Category Archives: motherhood

Busy, Not Rushed: Summers on the Timeline of Eternity

In the past week, my oldest completed his freshmen year and began taking his driver’s education courses. I swear he was just driving his Little Tykes Crazy Coupe down the sidewalk. Next week, we will be celebrating my middle son’s promotion from eighth grade and signing him up for his high school courses. In a few weeks, I’ll be sending both of them off to YoungLife camp together. I act like I am fine when it’s needed. I smile when I drop them off to hang out with friends. But I give myself at least once a week to pray and process and cry a little (okay, sometimes it’s more like a lot).

I see all the cutesy instagram pictures of the marbles or rocks or fluffy, colorful cotton balls in the jar showing how many weeks we have left with our children. In the early years of motherhood, I see the need for reminders that these years are numbered. I know we can all use reminders to live out of priorities and with intentionality. But those of us parenting teenagers are acutely aware of the time ticking and the sands passing through the hour glass.

Every time I see one of those well-intentioned “You only get eighteen summers with your children” reminders, I battle feelings of fear, regret, and comparison. Maybe it is just me, but they make me feel rushed and frantic rather than present and trusting. Rather than press me into prayerful consideration of my children’s development, they make me want to book vacations we cannot afford. Rather than remind me of the God who sovereignly steers our family, they make me want to put my children at the center in an idolatrous place.

Eighteen years vs. Eternity

Believe me, I want my children to leave my home with a heart full of fond memories, a headful of unshakeable truths about God and themselves, and a handful of practical tools for engaging the world around them. I want them to have visited National Parks and played hours of card games semi-peaceably around our table. I want them to have years of soul-muscle-memory of being delighted in and enjoyed by their parents and siblings.

I fully agree that parenting our children under our roofs is a gift to be treasured; however, the goal of parenting is to come alongside God in growing them into peers with whom we will spend eternity. God has a plan for each of my children with days already recorded in his book (Psalm 139: 16; 2 Samuel 23: 5). They include the years spent under my roof, but, prayerfully, they far exceed those years.

They include idyllic days at the beach with ice cream cones, but they also include hardship and boredom and responsibility. They include happy memories in my home, but they also include laughter, tears and transitions outside of my presence. They include intentional parenting victories, but they also include parenting mistakes.

I fear that we are placing a crushing weight on parents with our focus on these eighteen years at home. Eighteen years cannot carry the freight that God intends for faithful sons and daughters — that takes a lifetime of days pre-determined and perfectly-purposed by an all-wise God who stands outside of the constrictions and limitations of time.

Parents play a wildly significant part in coming alongside God and enfleshing him in those early developmental years; however, neither parents nor children are the at center of this parenting gig: God is. And he is neither worried not hurried about our teenage children (or their parents who stare down the reality of empty nests).

Busy, Not Rushed

The writer Wendell Barry noted that farmers are always busy but never rushed. There are always scores of things that need to be done on a farm, but farmers never rush. There will be more work to be done tomorrow. And today’s work will require focus and faithfulness.

One line from the famous historic hymn “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise” has been comforting my soul as we head into teenage summers: “unresting, unhasting, and silent as light, nor wanting, nor wasting, thou rulest in might.”

Our God doesn’t rest, and our God doesn’t rush. He works out plans formed long ago with perfect faithfulness (Isaiah 25: 1). His sovereignty reigns over summers and continues well beyond our allotted time sharing an address with our children.

Within the boundary lines he has appointed for us, he has pleasant plans for us and promises to be present with us (Psalm 16: 5-6). This means that no matter our budget or number of vacation days, God has good for us and them. He has chances for us to develop in character and deepen in love. He has joyful moments when our hearts are stirred with good themes as well as moments when we cry out to God in distress and dependence (Psalm 45: 1-2; Psalm 61: 1-2).

May your summer be more filled with his presence and peace than popsicles!

What I Really Need for Mother’s Day

My sweet husband asked me yesterday (a full week before Mother’s Day, I might add), “What do you really want for Mother’s Day?”

Poor fella. He married an elaborate gift giver, while he himself is more of an acts of service kind of guy. This means he wants to clean my car, but I feel very comfortable in my semi-tidy vehicle which doubles as my office (and thus needs books, tissues, pens, and scissors in its door-side compartments).

I toyed with saying, “Anything in the accessory section at Target.” After all, that is easy. There is no chance a purse won’t fit and might send me into a body image spiral. But then I decided I don’t need another linen tote to fill with journals and books.

I moved on to books, but then I remembered the stacks of beloved books that already line my bedside. We literally have no more walls to build shelves upon which to keep the books. So no to the books.

I thought about flowers. But the pollen gets all over the table and doubles my work. And you know I feel terrible when I kill the potted plants in record time. Maybe a cactus? But we have many of those!

And, I may be unpopular for saying this, but I don’t want a card that tells me in over-the-top flowery language that I am the world’s best mom. I know my own heart, and I know our home. I’ve been around the block enough to know that I am the best mom for you all, but that I am not always at my best.

This year has been a year marked by significant internal (and thus largely unnoticed-as-yet-to-others) growth in our little family. Roles are changing as my boys need me less visibly. It has been a joy-that-hurts-like-a-wound to give them space to figure things out, hang out with friends, put themselves out there and risk failure. I have not felt this tender-souled in ages.

As such, here is my honest list of what I most need this Mother’s Day:

  1. Tell me where you’ve seen me grow. Although your feet grow at warp speed, most souls grow more at a snail’s pace. I never, ever want to be a stagnant, settled human. I always want to model growth to you. I want to show you, not just tell you, that risk is a beautiful thing, even if it leads to failure. I want to show you, not just tell you, that discomfort is a prerequisite for growth. So tell me where you see me growing into my identity in Christ, because it is very likely that I don’t notice it (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 3: 7-10; Hosea 6: 1-3).
  2. Tell me you see eternal light through my abundance of cracks. You see me and I see you guys more than anyone else. This means you know my fissures and foibles and failings well, as I know yours. But in my weakness, I try to point you to the perfect One. Tell me where you have seen me grown quicker to repent and forgive, slower to anger and quicker to listen. Remind me that the light is the main event, not my cracks (2 Corinthians 4:7-12; 2 Corinthians 12:19).
  3. Remind me when we laughed so hard we nearly cried this past year. Church planting and teenager-shepherding tend toward heaviness in your momma’s heart. There are burdens and tragedies in this broken world that scare the living daylights out of me. Please keep me laughing with your ridiculous antics and horrible impersonations, even if they are sometimes at my expense (Proverbs 17: 22).
  4. Keep sharing your dirty laundry with me. And I don’t mean the clothes primarily. Keep being honest with me about what is hard. Keep letting me into your fears and insecurities. Keep telling me when your days are hard and you are frustrated with me, dad, your teachers, and/or this broken world. Drag it to me. I’ll gladly help you sort through it; together, we will drag it all into the light of His presence. And we will wait on Him together (1 John 1: 5-10).
  5. Keep letting me pray for you and with you and over you. There are no moments that I love and cherish more than when I get to bring you (your body, mind, soul, and spirit) into God’s presence. There are many places where I feel weak as a mother, but I know I am strong when we pray (2 Corinthians 10:4).

I don’t need candles. I will just forget to trim their wicks. I don’t need chocolate. Dad will eat it all anyway. But you could try to hang up your own wet towels at least two times a week – that would be a major improvement.

Sincerely, Mom

Hobbit Hospitality & The Surprise of Adventure

When it comes to hospitality, I am more Bilbo Baggins than Better Homes & Gardens. This morning, as I was listening to Tolkien’s The Hobbit with my youngest son (a literary rite of passage of sorts in our home), I laughed aloud at my likeness to the little hobbit.

Though “he was fond of visitors,” he wanted visitors on his own terms. He liked to follow the schedule on his “Engagement Tablet” and wanted only the adventures of which he approved.

Gandalf, knowing what Bilbo needed and pushing him past what he thought he wanted, refused to take a polite no for an answer. Marking Bilbo’s round, green hobbit hole door with a secret sign, Gandalf made his home a host hollow for worlds Bilbo had hitherto not known.

When guests began flooding his hobbit hole the next day, Bilbo was startled but initially polite. He went from a stiff but kindly hospitality with the first unexpected guest to a flustered, even fearful, forced hospitality as dwarves kept showing up at his little hobbit hole.

“He liked visitors, but he liked to know them before they arrived, and he preferred to ask them himself. He had a horrible thought that the cakes might run short, and then he – as the host: he knew his duty and stuck to it however painful – might have to go without.”

By the time more guests had arrived, “The poor little hobbit sat down in the hall and put his head in his hands, and wondered what had happened, and what was going to happen, and whether they would all stay to supper.”

As I listened to Tolkien’s description of the hobbit’s heart as the omniscient narrator, I saw how easily the Lord (the ultimate omniscient narrator) might say the exact same of me through a smile. 

Convenience & Comfort

I like hospitality to a point. I like to host when I am on my A-game (or, at least, my B+ game). I like to host when our schedules are not crammed full and when my heart and soul feel together and ordered (things, which, in this season of our lives, are increasingly rare).

But the true heart of hospitality usually involves welcome at the cost of convenience and comfort. That’s what sets it apart from entertaining with its scheduled plans and well-manicured meals and table-scapes.

The last thing I want to do when I am in the middle of (or on the heals of) a disagreement with my husband or a wrestling over wisdom for my children is welcome people into my heart and home. But, if I am honest, it’s those moments when hospitality seems to most honor the heart of God. When there is risk involved and transparency, not just a meal, is served to our guests, I think God smiles a bit like Gandalf did knowingly at Bilbo Baggins.

A week ago, we made plans to host a couple who very recently began to attend our church. At the time, life felt ordered and my heart felt spacious. But when the day to host arrived, life had changed drastically. Worries crowded my distracted heart just as clutter crowded our messy counters. What I desperately wanted (and thought I needed) was to cancel so I could spend time alone processing the problems of the week and the subsequent waves of emotions they were causing.

I intended to share some cake and tea, but we ended up sharing our stories. And then, something amazing happened: the character and goodness of God were maximized and the looming problems were minimized.

Wrapped in the trappings of obedient hospitality, God gave me the gift I didn’t know how much I desperately needed: perspective. Just as Gandalf knew what Bilbo really needed, God invites us to a deeper adventure through the doorway of seemingly simple hospitality.

The Adventure of Obedience

In one of his essays, G.K. Chesterton talks about adventure in a way that deeply resonates with my experience of true hospitality and the relational adventures it begets. And I think Bilbo Baggins (after his adventures) would agree.

“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.”

True biblical hospitality rarely fits neatly into our color-coded agendas. It costs us precious time and energy. It will oftentimes feel like an inconvenience to our comfort. It may make us wonder with Bilbo Baggins if there will be enough energy and peace and time to go around after the guests have been served and seen.

Hospitality leads to a life of relational adventures with our God, even if it doesn’t take us far from home like our reluctantly-hospitable hobbit friend. Through hospitality, new worlds are opened up to us. We are led to new territories emotionally and spiritually through hosting strangers who become friends. Our worlds broaden and stretch as we stretch our schedules and souls to fit new friends.

May God mark your doors, my friends, as Gandalf marked Bilbo’s. May obedience to God’s commands become the beginnings of grand adventures.

“Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:1-2).

“The end of all things is at hand: therefore, be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:7-9). 

Bedtime Breakthroughs

Y’all. It has been an emotional roller-coaster ride in our family for the past few months. I have alluded to all the growth (and growing pains) God has been doing in our hearts individually and as a family unit. It looks like battles and soul skirmishes scattered throughout the week against lies and insecurities and performance anxiety. But it also looks bedtime breakthroughs.

It looks like a little boy who bravely tells me, “Momma, I am feeling anxious. But it’s not school or safety or baseball.”

It looks like me laying next to him and asking questions until he realizes the source of his stress: another brother heading to high school.

It looks like tears pooling in my eyes as I sit with him in his sadness that I cannot and should not fix. His brothers should and will grow and move on to other things. He will have to be in his school all alone without his brothers who are his heroes and best friends.

It looks like me scratching his back while he cries about change and processes all his fears.

It looks like me praying for him to trust that God will be constant companion and One who never changes.

Then it looks like me going to lay down in my own bed to do the same with my heavenly Father. It looks like me processing my worries and concerns and fears for these boys with my Father. It looks like him asking me searching questions to help assess my own confused heart. It looks like him sitting with me in the in-between, even though he knows exactly how this will all pan out. It looks my own bedtime breakthroughs after long day-time battles.

Parents Who Try to See

Being attuned to our boys and their emotional needs as they navigate all kinds of new challenges and opportunities feels like it has been my full-time job of late: noticing their body cues, asking them questions, providing a nurturing place to process and a net upon which to fall. These are the privileges of being a parent. I feel wildly unqualified for this job.

According to Peter Fongay, as quoted by Curt Thompson in his book The Anatomy of the Soul, even the most observant parents will only track with their children 45 to 50 percent of the time. So, batting 400 is winning, even if it feels like you are losing.

We try to see. We do our best as broken vessels with limited access to the secret places of the heart. As Curt Thompson says, “God does not expect parents to be perfect. He does, however, long for us to be perceptive.”

The God Who Sees

As parents, we get to point to the perfect parent in both our failures and our successes. If and when we get it wrong or miss the moment, we have the chance to point to the One who sees all and never fails. If and when we get it right, we image the Perfect Parent to them.

In the words of Curt Thompson, “God hits the mark every time. In the language of attachment, our heavenly father mentalizes at peak capacity – he lovingly senses and interprets feelings, desires, and intentions at all times.”

In Psalm 18, David expresses his experience of God’s being attuned to him.

“In my distress, I called upon the Lord, to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears…He sent from on high, he took me; he drew me out of many waters” (Psalm 18:3 & 16).

The same David expects the same God to attune to him throughout his life. He writes, “Hear my cry, O God, listen my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy” (Psalm 61:1-2).

As we seek to see them, He sees both us and them (Hebrews 4: 13). As we grow in this process of parenting, he is perfectly parenting both parents and children (Hebrews 12: 9-11). As we pray for them as best we can, the Spirit is praying for them constantly, effectively, and according to the will of God (Romans 8: 26-27).

This is all our hope as we keep walking through these major emotional and relational growth spurts.

As we experience battles and bedtime breakthroughs, he is offering us our own battles and breakthroughs.

All shall be well. And all shall be well. Our Jesus does all things well.

Dandelion Days

The closest thing we get to even the appearance of snow balls during San Diego winters are dandelion globes. I always smile when I see them growing, because they bring back childhood memories of playfully scattering their seeds. However, of late, I have a new reason to smile when I see them on my morning walks.

Recently, I slowly savored Elisabeth Elliot’s A Pathway Through Suffering. Each chapter began with a botanical example from Lilias Trotter. While I found them all to be challenging and beautiful, one in particular has stayed with me upon completion of the book.

“The seed vessel hopes for nothing again. It seeks only the opportunity of shedding itself; its purpose is fulfilled when the wind shakes forth the last seed, and the flower stalk is beaten low by autumn storms. It not only spends, but is ‘spent out’ at last.”

Trotter, a gifted writer and observer of nature, has painted seed dispersal in beautiful terms; yet, death to self is less poetic and more painful in actual practice.


Lately, it has helped me to imagine my life as a field and each day its own individual dandelion globe (technically called blowballs or clocks).  The entire purpose of such a globe is to release its scores of individual seed fruits (technically called achenes). Thus, for the dandelion, losing its last threads of its self is technically winning. In dying to itself, it is fulfilling the very mission for which it so intricately exists: to scatter and shed abroad its seeds of life. Its death means the new life of countless more dandelion plants who, in time, will return the favor!

I tend to want to hold on to my time, my energy, my plan for the day, and my wishes and wants. After all, everything in my flesh agrees with everything the world and the Enemy of my soul feed me in every radio wave, internet connection and whispered lie. Hold on to your life. Protect your own. Treat your self. After all, who else will?

Yet, each day,  I am offered various experiences intended to help me die to myself that others might live.

To throw the baseball when all I want to do is text a friend. To absorb an angry email, offer the frustration up to Jesus, and to respond in gentleness and humility. To stop what I am focused on to listen to my husband process his day. To cook a meal even though I would rather read a book or take a walk.

Tiny deaths, but chances to practice dying to myself that others might receive life just the same.

For some reason, imagining another little seed parachuting off to plant life somewhere has helped me to see these tiny deaths to self as tiny victories rather than terrible inconveniences.

Death to self as one great, heroic act feels overwhelming and impossible to my self-centered soul. However, faithful daily dying to self that leads to a lifetime of self laid down for the sake of and by the power of a Savior’s love feels far more do-able to me.

Faithful daily dying leads to faithful final breath. May we let the light breezes or gale force winds of our days help us to let go of our lives, seed by seed. May we be able to confidently say with Paul, we are…

…always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. 2 Corinthians 4: 10-12. 

Contentment Without Contingencies

What I make necessary for my contentment, I make a little lord in my life. Anything and everything to which I attach my joy, my peace, my security, I make a contingency to my contentment.

Very few of us would ever walk around proudly declaring, “My contentment rests on complex contingencies;” however, most believers in Christ still live like this is true. Our lives tell on us. Our fears expose our excessive attachments and our compulsions uncover our complex contingencies.

The older my children get and the more complex their needs and their worlds, the more I am realizing how much my contentment is contingent upon them: their health, their joy, their mental and spiritual well-being. These are not bad for which to pray on their behalf, but I cannot let my contentment be contingent upon them. To do so is both unwise and unbiblical.

One of the gloriously unique realities of Christianity is contentment in Christ. Such a contentment has zero contingencies, yet we must contend for this contentment.

Paul was able to tell the Philippians that he had learned the secret of Christian contentment. He gradually learned that, whether he abounded or was abased, he could be fully and completely content in Christ and with Christ (Phil. 4: 11-13). The following principles have been helping me contend for simple contentment in Christ.

  • Receive with gratitude, but don’t grasp.

Paul longed for the early churches to know this kind of contentment without contingencies. He longed for them to be freed from joy-suffocating and peace-diminishing excessive attachments to this world and the things of it. It was not that he wanted them to reject good things or deflect temporal blessings. He knew that all things created by God were good (1 Tim. 4: 4-5); however, he also knew the tendency of the human heart towards worshipping and serving created things rather than the Creator (Rom. 1: 25).

We need not be ascetics to contend for contentment in Christ. We need only receive his blessings without grasping. As the psalmist wrote, “When riches increase, set not your heart upon them.” (Psalm 62: 11).

  • Be sated with favor, not favorable circumstances.

When I feel impoverished by circumstances or trapped in contentment full of contingencies, I lead my heart to remember our sure, unfading inheritance in Christ. Before Moses died, he spent time blessing each of the twelve tribes of Israel. These blessings are mere hints of the fullness we have received in Christ.

Lately, Moses’s blessing over Naphtali has been both confronting and comforting my heart.

“And of Naphtali he said, ‘O Naphtali, sated with favor, and full of the blessing of the Lord, possess the lake and the South’.” (Deut. 33: 23).

While the tribe of Naphtali probably enjoyed having the lake land as their portion, we have something far more astounding: the living waters springing up from within us in Christ (John 4: 10-14). Oases of creature comfort, while gifts from the Lord, are susceptible to drought. The living water of Christ will never run dry. Thus, to base our contentment on anything other Christ is to live with complex contingencies.

When circumstances are favorable, when your children are close-by and healthy, when work is going well, when marriage feels like a walk in the park, thank God. But don’t build your contentment on the shakeable base of favorable circumstances. Do the hard, God-honoring, soul-keeping work of finding contentment in the favor Christ has secured for you.

  • In the midst of presents, be content with his presence.

Contentment is less about tallying his presents towards us and more about remembering his presence with us. Our culture is all about gratitude and counting our blessings. While gratitude is a good thing, Christ invites us into something much deeper than lists of blessings: he gives us access to the Blessed One ( 1 Timothy 6: 15).

The writer of Hebrews make a powerful connection between contentment and the presence of Christ. Towards the end of his letter to the Hebrew believers, he writes, “Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me’?” (Hebrews 13:8).

As life grows more intricate and complex, our contentment does not have to grow in contingencies. Having Christ, we have all we need to ride out the ebbs and flows of circumstances until we are with him forever.

The Perks & Paralysis of a Performative Identity

With three sports-loving boys in the middle of multiple sports seasons, God is doing a deep and refining work on my own heart. As one who founded her identity for decades on besting (in all the things), I find myself exposed through my own children. Old habits die hard. Generational sin patterns don’t just roll over. A performative identity that I thought was a long-dead stump has been sprouting shoots of sin.

Our culture loves bigger, faster, stronger, and better, and I spent many years cultivating a similar milieu in my own heart. Thankfully, the gospel’s incredibly good news of a received and completed identity in Christ set me on a different track. But, as my children walk into worlds that pander to performative identity, the wrestle is real.

Perks that cause paralysis

Performative identities (whether in athletics or academic acumen) loudly promise power and prestige but quietly deliver paralysis. The downside to accolades is anxiety over maintaining them. Our culture peddles performative identities of every kind, and we pay in record-high levels of anxiety and depression.

In order to be in this world but not of it, I have to continually wallpaper my mind and our home with the identities we receive in Christ.

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of man who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20).

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2: 8-10).

In Christ, we have access to an unshakeable, eternal identity that need not rise and fall based on performance or circumstance. He had made an everlasting covenant with us, ordered in all things and sure (2 Sam. 23:5).

I know the right answers. Yet, my heart still quivers when a son is on the mound or heading into try-outs or working towards scholarships for further education. God loves me enough to expose sinewy idols in my soul. He reminds me repeatedly that one need not have an inordinate desire to be extraordinary when one is extraordinarily loved.

Mangle the Maniacal Root

Mangle, Lord, mangle.
Mangle the maniacal root.
Smother, Lord, smother
Performance and its false fruit.

Dead, Lord, dead.
I thought that idol gone. 
See, Lord, see
In my children it lives on.

Water, Lord, water,
Water the imperishable seed.
Deepen, Lord, deepen
Our rooted sense of need.

Grow us, Lord, grow us
To the full stature of sons.
Sustain us, Lord, sustain us
As your sap within us runs.

Harvest, Lord, harvest 
The fruit that you have grown.
Glory, Lord, glory!
May your glory be made known. 

One of these days, by God’s grace, performative environments won’t push and pull me. Until then, I will be hiding in his finished work, repeatedly remembering the received identity we have been gifted at so great a cost.

The Cake That Cost Me

Even though the mix and the icing cost less than $10, my son and I made a costly cake today. It cost him humility and responsibility; it cost me sacrificial love and forgiveness.

Over the years as a family, we have learned about breaches and repairs, connection and correction. We know that we will not love each other perfectly, but we do seek to love each other well. Even with all that knowledge, we hurt one another. I am surprised how much those hurts smart.

More than a wound from a friend or a congregant, wounds in our family sting, less from lack of love and more from excess of love. Breaches with those whom we work the hardest at loving, for whom sacrifice the most, and with whom we spend the bulk of our time sting more. From a rational standpoint this makes sense: vulnerability is proportional to strength of love.

This family thing is both sensitive and strong. And I am so thankful it is both.

Today, some big feelings were felt. Some unintentionally hurtful words were said. Space was given. Repair was needed. But today, I needed my Redeemer to help me with the repair. He was so gracious to remind me of a few things that I know in my head but needed to be reminded in my heart.

Souls Don’t Open Up on a Schedule

I am continually shocked at the timetable of souls. We don’t get notices alerting us of construction in the human heart. We give ample space for connection in our home. We try really hard to be intentional with family meals, solo times with each kid, adventures, and check-ins. It’s easy to slip into a version of the parenting prosperity gospel (if we do these things well, our children won’t experience pain rather than we do these things to provide space for our children to process the pain they are promised in this life). But souls don’t always crack during the allotted crevices of time. In fact, they very rarely do. Those times do provide the security of relationship which fosters a home where fissures and fractures are free to show themselves.

Souls need space to surface. And presenting emotions are usually not the source. Deep-watered souls require time for deep-water exploration (Prov. 20:5). These things cannot be rushed; thus things must be cancelled, schedules rearranged.

After an initial sense of being inconvenienced and the annoyance that hurts surface when I am most fatigued, God was so gracious to remind me that fractures are really invitations for deeper fusion.

Seeming Inconveniences are Subtle Invitations

This was not how I imagined our Saturday going. It was such a long week, I was hoping for some peaceful alone time. These were my initial thoughts. But God was not surprised by our Saturday. In fact, he had even prepared me through a few simple phrases that jumped out at me in my prayer book: Lord, make “able to love, strong to suffer, steady to persevere.” I’ve been praying these words multiple times a day for most of the week. And God graciously set up an opportunity for me to practice them today.

I think of Christ and the hemorrhaging woman. Every one else was put off by Jesus’s stopping in the midst of the crowd. Jairus’s daughter needed healing, and time was of the essence. But Jesus had another daughter to see to, one whom wasn’t even aware she was a delighted in daughter yet (Luke 8:43-48). Love lets itself be “inconvenienced.” Love will take detours to help the one in whom it delights.

Love Absorbs, but it Still Addresses

I have learned so much from the reunion of Jesus and Peter on the shores of Galilee. Peter was more overcome with joy at seeing Jesus than he was initially impeded by the guilt he carried over denying him three times. Thus, in his particularly dramatic fashion, he strips off his cloak, jumps in the water, and gives Jesus a wet welcome!

Jesus intentionally prepares a fish breakfast over a charcoal fire (which was a subtle recreation of the scene in which Peter denied him). Even though Jesus’s agape love has absorbed Peter’s failure, he still addresses it with him. He does Peter the favor of not pretending that something had not happened. A relational breach had occurred. This was not for Jesus’s sake; it was for the good of Peter. Three times in love, Jesus went there, offering Peter a chance to completely own and be forgiven of his three-fold failure (John 21: 9-19).

Peter needed to see the care in Christ’s eyes. He also needed to see the kind of love that absorbed the real relational costs he created. Such an eye-to-eye, face-to-face encounter transformed him.

Jesus was torn that I might have the ability to repair with my children. Through him, I have access to costly forgiveness, agape love that absorbs but still addresses, and love that makes itself vulnerable.

That cake we made today? It was costly. But it was nothing compared to the cross. In fact, in little moments like these, I am able to act out for my children (and reinforce for myself) the glories of the gospel. The Apostle Paul calls it filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ (Col. 1:24). Today, for us, it looked like processing over tears, taking our tired, beat-up souls to the grocery store together, and baking a cake as an act of redemptive repair.

Loving these children is changing me. It presses me into the One who loves perfectly. It invites me into his pain. It also invites me his absolute joy of repair and reconnection.

Addendum: we ate the costly cake tonight together as a family. The cake was scrumptious. The look on my son’s face as we enjoyed it together was far better!

Compassion Fatigue & Our Tireless God

Compassion fatigue is a newer term that describes a human’s limited capacity to exhibit compassion in comparison to the countless news stories and real life tragedies with which we are bombarded.

Before globalization which directly result of modern advances in technology, a human’s experience and relationships were bound by time and space. Whereas one’s borough, parish, township or neighborhood used to contain all the people and events that might require compassion and action, today, the limits have been stretched to potentially include the entire globe. No wonder compassion fatigue as a term was coined; after all, one human heart can only be pulled in so many directions and carry so many weights before sinking under an inhuman load.

In a digitally-flattened world, compassion fatigue has become an increasing reality. Due to isolation and increased relational and financial strain, our hearts are already eerily  close to capacity. Thus, there is only limited remaining space to process the rest of reality. An unthinkably high death count in Turkey and Syria, horrible acts of racism, children ravaged by starvation, sky-rocketing unemployment rates, and countless other realities compete for the limited amounts of compassion we have remaining.

As a mother, on a very small scale, I wrestle with the tension of having three very different sons with three very different sets of gifts, challenges, and opportunities to love.  While I mean it when I tell them, “There is a room in my heart just for you,” I also know that those rooms are small, cramped and insufficient to meet their needs, let alone the needs of others around me.


Compassion Fatigue in the Early Church

Long before the term was coined, compassion fatigue was a reality.  Even in the early church, long before i-phones pinged with updates of acts of terror and news of natural disasters, followers of Christ wrestled with a limited capacity for compassion and patience.

Living in a world that was increasingly unjust and unfair to those who proclaimed faith in the resurrected Christ, the early church was growing weary and impatient toward one another. They were wanting to take matters into their own hands or to prematurely  judge rather than patiently wait for the Lord whose return they were certain was imminent.

Closing out his letter to the church, James exhorts its members to endure unjust suffering, exercising patience towards one another and leaving room for God, the ultimate and final Judge, to execute a lasting justice in his second coming.

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord…As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. James 5:7 & 10-11.

Pointing to Job who wrestled honestly but faithfully leaned into the Lord, James reminds his audience that God’s end game is clear even when his ways are dark and mysterious. They had heard of Job and by reading his story, they had seen that the ends of God’s ways are always marked by his merciful, compassionate character. James invites them beyond hearing and seeing into experiencing such a reality for themselves.

The Many-Chambered Heart of God

The incredibly good news is that our God does not experience compassion fatigue. If his heart were chambered (speaking anthropomorphically), it would be infinitely-chambered as compared to our measly four-chambered hearts.

James uses two unique words in verse 11. The first, polusplagchnos (translated compassionate above), is used only here in the entire New Testament. Literally translated, it means many-boweled. While that conjures strange images to our modern brains, we must understand that in the time of the early church, compassion was thought to come from the bowels (think of that feeling that we experience when we hear terrible news about someone we love). To say that God is many-boweled is like saying God has a many-chambered heart, capable of full and unending affection.

The second word, oiktirmón, translated merciful above, is only used in two places in the entire New Testament: here and twice in Luke 6. It literally means exhibiting visceral compassion, deep pity, and lament. It is a spirit of compassion so deep that the entire body is moved along with it.

While James could not predict the specific outcomes of the specific circumstances of his audience, he could whole-heartedly proclaim any and every outcome would issue forth from the many-chambered, infinitely-compassionate heart of God.

In a world stretched thin and wearied by compassion fatigue, believers can take solace and strength for continued compassion from the inexhaustible heart of God. When our hearts are crowded, we can empty them confidently at his feet and make space for a God-enabled compassion towards those around us.

On Sending Sons

Everyone goes out of their way to prepare you for parenthood. At baby showers, new parents gratefully receive all the necessary supplies (and some precious, though unnecessary accoutrements). In countless conversations, new parents have to pick through loads of unsolicited advice to mine out the gems. But few people prepare you for the sending season.

If I had to whittle down the innumerable stages of parenting into three seasons, I would choose receiving, shaping, sending. The receiving season is poignant and powerful whether it happens suddenly and seemingly effortlessly or is a painful and involved process of waiting. The sending stage seems to come suddenly even though it’s out there lingering all along. We know that one day, these children we have received and have spent decades intentionally shaping (and being shaped by) will likely be independent in some form or fashion. But the shaping season is so involved, so time-consuming, so all-encompassing, that it rarely allows us to look up as the far-off sending point approaches with haste.

Lately, the Lord has been lifting my eyes often to the sending season. I have found myself as weepy and thin-souled as I did during those early days of receiving these sons. We will be doing something normal and necessary in the shaping season (chores, driving to sports practices, eating dinner) and my soul and sight will suddenly shoot out back to the receiving and then forward to the sending season.

I’ll be folding huge, mens-sized sweatpants. Suddenly, I am remembering the days when their entire wardrobes fit into one small basket. Then, I am imagining them avoiding laundry in college and wearing one pair of sweatpants ad nauseam. Then I am crying and treasuring up the days.

Or, I’ll be driving them to school, listening to their silly banter or helping them with vocabulary. Suddenly, I am remembering the days when they learned a new word. Then, I am thinking of how quiet (and clean) my car will be one day. Next, I am a puddle.

Yesterday, at church, my husband (who is also my pastor), mentioned John 20:21 in passing: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” It was a passing point, not even a tertiary point of his sermon; however, it is looming large on my heart and in my mind.

I know there are dangers of forcing human experience onto the godhead. I know that God speaks anthropomorphically as a concession and condescension to our limited natures. I know that God exists outside the constraints of time. But I keep thinking of that interchange. The Father sent the Son. The son leaves the Father.

Realities of Sending

  1. The sending informs the shaping. Before creation was spoken into existence, God knew Christ would take the path of the Cross. Jesus needed no shaping, as he was and is and will be as he is. We, however, as adopted children of God, require unthinkable amounts of shaping. God’s shaping of his people hinged upon the sending of his Son. My shaping of my sons is informed by the reality that they are to be sent out. I am shaping my spouse to stay and my children to be sent. Keeping the sending (and the Sent One, Christ) on the forefront allows me to enjoy the days I have with them and to invest intentionally and sacrificially in this shaping season.
  2. The sending involves sacrifice. The eternal status quo was shaken up when God sent the Son to become a man who stepped into time and space. I don’t know much about time/space continuum, but I know a little about the heart of a father. Fathers loves the presence of their children, and they are pained when their children are not near to them. When I send these boys out, there will be pain and discomfort on both sides. We will be shaken, things will shift, and we will experience sadness and sacrifice. But if it doesn’t bleed, it is not a sacrifice. And there are purposes to be fulfilled for both parents and sent sons.
  3. The sending is also a receiving. God sent his Son so that he would receive many sons. God allowed his Son to be slaughtered for our sin because he wanted to receive back to his lap his once-wayward, now-adopted sons and daughters. I love listening in to the conversation Jesus had with his Father in the high priestly prayer (John 17). You can feel not only the impending agony, but also the eager anticipation of being reunited with the Father having done the work he was sent to accomplish. When these sons are sent out, there will be new receiving to be done (by them and their parents). Seasons change, but the Savior who ushers them in stands unchanging (Heb. 13:8).

I am almost the mother sending out sons even though I feel like I just received them. I long for our shaping to be informed by the sending. The end bathes the means in fresh light. I long for our sending to accomplish deeper shaping in our lives. I long for our sending to be centered on and sustained by the Sent One. One day, we will be gathered back to him. Then, we will be the satisfied ones. Until then, there is much receiving and shaping and sending to be done.