Leave Your Heart Open, Just Not Your Garage

Leave Your Heart Open, Just Not Your Garage

We asked them for advice.

Years ago they lived in a similar neighborhood in Kalamazoo, and they remembered the times their parents called asking, "So, how's Beruit?"

In what could have become hours of conversation had to be boiled down to a few minutes walking out of the sanctuary. With big smiles they answered my question, "Don't get too attached to your earthly possessions."

Two weeks later, we are out a bike and a new lawn mower. 

The Carpet Guy Won't Work in Our Neighborhood

The Carpet Guy Won't Work in Our Neighborhood

"You ain't brought your mama here yet, have you?" Johnny asked with a slight smirk.

My mama lives on the other side of Lake Michigan but no, she hasn't been to our new house yet. Johnny grew up a couple blocks down the street, so he wasn't naive to the crime maps we scoured in our free time for months before we bought the place. 

"By the way," our contractor joined the conversation, "The guy I usually hire to do carpet won't work in this neighborhood." Another smirk. "But Home Depot and Menards will."

Journeys That Transform

Journeys That Transform

On that first journey, Mauricio had worn the dress shoes that I had given him, because he was told that they would make him look less like an immigrant. 

The only problem was that within the first hour of a four day journey, his feet were covered in painful blisters!  On this second journey, those same shoes hung from his backpack the entire time as we sojourned together as brothers and companions on the Way. He had walked in my shoes, and I was now walking in his, trekking northward in solidarity with all those who make this pilgrimage to escape violence and poverty, and to bring life and sustenance to their families and loved ones. 

The arc of my life had taken me to an immigrant neighborhood, to a shelter for refugees, to a food distribution for recent arrivals, to a tiny room in a flat filled with immigrant families. Inasmuch as a privileged gringo could do, I had walked for many years in the shoes of my sisters and brothers. They had become family and taught me more than I could ever imagine about what it meant to be human, and what it meant to be a follower of the forsaken Christ. We could never abandon one another. We discovered that we were related and that made all the difference. 

Won't You Be My {Honest} Neighbor?

Won't You Be My {Honest} Neighbor?

Being neighborly means not only loving someone just the way they are, but also presenting ourselves just the way we are.

And this type of authenticity goes much deeper than how tidy we keep our homes or how often we burn the pizza. It’s beyond how many times per week I choose to wear yoga pants instead of pants with a zipper, or how often I forgo mascara.

Thinking Generously of Our Neighbors {Even When They Don't Deserve It}

Thinking Generously of Our Neighbors {Even When They Don't Deserve It}

The fastest way to make an enemy is a sinful, cynical mind.

A cynically minded person will jump to conclusions and assume the worst possible motive for whatever it was the other person said or did. These cynical thoughts become snarky comments that tumble out of our mouths and start a fire that spreads rapidly. Our words all too often poison the minds of others in our way of getting them “on our side.”

Not All My Neighbors Like Me

Not All My Neighbors Like Me

Loving my introverted husband has taught me how to love my introverted neighbors. When meeting a new neighbor, I have to be careful to not come on too strong. I try to read their subtle body language and verbal cues, and not take offense when someone doesn’t react with the same enthusiasm I bring to the table. I need to know what’s happening inside an introvert’s head when I say “open house” or “party”.

Privileged {Coming Face to Face with My Hidden Sin of Favoritism}

Privileged {Coming Face to Face with My Hidden Sin of Favoritism}

Before that evening I would have said, without hesitation, “I love being the hands and feet of Jesus, and I love loving His people.” But for the first time in a long time, I was pushed to engage with His people that weren’t my people. Sure, I think I can be great at loving my friends and being kind and compassionate with people who are like me, but when confronted with people who made me feel uncomfortable, my compassionate, privileged self became entitled and superior.

Being confronted with your own ugliness—staring at your flesh in a spiritual mirror— is physically painful. I didn’t like the woman who showed up that night. I liked who I thought I was. But that person was shaped by theories and ideas, not by truly living out the hard things that make us human.

This experience pushed me out of my comfort zone—out from behind my books and Bibles and blog—it pushed me to actually see and interact with God’s people. And in this pushing I came face to face with my own worldly preferences, my favoritism toward people closer to my own social status.

Stretching in the Gap

Stretching in the Gap

It was a rare moment; I had the house all to myself.

I was on my knees, feeling overwhelmed, praying to God for each of my three daughters by name.

Who can weather these times?  How can I effectively parent my children so they grow to fear God, love others and be the gift they are?  I lay my tear strung questions and bleeding heart before the Lord.

In the midst of my overwhelming emotions and questions, I sensed the Lord urging me on: “keep stretching in the gap”.

I’m Right on Time and You’re Speaking My Language {And That Makes it Hard to Love You}

I’m Right on Time and You’re Speaking My Language {And That Makes it Hard to Love You}

It was hard to go overseas; it was a sacrifice. But now that we have been home six months, I want to let you in on a little secret: I think doing missions during my day- to-day life in my own city and my own culture is even harder. It definitely is not easier.

Mommy Missions

Mommy Missions

I don’t rub shoulders with too many unbelievers.

But God showed me that just because this was true, didn’t mean that I was somehow in the wrong place, had built my life in a way contrary to His will, or couldn’t be used to impact a hurting world in need of Him.

He laid on my heart that for each person who rings me up at the grocery store or Hobby Lobby, I can offer something in return: I can offer to pray for him or her.

And that’s it. Or is it?

Uncomfortable: A Story About an Introvert in Youth Ministry

Uncomfortable: A Story About an Introvert in Youth Ministry

But that’s kind of the beautiful thing about following God. He puts you in places where you’re 100% uncomfortable and out of place to show the greatness of who He is. Did I want to be in a job where I’d be forced to stand and share in front of people every week? No. Does God seem even more awesome because I’m allowing Him to work through my weakness? Yes.

Uniquely Equipped

Uniquely Equipped

What if families were intended for more? What if our families were meant to be a subset of the church, with open doors meant to serve and care for those in need? To be honest I'm not entirely comfortable with these questions, these thoughts. I am a definite introvert, and my home and family are my safe places.

But then I look into those giggling brown eyes, and I see the answers. I see that the Lord intended big, restorative things for family. Families are meant to bring healing and redemption. Family exists, just like the rest of creation, to point others to El Roi, the God who sees, to echo the redemption and restoration of the cross.

I see this every time that beautiful, now two-year-old boy smiles easily into the face of someone he doesn't know or confidently waves goodbye to us knowing we'll be back. I see that by offering nothing more than our family, and Christ within us, this boy was given a chance, a new beginning.

Seeing Glory in the Grind

Seeing Glory in the Grind

The big picture is this: we are raising the next generation. Mommas, we are raising the next generation.

This is huge. And the days in which we live? It is an all-out battle for the minds of our children.

The world will offer confusion. We must teach truth.

The world will push for selfishness. We have to teach servanthood.

The world will tell them what they must do to be loved. Our children need to know they are loved by the One who paints the sunsets.

The Road I'm Taking

The Road I'm Taking

Eventually I moseyed down the path of realization that I was giving myself the “I'm Just Average” message. BAM! It was like being hit by a bus.

All those times I thought I was somehow being humble by not being passionate about things, or I believed I was being loving and kind by agreeing with someone to avoid conflict, it all just came down to me not having any self-confidence in who I was. The fear of failing at something crippled me. Not trying too hard was my mantra, and if something didn’t work out: “Well I didn’t really try my hardest, so I’m not too disappointed.”

Needy Neighbor

Needy Neighbor

I don’t want to be the Needy Neighbor. I don’t want to be the one who looks in the mirror and sees Haggard and Depression staring back on these cold winter days. I don’t want to be the neighbor who wakes up to only 27% battery power every morning.

It’s difficult to think about generosity and hospitality when we feel like we have so little left to give. It’s hard to remember that in our weakness God makes His power known.

I might cry out, “Lord, I have so little to offer!” And maybe He’ll reply, “Looks like five loaves and two fish to Me. I can work with that.”

Be a Church that Welcomes Other People's Kids

Be a Church that Welcomes Other People's Kids

While there is a difference in how deeply connected we feel to our own kids compared to others, there shouldn’t be a difference in how we welcome or commit to supporting all the children within our church’s walls.

Choosing to see my son and daughter’s faces on other children also teaches me deep sympathy. Knowing how much I love my children helps me realize how much “other people’s kids” are loved too, how much their parents wish for their child’s protection and wellbeing.

Don't Waste Your Life {an exhortation for the overachiever}

Don't Waste Your Life {an exhortation for the overachiever}

More than the busy of my calendar, what’s made me really fatigued is the unrest of my soul.

I have been working hard. I have always held the bar high for the condition of my home, what I feed my family, how my children dress and behave, and our education. 

But I have never felt that I measure up.

Always evaluating, always striving. Always squeezing in one more thing. Harping on myself for spending money on myself or our home, even though it wasn’t a poor financial choice. Wondering what more I can do for starving children, sex trafficking, natural disasters, the poor in our community. Feeling constantly guilty about something.

Never resting in His grace.

Christmas Is For The Mourning, Not Just The Merry

Christmas Is For The Mourning, Not Just The Merry

Christmas is not just an invitation to the broken hearted, beat down, depressed, and mourning to join in the fun that all the merry folk are having. Christmas is for them. Christmas is for those who mourn, who recognize their neediness. It is for those who see and say, “I am broken, and I am hurting, and I am a sinner. Save me.”

It Wasn’t #GivingTuesday; Is That Why He Didn’t Help Me?

It Wasn’t #GivingTuesday; Is That Why He Didn’t Help Me?

No, there isn’t anything wrong with Giving Tuesday, except that maybe it should be called, “Give Whatever Cash You Have Left After Black Friday and Cyber Monday” Tuesday. But days like Giving Tuesday, and the mindset that outreach is a single, isolated event that we do around Christmas, should sound off a few alarms at how seriously we take Christ’s commands to love our neighbors all life long.