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.
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.
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.
The Broken Heart: On Leaving Africa: I’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.
I grew up amidst a small, tidy farm in central Illinois. The colors that primarily swirl in my memory are the rustling greenness that stretched in acres of corn or soybeans on every side, or the grass that could only be truly experienced through one’s toes. The affectionately flaking bright red of the barn stands tall in my mind, along with the mottled red of the apple trees, the streaked pink of rhubarb stems, the buttery yellow (and a peeping cacophony) of baby chicks. And there’s the white of our ancient farmhouse trimmed neatly with black shutters. Farms have their own simple beauty.
Over your latte, I saw the concern in your eyes. I know this isn’t who you want to be; that you’re afraid of your own heart. But I know longing runs deep.
If only “I do” meant our eyes–or especially our spouse’s eyes, right?–never swiveled from our mate’s. But reality is, though marriage helps keep our attraction in one place, it doesn’t flip that switch for us.
Let me put it bluntly. Upon returning from Uganda and starting my own business as a freelancer, I was hoping for a little more…easy success. I was leaving such a good fit for the way I was made–my technicolor dream–at what felt like sacrifice. And I’ve been writing for so long. I just hoped there’d be a few more supernatural wins involved, you know? I admit to thinking of it a little formulaically: Obey God = Find “favor”.
Hmm. Favor. I mean, you could back that up with verses like “Anyone who comes to him must believe…he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” But as I type, I’m realizing I had a somewhat concrete vision of what that might look like.
Allow me to briefly refer to a bad movie, if you would. After all, that’s what makes for a great Thursday.
Remember Shallow Hal (2001), with Jack Black and Gwyneth Paltrow? Tacky as it was, the idea of the movie is actually sheer genius. Hal, a total womanizer (this is not the genius part), disregards any woman outside of the “knockout” category. That is, until a spell is cast upon him. Within the spell, women’s inner beauty–or lack thereof–manifests as outer beauty. Hal falls hard for a woman who, to him, looks like Gwyneth Paltrow. To the rest of the world, she’s woefully obese. Hal can’t figure out why she’s treated with such disdain; why no one can see how he’s won the jackpot. She’s unspeakably kind and physically dazzling.
What I like about an otherwise dumb movie: What if the portion others see of us misleads and distracts from our actual selves?
Like you, my heart is twisting as all eyes turn toward Hurricane Irma, which has already devastated the lives of so many in the Caribbean–and soon followed by Jose and Katia. With this morning’s earthquake in Mexico, the pummeling by Hurricane Harvey, and wildfires torching the West–pray with me for those torn from their homes and relying on the kindness of others for their next meal.
Victims of these natural disasters: We remember you, and we’re on our knees.
Readers: Will you pray with us?
Peace. Let them give all their anxiety and fear to you. As they trust you, guard their hearts in Your peace that’s beyond what makes sense (Philippians 4:8).
Provision. Please, care for their physical needs; their daily “bread”. Let them not worry about what they’ll eat or drink or wear, but trust that you see them and care deeply (Matthew 6:26). Let them seek you, and lack no good thing (Psalm 34:10). In times of deep need or even when they have plenty, give them the strength to endure anything (Philippians 4:13).
Wisdom. There are so many decisions to be made when life has been shattered. Help them to move forward not in impulsive fear, seeking peace–but operating from peace and in careful wisdom. Help them know each next step as they seek you (James 1:5-6).
Trust. It can be hardest to trust you when we walk through overwhelming grief and loss. Show each person the tender, specific care You take of them, the small graces, and your personal remembering of them. Let them trust You even when you take away (Job 1:21).
Care and hospitality. Father, let them see you in every open door, every glass of water, every kind smile and gentle grasp. Provide love for them through friends, family, and strangers. Go before these victims of tragedy, paving their way in graciousness. Motivate your people to love generously, as an act of love to you (Matthew 25:34-40).
Restoration. Yours is a story of resurrection; of ultimately giving so much more than You ask of us. Restore the happiness and necessities taken by these disasters (Joel 2:24-26).
Refuge. Lord, be their hiding place and refuge, a constant presence and help in trouble. Intimately and personally let them know You are there with them (Psalm 46:1).
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Really glad you're here. Welcome to a lingering conversation about a head-turning, life-altering, undeserved kindness. This site's about Jesus in a pair of well-worn Levi's: faith scuffing up against real life and real people.
After five and a half years in Uganda, my family and I have recently returned to the U.S., where we continue to work on behalf of the poor. I write and love on my family from Colorado.