Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Greatest Arrival


We’ve been reading through the Jesus Storybook Bible with our kids (which I would suggest even for people with no children!). We are still in the Old Testament and each story has some mention of our need for a savior, our inability to rescue ourselves, or the prince to come. I love it. It gives me such a deep appreciation for the intense waiting period that creation endured. Reading bible stories in that context gives me a feeling of connection to that waiting period. Of course, I’m not super super old (note that I’m not even about to put a number on that…this isn’t that kind of blog people, take your debates elsewhere) and I wasn’t there literally waiting for Jesus. But I am a part of the carefully crafted creation that has a deeply sincere need and longing for redemption. My debt of sin piling up and swallowing me whole, just like everyone before and after me. Even before I was aware of it, I carried my yearning for reconciliation and peace with God like an anchor tied to my soul. And because of mercy and grace, my souls breathes and my heart beats new life.

 The birth of Jesus is about the arrival of the Good King. The true, noble, faithful, ruler who walked among us has come! It’s when all of creation sighed in relief and then filled its lungs to sing the highest praises. For generations, the faithful waited. The birth of Jesus is where anticipation meets fulfillment.

So let’s rejoice.

He came, He came! He came just like He promised. Our waiting is over. All this struggle and all this yearning, now breathes relief. We have a Savior! We know His name. And we are His people! He adopts us into his family as children. We are welcomed into the blessed family of Christ to join His kingdom forever. We have a beautiful inheritance. And this day that we celebrate each year; it marks the beginning; the beginning of hope, the beginning of GRACE.




Saturday, November 30, 2013

Like A Sojourner

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,  Hebrews 1:3


The morning after our nine month old barely escaped stitches from a fall on my watch, I clung to the covers gripped between guilt and fear. It was all I could do to stay in bed and replay my worries like a bad vacation slide on repeat. Guilt, because like I said, he was under my care when he fell. A million doubts and comparisons filled my mind. Do I give my kids too much freedom? Would this have happened to So&So who is much more cautious than me? Fear, because I taught myself to memorize the creeping doom of the realization that what seemed like nothing, was actually something serious. When our firstborn, Lyric, was three weeks old he had unexpected surgery to correct a condition called Pyloric Stenosis. A surgery that he probably needed earlier than he got, all because I kept insisting that he wasn't spitting up as much as it seemed like. I was so determined not to be the mom who freaks out, so determined to keep my composure. Granted, he still got the treatment he needed and he was totally fine. But any time one of my kids is sick or hurt, I’ve never escaped that little voice in the back of my mind that whispers "But remember that one time?" 

Under the sheets that morning I begged like a sojourner at a stranger’s door. I pleaded for Him to shelter me and protect me from my fear. Like a blizzard blowing in cold and quick, it was chasing me and closing in on me. I begged that He would let me in to warm myself by the glow of His radiance. I was nurtured by the very moment the door began to crack open. Overwhelmed by the senses of Home, the sounds of laughter and life, the taste of hot biscuits and honey, I knew I would weather the storm. I was affectionately taken in and had forgotten about the threats of the cold lies that blew violently against the windows.  The panes could rattle and shake all they wanted, but I was safe now. I was out of harm's way and could take off my mittens and all my layers, and sit, welcomed by a fire that had a place for me.


The wasteland of guilt and fear will always be ready for me. It will always be beckoning me to come out and dwell there; to let my comparisons and my doubts run wild. I’d never be alone in the wasteland, because some of you are there. Some of you got lost in the storm and it took everything from your heart. It took the joy of motherhood and replaced it with a measuring stick. It took the affection of a home filled with love and replaced it with rigidity and routine. It took the thrill of life and traded it with safety and comfort. I’ll miss you, but I won’t join you there. Come join me here, take a blanket and cover yourself with grace. There’s a spot here at the fire for you too.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Word That Hurts


So here’s the thing. As a blanket statement, I would have told you that I vowed never to write one of those blog posts that is an “open letter,” or “here’s what you need to know about [fill in the blank], or generally angry posts. As a generality I get the vibe that some of those authors just need to go have a real conversation with a few real people and not air their junk for the world. I thought about that exact thing as I felt compelled to write this particular post. And when I questioned myself about who I needed to have this particular conversation with I was able to come up with a short list….of people who I knew I did not have to have this conversation with. Which shows me that this is really a wide ranged cultural issue, not the personal offense of a few in my own personal  life.

I don’t even know how to start this. My instinct on this subject is to go guns blazing. I’ll start by explaining what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the r-word. Using the word retard or retarded to refer to something or someone as “less than.” And while we are at, throw in all jokes about special needs, short buses, and special olympics.

So now you know what on earth I’m speaking about. Let’s jump in.

Using the r-word to convey that you think something is stupid or dumb is the worst possible choice. What is the most upsetting is that it’s socially acceptable. I’ve heard the kindest people, the closest friends, the smartest people, and people who say they love the people Jesus loves…all use this word. I’ve seen people use this word so much and so often, and that it is so engrained in their vocabulary, that they will even say it in front of a person with special needs. If you don’t see the problem, then let me ask you this…Have you EVER heard that term used in reference to a compliment? Picture the times you have said it or heard it said. What was the context?

Now here is where we will take a little time out. A little pause for clarification. There are two groups/contexts that this word is commonly being used.

Context #1: Using the word retard to describe a person who has some type of disability or apparent difference

Context #2: Using the word retard or retarded as a synonym for “stupid, dumb, or ridiculous”

To the people of context #1: Please change your language. You may be honestly naïve, in that case I would encourage you to educate yourself. This website is a great place to start.

To the people of context #2: You should feel ashamed of yourself and your actions.

I know that seems harsh, and it is. But using cheap and derogatory language to target a person or group is far more harsh. Using hurtful language about a group of people who (as a group) are not capable to defend much less retaliate…is shameful. For most of us, there are two prevalent reasons for avoiding minority slurs. The first and hopefully foremost reason for not using slurs is because it is hurtful and wrong. The second reason is that we know that in most cases, we won’t get away with it (and shouldn’t) because that group or individuals from that group will make sure that our bad behavior is corrected. But who is coming after those who degrade citizens with special needs? Who makes sure that when you make a joke about a short bus, you regret it? No one is afraid that people with special needs will lash out with the full force of their time, people, and resources…Why? Because some people in this group are dependent on caretakers and some people in this group aren’t capable of taking on that fight on their own. It kind of dissolves that “fear of retaliation” thing. So it’s time for us to get offended. It’s time for those of us who stand beside those who live with special needs to get offended.  My biggest regret is that I never said the words “That’s wrong,” and “you can’t spend time in my home if that word will be a part of your vocabulary,” and “that word is hurtful,” and “I don’t care if you meant it like that.” I wish I had let the offense sink in more than the awkwardness of confrontation. So from now on, I’m just gonna get awkward and do the right thing.

I wanted to write a blog that was so smart, that had the strongest reasoning and debate. I wanted you to see past my personal motives and hear the call to live rightly. I wanted this to circulate and raise awareness. But the truth is, this word has hurt my family and me and it’s insulted my sister and so many others. If you need some big in depth explanation for why the r-word isn’t “PC,” then you should really think about what that says about you as person. If the simple fact that this word hurts others isn’t enough for you…then I’m not even mad. I pity you. I’m disappointed over your lack of care for your fellow man. And I’m sad in the life you miss out on by not caring for others outside yourself.







So let's change our language. Let's love all our fellow men and women. Let's call ourselves and our friends to a higher standard.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Stories: My Life Altering Wings Run

One of the most important moments of my life happened in a car.

I was starting my sophomore year of college and it was kickoff week. I'd been asked to go get wings with a group that I didn't typically run with. I knew David, but that was pretty much it. Austin volunteered to drive me, and since I had made it my life's work to be the one girl who wasn't impressed by him, I reluctantly agreed and rode with him. I had a point to prove. (I know this move totally has an Anne of Green Gables and Gilbert Blith vibe all over it.) But because I'm inwardly a dork and I'm not one of those "yea I mainly hang out with guys, girls just don't like me" types, I grabbed my roommate and asked her to come (what I did not know until about ten minutes later, was that she clearly had a crush on him). Just to give you an accurate picture of just how powerful the events of this car ride were I'll give you a little insight to the way I viewed Austin. Upon entering his Volkswagen GT I thought he was arrogant, self absorbed, a little shady, a lot sketchy, and very cute.  On the way there, even though he asked me to ride with him, I got booted to the backseat by my enthusiastic *ahem* roomie. They started talking about who knows what, most likely it was music because she was so cool and legit with music stuff. Then I got a mass text from an acquaintance with a joke about special needs people. I basically erupted in the back seat. I don't remember exactly what I said but it was something along the lines of "Oh my gosh. I can't believe this." But with very high volume and personal outrage and completely interrupting their music chat. I completely expected this guy, who I thought was probably like an inch deep, to tell me I was making a big deal out of nothing. At the least I expected him to do what everyone does and use the good ole “They didn’t really mean it like that,” or at least the half hearted “Well I’m sure she didn’t know you had a special needs sister.” (You should FULLY anticipate a blog post unleashing my full personal outrage and call to action on this subject.)

Do you know what this guy said? This guy who was popular and cute and had no reason to go against the norm and believe/do/care what was right? He said, “I can’t believe some people. That’s so wrong.”

Crrrrreeeekkkk. That was the sound of my heart door cracking open. This guy, this cute and popular guy, he was different. And his difference, made all the difference.




Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Stories: The Tale of The Many Mini Candy Bars


 **This is a funny story. If you find yourself in a deep in reflective place, you’ve gone too far and missed the turn.

We used to do this ministry thing in the apartment complex where we lived in our early days. Basically, we planned and carried out events for our complex with the intention of building relationships. I was pregnant with our first, Lyric. But for the sake of this story you should know that I was almost equally pregnant with a very large….sweet tooth. A sweet tooth like no other sweet tooth, this sweet tooth could send me into tears at a moments notice until I was driven to the nearest self-serve frozen yogurt establishment. Cushioned atop billowing swirls of delightful vanilla and chocolate yogurt with an occasional strawberry ribbon, were carefully selected peanut m&ms and chocolate sprinkles. Ah the delight! Oh the satisfaction! The initial sweet crunch of victory followed by the cool embrace of delicate dairy.  Uhh..err…pardon me. Back to the story.

I had a part time job, and Austin had a few part time jobs. This left me with ample time in the apartment. So I planned a Halloween event for our big monthly shin dig. We made food and I got the high school small group I led to help me make like a million black foam bats to hang around the apartment office along with egg crate spiders. (This was pre-pinterest, people. This is craftiness you actually had to work for, no one handed it to me on a silver platter of cuteness.) I put together a myriad of fun games and a costume contest, put the flyers out for the party and hit up Costco. (Oh Costco, how I long for you. You are the superior bulk shopping store.) No…wait…I was distracted by my bias for Costco vs. Sams Club. I did not buy the candy at Costco I bought it at Target. And yes, that detail does matter. You will need to have an idea of the approximate size of the bags of candy I bought…and I have a sweet tooth, but not quite at the Costco level. Anyway. One of the nice things about our apartment manager was that he asked that we only buy name brand products. He didn’t want the events looking janky. (janky: homemade but not in the good way, unprofessional, pieced together, makeshift. Pronounced: jane-key) So I arrived home with four, count them- four variety bags of name brand candy. The afternoon of Halloween we set up our adorable party and waited for the party goers and trick or treaters to come by on their way out for a night of fun. And we waited….and we waited. And then our two couple friends who lived in the complex came by. Then thankfully a really sweet family with a really sweet toddler came by (we could always count on them). And then…the occasional resident paying their rent would notice our party and grab a little candy while they waited. Seven. Seven people and one dog. Seven people, one dog, and four bags of candy. Nine people if you count Austin and me. We waited it out for the painstaking two hours that the party was scheduled for and then packed up and went home.

Maybe it was the pain of event failure. Maybe it was the pregnancy. I’m almost sure it wasn’t my utter lack of self-control. Whatever the reason…that candy haunted me in the days following the party.  One bag of candy had been left in the office, one bag of candy had been prematurely opened in anticipation of a big turn out for the party, and two bags remained unopened. It made perfect sense that we would save that candy and use it at future events. In fact, now that I’m writing it out…I think I might have actually stolen that candy by technicality, since it was for our residents. So in my weakness I started treating myself to a little lunch time mini candy bar or two. Then eventually that became a lunch candy and a mid afternoon candy. Then, before I knew it, I had found the bottom of that bag. I needed more. So I dove into the next bag of variety candy. It was the good stuff people, Kit Kat, Snickers, Butterfinger, M&M’s. I quickly realized that Austin would never approve of the complete and utter gluttony I was entertaining. So I did what any good wife would do when she is faced with the decision between her man and her sugar. I hid the sugar. This kept my man in blissful ignorance and my sweet tooth satisfied. I would give this marriage advice to anyone. We had a ridic-U-lous kitchen with the best storage EVER. It was so easy to hide that candy. All wadded up in the back corner of the lower cabinet beside the pantry, I can still see it. When I started eating more than two four six candies a day…I began to hide the wrappers between different trashcans or bury the wrappers under at least three other larger pieces of trash. As you can see…it was a problem. And that problem came to (some) light one fateful prenatal appointment. Like any good dad with a weird hodge podge of jobs, Austin came with me to every appointment but one. At this appointment I was supposed to gain between one and two pounds. I gained at least six. And that’s when my wonderful, Christian, cowboy, fatherly, doctor told me blunty in front of my still newly wedded husband, that two pounds of my weight gain was for my baby and the rest was just me.
That’ll get ya.
So I finished up that bag of candy and then decided that I wouldn’t buy more. Wow, I can just bask in the light of that discipline and wisdom. I mean really, that took guts.


And so was the tale of the many mini candy bars. A couple of YEARS later, I confessed to Austin. And it went something like this “Remember how I mysteriously got so huge with Lyric and with the other kids I haven’t had that happen? Well…..” And to this day I have to take extreme measures to keep my addiction under control. If you follow me on instagram, you are almost guaranteed to see a picture of my three self allotted Halloween candies. I’m already excited! I love you, candy.



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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Stories: Garlic, Butter, and Marriage


Last night I used a spoonful of minced garlic for dinner. As soon as the garlic hit the hot skillet, I was taken back to the kitchen of the house I grew up in.

“Ok, alright. You’re leaving now? Ok, see you in a minute. Love you.” My mom hung up the phone and almost simultaneously opened the fridge and pulled out a jar of minced garlic. She started heating up the blue skillet with the wobbly handle, which I think was probably ceramic? I’m not sure, I just know the thing was probably older than I was. She pulled out the butter and generously put two or three tablespoons straight into the pan to melt. Then went in a spoonful or two of garlic. She stood there stirring it all around and around and hollered out “Girls, make sure the front of the house looks good. Daddy had a hard day!” I’m sure we reacted reluctantly. Then I came through the front study into the kitchen and saw my mom sautéing and staring into space.

“What’s for dinner?”

“I’m trying to decide.” My mom answered with her lips pressed together with her head tilted back, like when she is trying to remember something.

“But you’re cooking it now.” It seems like when a person is two steps into the cooking process, they know where they are going with it, right?

“Well I’m just heating up this garlic and butter so that it smells good.”

“What? Why?”

“Because Dad loves the smell of garlic and butter cooking when he comes home. It’s like a comfort smell or something. But he likes it so when he has a bad day, I do the garlic first and then I figure out what we are having with it.”

And that friends, was my first big lesson in marriage. That’s what love looks like over time. Love that lasts through triumph and trials knows when to heat up the garlic. I’m not sure if my dad ever knew that my mom did that. I’m not even sure if my mom realizes that she does it either. But every time I smell garlic slowly sautéing in a sea of butter, I think about my parents. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Stories: My story


This new series was born out of inspiration. Our small group has been starting off the year by sharing testimonies from each couple one week at a time. Since we are a new group, this has been such a great time of getting to know each other beyond the surface. And by great time, I mean it has been awesome. We have also found ourselves making some new friends as well as getting to know old ones a little better. There have been so many stories exchanged over the pasted few months. It’s made me get the itch for a few good stories. I’m starting with the most important one, and from there…they are in no particular order. If there is one story from my life you need to know, it is this one.

My family always went to church and I knew that my parents loved the Lord. Every morning before school I woke up to my mom putting on her make up in the living room while she watched the news with her bible study book open to the day’s study she just finished with her bible and journal stacked over it. On car rides home from youth group I would talk about certain worship songs from the night and if the lyrics for some reason didn’t sit right with me. My dad used that as an opportunity to try to explain basic theology to me. I vividly remember my dad driving on this huge dark curve in the road near Berry Middle School while he explained TULIP to me, and where our family stood with Calvinism. So now that I have gotten a little ahead of myself on the timeline, you can see that faith was a staple of my life as a child and teen.
When I was seven, I decided I was ready to follow Jesus. It’s funny because I don’t remember where I heard the gospel for the first time, but I knew that you had to pray and talk to God about it. Another thing I don’t remember any detail about is that for some reason my mom had been babysitting a couple of kids for a short amount of time in our tiny duplex. I remember being the oldest and announcing that I was going to become a Christian and asking who wanted to pray with me. Later that day I told my parents, and they decided that I should sit down with them and our pastor and talk about what that meant. Now that I think about it, it’s really sweet and touching that our pastor would do that. Our church wasn’t enormous (at the time), but it was still pretty big. I can picture the conversation with Pastor Steve happening in two different places. I vividly remember sitting in a conference room around a huge, long, shiny, cherry wood conference table. But I also remember eating Fritos in a plastic bowl on our tiny concrete porch, waiting for Pastor Steve to arrive at our home. So like I said, I don’t remember the details well at all. I do remember this little booklet that illustrated a little stick person (me) and the word “God” on two cliffs facing each other. The only way to get across the divide was by Jesus who would bridge the gap. I carried that little booklet with me everywhere. After I prayed with my dad, and knew for sure what I was actually praying about…I looked at that booklet with such happiness because I knew I was on the other side.

It wasn’t until much later in life that I was able to discern between wanting to look good for people and wanting to BE good like Jesus and for Jesus. At my last summer camp after my senior year of high school, there was a worship night out in the mountains in Colorado in May surrounding a big wooden cross. I don’t remember any of the sermon that was preached that night or any of the songs we sang. What I do remember is kneeling face down in the dirt, praying and feeling absolutely overwhelmed that Jesus, being who he was, endured death for me, just as I was. I think it was the first time as a young adult that I really let myself think deeply about the pain and sacrifice of the gospel. I will never forget the beauty of that moment. As I lifted my head from prayer, I looked up to see snow flurries falling down. I know that in Colorado, especially in the mountains, it probably isn’t that crazy for a few snow flurries to fall in May. But to me, it was like hearing God say “I’m so glad your mine.”

When I went to college, I was working out the difference of “God the Savior” to “God the Lord of all my heart and life”—I just didn’t know it yet. I had grown up my whole life with a special needs sister, and had no idea how deeply ingrained her life was into mine. I didn’t realize how different our family was, I didn’t realize how much harder it was for us to get out and do things; I didn’t realize how far reaching the differences in our daily life really were. When most kids go to college they get kind of intoxicated with the bliss of their freedom. When I went to college I got that…and then I got mad. When I realized how much freedom and spontaneity were missing from my life and my family’s life, I was mad. When I realized that my sister would never experience the ecstasy of independence that I had, I got mad.  When I realized that most people are naïve, and lots of people are plain ignorant about anything outside of perfect health, I got mad. I had many crying, screaming, ranting conversations with God. But you know what? It was the first time I had passion in my relationship with God. I kept pushing to find the Truth and find Jesus and find goodness in the midst of my confusion. There were moments I wondered if Christianity was just a cult that threw clichés solutions at trite little problems. I wanted to find the people who fought for the hard answers, I wanted to find the churches that went further than emotion, I wanted Jesus to be real and I wanted him to give me some answers. One day in the car, waiting to pick up a friend from the dorms…I got my answer. It came clear as a bell. And you know what? It brought peace beyond my understanding…because honestly when you see what it was…you will wonder why it didn’t just make me more mad.  For the (probably) one thousandth time, I shook my proverbial fist at God and asked “Why her?!” And then it came. “Because I’m bigger than her. You need to see that I’m bigger than all of it.” And that was it. As painful as it was to hear, the truth is that God is no less God because my sister has special needs and He is no less God because I don’t get how it all adds up in the end. That was when I started believing that God hadn’t forgotten or overlooked us. That was when I cracked the door open just a little bit, to believing that God could still be a big sovereign God and be good and be loving, and not heal my sister.

I want to be very clear that my process was not an over night thing. But this was the catalyst of change for me. This was when I took ownership for my own relationship with the Lord, regardless of how it looked to the outside world. This was when the grace of God stopped being about checking boxes and starting being about authenticity. Over the next few years, there were a few more catalysts of change for me. Transferring to a large liberal state school changed my approach to spiritual discipline. Moving across the country to do ministry with my husband changed the way I viewed obedience. And the list goes on.  I struggled very much when I started writing this out, because I wanted to plump up some parts and make sure that people saw that just because my story wasn’t dramatic, didn’t mean it wasn’t interesting. But the truth is that my story is somewhat simple, and yet still miraculous. This is the story of my soul’s life. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Both And


Kids are in bed, dishes are done, The West Wing is NOT on via Netflix because Austin is not here to watch it with me, I’m suddenly exhausted. Too exhausted even, to comprehend the Awana Cubbies booklet that just came home with Lyric. When something is entitled “Appleseed,” I’m sure that they mean it to be an easy read. For the life of me, I can’t figure out where his sticker should be or if there was something I was supposed to do differently, or is it a stick or a patch? Anyway. That all being said, this is probably the best opportunity to write I will get all week. Lily had horrendous, nasty pink eye this week, but we also got to eat ice cream and dance to Cinderella’s “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes.” So all in all, it’s been a week. Oh geez, it’s only Tuesday. So what no one tells you about motherhood, the thing that no one says, but every mom secretly knows at baby showers….Ok pause. Before I say it, I have something else to add. I think for most women being a mom falls into one of two initial ideas. One idea is that being a mom is the best and most fulfilling and wonderful thing ever. The second idea is that being a mom is so hard, and so overwhelming and at times the grossest, most stressful thing ever.

So here is my big reveal. Being a mom is THE hardest, grossest, most stressful thing ever AND it is THE most wonderful, life giving, fulfilling, beautiful thing ever. (Admit it, when you read that sentence ((terrible grammar as it was)) you sided with one idea more than the other right?) Being a mom means that you have this tiny person or people, who need you more than anyone has ever needed you. They depend on you, they love you, and their whole life is built upon what you have to offer.  No one ever tells you that once you find out you are bringing a new life into your family; you will be in an unending catch 22. But you a really are, my friend, you so are. You will want to protect and love and be with this person forever all the time, and you will day dream of freedom in the form of a quiet afternoon alone at a coffee shop. You will cry when you drop them off, finally get used to being apart, be reminded of their little quirks, begin down a trail of “I wonder what they are doing right now,” moving on to “I hope that they did this, or not that, or aren’t such and such.” Finally, ending at “I can’t wait to see them,” and then coming right back to “When can we do that again?” It’s insane really. But if you have ever been in love, you know that some types of insanity are so worth it. Certain illogistics are the truest parts of life. (Did I just do that? Yea, I made that word y’all.)

That’s what the world doesn’t quite get. That’s what I didn’t get, until I was pulled in. There is nothing else in life that is as completely and honestly tiring, yet amazingly fueling. I’ve never given more of myself than in the last three years, and I’ve never found more of myself than I have in the past three years. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Unveiling Loneliness


I know I should be writing. But even though there are a lot of things that I have thoughts about, I don’t feel like there are many thoughts that fit into what I like to write about. I like to write about things that are resolved. I don’t like writing about things that are still fresh and ongoing for me. If this doesn’t make sense for you, go back and read some posts about how I hate being it’s hard for me to be vulnerable, mainly this post. Anyway, there is something that I know I probably should write about, because as I started sharing what I am going through with friends, they started sharing that they are going through something very similar. At first I just thought I was feeling isolated because of “this” or because of “that”….but what I am finding is that this isn’t a “this” or “that” thing, it’s a grown up woman thing. When I talk to grown up women, especially grown up women from 25-35 years old we all agree that loneliness is real. Loneliness is real, and usually to some degree, it is felt among the masses. Isn’t that ironic?

And see, here is where I get stuck. As a writer I get stuck because I don’t have any answers, not one single little answer. Ok I have an answer…but I should say that I don’t have any solutions or practical application. I am also stuck because I refuse, REFUSE, to write one of those “here is what I need you to know, and here is everything you, the world, are doing stuff wrong” posts. I just won’t blame all my problems on my readers and the world around me. And then the biggest reason I’m stuck is probably because the last thing I want is pity. (side note: growing up with a special needs sister, I’m so anti-pity I can’t even tell you…but that’s another post for another day) So…what I’m going to do is this, I’m going to share a few quotes from a book I’m reading (The Church Planting Wife by Christine Hoover), then I’m going to share a couple of tidbits from my heart, then we can call it a day and I’ll call it a post.


“In other words, we are not guaranteed or entitled to heart friends. They are gifts of grace, and when we catch glimpses of sisterly love, we must receive it as such with deep gratitude….We tend to believe the myth that friendship should be easy, requires little effort, or, most debilitating, that we’re the only one who is having such a hard time with friendship.” Hoover, 73.

“There is no ideal friend or church community. We can’t place unrealistic expectations on ourselves or on others, thinking that they will satisfy all our deepest longings for connections.” Hoover, 74.

~Realizing that I’m not alone, was the first breath of relief for me. So you aren’t alone either. Also, realizing that everyone has crazy schedules and everyone is exhausted at the end of the day, it’s not just poor little me who would rather lay on the couch and relax at night.

~Challenging myself to build an inner circle of a few friends who I trust to share the details of my life with and to build a really fun circle of many friends that I enjoy.

~ Waking up to the freedom that each person brings different things to the table. The only friend I have that brings everything to the table is Christ himself. The only person who comes second to that is the one I married…and it isn’t his fault that he doesn’t want to have girl talk at my beg and call. I’m learning to let each individual be a unique friend, not an all-encompassing friend.

Alright, now I get to hit “submit,” throw my hands in the air, and declare that I still hate being vulnerable. And that I’m not sure how cohesive this post even is. And yea…this is what it’s like seeing me face stuff in real time. Not so eloquent. Have a great day! And wish us luck, tomorrow we embark on a great adventure to take the kids to a movie for the first time. 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

27, Flirty, and Thriving (dang I wish that rhymed)


Tomorrow I turn 27 years old. And today I accomplished a goal that I set two years ago, while I was pregnant with Lily. And this year was one of the best years of my life. Looking into what I thought this year would hold, I anticipated many hard days, but I never guessed the sum total would equal the best year. The best year. The most surprising year. The most demanding year. The growing pains year. The most humbling year. The sweetest year.

Ever since I was little I had this idea in my mind that being 27 years old would be “like so awesome.” It’s a sentiment very close to the idea that a young Jenna has about being 30, in the movie 13 Going on 30.  I always thought I would be so put together, I’d wear the cutest clothes (and for a time, I thought that meant tight mid drifts ((which I was not allowed to wear as a kid)) with over-all shorts and long hair that I would constantly be swishing back and forth like the best valley girl ever), I’d be dating or engaged to the most successful business man who wore a suit like a Ken doll, and I would drive a cherry red sporty car, I would have the coolest friends and we would do awesome things like roller skate and stay out all night.  But in all seriousness, 27 always seemed so illusive and so perfect. Now as I sit across from a little girl spilling and picking up popcorn over and over, a baby boy needing a nap, and my biggest little buddy runs around with a fresh haircut while my husband leads worship up at the church for one of three services this weekend….I know I was not only wrong about what the past year would be like, I have been wrong about everything I thought I wanted.

I thought that difficulty would always be bad. But ya know, this year I intentionally just let it sit. Just let it be, and gave myself the freedom to enjoy the big picture while I struggled through some zoomed in moments.  Below are a few highlights, a montage of the year if you will. You should start the youtube first and know that this would be my theme song for my montage, don't read into it--the song just gets me pumped up and the video makes me want to happy cry.




video





Friday, August 16, 2013

Crafting, Quilting, And Other Myths of Women's Ministry.


So usually my lack of writing is from lack of time. Lately though, it’s been a lack of decision making skills. Right now I feel passionate about so many things. Because I am chronically indecisive when it comes to trivial things (if you have ever EVER gone out to eat with me, or even through a drive thru with me…you know this), I’m forcing myself to just pick one and start writing. So, since I am awaiting the kick off of another ministry year as well as preparing to go to a great women’s event this evening and another in a week or so…I pick ministry! More specifically I pick ministry in the lives of women. Aka…women’s ministry.

Over the past few months I’ve had the chance to talk to women from all backgrounds, living in all different parts of the country, in all different stages of life. Some of them are heavily involved in the church (my beautiful pastors wife sisters….haha I almost wrote sister wives, definitely not the same thing!), some  of them are deeply committed to the Church via para-church organizations, some of them aren’t so crazy about the Church.  But all these women love Jesus. Most of them love the Church. Only a handful love women’s ministry.

Some of you just cringed when you read the words “women’s ministry.” How do I know that? Because there was a time many moons ago, when I too held an unfair prejudice against women’s ministry. I carried around this idea that it was just a bunch of crafty, quilting, cliché, women. And of those women I was certain that I had nothing in common with any of them. But here’s the thing: I was so utterly wrong. I was wrong in four ways really, A)#1: I had the most important thing in common with them, I had Jesus in common with them. At the very very least, I would know more of Him from studying the Word with fellow believers. And…furthermore: there is nothing wrong with moms who craft, or grandmothers who quilt or even people who seem cliché. Those women love Jesus and they are comfortable and secure with who they are. Those two qualities are basically what we are all striving for, am I right? Thirdly, there are some amazing, super cool, women (both beside and ahead of you in life) in women’s ministry. So perhaps….I don’t know…just maybe…instead of hoping that some super amazing older woman will randomly walk into your life to shepherd and encourage you and teach you….maybe you should just take advantage of all the women who are already at your disposal. Fourth and finally, (and this one is going to be harsh, but truthful. And I should also say that I am saying this to both my past and present self just as much, if not more than I say it to you) Get over yourself. Bible study, fellowship, accountability, prayer, worship, friendship: which of these things is so below you?

You have no idea what you are missing out on. Sign up for study at your church and give it a fair chance. And if you go to my church…I will unashamedly tell you that our women’s ministry is the healthiest one I’ve ever been a part of. I can’t emphasize it enough. Don't miss out!

Friday, August 2, 2013

July Reflection


Three years ago at this time I was shell shocked and nervous and scared.

Two years ago at this time I was full of fear living on the edge of panic.

One year ago at this time I was crushed and afraid and secretive.



Three years ago at this time, I was scared because He had given me a child.

Two years ago at this time, I was scared because He had taken one away already.

One year ago at this time, I was scared because He had given me back two fold, what I once feared would never be again.



Three years ago at this time, Lyric had just been born and had an unexpected surgery and we moved across the country.

Two years ago at this time, I found out I was pregnant with Lily and scared out of my mind that I would have another miscarriage and that I would never carry another of our children to term again.

Three years ago at this time, I found out I was unexpectedly pregnant with Fletcher, everything about my plans made sense and nothing about this surprise seemed to work in my mind, I was terrified about what the future would be like.



This summer I realized that all my fears had been proven wrong. The teeny tiniest seeds of belief from those times have been blessed beyond what I ever imagined.


And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” (Luke 1:45, ESV)




Saturday, July 27, 2013

Mine


The clouds pour out all they contain. The trees dance and bow down under command of the wind. The light is radical. The sound is all encompassing. All this… is just the earth’s worship of the One who is infinitely bigger and better and stronger and softer. And more fiercely than the strongest storm, and more gently than the most delicate petal of the most beautiful lily He says,

You
Are
Mine

Words so precious and so sweet. Words that are a promise, a declaration, a future.

At some point you have longed to have someone to whom you belong. You’ve yearned for someone to call you theirs. Whether a child yearning for a parent to love and protect them, or a single longing to have those words sweetly whispered by a soul mate. “You’re mine.” What could be sweeter? Could one word be more precious? MINE.

MINE can be ugly too, though. So selfish, so narrow minded, so short sighted, so hateful. It all changes with the heart of the one who speaks it.

Let God sing those words over you. Don’t white knuckle your life. You belong to someone.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Big News!

I am so excited to share something with you! You can now access this blog at the new address:

www.birdinatreeblog.com


Don't worry if change is hard for you, you can still find me at my old address: www.mrstullos.blogspot.com as well. I'm hoping the new address will be a simpler and easier way for you to find the blog and to share it with friends! Hope you are having a wonderful Sunday, we are enjoying the long holiday weekend!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

MOVE: I hope I'm never the same


So this is a post about love. God’s love, Jesus’ love, my love. For some people writing a post about love would be like…the throw away-blow off-last minute-fluff post. Not the case for me. For me, to dwell on love and grace…it’s a little out of character. In the partnership of truth and grace—I air on the side of truth. I like justice, I like things to be in their proper place, I like the order that truth brings to chaos. That being said, I have at times worked myself crazy getting caught in a cycle of frustration because surprise surprise: everyone on earth doesn’t consult me before making decisions…or hey, living life for that matter. My husband challenged me recently to pursue mercy, something that just sounds annoying to me. Ok not annoying but….well yea annoying. But I honestly committed to him that I’d give it a shot.
In a series of events in the last few months (some of my own doing and some not so much my choice) I’ve learned a few things that have rattled the deepest part of me. I hope I’m never the same. What I learned came in two parts, what I learned about God and what I learned about me.

Here is the biggest thing I finally learned about God. I say finally, because it’s never been hidden or hard to figure out. It’s all over the Bible, it fills our worship songs, and it is essentially one of the most basic concepts of the Gospel. Ready? If you read it carefully you may still be able to hear my mind exploding and my heart being totally flattened by it. (I’m going to type it the way I received it, so the “I” is not me. Make sense?)

“I am equal parts Mercy and Justice.
I satisfy my justice with my mercy.
If you aren’t pursuing both parts of me, you aren’t pursuing me.
My mercy is how you deal with ‘that thing’
I am the Good King AND the Merciful Judge.”

How could I have missed this for so long? Even though mercy and love and grace, are all different attributes of God, they would all be in one big box of the things I struggle with emulating. So I guess, I’ve just kind of skipped over those parts of God’s character—no, that can’t be true, because I have never struggled with receiving love, mercy, or grace for myself. Just with portioning it back out for others. But by seeing a more full picture of who Christ is, I want more. I want more of Him, I want to be like Him. I want to return His love. I want to revel in His love. I want to trust in His love. I want to live through the filter of His love. Out of His love both His justice and His mercy have been poured out and are being poured out. I wish I could accurately describe how much this changed, astonished, rattled, awakened, delighted my heart. You will just have to take me at my word, that this simple concept met with the grace to see it, has been life giving and renewing in me.  And so I guess this is a good time to get around to what I learned….or more what I realized about me.

Have you ever spoken to a person about something or someone that they supposedly love, but you just don’t buy it? Something in their nonchalant attitude or their distant tone, it just doesn’t read as love. They could give you a million reasons why it is love, but it doesn’t translate. It doesn’t show. It’s not obvious, it’s hidden, it’s guarded, and it’s forced. I’ve been on either side of that conversation far too many times. But this last time, it hit me hard. It hurt. It was offensive. And that’s when I realized, my love for Jesus has grown and changed and matured. I feel a sting followed by an ache, when I hear someone talk about my precious Jesus, my savior, with such matter of factness. I finally grasp the disgust of lukewarm faith. (Revelation 3:16) I’m done with that. I’m drawing a line in the sand. I love Jesus so why would I act any differently? For the first time I genuinely do not care if the cynics think I’m cliché, or the unbelievers think I’m crazy, or if the intellects think I’m naïve. Jesus saved my soul; I owe Him everything. I won’t hide my affections.  I want to love Him with such ferocity and devotion that my kids yearn for it, that they describe me as one who walks with the Lord, that they see all my victories are His victories, that they are drawn in and desperate for their own fellowship with Christ. I won’t look back and I won’t wait. I won’t hesitate to say His name. I won’t make vague allusions. My eyes have been opened. And what I see is so much more than I ever imagined. And I know there is still so much more.

When I met him I had no idea how to love or even what love was- true, real, pure love at least. But over the years He has kept on loving me with a patient, strong, steadfast love. And I realized I’m loving Him better because He is teaching me how. 

If you find yourself on the fence...don't wait any longer. Take the leap. Love and be loved.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

MOVE: Disillusion to Certainty

 Tonight I can't shake this undeniable burden for those who are disillusioned.  What I mean is, I've been really burdened for those people who are in the in-between. The only thing harder than change is waiting for it. Knowing and hoping that there is something new around the corner, but not knowing what. It's not just that you don't know what the change is, it's that you don't know when it will start or what it will look like. What about it will be wonderful and what about it will be painful? What will feel right and what will take some time to get used to? And the scariest question of all, What if I miss it? What if that change is staring me right in the face and waiting for me to make a move and I just...miss it? 
This series is titled MOVE and not switch, or flip, or change. It's called move because I think that is what all of us are really facing. Life is constantly moving us and sometimes we are moving it. Anyone who has known Christ long enough has known the constant movement and the ups and downs that change us forever.
I wish this post was something more concrete. I wish that for those of you who are waiting and hoping and ready, but not yet sure that I could somehow give you the next step. But I will promise you something far greater. I promise you with my whole heart, that I'm praying for you. I know all too well how difficult the road unplanned can be to travel. I remember begging God for some certainty. For anything that was sure and steady and real and unshakable. But He is that for you. When the next step is vague at best, know that you always have a steady trustworthy foundation. Don't let anything or anyone make you forget it. Not everything is muddled up. Jesus will never be disillusioned about your life. Take heart loved one. Take heart and have faith.

"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Thursday, May 23, 2013

MOVE: Normal to Healthful Part 2

In part one of this post, I shared with you the spiritual and emotional aspect of changing from a normal lifestyle to a healthful one. I should pause here and give some explanation to "normal" and my use of the word "healthful." My eating habits have never been just belligerently bad.  I've never driven through any given drive thru and ordered multiples of what was intended as a full meal, I've never drank my way through a full pack of anything, I've never made myself sick from over eating. All that to say...I have been a true normal American with a diet of cheese (my favorite), red meat (my favorite), and (my favorite) lots o' carbs. None of these things by themselves is inherently evil...but these with virtually no fruits, veggies, or other forms of protein...not good. In our culture, it is really normal to eat massive portion sizes and to disregard the health benefits of food and only think about how much we like the taste. Nothing about this approach to food is fueling; everything about it is normal.  I wish I had the ability to whip up a really informative and yet super cool looking pie graph and plate diagram illustration type thingy...but I'm a writer, so I'll stick with my words. 

I love the use of the word "healthful" to describe our lifestyle (also, take note that I am talking about a lifestyle and not a diet). Healthful is such a positive word that means beneficial to health, body and/or mind. Being healthy is not depleting, it's replenishing. I LOVE that one of the synonyms for the word "healthful" is the word "restorative." Restorative. What a great word. Most of us want restoration, yes? But most of us don't know where to start. I'm by no means a nutrionist, a dietician, a doctor, or a personal trainer....I'm just a person who changed the decisions I made, and I feel way better for it. So the deal with this post is that I tell you what I did and how/why it helped me. Maybe you try it and maybe you don't. My hope is that either way this post is restorative for your body and soul and you leave feeling energized. 

As much as I'm not going to push my personal eating habits on you, I would be remiss if I didn't emphasize the conviction I have about pursing health. I want to be very clear (especially as someone who has known the struggle of body image issues) that this conviction is not about weight or looking good. I realize that some will take the challenge to fitness and health more seriously than others. I realize that for some of us it’s even a fun thing. Some people love challenging themselves to train harder, run faster, and grow stronger and some people want to be healthful purely as the means to an end for an energy filled, full, God glorifying life. Everyone has different goals; you don’t have to go crazy if that isn’t your thing. Addressing the urgency of health is a tricky thing because it’s not as simple as “if you aren’t healthy you’re a glutton.” With that being said, I think I can simply say that deep down you know whether you are sinning in a gluttonous lifestyle. I know that looking back I have definitely gone through some phases of gluttony and I was always aware of it at some level and chose to ignore it. If you are under the impression that maintaining good health is optional....you are mistaken.  I'm even going to say something that won't be popular and that you don't hear often. If we disregard the seriousness of our gluttony, we are disregarding the seriousness of our sin. 

Well….so much for keeping the spiritual aspect in part 1. I can’t help myself I just believe the two are utterly connected at the core.

Five things I did and one question that made healthful living not suck
1. Trading
2. Worth it list
3. Have a good supply of food
4. Special occasions 
5. Doing it together

*Am I fully grasping the honor it is to live and walk as one that has been given the image of my Lord?

Trading: Make trades, not sacrifices. If you have the mind set that you are getting nothing in return then you won’t enjoy your health. Did I stop eating my chicken fried, my bread white, and my soda non-diet? Sure. Did I stop with my beloved late night sweets? Of course. Am I missing out on anything? Not really. I've eaten better food (and by that I mean yummier), enjoyed cooking, and gotten outside the box more in the last two months than I think I have in my entire life. I'm still eating such great delicious food. It's just driven by lean protein, herbs/spices, and vegetables. I'm eating real food, and I'm eating it like a real adult. If you love french fries, make roasted sweet potatoes. If you love mexican food, replace queso with fresh salsa...being healthy doesn't have to taste like cardboard. 

Worth-it List: Pretty self explanatory, but I will elaborate on it anyway. The worth-it list is (my husband’s idea) a small list of foods that you love so much and get to frequent so rarely, that it is truly worth the extra calories when the opportunity arises. I'll give you some examples of my worth-it list (and simultaneously share all my favorite Texan cuisine): Uncle Julio's, Blue Bell Ice Cream, Whataburger breakfast taquitos, Fred's Texas Cafe, Tillman's Roadhouse chicken fried steak, Babe's Chicken, Five Guys Burgers & Fries, Wing Stop original hot wings, Esperanza's migas, Chuy's deluxe chicken enchiladas, and Ellerbee. I know that seems like a lot for one list, but you have to keep in mind that the closest of these places is an hour and half away, and most of them are much much further.

Have a good supply of food: Don't hold back when it comes to stocking your fridge and pantry! Hunger is the biggest enemy to healthy eating. What I mean is that if you don't have healthy options available, then when dinnertime comes it is so much easier to grab drive thru. I try to make sure I have ingredients for about 4-5 meals a week and then eat leftovers on the other nights. I also make sure to have plenty of options for healthy snacks. Some of our household favorites are hummus and veggies, whole wheat tortilla and salsa (great for pre or post work out), raw almonds, Pirate Booty (it’s so good and feeds my chip craving, plus the serving size is plentiful!), fruit, and apples with peanut butter (sub almond butter for a leaner option). For those of you looking for some healthy meal recipes that you can trust (Pinterest is great, but it comes with no gurantees. Can I get an amen?) be watching for the “Healthful” page that will soon be added to this blog.

Special Occasions: If you are getting married, having a baby, celebrating a birthday, or having a party to commemorate a holiday—I’m gonna eat ya grub! But the key is keeping small serving sizes and if there are healthy options stock up on that first and then treat yourself by splitting dessert or having a tiny portion of queso cheese dip. Don’t be that guy who is a stick in the mud and won’t have a piece of wedding cake. Nobody likes that guy. What ever you do, absolutely do not graze! I think we all know that hanging right by the queso and chips is a bad thing for those of us who might be extremely addicted to said heavenly cheese amazingness.

Doing It Together: Not everyone has the luxury of jumping into a healthy lifestyle change with a partner. If you have a friend, family member, or significant other that will be strong with you…it does help. Until these choices are a habit for you it is an adjustment. You can help each other choose healthy alternatives, and you can also cheer each other on and go to celebrate goals achieved with frozen yogurt (instead of ice cream).

So those are the things that softened the blow as far as making changes. Here are some of the changes that I made…

Carbs- whole wheat only, drastically cut the amount I was eating and try to limit the carbs to days that I work out. (carbs for work out= fuel, carbs sitting on idle = sugar = fat)

Serving sizes- make sure that you are reading the nurtional facts of what you eat. Even healthy foods can be fattening if you eat too much of them. Check the serving size and try to stick to it. (having a small kitchen scale is helpful)

Lean meats and veggies- center most meals around this model.

Coconut oil cooking spray- instead of butter and oil I use this. I still use extra virgin olive oil when needed.

No more pasta!- for Austin it's just not “worth it” for me it is just too tempting to go nuts. In place of pasta we do spaghetti squash and I love it!

Experimenting- fruits and vegetables bring great flavor as well as herbs and spices. You don’t have to rely on butter, cheese, and sugar to make food taste great. You might have to relearn how to cook, but I have found it's actually pretty fun. And I found some foods that I actually really love (like sweet potatoes and bell peppers) that I thought I didn’t really care for in the past.

Cravings- accept the reality that every meal you eat will not satisfy your every craving. And now that I think about it, since cutting out fried and fatty foods (for the most part) I rarely find myself craving them.

Set goals- you decide. For me, it was a certain amount of weight and some specific and reachable work out goals.


I will periodically be posting recipes or tips on the healthful page. I hope you feel encouraged and maybe a little more equipped to be healthful!