This week…

image

I have seen beautiful sunrises and breath-taking sunsets.

I have been hugged by family.

I have laughed deeply with friends.

I have been spoiled by my husband

and encouraged by co-workers.

I have designed

and instructed

and dreamed.

I have met God’s blessing at every turn.

This week, I have been anointed by the beauty of the ordinary and flown in the company of angels…

Advertisements

All I was doing was enjoying a DQ sundae…

It was a beautifully sunny day in my city, with a cool wind keeping everything wonderfully balanced. As I drove by Dairy Queen, I decided to go through the drive-thru and get a chocolate sundae. Instead of schlepping it home, I pulled into a nearby parking lot, rolled down my car window and enjoyed the treat right then and there.

I dipped my spoon into the creamy ice cream mountain.

Sitting quietly, enjoying my impulse buy, I watched people come and go from a nearby market. I noticed how some people were very methodical in the way they emptied their carts into the back of their cars. I began trying to guess who would simply toss their groceries inside their car, without a care – and who would have a meticulous system to their unloading routine.

…as I dipped my red DQ spoon into the chocolate-covered vanilla.

Maybe it was the loveliness of the day, or perhaps it was the lulling of the nearby robins’ song that took my mind deeper into thought. Similar to the Casablanca line, I found myself wondering, ‘Of all the parking lots in all the states, how did I find myself in Omaha on this day and at this time?’

Scooping ice cream as I thought.

I began looking back at the trajectory of my life. I thought about the many things to which I keep returning. The things that so solidly make up the core of who I am. I thought about the ways in which my thought-patterns and ideals and beliefs have melded and shifted and changed over time. It was an interesting birds eye view of stability mixed with organic fluidity.

All the while, I was slowly dipping my spoon into the ice cream and enjoying my sweet afternoon snack.

Because art and creativity have been such a constant in my life, I began to notice the patterns evolving in my ice cream cup.

20130602_120835

Whereas I was mindlessly eating my chocolate sundae before, I began to purposefully watch as I dug in and lifted out a spoonful of vanilla, the chocolate syrup, mixed with melted ice cream would slowly creep into the void like lava, and fill in the empty place I was leaving behind. The patterns were ever-changing and constantly moving as they found other places in which to trickle into.

It didn’t take long for my mind to make the connection. Throughout my life, as things and places and people were removed, others began trickling into their place. Work opportunities arose when others were removed. Friends rose up and filled the void of others that left, or from which I moved away. As difficult times crept in, joy would inevitably follow suit.

I sat there, in this market parking lot on a sunny-but-cool Midwestern day, filled with joy. My heart was brimming with the gratitude that this evolving, ever-changing, void-meets-lava life I have been living is God’s loving gift to me. I understood the platitude, ‘When one door opens…’ in a whole new light.

Be still and know… Sometimes moments of holy connectedness happen in a busy parking lot, surrounding an indulgent treat, in the quiet moments of simply being alone with yourself and with your thoughts. I’m glad I allowed my mind to wander aimlessly for just a few minutes.

God seized that simple moment to throw His arms around me and remind me that He knows me. He knows me well. He knows the voids I have feared and has always refilled them with things and people and opportunities that far surpass anything I could ever hope or dream.

I am standing in a moment of deep and abiding thanksgiving.

Adopting a New Phrase

be still image

Since my teen years, I have always been drawn to this verse. While many find comfort in its simple message, I find it challenging and difficult most of the time. I am not a very good still person. I am not necessarily the wind-in-your-hair, juggling a million things at once, can’t sit still kind of person (that is my husband’s personality), but even while sitting without movement, my mind is never still. There is not a time when I am not planning something: lists, projects, retorts. My mind is always on full tilt ‘GO’. The discipline that it takes to just be still. To quiet your mind and body to the point that God can speak to you as you simply listen is a challenging habit of which I am constantly trying to develop.

In wake of the horrific events of this past week, I heard a phrase that immediately resonated with me. In fact, I felt a bit selfish when after hearing the first official use it, I reached into the chaos and plucked it out, tucking it into my back pocket, thinking, ‘After the intensity of this is over, I want to sit a few moments with that phrase and all of its potential meaning.’

We are hard-wired to trudge through. We are given numerous obstacles and challenges throughout life and our gut reaction is to fix it. Fix it! I can Pro/Con lists out of thin air when something presents itself as a challenge to the trajectory of my life. What is the best scenario? What is the worst scenario? How do I go around this or how do I plow through it?

Yet sometimes, it is most efficient and productive to simply stay put. To wait it out. To let some of the stirred up trouble around us settle as we shelter-in-place.

As the police and FBI warned over a million Boston area residents to stay where they were and not come outside, I sat in Omaha, Nebraska glued to the tv, as many of you were as well. I thought about the many times I have said, ‘I need to run to the store first thing in the morning or we won’t have anything for breakfast tomorrow.’ I wondered how many young families found themselves in that tight spot, unable to leave their homes. I wondered about the antsy-ness of young children wanting to go outside. And what about a dog that needs to use the facilities in the backyard?!

So many scenarios ran through my head that day as we all tried to imagine what it would be like to fear the outside of our homes: our safe places.

Yet the authority figures knew best. They had the greatest amount of information. And for our sakes, they implored the Boston area to shelter-in-place. Stay where you are. Squelch the fear and mounting tensions for just awhile. Wait and trust us to fight in your stead.

The meaning of the phrase grew greater throughout the day. How often have I been told the same thing by a Lord who knew better. How often have I insisted, ‘But…but…but I can do this. Or I can try that.’ as God impressed upon me to simply be still. To wait. To shelter in place.

The times that I have obeyed, sat down and quieted my thoughts…
The times I have released the situation to His control, unclenching my fists and grasp…
Those are the times when I showed my trust in His understanding, by allowing Him to act while I simply stayed protected in one place, unflinchingly.

As a nation and truly, as a world of humans, we have gained yet another scar. Our trust and faith in our fellow journeymen has been shaken. We will begin, this week, to move from our places of fear into a renewed sense of calm and acceptance. Eventually, (unbelievably), we will begin to forget.

Yet out of all the ugliness and hellacious images of the Boston Marathon terror, I am choosing to keep that phrase in my back pocket. I will share it with you, if you’d like. We all need to be reminded that the best step forward is not always a step, but rather a time of standing still and waiting for God to move on our behalf and prepare a path for which we can eventually walk with confidence and safety.

Shelter in place.
Be still and know.

The world needs your story.

As I read this piece by Sarah Bessey, I so passionately wanted to shake the shoulders of my daughters and nieces. I thought of friends that have been dulled by life’s adversities. My own soul reached out and grabbed the strength and freedom for which Sarah spoke. I thought of women who have gone before me. Women who have traveled greater lengths than I and how strongly their lives guide my own life’s direction.

But mostly, I thanked God that even in times when women are still jockeying for better positions or categorized as focus groups for politicians – that now, in 2012, our worth and value has never been determined by name brand or waist size or networking capabilities. Christ has held us in high regard from the beginning. He has trusted our abilities far greater than we ourselves do, most of the time. We serve a higher purpose. We are loved more than is comprehensible. Our equality was determined at the well and at the foot of the cross and with the halting of a stone’s throw. We are proudly listed in the Board of Directors list of genealogy as a gender of great esteem.

For the women I love so dearly, I lift you daily to God’s care. Your hurt is felt more deeply than you know. Your struggle with popularity or love or acceptance has been felt throughout time by millions of women before; struggling with the same thoughts of inferiority and internal struggle. Do not coddle those thoughts nor succumb to their appeal.

You were specifically created for so much more…

Stop waiting for permission.

Stop waiting for someone to say that you count, that you matter, that you have worth, that you have a voice, that you have a place, that you are called. Stop waiting for someone else to validate the person that you already know you were made to be. Stop holding your breath, sister, working to earn through your apologetics and memorized arguments, and your quietness, your submission and your “correct” doctrine what God has already freely given to you.

Because, darling, you are valuable. You have worth, not because of your gender or your calling or your marital status or your labels or your underlined books or your accomplishments or your checked-off tick boxes next to the job description of Proverbs 31.

In Christ, you have value beyond all of that. You abide in love, you can rest in your God-breathed worth.

Let me remind you: you are loved. And you are free.

What is the cry of your heart? Pay attention to that. Listen to what makes you angry, honour what makes your blood pump faster, what makes you come fully alive. Now go. And do. You know Jesus, you have experienced the power and the grace with your own life, you have felt it in your own heart, now go, heal, disciple, minister, love, and do likewise. Speak, breathe, prophesy, preach, get behind a pulpit, mark exam papers, run a company or a non-profit, clean your kitchen, put paint on a canvas, organize, rabble-rouse, work the Love out and in and around you, however God has made you to do it, just do it. Don’t let them fence you in or hold you back.

Love your spouse, love your babies, love the poor, love the orphans, love the widows, love the powerful, love the broken and the hurting, love your friends, love yourself, love your enemies, come to love the whole world in the fullness of God, in the full expression of the woman that he has created you to be, just that, no more, but certainly no less.

Choose freedom. Choose the freedom of living loved, far from their tables and debates and fence lines and name-callings, their belittling, divisive stereotypes. Extend the gift of freedom and grace, second chances, and more grace, just as you have received them. As e.e. cummings wrote, it takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. You really are created, you really are chosen, you really are cherished, so you really can be who you are. Live counterculture when the culture does not affirm truth, love, faith, mercy, and justice.

It matters because you matter, because your daughters matter, because your sisters matter, because the people of God, and the entirety of his created world matters, because redemption matters. So we’ll keep up the holy work, however that looks, we’ll keep worshipping, keep loving, keep making space for God in the world, and in each other for holy grace to fill. The kingdom of God would be better with your voice, your hands, your experiences, your stories, your truth. You can go where I cannot go, and someone needs to hear you sing your song, you are someone’s invitation.

You are loved.

Rest in your God-breathed worth. Stop holding your breath, hiding your gifts, ducking your head, dulling your roar, distracting your soul, stilling your hands, quieting your voice, dulling your mind, satiating your hunger with the lesser things of this world.

I love you with an unexplained love. I believe in you passionately and am proud of your continued growth. I cannot fathom that anyone could love you more than I do. But He does. So much more. He was your Creator. He knows what makes you tick and what outcomes will bring you the most joy. Trust that. Lean into that. And continue to be the beautiful, shining beam that you are right now. Keep making space in your heart for grace. And a place in your life for Him.

I love you with all of my heart…

Boys Town

Since moving to Omaha, I have wanted to visit Boys Town. Driving by it on our first day I said to Scott, “I know I should know what Boys Town is…I have heard about it…but I’m not really certain I know exactly what they do.”

(enter the handy-dandy resource tool: Google.)

Boys Town is an actual city in Nebraska: Boys Town, Nebraska. It is 1.4 sq miles and according to the 2010 census, population was 745. More famously it is known as “Father Flanagan’s Boys’ Home”, founded by Father Edward J. Flanagan.

72.8% of residents were under the age of 18.

From the Boys Town website:

Right now, in communities throughout the country, there are children living in fear, seeking guidance and in desperate need of compassion. Wherever these children are hurting, Boys Town is helping with our Integrated Continuum of Care. Some are being reunited with their families, others are entering foster care or moving into a Boys Town family residence, and still others are receiving help at home where they can remain together as families.

For nearly 100 years, we’ve worked to save children, heal families and strengthen communities.

Boys Town History:
In 1917, a young Irish priest named Father Edward J. Flanagan grew discouraged in his work with homeless men in Omaha, Nebraska. He shifted his attention and in December of that year, borrowed $90 to pay the rent on a boarding house that became Father Flanagan’s Home for Boys. Flanagan welcomed all boys, regardless of their race or religion. By the spring, 100 boys were living at the Home.

In 1921, Father Flanagan purchased Overlook Farm on the outskirts of Omaha and moved his Boys’ Home there. In time, the Home became known as the Village of Boys Town. By the 1930s, hundreds of boys lived at the Village which grew to include a school, dormitories and administration buildings. The boys elected their own government which included a mayor, council and commissioners. In 1936, the community became an official village in the state of Nebraska.

News of Father Flanagan’s work spread worldwide with the success of the 1938 movie, “Boys Town” (Spencer Tracy, Mickey Rooney). Tracy won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Father Flanagan, which he later donated to the priest. After World War II, President Truman asked Flanagan to take his message to the world. He traveled the globe visiting war orphans and advising government leaders on how to care for displaced children.

Much later, girls began coming to Boys Town for help. The Family Home Program continues today as one of Boys Town’s trademark treatment approaches, where children live in homes and are cared for by married couples known as Family-Teachers. The Boys Town National Research Hospital opened in 1977. Today, the Hospital is a nationally-recognized treatment center for children with hearing and speech disorders.

The Boys Town national headquarters remain in Omaha. As one of the largest non-profit child-care agencies in the country, they provide compassionate treatment for the behavioral, emotional and physical problems of children and families. Each year, Boys Town touches the lives of over 2 million people. The National Hotline has handled more than 8 million calls since its inception.

Boys Town mission statement:

Changing the way America cares for children, families and communities by providing and promoting an Integrated Continuum of Care that instills Boys Town values to strengthen body, mind and spirit.

There are so many pictures I would love to share with you (I know there are a lot of pictures, but it was a fascinating place.) I took ‘Before and After’ pictures. Boys Town now and Boys Town from the 1920s. I hope you’ll look through them and enjoy the tour as much as I enjoyed walking the streets of this inspired village. I started taking pictures in the new section of Boys Town where the homes for Boys Town families are manicured and peaceful. Scattered throughout the village are large vans and kids out working on the lawns or walking through the streets as if on a college campus. There is a Grand Hall (cafeteria) that looks SO much like a Harry Potter set! — I walked around the Catholic Church, established in 1930, then walked around the Protestant chapel, built later in 1989 (although there is a gargoyle on a Protestant church!) — I then walked around the old Boys Town area from years ago. I do not know if this old farm is still in use (it doesn’t seem like it, though.) Boys were sent here, to these white buildings of the 1920s, to work the farm and to learn cooperation and discipline as well as the love of family. It was interesting to see how the village has changed over the years, but how it mirrors the original vision of Father Flanagan.

I hope to become much more involved with Boys Town in the future. It was an inspired visit and a testament to the enormous hearts of God-inspired disciples.

I CANNOT NOT BUY SOMETHING

Over the past few years, my husband and I have made a lot of short daytrips. In the course of a three-hour drive, one of us inevitably needs to stop for a quick bathroom break. We’ve found our favorite spots: there are some very nice convenience stores and some scattered fast food restaurants that we seem to frequent the most. Yet every time we stop, my conscience gives me an elbow nudge and I feel compelled to buy something. Just a little something. A candy bar we can split, a pack of gum, or a fountain drink to elicit the next need for a bathroom stop down the road. I just can’t seem to use this establishment’s facilities and then not give them some kind of merchandise sales.

I thought of this predicament while watching the political conventions recently. As a history major in college, I was particularly fond of the Early American time period. It was always a humbling experience, studying the historical influences that surrounded the birth of our nation or reading primary documents written by our forefathers and realizing the issues they struggled with while creating the laws that would govern our lands for centuries to come.

Our political parties have become infamously polarized. To stand for one is to completely disregard the other. I often feel like I am involuntarily participating in the children’s game Red Rover while desperately wanting to stand in the middle and plead, “Can’t we accomplish this better together rather than standing on opposite sides trying to court members of the other team?!”

Yet as frustrating as the opposite side mentality makes me, it saddens me, as a result of our nation’s political in-fighting, each and every time I hear someone sigh in desperation and say, “I just don’t think I’m even voting this year.”

That is the most dangerous approach of all. In reality, they have voted with their non-vote. By not going to the polls, you are giving an advantage to one candidate over the other. By not voting you are withholding your voice from the dinner table of our nation’s presidential election discussion.

Not unlike using the convenience store for your own needs, yet not contributing to their bottom line, you are living in a nation of freedoms, yet not contributing to the democratic voice for which it was created.

True, things are not what they used to be. Yet things are not what they could be. As we watch the embassy bombings and the street fights breaking out over voting rights in foreign countries, religious groups bombing opposing religious groups, dictators silencing those that would stand in opposition to their rule – I wonder if we remember the freedoms we enjoy on a daily basis.

I have seen various forms of Thankful Lists on Facebook, usually leading up to Thanksgiving or used as a gratitude discipline during Lent. I am going to try a Freedoms Thankful List for the 30 days leading up to election day, November 6, 2012. I invite you to join me and share the freedoms for which you are grateful. I am embarrassed to admit that it might be difficult to compile this list. There are many freedoms that I do not instantly recognize, they’ve been such an integral part of my entire life. But maybe if I take a step back and analyze the freedoms I am honored to enjoy each day, perhaps it will also shed light on the election process and how important it is for me to participate. Perhaps it will encourage me to research carefully the candidate for which I will cast a presidential vote. It also might illuminate some positive and healthy platform issues of the candidate for which I am not voting.

What freedoms do you enjoy?
What freedoms allow you to participate in your daily life? Your profession? Your home life?

Join me. Buy a pack of gum. Take some time to recognize our nation’s freedoms and then cast a vote on November 6. It will make our roadtrip more enjoyable after we stop to be thankful for the things that allow us to live as American citizens.