Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Story of an Easy Life

In thinking about presence,
about being present,
I can't help but think about story,
our stories.
And how sometimes those stories
make us into people who would rather not be present
in the day where we live.

There are times,
when I remember...
I think even of just recent times,
days, weeks, months...a year ago,
and I want to push it all down.
Rush past the pain
and confusion
that memory remembers.

And honestly,
this just makes me angry.
My husband says it makes him bitter.
And soon the heart grows hard.

And I miss so much
of living.
And the pressure often makes me break,
as bitter, brittle things do.
Sharp edges hitting others,
mostly the ones I love.

I think of Ty.
I'm certain he walked through much
that could make him hard.
he stayed tender.
He remained present.
And he cried often.
He said he was called Pastor Cry in the 'hood.

The last time I heard him preach,
he cried.
Many times.
And I know
it's because he was in the moment.
Fully present.
Fully alive.
And I can't believe that had he been holding on to what can make you hard
he would have been able to weep as he did.
Live like he did.

He used to say: God loves me more than anyone else. Not really, but sort of.

That love
transformed his life.
Transformed his story.

And so,
this life we've been living,
our story together,
my husband and I,
has not been easy.
In such a short time
there have been so many changes.
And the dark presses in.
One day I prayed: God...why can't anything be easy?
(I'm aware of how entitled I sound)
And He, in His great love responded: cry out to me...that is easy.

So, we cry.
And His love,
it steps in
and reminds us He is not silent.

Our edges are softened, then,
made translucent even,
so light seeps in.

And we weep.
Because He loves us.
In the midst of our story,
despite our story,
and even,
because of our story.

We are present.
In Love.
Because of Love.

And our tears are our gratitude.
A humble offering of thanksgiving.

And maybe,
living a life of presence, then,
is the easiest life of all.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Selfless Side of Parenting

So honored to be featured on Susie Miller's blog today! I was asked to write about, ahem, parenting...for which I feel absurdly inadequate. Still, here are my thoughts and hopes...

Monday, September 14, 2015

An Easy Life

I've not posted anything for a couple weeks...

Mostly, I've not been emotionally capable of it.

Even writing that sentence makes me want to cry.

Old friends from my youth were tragically killed in a car accident.

These are the scenarios no one wants to think about...
they exist in some other alternate universe.

Ty and Terri were their names and they lived in Omaha.
But I knew them when I was 14 as youth leaders here in California.
And, just two weeks before their death,
I saw them in Omaha when we were visiting our family.

I've spent some time thinking about why this death has in so many ways immobilized me.

Is it the memory of innocent youth?
Or that time when I loved Jesus with a whole and infatuated heart?
Maybe it's just remembering how much they loved me...and all of us.
How they took time.
How when they were with you, they were all with you.

And, while I think the missing of these dear people is all of this,
I think mostly it's that last piece...their presence.
I learned once that if you don't have words or advice or anything like that to give someone,
just give them yourself, your presence.
BE with them.
And I think that for the last 30 years of my life,
even though so much distance in so many ways existed between us,
I still knew their presence in my life.

I think the same is true for the thousands of people who watched their funeral.
And the handful of us who were together a couple weeks ago here in California to remember them.
We feel their death so deeply because they were with us so completely.

It couldn't have been easy on them,
but they made it look that way.
It was their gift...this gift of presence.
The gift of being.

We live in a day when to live in a present way is challenging,
not because we carry any different pressures than any other time,
but because it is so easy  to escape.
I can slip away from my children with a simple swipe of my smartphone.
I can enter the lives of those I haven't seen in decades
Or shop
Or read
Or listen
and not BE.

Even now as I write my children have woken from their nap
and I find I must come to a place in this post where I stop
so I can be with them.
Not just because they have physical needs,
but because they need their mom to BE.

This is not easy...
and I find myself craving an easy life.
I don't want to do the hard work of being present,
I don't want to have to give up my life,
myself in order to be with them
or anyone.

I want more for my children
my marriage
my friendships.

I'll be blogging about these things over the next few weeks...
please join me.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Working Mom

A piece I wrote several years back when having to go back to work with our first baby...

Today at 4:15 ~ dawn still dark~
I woke and fed my daughter,
then put her back to sleep.
I showered, dressed, and made myself up
so I could go 
to an 8 a.m. job interview.

I have to go back to work
and this new mama heart
can hardly balance the ache of leaving
my girl with the need to provide.

I watched her sleep~
this, the first morning I won't be here to greet
her tiny face when she wakes,
her smile filling my cup.

I know a mom

who rises early
to work at a dump
sorting trash
so she can feed her family.
Her harried existence
missing early morning smiles.
And yet missing the growing of her children,
does not lack the glow of sacrifice,
that fills her children's cup.

I don't pretend that my
going to work is anything
like this woman's daily
demonstration of selflessness.
But in the moments before I left,
I pumped my love into a bottle,
a cup that will feed~
and I think I knew what it meant
to exist to love.

**This picture was taken about 6 years ago and is the woman in the poem. I saw her children about two years ago on a visit to Romania and she was still working at sorting trash. It is used with her permission.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


I remember before leaving for Romania eight years ago,
Driving though tract housing developments in Southern California and thinking: I don’t want this. I don’t want the perfect house with the perfect life and the picket fence.
You know what I’m talking about, right? Those developments that give a home buyer several models to choose from and those models are then repeated every fifth house or so.
What I wouldn’t give to have one of those houses in one of those developments now.
The space!
The pretty kitchens with granite counter-tops and stainless steel appliances!
The new bathrooms with clean toilets and bathtubs!
And even if it was a previously owned house in one of those developments, oh, THE SPACE!

And here is where I express my discontent.
Here is where I confess I want the picket fence. I want the perfect life. I want the security all of it symbolizes.
I never did before. Back then, I worshiped simplicity and saving the world by living smaller, using less, buying yard sale furniture and Goodwill silverware and staying out of debt by paying cash for cars.

And here is where I confess the idol I made of debt-free living. How I’ve worshiped having less.
And I’ve  thought myself better because I didn’t care whether I lived in a tract housing development in Southern California with space, granite countertops in the kitchen and never before used bathrooms.

Discontent with less, I am a recovering simple living addict.
And talk about tension.
Because I believe it is good not to have debt.
And I don’t think we should live beyond our means.
I really do like yard sale furniture.
But I hate what I think all of this says about me.
And I hate when I want more than what I’ve been given.
When I’m not satisfied with what I have.

I know no life is perfect.
Perfect houses with kept yards behind white fences do not equal perfectly kept lives.
But they are a symbol for them.
Just as used and painted furniture symbolize something other than new and for me, the danger of pride.

In all honesty, right now, I just want to find the balance between humility and contentment.
I think they only symbol of that is the cross.
Jesus said: pick up your cross and follow me…
Lose your life, and you will find it.

Here’s where I find myself losing my life today
Picking up a cross in hope of finding life:
In gratefulness for the tiny dirty house where I live.
The disheveled children who scream for what they want while I try to remain calm and patient and in control.
Thankful I’ve been able to spend the last four years of my life spilling my life into theirs.
Losing myself in the knowledge that the next step of providing for those little ones means getting a job.
It isn’t what I want…
I want the big house
The white fence
The granite,
Alongside old silverware and repurposed furniture.

I want to stay home with my kids.
I want the perfect American life.

And I never thought humbling myself and picking up a cross,
The symbol of humility and contentment,
Would mean getting a job,
NOT being at home with my kids,
So that we can simply provide for them.

I'm finding,
that living a simple life,
is simply wanting to provide for our three little ones.

But it is.
And it’s hard.
And I’m praying that as I move beyond symbols and talks of confessing my discontent and pride,
I am able to hide in the shadow of THE only Life that matters.

And there, find my life.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Jesus will disapoint you if... special guest writer Aimee Walnofer

I would be remiss if I did not mention how long I've known Aimee....she and her sister used to give me a ride home from youth group and once in a while we'd stop at the Donut Hut in Mentone for a bedtime snack (if you remember the Donut Hut then you realize not only how long we've known one another, but how old we are!). Aimee always makes me laugh, moves me by her intelligence, and inspires me by her faith and depth. She recently wrote a book that you should definitely pick up not only because it is inexpensive, but because it is amazing. It is called A Girl called Foote.

Jesus Will Disappoint You If... have a custom-made agenda for Him.

Over the last few years, I’ve learned the lesson that I have very little power. I know that's contrary to what the world is constantly trying to pep us up with.

“You can do ANYTHING you set your mind to!” 

I won't go so far as to call the above statement a lie because I think people who spout similar phrases probably believe them and have good intentions, but alas, I fear such people are misguided.

I mean, think about it...what do I truly have power over?

*thinking hard for a moment and coming up with…*


Little ole me.

Yep. That's about it.

I can choose to make myself be kind, choose to make myself seek wisdom, choose to make myself exercise, and choose to make myself think before I act.

But even in all of that, I don't have total control.

If I get some horrible disease, it's not likely to be my fault because I live a very healthy lifestyle. Still, I can't make sure it doesn't happen. No matter how vigilant of a driver I am, I could still accidentally change lanes right under the carriage of a semi truck on the freeway. That certainly wouldn't be on purpose.

Even in rudimentary ways, I don't have complete control over myself.

A few years ago, I was under a lot of stress from different sources, and there was one situation in particular that was infuriating me. I knew what was best to resolve the issue (I don't say that sarcastically because I really DID know what was best and important in that situation), but the only person who had any power to change anything about it was unwilling. It was to their detriment and the solution was so simple, yet they refused. My frustration with them and anger with my own impotence was so great that I kinda, sorta, most definitely... flipped out.

I was in the shower (home alone, thank God) and I started screaming...and screaming...and screaming.




Mm hmm. (Even though no one was around to hear it.)

Stress relieving?

Oh, yeah.

Would I recommend it?

Not as a regular part of one's routine.

I didn't want to do it, but just like the build up of steam in a kettle will make it scream, so (occasionally) will a build up of frustration and stress in me.

I had been praying for months about that situation, asking God what my role was to fix it. That’s where I went wrong: I assumed that my role was to fix it, that if I just listened carefully enough and discerned things just so, then I could right the wrong. Obviously, that wasn’t happening, in spite of my best and well-intentioned efforts, and the result was a soapy, dripping, enraged me, screeching my lungs out in an echoing, slippery, closet-sized area.

I was extremely disappointed…ear piercingly so.

You see, I had an agenda for Jesus. I wanted Him to show me how I could change another person's will. I wanted for me and Him to be a tag team of sorts and dually show this person the error of their ways so that their own life would be improved for THEIR sake. (I wasn't even being selfish!)

That didn't happen.

After my squeaky clean shrieking fit, I realized that something needed to change, not in the other person because that clearly wasn't happening, but something in me. I needed to think differently if I was going to carry on, if I was going to be healthy in mind and vocal chords.

I acknowledged that I'd been trying to do something which I was powerless to do and I'd expected God to do something He never promised to do.

God will not violate the free wills which He has granted us, not yours, not mine and not *insert name of person presently frustrating you here*'s.

The main point of Jesus's ministry was to save us from sin...our own personal sin, not the sins of others. Neither did He ever make any promises that His incarnation, death and resurrection would ensure my good relationships with friends and family members, nor my body's good health, nor the realization of my career aspirations, vacation plans, etc.

When we think He has promised us those things, we are wrong and that's where we get disappointed.

That's what happened to some of Jesus's disciples. I can just hear them after Christ delivered His difficult teaching in John 6:53-58, grumbling: "What's all this about eating His flesh and living forever? I came for the snacks and good times, not this bizarre mumbo jumbo. I'm out." (a very loose paraphrase of John 6:60 & 66.)

So is Jesus enough?

It depends on what you want Him for.

I’ll be honest, I want Him to make all of my dreams come true, the unselfish ones and the selfish ones. However, I’ve realized that He never promised to do that, and that believing otherwise only leads to frustration and disappointment.

Is He enough to help me live a meaningful and thoughtful life in the midst of all the difficulties I face now and tomorrow?
Yes, and as I attempt to do so, He has promised never to leave me nor forsake me. Hebrews 13:5b

Aimee Walnofer is learning to be less surprised by her desperate need for God’s grace, and simply more thankful for its abundance as she continues to claw around trying to live life well. Under the name A.E. Walnofer, she has recently published a novel entitled A Girl Called Foote. Set in England in the early nineteenth century, it is the coming of age story of two remarkable people who live very different lives. The Kindle version is available on Amazon for just $0.99. The paperback, unfortunately, costs a bit more.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Making it Home blog tour with Emily Wierenga

Today I have the honor of writing on Emily Wierenga's Blog as a part of her Making it Home blog tour. Simply click on Making it Home abd you'll find your way to her blog!

I share why I call my blog Cypress and you may guess, it's all about making a home.

I also hope you will purchase a copy of Emily's newest book...Making it home: Finding my way to Peace, Idenity and Purpose..