The Power of A Gentle Lead

Lily is a lunger. I stopped walking her for a week because a back muscle spasm left me doubtful I possessed the strength to control her without incapacitating myself. Its embarrassing really, an indictment on our dog parenting skills, to have such an ill-behaved dog.

She seems ferocious with her heavy chain collar we bought to walk her. Don’t judge y’all.

It helped a little but didn’t keep her from pulling when she approached the big Collie she dislikes. Some dogs she likes and some she can’t stand. She can’t stand that glorious Collie. It’s hard to know how she judges or what they’re saying to her that sets her off. We just walk past, heads hung, sheepish smiles of apology on our faces as our dog barks her face off.

Our neighbors wouldn’t know she spends most of the time in our home sacked out on a couch or bed, completely docile. She behaves like an attack dog in public. I’m sure we’ve avoided a break in just due to her behavior on walks in our neighborhood.

We went to the pet store to look at lizards, my son’s absolute favorite category of the animal kingdom. We wandered into the leash aisle and browsed a bit before spotting a box with an idyllic picture of a cute dog on a walk.

What must that be like I wondered?

We agreed it was a lot to spend for a thin cord contraption but I’d seen other dog parents using it. Their dogs did what I wanted Lily to do. They walked beside their owner and generally behaved themselves. I admired their behavior and thought I’d like to walk my dog in a similar, calm fashion. My son convinced me the purchase was inevitable.

So, I bought the new lead and wondered what would happen when we put it on Lily. Could this little cord really hold back 35 pounds of dog torque? Ok, you’re laughing but it’s a lot when she she sees a deer and imagines the kill.

Here’s an example of what brings out the killer instinct in our dog…Bambi.

I was doubtful. I saved the receipt and my son and I expressed gratitude that the box wasn’t one of those contraptions that needed a box cutter to open. We opened it without losing a finger and raised our eyebrows. It was small and thin for what it claimed it could accomplish.

We finally figured out how to put it on Lily and everything changed.

Immediately.

She went wherever I led her. A new problem emerged, our leash dragged on the ground and got under her paws. Trucks went by, she hardly noticed. Bunnies jumped and she just glanced at them. We walked by the yard of her arch nemesis, Cujo we call him, and she reacted not a bit.

Lily was a new dog.

A tiny bridle-like leash brought her to submission in an instant. She’s going to get more walks now. She will make new friends. People might break into our house but at least we can show our faces in the neighborhood without folks checking to make sure she’s up to date on her rabies vaccine.

I’m going to look like a queen with my medium sized dog walking right beside me.

Being a city girl…ok, a suburb girl…I never saw the power of a bridle quite so clearly until now. And, of course, it reminds me of more than just controlling animals.

Small things can control big things. Small things can turn powerful things. Small things can do big things. James, Jesus’ brother, connected this phenomena to our personal lives. Our tongues. Our speech.

It wreaks havoc in our lives, sets things on fire. The only way out, the only way to bring it in check is to submit our whole selves to Jesus Christ’s gentle lead.

This year I can’t believe some of the things said by people I used to respect. Insults that were off limits in the past got plastered across social media. I grieved the evidence of what lay in the hearts of so many. It became evident we couldn’t control much and tongues wagged, set things on fire and burned relationships to the ground.

I can’t believe things I’ve said in my life, things I deeply regret and needed forgiven. When I begin to see the power of my words it is sobering. How can I have such power to speak words that hurt so deeply? Yet I do, we all do.

It became so common place to breathe out angry words, it was held up as being brave and honest. I think, in reality, it was just a power play, a stab at controlling…something.

Now here we are, divided, suspicious, and scared because we did not put on that bridle and submit ourselves to God who gives the power to resist those forces that tempt us to try and control what we never could control.

I know the arguments.

What if He leads us on a way we don’t want to go? What if it hurts, what He wants us to do for Him? What if we suffer? What if we’re not the winners in this world but we look more like losers.

Jesus told His follower, Peter, what to do under such circumstances…you must follow Me.

Peter, you follow Me and you will lose earthly power and reputation, you won’t even get to dress yourself or decide the next place you sleep.

And Peter submitted to Jesus but somehow I sense we forget. I know I forget.

I forget that life with Christ was never about power but about sacrifice. It was never about my way, but His Way. The call to follow Jesus was never about being in control and it was always about making disciples.

So if I submit to Him, maybe my tongues will stop lunging at other people and I’ll look like Jesus a little more. He’ll seem a little more like who He is because I display who He is a little more accurately.

At least, that’s what I hope for myself. I’m not sure I’ll ever get comfortable with the bridle this side of heaven but I know I need it…desperately…and I know I’m not alone.

Maintenance and the Soul

For the past many, many weeks an army of construction workers rotates around our neighborhood repairing the curbs. A section is cut out, dug out, framed and then poured. Some sidewalks are repaired but some are not. Eventually, the street gets a new, deep black layer of asphalt.

On dozens of walks we discuss whether the work even needs to be done. I mean, I’ve about lost a wheel on the pothole near the kids school and the roads over there look like they need the work a bit more urgently. It’s all quite a mystery and the neighborhood keeps scratching its head.

This last week the condo in Miami collapsed on top of itself. One floor on another floor on another floor. Maintenance was needed but the problems didn’t seem as urgent as we now know they were. So many souls lost. Much is yet unknown but maintenance was desperately needed.

And maintenance is a total drag. Its expensive and it feels like it’s not really needed urgently so it gets put off. Like painting our house or figuring out why one slab of the driveway is sinking. We know that the problem is growing, will require some work someday, and it will be expensive.

Walked by this house once and itched to trim, paint, and repair it!

It doesn’t seem worth it until the problem is way beyond minor.

And so it is with my soul too. Things are working so why dig into that tendency to make a joke instead of respond differently, engaging the other person more lovingly? I’ve read the Bible through a few times so I probably remember what it says well enough to put it aside for awhile, right?

But our world and our souls are constantly pulled in the direction of chaos, disorder, and decay. If the house doesn’t get painted, the wood rots. If the source of the water leak isn’t found, the damage extends. If the crack isn’t investigated we don’t know how deep it goes or how quickly it is growing. If I don’t read my Bible, I forget.

Then crisis hits and we scratch our heads trying to figure out what went wrong. I then face the reality that I didn’t pay attention. I didn’t maintain.

I didn’t want to put in the daily, seemingly mundane toil of repairing what wasn’t quite totally broken. It didn’t seem worth the effort to shore up what was weak or protect what was vulnerable to the very active forces in the world.

Honestly, anything that holds together or makes sense, an atom kept in stable balance or even an atom that races toward another to stabilize itself, shows me an aspect of God’s character by revealing that order still exists. There is a force, God, that keeps things together, that heals, that puts together our souls and keeps them together.

He is the One that does that for our souls. Maintenance for the human heart involves surrendering ourselves, mind and body, to His skilled hand. It’s easy to think we can and need to maintain ourselves, but it seems more that my work is to cede the work to God Himself and comply with His Way.

The surrendered life, the crucified life, the cruciform life.

The abiding life.

That is the life that is kept in perfect peace, solid against the dark forces of the world that would tear us apart.

Re-entry

We walked around the busy grocery store, my sister-in-law and I, carefully following our list and eager to escape back to the quiet lake house retreat. She just returned to the US after 2 years uninterrupted overseas. You know why, pandemic.

Grocery stores are among the most overwhelming re-entry experiences. The choices are different, the quantities are measured in different scales, and in America the abundance can be overwhelming. Choices become more difficult. Mentally tallying the dollar signs from the foreign currency taxes the brain. At some point, you just give up and dump it in the cart resolving to care another day.

America is the land of opportunity. The opportunity to have it your way. To customize. To choose. To never see the back of the grocery store shelf. To not have to rework your menu mid shopping trip because multiple things are unavailable. To not experience as many social restrictions or curtailed freedoms.

Except for this past year and a half.

In many ways, 13 years of life overseas prepared me well to encounter a lack of toilet paper, a reworked menu, an acceptance of social restrictions, and jumps through bureaucratic regulations. We signed up for difficulty when we made the decision to live overseas.

We painted a lot of things this last year, including our front door, a portal to a different place…like re-entry!

Life in lock down reminded me of some aspects of life overseas and I relished the time to jump off the treadmill of the busy American lifestyle so many warned us would come when we moved back to America. After 5 years of life on this side of the Pacific, we’d definitely become increasingly busy and committed. And not just us, but our kids had commitments on top of ours.

Jumping off the treadmill was a gift in many ways. I read through the Bible a couple times because I didn’t have to get anyone off to…well…anywhere. We spent a lot of time together as a family, something which I ached for as our kids got older and busier. It felt like a gift.

But we also lost friends, grieved the unfairness of life, felt guilty at times for having enough, wrestled with how to relate to others during a particularly divisive time in a country that we already struggled to fit into after 13 years living away.

Now life is picking up again. We are faced with re-entry in a wholly different form than ever before in our lives. Alongside an entire world, we are all wondering what we are entering.

Because its not really re-entry. Its entry.

I feel this push and pull about what is to come, what we are entering. I don’t want to go back to the insane schedule that challenged us trying to find time together as a family. But it’ back. The school extra curriculars are laying out time intensive schedules.

Everything is starting up and I’m feeling a little like my sister-in-law in the grocery store. Overwhelmed. Stressed. And feeling like I just need to dump some stuff in the cart of life and try to figure it out later.

But this isn’t cereal or potato chips. Its time and energy and cultivating a life in dependence to God in ever changing circumstances.

Re-entry and entry take time…mostly time to think, feel, and align ourselves with what following Jesus looks like in new seasons of life. And besides a world opening up…kind of…I also have a daughter a year away from graduating. That alone is catching my attention and heart.

Another sign that I am entering, not re-entering. My life will change drastically soon.

So maybe you can relate to me on some level with our current times or maybe not. I have a feeling that many of us may need a little more time to do things we once did so effortlessly before a global pandemic.

For those that have not experienced the grocery store scenario of the newly returned expat, let me tell you it’s ok. It’s normal. It will take time. It will make you angry, sad, confused, insecure, and probably many other things to navigate the new world with its new challenges.

But in all that unsettledness, I’ve learned that following Jesus is the surest foothold through rocky life transitions. Something that all that reading the Bible brought into focus this past year.

If you’re looking for a first step, I suggest the Gospel of John and reading about Jesus who pretty much shook up every life He encountered.

As always, thank you for reading my thoughts and musings! I’ve struggled to write this year in the midst of so much…well…just so, so much of everything. I resolved today to write and break the silence and I’m so thankful you got to this point in my ramblings!

For the love…

It’s all about Peter this spring. Peter, the hot headed follower of Jesus. The one who chopped off a guys ear. Jesus put it back on FYI and I have some questions about what that looked like in real time…no…slo-mo!

I would really like to see that in slo-mo.

I have expectations for heaven and one of them is slo-mo video recaps. It’s going to be so much better than the best tiktoks, right?!

So, Peter. I get Peter’s personality at times. I want quick fixes, zaps that would put everything to rights. Maybe not lightening but that would be cool sometimes. Expedient.

Peter got it wrong a lot with Jesus and Jesus doesn’t make sense to me sometimes either. He goes against all we think should be true about life and our world sometimes.

Like suffering, that makes no sense to me at all sometimes. The concept of suffering having meaning and experiencing joy in suffering just really stumps me. I avoid suffering unnecessarily. If I can be comfortable, I choose that path. Peter was suffering avoidant, too, and Jesus really called him out on that.

I mean really called him out! Jesus used the word Satan as I recall.

In 1 Peter, though, there’s a real change. Peter, the quick-fix, suffering avoidant snob is a different man. Now he’s telling Christians that were driven from their homes to rest secure as they suffer for their faith.

Old Peter wanted to call down lightening to resolve problems. New Peter is saying wait, hope, let suffering do its work removing the bloat and impurities from our lives.

Contrary to the positivity all around us today–Peter owns the suffering they experience, we experience. It’s real. He owns that its hard. He acknowledges that we cannot afford to be passive in suffering but we must be sober and alert and it matters what we do when we suffer. But just thinking positive thoughts doesn’t make it go away.

And more surprising, all this suffering and waiting and hoping results in something otherworldly–greater love. When we submit to the trials and the suffering, the goal is not that we become more with-it, disciplined, and productive people.

Peter says we become more sincere lovers of other people.

So, if you, like me, are chaffing under the weight of the things that are not right, under the displacement we feel in the world, Peter has got a lot to say to you too.

Old Peter is pretty fun to read about but new Peter. New Peter is the one I want to spend time with. He’s the one that gives the true filling of courage for hard times.

He has lived it. He loves. He became the shepherd Jesus charged him to become when Peter was coming out of his greatest failure.

So, as we live it too. As we face all our avoidant, quick-fix tendencies and live under our circumstances with that living hope inheritance with Jesus, we will be changed too.

And we will love. And won’t the world be better for it? And won’t Jesus shine?

Stepping into this New Year

As news unfolds this week, there is hope mixed with uncertainty and suspense. A vaccine is rolling out but cases rise as a new variant of Covid spreads. Just when I want to rely on the future looking a certain way, uncertainty prevails yet again.

New Year’s resolutions feel ridiculous after a year that upended so many of our plans. What do we do with this milestone this year? 

We recently saw the movie News of the World, which I highly recommend. Tom Hanks and Texas. Really, y’all, what’s not to love?

I read the book a couple years ago and loved it. The movie does it justice.

Its beautiful, heart-rending, and important. This year we can all identify with the losses of the two main characters. With the dangers they face in a hard, cruel world. And with the importance of relationship and connection.

It’s a must-see.

One main theme is about what to do with who we were and who we are now. Do we look back and hold it all or just keep moving forward in a straight line?

In some ways, a little of both is necessary.

While this year may feel like an anomaly, and hopefully it is, it still bears weight on what we are and what we will become.

It shaped us and will continue shaping us for years to come. Looking back on the past year has never felt so important.

Read on to see what that practice has looked like for me a couple years ago…


I hardly ever make it to midnight awake. Usually I roll over about midnight, disrupted by the rumble of a few fireworks, then drift back to sleep. The day dawns and I wake to find myself in a whole new year that feels just like another morning.

Except that most new years days I spend a chunk of time reviewing the last year. I took up this habit one year when we lived overseas and I spent a quiet, sunny morning going over Michael Hyatt’s 7 Questions to Ask About Last Year. I still remember the chair I sat in, it was that powerful.

Since that year, I look forward to reflecting every new year. Lest you be afraid this somehow leads to those resolutions, be afraid. Somehow, these questions and reflecting on the past year just naturally lead to revealing what’s important to take with me into the next year.

Maybe it’s also the coffee that kicks in about the same time, but I end up holding onto a few thoughts about what I want the next year to include, if it’s up to me.

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Remembering is a funny thing. I lived a lot of life this last year, and forgot quite a bit of it. Memory to me feels like I’m holding a bunch of groceries at the grocery store like when I think I don’t need a cart. I can only hold so much and my brain just drops things  that it can’t keep holding onto. Sometimes they are the right things, sometimes not. It can be startling what I forget and remember.

Why? Why do I remember some things and forget others? I’m not sure. But its a reality. Reflecting on the past year is a means to much grace and mercy. I look into the year and lay out the events and experiences before the Lord and myself and sift through them. Are there themes? Regrets? Disappointments? Joys? Always, yes.

This year, I stood back and looked and saw a year of great adventure and drama. As I sorted through it, I saw more clearly the reality I’ve felt as the year drew to a close. It was a roller coaster year…again. I’m ready for a little boring. A bit less adrenaline.

Extensive travel, romantic drama, medical issues, rich family time, and ministry to others defined our year. It was a good year. It was also a full year with lots of ups and downs, twists and turns. So many good things but also a few very real, hard, new things to navigate.

In the middle of it, it has been easy, maybe even necessary, to just pack experiences in my bag of memory and do the next thing that needs doing. The problem with that is that I need to look up every once in a while and see the bigger picture, the distances traveled, the goals ahead, the victories and sorrows along the way.

Like a rest stop on the journey, I need the time to reflect so I can acknowledge God’s hand in it all, and recognize that He has been with me the whole way. That He sees and He cares even if it’s not all worked out, resolved, or better. I can have joy when I look back and remember what He did work out too.

What distilled over the course of my morning was that…

  • writing is still very important to me. I regretted not keeping it up this past year. I need to make time to write.
  • exercise took a back seat for different chunks of the year and that was necessary. It is now important that it not stay in the back seat.
  • making peer friends in this season of life is challenging because of the many demands on life. I greatly value having good friends and I need to keep moving forward in cultivating friendship.

Notice there’s not a lot of specific goals. I don’t really have a word for the year. But, now I have 3 areas of life that I know are important to me that need some attention. It helps tie a tiny, imperfect bow on the past year and move a bit more confidently into a new year.

If you end of spending the time to go through this process, please share what came out of it for you!

When Jesus Came

Luke came around today asking about my memories of Jesus. He’s putting together the whole story so he can write it out for those that weren’t there or even alive when Jesus was with us. I put aside my work and sat down with him to remember.


There was this one time Jesus came to visit and I was so excited to host him, this man that healed so many. I mean, everyone was talking about him and how he was challenging to the Pharisees with their high and mighty ways. I was so ready for someone to confront them.

He had an entourage too, 12 guys, so when I heard they were accepting our invitation, I knew I’d need to provide a meal and wash feet and it was going to be a long, long day. I had staff and Mary but they all needed direction and that’s what I’m good at.

I wanted to do it right, you know, to show him how much we appreciated what he’d done for our community. I knew so many people who’d been healed, it just seemed like the right thing to do, to go all out.

I’d gotten a lot done by the time they all arrived. More showed up with him too! I should’ve known with the following he had at the time but it threw me for a loop. I was going crazy in the kitchen directing the servants and then I saw Mary, my sister, just in there with Jesus sitting in the main room!

She wasn’t helping at all! I started thinking that wasn’t right for her to leave me to do it all. She’d told me not to go overboard earlier that day. I knew how much she wanted to hear Jesus teach. We didn’t get that many opportunities to be taught as women. What we do get usually gets to us by way of other men like our brother Lazarus. He was great about passing things along to us.

But Jesus was always different. I’d noticed that in mixed groups he didn’t just engage the men but spoke personally to women too. One time I heard he actually talked to a woman about her cycle while on the way to heal a child of a priest. What man wants to hear about that?

He was different with women. He got us when no one else seemed to pay attention. It meant so much to me and now he was in my house. I just wanted to show him how much we loved him. But I got into my usual way and went overboard on prep and got “bossy” like Mary says.

In my mind, it just didn’t seem right that Mary wasn’t helping. I started sighing and making a little more noise than needed. It was our job to get the meal on the table and that’s all I could think about.

This is the funny party, I was sure Jesus would get it–how hard I was working for him and his guys.

I didn’t think he noticed, though, so I caught him in a calmer moment and asked him, ok told him, to tell Mary to come help me. I said more than that because I was pretty steamed at that point. If he really was caring toward women, he wouldn’t want me to be all alone in my chores, right?

I forgot how he kind of threw everything about our world and culture upside down.

I’ll never forget what he said. It really changed my life. With so much love in his eyes I can’t even describe it, he said my name…twice. Martha, Martha, he said. At this point I’d convinced myself he didn’t even know I was around. I was so resentful.

In that Jesus way, he showed me that I was so worried and easily frustrated by all my plans that didn’t even need doing! We could’ve gone without food that day. If I had realized that, I would’ve gotten to hear Jesus teach too.

I regret that. I didn’t sit there like Mary because I was making bread. Making bread, Luke! Of all things! Bread!

Of course I’d heard the stories but they didn’t sink in yet. Jesus fed crowds and crowds of people by miraculously providing bread. And there I was, making bread for the man who could provide it in an instant.

Crazy, right? I’ve always struggled with that, being so responsible and so good at keeping things running around our home. I put so much pressure on myself.

But then Jesus came and I could have rested but I wanted to show him my appreciation, worship I guess you could call it, when all he wanted was to give me rest…true rest. He didn’t want me making bread! He was showing me that I didn’t need to scramble to provide.

I didn’t need to make things so elaborate. I just needed to do what Mary did and be with him. The meal would work itself out. So what if we just ate bread bought from the bakery. Or what if we missed a miracle!

I missed out in some ways that day but I began to learn my lesson, the lesson. Jesus is the One, the Messiah and in Him all our needs are met. To sit at his feet that day, every day, is the best worship I could ever offer him. It’s all he really wants.

So when Lazarus died that time and Jesus showed up a few days late, I just knew I needed to put away all the chores and run to him. I still have that common sense, bossy side. I mean, I did tell Jesus the practicalities of opening that tomb. How laughable when I think back on it. Jesus, he’s gonna stink! I said, like he didn’t know!

You know the rest though. Lazarus is still with us and that miracle chipped away another huge chunk of my hard heart. Not only can he provide bread, he raises the dead.

And that was what I was before I trusted Jesus. Dead. But now, I’m alive and will be forever with Jesus thanks to his final gift of himself… his Spirit in me. Then one day, even more, a reunion.

I could go on and on Luke. How much time do you have?

On George MacDonald

Walking on Sunday nights and Monday mornings is exciting. Monday is big trash day in my neighborhood, the day when all you cleared out of your house over the weekend gets set on the curb for pickup.

Among the treasures I’ve accumulated from these piles are: a 6 person tent, a kids life vest, a trash can for the garage (ironic, right?!), and books.

My kids don’t like to walk with me on Sunday nights or Monday mornings.

On day, two whole boxes of books called me over to the side of the road. As I searched through them, I gleaned the giver was probably a professor with lofty literary leanings who was interested in Christianity. I picked up a couple C.S. Lewis books, one of which was a book of George MacDonald quotes compiled by Lewis.

The preface gripped me as I delved into the book back at home. C.S. Lewis admired MacDonald. Wow. Just that one fact drew me in deeper. Anyone C.S. Lews counts as a mentor deserves attention.

As I learned more about MacDonald and read his quotes, I met one who saw deeply into the nature of people across generations. George saw the world, the times, and the people in it with a lens honed in on God’s heart. He knows God and cuts through all the add-ons we tend to accumulate in our lives.

Its always surprising to me when a person from a culture and time period so different from mine can relate truth that transcends to the here and now. How do they do it? I think it has to do with the nature of truth, it transcends.

So, here are a few of my favorite quotes from a novel I read by George MacDonald entitled A Daughter’s Devotion. Doesn’t that sound so Victorian and romantic? In reality, it is like meeting a mature sister and her father and following their life of fath.

I hope you enjoy some of my favorite George MacDonald quotes from A Daughter’s Devotion:

Some will answer that you must have either distrust or self-confidence. "You must have neither," I reply. You must follow the truth and in that pursuit, the less one thinks about himself, the pursuer, the better. 
Let him so thirst after the truth that the dim vision of it occupies all his being, and leaves no time to think of his hunger and thirst. Self-forgetfulness is the healthiest of mental conditions. One has to look to his way, to his deeds, to his conduct--not to himself. In such losing of the false, or the merely reflected, we find the true self. (p.44)

But what is the use of the most powerful of medicines while they stand on the sick man's table? What is the mightiest of truths so long as it is not believed? The spiritually sick still mocks at the medicine offered; he will not know its cure. (p. 214)

In God alone, who is the truth, can creatures truly meet. (p. 267)

Jesus is the only man who is no exception. We are the exceptions. Everyone but Him is more or less out of straight. (p. 286)

Happy is he who has learned the gospel according to Jesus, as reported by John--that God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all! Happy is he who finds God his refuge from all the lies that are told for Him and in His name!  (p. 220)

Love and marriage are of the Father's most powerful means for the making of His foolish ones into sons and daughters. But so unlike, in many cases, are the immediate consequences to those desired and expected, that it is hard for many to believe He is anywhere looking after their fate. And the doubt would be a reasonable one, if the end of things was marriage. But the end is life--that we can become the children of God. (p. 260)

All God's gifts are a giving of Himself. (p. 240)

We may spoil gratitude as we offer it, by insisting on its recognition. To receive honestly is the best thanks for a good thing. (p. 45)

For me, this photo evokes that idea I get with George MacDonald of seeing something beautiful from a long way off.

My 4 Holiday Best Practices

I’d love for my holidays to be magical and nostalgic this year like a Hallmark commercial but, in reality, I’m pretty wiped out and its still a few weeks until Thanksgiving break.

College students I talk with face longer than normal school breaks too. So many of us are home so much more, its come up that we’re a little nervous about more together time.

I’m not sure where you are as you anticipate the holiday break, but I’m already thinking through what might help my break feel restorative…or maybe just not totally suck.

So, here are a few lifelines I’m holding on to over the holidays in this very tumultous year.

#1: Read.

Fiction is always important to me. I read fiction every night. Lining up a few really good books for the holidays is a high priority on vacations and holidays. Good fiction helps me put worries and to-do lists aside at the end of a day and mentally unwind.

And when I say good fiction, I’m saying all fiction is not created equal. Remember that episode on Friends where Joey reads Rachel’s novel? He’s spot on. There’s plenty of good books out there that satisfy our God-given hunger for good stories.

Check out my top ten all time favorites!

#2: Ritual.

Ok, that sounds weird. I’m not into empty or evil rituals. I am into grounding patterns for my day that can reset my world a little bit. This is especially helpful when there is no outside schedule I laid out for me to follow, like during holidays when school and work are on a back burner.

One ritual I plan to keep is waking before my kids to a cup of coffee and reading my Bible. Another is taking a walk before it gets dark each day. These activities are not new and carrying them on helps me process through my days or prepare for them.



#3: Relax.

For the past few years, I’ve set aside one day of personal vacation before my kids are released on holiday break. On that day, my focus is to do indulgent things like watch a movie at 9am, wrap presents in the living room, and eat what I want to eat from a restaraunt even if I already have a sensible meal in the fridge.

Last year I assured my husband I loved and liked him and politely asked him to make himself scarce that day. He is so gracious and made himself scarce that day. It is a wonderful day. I’m looking forward to it this year so much!

Its my version of Treat Yo’self.

#4: Review.

I always spend the early hours of January 1st engaging my soul with some reflection on the past year. This year is one for the books, literally! If there was ever a year to reflect on, this is surely at the top of the list.

I know there are a few ways to do this so pick one that works for you. My favorite is Michael Hyatt’s Seven Questions to Ask About Last Year. Something about sitting in the quiet, remembering, grieving, celebrating, and recording my thoughts on my year helps me face the new one.

If you haven’t tried an exercise like this, consider setting aside some time to reflect and record.


Will more time at home be a gift after so many months of more time at home? I’m trusting that God always has more good in store for all of us in whatever circumstances we find ourselves.

I’ve enjoyed the Lord in each of these practices in different ways and I’m all about sharing the wealth! So let me know if you adopt one. I’d love to hear how it went for you.

In the Market

Perusing through unpublished drafts, I found this post written while we still lived overseas. Its strange to think these markets are cut off from me right now in our current reality of a global pandemic. I still miss many aspects of our life overseas and this ranks up there–the fresh (or wet) markets.

I grew up accompanying my mother to the Piggly Wiggly to buy our food.  The shrink wrapped packages of meat beckoned me to poke them. Poke them I did! The vegetables in the frozen section came in neatly packaged bags. Milk sloshed around in large plastic gallon containers.

The checkout line tempted one with magazines, gum, candy, and a fun conveyor belt with a cashier and a whole person dedicated to placing items in bags for you. Sometimes…often…the cashier called you by name and actually thanked my mom for shopping in the store. Then the bagger pushed the cart to your car and loaded them up for free!

Fast forward several years and I find myself slipping around in the mud at the open vegetable market buying my family’s food in a foreign land. Yes, I chose this. I can drive or walk to the grocery store, but recently the parking garage is always full because it is free. So now I walk or bike to the fresh market across the street.

Biking gets tricky when I have to buy eggs because eggs are packaged loose in plastic shopping bags. I find it takes special skills to hang the bag over the handle bars and arrive home with all eggs intact. 

At the vegetable market I bump into neighbors, hear multiple invitations to come shop at different stalls, and all is accompanied by the occasional cluck of a chicken back in the live animal section. Unrefrigerated meat hangs on hooks all day and vegetables are so fresh they still have mud on them. Tofu comes in a hundred different varieties.

Tofu is kinda pretty!

It’s a social gathering place where any number of opportunities beckon the curious shopper. You can get a spare key made that may or may not work.  You can buy really expensive Tupperware or a really delicious and cheap breakfast. 

I love the excitement and the challenge and the people. I love the fruit vendor who always asks me to give up a kid for adoption because three is just too many and she would like to take one home. When I refuse, she concedes and gives me a few bananas with a smile. My kids always stand far from her.

Then there’s my preferred vegetable vendor whose produce isn’t the greatest but she has three kids too. We share a connection. Families with three kids are very rare and I support her in her choice to support lives by buying her slightly older vegetables.

Sometimes I surprise even myself. Last week I took a risk and bought unrefrigerated beef off a wooden slab from the Muslim butcher. I heard many years ago Muslim beef was the best. I am finally ready to try it.  It is not wrapped in plastic. I’m not tempted to poke it. 

The butcher speaks English much to the astonishment of her neighboring vendor. He gapes at her in surprise and she smiles and hangs her head, chagrined to reveal this special skill. I imagine this gossip will spread like wildfire later that day and her prestige will grow. I smile too.

It all now seems more normal to me than the Piggly Wiggly. I still enjoy the order, cleanliness, and service at the stores of my youth like one enjoys Disneyworld. When I visit, I indulge in being thanked and smile wide when baggers take my purchases to my car.

The Piggly Wiggly model often seems like the answer to the messes of life. Shouldn’t life be more orderly? I often think I’m missing out somehow when life is messy. But in striving for neatness, there’s often sacrifice too. 

I think the fray and disorder of the marketplace may be more like real life than the pristine order of the Piggly Wiggly. Real life is dirty and slippery and involves compromise and risk but also standing firm and knowing when to do which one.

And grace for ourselves and others because there’s just going to be some broken eggs on the way home in life.

Death by Paper Cut

Wearing a mask. Answering another Covid screening question. Missing life milestones. Not getting to chaperone that school trip. Another zoom meeting.

These are just a few of the thousand little things that are piling up right now in this season of immense change and suffering.

I hope you enjoy this post from a few years ago. It seemed relevant in this age of radical upheaval…


One of the most difficult things about life anywhere, and life lived across cultures for sure, is that often it’s no one big thing that slays me…at least not yet.

It’s all the small things that add up and threaten to take me down.

Taken alone, each cut seems relatively minor and superficial, like a paper cut, but they sting. Each and every cut stings and there’s no time to put on a Band-Aid before the next cut comes.

Talking about what hurts seems silly.  It’s just a paper cut, why am I so upset about a paper cut? I minimize and compare. I don’t want to complain. I don’t suffer like that other person who really stood up for their faith in a stressful situation of direct confrontation.

No one really hurt me, right? I’m still alive, aren’t I? I discount the cut and fail to treat it.

Again and again the cuts come. Forgetting my passport. The person who cut me off again just this morning. The man who makes me re-park my car so that the nose faces out warning me that I am breaking the law if I don’t. He doesn’t understand that at least 5 people on the road endangered my very life and parking my car in a “cultured” way is the least important thing to worry about now. The lady at the store who will not even try my credit card even though I know it works. I did not bring cash. Smog.

Here in Asia it’s called “eating bitterness” these paper cuts. It’s an old saying about the difficulties of life and just taking it. It results in kick the dog syndrome, though. People just lose it for no clear or sufficient reason.  But I know why they lose it because I lose it too.

Unseen cuts cover us all and then someone pours salt on the wound. The salt without the wound is nothing but with the cuts…it brings sudden pain and I react.

Kick the dog syndrome spreads like a contagion. A woman picks up a brick on the street to throw at a man. I’ve seen that. A family fights in the apartment above us. Furniture shakes and screams keep me awake.  I’ve heard that too.

I wish for a formula to combat the paper cut plague but it doesn’t exist. I know more now to look at the cut and say it hurts…to cry even if it seems silly to cry over a paper cut. I know that real life seems more death by paper cut than death by some brave act of martyrdom though those stories also move me to tears.  DSC_0064

Death by paper cut is not as futile as it seems when I count the Lord’s view of suffering. He calls me to die to myself as He died for me…even in the smallest things. He calls me to persevere and endure and even do it joyfully because He gives me resources I just cannot muster myself.

As I contemplate more on this concept and acknowledge the cuts, I do find more joy because I find grace and mercy. I still kick dogs some days…not real dogs but proverbial dogs. I do a lot of apologizing. It is coming easier to apologize because I get a lot of practice.

But His grace and mercy, this is the salve that allows my soul to lay down and rest.