Saturday, November 18, 2017

I SET OUT






























I did not set out to raise ¨great kids.¨
I set out to raise Christ followers
I set out to raise world changers
I set out to raise lovers of people
I set out to raise lovers of God´s word.

I did not set out to raise ¨beautiful kids.¨
I set out to raise kids enchanted with his beauty
I set out to raise kids on a mission to find beauty in the ugly & in brokenness
I set out to raise kids who genuinely reflect the beauty of the transcendent Christ
I set out to raise kids intent on spreading heaven´s beauty on earth.

I did not set out to raise ¨smart kids.¨
I set out to raise kids wiser than their teachers
I set out to raise kids who know how to discern right from wrong
I set out to raise kids who have an honest head-heart connection
I set out to raise kids intelligent in living life well.

I did not set out to raise ¨talented kids.¨
I set out to raise kids who know themselves & where they´re fruitful
I set out to raise kids whose love permeates their skills
I set out to raise kids who unselfishly give of themselves.
I set out to raise kids who deeply credit their Creator for what they have & who they are.

I did not set out to raise average.
I did not set out to raise indifferent.
I did not set out to raise dispassionate.

I set out to raise game changers.
I set out to raise solid character.
I set out to raise soulful spirituality.

I set out to change my family line.
I set out to recalibrate a legacy.
I set out to realign history.

I am so blessed to have great, beautiful, smart, talented kids.
And as they grow & make their faith their own I pray they will always remember:
There is No Stopping Greatness, Beauty, Smartness & Talent
when connected to the Love, Power & Grace of the God of the universe.

The world cannot stop that.
The world needs that.
The world is waiting for that.

I am waiting, too.
So let it be known to the powers that be
what I set out to do.





Photo by:  CaraDon




Wednesday, November 15, 2017

THEIRS TO WALK







































I´ve been trying to lay them down.
But I´ve been ever so hesitant.
Today this insight burst into my consciousness:
¨You don´t trust Me with them.¨
And I realized with sadness, it´s true.

One is already gone.
And I have fought day & night
for the well-being & healing of these other two.
I have implored Him with tears many times
for a protection over their faith during this difficult time.
But their faith is sabotaged right now.
And so my trust is hesitant.

I remind myself:
I cannot walk their journey for them.
It is theirs to walk.

My mind is littered with stories of friends´ kids
who are who-knows-where.
Why should my fate be any different from theirs?
These are very hard times to walk out faith even under the best of circumstances -
and mine have walked through so much loss.
They have every right to ask questions, to come to different conclusions,
to personalize what they will believe.
Their journey is their own.


I am walking a very raw moment in parenting...
loving them as always yet without God in the middle.
For they want me, they want their father -
But they are unsure about God.
It´s ok, I think; it´s part of their process.
But it is so very hard on this believing mother.

I cannot walk their journey for them.
It is theirs to walk.

I feel unsure of how to seek intimacy & engagement with them
without the most important part of me.
I talk about my faith but I try to be sensitive to where they are.
How can I encourage them or help them or counsel them
without Him in between us?
I just don´t know another way...
Please show me the way.

I know in my head this is not my fault
But I can´t help but feel sad that they couldn´t see enough of his wonder in me
to be captivated for a lifetime.
That they didn´t see enough of his goodness in me
to hold onto in their darkest hour.
That they didn´t see enough truth
to be convinced forever.
That they didn´t experience enough agape
to be completely sure & safe with him.
That they didn´t see, hear, perceive, or experience enough convincing faith
to be determinedly following hard after him.
Or that maybe they didn´t see enough comfort & healing in me
to believe that there is enough for them, too.
Oh! how my heart aches!

I keep telling myself:
I cannot walk their journey for them.
It is theirs to walk.
Today this is not helpful.

My own journey today
begins with entrusting them again to God.
For my own faith has been damaged by hard realities, too.
There are places in me which hold doubt.
It looks different than theirs, much different.
But just as no one can walk my spiritual journey or my grief journey for me,
So I cannot walk theirs.

I tell myself again:
I cannot walk their journey for them.
I am also telling myself:
Their journey is not about me, it is about them.

Help me, O God,
to find family unity in the middle of this.
Help us to find love, to find our new selves in all our brokenness,
in all our wanderings & wonderings
to hold on to each other.
For these kids of mine?
They are so worth it.

I cannot walk their journey for them.
It is theirs to walk.
But if they want, I will walk alongside them.





Photo by: ClaraDon


Saturday, November 11, 2017

GRIEF TSUNAMI








































Grieving people often talk about ¨waves of grief.¨ It seems to be one visual that we all agree is a common experience.  Grief rises and falls, can appear unprompted or triggered, be a slow, rising swell or appear suddenly and knock you off your feet. Sometimes the waves are continuous and other days they are more intermittent.

Then there are the tsunamis.  I haven´t yet heard anyone use this term but I´m pretty sure lots of people will agree with me that they are very real!

When I was young and learning to body surf, my Dad (who was 6´5¨ and gave me tons of confidence) taught me to study the sea and its awesome waves. Together we learned to calculate their height, strength, how close the next one was, how they were breaking and many other things.  There were never two days the same and only learning to depend on your instincts and much practice made me confident in those Atlantic waves. My brothers learned, too, and we were almost fearless - but we learned respect through hard, scary tumbles.  The sea could change suddenly and you had to know and be aware of where you were at all times. I´ve been to many different beaches over the years now and have seen foolish people rescued because they were unprepared or not respectful students of that particular beach.

In a similar way, I have grown accustomed to waves of grief and kind of know how to roll with them.  This does not mean I like them!  But I can often sense them coming and try to prepare space for time to deal with the inevitable. Sometimes the triggers, though, are unexpected and I must react quickly to roll with a wave and not fight it.  Fighting it usually ends up much worse.

This last month, however, I was blindsided by a powerful tsunami. It was the biggest grief wave in a very long time and it thrust me into overwhelming sadness and exhaustion. It was utterly discouraging to be back in darkness; I felt like I had regressed two years in my life.  I struggled to get out of bed and do the simplest of things, my motivation for all I had been planning for the fall was completely gone. Nothing seemed to make me happy; the slightest thing could make me cry. 

None of this made sense to me; I had just finished a wonderful and productive summer in the US (albeit exhausting).  God gave me lots of strength for the many demands of travel and being ¨on¨ with people. I was excited to return to Málaga, resettle, have some rest and then begin the joyous process of what I had planned to be a new season. A season of writing, of reconnecting with people here, of accompanying Jordan in his new stage of two very demanding high school years, supporting Dani from afar as she adjusts to life after college and of learning with Bruce what a season of writing (and doing less with him) would look like for our marriage.

But I was exhausted.  And when your body starts to ¨talk¨ to you, it´s always worthwhile to pay attention.  Whether it is sickness, fatigue or pain crying out for attention, your body will always be honest. Emotions may be trickier to get to the bottom of but the body speaks clearly: I am not well; slow down and listen to me!  So I did. And the emotions that were under the surface bubbled up like Vesuvius.

I can´t share everything here but after spending more time listening to my inner world I realized a number of things had overlapped and caused a deep sense of loss, insecurity in transition, feelings of guilt in my inability to manage my numerous relationships, changes in my community here, recognizing the deeper meaning of Dani´s graduation for us as a family, and an underlying exhaustion after an extremely full summer with very little down time for our family. I carried a lot of anxiety about my kids´ faith walk and where it was going. I began spiraling downward, scared of still being stuck in grief, missing my parents and brothers and in-laws in a terrible way. I wanted to ask my Mom things I wondered about, my Dad´s advice over hot chai, I yearned for Jenna´s input on yet other things and I was sad that there was hardly any immediate family left to visit in the US.  I felt very vulnerable and alone.  Bruce was traveling and normally I am fairly independent but I felt so very fragile without him. I wondered if I ever would be able to ¨write that book¨ people kept asking me about.

Once I could identify some of these things, mourn them and express them to a friend or to God, I felt better. I began writing again and that was therapeutic. Whatever was blocking the floodgates opened and my emotions poured forth. This is a big part of healing in grief: recognizing and expressing emotions. It is hard, hard work. It is humbling work. It is exhausting work. It is necessary work. There is no way forward but through it and no one can do it for you.

I am facing the waves. I am studying each one and making a plan. I am rolling with some and getting knocked over by others. But my Father is beside me, and trust me, He gives me great confidence.

I still have a long road in front of me; this tsunami hit me hard and I need time to restore and rebuild.  Grief is clearly ongoing business and the seasons and waves will be ongoing. I WILL write that book. It´s just a matter of time...



Thursday, November 9, 2017

WHEN THE VINE WEEPS





























¨What cannot be spoken must be wept.¨

Sappho


After a long, harsh winter, the bare, pruned branches of the vine are more than ready for the warmth of spring. As the temperature rises and the roots begin to warm, life-bearing sap begins to course upwards through the plant. As it arrives to places that were cut, it drips out, creating a weeping effect. Although this poignant stage does not last long, it often ¨weeps¨ up to five liters of liquid per plant! This sap cleanses & hydrates the cut and as it slows and coagulates, it creates a healing seal where a new bud will push through into the new season.

This extraordinary and exquisite example in nature is clear:  After a winter season of life, there are things to mourn. This period of grief is necessary and essential for healing. Tears play a critical role in this process and provide forward movement into the new season. Indeed, without this ¨weeping¨, the life cycle of the vine would be impaired.

If you are not keen on crying, consider this:  

¨You have taken account of my wanderings; 
Put my tears in Your bottle. 
Are they not in Your book?¨  
Psalm 56:8

God finds tears so precious He keeps a record of them! I find this astonishing. They are important. They are noticed. They are recorded and saved. They are sacred. (They also must keep a lot of angels busy!)  It has been an unremitting curiosity to me to see what He will do with them someday.

As I have been revisiting John 15, I have been profoundly moved by this example in nature. To those familiar with vineyards listening to Jesus, this ¨weeping¨ of the vine was probably common knowledge. To me, it only came upon deeper study of this life cycle and I began to ask myself: What is it about winter that makes the vine weep?



True winter is harsh. While not every vineyard experiences truly harsh winters depending on their geographical location, many do. There is no doubt that part of what makes the winter difficult is starting it out pruned! Talk about vulnerable, naked and ugly. When we experience spiritual pruning, it can quickly become emotional and physical as well. We suddenly find ourselves with no external fruit or beauty or purpose...we are prisoners of waiting through a long, dark season. Many of us hunker down into survival mode when this happens and give in to the desolation & loneliness. We may feel impoverished, unsheltered, exposed and confused. But if we can use this vulnerable time to focus on internal dealings with God and the opportunity to more deeply connect, depend and persevere (all aspects of abiding), we will reap invisible benefits. Because though not much happens to the human eye to the vine in winter, there is unprecedented growth underneath the surface of the ground. This is the time when roots go deep and we realize: We need winter for depth.

After this formidable and defenseless time, warmth begins to propel life-giving signals calling forth nutrients. They surge upwards in the sap and when they reach the vine´s wounds, the vine ¨weeps.¨ (Perhaps it is partly in relief that winter is over.) When the sap reaches those openings, there is only one place to go: out. Those very cuts are gateways for healing tears and for the ushering in of spring. If we refuse to embrace this part of the transition between winter and spring, we will abort a crucial piece of God´s plan for us. Winter is meant to be mourned. Grief is essential to authentic healing. Tears are instrumental to experiencing the Spirit´s curative flow of restoration. Weeping creates space for future rejoicing and the welcoming of a new season.



Nature´s mysteries are God´s mysteries. Nature´s stories are God´s stories. I am so grateful that He shares them with us and that their example and beauty are for our joy and insight. Do not be afraid of the winter...or of the weeping.



¨I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener.¨
John 15: 1


¨Remain in me as I also remain in you.¨
John 15:4



Friday, November 3, 2017

IF SHE HAD LIVED








































It´s crazy to even think about this. 
But for whatever reason I have been 
thinking about it. I do not mean to 
¨saint-ify¨ her in her death
but these are my musings...



First of all, if she had lived, it would have been because she received a miracle.
And with that miracle, she would never have been the same.
She would burst with joy to have a new chance at life,
to be with those she loved,
and to continue developing her passions.
She would have lived gratefully and fully.
I know He could have trusted her to hold a miracle with honor & humility.

If she had lived, I think there would have been a certain amount of drama.
People would have wanted to see her, talk to her, see her scars (if they were still there).
Others might have wanted to interview her, she might have travelled, she might have been given amazing opportunities to speak of the power and love of God.
But the best thing?  Seeing those who previously didn´t believe, actually believe.
She would have loved that.
If she had lived.

And after things calmed down & the celebrations slowed,
Real life would have begun again.
But it would look different...

If she had lived, she would have graduated with honors.
She would have begun making plans to return to the Middle East,
perhaps first getting her Masters in Paris where she had dreamed of going.
She would have studied Arabic.
She would have lived a deep spirituality with a vibrant faith.
She would have loved her family even more richly & not taken for granted the extra days given to us.
She would have laughed & prayed & talked with her friends & told them about what God had done.
Then she would have thrown herself into her life work:
restoring justice to hurting Syrian refugees.

If she had lived, our family would be different.
We would not have grieved; we would have celebrated.
We would not have lived in darkness; we would have experienced a great light.
We would not have wavered in our theology,
We would not have lost our energy & joy for a long time,
Our kids would not be questioning God´s goodness or His reality,
They would be reveling in a personal God of love & power.
Oh! if she had lived!

If she had lived, she would have passionately urged her generation to follow God.
She would have urged them to live for something bigger than themselves
and to join causes that mattered around the globe.
She would have led them to seek the One of crazy, passionate love for youth
and have helped strategize on how to make Him relevant.
If she had lived, she would have changed the minds of many dubious about millennials.

If she had lived, she would have loved her siblings furiously and talked with them late into the night about all that was on their minds.
As the eldest, she would have pioneered a path of faith, excellence in life work, passion in relationships, being genuine with your heart and expressing yourself in honest, thoughtful & artful ways.
She would have cheered them on like crazy & given them a kick in the butt if they had needed it.
Oh! If she had lived!

If she had lived, maybe she and I would have written a book together.
If she had lived,  she would have gone on many more adventures & travels with her father.
If she had lived, her friends would be deliriously happy & they would move heaven & earth to find their next rendez-vous point.
If she had lived, our whole neighborhood would be different! All of the kids´ schools would be different! The hospital would be different! Our lives would be different!
Oh! If she had lived!

If she had lived, in time, she would have met the most amazing human being.
He would have loved her like a queen.
She would have loved him with all of her passion & creativity & commitment.
Together they would have been world-changers.
Her siblings would have been jealous, in awe and over-the-moon happy for her.
They would raise beautiful Mother Teresas and Nelson Mandelas.
All would have been as it should be.

But life is not always ¨as it should be.¨

As God would have it, she didn´t live.
And now EVERYTHING is different.
Everything.

Just not the kind of different written above.

If she had lived,
we would not have received God´s comfort for our mourning.
If she had lived,
we would not have lived the amazing kindnesses of community.
If she had lived,
I would not have believed beauty could come from ashes.
If she had lived,
there would be no perfume of suffering in our lives.
If she had lived,
there would be way fewer honest wrestlings with God about faith.
If she had lived,
we would not have learned about deep places & their significance for our lives.
If she had lived,
I would have nothing to say to others grieving.
If she had lived,
I would not know God who I know Him to be today.

If she had lived...
a million unseen things would not have occurred in the kingdom of God.
If she had lived...
a million untold things for the future would be left untold.
If she had lived...
Oh! if she had lived!







Photo by: Angela Marie Henriette

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

THE RACE MARKED OUT FOR ME



























With big thanks to Ralph Anderson
for helping me reflect on these verses.


¨And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us...¨  
Hebrews 12:1




I have been entrusted with a race.
It is uniquely mine.
No one else can run it for me.
No one is competing with me for it.
I go at my own pace...
The pace he has given me capacity for.
I run in my own style...
The style he has created me for.

Sometimes it doesn´t look pretty.
Races have many stages, many stations.
My race sometimes has detours.
Sometimes it has a roadblock.
At times there are others cheering me on
And other times there are long stretches of desert loneliness.

I like it best when I can see others running their race nearby.
We don´t follow the same course
Nor do we all finish at the same time...
Yet we are headed to the same finish line!
I love that.
We run unique races yet the same One calls us.

But some days I wish I could run someone else´s race.
Their´s may look easier or more fruitful or even more fun.
But then who would run my race?
The one I have been entrusted with?
No one else can run for me.
No one else can run it in the way that I can.
And He has created each of us to display certain aspects of Him.
We each carry that privilege, that trust.

I have been entrusted with a race.
I am not sure why mine has been riddled with so much sadness.
Yet there has also been fragrant & beautiful fruit.
I don´t want anyone to miss seeing His amazing grace in grief.
I don´t want anyone to miss seeing hope in loss.
I don´t want anyone to miss seeing His display of love on me.
So I keep on running.

I have run for Him throughout the years,
Through continents, creative kingdom work,
Through pouring into others, through blessing, through hardship.
There have been many curves & plenty of love-hills.
And it has sometimes been very, very hard.
Those are days to ¨consider Him,¨
Those are days to fix my eyes on the finish line,
Those are days to look for the Pioneer of Faith.
So that I´ll keep on running the race...
The one marked out for me.

I have been entrusted with a race.
It is uniquely mine.
No one else can run it for me.
I will run, walk and even crawl to get to that finish line.
I want others to see His uniqueness in me,
I want to hear ¨well done,¨
I want to see Him.
That is why I run
This race marked out for me.




¨Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.¨
Heb. 12:2

¨Consider him...so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.¨ 
Heb. 12:3






Thursday, October 19, 2017

JUST YESTERDAY









































Wasn´t it just yesterday I held you in my arms
and stared at wondrous newborn perfection?
Wasn´t it just yesterday we sang & giggled & danced,
read books & made huge messes in the kitchen?
Wasn´t it just yesterday your Dad pushed you on a swing in the plaza
higher than all the other kids?
Wasn´t it just yesterday?

Wasn´t it just yesterday that we walked you to school
where you began to forge your thinking as your own?
Wasn´t it just yesterday you prayed so sincerely,
adored & bossed your little sister and avidly used two languages?
Wasn´t it only yesterday that you wanted to be baptized in Buenos Aires
before our big move to Casablanca?
Wasn´t it just yesterday?

Wasn´t it just yesterday that you showed so much character in difficult transition
that I said to your father when you were only eight that you are braver than I?
Wasn´t it just yesterday that we arrived to Spain where you made lifelong friends,
welcomed your baby brother, explored music and art and spiritual community?
Wasn´t it just yesterday you developed increased passion in literature, languages &
far away places?
Wasn´t it just yesterday?

Wasn´t it just yesterday that you shared secrets & laughter & a million memories,
merging your soul with your sister´s?
Wasn´t it just yesterday that conversations deepened with your Dad
as you travelled together?
Wasn´t it just yesterday that you could play endless games of cards with your brother
and then just as naturally engross him in topics way beyond his years?
Wasn´t it just yesterday?

Wasn´t it just yesterday that you graduated from high school, planned out a gap year in France
and brought a spiritual revolution back to our home & to Málaga?
Wasn´t it just yesterday that I left you at your university with newfound international friends
and then watched you grow & flourish & extend your wings?
Wasn´t it just yesterday that you challenged the thinking & spirituality of others,
opened your home to anyone & increasingly grew in passion for the Middle East?
Wasn´t it just yesterday?

Wasn´t it just yesterday that your beautiful personality was maturing,
a blending of deep, genuine, funny and interesting?
Wasn´t it just yesterday that our relationship began to turn peer
and you were teaching me things about my own self?
Wasn´t it just yesterday that you would invade the kitchen & cook up a foreign storm
complete with French music and a sexy, flamenco apron?
Wasn´t it just yesterday?

Wasn´t it just yesterday that you packed your bags for six months in Lebanon,
embarking on your first real international solo job & research for your senior year?
Wasn´t it just yesterday that your Dad & I listened by skype to your adventures & insights,
wondering Who Is This Girl We Raised?!
Wasn´t it just yesterday that after many challenges, amazing relationships & learning
you came back home to the place & people you said always grounded you?
Wasn´t it just yesterday?

And wasn´t it just yesterday that God suddenly put you on a much different journey
and through the shock you embraced His purposes for you?
Wasn´t it just yesterday we spent months fighting for your life, praying for miracles
and reveling in so much love poured out on us, an ordinary family?
Wasn´t it just yesterday that the moment of ultimate sacrifice came to us:
release you back to the One who loved you first?
Wasn´t it just yesterday?

Wasn´t it just yesterday that we said good-bye, cried for months
and couldn´t figure out how to live without you?
Wasn´t it just yesterday that your family was thrust into grief
as your last chapter on earth was sealed & you went to your eternal home?
Wasn´t it just yesterday we wrestled & mourned & celebrated & remembered
all the while questioning: How could this be real?
Wasn´t it just yesterday?

No, it´s been three years.

Three years of wrestling & questions, of insights & doubts, of receiving comfort & feeling desolate.  Three years of tears & learning, tentatively comforting each other, pushing our way through fatigue & depression.
Three years of searching for the right healthy outlets, the true listeners, the acceptance of styles and paces of grief among us.
Three years of trying to balance honoring you while moving on.
Three years of trying to learn something very, very hard: How to do life without you?

It seems it will take us the rest of our lives.

For your life, your person & the memories formed are so near, so real, so precious.
They all feel like it was...just yesterday.

Wasn´t it just yesterday?