I’m Moving In: How Should Christians Respond to Those Suffering

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you…as they go through the Valley of Baca [weeping], they make it a place of springs…they go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion.” Ps 84:5-7

It comes as no surprise to any of you that our world is suffering. Entire communities of people are stirring and frustrated under injustice and oppression. Living in the Dallas/Fort Worth area gives me a tiny glimpse of the immense loss felt by families nationwide.

In closer proximity, friends and family are dealing with terminal illnesses, depression, failing marriages, dying children. To walk through the Valley of Weeping is to be human, we will all make frequent visits.

My worship pastor and good friend, through choked emotion, said a few weeks ago, “For some…life is the Valley of Weeping−it is the Valley of Tears. So it’s not just this issue of deliverance, it’s not just God delivering you out of it, which he does, praise God that he does, but he doesn’t do that for everyone, some he keeps in this valley. So this whole life is passing through the valley of tears.”

He then posed the question I think many of us ask ourselves, how can a person who seems to have been given permanent residence in the Valley, experience God as good, as kind, as loving? How can they find strength in him while they dwell, some for their whole lives, in this valley of weeping?

He continued to explain that we must impress on our hearts the truth of 2 Corinthians, where it says our suffering is light and momentary in view of the Gospel. That is, our strength in suffering is found when we run to the protective covering that is Jesus’ suffering on our behalf. There we find compassion and empathy. There we find God, who, while fully capable of deliverance, can and often does more in the passing through than the climbing over. There we find the man who left Heaven to live among us in our filth and heartache−to bring us back.

So I sat in church as he said this, ugly crying (not unusual, really. I fully expect they will soon designate me a row −covered in protective plastic, boxes of tissues and tubes of waterproof mascara). I wept, not for my own sorrow, but for the pain of those I know who truly have a permanent address in the Valley of Tears. I longed to act on their behalf, to cry out in their stead. I began to ask myself, “What is our response as the Church, as members of this Body, to those suffering?”  For those Valley dwellers, how do we as fellow Image bearers step into a role of responsibility without being overbearing or self-serving?

The answer, I feel, is this: Move In With Them

There is an old movie called “What Dreams May Come.” (Though theologically unsound, I still HIGHLY recommend this movie. It has all the feels). In it, a man’s wife commits suicide after his death and goes to hell. He decides to leave heaven to find her. When he does, she is sitting in a replica of their home that is falling down. She doesn’t recognize him and he can’t bring her back from her place in the shadows. So he joins her. He moves into her nightmare−giving one of the most Gospel-rich, yet cheese-tastic lines of all time− “I forgive you…for being so wonderful a guy would choose hell over heaven just to hang around you.”

For those dwelling in the Valley of Tears, sometimes the only thing you can do for them is set up residence next door. Romans 12:15 sets out our mission pretty succinctly: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”

Our responsibility falls not in being a fixer, but sometimes in just joining them.

I don’t tell many people this (so you are welcome, internet stranger!), but several years ago, when my husband and I were first married, I got perpetually sick. For months I was tested for autoimmune disease, and told I most likely had Lupus. I had been tested for years before this, all without answers. I was anxious, stressed from graduating and stepping out into the ‘real world’. I was battling depression−and now finding out that I might have a disease that would drastically change my life, and my new marriage. I became despondent, medicated, and lost in the dark storm of self-pity and fear. My marriage was suffering, and I had nothing to offer to fix it. Then one day my amazing husband brought me a gift. It was a pink hooded jacket. He explained that it was specially made to block UV rays (one of the things that causes Lupus flare-ups).

He had found a way to move in with me.  To show me that, while he couldn’t understand, he was trying to join me.

That pink jacket hangs in my closet to this day, relatively unused because our God is a merciful healer (another story for another day.) It is a daily reminder of the impact of empathy and fierce healing love. It is a reminder that in my darkest hour, in the depths of the Valley of Weeping, a man chose to dwell with me in the muck−and in every way it saved me.

I totally get that you can’t go buy a little pink jacket for every hurting person in your life. What I am suggesting is to find practical ways to encourage them as they reach out to Jesus for strength. I am admittedly very bad at this, with a long list of my own hurting people that I have run from or isolated. But here are a few ways this has been done for me, and maybe they can help us both be better at it:

  • Intercession through prayer. Don’t just say you will−DO IT! You will be amazed at the insight and the power God will give you to further minister.
  • Just listen.
  • Send encouraging texts, cards, wall posts… doesn’t matter the medium, and it’s quick and easy!
  • Ask how things are and be ready to listen, then ask how you can pray.
  • Don’t change how you act around them. Let them just “be.”
  • Hugs-they fix a lot.
  • Try some good old-fashioned non-complementary behavior (a psychological term for what I think of as grace). Meet their hostility with love, their grumps with joy and understanding.
  • Remind them of what God has done. Don’t be obnoxious, but be to them like a Psalm, looking back on who God is. We fight the lies of darkness with truth.

What are some ways people have moved into the Valley with you? I would love to hear them!


Helpful Links:
-Check out the awesome sermon that inspired this post at Church at the Cross



everyday holy

I have probably said this before, but I love how the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper are so similar to things we do daily. We eat, usually communally, and we bathe (hopefully daily, unless you are a new parent then it might be bi-weekly). Tonight as I washed my littlest little’s hair I watched as the water rippled down her forehead. I was reminded of my own baptism, done as an infant, and the covenant made on my behalf by my parents−to raise me up to know and love Jesus. I was reminded of my own covenant, made years later, as an adult, being dipped under the cool water, running through my hair and eyes, telling the world that I was His.

The sacraments are defined as “outward signs of an inward grace”*. We do these things as memorials, celebrations of grace lavished. Charles Spurgeon says, “It is intended as a memorial of Christ, and it is intended as a shouting or a manifestation of our faith in Christ, and of Christ’s death, to others.” We do them ceremoniously, and yet, we find glimpses of them in our every day−as I serve dinner plates, and cut food into bite-sized pieces. As I wash away the grime of the day from rosy cheeks and chubby fingers, I can see, feel, touch the Divine in the midst of my mundane.

How quickly I forget! How hasty I am to bog down under the weight of terminal laundry and dishes that multiply. How forgetful I am to find gratitude for grace when all I see are startling news alerts and the piling of bills.  And what grace it is, that He gave up heaven to live the grunge existence of broken beings. He left the feasting table of His father to sit at one his calloused hands made, with people who smelled of fish and sheep. How quickly I forget that the bread broken and wine poured was His body on the cross−for me.

“Believe me, Beloved, this Truth of God is so simple, that while I speak, I can half fancy some of you saying, “Why does he not tell us something new?” But let me say to you, it is always a new Truth and there is no Truth which the Christian heart more readily forgets! Oh, that I could always feel that He loved me and gave Himself for me!” (Spurgeon)

Let my daily tasks, my monotony, change in the ever re-creating hands of the Father, that they become joy-filled monuments to all He has given me in His mercy. And as I take a moment in breaking bread and washing feet and heads, that I would be filled with the surprise of joy that is gratitude. That I would invite Him in−even into my laundry room, piled high, or my kitchen, full of dishes and stray Cheerios. To hear His song in the giggles of little girls, and to find His voice over the drone of the vacuum. That my familiar world-view would shift into an everyday kind of Holy. Spurgeon, again, said it best, “Familiarity with Jesus is the highest reverence!”

Oh, that we would become familiar with Him in our day-to-day! That we might taste and see and remember all that He has done. That He has woven the treasure of the Gospel even into the cotton lining of our human existence!



*Definition found on dictionary.com

**Spurgeon quotes taken from his sermon “The Lord’s Supper—simple But Sublime!” JULY 1, 1909. Read the full text here: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/spurgeon/sermons55.xxvii.html


Psalm 127: The Mommy Psalm

There’s a part of me that takes a step back from my life and evaluates. Is what I am doing worth doing? Is staying home with my children going to prove to be a fruitful task? What if they grow up and move away and never speak to me again? What if they never come to love the Lord? Is all of this exhaustion, this budgeting and stress-eating in my closet, worth it if somehow things don’t go as planned? What if they grow up to be “just” a mom−will it be enough? What if they look at me someday as “just” a mom?

The Psalms describe parenting in such detail, I can’t help but think their historical experience must have resembled ours in some way. Psalm 127 talks about rising up early, going to bed late and anxious toil. I don’t know about you, but this looks like the lines of my day planner year-round. Raising small children or building a family can be a taxing experience to say the least. The sleepless, anxiety-filled work is not just for those who already have children, but for those who long for them as well. And, from what I hear, it doesn’t stop as your children grow and have children of their own. (I cannot tell you how many times my mom has called me to subtly mention that I still haven’t put that baby gate on the stairs…love you, Mom!)

The Psalmist clearly understood that the process of parenthood and weariness often come hand-in-hand. They even sang about it in Psalm 127 as they prepared their hearts for worship! What is it about being a parent that we should be preaching to ourselves, in and outside of parenting, as we prepare to step into the throne room?

First, this Psalm reminds us that our hard work must have one singular Master. We can spend our strength to build our home−to overcome infertility, fill out piles of adoption paperwork, climb mountains of laundry, raise children that fear God and love others, make wise decisions for everything from nutrition to education to “screen time”. We can obsess over them, wake up in the middle of the night to check their breathing, stalk their smart phone GPS to be sure they’re safe, lie awake and wonder if they did finally install that darn baby gate. Yet, unless Jesus is the architect, contractor and security guard, our anxious toil is useless− and we become, in essence “just.” Just surviving. Just making ends meet. Just getting through the day.

We are called to hold our families, our hopes for them and their well-being, with open hands. Jesus calls us into His rest. He gives sleep to His beloved [Ps. 127:2a] (to the weary parent of a newborn−or a self-proclaimed nocturnal 4-year-old, this just may be the most beautiful verse in the Bible.) True rest, the kind that our wearied, nap-grubbing hearts long for, comes only in the presence of the King. Each time rest is mentioned in the Bible it is a calling into the throne room, and in His throne room you lay down your burden of control.

He builds your house. He waters the garden. He keeps watch­­−and you? You breathe. You worship. You rest your head on the shoulder of the only One who can carry that heavy burden−the One who has defeated the pain of bearing children. You remember that your desire for, and your exhaustion from, children are all part of being an image-bearer of the Most High. You nurture, correct, and pour out all you have because that is His nature, and you are His, so it’s your nature too.

Psalm 127 (which I have hereby dubbed “The Mommy Psalm,” tells us the WHY. The how is, as with everything, done by  letting go of our need for control into the unrelenting grace of Jesus. Then there’s the WHY. I’ve chewed on these verses for weeks now:

“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies at the gate.”

First off, let’s just get this out of the way… saying “My quiver is full” is just straight creepy. Can we just nix that from Christian speech from here on out? Every time I just want to yell, “EWWWWW! I don’t want to hear about your quiver!!!”

But I digress…

There is a stigma on parenting. I battle it every day. Not because I am externally judged−far from it! But because I am constantly asking myself the aforementioned questions, and referring to myself as “just” a mom. My heart, though, is restless in the “just,” and I think this Psalm has something to do with it. Gloria Furman writes about it in her book, Missional Motherhood. “I need to know that life is not meaningless, my work is not in vain, and the night is almost over. I need to experience something far bigger than myself−something grand, solid, divine.

Children are a heritage from the Lord…a reward.

Your children− biological, adopted or spiritual, are a story you and I have the privilege of co-authoring. Our heritage is being written, read, and virally shared through our nurturing. They are the gifts we pass on to the next generation, and the next, and the next.

Just a side note: this heritage and reward are not just for those who carry the title of “mom”. As Furman puts it, “…missional motherhood is for every woman (not just biological or adoptive mothers), because mother is a verb too.”

When your enemies meet you at the gate−when they count your children with judging eyes as you walk into Wal-mart. When they ask about your adopted son’s ‘real mother’. As they wonder why your grown children no longer attend church, or they make careless comments about your empty ring finger or empty womb. When they sit on the edge of your bed, keeping you awake with lists of failures. As you lie awake wondering if all of this pouring out is ever going to reap anything but tears−remember this promise: you will not be put to shame.

Your hard work, sleepless nights, anxious toil−they are handed over to Jesus. In His hands, the burden of control becomes light. His nurture becomes our nature, and the goal becomes the same−to posture ourselves and others before the throne of Jesus; who gave his all so it wouldn’t hurt so much to give ours. We are blessed with the gift of pouring out, of seeing those first steps, first “a-ha” moments, first heartbreaks, first falling into their Father’s arms. We are blessed to be called to make disciples−and blessed to have the desire to wrap-up the hurting in hugs and bind up the broken in truth. The desire that’s engrained in our image-bearing, mothering souls.



The Surprising Way We are Combatting the Grumpies (and winning!)

My mom has always warned me about age four. I’d heard about the terrible two’s, and now the    “three-nager.” But four, four was always the one my mom shook her head at and said, “Just you wait.” She recounts the way she wrestled me down the hall, every limb and digit clawing against the paint, only to put me in my room for time out. She fails at hiding a chuckle as I tell her about the sassy responses and rolled eyes spewing from my own mini-me. I feel her satisfaction as she tells me again how she had asked me to be civil only to have me retort, “If I knew what civil meant, I could be it!” Call them what you will, “Furious Fours”, “Ferocious Fours”… having a four-year-old is living up to all the hype my mom had built. It wasn’t too long ago that I had to say, all too seriously, “You cannot answer me in toots!”

While our newest “milestone” has not taken me by surprise, I cannot say I am celebrating it. Constant arguing and complaining are my sweet daughter’s newest M.O. Seriously, this kid could put The Good Wife and all her cronies to shame. Every meal is eaten with this self-proclaimed food critic. Every outing is narrated by lists of how much she “hates grocery shopping,” or how her legs are far too tired to keep walking.


We have tried everything from losing privileges to time-out to logic (desperate measures, my friends). Nothing has put a dent in this new wall of compulsive arguing and complaining.

Until now.

A few days ago, while trying desperately to keep my cool in the midst of yet another session of “But moooooooommmmmmmm…” and “Well, actually…” It dawned on me. I quickly googled the phrase floating around in my head and found what I was looking for. Philippians 2:14-15 “Do everything without complaining or arguing. So that you may be blameless and pure.” (Mind you, this is the Abbreviated Mommy Version, not yet published.) I grabbed the orange crayon I had been stepping over all day and quickly scrawled the verse on some paper. We began chanting the verse all day. Every time the whining started to creep up, I would say “Do everything…” and she would finish it. Each time her attitude would change and we would move on without a scene.

In the days following we added another verse, 1 Thessalonians 5:18 “Give thanks in all things, this is what God has for you to do.” (again, AMV). It occurred to me that my own complaining heart, my own tendency to argue when I felt God’s direction wasn’t fitting into my plans, grew out of a lack of thankfulness. Are not all things grace? Isn’t this Good Father holding back what could be, what is deserved, and offering us endless grace in its place?

So we are combatting the “grumpies” with thankfulness. When she isn’t deterred from her complaints and argument by remembering God’s words to her, she has to find 3 thank-you’s to replace them. In reminding her to surrender her right to critique and argue, I am learning to surrender as well. Watching her find joy through thankfulness is making me confront my own dissatisfaction and restlessness.

I’m sharing this, not because I think it is a cure-all formula for dealing with your child’s behavior. I am simply realizing what I am sure you all already know: God’s Word is living and breathing, sharp and cutting even to the sin of a discontent four-year-old and her weary mama. We are finding joy together as we train our hearts and eyes away from our lists of criticism towards a shower of graces.

I say this is the surprising way we are combatting the “grumpies”. But it shouldn’t be all that surprising. Aren’t we given this plan in Deuteronomy? “You shall teach them [my words] to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth.” (Brackets added; Deuteronomy 11:19)

We are learning to multiply our days instead of simply survive. We are trading our “grumpies” for “thank you’s” because there are deep wells of joy to be explored. God’s Word is a gift to us, meant to shape us and refine our rough edges. I have agonized for months watching my child become angrier and more discontent, feeling like I have already failed at the only job I have- to help guide and shape this tiny human. All the while, forgetting that He has already given me all I need.

Mom, You Need A Friend

I stare at the text messages. Reading and rereading them, parsing for subtext and hidden emotion in the midst of emoji’s and autocorrect. I hand the phone to my husband, discussing whether or not I have unintentionally sabotaged a potential friendship. We have relived this conversation far too often, because, frankly, making friends as a grownup is hard, and uncomfortable, and sometimes really embarrassing.

Having never lived in one place for more than five years, creating new friendships should be second nature. However, if making normal situations exceptionally awkward were a superpower, it would be mine. It started back in grade school. I really wanted to be friends with the cool new girl. It was going well until one day on the monkey bars I sneezed. On her face. It was one of those surprise sneezes, where there is not time for coverage. I sat in panic for a minute. “I think you have something in your hair,” I said nonchalantly. With all the coolness I could muster I reached out to grab the monstrous booger resting in her pretty brown hair. I almost got away with secretly tucking it into my pocket until she asked what it was. Did I mention I don’t lie well?

I have on occasion unintentionally, and very loudly, laughed like Goofy (“HuhYUK”) in response to human interaction (once during a job interview). Procreating has only furthered my unfortunate handicap. While trying to invite a new neighbor to church, my daughter peed from the top of a sloped sidewalk. The man was standing at the bottom. Needless to say he did not find Jesus that day, and may have lost some freshly baptized leather loafers.

Remember the old days, before that first sting of rejection, when friendship was as easy as, “Wanna be my friend?” The two of you would run off hand-in-hand and find some hole to dig or boy to chase.

Boom, bonded.

Not today though. Today it’s a matrix of insecurities and scheduling and apparently, bodily fluids. Top that off with the delicate balance of the “play date,” AKA “Listen up, children, Mommy needs a friend. So don’t be weird and don’t be mean and whatever you do, don’t embarrass me in front of Chick-Fil-A.” Conversation punctuated by nose wiping and emergency toilet breaks is the mother-friends’ lot in life.

Why go through all the trouble? Why do we continue to pursue friendship amidst the chaos of raising young children?

Because it’s how we stay sane. It’s how those children survive to adulthood.  But mostly, it’s how we all thrive.

Poet Matthew Arnold said, “If there ever comes a time when the women of the world come together purely and simply for the benefit of mankind, it will be a force such as the world has never known.” When women set aside the need for comparison, leave insecurities and judgement at home, and come together with the humble and mutual understanding that we need each other, we all thrive.

I only say this because I have been graciously allowed to experience it first-hand. When I moved (yet again) two years ago, I was starved for community. A group of women from my church had just started to meet together once a month in my new neighborhood.  Despite my quirky social inadequacies, they invited me to join them. We have met every month for two years. We put the kids to bed, and head to the hostess’ home just as we are; some in sweats, some in make-up and earrings, but all weary stay-at-home mamas ready to unwind. We eat dessert and drink coffee and laugh until our cheeks hurt. We cry with each other and take intentional time to share and listen. We offer each other grace. Grace for the messy houses, the moments of rage, and the places we feel we’ve failed. We come together purely and simply for the benefit of our souls. We are doing nothing more profound than willingly sharing life, but in doing so, life begins to sing instead of drone on. We have seen miracle babies born, children fostered and adopted, marriages revived, illness healed, and joy restored. And all because someone decided she wanted time to laugh with her friends and eat cake.

So, lonely mama, it’s time. It’s time to walk up to that other lonely mama and ask her if she wants to be your friend. Grab her hand, run, dig yourselves deep into awkward, intimate and healing conversation and chase those little boys (or girls) of yours with the joy that comes from living as you were created to be: in community.  Your family will thank you- and so will your soul.


But Why: a discussion on sexual purity and the church

A few nights ago, the 4-year-old asked me how God makes people. Not Adam and Eve, but like real live humans, like her, she explained. *Gulp* After a hurried prayer I gave what I hope was a good dose of truth mixed with a gentle, “wait.” I rambled for a while about God having special secret surprises that only grown-ups get to know, and somewhere in there mentioned both beer and cells shaped like tadpoles. (If you need to feel better about your own parenting, you can read the entire conversation by clicking here.)

I used to think I was going to be the coolest mom when it came to “the talk.” Like, it wouldn’t even phase me when it came up because I’d be so chill and informed. And yet, when my first baby starting checking out her own body, I totally panicked and choked when she realized she had a “down there” and I couldn’t even think of what to call it.

So here we are at four, starting what is the first (of what I honestly hope are many) of these “talks.” My dad, a strong silent type, would always turn down the radio in the car and clear his throat before having any sort of serious talk, and I imagine my own little “tells” will make my girls feel the same little *gulp* I always felt. But regardless of how uncomfortable and foolish we all feel I want to keep having them, because whether or not I’m involved, my children will learn about sex. And when they do, it will be a confusing mishmash of information and twisted ideals. I want them to have a trusted source to bring it all home to. I want them to face it with a healthy amount of natural anticipation, while still holding it as something with purpose and holy design. I want them to step beyond the fear of moral obligation and walk with a deepened understanding of why God would place boundaries on something so natural and, let’s be honest, fun.

A few years back, my Facebook feed was flooded every couple days with various back-and-forth blog posts on the merit or the devastation of “waiting for marriage.” Testimony after testimony came out from people who grew up in religion and walked fearfully in almost “sacramental abstinence.” They would explain how their years of stifling sexual desire, even to the point of pretending it didn’t exist, had hindered and often been detrimental to their marriage. And in some ways, these articles were bringing up a good point. As the “capital C” Church, we have done a poor job preparing our young people for the beauty of sexual relationship. We have pounded into their heads: “NO. NO. NO.” (Picture Mean Girls’, Coach Carr: “At your age, you’re going to have a lot of urges. You’re going to want to take off your clothes and touch each other. But if you do touch each other, you will get chlamydia… and DIE.”) It seems, in some extremes, that we expect them to go from nuns to exhibitionists in a 24-hour period.  That the day before the wedding they are pleasing God by banishing every inkling of the existence of sex, and then overnight must please God by giving themselves wholly to their spouse.

Ok, I realize I may be exaggerating a bit, but I have had many conversations with girls in various youth groups, who feel this way. Terrified of their own desires, knowing what it is they’re not supposed to do, but outside of fear of wrongdoing, not understanding the why or the purpose of it all. Now, stay with me here, I am not about to give you a laundry list of moral metaphors and STDs. But I feel we have missed a great need among our young people by not digging into God’s plan for sexuality.

The Bible is full of “types”- stories, images or designs that are meant to symbolize and/or point to God’s ultimate plan for redemption and relationship with his people. The design of marriage and human sexuality is one of these types. Ephesians 5:22-32 describes how marriage is to be modeled after Jesus’ relationship to the church. The man and the woman are in exclusive, covenant relationship. Loving each other through self-sacrifice and mutual submission. But this is not the only time in scripture where the idea of marriage, and even sexual purity can be paralleled to the Gospel narrative.

I first realized this a few years back under the teaching of Jim and Drenda Killion. In one discussion, Jim walked us through the Oneness theme found throughout scripture. Here’s a brief outline (with my own observations thrown in!):

  • Genesis 1-2 God makes man and woman in His likeness- they are an image of his oneness, and are walking in unity with Him and each other. They, with God, are mirroring the fellowship unity enjoyed by the Trinity.
  • Genesis 3-11 describes how our oneness with God, as perfect image-bearers, was broken as sin was violently given reign. Our perfect unity with God was severed and we took on an “otherness” that separated us from God-who made us to be like Himself.
  • Genesis 12 through Malachi ushers in the time of Covenant community for Israel. The Law is given and God’s people live under its unyielding weight. The Law acts as a spotlight on humanity’s separation from God. Their “otherness” is juxtaposed by their inability to reach the oneness they were created to enjoy. The Law reveals their need for redemption and stirs a longing in their dead hearts for unified relationship with their Creator.
  • As we travel on into the New Testament, Jesus arrives and brings with Him the realization of what had nibbled deep down in our guts for centuries: a way to get back into perfect, shameless relationship with the God we were made for. He is the perfect image-bearer, and not only shows us how to walk in oneness, but is one with God. And now we eagerly await (Hebrews 9:28) the consummation of this re-unifying redemption: Christ’s return as described in Revelation 21.

So, here we are, back at my first uncomfortable sex talk with my daughter… What does any of the above have to do with how I want her to view her own sexuality? Well…everything.

In Genesis 1-2, Adam and Eve are created, man and woman. Separate beings, but made wholly one with each other and God. They live in shameless submission to each other and to God. Together, a perfect image of who God is and what his ultimate design for human relationship is. Genesis 3-11 shows us how far we have fallen from image-bearers, and the extensive laws placed on sexual morality (see Leviticus and Deuteronomy) reveal to us how far we have ventured from the shameless unity we were created to enjoy. The exclusivity God commands in covenant marriage and sexual purity  prepares us for the exclusivity of His salvation plan in Jesus.

Look around, sexual desire is either steeped in shame, in which we feel we need to hide it or stifle it, or we wave it around as proof of identity and purpose. And yet, marriage, sex, and the intimacy of husband and wife was intended to have kingdom purpose. It was designed to teach us something about God’s relationship with his people. It is far more than a stringent list of dos and don’ts, but a gift graciously given so that we might further look forward to Christ’s return. We must stop telling our youth, “NO NO NO” and start encouraging them to celebrate the gentle “wait.” We should wonder that God has placed in our physical bodies a desire for intimacy and unity that stirs in us, and should remind us of our longing for His return and our oneness to be restored.

Bottom line? God wants to redeem our sexuality. Whether it is unrealistic expectations, apathy, fear, lust, sex outside of marriage, an affair, same sex attraction, pornography… the list goes on. He wants to set you free. My pastor, JR Vassar said it best, “Freedom is not being able to do whatever you want to do, freedom is being able to do what you were created to do.” You were created to enjoy the unity and fun of sex within the security, purity and exclusivity of covenant marriage- so that your heart may be stirred and reminded that you were created for the intimate, vulnerable unity of exclusive relationship with Jesus.


photo courtesy of unsplash.com

Addendum: On special secret surprises and tadpoles

Tonight I had what I hope will be the first of many “the talks” with my oldest child. Here’s how awkwardly it went:

Daughter: Mom, maybe instead of listening to the radio while I go to sleep you could tell me how God makes people.

Me: *gulp* What do you mean?

Daughter: What does “what do you mean?” mean?

Me: Do you want to know about how God made Adam and Eve or how God made you?

Daughter: Like how God made me and all people.

Me: *crap! Hurried prayer for wisdom* Well, when a mommy and a daddy are married, God takes  a part of the mommy and a part of the daddy and puts them together in the mommy’s tummy. Then those pieces grow and get bigger and stronger and make a baby. Then when the baby gets big and strong enough she can be born.

Daughter: That’s so cool!

Me: *nailed it!* Right!?!

Daughter: But how does God put the pieces together?

Me: *more hurried prayers* Well…some things are super secret surprises that God only shares when people become mommies and daddies.

Daughter: But I want to know the secret now.

Me: *rambling about how she can drink juice because it’s good for little girls’ bodies but she can’t drink beer (it’s ok if you’re judging my parenting right now!) because it’s only made for grown-up bodies.* “Some things that God tells us have to wait for when we have grown up brains because little kid brains aren’t ready for it.”

We go back and forth about how she is not a little kid but also not a grown up

Daughter: So what are the parts that God puts together?

Me: *frantically deciding how much I want her Sunday school teacher to hear later* “Well, mommies have lots of tiny eggs inside of them and daddies have tiny cells in them that look like tadpoles (I know—but I didn’t want to lie!). God puts them together and they grow into a baby.”

You: Oh. *falls asleep*

Me: *exhale*


We used to be cool…

I watched him, church tee and boxer clad, carrying our flailing four-year-old up the stairs. Our eyes met for a second and I saw a flash of his past life: designer jeans, guitar and perfect hair. And I thought, “Man, we used to be so cool.”

Now, in all honesty, I was never really cool. But “cool” is relative when “freedom” is concerned. So many times my husband and I pause, drinking in our reality with an edge of incredulity. Recently we went on one of my guy’s “Let’s get out of the house. This will be fun family time,” notions (something I love about him). Twenty minutes in he looks at me and says, over the screaming baby, “This is not fun.”

I mean, sure, as parents we still stay up until 4am and wake up at 7am for the day. We binge-watch TV (I have seen EVERY episode of Daniel Tiger, ad nauseam.) We crank tunes and cruise for hours in our car (drowning out tantrums and extending naps). But things change. Drum cases become tables for Fruit-Loops and morning cartoons. Old band t-shirts no longer carry the stink of screaming, sweaty crowds and spilled energy drinks, but spit-up and snot streaks. Your calls to your girlfriends will now involve horror stories of infants discovering diaper tabs during nap time instead of bad first dates.

My “cool” days are over. My ability to relate to a younger generation without inadvertently throwing in booger references is long gone. And my desire to wear anything but black yoga pants in public is a dream of the past (I might add a necklace or some eye shadow if it’s date night). However, I am not grieving my loss of “cool”, but find myself celebrating it. I wouldn’t trade the giggles of slipping out of church after my newborn has wrecked my shirt with her “poo-splosion”. I wouldn’t go back to a time where tiny feet and sweaty heads weren’t pressed against my face in wee morning hours. I could never trade the wrinkles, rolls and stretch marks for the trim, unmarred body of my younger self. With each white hair I will celebrate that in my new-found lameness I am learning to love. To love desperately and selflessly, to release my need for put-togetherness for the sake of joy. I am learning to laugh genuinely and loudly at my short-comings and celebrate tiny victories. My freedom today looks wildly different from the care-free days of my youth. In it I am finding that digging down deep into the temporary messiness of grace is to live in reckless abandon to eternity. My youth twinkles in the eyes of my children as they dance and twirl, and I will join them as if it is still in me, so that they will see that cool is relative, but joy is everlasting.

And when it is all said and done, whether they are moms or missionaries, CEO’s or burger-flippers, I will measure my success in their ability to love deeply. I will run this race of exhaustion and endless laundry with gusto in hopes that they will see that “cool” is fleeting, but that in the Lord all things are awesome.

So if you are a new parent, and find yourself mourning who you once were, I leave you with the wise words of one Daniel Tiger: “It’s ok to feel sad sometimes. Little by little, you’ll feel better again.” And you will. This parenting thing is actually pretty rad…once you get past all the poo.


And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow for 84 years. She did not depart from the temple, worshipping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. Luke 2:36-38


Mom, waiting is HARD!”

I hear this nearly daily. And every time I think, “You bet your buns it is!” But waiting is an essential life lesson. We are taught from a very young age that waiting is necessary. But why? And maybe more pressing is, HOW? How do we wait in the mind-numbing silence that often comes with trials, while still believing a God who promises to have our best in mind?

The Psalmist preaches to himself over and over again to wait for the Lord, to take courage and wait. We are promised strength and blessing to those who wait, and to be upheld- never to be put to shame. But how do you get there? The end result sounds excellent, but the journey is treacherous, full of dark unknowns and whispered redirects. Waiting is painful. Waiting is straight-up hard.

The prophetess, Anna, who appears momentarily in Luke 2 gives us a beautiful glimpse of the “how”. She was married as a young virgin (most likely 14), widowed by 21, and though some versions say she lived that way until she was 84 years old, others says she lived that way for 84 years. Regardless… the math comes out the same…she was OLD (like awe-strikingly old!). Not only was she “advanced in years” she spent the large majority of those years living as a widow in the temple.

She was there day and night, worshiping, fasting, praying. Only to walk in at the exact moment that Simeon was handing the tiny baby Jesus back to his mother, declaring that because of him the depths of hearts will be revealed. Coincidence? NEVER! She had been eagerly waiting for that moment. Barren, widowed and aged, this woman had spent her lifetime pleading with God for just that very moment. So what can we glean from this tiny snippet of her story?

  1. Strategically place yourself in the presence of the King

Anna did not allow her newly widowed status to bury her in shame, self-pity or isolation. As a woman with no family and no children, she was put in a tough spot when she lost her husband. She drew nearer to the only one who could raise her station – the King who created her. And she remained there, knowing His promises, she waited for him to make good on them. Decades she waited. I imagine after Israel had already faced nearly 400 years of Godly silence, the last 84 that she spent discussing it with (or probably it felt like “at”) God were brutal. And yet, she did not run or push him away, but rather strategically placed herself right in his path, so when he moved (because she KNEW he would!) she wouldn’t miss it.

  1. Cultivate disciplines that create humility

As we wait, we have a distinct opportunity to place ourselves face-down before a mighty God, knowing full well he will one day lift our heads. Anna spent her every moment praying, worshiping, and fasting. She cultivated disciplines that bred humility. She so sought after God that she knew instantly when he showed up on the scene, because her heart was acutely tuned to his will. And the beauty of it was, her humility and zealous desire for intimacy and rescue was rewarded. She was one of the first people to look into the face of the Living God.

  1. Be comfortable in silence

Sometimes God is silent. Anna lived in the smack dab of a society built around a God who had not audibly spoken in 4 centuries. But there is something to be said of a relationship where silence does not build discomfort. Intimacy does not always look like vibrant conversation or interaction, but is often a dwelling in each other’s presence without concern. To sit in the throne-room, aware of His presence, but content in His silence should be the ambition of a waiting heart.

  1. Build a “waiting” community

Notice her first response is to turn and share the news with “all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.” She had surrounded herself with others who were eagerly awaiting the same thing- to see God move on behalf of his people. Her heart burst with gratitude and she shared the mighty thing God had done with those who were waiting to hear it.
In your waiting, do not be shy about asking for prayer. Gather in people to walk alongside you and wade through the silence and the tears. Allow them to weep with you, and then when God moves, and he will (though maybe not in the way you imagined, or the time-frame you desire), you can celebrate and worship and eat cake (food is love people) together over all God has done! What a gift to offer up to those around you!

  1. Eagerly wait, don’t anxiously assume

It is so easy to get through the waiting period and as the initial amazement wears off, to feel that little stirring of anxiety. Thanksgiving for the new, wide open pasture is often dampened by the fear that the next attack is waiting just in the shadows.
We must be careful to eagerly wait on Jesus’ victory without anxiously anticipating the next trial. Held side by side, the comparison is laughable. Enjoy the moments of rest and peace that come after a long battle, and eagerly await all that he will do in bringing you through whatever comes next.




and if not…

I struggle with anxiety. And whether or not you did before, if you’re a mother, you probably do now. It seems that along with the standard-issue black yoga pant, new mommy-dom also comes with a healthy dose of anxiety and guilt. I am writing this sitting on the floor of my bathroom peripherally watching the top of my child’s head as it bobs up and down over the side of the tub. And I jump at every odd noise or lack thereof, sure she’s somehow managed to submerge her oversized head under the 1/9 of an inch of water she’s sitting in. See… the mommy-hood, it’s chock full of thugs!

I recently went on this long journey with God through a pile of doubt around his goodness. It has been months since I last posted on the topic because I needed all of that time to process what I have been learning.  And while I cannot promise to do it much justice, I want to continue the conversation, because it is highly relevant and vital, as women and as the Church, to understand the goodness of God.

So back to that anxiety cocktail… if we cannot both comprehend (on some level) and accept the sovereignty and goodness of God we will never be able to peel our eyes away from those monsters under our bed.

A few months ago I had the distinct privilege of hearing Burk Parsons speak on suffering. I fidgeted excitedly in my seat, my pen racing to gather all the wisdom I could possibly drink in. I then turned to the woman next to me and in a super-mature, ministry-wife manner, gave her the “mind blown!” signal. I am like a child at Christmas when Jesus reveals new things to me, and this one was like waking up to see a shiny new bike! All of my questions answered with a neat tidy bow—ok not tidy- because let’s face it, this is not a tidy topic.

God’s goodness and sovereignty are not mutually exclusive— especially in the face of our suffering. Parsons reminded us that when we consider the place of evil in the world, we have to remember that God also has other attributes along with goodness. He is holy, for example, and just, a righteous judge.

I have often thought of the world created “good” and assume that means it was made perfect— and evil is something that has taken our perfection and devolved us into something lesser. Like a black stain on a once starkly white canvas. And yet, Parsons explained, the Bible clearly tells us that the world was not created perfect- it was good, but it allowed for sin to exist, thereby not perfect. The reality is, when sin entered the world by Adam’s choosing- all of creation became enemy territory to the Righteous God of the universe. The sin of Adam, the one God gave to be ruler over the earth, handed creation’s throne to the one who hated God.

Evil became king. And now… are you ready to have your face melted?!?…now, that same Creator God- still in control despite our perceptions- has been restraining evil. Did you catch that? He is restraining evil. It sure doesn’t feel like it most days, especially during the 5 o’clock news (or flipping through Facebook for that matter). But, if God had allowed our full potential of evil to be realized we would have killed each other off years ago.

Mind. Blown.

So the question then is no longer why do we have war, famine, death, child pornography…etc, etc…? It is, why has God not lifted his hand and allowed us to cannibalize each other as our nature so desires? More so, why did this God release his restraint on evil for one single moment in time, allowing the fullness of sin and its natural ramifications to be unleashed on himself instead of on me?

So here I sit, watching those sweet green/brown eyes peek at me over the tub and I am awash in gratitude. Not because I am pious or especially good at loving God. But because I am not, and he still allows me to wake up and bathe my children. He still allows me to walk through the fire and watch as my feet hit flame and whispers, “You see terror where there is no terror. I. Am. God.”Psalm 53:5

And as I dry off her tiny hands and kiss her damp apple cheeks I will breathe in her fragility and remember that this God, the one who tells the oceans where to begin and end, made the Leviathan to frolic. Surely he can handle the tiny people he’s given me to love. His sovereignty gave him the right to choose who receives the due punishment, and his goodness means he took it onto his shoulders. He will continue to act in the same accord toward me. Though his mysteries and valleys of fire may send shivers down my spine, they are nothing compared to the flow of wrath that he dammed with his own body so that I might swim in the living waters. And I am confident I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living…and when I don’t, he is still good.


Helpful Links:
Read PART 1 of “and if not…” to follow my journey.
Listen to Burk Parsons talk on evil and suffering here