Wednesday, December 2, 2015

My Story for His Glory:: The Eternal Weight of It All

And so I continue my slow process through the things I shared nearly a year ago on 'My Story for His Glory'...

We see our stories are continuous, eternal. They encompass every moment of our lives. And God promises to redeem it all and utterly transform everything into something beautiful. Nothing is excluded from this, and as we see so many places in our stories where God has brought good, we affirm the promise of Romans 8:28, ‘all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.’

When we open our mouths and speak the Truth, it becomes the living reality that sets us and others free.

I spoke these words on a late January day in a faraway place to 500 women gathered from many nations. I was shaking as I stood there. Both from nerves and the weight of import. I meant every word I said that day. Every word. 

I also believed the truths were tried and tested through what I had experienced in life. 

And they were. 

But God had something more to plant within my heart. He was about to show me through the pain of my brokenness and the brokenness of others just how deep His truth goes. He was preparing to change me from one degree of Glory to another. He was readying my story to receive the weight of eternity.

It is like this with all of our stories. We are living life one moment and in an instant it all changes. Tragedy. Sickness. Death. Loss. 

And beautiful things too! Dreams come to life. Love is born. New things come to be.

And our stories are made to bear the weight of it all. That is where their power comes from as we believe in the redemptive hand of God making it all good.

This verse, Romans 8:28 cannot be the platitude of the Christian. It is meant to be spoken with the full eye on our stories. Either we will speak through tears, or the cracked voice of the humbled, or the small, sacred of the servant.

Because we remember. We remember what it cost God in the lifeblood of Jesus to declare this His Truth sealed in His word. We remember that the full reality of a risen Savior is meant to shine upon our stories relentlessly. We remember that deeper than despair, darkness or doubt is hope.

We remember this is the character of our story.

There are still many moments when I feel weighted down by grief and loss. There are acute places of pain that I cannot see how they will become uniquely good. If someone tossed Romans 8:28 my way in those moments...well, you can imagine what I would do with it ;) 

But that is not what God intends with so precious a promise. He intends for us to trust in Him as the Great Author. He wants to surprise us with an eternal weight whispering all about the strands of our stories. He wants us to hear the roar of mighty waters rushing with a great flow toward Heaven. He wants us to speak it from deep and deeper places until we know.

And this is my testimony. There are whispers of good coming...I cannot see much of it yet, but it IS coming. There is the distant roar. At times I fall to my knees and it deafens my ears to all but the singular sound of His majesty. 

And all this aching, groaning of these past months? 

It's deepening, widening, heightening and lengthening the contours of my story. It's making room for glory. It's strengthening the fabric to bear the weight of His story.

*photo credit


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

My Story for His Glory:: I Am the Only One Who Can Take This Journey #TellHisStory

The surrounding walls are chalky-white on cement. The kind that cover your hand in fine dust if you run your finger over them. It's a transport to the 1940's. There are screechy, squeaky wheels of the medicine cart or is it the taller cafeteria cart?

A meaty hand raps hard on the door. My roommate has been crying off and on, in and out, for the last three hours. She rises from her bed and lays back down for the tears and torment are the same.

I have little to offer but a hand to cheek and sweetly saying 'Jó lesz, Viktoria. Jó lesz.' I don't know that it will be okay, yet I hope and pray so. They inject her with a sedative so she can rest. 

And how am I here? That is a part of the story I hope to put to day. For now, it is enough to say my mind couldn't be trusted for a while. This has brought me here. I have had my own injections, one and then another, and they were too strong for me. So there have been three days in the ICU as I am unable to breathe.

But, I am coming through to the other side. 

And I will One Day be safely on that shore, forevermore. The one with sparkling rivers, seas of glass and streets made of gold that glistens. Where all tears have dried but the emotion is heartfelt. Yes, One day, soon, I will be there.

But, now I live here. And the story can be told all full of making it through and the final victory of Heaven. It's an amazing reality that awaits and I cling to it with all I most deeply am.

But, I live here. And my story is not one served best with its neat stack, pat of butter and real maple syrup poured just so. No. This is not the story I must journey to know, live and speak.

For now, at times, the sea of glass cuts flesh all shards of what is broken. The river runs muddy with its debris crashing over and making dirty. And the streets? Rutted and potholed and the falls are many.

And this authentic journey of my story is one only I can take. I would most want Mama to hold my hand, but it's more than thirteen years since she went to Heaven. My twin sister, too, but we each have our own lives and far apart besides. Sometimes I soul-beg for my husband to make it all better or for my kids to fill in all the cracks.

Then it all starts to hemorrhage. And I know.

I am the only one who can live my story. I must face each wound or pain. I must receive each joy or gift. Many hold my hands along the way, but they have their stories. At times our paths intertwine so fiercely, but no, our stories are not the same.

It is so important to see this. Because sometimes the hardest, bravest thing to do is live my very own story. I can live the past, what-I-was-or-did story, whether good or bad. I can live the victory story where it is all better. I can live the fearful-anxious story, hemmed in and hiding. I can live the future story where glory is all I see.

But can I live the 'I am in a broken world yet being made new' story? Can I live redemption? Where I am present to acute pain and torment such as I never want to live again? And I don't deny it nor does it have power over me? Can I live with unwavering, resilience where each piece of my own unique story has a beautiful weight that far outweighs its ugly?

It is a huge task to live my story so. Yet, when I commit to such living I can never be satisfied with less. I grow so weary of the pretending and take my stand for what is real.

It is also a treasure to live my story so. Because only in Jesus can I. Only through His perfection wrapping me tight and secure, can I share any bit of my story. Only through Him can I lay down the acceptance of others or their understanding and His. Only through Him can I know a courage deep enough to walk this journey. 

As his beloved, this story--my story, is the only one given to me before time as it lays out before me, weaving its hand through the days of my one little life.

So how can I choose anything but to live it?

Sharing with SDG and #TellHisStory

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

My Story For His Glory: It's a Journey that Takes Heart

It's been four months. 


Somehow I can't feel bad about not posting here for four months. You know why? Because in that time I have had some of the biggest victories of my life. My story is continuing and I am living it.

Which brings me to the part of my 'story talk' I am going to share today. 

To know our stories, is to commit to a journey.

And this journey is not for the faint of heart. It takes grit, guts and a kind of soul groaning to hang onto our stories.

Because there are times...

Times like this year, for me, when a story seems in shreds. When whole things become broken; shattered. When the lies weave like deep-rooted viscious weeds come to choke out all the good.

These have been the days when I have needed to remember most where I come from. Every bit of childhood faith and the earlier parts of my story as well as the stories of those who have gone before. I have needed to remember the journey of my story. I have needed to commit again to see it through for the glory of God.

As we remain in our stories, there are things of which we become more and less sure. There are things which make more sense and many which make less sense. There are things we once thought of as having great significance which now seem small. And other things we once saw as small which have become great.

It's a journey of vision and vantage.

Our stories are the treasures we sell everything to buy. They are unyielding and eternal. They are all that is precious and true of who we are becoming.

They are the journey of our lives.
And so we must commit to this journey.  

This truth is reaching deep inside of me. I am trusting God as He speaks a different word, His Word, over who I am. I am lifting that word high in praise as I run this race. And step by step I am finding boldness and confidence in my story. God owns this path. As I commit to who He is, He is giving me eyes to see. Eyes of hope, wonder, joy, beauty, strength, resilience and peace.

Are you committed to the journey of your story? What is tempting you off of the path?


Saturday, May 16, 2015

My Story for His Glory:: Love is writing our lives (Part 1)

In January, I helped to lead a time for our Area Staff Conference with hundreds of women serving with Cru across Eastern Europe and Russia. The theme was 'Our Story for His Glory'. I introduced the time with a short talk.

I talked about each of our stories as a 'thread'. And then the threads of our stories are woven together in one glorious tapestry of redemption which reflects God's glory. I shared how our threads at times appear brilliant, like gold, and are full of hope. Other times the thread may seem broken, tattered or a jumbled mess. Still other times our threads seem dark and dull.

I would have said then that my thread seemed brilliant. I was excited about my life and the possibilities before me. I felt great hope. I had compassion for those in other places, but I knew where I was.

A month after this I was in the hospital and my thread was shredding and kept shredding. I had no idea about my story and if, when it was all over, I'd have anything left.

Recently I read the whole talk to my husband and he said:

 'Did you write all of that for yourself?'

I said, 'well, I didn't think so, but I guess you're right.'

So, over the next few weeks I am going to spend time with each point of that talk.

This week I want to look at this quote related to knowing and telling our stories:

"We embark on this journey because we believe that Love wrote our lives despite what it might seem at times. We choose to believe that our lives consist of more than simply a series of events. Underneath and through each scene lies the hint of a larger story God is telling through our lives."
 ~ Dan Allender, To Be Told - Workbook, p.3

If love is writing my life, which perspective do I adopt? 

On one side, when the thread is full of hope the heart is full of thanks and outpouring love before God for His gracious writing. 

But what about when the thread is crumpled, broken, tattered, even shredded?

I am learning, learning, learning, even more so there is a thankfulness for the Love that is writing my life. When it all seems to fall apart, this is where weary, battered hearts can rest. 

Love is writing my story. 

The pen is out of my hand. The illusion of any control I think I have is being seen for what it is. I am being led where I do not want to go, yet,

Love is singing over my life.

Root issues I could spend a lifetime running from in marriage, motherhood and ministry are being revealed. I am a mess of a child crying before my Abba Father day and night, but even more,

Love is embracing me heart and soul.

I know my frail, made-of-dust frame in deeper ways. The yearnings to run after lesser things are coming to full light. The tininess of my trust in the God who died for me is humbling me to know, there is no other hope except that

Love holds me now and forever.

Take heart, my friend, in the broken and tattered. Be encouraged in the dark and dull. Love is real and He is writing something glorious to One Day be revealed. Cling to Love. See the darkness flee. Find hope in your story in the light of His. Surrender all fear and run to the arms whose hands write it all beautiful. I am your friend right there with you.

Tell me what Love is writing over your life, or how you are trying to believe it is true.


Monday, May 4, 2015

DAYS of Grief and God is Enough

My wise friend Mary, who also happens to be a counselor, is helping me work through grief. For those of you who don’t know our circumstances, we had to leave our life overseas suddenly and unexpectedly. It was a life that we loved and where we and our kids were established.  We left because of concerns related to my overall health (not life-threatening, but serious nonetheless).

So here we are and I don’t like it. I have real grief and I think it is really important to call it what it is. (Any time there is a loss there is grief. So it can come in many forms and ways)

I think the other side of I Thessalonians 4:13 ‘we do not grieve as those who have no hope’ is also true. This means when we grieve we have hope. We gain understanding and perspective on life that transforms us in deep ways. And along with our own anchor of hope, we gain strength of empathy that is present amidst the grief of others.

So, I am walking right through it. As I do that, Mary gave me this helpful acronym, DAYS:


Acceptance (as we cycle through DAYS this is where we come to...eventually)

This looks and feels a bit like a sea-tossed ship. The denial is hard for me to have, since I wake up daily in Pennsylvania ;) but it has surely been present. The yearning is strong, especially when I think about all we love still there existing and happening, but without us. The sadness is real too and perhaps the hardest one to feel as it is acute, but it is still important to go there.

Yet, it's the anger that is taking me where I really need to go. The anger? I know. I am surprised too. The first time Mary and I talked about this, I said, 'I don't think I have much of the anger.' But as I have continued to be honest with myself, I have found it.

I am angry about everything that we/I have lost. Relationships. Stability. Security. Purpose. Name and Place in this World. And there are relationships and things our kids have lost too. And if I really acknowledge it, I want to rebel and stomp off from God's presence like the wayward child I so often am.

And this is where the anger is good. Yes, good. Because it forces me to ask this question: How can I ever, ever let go of God? I know He will not let go of me, but would I ever want to let go of Him? All of the things I am grieving are just things, even if they are abstract. And even if it is a person, like when I lost my mother, how could I ever let go of Him?

The truth is that I can endure anything in this life because it has already been endured by the God who has gone before me. 

 He was despised and rejected by men;
    a man of sorrows,and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
    he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4 Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;

yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.

~ Isaiah 53:3-4
(emphasis mine)

It's not easy to walk any of this grief because the anger, pain, yearning and sadness are all real. And yet I come to God and we take the journey together.

I come with all the ragged edges of my heart. I come with fist balled and ready to take out my anger (yes, on God, better him than my husband;). I come with all of the justification to feel the way that I do. I come certain I can have my own way if I complain and rant enough. 

I come because where else can I truly go? I come because He is enough, way more than enough, for the angry mess of me. I come knowing that here is my refuge this long road of grief; this exile; this stretching land that leaves hungry and parches. 

I come because I am made for Him. I come because no matter what this life brings, this is the only place I am truly loved, known, cared for, embraced, delighted in, fought for, guarded, guided, strengthened, prepared and much more.

I come because to do this gritty grief, I have to. I come because there is no other way that heals, sustains, makes whole and leads Home. And in the Beauty of such a Friend, I come because He is truly enough.

What about you, friend? Are you grieving? Are you coming to God in the midst of it?

Sharing with SDG and #TellHisStory


Monday, April 20, 2015

A Poem of Longing and Fulfillment


I long to be free to take deep breaths and know I am loved.

I plead with Heaven to live full, trusting the heart of it all into the Master's Hand.

I desire to walk upon the beaches of the soul, the song of roaring waves 
and rushing waters that spray with the salty refreshment of truth.
I want to run at the breakers and let the crashing over me be behind, before, all about.
I long to know the surpassing greatness like the winds that whip around 
and lift to the heights with the sure whir of Almighty God.
And so I wait for You in Your awesome Oneness, in Your majestic reality, 
in Your ever love 
and all as You rejoice over me, quiet me fully, delight deeply in me and Abba-embrace me.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Epic Failure...Again?

Can these days really be for my good? Is it all really working together for good? This re-post is a step of faith to say 'yes'. 

I have heard it said that those who would do great things will surely pass through some serious failure.

A visiting minister, Dave, spoke about failure from the life of David Brainerdpioneer Christian missionary to Native American peoples.  Brainerd’s biography written by Jonathan Edwards inspired the future missionary careers of William Carey and Jim Elliot just to name a couple.

However, it was not from the glowing success of Brainerd’s missionary career that Dave spoke.  It was from his greatest failure.

Brainerd’s greatest aspiration had been to become a pastor.  In the 1700’s this was a noble profession with high esteem in society and so he entered the top training school at that time, Yale.  Brainerd was nearly finished his degree, poised to gain top honors when one arrogant, impetuous comment about one of his tutor’s cynicism towards a revival happening on campus changed his life forever.

Brainerd made the comment in a hallway of the school to some friends, but someone from the school administration overheard it.  He was immediately expelled and never allowed to finish his degree.  At this time no pastorate could be obtained unless the candidate held a degree from Harvard, Yale or a European Institution. Thus, this expulsion effectively forever crushed Brainerd’s one great dream for his life.

File:Brainerd preaching.jpgBut, as is the case with all great stories, with our story, it did not end there.  God had something greater that could only come through this failure which He allowed in Brainerd’s life.  

It is fairly certain that Brainerd would never have become a missionary to Native Americans if his dream of a pastorate were obtained.  Yet this path was not his settling for something less, rather, it was the finding of the God-sized dream from His heart for him.

And through Brainerd’s life, not only did many come to know the hope of Jesus, but future generations of missionaries were inspired to go to countless people with the good news.

For all of you who have been following our story, you can imagine the chords of this story with which my heart is resonating.  As Jared {my hubby} and I sat beside each other, I thought of all that’s led us to this point in our missionary journey.

One great season of failure, in particular, stands out.  I had begun a seminary degree in which I was very successful.  I had been chosen as a finalist for a prestigious internship where I would have travelled around the country with a well-known Christian speaker.  I felt with surety that I knew where my life was going.

Budapest 055However, I failed to travel to the live interview due to a personal crisis resulting from a relationship I had foolishly invested myself in and it’s abrupt and full rupture which devastated me.  I really believe that if I had been able to go to that interview {they were choosing 7 of 11 finalists} I would have been offered the internship.

Instead, I wasn’t. And due to how much hurt and pain I was going through, for the first time in my life, I was willing to leave seminary and NOT finish something.  I was also, for the first time, willing to come home to live with my parents.

So I came home and taught Math at my old high school which was no where near any dream of mine.  I cared for my mom when one year later she was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and nine months later died, which on the face of it, would have been one of my worst nightmares.  In the midst of that, I met my husband and married this guy from my hometown.  Definitely NOT what I was going to do.

Then, about eight years ago, in my husband’s home church, God introduced us to a ministry to high school students in the public schools of Hungary. Eastern Europe had NEVER crossed my mind as a place where I would one day live…even go to for a short-term missions project.Budapest 044

But God knew about all of this and about taking away every dream I had of what, where and with whom I would live my life.  He laid me low in a life-altering way and has been building this journey piece by piece ever since.

I have so far to go, but I can tell you, that the great theme that emerged from this life-altering failure is that God loves me enough to bring no plan or success into my life that does not bring me closer to Him.  He has burned within my heart as its greatest desire that I would be His and that my life would reflect His Glory.

That is worth everything to me. to Him.  and worth the bearing of every failure and the death of every goal, aspiration and dream.

Update 4/14/15: This remains true though yet again there is a bend that could look like failure, or it could be God making me, my hubby and our dear children all the more His very own beloved ones held in His arms...


Monday, March 30, 2015

Posts from the Archives :: when the I AM is handed over

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

While I am resting and healing, I thought it would be a good idea if I re-posted some of my favorite posts from the archives This one is fitting for this week because it is about the wonder of the Great I Am being 'handed over' to the unjust cruelty, hatred and death of this dark world. This beauty that we have the treasure to gaze upon, especially during Passion week, gives us such pure power to 'be as He is in this world.' I John 4:17  We can face anything knowing He has gone before. Abiding in His perfect love, displayed fully in His death on the cross, casts away our fear (I John 4:18) for we know the victory and eternal life that are coming. I join with you in this sacred week of remembrance, hopeful, prayerful, graceful, and confident in the power and love that is forever ours. And I pray this is what becomes most real to us as we abide in Christ and walk step by step this long road Home.

when the I AM is handed over

the sum of all that was and is and is to come is given fully to the hateful, the proud, the self-righteous, the ignorant.

when the I AM is handed over

he who set the stars into space and sung the world into existence empties of power so completely that he will not expend so much as a word in his own defense, let alone the legions of angels and the full power as the Almighty he IS.

when the I AM is handed over

it is the purest and fullest expense of active passivity to resist all he eternally IS, WAS, AND WILL BE in the form of each movement, moment, emotion and thought pattern of his passion journey.

when the I AM is handed over

the eternal communion that defines love is broken at the climax of the perfect one’s suffering for all...for all time.

when the I AM is handed over

he who has intimate knowledge of all that has ever been and will be allows the greatest injustice to be wielded upon all that he, as the Great I AM, is.

when the I AM is handed over

in the beauty of only He who is full of eternity humbling himself, emptying all that he is in the conscious reality of time, releases that power to all who believe.

when the I AM is handed over

we find our way in this world.

we have interlaced in our heart of hearts the thread of redemption’s journey.

we receive the distilled power of the I AM to be handed over.

to love when we are wronged.

to endure the severest hateful enemy.

to be misunderstood, rejected and judged.

To find forgiveness an easy yoke and light burden

for all this gaze on Him reminds us 

we have been redeemed from and called to

to walk in a golden gleam untouched by depravity.

to be raised up into new life that speaks

from the highways and byways of time

to the single extraordinary pinnacle of love

to the Savior whose divine paradox

has released the pure beauty

of a love that only eternity and perfection can hold

and only time and vulnerability can manifest.

this great cosmic scene that translates to the 

hearts of all who behold and believe.

this is the fruit of He, the Great I AM, 

being ‘handed over’

as He fully lives His passion.


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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

What Story Teaches Us :: We Learn We Need God and Others

This wasn't an easy post to write for {in}courage, but it is an important one. Our stories DO teach us many things. And if I am going to encourage others to know and share theirs, it is vital that I do the same.

In this post I re-visit what is perhaps the hardest season in my life. As I do that I share what God is teaching me about how easily lies break us, but how He is bigger, stronger and always, always enough.

I grip the counter hard. It’s a white knuckle hold of slippery, grey-speckled imitation granite. The cars whizz by down the hill. This is the neighborhood in Budapest where my family and I have lived for a year and a half. But it is not, yet, home. And I do not know if I can survive until it is home.

Thoughts have begun to enter my mind. It is a journey of seven years, too many moves, and three kids that have brought us here. The calling has remained clear, even after weathering a path of so much hard.

Until now. I have gone so far adrift, I cannot find my place anywhere in this world. And while my heart still beats, hope’s fire wanes. I am in a fierce battle. I know I must learn anew to fight. For even in the deepest darkness, there is a light sewn into my heart of hearts and it will not be overcome.
As I write this now, a little more than a year separates me from the dark place mentioned above. What I share here, I offer humbly. Because the way out is a daily, moment to moment choice, and one I continue to struggle to make. 

But the hope is real and the God of it bigger and stronger than anything.

Come finish the rest with me over at {in}courage.

Please share with others as there are so many who suffer in silence and need to know they are not alone and can take a step towards healing today.

And if you are visiting from {in}courage, I have a new e-book available for subscribers:

In Every Story a Song

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

What Story Teaches Us :: We Learn to Laugh(and #oneword365) #TellHisStory

As promised, I am going to keep walking in this path of story through this new year. I hope I have committed so fully to knowing and living my story, and encouraging, guiding others to do the same, that it will shape the rest of my life.

So far, I have talked about how we learn to see through our stories. And this is really a part of everything else that story teaches us as we allow it to become the lens of our lives. Too, I have shared how we learn to behold. At the heart, this means all story in the light of God's Story reveals His Glory, especially in the most surprising places. And I have shared about grief, how story teaches us its complex nature and we learn how to take an honest journey through our grief to the hope.

But, there is a light side to story too. Story teaches us to laugh at ourselves, at the crazy things of life, and this is both freeing and profound. (click to tweet)It takes humility and grace to laugh at the funny, quirky, yet lovable,we have lived.

My twin sister, Sara, has always been my tutor in this. The Lord knew I needed a goofy twin ;)

This was at the airport after we arrived for our first furlough. My son is confused...he is just meeting her at 17 months old.
Here are a couple of the ways that looking into my own story has taught me to laugh:

I cannot deny it, I have always been a 'spazz'. No matter how mature I grow or the wisdom I gain, if something new or surprising happens or my husband gets *slightly* lost driving, I go a bit crazy.

One night years ago, after talking until 2 or 3 AM with our brother, Sara and I were driving on I-287 in New Jersey. She was new to the area and had not gotten her registration changed and sure enough, a police car began following us. She remained calm which translated to 'cautious' driving about 35mph on a 65mph highway. When the officer pulled us over, he had seen me talking animatedly to her about the situation, as a kind of spastic silhouette in the middle of the night. After checking her breath for alcohol and trying to discern if there was anything seriously wrong to make her unfit to drive, he asked, 'but what about her? (meaning me) She had her arms swinging erratically in the car.' Sara said, 'I don't know officer. All I can say is that she is my twin and she has always been like this...a spazz.'

In general, related to myself and others, I am quite clueless. I have gotten better here. But I still lack a good deal of common sense, being an extremely abstract thinker by nature. In my single years, I was often the last to know if someone liked me, and too, if they didn't like me ;)

But, the biggest, craziest example of this is how I became a math major in college. It happened one late winter afternoon during my senior year of high school. I was planning to major in Elementary Education, and Sara suggested I consider secondary education in a subject I was really good math? So, I took that at face value and declared a math major. Because I was taught to finish what I started, I studied hard through Calculus IV and became a math teacher. I added the credentials and lots of credits to become a Spanish teacher along the way.

Then, when I got my first job teaching Spanish, I not-so-politely declined to teach Math saying, 'I am not passionate about Math.' After life turned and I moved back home, I went into the District Office of my old school district to put my name in as a Spanish substitute teacher, not even listing my math credentials, though they were on my resume. However, quite miraculously and since God really does have a grand sense of humor, there was a full-time Math teaching job open. The Superintendent of the school remembered me from playing softball with his daughters and my years going through the District. My secret was out, and I found myself reluctantly accepting a full-time, contracted job teaching. I said 'yes' with the fierce stipulation of staying one, AT MOST, two years.

In the end, I stayed five years. I was humbled by all I thought I knew about life, remained grounded and home. And in God's great kindness, too, I was living with my parents when my mother got sick with cancer. I was also in the right location to meet my husband by being at that no-never-ever-will-I-teach-Math job.

Story teaches us to laugh at ourselves, at the spazzy and the clueless. As we gather with other story-tellers who have the grace and humility to laugh at themselves, we find even greater humor in the midst of all of the pain and tragedy in the world.

The laughter comes with the truth that we have and will get it all wrong. In our sincere desire to figure out life, our struggles for control, our need-to-know and our desires to live our dreams, we are going to miss the mark. In the light of a God who loves us in spite of all of this, and who is moved to compassion because of it, we see the beautiful ways of laughter woven into our stories.

And this is kind of connected, in my usual round-about way ;)

My One Word for 2015: WELL 

My focus on 'well' this year is full of the beauty of knowing I am God's. He has written my story and done great things in the midst of my crazy, foolish yet lovable ways.

Also, 'well' relates to the depth of stories from which I am writing my story, and the well of all of God's goodness in salvation.

The focus verse related to my word is Isaiah 12:3 'With JOY you will draw water from the WELLS of salvation.' As I embrace God bigger than all my mess, His ever-saving and ever-rescuing me, there is A WELL OF JOY, from which springs LAUGHTER.

What about you? What from your story has taught you to laugh at your crazy yet lovable ways? And do you have a word picked out for 2015? If so, please share in the comments, I would love to hear it!


Friday, January 2, 2015

What I Learned in 2014

I have wanted to write this post for over a week, so when Emily posted a 'What I Learned in 2014' with a link-up, I was Thankful for the motivation to actually get it done ;)

1) I am stronger: 2014 began with the first lifting of a long fog, the first break of dawn after a long night, the great hope of somehow finding myself again in the year. Coming through these things, I believe, more than ever, God does not waste the tiniest moment of our pain, grief, or testing, all of it is working something beautiful.

2) The way to hope can surprise you: There have been many surprises in the path I have been on towards renewed hope. The craziest part, for me, came through what I write in this post, this series, and how it wouldn't have been as real, if I hadn't spoken it out loud ;)

3) God writes the story: 2014 held many gifts related to story. In the end, stories remain very shallow, misunderstood, and are lost in busyness or distraction unless we surrender to God's writing and eternal purposes in them.

4) It really is amazing to 'Let {It} Go': I couldn't resist the reference to the FROZEN song, my little two year-old son loves to sing. It is catchy. But, the truth of when we really let go is profound, exhilarating, glorious and hilarious. There is no replacing the simple and yet oh-so-hard act of letting go.

5) True community is a heart choice with great freedom: So much of the hard leading into 2014 came through all of the transitions and their spinning displacement and ripping up of roots. I stayed in the dark as my idea of true community (and home) became bound in location, nationality, real-life, and was compounded as dear friends moved away. It has brought such freedom to embrace community, virtual or face-to-face, Hungarian, Spanish or American, long-time or brand new with a heart choice of what God always wants to give.

6) God's heart for my kids is so much bigger than mine: My three kids have been uprooted right with us, been the solitary Americans/English speakers in school, work and play, and have struggled to understand why the family they love is so far away. As we returned to the States for our first furlough, they amazed me. I saw how confident they were in every new situation. My daughter kept saying, 'Mom, there's a whole group of kids and they ALL speak English.' Then she fearlessly ran to play with them. They made new friends with ease, instantaneously renewed relationships with cousins, and didn't lose their Hungarian. In this crazy life, God is taking care of them.

7) No one else can pursue your dreams for you, or even, with you. This is one that will roll right into 2015. The past few months I have found the courage and confidence to live as the writer God has made me to be. The calling has always, always been there. The affirmation from others too. But, at the end of the day, I am the only one who can pursue the God-sized dreams I have been given.

8) There is not a single success that can bring true rest. Even if God is in the center of the risk, the courageous, bold dream and brings it all to pass, we do not find real rest in the success. It is actually the opposite. We often find our greatest anxieties and fears come to life at the heights of reaching what we have set out to do, and this is how it must be, because, in the end, God is our only true rest.

9) I need to pay attention to my tears. This comes from Emily's book 'A Million Little Ways' and it is a powerful book about our desires, and the art God uniquely gives us to do. So many quotes, but the balm to my soul remaining is how God speaks to us through our tears. It's been a treasure to embrace this.

10) Beauty will save the world. This quote from Dostoyevsky's 'the Idiot' is of the stop-me-in-my-tracks kind. I have always loved it, but this year, it's sealed something to my heart about what it is for me to write. The most common response I receive related to my writing is that it is 'beautiful'. It is the gut reaction. And I don't ever want to lose that or think it is somehow not enough. More than a principle or a truth, I want people to interact with the heart of my writing and leave with a greater sense of Beauty.

11) I am still a girl without too much common sense. This truth is in every hilarious, frustrating yet lovable story from my life. I am a head-in-the-clouds kind of girl who has to work on common sense. This is why the thing I have loved longest, the gift earliest known, is only now at 40 defining how I uniquely live the art God has given me.

12) It is hard to write 80,000 words of fresh prose;) In early September I began a memoir. I am now 24 chapters in and I think it was about chapter 7 I thought I had exhausted every unique way of saying anything ;) Even more crazy is how I realized part way into the process I have two 70-80,000 memoirs to write. 'Lord, help me!' is all I can say :)

13) You have to be a little crazy to stay sane. This is a 'family quote' passed down to me through my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. If I could just remember to live a little of this each day, I think I can face just about anything. These women did and were unbeatable survivors.

14) My bright blonde children are called 'sour cream blonde' in Hungarian. Our oldest began Hungarian school in September. When his teacher saw our little blonde troop, she mussed their hair and called them this. It made me smile. They love sour cream here...and our kids.

15) Neither Rome nor anything lasting was built in a day. Or a year, even ten years. This perspective has helped me so much, especially as I navigate writing, home, marriage, kids, on-going ministry, a still new language and culture. It is all going to take time and I have got to overcome my every tendency to want instant results and become discouraged when I don't miraculously wake up with the Superpowers to do everything.

16) Prayerfully Pick Your Battles. Not only in parenting, but in ministry, relationships. What is really my fight? I am quick to put the fists up, not to fight somebody, but to fight FOR them and a cause, but I have burnout, and will again, if I don't really wait on God to show me what to surrender and what He is calling me to fight for. This is a great path to learn how to pray without ceasing.

17) It is so very good to learn to take yourself LESS seriously. This seems even more important as the stakes rise, ministry and dreams grow, responsibility, etc. It's a humbling thing to lead and there will be lots of failure...God is always BIGGER.

18) Twenty Minutes is Time Enough. If nothing else productive, spiritual, planned, intended happens in a day. Take a break. For me this has meant I walk the hill in my neighborhood EVERY.DAY. It's my non-negotiable and has been life-giving many times over.

19) God's story, His words, are the BEST. As I write and read more, my soul is hungrier than ever for the perfect Beauty of God's Word. It's become like a song I always want to be hearing, so I study it. Meditate on it as I walk the hill. Even when it doesn't seem like I am really grasping, I don't lose heart, I let it drive me to prayer, life, relationships...see it become the yeast in the dough :)

20) God is Big Enough. He is big enough to draw us into His heart and through this touch the world. He is big enough to give an open door to a school for our son as we pray and seek Him and then do more than we could ever imagine in giving him friends, security, confidence. He is big enough to provide a heart friend for our daughter. He is big enough to risk greatly for the right things. He is big enough and it frees me up to be His, embrace who I am, and watch Him do beautiful, transforming things through living this out, both in my life and others.

Extra :: I have THE most amazing, supportive, encouraging, loving husband in the whole wide world and NOTHING can change my opinion on that :) 


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