So last night was one of my favorite kinds: date night. I won’t gush too much. But suffice it to say I don’t take for granted being married to my best friend. I love tucking myself under his arm at a movie, laughing at the jokes together, wandering around a bookstore and laughing at off-the-wall titles, sharing real conversation that changes us right over the tops of plates from our favorite salad bar. I guess there were probably a few productive parts of the evening, but mostly we just get to enjoy each other. To revel in being an “us.”
Ask any widow, anyone who serves overseas, anyone who’s just sent their child back to college: There’s a luxury to simply being with the people we love.
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.
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.
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?
I’m tickled pink about today’s freebie. And I’d love your help in passing it on, pinning it, or sharing it with people who might use it.
After teaching refugees for three years, I had a wish list. I wanted a free, printable discipleship guide that could take students through basic concepts of Christianity. I wanted it to be useful for a single person or in small groups. I wanted discussion questions and verses to memorize. But as much as I love to play with words in my own writing–I needed something without complex idioms or words that would discourage or confuse an early English speaker.
Please, pass it on to cross-cultural workers, adult literacy instructors, teachers of ESL/TOEFL/TOESL/English as a second language, or anyone else who might use it in their own creative ways. (I’ve also passed it out alongside films like the JESUS film or the Gospel of John.)
My vision for this is for it to be as universal as possible. Because of this, I consider it a “living document”–one I can alter to accommodate as many groups as possible. That’s where you come in. I’m still dreaming up new topics I’d like to include, and changing the language to be more understandable. Though I’ve taught ESL in a couple of other contexts, my experience is limited to a few people groups. I don’t know, for example, how it may be received in Asia, with Buddhist or Hindu audiences exploring Christianity. If you’ve got ideas on how to improve this or make it more palatable for certain people groups, please comment below.
And thank you for spreading the message of true freedom everywhere.
It was late, and she was crying now. Her marriage had been hard–hard for a long time.
I think it was there that I really saw Him, though He’d been there the whole time. Sometimes the Holy Spirit is a little like an I Spy book to me. Knowing what He looks like, I’m learning to spot Him among the clutter of circumstances, ones He’s meticulously arranged.
I want to tell you what He looked like, there in that dimly-lit room, where she was just so tired of waiting for God to change things. Even there, in her road-weary face that longed for a break in being “tough” and “strong”–I saw Him making beautiful things out of dust, as the song goes.
He’d already been working there for years.
This kind of waiting reminds me of what it must feel like to be lying on the ground, holding on to something precious over a cliff: your muscles, fatigued and burning as your grip slips, your heart pleading and knocking in the hollow of your chest. If you’re there, your hands sweating and slipping, I want you to picture someone lowering Himself beside you, taking over your weary hold. Where your biceps and forearms were failing, His are able and unmoved. His voice and your relieved muscles speak of presence, of release to infinitely more capable hands.
Why am I distracted? Am I having basic needs met, like sleep, food, exercise, and white space in my day to think? (Consider grabbing a snack or some yummy lotion to spread on your feet to make this time feel more like “you time” rather than checking a “should-do” box. Moms with young kids welded to thy knees–more ideas on that here. If you’re in need of a few minutes to settle your mind, set a timer on your phone and let your thoughts wander aimlessly. It’s…actually healthy.) What’s appealing about the rabbit of my brain’s bunny trails? Is it a fantasy? Is it feeding a need that I wish I had met right now-like comfort, security, approval, or power? Is there anything in my circumstances making me hunger for this…or is it just my natural security blanket? Commit the “holes” you’re feeling to God, and meditate on verses that direct you toward His complete comfort, security, acceptance, and power.
Perhaps one of the most unsettling aspects of this year of upheaval for my family has been my own understanding of who God is. It actually took me awhile to churn out this post for you, because, well, “I’m angry with God” should ideally have some kind of resolution at the end, right? I’ve learned people get unsettled when you tell them you’re feeling spiritually jaded or rattled.
You’ll have to forgive me for the rather junior-high-level humor today. I now have a teenager (which makes me feel old. Another post, that one) and two middle-schoolers. So you can imagine the stimulating conversation that surrounds the dinner table (which can actually feel more like a cafeteria table. Sometimes I feel like I should be wearing a hairnet. Box of milk with your fries, anyone?).
At any rate—at a certain point in our marriage, my husband kindly asked for us to spend no further dollars on air freshener for the bathroom. His reasoning, at the time: It only kind of layers on top of the real smell lurking beneath. You start inhaling something flowery or sentimental, with a name like Tahitian Sunrise (because who doesn’t want a tangerine sunrise from Tahiti in the loo?) or Honeysuckle Nectar (with a name like that, maybe we should stay in here all day!) or Apple Cinnamon (which reminds one, oddly, of eating pie). Then, BAM. It hits you. This is not nice. This is not nice at all. There is nothing “fresh” or edible about this. Hence my husband’s affectionate moniker of “Poo-potpourri.”
Really glad you're here. Welcome to a lingering conversation--about a head-turning, undeserved kindness that's turned my life on its head. This site's about Jesus in a pair of well-worn Levi's: faith walking around in our sneakers, scuffing up against real life and real people.
I hope you'll find some questions worth asking, conversations worth engaging, compassion that's compelling, and practical ideas to knead genuine love into relationships. (...With a side of slightly irreverent humor.)
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.