Laughing at Adjustments 

The “how’s-adjusting-to-marriage” questions crack me up. My dear husband of 20 days, in his insightful and sweetly introverted way, says what he always says. “It’s going well.” Only his family and closest friends know that it’s all in the inflection in his voice as to what’s underneath that statement. I find it funny, while quite a few others are left oblivious.

“It’s going well” = I’m tired, don’t know why you’re asking but I’m trying to be polite. I love my wife, it’s why I married her. So, yes. We’re good. Also, like everyone else, we still have no idea how to do this thing called marriage, so I don’t know what specifics you’re looking for. Need I say more?

“It’s going… well…?” = Help. I just discovered my wife’s hormones don’t magically turn nice when I tell her I love her. She’s crazy, a morning person, and went from laughing and crying four times today but I don’t think it’s my fault. So yes, we’re doing… well… just adjusting, that’s all. I still love her. I can just now fully confirm she’s human. 

“It’s going really well.” = We just somehow worked our way through yet another last minute crisis, and didn’t kill each other in the process. Also, I was just informed we’re somehow staying in-budget for the month after the 20th trip to a retail store. We’re good, just adulting and trying to remember that we live together now. Also, crockpot meals are awesome.

… My answers, on the other hand, prove to anyone wondering that I’m the chatty one in the relationship. In my late twenties and married for the first time, I laugh more at the little adjustments than he does. I’m independent, strong-willed, and sarcastic which means everything about marriage has been an amazingly fun, yet slightly awkward, adjustment. 

But it is going well. Not because we have it down perfectly, or because we don’t annoy each other at times. Marriage is going well because of the best adjustment of all: Peter is my reminder of Christ’s constant forgiveness and redemption and I am Peter’s. It makes life so much more fulfilling when we see Christ in each other. 

That’s the adjustment which always makes us laugh with joy.

Seeing the Unseen

I’ve never wanted to stay in America. It was bad enough when God pulled me out of the ministry in Alaskan villages. I came to the Midwest with a silent understanding that I would stay just long enough and then… I could leave. Basically, I forgot that when I tell God, “We have a deal” it’s beneficial to get the Divine Head Nod before I start telling people God and I have a deal.

I am currently surrounded by a subculture of Christianity which puts a million-to-one emphasis (*slight exaggeration, but you get the point) on reaching the Nations. That means leaving the Bible Belt of Indiana, in case you were wondering. When I came to the Midwest four years ago, I chanted (metaphorically) with the best of them. I’m in one of the most churched towns in Indiana. Do ministry? Here?!  In this town? But why? How?

Reach the Nations? Yeah, no. Not here. Its not… Um, I don’t know. Its just not… It just lacks… something. I’m a missionary transplant. You don’t take a missionary out of the trenches and put them in this town. That’s uncalled for, isn’t it? I could do so much more in the Philippines, Indonesia, China, Africa… Anywhere! What the heck can I do here?!

After I came back to the Lord in 2010, I started saying that, “God has called me to the unseen.” Before you freak out and think I meant I saw demons, no, that’s not what I meant. In reality, my just-off-the-press experiences as a closet-Christian had made me well aware of how easily struggling Christians and/or ostracized non-Christians fall between the cracks. I found myself drawn to the people ignored within the churches, rather than the high profile challenge on the street corner.

But still, regardless of that perspective, I wanted (and only saw) those people if their skin wasn’t white. Ironic, no? Talk about wrong-side-out racial conflict. I’m not proud of that.

God hasn’t been subtle in calling my sin into the spotlight. When I strive to “see the unseen,” how dare I put weight in one person’s spiritual healing over the other? If God has called me to Indiana, how dare I tell Him its not good enough because the Culture Shock isn’t as easily identified as it would be if I was in a place like Guatemala? 

Recently I saw pain so deep, it shook me to the core. As I bit back tears and the all-too-familiar feeling of Spiritual Warfare, I caught a glimpse of the street sign my companions and I were passing. I was entering into Warfare, and I was in Indiana. I could feel God whisper, “Loving people is what I made you for” and I was in Indiana. 

Americans, we are no longer steady on our feet when it comes to ministry. If we send everyone to the enthralling and exciting zip codes, we have no one for the people still wounded within our churches here. Be passionate for your neighbor directly across the street just as much as you’re passionate for the concept of feeding orphans and living in grass huts. 

Don’t take as long as I did to figure it out. The souls being ignored here in America are still important.

I Can’t Pray For You

I have one real enemy in my life. It’s so deep that those who love me best protect me from the mere memory of this person. We use phrases like, “You know who I mean,” or “You know, past experiences.” Even using a name just feels wrong. There’s fear there for everyone because they know the chaos this person can create without much effort.

But then, there’s silence and there’s Jesus. A trusted friend asked me recently if (why) I still loved this person when there were so many aching scars remaining. It’s not easy. Despite the reality that I no longer perfectly remember a menacing voice or mannerisms, there are still the rare night I’ll wake up in cold sweats because… Well, you get the picture. I have peace, but I still struggle with saying I love my enemy.

Loving an enemy is a choice. It’s a blood-curdling scary one. But there’s Jesus.

Praying for this person used to be a flippant, “Yeah, whatever, Lord. Just… Do something. Amen.” There was no intercession, there were no heartwrenching requests that the Spirit move mountains to get through to a stone cold heart. Jesus commanded me to pray, so I did. But I didn’t do it well.

I had to come to grips with fear, confusion, and love in regards to the punk of my life because I saw what those loose ends did to the people in my life. Fear became pity. Pity became worry. Worry became a very guarded, thin and frustrated love. Love remains obedience. 

When the Bible commands us to, “love our enemies,” don’t ever think that means joyfully mingling your life with theirs. Don’t ever believe it means putting yourself in danger. Please, with all of my heart, I beg you to never allow those memories influence the rest of your life. 

However, do yourself a favor and remember that loving an enemy is a process. Whatever caused the schism in that relationship is something to be pitied. If you believe that Jesus Christ saved you from your sins, rose again on the third day and is the only way to Heaven, you have more power on your side than your enemy could ever have on theirs. The Bible speaks truth saying, “No weapon formed against us shall prosper (Isaiah 54:17).” 

The reality is, no matter how deep the wounds go, Christ is the answer. He might not feel like the answer, but pray anyway. Watch the bitterness morph into pity and the pity turn into a Spirit-deep desire for your enemy to experience the same love of the Father you have experienced. 

Watch God win. 

What God Calls Beauty


It’s not a story you tell your kids. It’s not a story you want to hear over and over. It’s a nightmare. But it’s in the Bible. 

Recently, I’ve been working through a book that focuses on the story of David’s daughter, Tamar, being raped by her brother, Amnon, in 2 Samuel 13

This is where every woman’s heart hurts and every man’s brain is left troubled. There’s rape. In the Bible. Honestly, I praise God for this passage though it leaves me in tears every time. Within these verses God declares He is not blind to the soul deep torment many women go through. 

I was struck by the fact that after verse 1 in 2 Samuel 13, the Bible never calls Tamar beautiful again. Desolate – yes. Depressed – of course. Troubled – well, duh. But beautiful? Nope. In our broken culture, anyone else who observed that small fact would maybe wonder if that was God’s unjust judgment toward Tamar.

“Sorry, Sweetheart, someone else broke you, so, um, yeah, beauty is gone. You’re just Tamar, now. The desolate, forgotten daughter of David. Oh well. It’s a man’s world. I’m still God, Kiddo, so no fears, ‘kay?” 

I am overwhelmingly blessed that such words were never spoken by Elroi- the God Who Sees. But that still leaves me wondering… Why? Why couldn’t God inspire the writer of 1 & 2 Samuel to call her beautiful just once after the evil deed was done? 

She needed that affirmation. As a wounded woman, she needed her father, King David, to look her in the eyes (not write a letter or make a public announcement) and whisper, “You’re still beautiful, you’re still my daughter. Your value hasn’t changed.”

But that never happened. 

I truly believe, in the beginning of the chapter, the author of the book was simply describing the scene. He called Tamar beautiful. 

Beautiful. 

Christians believe (as do I) that every word written within the pages of the canonical Bible was and is inspired by God. In other words, if the word beautiful wasn’t supposed to be there, it wouldn’t have been. If God didn’t believe Tamar was beautiful, she wouldn’t have been painted as beautiful. 

Numbers 23:19 tells us that God never changes His mind.

So, then, why couldn’t she be called be called beautiful? 

(This is speculation, keep that in mind.) Often times in the Old Testament, the author’s approach to a story changes views. They often start out as a narrative and end in first or second person. It’s funny, it’s quirky, but it makes the story of Tamar that much richer. 

In a culture where women were not given a voice, God gave Tamar one through the verses that mournfully tell of the injustice done to her. Her culture immediately called her unworthy of love, respect or even provision after she was violated. 

So, it’s possible every negative description of her presence was the author’s way of saying, “She can’t speak for herself, but this is how she painted herself.”

She listened to her culture. She was told her hands were tied and she was ready for the gallows. If her father wasn’t the king, she probably would have been killed. She knew men no longer called her valuable. 

She never stopped to ask Yahweh what He still thought. 

The story of Tamar is left as an unbearable unfinished sentence. David never avenged his daughter. Tamar never found worth, though she was provided for by her other brother, Absolom. There is no understanding of peace after the storm. 

It seems like that was God’s way of saying, “I know how deep the hurt goes. I’m not immune to how much this nightmare broke you, Daughter. Not everything will make sense on this side of Heaven… This fallen world means evil is present.”

Tamar apparently allowed herself to stay stuck in knowing she was provided for yet never called valuable by those around her. If she had  questioned her God instead of the men in her family and culture, she would have heard one beautiful truth: 

When God first wrote her story, He called her beautiful. That never changed and she still mattered. 

Assumptions; You Know…

I get myself in trouble often. I assign subliminal messages to just about everything without even thinking about it. I’ve talked often about throwing out fleece and making my own safety nets, but this makes that look like child’s play. 

If I can convince myself that someone else‘s innocent actions have an alterior motive, that poor unsuspecting person faces the firing squad of my hurt assumption and anger. Why wouldn’t they? They did what I told myself they’d do if they really felt a certain way so… They get to pay for something they probably didn’t even realize they had done in the first place. 

I know.  It doesn’t make sense. It’s not fair. But don’t we do the same thing to the Lord without even realizing it? 

We assume If He loves us He’ll provide _________ (you fill in the blank) to make us comfortable. When we’re not comfortable, happy, or able to comprehend the outcome, we immediately start struggling with His love. As I fill in that blank with my own stipulations, I can hear him whispering: 

“That’s not MY motive.  That’s not what I do to show you love. You’re looking for the wrong thing & listening for everything but the Truth. When you do that, I’ll always be unloving in your eyes. Can I tell you My heart, rather than you assuming you understand it perfectly enough already?” 

 

Leave Me Alone

I smiled at the bright-eyed little boy and mouthed, “hi!” He slowly turned toward his mom, still studying me. His mom smiled reassuringly when he finally glanced at her. He then glanced at me, smiled a nearly toothless grin and waved.

Little kids are born with an innate need to look to their guardian for assurance. It’s this skill that teaches them everything. It’s a bit awe-inspiring, really. Admit it, watching an 8-month-old try to mimic your mouth as you talk is fascinating. Watching a kid show off talent like a summersault and then immediately look for approval does something to a person’s heart.

Somewhere along the line, kids stop looking at us as much. They gain confidence in how to walk, talk, and learn new things. It’s bittersweet that first time we hear, “No. Me do.” Whether they really can do it doesn’t matter in their minds. Our helpful hands get pushed away with as much strength as their little bodies can muster.

What if we didn’t treat our relationship with God in the same way? What if, no matter how good we got at life, we never pushed God’s hand away? Even though our relationship with with God is often described and portrayed like a child, father relationship, distancing ourselves from Him as we grow up is the one thing that shouldn’t be similar.

But it is.

What if we didn’t act as if our one dying need was independence and self-reliance? What if we never acted as if we were too old to look to our Savior as our example and our approval?

Open Letter to a 501(c)3

Dear Noprofit Advocates,

This is not meant as a shaming letter. I love your passion for orphans, refugees, sex trafficked victims and any other type of mission you’ve shared with me. I love knowing God gave you that passion for a reason. I even love your boldness in standing in front of hundreds of college students and presenting your organization’s financial needs. That takes guts. Good job.

I agree with you. All you’re asking us to do is give up four coffees a month in order to support your passion-focus. You even go as far to point out that if we set a goal with a friend, we would give up less. (We’re going to ignore the fact that people like me would give up bread before we give up our coffee.) It’s a doable sacrifice for an overwhelming need. It helps that all of you are immaculate storytellers. Good job only focusing on the needs and not giving past successes. That makes it harder to say no.

Is it possible that’s what you wanted? Why can’t this be about joining you in praising God for what He’s already done and merely talking about how we’re called to support these group together? Maybe becase that’d make it easier to walk by your table with the darling kiddos’ faces staring at me without opening my wallet?

Before I go any further, please know I completely understand what it’s like raising support. My parents were missionaries and there were a few times as a kid I was confused that a pastor would invite us to speak and then no one joined the bandwagon. It’s hard not shaming people into supporting you or your passion when you know the need firsthand.

Can I share with you what I learned as I watched God provide despite what I didn’t see coming from those churches? The reality is, if every family in the pews spread their resources through every mission that walked through the door, none of the missions would feel helped. They would all feel like the people were merely doing it for the tax write off or spiritual pat on the back – not because they knew God wanted to use them financially to support something bigger than themselves. 

So, I humbly ask you to not cheapen the gifts you receive by shaming those who can’t or don’t give. Certainly, there are those who can give and don’t, but that’s none of your business. That’s between them and the Lord. But many of the God-fearing Believers in your audiences don’t give because they are already giving all they have toward something else. 

I’ll say it again, I love your passion for your organization. However, please work against playing the Judge over how many people you need to join your cause in order to get your yearly goal met. If everyone gave, if every college student sacrificed, I wonder how much less applause God would get simply because you could explain it away as good busines and financial stewardship?

You have your passions. I have mine. You can be guaranteed I have searched my heart to see if God wants me to join you in your passion. Some of your missions He has given me permission to give money to; others of you, I am that dejected college student that has learned to walk past your table with her head down.

Challenge us to pray. Challenge us to speak our questions. Challenge us to pray again, then watch God work miracles without your help.

No shame necessary.

I will join you on my side of the world proclaiming God’s faithfulness if you promise to do the same.

Sincerely,

A Pensively Challenged College Student