A Generous Grace

ideas on practical spirituality and loving each other

“It’s Around Here Somewhere”: On Looking for Joy–and Fighting to See

fight to see joy

Blogging about your personal life can be a little weird.

See, I’m hovering around the six-month mark of our move back to the U.S. from Africa. And when I’m truthful, this last month in particular has been a low point I haven’t hit in a long time. I wonder sometimes about what’s appropriate to share. I believe it’s Brene Brown who says she thinks it’s okay to be vulnerable on a larger scale if first she’s been vulnerable with those close to her. Yet there was also a point  last year where I was like, All of this cyber-honesty is making my blog a real downer. All I need is a few posts about puppy mills and cancer and we’ll be all set!

But a common thread through all of these ideas on practical spirituality and relationships is, yes, the story God’s writing around me. Hence the classification “blog”. So I thought I’d let you peek in on my curious occupation this past week.

One of my work tasks has actually been to interview via phone a series of widows and widowers–a collage of races and seasons of life. Essentially, I was talking with each for an hour about some of the darkest days of their lives.

My heart, of course, has broken for them. From every one, I have absorbed their vivid recounting of the last minutes with the love of their life, and the black days after. Before I even began the interviews, I prayed God would keep my heart from fear of losing my own husband and best friend.

But ironically, a theme has bubbled to the surface. Before each interview, I’ve prayed with the interviewee the words of Moses: Show us Your glory. Show us how you’ve walked with this person the whole way.

Learning to “See”

Last week, thumbing through my Bible, I saw a quote I’d scrawled in the margins from John Piper.

fight for joy see

In the event you can’t read my unreadable shorthand, here’s the actual quote (from this book):

Even this prayer for these widows from my own mouth has exposed my need for new eyes that see, new ears that hear. If the “eye is the lamp of the body” and “if your eye is healthy your whole body will be full of light,” perhaps that’s why our gratitude is so tied to our happiness in God. It’s a fight to see Him working and creating and loving tenderly all around us. (Honestly, some of these widows I interviewed were much more adept at this than I was. Learning to see God is a learned skill.)

Jesus talked to people about this when he was walking the planet:

For this people’s heart has grown callous; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn, and I would heal them. But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 
Matthew 13:15-16
So my current battle is a fight to simply…see.
I’m reminded of an early morning walk I once took in Kampala, my Canon thumping at my side. I was so excited to at last glimpse, through a chain link fence, a gray heron in a meadow. It had been elusive–and I finally had my camera! I pressed my lens through the metal and snapped the photo I’d been waiting for. Well, somewhat anyway. When I got home, I glanced again at the photo. How had I not seen that tire-turned-volleyball standard nearby? Doesn’t any photographer worth her salt check her background? But the beauty had captivated me. The heron had turned my eyes from everything ugly nearby. I’d only seen what my lens had zoomed in upon.
So I’m praying this right now: Don’t let me obstinately elect for blindness, like Murphy’s Law is conspiring around me. Help me see the tilting stacks of gifts piling up right and left from You. I know You’re ultimately so much more of a Giver than a taker. Show me the beauty–You–in the mess and blood and tears.
Help me see.
I do not cease…remembering you in my prayers, that…the Father of glory
may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him,
having the eyes of your hearts enlightened,
that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you,
what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe…
Ephesians 1:16-19
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My #Blessed Life? On Developing-world Countries and the American Dream

#blessed money prosperity
You guys know I’m not big into getting political. Promise I’ll try hard not to go all soapbox-y on you. Yet I gotta admit: I was pretty hot under the collar last week over some rumored comments regarding African nations like the beautiful one I raised my kids in. In my gratitude for this place, with its remarkable people and so much to offer the world–people who’ve changed my life–I was more than a wee bit appalled.

I admit to thinking something like, REALLY? 

And maybe some other things that were not so generous nor gracious.

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Spiritual Disciplines for Real Families: 11 Super-simple Ideas to Encourage Confession (FREE Printable!)

Missed the earlier posts in this series? Get ’em here.

One of my favorite moments from Christmas break found my daughter and I in my little sunroom, paintbrushes in hand. She was trying out her new easel, and I was leaning against the loveseat, watercoloring. A happy surprise was how much she shared about what was going on at school. And one that will stick with me even longer? Her observation about how she was contributing to the problem, not just how other girls were mishandling things.

Maybe that sounds weird, to like that behavior. But as I type to you, I realize I want kids who voluntarily discard the blindness that naturally shrouds all of us. I want kids who, from constant practice, see the log in their eye. Who can step back from any situation and see how their sin is contributing and destroying–so they can make it right.

I’ve thought about Sarah’s insistent words a lot lately, because I see them in myself: I did not laugh. We so naturally want to avoid shame’s nakedness like the plague. (See this all-time top post on shame-parenting vs. guilt exposure.)

I know, I know. Confession can sound like, well, not that much fun. Maybe a bit like sniveling. Or depending on your background, something like Bless me, Father, for I have sinned rolls around in your head.

But what if it sounded more like handcuffs falling off?

THE KEY: To create a culture of frequent confession in our homes–to one another, and to God. This keeps our need for Jesus in front of our eyes, and gradually makes “have mercy on me” (Luke 8:13) a part of who we are. It breeds humility in us and our families, rather than the appearance or requirement of perfection and self-righteousness. And it welcomes grace, giving shame the boot.

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Guest Post: Raising Kids on a Mission

She was already cuddled up for the night beneath her comforter, pillows blooming around her olive skin. While I perched beside her, we spent a minute chatting about her favorite teacher.

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A Body Good, Part II: Soul-questions before I Begin (…or Quit) My Workout Routine

body image good soul-questions

This is one of those posts where I’ve still got so many issues that I wonder if I should be writing it in the first place (possibly passing on my corrupted thoughts to all of you?). Body image and I have a long and gnarly history. (See the first post of this series, A Body Good: Naked Truth about Body Image…and this one.) I still wrestle with it in real-time, so consider this a post of someone thinking out loud.

In my recent conversations with Western women, I’m getting the idea that I’m sadly far from alone. Body image certainly influences our confidence. The way we spend our time. Our sexuality and marriages.

I think it paralyzes us more than we realize.

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7 Journaling Prompts for a New Year of the Soul–and a Freer 2018

New Year Soul Journaling
My son asked me today about my New Year’s resolutions.

Weeell…I’m not really the resolution type. But I told him I do like the new year for new beginnings. For reevaluating, for seeing with fresh eyes and finding some intentionality in things that can run away from me in the tyranny of the urgent. (In the past couple of years at this time, I’ve shared ideas and questions to take your relationships to the next level, and some questions to bring your relationship with God to the next level, too.)


Maybe you still have a day or two of holiday time left. If so, I hope these journal prompts (designed for you to “prink” over–that’s pray and think) can help breathe some fresh air into your soul in 2018. Maybe you won’t know all the answers to these, and they need to rattle around in your head awhile.  

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New Year’s 2018: When You’re Hoping for Hope

He must have been two, I think, when it happened: back when his cheeks still looked like he was storing up nuts for winter. The store’s fluorescent lights buzzed above, and it must have been the time of year that the air conditioning was running full-blast there in the South. I was pregnant with our third, and making one of those fly-bys mothers of young children perform in a store when they have to look at a rack before one of her kids starts crying, whining, distracting, throwing things out of the cart or into the cart–you get the idea. The store wasn’t busy. Which must have been the reason I lifted him out to explore for a moment.


But in just that span of time, he was also…gone.

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Best of the Best: Top 10 Posts of 2017!

My family, 2017

I gotta tell you guys: Blogging’s a humbling venture. Sometimes it’s like sending a piece of my heart into cyberspace, and just trusting God to do whatever he wants with it. Sometimes it’s less than I hope; sometimes it’s far more. My husband reminds me that instead of numbers, I can look at the hours of worship God is hopefully generating. He’s continued to do more than I imagined even through a tough year.

But really, this is the part where I get to finally thank you, readers. So many of you, I don’t know–and yet you continue to care about these things along with me. Thanks for caring about the relationships that matter most, and for sharing these posts with people you care about. Here were the posts that resonated most with you this year.

  1. Spiritual Disciplines for Real Families series: We don’t just have fun spiritual stuff for kids to compete with Nickelodeon. We want them to pursue God out of pleasure they’ve already enjoyed with Him. Topics from this year: ServiceFastingStudySharing our Faith (Evangelism)Simplicity, Hospitality, Praise, and Submission and Respect.
  2. ADHD and What Works for Us: Tips, tactics–and hope: Coralling ADHD can make a girl want to take a bat to her soup tureen. But with perseverance, help, & discipline, it’s also vibrant and full of depth.
  3. He Loves Me, He Loves Me NotDo you remember the moment that first made you wonder if He truly loved you? This year—or, just today—what makes you afraid?
  4. On God and the Dreams of Women: After all the years of setting dreams aside for the dream that is loving a family, I wondered why I seemed to hold in my hand the short straw.
  5. A Mountain of [Surprising] Reasons to Get Our Kids Outdoors this Summer (…and Maybe Follow Them):Outdoors–the God-art we live within—changes us. And it changes our kids. Here are five reasons to boot our kids outdoors this summer…and maybe follow them.
  6. How am I supposed to have joy when my world’s a wreck? What in the world does “joy” in hard times mean? What’s joy look like when the edges of your world curl black?
  7. 11 Ideas toward More Emotionally-whole and -healthy Parenting: Here, I’ve compiled some new and best-of ideas to offer all of us a head start on more whole parenting. Never underestimate the impact of a healthy home.
  8. Essential Social Skills for Kids (and Ideas to Teach Them), #1-4 and #5-7Think of these as gold keys to the future, getting kids into a lot of places! Sadly, without them–some doors are shut. In the first post: phone skills, table manners with a guest, conflict resolution, greeting. Then, gratitude, poise, and respect.
  9. The Broken Heart: On Leaving AfricaI’ve wondered for awhile now how I would write this post; what I would say. Eight hundred words seems only enough to barely outline the dimensions of what I’ve wrestled with for the last several months.
  10. I’d Rather Be Whining: Complaining vs. Healthy, Honest ExpressionIn two words: unbelief and entitlement. Here’s how I boil down the difference between complaining and just speaking the truth in love.

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Holiday Rerun: Tackling My Inner Grinch

Ever feel like your heart’s two sizes too small for the Christmas season?

I may have recently given my radio the stinkeye for its heartfelt counsel for me to have a holly-jolly Christmas this year, when I really felt like sulking, washed down with a swig of wassail and one of those little chocolate-dipped pretzels with sprinkles.

The Grinch stealing Christmas stockings

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A Christmas Question: What are You Waiting For?

It’s an interesting question. Maybe I could add it to the list of questions to deepen your relationships. Because it’s applicable to pretty much every homo sapien on the planet.


What’s one thing you are waiting for?


It tells you something about a person, I think. What they hope for; long for. Waiting bubbles with questions, simmers with desire.


You’d find answers anywhere from Christmas break to this deployment to be over. Or maybe test results.

A baby.

Him to propose.

Finally getting out of this checkout line so I can get off my feet, which are about to fall off.

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