Add to the Box

Dear Child,

I dreamed about you long before you existed. I have no idea whether you’ll have my independent streak, or your daddy’s merciful heart. I don’t know if you’ll have my ever-changing eye color, or your daddy’s cool blue eyes and cheeky grin.

I don’t even know if you’ll ever exist.

I don’t know if I’ll carry you, adopt you, lose you, or do all three. I don’t know if you’ll have your dad’s rock solid medical record, or my terrifying one. I don’t know if your personality will clash with us, or if you’ll enjoy being in our family. There are so many things I don’t know.

I just know I want you.

We started a project for you, and to be honest, I’m terrified. I’m not terrified that you won’t like it, but I’m terrified that you won’t understand it. It’s a treasure box filled with notecards. Some of them filled with prayers for you. Many of them, though, are filled with verses which have either brought us closer to our Maker King Jesus, or encouraged us to stay where we already are.

I’ll be honest, Kiddo, as much as I want to help you succeed, I want to give you the heart to love the Jesus those notecards talk about. My prayer is that you won’t walk by that treasure box without discovering the Christ who is our Treasure. I pray your relationship won’t hinge on whether Daddy and I are growing in Christ, doing well in our marriage, or even still alive.

We can promise to strive after Christ with you, but I pray we never hold you back simply because your desire to know Him may look different than we had ever imagined for you. I may want you more than I ever thought possible, but my heart’s cry is that you’ll never want me, your dad, success, or cultural security, more than you want the Jesus who loves you more than we ever could.

This world–our culture–is no longer accepting of people who are sold out for Jesus. Be a radical, Darlin’, regardless of what our world may say. Don’t close your eyes while you run towards Jesus, because if you do that, you’ll be blind to the people you should stop for in order to bring them with you. But run, Sweetheart. Run after Jesus. It’s all we’ve ever wanted for you.

Help me add to the treasure box, Little One.

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When My Talent Died

So, I’ve stopped writing. Much to the chagrin of former journalism professors, old fans, and many family members, I’ve just…stopped. I still work in communications, so, when deadlines arise, I sit down with my trusty li’l iPad and I spit out something. Usually, I turn it in with the thought, “Really? That’s all you’ve got? You’re a published author and a Journalism graduate. You’re barely scratching the surface here. You can do better than this!” 

And somehow, despite my angst, God still makes my writing impactful. I just really don’t understand how He does such a thing. I still know how to write. I’ve just forgotten how to write for myself. (Hence the reason this blog hasn’t been touched in two months.)

Let me explain. My parents handed me an old laptop when I was fourteen and told me to write. My life had been so packed with medical trials, traumas, and troubles, they just wanted me to have an outlet. Without actually knowing what I was doing, I set out to make my pain make sense, and I took advantage of that outlet.

I needed to find God when my body gave me reasons to believe God was dead. So, I let my pain infiltrate page, after page, after page of defining Jesus within my very lonely and hurting heart.

I found my talent within writing. Writing somehow made my pain beautiful. Writing gave me a way to understand that a traumatic and painful life didn’t erase God. Writing helped me see that pain simply chips away at religious pretenses and makes you feel every inch of your desire to follow an invisible God.

But now, almost a decade and a half later, my life is not run by pain or medical trauma. By now, I’ve told all my stories, I’ve cried all my tears, and truly, my heart is filled with joy. I love it! … I just don’t know how to write about it, or write within it. I’m at a total peace for the first time since I can remember, and all the sudden, my need to write has disappeared.

The funny part is, God has made it clear I’m not done writing. It’s just I no longer have to write for myself. In other words, a blank page doesn’t give me anxiety. It’s just a reality. When God wants me to start writing, the fire in my bones comes back and nothing can hold me back. I’m okay with that.

Now my journey is learning how to let my talent include joy.

Don’t Trip Over Me

I clearly remember the day I decided to leave my childhood church. I had walked away from that particular body of believers (who were and are amazing people) when I decided Christ was the last thing I wanted to pursue. When I returned after my two year hiatus, I was broken beyond recognition spiritually and wanted anyone to tell me the pain dulls someday.

Actually, I wanted more than that. I wanted someone to hear about my wounds and tell me how to heal; because I had no idea how to do it myself. Growing up, I was the picture-perfect Christian kid. I knew the right answers. When Christ renewed my faith, I knew the right answers but my life made those answers feel foreign, unfamiliar and unobtainable. 

I needed help but was given the impression I seemed “fine.” I was experiencing redemption, but I felt anything but fine. The day I told old friends why I needed a fresh start, a few people gave me very vague answers. I heard lines like, “I’ve been there.” “I know why you’re hurting.” 

… But in my childishly adult 20-year-old mind, those particular responses had come too late. I’d sat wounded and feeling alone for months. I had needed someone more spiritually experienced to get me back on track and it felt like that counsel never came. I’ll always remember the confusion I felt when I was told someone understood my struggles right before I walked out the door. I had no clue I had people to go to to get help… until it was too late. They seemed too perfect to include me.

So, I left and “started over.”

That was close to ten years ago now. Christ saw my spiritual hunger and gave me a Body of believers who loved me deeply but didn’t let me get away with anything. Change isn’t always a bad thing, and to this day, 3,500 miles away, I’m genuine friends with people from both churches. 

I was told recently that I seemed like a very “open book.” As a pastor’s wife, that sentiment is both terrifying and terrific. Too little transparency and people feel as if you’re fake. Too much transparency and your ability to co-lead with your minister husband gets hazy. I want to be relateable; I’m afraid of being a stumbling block.

As I struggle with finding that balance as a new wife to a pastor in training, I’m constantly kicked back to how I felt drowned in loneliness when I first came back to the Lord. I let people see my healed and now-beautiful wounds because I’m learning leadership first starts with being touchable. 

You don’t have to be perfect to be in my group of believers. You don’t have to have all of your sin “Christianized” before being a godly impact on others. You simply have to be willing to realize Christ is the source of your joy and your love. When you realize that, your story loses its shame and Christ changes the game by being the Victor.

If you stumble over anything when you notice I’m an “open book,” may you stumble over the Cornerstone of Christ just as I did.

Forgetting to Enjoy Him 

When I was a kid, I loved figuring out new words. At four years old, I’d approach my unsuspecting mother with some variation of the question, “What does n-k-v-i-o-t spell?” I couldn’t wait to hear what word I had magically spelled. I loved the idea of making my thoughts known.

So, of course, I became a journalist. The challenge was always the same: Use the most descriptive words to say as much as possible with as little blank page used as possible. 

I was also the 8-year-old who secretly disliked playing with my peers but got a quirky amount of joy sitting with the elders of my church and listening to them talk about doctrine. At 13, I asked for my first concordance. I learned that I loved teaching others life-application within Biblical truths.

So, of course, I acquired a degree in Biblical studies. Within that realm, the challenge was always the same: Make one point as deeply understood as possible, all amounting to a minimum of 5,500 words. Create a masterpiece which looks like a mini-doctoral thesis. Good luck. 

Too often, I waste my time trying to fulfill both challenges when I share or teach Biblical truths. I wax as eloquently and precisely as possible. I use big words to sound authoritative and knowledgeable to appease my journalistic mind. For my theological background, I could write for pages upon pages to share truth I either found intriguing or applicable. My mind is constantly working through topics and how to share them.

What’s terrifying about that is I can be known for forgetting to simply share Jesus. It’s easier to fill a mind with knowledge than it is with love. It’s easier to foster a debate than it is to outline a soul’s need. It’s easy to teach about Jesus but difficult to simply share the essence of the beauty of Christ. 

I’m an analytical person, to put it mildly. I’ll study a topic till I’m blue in the face simply because I thrive on being intrigued. But when Jesus is the “topic,” I’m constantly being reminded it’s okay to sit still and simply enjoy Him. When we learn how to do that as believers, only then will the truths which we share about Him come to life for those watching.

More Than a Dishwasher

I can learn how to wash his dishes with joy… I think. 

I live life big. After living on the edge of my seat with crazy adventures and scenarios for 28 years, I’ve learned I don’t know how to live life halfway. I’m either all-in or not in at all. When I say I’ll do something, I either do all of it or I hold on long enough to hear the Spirit question, “Were you seriously made for laziness?” 

And then I hit married life to a dreamy dude who asked me to join him in the one dream that made me slightly nervous. When I married him, I knew I was marrying a ministry-worker. I had no comprehension of the seasons that would require us to live through as a young married couple. 

However, as I say often, Jesus giggled, and Peter’s ministry vision became my vision. My heart aches more for the mainstream students we work with than it ever ached for overseas ministry. I love what God has called us to as ministry workers. It’s not just Peter’s heart… it’s mine.

But then, we entered the season of seminary. Three years of books heavier than a healthy newborn and writing papers so long, I imagine I’ll reread them four times just to keep up with the theme. Seminary is Peter’s job, though. Not mine. He has 195 pages to read by tomorrow. I have three novels I’m half-heartedly reading which no one cares about. 

He’s in seminary. I’m a wife on the sidelines of seminary. I’m not doing much. But this adventure is asking me to give parts of myself I never found important in the other life changes I’ve experienced. 

During our dating life, being intentional with him meant telling my girlfriends I had to leave a bit earlier than normal to walk him to work. Now, while our marriage is shared with seminary, being intentional means sitting near him so he knows I’m present but letting him work on a paper I’ll struggle to understand. 

I’m still that chick who lives life big. But now that means doing my part to support the journey of our marriage. So, doing dishes isn’t glorious. Making appointments and researching insurance is tedious. But I’m doing those things so that when someone sees our marriage as a whole it’ll be easier to focus on one main thing: 

That Christ was the center pursuit of our time preparing for – and living in – ministry.

Unlikely Megaphones 

His cerebral palsy made mine look like a cakewalk. His hand wasn’t simply weak or lame, it was so twisted you only shook his thumb, not his entire hand. His speech was perfect, but he could only smile with one side of his mouth. His gate was jolted, unsteady and scary to watch.

I was 10 the first time I realized he was married; 12 when I met his wife for the first time. His wife never stopped talking about how happy she was and it was obvious they both loved each other and loved life. If anything, at my young age, I was a little grossed out by how “newlywed-ish” they were. 

But, regardless, I couldn’t get over it. He was married and he and I had the same disability. He was proof that disabled people could not only make marriage work, but make it work incredibly well. As a kid who struggled with being accepted because of my differences, the idea of ever being married was an impossible dream.

Over a decade later, with my own marriage as an example, I know the truth. My friend and his wife were not blessed with Pollyanna optimism. They both had to choose Christlike joy no matter their circumstances on a daily occurrence. But it came at a price. Almost always that price was steep, and equally worthwhile.

He had to give up his pride; she had to learn how to serve.

He had to trust her; she had to affirm him.

She had to learn to see beauty when other’s saw awkward; he had to learn how let her.

They had to work together to find fulfillment despite the daily hurdles they faced. 

They both had to learn to laugh at the unknowns and giggle at their differences.

They both had to ignore what the world said of their marriage and focus on what Christ called them to: Serving Him together and giving the world a picture of love.

Personally, I cringe every time I have to ask my husband for help. Memories of my mother entrusted with the same tasks and doing them alone taunt me on an hourly basis. But asking for my husband’s help gives me a chance to sacrifice my pride, and gives him a chance to serve like Christ. In return, I have a chance to prove God never wanted us to fulfill His glory alone.

In Sunday School, kids are taught the mantra and Bible verse, “In your weakness, He (Christ) is made strong.” Physical disabilities are proof of such truth. Marriages which involve disabilities are megaphones of that truth to the world. 

This disability is no longer my disability — it’s our platform to show Christ. What a glorious opportunity to be entrusted with… together. 

Keeping or Making Peace? 

I was a chronic peacekeeper as a child. If my siblings got in trouble, I did my best to convince my parents they could spank me instead, just because I thought it’d keep the peace. It never worked (good parenting, Mom and Dad), but that didn’t stop me from trying. I hated conflict. I hated tension. Confrontation was the second level of hell in my mind. 

In Matthew 5, Christ speaks to the multitudes when he says, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Not peacekeepers. Peacemakers. So, what’s the difference? Why does it matter? 

I’ve spent the last five years realizing the difference between peacekeeping and peacemaking. Peacekeeping appeases emotions and ignores sin. Peacemaking addresses emotions, lets them exist, but brings sin to the light in a loving way. 

Peacekeeping can literally exist within a lie — as long as things appear good, they are. Sweep hatred, lies, anger, and hurt under the rug. (Smile, Sweetheart, you’ll be okay.) Peacemaking allows for the tension of making things right, even if it takes weeks, months, years or decades and seasons of silence from the other party. 

Peacekeeping protects our reality and saves us from needing to make changes. Peacemaking breaks our reality to make it more like the Christ we say we serve and want to honor. 

Peacekeeping let’s hurt fester. Peacemaking confronts in love and actively seeks restoration instead of only giving it lip-service. 

Just like when I was a kid, peacekeeping only serves our conscience. I tried to make bad situations better, but it would have only made it better on the surface; so no change was made. 

What are you? A peacekeeper or a peacemaker? Do we as Christians have what it takes to be a peacemaker in a world which only wants peacekeepers?