How to Doubt

Every night I peek in the garage to make sure the garage door is closed. Then I glance at the front lock and the back lock. After perusing the kids bedrooms to turn out errant lights and music, I head safely to bed.

Everyone pays when I don’t do it. Snuggled all cozy in bed, I’ll ask did you check the back door? That’s always a fun marriage question. No one wants to check it, that’s what the question is all about. I’m not sure. Are you sure? If you’re sure, I can be a little surer, but not completely sure. The preferred response asker wants is always, always…that the other person goes and checks.

That, my friends, is what multicultural books call indirect communication.

Don’t get me wrong, I feel bad that I don’t want to check…but not bad enough to go check. Lest I not properly warn those thinking about marriage, this question has many forms. Locks, babies, water faucets, lights, and coffeemakers are all eligible subjects of this annoying habit.

Now, don’t you want to get married?

But what about when it comes to doubt that goes deeper than a visual spot check? Doubts about God. Questions about future direction in life. Qualms about how honest someone is being with you. All these eject us into much murkier territory emotionally.IMG_1282

For me, doubting has come in many forms. Doubting my faith is less my thing than doubting whether God is going to take care of me or my family. My questions about God has of yet to plunge me into an existential crisis. I’m no philosopher. In fact, I just looked up existential crisis on wikipedia to make sure I was using it correctly!

So, when I doubt God, its not like doubting whether my garage door is closed or not. You can’t just go look and say, oh, God’s good because I can see x, y, or z has happened. There’s a lot of ways to explain away the good in life or get stuck on the evil we all experience to differing degrees. Doubts don’t seem to just go away.

So, how should we doubt?

  • Face to Face. Its tempting to discuss my doubts at length with others, to live in the philosophical, to totally twist my mind in knots on my own without ever addressing my issues to God Himself. If I’m to cast my cares on God, to pray without ceasing, to not worry but pray, then it makes sense that when I feel anxious about God Himself, He wants me to talk to Him about it. Is it impertinent? Or rude? Or prideful? I would say it depends…
  • Expectantly. Kinda weird. What I mean is, that we should expect that God wants us to know Him, wants to guide us, and has all power to do so…in His time. Expectant means we wait for His answer which can come in many ways. My basis for this is Psalm 23. A shepherd feeds his sheep and leads them through danger. I cling to this passage when I need to be reminded that He is my shepherd.
  • Actively. Check things out. Read your Bible. Seek. Its easy for doubts about God to live in the realms of our head and the hallways of our emotions instead of treating them more seriously. The first place to seek is the place where He communicates to us. The Bible. Read. Read. And read some more as you wait expectantly on the issues you have talked about with Him face to face.
  • Shamelessly. Distancing yourself from others because you feel all over wrong, because you have doubts is the wrong move. Shame is the all over I am wrong feeling we all get at some point in our lives. Shame isn’t all bad, its like an indicator light on the dash to get you to pay attention. We are made in God’s image but we are fallen so life will mean experiencing shame in various degrees. Jesus came and took care of sin, the primary reason for our shame, so that we could live shamelessly in fellowship with him. By shameless, I mean like children. Kids ask the darnedest questions because they are young and curious. They get answers too. Why? Because they ask the questions! If we are to come to Jesus like children, he wants us to come with those darnedest questions–the ones everyone is dying to ask but because we fear looking foolish, we don’t. That’s when we lose out. When we don’t ask the questions.

Am I saying you should doubt? No. Don’t seek it out. I’m saying if it comes to you, think about how you are doubting. Doubts should prompt us to search for God. He wants to be found.

Kind of like playing hide and seek with a child in some ways. The goal of most of my kids when we used to play hide and seek was to be found. They felt they had lost when I didn’t find them right away and would bark and cough to give away their position.

I suspect God does the same when we search for Him. He wants to be found so don’t stop seeking.


On Inheritance

I bet I’m not the only one who’s ever thought man, I wish some free money came my way. Lately, this crops up in my heart because I want to do something to my house like Joanna Gaines does to everyone’s house in Waco. Maybe I should move to Waco. Or stop watching Fixer Upper. 

In line with this thinking that I want to purge from my brain, I’ve been filing away thoughts on inheritance over the past few months. One of which comes from a book I received at Christmas.

C.S. Lewis wrote about his early experience as a Christian in his Reflections on the Psalms. Get this, for the whole first year after bowing his knee to God, C.S. Lewis didn’t know anything about the inheritance the Bible says awaited him in heaven. He didn’t become a Christ follower because he expected an awesome return on his life investment.

And, he doesn’t think that was a bad thing for his first year as a Christian.

It got me thinking again about inheritance.

What would it look like to serve someone based on a promised inheritance v. based on it being the right thing to do. Seems like C.S. Lewis bowed his knee in a much truer devotion than I usually do. He did not expect his life to get easier. Even called himself the most reluctant of converts. He expected no inheritance.

Then, there’s the prodigal brothers. The prodigal sons. I read the story a few more times. Both brothers received their inheritance in the beginning of the story. One brother took his. He owned it. He took it away and, then, he wasted it. He got to thinking as he was eating slop, my life would be better as a slave in my dad’s house. I can’t be a brother, but slavery is better than this. So, he goes back home prepared to serve as a slave.Actual Factual Slop. Yuck.

His older brother received his inheritance but stayed at home but not happily. He complains to his dad about how he never got to have a fattened calf with his friends. Wah, wah.

But, why not? Wasn’t the calf technically his? Hadn’t the father given his inheritance to him too?

The older brother didn’t ever seem to clue in that he owned the calf himself. He never took his inheritance. He never enjoyed being at home with his dad, it seems. He inherited but he didn’t own his inheritance. He could’ve invested it, stewarded it, spent it. Point is, he could’ve enjoyed it.

Neither brother lived out inheritance in a good way. One took it and wasted it. One didn’t take it and resented the lowly position he made for himself.

And neither one realized the true benefit and riches they had as sons. They had their father’s love. The one who wasted his inheritance didn’t lose his sonship. Neither did the one who labored reluctantly. Relationship and love was free for the taking all the time.

Oh, how things could be different if we really understood it’s not about the inheritance as much as being part of the family and all that brings with it when the family we are talking about is God’s family.

The Final Semester

My best friend and I shared a hotel sized dorm for 3 years and had known each other for 4, but the time came to part ways. Nothing changed about our friendship or desire to be friends.

We didn’t have a falling out. We were graduating.

The stink of it was, I was her Resident Advisor so I had to ask her to sign the check out line through my tears. It was awful! We would never again be roommates but we knew each other like sisters.

All spring, I had these weird feelings. I knew graduation was coming. I was also engaged to be married. My life was changing and would change radically in the months to come even though I didn’t leave my college town after graduation. That spring, graduation was always out there. It loomed and my emotions rode this weird roller coaster that I can name now as transition.

Looking back at myself, I know how unprepared I was for this change. All the boxes of life were checked. Grades. Check. Apartment. Check. Job. Check. Health Insurance Rider. Check.img_5704-1

I was even one of those annoying senior girls that was actually engaged! The dream, right?!

But, emotionally, I did not expect to feel such turmoil.

So, you seniors in college, you are in a pivotal semester.

You are waiting to hear from potential employers. Wondering about a current co-ed relationship. Trying to figure out where to live. Needing to pass classes. Planning celebrations. Its a lot to take!

So, how can you leave college more ready for the next phase of life?

Reconcile relationships. 18-22 are volatile years of change. One big step to graduation should involve thinking back on your time in school. Are there any friendships that went south? Any lingering, nagging feelings of resentment towards old roommates, boyfriends or girlfriends, organizations, leaders, or professors that are creeping up in your soul? Pay attention! When classes end in May, it will be much harder practically to reconcile these relationships.

Forgiveness, hopefully, is a choice you’re making. Reconciliation is the next step. Think through your time in college. Is there anyone you need to talk to? Consider talking to anyone you’ve hurt or who has hurt you and expressing forgiveness or a desire to forgive. It may not fix things the way you might want, but it goes a long way.

I had to do that my senior year and it was one of the harder conversations of my life to ask for forgiveness. As an adult, I’ve had to have many more of those conversations. Get started now and enter adulthood on a track of freedom from your past.

Affirm. Many people, most likely, came into your life during college and provided the encouragement, teaching, friendship, and support you needed to finish. Let them know. Think through these people and contact them personally or write a note. Not only will it grow your gratitude, it will also remind you that you were not alone in a season where loneliness can creep in.

Farewell. Say your farewells. Don’t avoid them. It doesn’t have to be a huge graduation shindig. In fact, that may be a really difficult way to say a meaningful farewell. Farewells happen best for me when they are personal and specific to my relationships. Did you always work out on Fridays with a friend? Mark a last workout, get a treat afterwards,  and tell them you’ll miss them and that tradition.

Why say farewells? Graduation marks that a change is taking place in your friendships. You are entering the work world in different cities. You will make new friends. Trying to hold onto all of your friendships the same way is impossible. They need to change and saying farewell to the college student phase of your friendship is a good idea. Some college friendships will continue, but they will be different. They will take more effort and not all of them will last.

And, friends aren’t the only farewells to say. What about professors? Favorite study haunts on campus? A place where you had an epiphany about yourself, your life, or your future? One of my favorite things to do when we are moving away from a place is to walk around and remember my favorite places and what happened there.

Think Destination.This is the practical of moving. How and when are you going to pack? Where is that nasty couch going to go when you move out? Where will you stay in the in between? What will your job be and when do you start? What will your budget be? Where will you go to church or find friends?

It could be as simple as answering some of these questions. Zoom out and also consider, what do you want your adult life to be like in your new location? How will you get there? What can you do now to smooth the path?

Are you looking for a church? Ask friends about churches in the new town, go to one the first Sunday, visit a few, and make a decision.

Then, serve in some capacity. You will meet far more people and probably have a better attitude if you are in the game rather than bench-warming.


So, I must give credit where credit is due. These four points aren’t my own. They come from David Pollock who helped many, many adults and children make international moves with this model of transition called RAFT. I’ve used it many times myself for moves.

It became so internalized for me that I also went to it when my dad received a death sentence from the neurosurgeon in 2015. You can read more of that here.

This process doesn’t eliminate the hard things of moving, but it will help you move through them a little more smoothly. It’s a RAFT to get you across some bumpy waters of life change from graduation, moving, marrying, or saying the ultimate farewell.

I hope it helps anchor your soul and give some direction in a very tumultuous semester.

Dressing for the Weather

DSC_0102It’s cold and rainy and February in America. While our heating and a/c work better, this old post from our days in Asia rings true here too.


About December, meaning now, all my fashion concerns fly out the window in the face of bitter cold.  I don my huge white down vest, my fleece lined jeans, and Uggly boots solely because they are warm.  They are not attractive.  My husband makes endless jokes about tire mascots and marshmallows.  I laugh…because I am warm.

I’m no martyr.  I run the heat in winter, the cold in summer and fork the money over to the energy company but the cold and the hot still leak into my life.  The market is outside come bitter cold or rank heat.  Schools may heat classrooms sometimes but not hallways.  My home would rank “death star” or “black hole” on the energy star ratings.  It has no insulation.  Baby, it’s cold outside…and inside too!

For years we bought technologically advanced cold weather gear and still do.  State of the art long underwear. Polartec jackets.  Goretex.  They serve a purpose especially in the cold rain, but one summer I saw nainais (grandmas) knitting furiously in the heat.  Wool sweaters.  Wool pants.  Hmmm.  They informed me that hand knit wool is much warmer than store-bought.

I hate knitting.  I tried to knit once.  The only thing I knit were my eyebrows.  But when my daughter bundled up for school in the winter months and no amount of layers kept her warm, I realized I knew nothing about dressing for the weather.

No amount of technologically advanced long underwear could compete with the real deal–hand knit wool pants and sweaters.  She skipped the coldest part of the school year when a layer of ice lay in the sinks all day. We couldn’t keep her warm.  Chinese wasn’t worth frostbite and it was too late to learn how to knit.

I notice the same foolishness in my spiritual life too.  I’m spiritually cold and I want warmth.  Or I’m hot with conviction and I want some relief.  I look for the new idea or the new way to pursue God thinking new is better, new is more effective.  The new way to pray.  The new way to fast.  The new way to live simply.  There is no shortage of “new” in the Christian bookstore and I fall for it sometimes.

But there is so little that is truly new.  The old ways restore, feed, and penetrate deepest.  Reading my Bible slowly.  Talking to God like the child I am.  Admitting how often and far I fall short and then receiving the grace He freely gives.  Enjoying the people of God’s family in all their unique and different ways.  It’s like putting on my down vest, wool sweater, and sheepy slippers in winter.  I am so thankful for sheep!  And, go ducks, too!

There is not much new in the world and I smile at that.  God gave us what we needed from the beginning.  He held nothing back and still doesn’t.  What a great God!

Packing Up the Dreams

The man retold the story of his family’s escape from Saigon now 40 years before. He was 6 and his father told him to listen for the helicopter and, when he heard it, to come with his mother and 2 younger siblings. It was their escape plan.

As I watched the story unfold on public television 2 nights ago, my mouth was agape. The father flew the huge Chinook copter with his family out to the Pacific not knowing where to land. They spotted a US ship and approached. After his family jumped, yes, jumped to the ship and to safety, the pilot hovered for 10 minutes off to the side to prepare for his escape.

He took off his flight suit while flying the helicopter. Then, he tilted the helicopter one way while he jumped out the other way. He made it and they escaped to America against all odds. They came with nothing but the clothes on their back and a whole lot of courage to start a new life.

Read CNN’s version of Nguyen’s story here.

I reviewed the basics of a very familiar transition tool called R.A.F.T. developed by David Pollock for Third Culture Kids (TCK’s). I can tick off the acronym fluently, Reconciliation, Affirmation, Farewell, Think destination. It’s a part of me now having taught or learned or lived it more than 20 times in my adult life. It’s second nature.

When I watched the story of this family’s escape from Vietnam, I grieved for them, knowing they left everything with no hope of going back. There was no time to reconcile, affirm, say goodbye, or think about what was next. They just left and picked up the pieces along the way.

I felt some of that, albeit on a much, much smaller scale when we moved in 2015. A hasty move for us filled with grief, but we got to pack.11265229_10152990918247746_2789346580044480652_n

It is harder to glue the pieces of life back together after a hasty move. It’s easier to unwrap life neatly like carefully packed dishes–that’s what I thought RAFT would do for us. Wrap up our life so nothing got broken in moves.

Problem is, there’s always something broken in a move. It’s unavoidable whether you pack neatly or not. Of course, less gets broken with better packing and that takes more time.

But we don’t always get the time to pack neatly. It’s a gift when we have time to move through transition as best we can manage. But life doesn’t always allow that luxury.

Spring of 2015 brought such a move for us. All the books and models said it was all wrong but there was not much I could do about it.

We lived through my father’s terminal illness that spring then turned around and moved 3 weeks later. Its the kind of move people tell you not to do. We didn’t seem to have a choice, though. We had to move out of our apartment and we already bought a home in our new location before my dad’s diagnosis. It was one of those moves where you just get things in boxes and hope they survive.

We managed a couple get togethers before we headed out, but all I could think about was getting to our new home where I could unpack and throw, no, burn the boxes in an intense bonfire while sipping Dr. Pepper in my one glass I hoped survived the move.

So what do you do with such moves? I lived in that reality. I have no big answers or cures. It’s not just time that makes it better, but steps in the direction of life is always worth the work. My steps in that direction that year involved:

slowing down when I felt overwhelmed

abiding by some consistent routines like waking up early

reading the Psalms

gaining perspective by being part of something bigger than myself and my situation

relaxing and trusting the Lord to bring up what needed grieving in its own time

reaching towards community

Not all moves are pleasant and well planned. Not all are awful either. But they are all change. I learned through the “wrong” move of 2015 that it’s impossible to hold everything together through the tumult of a move…even in the good moves. The right moves where we had the goodbye parties and RAFTed like a boss.

What I can expect with every move is to know more of the God who walks by our side in the midst of it.

I have no idea what happened to the family who escaped Vietnam in such spectacular fashion. I know the child lived to tell his story… in English. Reading between the lines I can see that he lived and his family managed to make a life in the U.S.

Though they lost most every earthly possession, they kept going. They lived. Severe mercy, yes, yet mercy nonetheless.



Recent Good Reads

I’m a reader. Most people who know me know this about me. I read every night before turning out the light. When I’m not reading, I wane in creativity. I have trouble switching off my thoughts at the end of the day and reading helps me turn the page to a new day.

Haha. I punned.

Seriously, reading is awesome and I love sharing a good book with someone. I’ve read fiction for enjoyment. Non-fiction for education. Biography. Fantasy. Young Adult. Children’s literature. It’s great.

Most books I read on my kindle, but I needed a photo. I’ll tell you what, 1917 encyclopedias make for interesting reading. 

These are my favorites of the last year.

A Gentleman in Moscow. Wow. So creative and smart. A joy to read and especially rich if you’ve read any of the Russian authors of the past. My personal take away was the challenge to live fully the life I’m given with all the parameters I face.

An added bonus is that you’ll feel smarter after you read this one.

Little Women. I ran out of books one night and trolled my Kindle for something to read or reread and found Little Women. I’d read it before but I read it again. This time, I came away with a renewed value for my role as a mother. She’s not the main character in the book in some ways, but Marmie is always there waiting, watching, knowing, and loving her girls.

I also identified with each sister in some ways and gained much from how they resisted their personal temptations. It gave me insight on my own road to maturity.

A Man Called Ove. I don’t want to give anything away, but this book is a must read. Do not watch the movie before you read it or you will lose the amazing experience the author unfolds in the way he tells this story. Be warned, there are some dark themes and some language.

In the end, it opened my eyes a bit wider to the importance of community in some very real and good ways. It’ll make you cry, so grab the tissues!

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry. I read this because I read A Man Called Ove. This is by the same author. Its a bittersweet story of the loss of a grandparent from the eyes of a child.

In so many ways, we see our lives like children too. Maybe that’s why I liked the story. Again, Backman writes a strong theme of community. And, the writing is just great too.

Jane Eyre. Those Bronte sisters. So dark and gothic! I read Jane Eyre recently and was stunned. I’d read it before and the big thing I got was old, obsessive man. Young woman. Weird love story. Crazy lady in the attic.

Reading it again, I saw so much more. An orphan girl who never, ever had a place or belonged. No family. No love. No respect. She then faces the ultimate temptation. A family, a kind of love, belonging… but at a price. Loss of dignity.

Read it!

To Kill a Mockingbird. I recently read this book again as an adult. It is a literary and cultural goldmine. Told from the perspective of an 8 year old daughter, it challenged my soul to feel the pain of those around me who suffer under the heavy weight of prejudice and have for centuries.

I need to have a book club so I can process it. My brain is full of thoughts and questions!


This is getting long, so I’ll stop here for now. Another post is bouncing around in my mind of those books that have mentored me more directly in ministry. Its kind of a silly division of lists, though. In some ways, both fiction and non-fiction alike are taken, evaluated, and incorporated into my life in some way.

So, don’t put down fiction because you think you’ll get more from a christian living or self-help book. Literature has a unique way of leading us too.

And, definitely never put down your Bible. Its at the top of all my lists.

The Outsider

For 40 days a giant came out and challenged the army. 80 times they heard the taunt. 80 times their king failed to answer. Talk about a morale buster.

One. They’re in a valley. A low place, not the high ground I understand as being preferred in battle.

Two. There is a real giant with huge weapons ready to battle.

Three. The king has no answer. The king is not leading. The king sees no soldier volunteering and he is not choosing the option to volun-tell one to fight the battle. The king seems afraid, overwhelmed, and desperate.

Then comes the runt of a family. A shepherd boy on an errand.

As my pastor read through the passage in 1 Samuel, my mind slanted to a new realization.

David came into the battle as an observer. What must he expect to see as he got to the top of the hills surrounding the battle? Probably a battle!

But, there was no battle. I picture him walking through the camp, observing, confused, trying to figure out what in the world is going on. The men were waiting, afraid, demoralized. Its one thing for this to go on a day or two. But 40? That will do something to a soul.

David came in from the broad fields filled with sheep, daily trusting God to deliver him and the sheep. Daily seeing God do just that. He came in with a fresh perspective and it was not welcome.

There’s been times in my life where I’ve felt like David’s brothers. 40 days in the valley being taunted. Scared and stuck. Then, someone comes into my life, looks around and says something to the effect of don’t be discouraged by this, fight! God can win this one. 

Its startling. It usually grates a little. But, when I’ve let it sink in, its moved me out of the valley.

By the way, does anyone else think its pretty crazy that Saul let David go fight Goliath? I mean, he put the whole fate of the nation on the shoulders of a boy he didn’t know who couldn’t even wear his suit of armor.

Talk about desperation.

Or, God at work, rescuing His people through the most unlikely of heroes and working through the most unlikely of people.DSC_0002

Ah, that sounds like a familiar story line in the Bible.

My gut check in this story is looking at how I respond to events.

Am I in a valley and in need of an outside perspective, that of a warrior who sees the battle as winnable?

Or, am I acting like an older brother, neglecting the input of the younger because of age, rivalry, or jealousy? Yikes, I hope not, but I won’t rule it out. I know myself enough to know it wouldn’t be the first time.

Or, am I like the king in some way, not leading, allowing the troops to get beat down because I won’t believe God is capable of winning?

Or, what if there’s a time where I’m the outside perspective, seeing things differently, more clearly and needing to speak up even at the risk of annoying and provoking those that are understandably beat down?

A lot of food for thought in this story. The Bible is old, but it never really gets old, does it?