A letter

Posts Tagged ‘growth’

Stronger than before

In 2018, Entering Spring on April 6, 2018 at 10:48 am


I was eight, maybe nine. Yep, just as you imagine: stringy blonde hair with my “just don’t care” look. The one you know so well. The concert was at the new sanctuary. I don’t remember anything until I remember what I remember. And that part is branded in my heart forever. And it feels illuminated— almost like I’m still there if I close my eyes long enough. I didn’t know then how that evening would shape me. I didn’t know the seeds it would sow deep into the bedrock of my soul. I don’t know if you even remember it. But I sure do. She was all the kinds of crazy I felt inside. Inch-short, spiked hair. Fierce, passionate, bold. I distinctly remember feeling the bass in my chest. The ground shaking. I remember exactly where I was standing in the room. And then she began, and like a wrecking ball these words came, again and again: “they’ll be stronger than before.”

I was eight, remember? Stronger than before. Great! Why would I need to be stronger? For what purpose? What would make me stronger? I feel great now. Stronger for what? And Why? Now at thirty-four, I know all too well what those words meant. And the reason they branded me was for that very reason. She was stronger than before. Before life. Before things you never want. Because of things you never want to face. Because of hardship. Because of tears. Because of winter. Because of things you never dream you’d walk through. Because of pain. Because of life. And, on the other side you are stronger. But no one signs up for the “stuff” in life. No one welcomes it with wide open arms, or goes looking for it. It just comes.

I remember being at a conference a few years later. I think I was 11. I’m sure you remember it. A grandfather spoke. Well, he may have been my dad’s age now, but then he was definitely “older” to me. His message was about pain and ministry. I don’t remember his exact phraseology, but I remember what I came away with–a sinking feeling that God could never use me because I didn’t really have much to show for in regards to “stuff. ” In regards to suffering. In regards to pain. Not everyone can say that at eleven, but I could. And I desperately wanted God to use me. I remember me and Al having a serious talk with Dad that night, and him reassuring us, in his ever-so-gentle way, that God would certainly use us. We didn’t really know what he meant at the time, but I sure do now. He was so confident that pain would come, though he wouldn’t wish it for us in all the world. Almost everything was roses for us then. I wish I could say that it stayed that way, but dad was right: God would use us, and life was sure to come, full of heart-searing pain.

Janny marked me. Her words haunted me for years and years. Something about her raw passion. Something about her journey. Something about her hot-love for God.

In 2014, when I was compiling my album and choosing which of my songs I wanted to include, I kept coming back to that song. I wanted to sing her song. I had this ache to sing it. I now understood what she meant. And, as powerful as it was then at eight, it was grippingly real to me in a new way. It was a tribute to her, a woman I never had a chance to meet, but one I will one day on the other side. But more than anything, it was a testimony. A truth. Still resounding years later. That we will be stronger than before. He see’s us through, always. I hope you’ll listen to my recording. And, I hope you’ll listen to hers too. But more than anything, I hope you’ll be encouraged that seasons do change, and we do come out stronger on the other side. And rest assured, that even when we feel we can’t hang on, His grip on us never changes.





You know your pregnant when…

In New Winter on November 28, 2015 at 9:42 am

Growing a human is a very odd thing. Right? And, for whatever reason I am having the hardest time wrapping my mind around it this time even though it’s round three. Call me crazy, but other than the fact that I am getting more enormous by the day, it still doesn’t feel that real.

I was mingling outside church a few weeks ago and stopped to give someone a hug. She squeezed back and then matter-of-factly informed me that I had gained weight in my thighs and that my face was filling out. I just smiled and tried with every ounce of ability in me not to burst into uproarious laughter. Who says that to someone? I didn’t know exactly what to say, or how to respond. “Thank you,” didn’t seem fitting, because who wants to “fill out,” pregnant or not. On the other hand, I guess I could be thankful because I am in fact having a baby and it’s sort of part of the gig. I wish you could have seen the faces of the couple behind her. They were appalled and weren’t sure how to remedy the situation. I don’t blame them or judge them for their silence. It was an all around awkward situation.

Later in the week someone asked how many weeks I had left. “Oh,” I responded, “only twenty.” I sort of felt like giving the guy a pass, because after all he was single and probably knows nothing about the process of growing and birthing humans. He probably thought asking how many weeks I had left was a perfectly normal question not implying that I look huge or anything of the sort. If only he could have seen me at 42 weeks pregnant with Leon he might not have asked that particular question, knowing I am in no way close to birth.

Life is a strange thing, and the process to getting there even stranger. Through pregnancy we get to see in plain view this long and sometimes very uncomfortable journey to new life. But, whatever we have to go through to get to the birth of the miracle is so worth it in the end.

Miss you friend.



Uphill climb and Lemonade.

In New York Summer on July 2, 2015 at 6:42 pm

Well, after months of planning, we—and I do mean we—opened Vacation Lemonade. I can tell you one thing, this manager is tired. I wasn’t quite prepared for the level of involvement required of me for this stand. I envisioned sitting shaded in a lawn chair, drinking lemonade and reading while they seamlessly ran the stand, unassisted. Instead, I found myself stooped over at their side, coaching every move and helping in every way imaginable. I guess they are only four and six.

Leon wants to be open daily, and after earning a whopping thirty-eight dollars on day one, I understand why. He told me yesterday he is going door to door to get “costomers”. It seems we have an Uncle Bub on our hands. He will shout down any human looking creature in sight, trying to get a sale. He asks solo customers if they would like one cup or two cups and tells them he’ll see them tomorrow. He’s an absolute riot. Sol decided to start selling toys they don’t need as well. I’m not sure how they did it, but they convinced a Rocky-like, college-aged pedestrian to take an unwanted football guy, for free. He seemed very unfamiliar in the realm of children and said he would put it on his desk. He kept saying, “Are you sure you don’t want it anymore?” I was holding back uproarious laughter. One thing is certain, besides making money, we are making memories. What more could I want?

Through this process of running the lemonade stand the kids are learning amazing lessons. Leon is learning that making money takes time and hard work. He’s realizing it will take days of work to get his desired Air Jordans. By the end of day two they each had thirty-four dollars. He requested I search eBay for Air Jordans for thirty-four bucks. He said he wanted to know what Jordans he could get NOW. Funny thing is, in watching them, I see many parallels in my own life. I wish we were there right now.

I’ve been weary this week. I’ve been tired. I’ve been short on the patience required in life, especially in this season. I’ve questioned whether I have what it takes to climb this mountain. I want to be out of debt today. I want to arrive at our goals today. But just like the boy’s lemonade stand, our adult version takes time. Unfortunately, and fortunately, our goal is far bigger than a pair of Jordans, but that means it will take more than a few days.

We stumbled across an old gospel song last night and it couldn’t have been more perfect. You might already know it. She sang it well, and now we are too: “Lord don’t move that mountain, but give me the strength to climb.” This is where I am at today: I’m needing strength to climb. The beautiful thing is, He always gives us strength to climb. So we know we’ll be okay. Both you and I.

Love you friend.



Doing the hard work of–work. Baby steps.

In New York Summer on June 12, 2015 at 7:27 pm

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I woke up yesterday with housework staring me straight in the eyes. I decided it was a stare-down I wasn’t going to lose. I swear half the household items snuck out of their places and scattered themselves throughout the house while we slept. I still don’t understand how a house that was clean days ago can suddenly be a clutter. My finish-by-lunch-goal was a complete failure. You can only push lunch so far into the day and it becomes dinner. At 2:30, nowhere near being finished, we ate lunch anyhow. I know you didn’t believe me before, but you probably do now–my house really was that dirty. See, I am growing in mess.

My hardest chore yesterday was getting the boys to do chores. Lord, help us! As we both know, it’s so much easier to just do it yourself. However, if we want boys that have work ethic–if we want them to be men that conquer mountains–they’ll only learn to work hard by–working hard.  Thus chore training, and many conversations on what it costs to buy something you want: bucks.

Speaking of things wanted, Leon has decided he would like a pair of Air Jordans.  In pursuit of this desire, we had a business meeting earlier today to talk about their summer lemonade stand. We’re hoping this equation is a success. I’ll keep you posted. “Two bucks for one cup and three bucks for two cups.” He’s got it all figured out. He also wants people to be able to buy a toy for only a quarter more. He said he wants to be generous. I’ve been trying to explain to him the importance of “profit” while still encouraging generosity. As you can see we’ve got a ways to go, but we are at least on the journey.

I’m journeying in my own life as well.  If I want abs, I’ve got to do the sit-ups.  If I want a clean house, I’ve got to pick up a rag. If I want a smokin’ hot marriage, I best be tending the fire.  We all want the goods, right?  We want obedient children, but don’t want to discipline or instruct. We want great relationships, but don’t pick up the phone or invest the time. Leon frequently quotes “Do not fear the man who practices 1,000 punches in one day, fear the man who practices one punch for 1,000 days.” Bruce Lee is on to something, something real good. The little things equal the big things. I will not be the sloth who refuses to roast his prey. I’m going to do the work. And, I’ll start with what’s in my hand, for it’s the diligent hand that will rule.

So, how about it, want to baby step with me this weekend? I’m starting with sweets. Not eating them that is! How about you?


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Proverbs 12


In New York Summer on June 10, 2015 at 3:23 pm

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So there I was, dinner made and plated, beverages poured, silverware set, and family seated. David asked Leon to pray. His prayer that night was sweet and heartfelt as always. He prayed for each family member and a need they might have. He prayed that David would make $15,000 a day. Yes and amen to that! He prayed that Sol’s tick bite would be healed. Also, yes and amen to that also. (That is a story for another day!) He prayed for Alex’s work. What would his prayer be for me? I was eager to hear what blessing would burst from his little heart. I listened. “God, I pray mommy wouldn’t be so frustrated all the time.” I smiled softly and caught David’s glance, his eyes wide. I felt like running and hiding under my bed. His words held a mirror to my heart and cut deep.

Saying the past few days have been rough is an understatement. It was a sweet prayer, but not exactly what I hoped my child will think of when it comes to me, their mother. I felt defeated. I felt like a failure, and was wishing there was a way to resign. All that night and yesterday it was eating away at me: episode after episode of bad days and patience-less moments playing and replaying through my mind and heart. I felt frustrated at being frustrated and upset at not always being the mom I want to be to these little people God’s given me–these little moldable souls.

After much angry pondering, I realized that Leon will be fine. I don’t think he’s scarred for life, though he’ll need Jesus like we all do. He’s not keeping a tally board under his bed chalking up all my moments of frustration. He’s quick to forgive and has a heart the size of the moon. And, there are way more happy and laughter-filled memories than not. I realized the person that’s not fine is me. I’m the one keeping score. I’m the one in this last season who remembers all my bad days. I remember the times I raised my voice and regretted it later. I’m the one who’s hated who I’ve been. I’m the one who hasn’t forgiven myself–who deep down feels like a failure in this whole journey of parenting. I desperately wish parenting would allow me to take a couple of years off to go back and get my degree in “momming,” but as we both know, “momming” only comes with on-the-job-training.

I feel like Jesus sat down across the table, poured me a huge glass of grace-juice and said, “Drink it.” I want to. I’ll feel so much better when I do. I’m not exactly sure how to do it, but I’m going to start sipping today. I’m remembering their tender hearts are more important than spilled milk, sinks full of cornflakes, and the entire house being a toy box. I’m remembering I’m on a journey. I know I won’t be perfect, but I’ll keep growing. Sufficient grace. In weakness, perfect power. Sigh.

He’s my on-the-job coach. He’s so gentle in His nudges. He’s so kind in His tone. He’s so patient. He’s all the things I need to be to myself and to my kids. I guess if He’s with me, I can’t fail. Now to believe it.

Sipping grace.


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Visiting the past.

In Spring in New York on June 1, 2015 at 10:23 pm

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We just drove past a huge COOK OUT billboard and instantly we were taken back to Bonte’ and Lee’s front porch.  Hickory, how we loved you and the life we shared in that season. David can still remember the feeling of the wood on his bare feet, and I can feel the heavy moisture clinging for dear life. Those were the days. It’s been eighteen days shy of a year since I’ve seen Bonte’. I’m not even sure how that happened. Well, actually I do. My heart might burst seeing them tomorrow, and we get to meet Ms. Margot James Watson for the very first time. We might just eat her.

Driving those roads again, the ones we drove so many times before, is strange. It’s an achy, happy feeling. Our life in Virginia and law school seems so distant, though some of its memories still feel near. As you well remember, those years for us were laced with hardship and surprises, with loneliness and life-long friends, with beauty and pain.

Familiar places are good for our souls. They remind us of things forgotten, and give a peace to our hearts that few things can. I was realizing during our drive that the best thing they do though, is remind us of where we’ve come from. The good times in life then, were gifts hidden in a challenging season. I didn’t even want to go to Virginia. But, then in the end, though I was elated law school was complete, much of what Virginia held made it hard to leave. So much richness was waiting for us there. So many friendships that surprised me. So much growing we didn’t know we needed. So much steel being built in our bones.

Revisiting this chapter, put wind in my sails.  It reminded of the goodness that waits for me in this season, too. We can so easily forget the faithfulness that carried us to now.  Right?  We might not be able to see all the goodness just yet, but we’ll for sure look back and see it.

I know we are both good at reminiscing for the sake of nostalgia, but I think we need to revisit the past from time to time in a different way. Not because it’s always pleasant, not because it’s entirely good, not because it was perfect or pain free, or that we did it all right. We need to look back and see the faithfulness. We’ve made it a long ways. We’ve gained strength, we’ve grown, we’ve loved more, we’ve grieved, we’ve rejoiced, we’ve conquered mountains, we’ve aged and grown in wisdom, and though we have some scars, they even prove that we have healed.

I guess this might be the very reason they built altars of remembrance with stones. So they didn’t forget the goodness.

What do you remember?


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A pile of legos. The road to a Master piece.

In Spring in New York on May 27, 2015 at 9:48 am

Our last day of school was Friday which meant the purchase of promised lego sets.  I found this “amazing savings” store blocks away that had the knock off version of lego sets–big ones–for cheap.  So, come Saturday we had one thing on our mind.  If only I would have known they were closed Saturday. Ten stores later we finally retrieved two enormous clearance sets. Happiness was all around.  Who knew how many hours it would take to help construct these sets for 7-14 year olds. And you know Leon and Sol are neither 7 or 14.  Needless to say, I’ve had a lot of thinking time.

Today, staring at a pile of lego pieces I was thinking how much I always want to be at the end goal. I want the mansion, the huge G.I. Joe fortress, but don’t really want to put the 687 pieces together. I especially don’t want to have to read the manual, which, is ridiculously silly. I want the be an amazing parent and have obedient children, but when I am less than an amazing mother, and have less than obedient kids, I am somehow shocked as if I have nothing left to learn. I realized how much I want to wish away hardship or challenges rather than seeing them as this gifted opportunity for growth and adaptation.

I am realizing I can do little to change the circumstances that come my way, but I have this ability to change me.  I can learn new ways of responding to situations.  I can learn to parent better if I am willing.  I can have a cleaner house, or in my case a more messy one, If I’m willing to let things go a little.  And, isn’t this what He’s doing in us anyhow?  Isn’t He molding us, shaping us more into His image?  This implies that we are not exactly like Him yet, that transformation will need to take place. Paul’s flawless words paint a perfect picture.  “And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like Him.”

So friend, I’m going to be the first to admit I don’t know everything I need to know.  I have things to learn.  My mansion is not yet complete.  I am not entirely like Him, yet.  I’m also looking at the instruction manual a bit differently.  He knew we would need it to get to the desired outcome.  How refreshing.  What an incredible master builder that gave us such detailed instructions.  If that very thought doesn’t lift the load of perfection right off your shoulders, maybe you should read it again.

One day at at time,

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That was an actual person’s cart of paper towels at Costco.

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2 Corinthians 3:18

The mess of happiness.

In Spring in New York on May 19, 2015 at 1:50 pm

I was awakened early on Saturday morning by Sol’s gentle poking, informing me that breakfast was ready in five minutes. The thought of a four and six year old making breakfast alone is not a welcomed one, especially early on Saturday.  Thankfully the smell of bacon reminded me that David was actually home this Saturday.  Hallelujahs all around.  As I walked around the kitchen corner, I was welcomed by quite a site.  Every inch of counter space was covered in some sort of substance, be it, flour, powdered sugar, bacon grease, egg remnants and the likes.  It would have been easier to count the clean dishes in the cupboard than to tally the dirty ones.  At first glance I could only think one thought–I needed coffee.  But shortly after, my eyes met this grinning, aproned, very freckled red head standing on top of a stool, with spatula in hand flipping french toast. And, grinning is an understatement.  He was glowing.  He was proud.  He was full of non stop chatter and one thing was certain, his love tank was full.

As you know, I almost ALWAYS choose the option of less mess.  I hate mess, I love tidy.  I hate disarray, I love order.  But in a moment like that, seeing his happy little face, made all the mess in the world worth it.  Well, it’s Tuesday and I can’t stop thinking about real life and happiness being messy.  That one Proverbs has been haunting me too– where there are no oxen, the stable is clean.  In my mind, clean always equals happy.  But if I got my clean, all the time, it would prove one simple thing, that life wasn’t happening.  Mess, comes with living.  Happiness also comes with living.  And, isn’t happy living what we are supposed to be doing? Aren’t work, and play, and people, and messy breakfasts, the components actual life is made of? Do I really want to escape to the end of the day when all is in it’s place? Well, actually, I do, and will go to bed with my house in order as usual.  However, I’m going to, and need to remember, and you’ll probably have to remind me, that this is life, we are living it, and most our happy comes with mess.  I think it’s how it’s supposed to be.  Unfortunately, you’re just better at messy than me.

Growing in mess,


P.S. Knowing you love bacon, you should see if your Costco has the same bacon I found this week.  It is the FATTEST bacon I have ever seen.  You’ll love it.  It’s by the turkey section, and its FAT.

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