On Waiting and Blessing


When Jacob wrestled, he waited, but he didn’t stop wrestling in the waiting. He wrestled until he received his blessing.

Waiting doesn’t always mean stopping. Sometimes waiting takes a “meanwhile…” stance as we multitask through life.

And sometimes, wait really just means wait. Like I’ve waited twenty years to read this one particular book. In the meantime, I’ve read hundreds of others, but the book always waited.

Twenty years ago, my parents gave a rightfully Brit lit obsessed teen a copy of The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh as a graduation gift. Having only recently rediscovered my love of reading, I was ecstatic to have it. And I flipped through it. And then I started two summer jobs followed by school and Rush, and suddenly I was much too cool and adult for Pooh.

But Pooh stayed with me, through a college transfer and back home again. To grad school and back home. Again. And through eight moves in the last decade. There was Pooh, always near my desk and heart, but with his binding never broken. Because that Pooh, the heavy one with the satin ribbon to mark your place and a small picture on each page, was meant to be shared with others. You read this Pooh aloud.

And while the first person who called me Aunt B will turn 17 this year, and my niece will be 8 next month, I never read that Pooh to any niece or nephew, whether they called me Aunt B by choice or by blood. Taking Pooh to another’s house just seemed strange.

So when the kids started staying with me for respite weekends, I thought about starting them with Pooh. But if you’ve ever tried holding a sprawling two-year-old and a 7 pound book, you know why that didn’t happen.

There was more than just a perpetual motion machine preventing the reading of Pooh by this time. To finally pull him off the shelf and read him would seem so final, and nothing has felt final these last two years.

For two years I was partially afraid that to begin reading would be to jinx it, and we would never get to finish. So we’ve read small Pooh storybooks and big Disney Pooh storybooks and Jesus books and truck books and princess books and pirate books and the complete stories of Paddington Bear, but not of the Silly Old Bear.

Until tonight. Because tonight, five weeks after the judge’s decree and five days after receiving new birth certificates, and about five hours after a hair cut to correct the one she started on herself on Saturday, two chubby little feet scurried back to her room from the errand of “Go find one book to read,” with two dimpled hands holding a blue bound storybook. “Here. I picked this one book. Read it to us, please.”

And there sat Pooh.

As I opened the book, I laughed, partly because Miss Smartypants brought me the biggest “one book” she could carry, but also because, after 20 years of wanting and worrying and whining and wasting and waiting, Pooh came to me. And we read of honey and the wrong sort of bees.

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When Death is a Good Thing


Death often makes room to see the past– and the future– more clearly.

I noticed the frozen creek from the kitchen window, and after a week trapped inside by single digit temps, I grabbed my camera, bundled up, and wandered into the backyard for a moment.

In the summer, my backyard is nothing but thick woods, but now it’s obvious that the vines once ran along a fence and there’s a clearing beyond the creek. Today it’s grown up, dangerous, useless.

But sometime in this house’s 90+ years of life, it was a sprawling, well manicured yard.

These fence posts reminded me of what happens when we don’t keep up with the little things in our lives. Boundaries are only effective when they are clearly maintained. When the yard was left to its own devices, a fence became a trellis and vines became thick and impassable.

But then came a deathly deep freeze. The vines that were so tangled in autumn that I couldn’t clear them now crumbled in my hands. With a little bit of work, we’ll have a backyard again and the kids will have a place to play this summer.

I never would’ve known there were both past and future stories here if everything hadn’t died. And I wondered, what things in my life need to die so I can see clearly the direction of my life? What needs to die so I’ll have better perspective on an event in my past? Sometimes, death— of a relationship, of a lie believed, of a habit or addiction— really can be the best thing that could happen.

So what do you do when the death clarifies things? There are really two choices: let things grow back up, or do the work to reestablish the boundaries and make the space useful again.

CT Women’s Most Read Articles and Some Thoughts on Women’s Ministry at the Close of 2017


Yesterday I was thrilled and honored to learn that an article I wrote was among the most read on CT Women in 2017.

After looking at the top ten most read articles, more than WHO wrote them, I hope and pray Christian leaders take note of WHAT women most read about this year: marital crisis, natural disaster, sexuality, spiritual authority and accountability, community, and many others. These are weighty, often faith destroying issues that women both inside and outside of the church grapple with daily.

For two generations, conservative Christian women have been taught their place is in the home and their discipleship flows out of a proper understanding of Proverbs 31 and Titus 2. And for many of us, women’s ministry provided fellowship, but did not provide a holistic and robust understanding of God or the Bible or our identities as children of God, leaving us woefully unprepared to face the issues listed above with our faith remaining intact.

My prayer for 2018 is that ministry to women will continue to grow, both in breadth and depth, to meet women where they are, show them their worth as image bearers of God, and help them develop confidence to study the Word in such a way that they know God in all of His goodness, justice, mercy, and love.

If your church emphasizes women’s ministry as the primary source of fellowship and discipleship for women, take care to ensure the teaching is robust and sound so that the women in your church are confident of their faith in the God who is more than able to do more than we can ask or imagine, in and through each situation addressed in the articles listed above.

Women today, as always, need more than a tribe to laugh and cry and journey with. We need a deep and abiding knowledge of, faith in, and love for the God who does not change, even in the face of our ever changing existence.

Finding my “True Self”


I like the title CT eventually used for a piece of mine they published over the summer.

Mostly because it got people from both sides of the LGBTQ debate in Christian circles clicking to read it. But more so because it highlights the redefining of the words “true self” in today’s culture.

Here’s a bit from the piece, and if you haven’t already, head over to Christianity Today’s site and check it out.

In the end, both legalistic condemnation and progressive license left me seeking more contentment and completeness than either could offer. One group had fallen short of acknowledging the genuine nature of my feelings and the other had overlooked the very real conviction I held about human sexuality by explaining it away as “residual guilt from my legalistic childhood.”

Forty Names of Jesus: A Lenten Devotional for Families


Having been raised Southern Baptist in the 1980’s, I’m not sure that I heard the word Lent before I was a Religion major in college. Since learning of the liturgical calendar, I have been fascinated with this way of faith that gives a structure to the year and an intention to my worship.

Forty NamesThis is part of the reason that I jumped at the chance to preview Jennifer Spencer’s work Forty Names of Jesus: A Lenten Devotional for Families. The other reason is that, in the years that I have known Jennifer, I have learned that she is a learner, a teacher, a mother, and a friend who is naturally curious and desires to do life with excellence. A curious teacher writing a Lenten devotional was something I simply could not pass up.

In the preface, Jennifer shares her inspiration for researching and writing this book; she had a need for something to teach her children about Jesus and couldn’t find material to meet that need in the particular manner she desired. That desire to help her children move from knowing stories about Jesus to actually getting to know Him intimately resonated with me as a new mom. As I read, I more and more appreciated her work as a teacher as well. While there are many strengths to this devotional, the following aspects make Forty Names particularly useful to me as a mother and an educator.

First, the devotional is adaptable. Jennifer does a fantastic job helping the reader understand the different tools she intentionally provided. While the actual reading for each day is relatively short, she provides multiple ways to adjust the breadth and depth of the study so that it is age appropriate for each member of a family. With a key verse and concept for each name as well as additional passages of study, I can use this to introduce my toddlers to the names of God but can also use it with my small group of high school freshmen without having to do much prep work on my own.

Second, the devotional is educational. The word devotional tends to have the connotation of fluffy or feel good, and there is a time and place for warm fuzzy devotional books. What is so appealing in this particular devotion is that Jennifer finds a way to warm the heart through engaging the mind. Moving seamlessly from Hebrew to Greek and Old Testament to New, Forty Names digs just a little deeper by providing historical and literary information that helps the reader understand and appreciate each name just a little more than you did before you started.

Third, the devotional is theological. A vital part of teaching children about our faith is helping them see the common themes throughout Scripture that point the reader to Christ. This particular work falls in line with recent works for children such as The Jesus Storybook Bible, which declares the precious truth that “Every story whispers His name.” In terms that even young children can understand, Jennifer teaches about concepts such as redemption, sacrifice, and propitiation, and uses familiar Bible stories to illustrate the meanings.

Fourth, the devotional is readable. It is possible to teach deep theological truths in layman’s terms. With simple definitions and a multitude of cross references that will help the reader increase familiarity with the full counsel of Scripture, there is an attractiveness to this work that draws the reader in and invites you to stick with the book, to come back for the next reading. A good teacher leaves a hook for her students so that they begin to internalize their motivation to keep learning, and the daily entries in this devotional are specifically written to guide the reader to the conclusion that she should just keep reading.

With all that has been written in recent years about the exodus of youth from the church and the biblical illiteracy of professing believers, devotional works like this one show us that learning about Jesus does not have to be either loud and flashy or dry and boring; learning about Jesus can be simple and satisfying. Learning can be fun, and it can be genuine, and it can be done alone or in groups. We can even learn as families. An ideal plan for families with kids spread across developmental stages is to simply start small (one verse and the concept) and then just allow the conversation to continue by using the additional passages and questions as your guide. You may be surprised just how long even the youngest in your family may stick around to talk and learn.

This is a devotional that can be added to your family’s permanent library because Jennifer wrote it in a manner that will allow you to also use it year after year and build upon what you’ve studied in previous readings. I am thankful that it is a resource that I have for years to come. If you are looking for a guide for your family for this upcoming season of Lent, I highly recommend Forty Names of Jesus.

Motherhood, Month One


On September 20, I met two little kids who were in a foster home down the street from a friend. Playing with babies is a favorite pastime of mine, so I offered to be a respite home for them. 

As circumstances changed, the way they often do, the respite home became a transition home which turned into a permanent home on December 22nd.

So one month into this motherhood thing, here are some things I’ve learned so far:

1. You never need as much sleep as you think you do.

2. Single parenting is HARD. Even with an army of amazing friends to love and support us, night terrors at 2:00 am just suck when there’s no back up.

3. Childhood diseases are called “childhood” because that’s where they should stay. Adults with childhood diseases are pitiful and generally worthless.

4. Bathing can easily become a luxury if you let it. Don’t let it. Take a shower, even if it’s at 3:00am when the night terrors have stopped. You’ll sleep better if you’re clean. Trust me.

5. There are an endless number of chores and other activities that you only thought required two hands. Cooking? Cleaning? Carrying things from the car? You can totally do all of those things while also carrying a sick/sleeping/crying toddler.

6. Parenting reveals your self-centered spots and your idols faster than just about any other relationship. 

7. The carpet doesn’t need to be vacuumed nearly as often as you previously thought.

8. An adult, two toddlers, and a mastiff can all fit in a half bath.

9. People like posts about cute kids a lot more than they do ones about cultural crises or theological truths.

10. I can parent well, or I can career woman well, but I haven’t figured out how to do both well.

11. Kids extend inordinate amounts of grace to struggling parents, even when parents aren’t as quick to do the same.

12. Playing in the snow just isn’t worth it. Find someone else’s cute snow pics and photoshop your kids’ faces into those snowsuits.

13. Pregnancy brain is just parenting brain. I didn’t birth these kids, but I lost my mind when they moved in.

14. I’m in awe of parents who teach. To care for dozens of other people’s children all day while also keeping up with the needs of your own is a daunting task.

15. Sometimes it’s ok to cry through lunch.

16. Kids really are sponges, so if you don’t want your kid doing or saying it at a most inopportune time, you better not do it at all.

17. Next time you’re really mad at your kid, try singing “You Are My Sunshine” to her while putting her to bed. Really. Don’t be convicted.

18. Alone time is more precious than gold, which is another good reason to shower at 3:00am.

19. Sometimes it’s just a matter of survival and that’s ok.

20. Apartment complexes charge pet fees and tell you it’s for replacing the carpet because it would be inappropriate to charge child fees.

21. The best piece of teaching advice I ever received also applies to parenting: at the end of the day, you’re older, you’re smarter, and you win. If you think you’ve lost, walk away and try again later.

22. When someone offers help, just say “Thank you” and take it. No one is impressed with (or fooled by) your attempt to be Wonder Woman.

23. Kids may appreciate works like The Chronicles of Narnia and Where the Sidewalk Ends, but you can’t truly appreciate them until you’re grown.

24. Even when you’re a mom, some days you just need your mom.
What are some things you learned as a new parent?

It’s Only Terror If It’s Unknown


The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.

H.P. Lovecraft, Supernatural Horror in Literature

It didn’t take long after the news broke about a militia taking over a government compound for my Facebook Newsfeed to light up with people calling BS on the stark differences in how this situation is being covered (or not covered) by media. 

Here are some things to think about:

This group is being described as a militia. They believe they are doing the work of God and have taken over a government area. 

When groups of middle eastern descent are described as the one above, we call them “radicalized extremists.” 

But this militia is not of Middle Eastern descent. They’re white farmers. They’re Christians. They remind us of our crazy Uncle So And So. They are familiar and, therefore, are a militia.

We, as a society, are geared toward white men (Don’t even try to deny it. Theirs is the default perspective of western history, religion, politics for the last 500 years. We can’t change it til we own it). Because we think we know white guys so well, a militia in Oregon doesn’t seem so scary. 

Farmers with rifles talking about patriotism and freedom. Yeah, we know those guys.

But here’s the thing to remember: in Saudia Arabia, Osama bin Ladin was once someone’s crazy uncle. 

Radicalized extremists are the same the world ’round. But these guys are our radicalized extremists. We know what to expect, so it’s no big deal.

But here’s the problem for all of us who are still relatively offended by the term “white privilege;” when we don’t respond to the white guys with guns the same way we would respond to minorities with guns, we’re displaying our privilege for the world to see.

This isn’t a topic I normally write about, but race relations have become the topic of conversation in our culture the last couple of years. I was once one of those idealistic “progressives” who believed wholeheartedly that we were a post-racist culture. One of those “I have black friends and my sister is black!” sort of defenders of white openmindedness. The continued popularity of Donald Trump’s hate-fueled campaign confirms that we are not post-racism at all.

And so the question remains, “What should we do?” I believe the answer lies in how you identify we

We as believers must acknowledge the role that fear of the unknown plays in our prejudices and convictions. Whether that unknown is another race, culture, or religion, simply admitting we don’t know is genuinely the first step to learning about others. It’s tough to learn about black America when you still steadfastly hold to the line “There’s only one America!” To say that is to deny the rich heritage of those who have come together to make America.

This country was never about eradicating other cultures for the sake of a new one. This country was founded on the exact opposite premise; that people should be able to bring their beliefs and their dreams with them in order to live them out freely. Those who say coming to America means converting to Christianity and speaking only English have missed the beauty of the Grand Experiement. 

So this event brings me back to a belief I’ve firmly held for years; the way to combat fear is to know. If you’re fearful of Muslims, get to know a few. If you struggle with showing compassion to the LGBT community, be vulnerable and ask a gay co-worker if you could ask them some questions. If you are afraid of the gun toting religious “patriots” currently committing treason in Oregon, peruse some Facebook pages and read up on what they stand for.

Demonstrate empathy. Give people the benefit of the doubt. And be consistent. Not all black protestors are thugs and not all thugs are black protestors. Not all Muslims are radicalized extremists and not all radicalized extremists are Muslims. Do a little less stereotyping and take the time to get to know people and their stories on an individual basis.

How do we loosen the grip that fear currently holds on our nation? Simply put, know and be known.