bubbled on the stove. He juggled calls from employees while cooking an Italian feast for my son – something he knew Joe would like because he had texted him to find out exactly what he wanted for dinner. I watched him ladle that sauce into a gigantic, gooey pan of lasagna and save the rest of it to make ziti which will be packed into Tupperware and sent with him to his new place. A home cooked meal in his first home. I watched Cliff fuss over that sauce, tasting and fixing and tasting and fixing and – one might go as far as to say – obsessing over it, and I knew: This is Cliff, stepping softly onto one corner of the sacred dad ground. This is StepCliff, sending food into the snow globe. I wished with all my heart that Josiah could see this father-with-five-other-sons, fussing over only him – just Joe – and I wished Steve Stern could see this brilliant backup father, caring so well for the son he never wanted to leave behind. Is it possible that in this divine dad relay race, the handoff baton is a sauce ladle? I don’t know, but I do know that Steve would tell you the prayers he prayed from his wheelchair day after day over that 11-and 12 and 15-year-old boy have been at least partially answered in the man who is willing to cook lasagna and Venmo money and write resumes and just generally love and lay his life down for the kids he inherited when he fell in love with me.
And so, on the day of my son’s transition into his first apartment, first move, first truly grownup venture, I want to say: Congratulations on becoming a man. You’ve done it without much of a map, but you have done it. And in all of this, I see the hand of God – leading, providing and giving you grace on grace on grace, which you will no doubt pour out on your world. Because that’s who you are. And that’s what a real man does.
I love you beyond telling.
I don’t know what to do today. I mean, it feels like any other day. The sun is shining, facebook is alive with noise and TGIF’s and You Will Not Believe What This Kitten Did Next. It’s like every other Friday.
Except it’s not.
It’s Good Friday and it seems like that should require something of me. The holy events of this beautiful, terrible day should somehow move out of the square on the calendar and into the tender places in my heart; places that were once dead and are now alive. I know we should live in gratitude for the work of the cross every day, but Good Friday isn’t every day. This is the day; the day it happened. The day flesh-torn-from-bone filled the aching void in me. The day the blood of Jesus watered seeds of hope, buried in the dry wasteland of an endless eternity. The day my spiritual diagnosis moved from terminal to triumphant, from hospice to healed. This is big. So I’m torn between sinking into the depths of quiet contemplation or shouting from the rooftops of social media.
I really don’t know what to do. But I do know this: I’m not going to let it pass without stopping to look, really look, at a sacrifice so sacred and scandalous it can only be called Grace. I want to let His words and wounds be my singular sound byte, drowning out the clamoring chatter and endless debates over louder, less-worthy issues in the Church. The fights and fringes that seem so important on any other Friday, must reverently and fearfully step into the shadows to let this Friday – and all that was accomplished – occupy every inch of the stage. Perhaps our silent attention and unyielding affection for the work of the cross will cause a change so great that we’ll never want to move back to the insignificant edges. Perhaps as we stand and stare at Love Poured Out, we’ll be willing to do the same with our words and opinions and work and dreams. As we realize, fresh and deep, that we were the joy set before Him, maybe we’ll see one another in the very same way.
Wouldn’t that just be a resurrection miracle?
Thank God it’s Friday,
PS: We have a Good Friday meditation track on Soulspace today and I really love it. Take five minutes and move up close to the cross. I think you’ll be glad you did.
This little web site you’re reading is the place where my writing developed, my life fell apart and my dreams were reborn. It holds so much beauty for me and so many memories that are both painful and wonderful. It contains pictures of the people I love – the ones I have traveled the world with, stood in the storm with and the dear one I released to heaven.
All those words to say: This place is sacred to me, but I’ve had trouble coming back to it.
This morning I read “…no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.” (Mark 2:21) And I wrote down all the “wineskins” in my life – the containers for the work of God: my city, my church, my home, my relationships, my web site. While I know He’s making new wine in me, I know I have to be willing to let Him bring new wineskins as well, otherwise both the wine and the container will no longer be useful or delicious.
I love the stories I have told on this web site, and they will always be here. But I have moved my words to a new container: www.sheology.co. It’s not just me there – it’s several women I have hand-picked who have mighty pens and miraculous stories. We gather there to talk about finding our place in God’s story – and we also host conferences, events and offer amazing e-resources, including a Monday morning newsletter where I write my heart out about what God is doing in my study, speaking, dating and dreaming adventures as I work to live a YES life. I’d love for you to join me there. You can read the very first one and subscribe here.
Thank you for joining me here and there and everywhere. I am beyond grateful to have you in my life.
Because of Jesus,
P.S. We also have a fantastic advent devotional called Song of Mary available as a free download on the web site right now. Don’t miss it! It’s just 7 days so you have plenty of time to jump in and savor this season and The Magnificat.
P.P.S: That’s my teeny-tiny Christmas tree at the top of this post and I LOVE it. It’s a whole new concept for me to not FILL the room with a giant tree and one million post-Christmas pine needles, but turns out it’s never too late to change your mind about what makes Christmas beautiful.
I have not spoken out about the immigration issue so far and I know so many people are urging/pushing spiritual leaders to step up and take a stand. I’ve written at least five different posts. I’ve read so many articles, watched so many videos. I’ve been scouring scripture for direction in terms of wording and wisdom. But all I can say is I haven’t yet felt okay about pushing that ‘post’ button.
Not because I’m afraid of people unfriending me, but because I feel like this issue has too many tentacles to reduce into a paragraph, written by a pastor with a teaspoonful of information and a truckload of passion.
I don’t want to add to the noise unless it will be helpful and it seems like most of the online arguments I’m reading only serve to further entrench people in their already-held opinion.
But the other night, as I was snuggled up with my grandsons on the couch (they were watching Captain Underpants, which is slightly inappropriate but hilarious and I hope I’m not in trouble with their parents), I ran into the audio of kids crying for their parents. I’ve been a mom long enough to recognize the sounds of terror-through-tears.
You recognize it, too, even if you’ve never been a mom.
I kept looking at my little guys, imagining the unimaginable. How our hearts would break. How their lives and mindsets and worldview would be impacted by that ONE moment. It made me wish that EVERY one of those kids could be sitting on a sofa with someone who loves them; someone they know would fight for them, die for them. How truly, terribly fortunate my sweethearts are to have been born on this soil, breathing freedom as a birthright (and please don’t correct me here to the word “blessed”, which would imply that Jesus loves Finn and Greyson more than He loves the kids with no couch to call home.)
It astounds me that this is not happening in the outer reaches of countries I can’t find on the map; it’s happening here in the land that I love. The home of the free is putting children in cages? That can’t be right.
And then I read the arguments from people defending President Trump (because I haven’t heard anyone defend the practice, just the President’s role in it.) Many said it’s not his fault – W started this; Obama continued it. Many said this is just a conspiracy to turn people against him. Many said those kids have it better in our cages than they do in their homes. Some argued that “kids in cages” is inflammatory and inaccurate – they are “detention cells.”
One said: America is a nation of laws and we don’t get to follow the laws we like and change the ones we don’t. (Note: America is a nation of PEOPLE and we certainly DO get to change the laws we don’t like if enough of us don’t like them. That’s precisely why women get to vote and rich people can’t own poor people.)
Most said this situation isn’t perfect, but what else are we going to do? The parents brought it on themselves, and their littles by extension.
All those arguments have points of interest. But I don’t care about them. In fact, I think those arguments are some of the most dangerous threats to our humanity, because they give us the semblance of a cause and it takes precious mental, emotional and physical energy to defend our causes – even the unworthy ones. Especially the unworthy ones.
I’d like to suggest that by the time we’re arguing over the definition of a “cage”, we’ve well and truly lost sight of the point. And when we make this primarily a referendum against our president, we’ve equally missed the point.
The more energy we invest in blaming someone or defending someone else or throwing our hands up in despair because this problem is just TOO BIG for us, the less energy we’ll throw where we need to throw it – indeed, the ONLY place our energy can flow that I think honors God: finding a solution.
We, the nation that sent men to the moon, can certainly find a way to send children to sofas where they can be safe, be loved, be children.
We must stop barking and blaming and start thinking and giving and loving.
We must invest at least the amount of creative heat to making the world a better place for children that we invest in making memes for Instagram. Even if our constitution doesn’t demand it, our Bible does.
So, what I think we need right now is hope. Hope and a holy agitation to turn this friction into traction. Hope that we can be a part of something new and beautiful and exciting and generational.
I started by giving to www.togetherrising.org. 100% of their donations are going to secure lawyers for unrepresented children, with a goal of reunifying them with their parents. I’m asking Jesus for more ideas to help bring hope and change. If you have them I’d sure love to hear them. I don’t really want to hear your arguments…but I absolutely DO want to hear any plan – no matter how crazy it may seem – for helping these beautiful kids find a voice in all of this noise. Does it seem impossible? Perfect. America was built on the fight for impossible freedom.
We were made for this.