GUEST BLOG: Lions and Tigers and Boldness

Soul-Filled Saturday

Boldness with God is a challenge. In our youth, we occasionally might have thought of God, just a tad, as the face of the “great and powerful Oz,” flashing with rage and condemnation as we approach the throne. That hallway to the throne of Oz seemed pretty long to Lion and he bailed. We sometimes feel the length of that perceived hallway to God’s throne and do the same. I believe this is because we are familiar with our smallness and the words in scripture which remind us of it. Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? God to Job. Chapter 38 verse 4. Read on if you dare.

Another problem is, when we think on God’s might and power and authority, we often mix in our past experiences of what that means: Our parents on a bad day, for example, letting their crazy shine before all humankind while they command our cooperation. I have wielded my crazy before my offspring and I often think, later, tail between my legs, that I better make sure my kids aren’t transferring that mess to God. God is perfectly wild, perfectly authoritative, and commanding without shame. God calls it like it is, and sometimes that makes us tremble.

But, and this is big, we don’t have to be afraid to be ourselves in front of that kind of creation power. The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love (Psalm 103:8 ESV). Have your closest companions said that about you when your intensity is on full display? Who but God commands such strength and yet is our one dream-come-true for comfort and acceptance

The awe we hope to muster is the same kind, on a smaller scale, that one would have for giant waves in Hawaii. If you are just purely afraid of surfing them like most normal people, you won’t get to shred them up and appreciate their tubularness. (Cringe, real surfing buddies at my shameful lack of coolness. I am the mom of a teenager and it is an artform I enjoy).
Think about those waves. Don’t you, just a little bit, envy the surfer? If she gains the skill and courage to try, she can be right in the center of their crystalline power. It takes some outright child-like trust to go there. Otherwise no one would do it. No one would get on the surfboard, and no one would go down the hallway, and no one would pray. And n
o one would know how real the love is, how easy the burden is, and how light.Boldness is welcomed by the God of Creation. He prefers it to milquetoast. That means yelling at him can’t hurt him. That means grief is allowed for as long as it takes. That means confession. That means ugliness and fear and cowardice are handed over to him. Let him take it from you. The hallway is short. The compassion is great. The waves are safe.

Teens are our Favorite

Recently a friend, a brilliant, child prodigy grown up into adult genius friend, announced via social media that a teenager now lived at his house. He spoke the words with trepidation, perhaps even fear. A thirteen year old girl, it seems, has every ability to cripple even the brightest among us. Every parent of teens understands. We know the cold-blooded horror that can knock us to our knees when we consider the scary dark magic and sorcery that are the teen years.

I happen to have two of those mutants at my house. When my daughter was born at the turn of the millennium and my son followed eleven months later, my husband and I had two bone-chilling thoughts. First, they would be in college at the same time and we would be holding the tuition checkbook. Second, and almost immediately, we looked deeply into one another’s eyes and realized that we would be raising teens at the same time. We would be teaching driving, and dealing with snark, and thought to be complete idiots, and worry about rebellion for eight straight years with multiple children.

Before I head down the off-ramp of this post, it is important that you know that my kids are not perfect. They tell untruths. Nope, that is too cleaned up. They lie to us even though they get caught and the truth would be easier to tell. They are unkind to one another. They say things that cut painfully and push buttons with a sledgehammer. They are 100% teens with all the angst that entails.

And, they are at our favorite age so far. Hands down. We aren’t miracle workers or magicians, but we truly enjoy our children at fourteen and fifteen. And, here are our reasons.

1. They make us laugh.
Teenagers crave laughter—and ours are no exception. They bring us funny YouTube videos, share jokes that they hear, and are willing to be goofy to get a response. Our day is made better because of the shared giggles. Sometimes we have to smack their hands for the inappropriateness—but the chortles come later when we are away from the teenaged ears.

Humor is a big part of staying sane as we raise these two. Trash talk during inane video game tournaments (cow racing, anyone?), impressions of cartoon characters reading field trip permission slips, and groan-inducing puns pervade our lives. Of course, we found humor in the knock-knock jokes and the crazy sayings of their childhood, but the gift of raising teens is that their true sense of humor develops at exactly the moment that it saves their lives.

2. They are dorky and accept our dorkiness.
I love the times when our kids’ friends pile up in our living room. With teens, the only requirement is plenty of food. No need to rearrange the furniture to provide seats for everyone; they always end up piled up like Lincoln logs in one chair. By the way, the swap from plural to singular first person here is intentional. My amazing, patient, and fantastic husband becomes longsuffering the moment multiple teens walk into the house. Foolishness, for my ISTP truelove, has its limits.

Our daughter has a troupe of friends, “The Squadron” they call themselves. Recently, this amazing group of friends moved into the territory of rom-coms starring Meg Ryan, advice columns, and sitcoms involving a couch and Central Perk coffee. Yep, they began to split into couples. En masse, The Squadron headed out for Valentine’s Day. (This is kinda like watching a train wreck, isn’t it?) To a couple, they broke up within 48 hours with all the drama and anger and frustration of a death of romance. Fast forward to our living room, one week after Val Day and all of them are headed our way. This moment was a DefCon and required preparedness response. It begged for a movie where things blew up, harsh language was used, and a good Bruce Willis shot-in-the-arm. For us, it required Tom Clancy.

We knew we were going to be okay in real life as on-screen big, black Suburbans carried Morgan Freeman and other CIA-operatives through Siberia. “Why,” Squadron Leader 1 asked from her spot on the couch, “are they always Russian around?” “Well,” Squadron Leader 2 responded, “if you had Put-in the amount of work they have, you’d be in a hurry, too.” It got worse from there.

I was reminded that cool is over-rated. Dorkiness and cheesiness and bad puns and human pile ups and silliness and friendship will always win out over reserved swagger and detached bravado. No amount of popcorn and pizza would convince most adults to put their egos and hurt pride aside and just embrace the beauty of friendship. This group of friends did just that. Their lesson was not lost on me.

Nor was their advice. “Miss Sally,” Squadron Leader 5 said, “you would make a terrible CIA Operative. But, maybe they would let you be the diversion.”

3. They are going to change the world—and remind us to dream.
Our kids know with all the surety of the teen years that they will live amazing lives doing amazing things. They are dedicated to a mission on this earth that changes the world. No small pond will hold their big fish dreams of international mission work. No small living is acceptable.

There are folks who believe that our role as parents is to focus on our kids first and foremost. In no way do I want to belittle their thinking. That model works for their family. It doesn’t, however, work for ours. For us, the dreams that our children share are stoked by the dreams we feed in our own lives. We struggle and falter. We fail and regroup. We succumb to worry. Then we go back out into the world with our dreams of being the change we want to see firmly in place. Because our children are committed to improving the world and living out their divine purposes, we too are dreamers.

4. They don’t let us take ourselves—and our own angst—too seriously.
Once, in a fit of maternal rage, I barked orders to my children at a rapid pace and dared them to disagree. When I finished, I drew in a deep breath, adopted the timbre of the evil villain, and asked coldly, “Now. . . .do I understand myself?” It took about 20 seconds before I began to shake with laughter and soon my children were doing the same. It has become a catchphrase for those times when the world is tilting slightly to the chaotic side.

Don’t misunderstand. Our children are well aware of our expectations—and know that disrespect won’t be tolerated. We are not friends with our children. We love their future spouses, whoever they may be, way too much to let them get by with less than their best. We also know that our children remind us to not take ourselves too seriously. They point out our lapses in brain function. Because they live in the moment, they invite us to do the same. Past failures and future worries rarely exist in the teenage vocabulary. They remind us that being present matters—and to let go of the burdens we’ve carried too long. Besides, another hill on the roller coaster of parenting will strike within the next ten minutes. If we’re not living in the present, the hairpin turns will give us whiplash.

5. They remind us what matters—and make us defend our decisions.
Parenting can easily slip into constant battling with teens. It’s crucial that we choose our non-negotiable stances carefully. In our house, lying and disrespect are not tolerated. We value both teamwork and giving your best effort.

Because both of our children are super sharp arbitrators with keen legal minds and razor sharp sense of fairness, much negotiation is required. It is through these negotiations that we truly come to who we are as a family. Although WHY can make us crazy, it also makes us more sure of what we are saying.

Teen: Why can’t I go out with friends after church?

Parent: Because we value our comfort meal Sunday time as a family. It allows us to honor and celebrate each person on their chosen meal day. It gives us time to sit down together and it means a real meal is served.

At that point, conversation continued surrounding preserving what mattered with the meal and negotiating ways to include friends. In the end, everything stayed just as it was.

It is a gift to dig into what we value as individuals and as a family. Our teens provide us with reasons that we must do just that. Why does that matter? Because I said so!

Raising teens is not for the faint-hearted. It has been, however, our favorite part of our children’s lives. We are better people because of our teens, their friends, and their dreams. They make us a stronger couple. Why? Because we are in the foxhole together. They give us practice with loving unconditionally—and creative ways to set the wireless password when they are grounded. So far, cleanyourroomz, Areyoukiddingme, and pantsafire have been our favorites to reveal when punishments have ended. There are days when we don’t know that we’ll make it—and we’re definitely not positive that they will. We are, however, in it together. Not just as a couple, but with all the people “in the stands” for our teens cheering them on toward adulthood.

There are countless books and blogs about parenting. There is great advice on toddlers and school-age fears and issues. There are fewer blogs about the teen years. Some of the void comes from shell-shocked survival. Some of it is unwillingness to put on paper our kids at their weakest moments. This lack feels, all too often, like wishing years away. Like wanting to set our kids aside from age 11 to age 20 and get them back with full executive brain function. Doing that means missing the lessons they have to teach. It also means missing the laughs—with them, at them, and at ourselves as we raise them.

GUEST BLOG: Moving to the Heart of Protest

Soul-Filled Saturday

Churches being torn apart… people being torn from faith…These are always places where God can shine through and bring healing.

Many, many people are seeing communities, businesses and churches torn apart.

It’s happening all over the globe.

And wait, it has been happening forever. Let’s talk about church.

Schism is the birthright of the Protestant church, right? Know your church history? Martin Luther called out the authorities on their abuse of power and said, “In Jesus, we all have the freedom to speak freely with our Creator.” The Church (the only one at the time – powerful in more ways than we are used to) didn’t like it one bit. A lot of nasty stuff happened after that which ML never hoped for. The Protestant church was born. (See the word “protest” in there?)

Protest can be straight from the heart of God. He wants us free and he wants us to protest anything that keeps us from our freedom to worship and/or our freedom to live lives reflecting his gifts.

But protest can be too much, too soon, too far and wrongheaded. (Methinks thou protesteth too much!!) Protest is often used to cover our weaknesses. It often comes from a slithery place instead of a light-filled one. And in our woundedness we can’t always tell the difference.

Protest often comes from pride or lack of experience .

Division, schism and multiplication can look like a baby in the womb whose cells are dividing into perfect life and growing larger or it can look like cancer.

Churches being torn apart… people being torn from faith…These are always places where God can shine through and bring healing. But protest and division are not always from God’s heart. As women, we must rise to leadership on the wings of heaven, not on the newest slick saying or argument.

Be wise, women.

Rest in a Tempest

Thank you God for this gift…and for making me rest in the midst of a tempest. Krissy

I’m sitting on a porch on Grand Cay in the Bahamas. It is my first real vacation in almost 3 years, one I’ve been looking forward to for months…and I’m stuck. No diving, fishing, exploring, hiking, boating, sitting on the beach…because God sent a tempest in the form of 30+ m.p.h. winds and wind chills in the 50’s and 60’s. But this is my vacation!!! I’m supposed to be doing all those things I have longed for for so long…and I can’t. And on day 3, just when I feel like I can’t take it any more, I realize that God sent me a vacation in so many ways if I only stop to realize it.

God sends new friends through every experience. The people here, on this small island, tucked 40 miles away from the resorts, casinos, vendors, peddlers, and tourists, are the most genuine people I have ever met. Many of them were born and have been or are being raised here. There are fisherman who make a living pulling lobster pots, one of the world’s most renowned divers, two churches, one school, and about 150 people who stop by to say hi only because they genuinely want me to feel welcome. They struggle in a poor economy and yet smile and laugh more than anyone I know in my “real” life back at home. They have shown me God’s grace.

God tells us to rest, and when we don’t, He makes us rest. I am constantly on the go. I am a senior executive for the state of North Carolina. I have a house, a dog, a fiancee, work 45 hours a week, go to church, visit my family. And then there is laundry, and writing, house projects, walking the dog, planning a wedding…and a never-ending list of things I want to get to…”if only I had the time.” The first night I was here, I was so tired that I slept TWELVE hours. Seriously…I went to bed at 8 and woke up well after it was light. I have read two books, visited with the locals, read old magazines, talked through all the options that make up future decisions. Today, at 2pm, I took a nap. I NEVER nap. Through the nonstop breeze, God has said “rest, my child” and I am doing my best to comply.

God is never small. I came here because I needed a break. Not another seven days of nonstop work. Through constant prayers, and the beauty of a land, He reminds me that He is not small. If we ask in His name He will deliver. Not always as we hope…not always in the way we expect, but if we are faithful He will provide. He provides for these humble people every day of every year…through generations. The lobster keep running…the hurricanes come and go…the wind blows and dies down…and He is ever present and just.

Thank you God for this gift…and for making me rest in the midst of a tempest. Krissy


Cozying up to the Campfire

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Over the past years, I have given up coffee. . . so tired; cursing. . . $%!*?%# that was difficult; complaining. . .let me tell you about how little my kids try to work, how frustrating my husband is, or how much I loathe having cold feet. Over the past years, I’ve given up something for Lent like clockwork. During the time of struggle, I’ve found myself sharing more about the church calendar as I bit my tongue or refused the java. Even so, this year, I wonder if there is a better way.

The concept of a season of Lent is foreign to many, so let me see if I can capture it here. Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, this year marked on February 18th, and denotes the forty days leading to Easter on April 5th. These weeks are set apart in deference to the forty days that Jesus spent in the wilderness. The forty days are only counted Monday through Saturday because each Sunday is a mini-celebration as a little Easter. These mini-Easters remind us that our true, Christian day of celebration is coming. On Ash Wednesday, pastors and priests will impose the sign of the cross onto congregant’s foreheads made from the ashes of palm branches that were burned from the previous year’s Palm Sunday celebrations. My pastor will speak to me, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” The words are scripturally based from Genesis 3:19.

For many people, fasting (from all food, or specific things like coffee, colorful language, chocolates, sweets, Netflix) is the perfect way to lean closer to God. For many, it is the perfect way to prepare for the celebration that is coming on Easter Sunday.

For me, however, giving something up for Lent encroaches into the area of resolutions, and willpower, and independence, and personal drive. When I tiptoe into the areas of self-denial, I watch its uglier self show up in the form of self-importance. I know it’s all about God and leaning in to the strength that only He provides, as Jesus did in the wilderness. Yet, I find myself having thoughts of pride when I make it through a moment easily without turning to the temptation and thoughts of shame when I slip and find indulgence in exactly the thing that I am fasting. In the midst of this maelstrom, it becomes less about Jesus and more about me.

As an outspoken, independent woman, I turn frequently to the book of James for a guide to biblical living. In James 2:13, I read “Kind mercy wins over harsh judgment every time.” (MSG) This Lenten season, I am extending that mercy to myself as I choose to bask in Jesus’ love. Right now, for me, Jesus’ love is best captured in the idea of a campfire. As I sit near the campfire, I know the warmth all the way to my bones. I soak in the heat to my innermost being—and, along the way, it heats up my skin and my clothing. Those around me are keenly aware that I have been near the fire as they feel the heat radiate from me.

At this moment, the people of my world need love to do just that. They need Christ’s love to radiate off of me in a way that is tangible. They need it to warm them just from the interaction, so that they too will seek out the source of the love. They need me to be set apart, hope-filled, joy-full, grace-bestowing in a way that is different from the ways of the world.

This year, the world both local and global needs me to pray for my enemies. The world needs me to have a well-spring of love to offer, a fountain of kindness and grace flowing from me, and a river of Christ’s contentment in my actions. For me, that means settling in close to the campfire that is Christ’s love. It means reading that I was fearfully and wonderfully made. It means studying Biblical heroes who were created for such a time as this. It means sharing with like-minded students until I can wrap my words around speaking that I am the disciple that Jesus loves. It means accepting others in their frailty—and replacing judgment with mercy. It means speaking the words of the theologian, Amy Poehler, “Good for her! Not for me,” instead of thinking that others need to think like me.

Honestly, it is when I bask in that knowledge of all that Christ has provided for me, how he chose me and loved me before I even knew him, and how I belong to him that I am most aware of the preparation for Easter. Through soaking up the love of Christ, I move closer to the cross. So, don’t mind me, I’ll be reading the book of John, learning more about my beliefs through the Apostles’ Creed, learning how Mary so ordered her life to sit at Christ’s feet, lighting a candle at our family table to pray for both the persecutors and the persecuted, and drinking my coffee while thanking God for long woolen socks.

Through soaking up the love of Christ, I move closer to the cross.

GUEST BLOG: Supple Soulfulness

Soulful suppleness is sooooo much more lovely than our checklist and our accomplishments.

Women just want to be superheroes. We want to be gorgeous and captivating, smart, kind, and capable in all the areas of life we are responsible for. We want to be witty whizzes and have fun doing it. We secretly want to be the best but we say we are our female friends’ biggest supporters.

One of our greatest obstacles to superhero status (other than the fact that no power comes from within us, but from beyond us), is all that “shoulding” we do all over the place. The should-pile is beginning to stink to me.

We love to tell people about our belly rolls and how we should get rid of them. We commiserate about our messy homes like just-breaking-news (when they aren’t really messy and especially when they are) as if “shoulding” will somehow elevate us beyond the voice of the inner critic.

We tend toward legalism by starting new “plans” to overcome areas of chaos in our lives.

But the most important question is not about our do-gooding. It is: are we listening?

A prayerful life-listener know when the tasks come first. She also knows when the beauty of the mountain sunset comes first. She knows she needs to feed on beauty to be healthy. She knows she needs to hear the wind and the crow and the rain. She knows which day to skip the laundry for a cuddle with that precious little one. She knows when, even though she may be devoted to healthy foods, it is a nachos and beer night.

Soulful suppleness is sooooo much more lovely than our checklist and our accomplishments.

Listen, sister. Listen.

The thing that makes you beautiful and perfect comes from the outside, enters your being, and shines back out. Do you want to appear like a list to others – all choppy and hard-lined and striving?

Or like a flowing river over rocks and moss, glistening and tumbling toward the sea?


GUEST BLOG: The Gift of Wings

Only…. Jesus has called us to do only one great thing in his name: love one another.


I have heard it many times before. Someone has endured an injustice. Their life is forever altered. Their understanding of who they are and what they have to offer – or even who they have been – is damaged. They know that speaking out will help others. But they are either afraid of speaking out because of continued grief or harassment, or they are afraid of hurting those who have done the damage. So they keep silence.

I have also heard this many times before: Someone gets hurt. They are angry. They give up on trying to maintain their ideals. Perhaps forgiveness, hope, faith and courage are too far out of reach. Anger, retaliation and revenge are close at hand. They lash out and harm either the one who did the damage, or someone else who got in the way. They refuse to be “the wounded.” So they become the wounder.

Finally, I have also heard this far, far, too many times. The one who did the damage was… the church. The supposed Church of Jesus Christ. The faithful. The salt and light.

And maybe the harm was even done in the name of God – and defended as righteous.

Only…. Jesus has called us to do only one great thing in his name: love one another.

Most forms of church hurt are not nuanced versions of love – no matter how they are painted by the wounder.

I have been the wounded. Stories of being the wounded (and the wounder) are for another day.

This week I have been in a deep spiritual recovery.

It is a long journey and I had a little break. I seemed to be better – healed. Until I was offered the chance to love a part of the body of Christ again – to leap and fly – to trust that it can be better with prayer to a mighty God who knows I need strength and wings and will provide them.

You, too? Burned? Hurt? Wings clipped? Chopped off, Maleficent? Your story isn’t over.

Your fear and caution are healthy. One cannot fly, after all, without wings.

The question to begin asking now is whether those wings, sheared in such an untimely way, were given by those who committed the brutal act. Who gave the wings? And in our pain, have we attributed their gift to the wrong giver?

The church most certainly did not give us wings. The wings were given by God. To serve the church. No matter how broken. I know your pain. But I am convinced that nothing, not even the church, can separate us from the love of God. And even the church needs our wings.

To be continued….

Soulful Saturday

Beginning, Saturday, February 6th, Frances will join No Ordinary Women in a weekly conversation that we are naming Soulful Saturday.

One of the greatest luxuries in life is a long conversation with a friend. When I was young enough to call a dorm room my home, I never realized the small window in which this luxury was housed. I pictured deep conversations of philosophy and theology and gender relations and relationships as always available. Then, life happened, and conversations turned to feeding schedules and dinner options, to laundry and exhaustion, to taxiing children and worry about teens, and the deep conversations seemed to flee out that shrinking window.

It takes a longer conversation to gain back the muscle memory for the deeper words. It takes a full pot of coffee. It takes a full bottle of wine. It takes an entire cheesecake shared among friends. As we take this time and talk of things beyond movies and sports and the activities of our children, we move from the physical connection of conversation to a soulful moment.

Our friend, Frances Cutshaw, understands these soulful moments well. She is skilled in being fully in the moment amid the flurry of being a wife and a mom and a pastor. She is skilled in taking the mundane and making it powerful. She is skilled at inviting each of us into the conversation.

Beginning, Saturday, February 6th, Frances will join No Ordinary Women in a weekly conversation that we are naming Soulful Saturday. Here, she invites us to brew that pot of coffee, pull up our most comfortable chair, stay in our jammies for a while longer, and re-open the window of conversation. Join us and join in.