What’s This?

Just a week ago or so I was sitting on the couch and reading a book to my two little grandsons Connor and Tyson. Without any warning, Connor pushes right at my belt-line and says, “What’s this Grandma?” I replied, “You mean my belt?” “No” he said, pushing right above my belt, “This, right here! Do you have a baby in your belly too?” It’s all about babies right now for these two since they will welcome a new sibling in their house this summer.

I was trying not to take it personally and believe that Connor really thinks I look six months pregnant, so I laughed out loud which caused both of them to erupt into giggles. My vanity says, I was just slouching while sitting so my middle section was protruding a bit, and since babies are on the brain it would be only natural to think that Grandma would be joining the fun! After all, Tyson had referred to “his baby” in his belly when he crashed on my bed recently.

As the laughter wore off I thought yes, there is a baby in my belly, although not a “baby” as an expectant mother would have. I am pregnant with anticipation of the future even though I can’t see all the puzzle pieces and how they will fit together. It’s hard sometimes when the path you are on takes a different turn. I recently was laid off from my job. It was bittersweet just yesterday as I now was classified as a “volunteer” at one of our fundraising events, a golf tournament. I was still part of the team, but now I was no longer on the staff. I found myself tongue-tied talking to the participants when they asked what my role was in the organization. I didn’t know what to say, and fumbled over my words. I’m trying not to beat myself up because it’s the first time I had encountered that question in the context and I wasn’t prepared to give the answer never-the-less the reality of the answer. It was kind of another “what’s this” question, but for me, it is directed towards God. “What’s this God and what does it mean now?” I don’t know the answer and this blog post might not make much sense. I wrestled with just telling the cute story of Connor and leaving it at that, but this is what is flowing from my heart at the moment and so I have invited you into my journey, even if it doesn’t make sense!

So for now, being pregnant with hope for the future also means a loss and I am grieving. I am planning to still be a part of the ministry and volunteer but I will miss the community of the office and the camaraderie of my co-workers on the day to day basis. I will miss the sometimes daily crazy chaos that comes with working in a non-profit ministry that is trying to make a difference with limited resources. I will miss the God-moments of watching and hearing of lives being changed and brokenness turned into beauty. What am I pregnant with? Hope, because I know that hope is a person, my Jesus. He is what I place my hope in today even the Y in the road and unexpected twists and turns. What are you pregnant with today?

How Do You Become a Mother?

I was reading a friends post on Facebook and she was wishing everyone in her world a Happy Mother’s Day. She freely admitted that she is not a mother, but rather referred to herself as a business midwife. She is an entrepreneur who has helped and nurtured hundreds if not thousands of women birth their dreams. (You can check out her website at www.nacwe.org)

I started thinking, how does one really become a mother? Other than stating the obvious process of physically becoming a mom, what does it mean to be a mom? The dictionary is always helpful, so I thought I’d start there. The word “mother” as a noun means “a term of address for a female parent or a woman having or regarded as having the status, function, or authority of a female parent.” The word mother as a verb is; “to care for or protect like a mother; act maternally toward” (www.dictionary.com). We can safely assume then a mother is a woman who functions as a female parent, cares for, protects and acts maternally towards others.

We all understand what that looks like with children but how about thinking outside the box and giving a blessing to those in our life who “mother” in the spirit of the above definitions? So today, I want to celebrate all those who are seriously parenting others in their world. I think of another 89 year old woman who has been a mom to over a 100 teenagers and adults in her lifetime. Having no children of her own, she and her husband opened their home and their life to foster children, kids mostly in their teens who needed a little course correction. She nurtured and encouraged freely with her maternal authority and bestowed to them the gift of total acceptance and love. She is a mother in my eyes.

Lisa Bevere in her book Nurture says this, “Nurture, the language of the feminine heart, is being restored as women arise, recognize each other, and begin to connect for strength and purpose.” God has instilled in each one of us the ability to nurture and love for a significant purpose that is far beyond what we can even imagine. We don’t need to have children to extract these gifts and influence our world, it is a powerful gift waiting to be unwrapped. I am a mother, but nurture didn’t come easy to me, I had to cultivate it and learn but now thirty-four years later, I think I am beginning to get what it really looks like to be a mother in heart and spirit. My children have left the nest and I carry a burden to nurture now more than ever. There is power in the sisterhood and nurture of women. Let’s join together as mothers to be world changers, an extension of God’s love to others. Happy Mother’s Day!

Comparison and Facebook

Tonight, I had the privilege of speaking to a group of college women about the trap of comparison. I brought up the contrast of falling into comparison and Facebook. As I was prepping, I came across a blog on this topic, it hit me square on. This is subtle bait from our enemy to travel down that rut in our minds diminishing who God made us to be! I shared this and that I was reflecting on what I had recently learned and we had a lively discussion.

I found myself in awe of the awareness of these amazing young women. They had such brilliant insight. One said that on Facebook, we don’t really share all of ourselves, we don’t often share the bumps and bruises but wanting to put our best “face” forward when we post. The goal is to get “likes” and “comments” so we can feel better about ourselves. Wow! Such wisdom from this generation and so we talked about, is it really connecting relationally on social media on a true heart level? Do we really see beneath our “faces?” We asked ourselves tough questions; when we look at Facebook does it cause us to actually compare our lives with others? For example, wishing we had a better life, or why does that person seem to have more comments, more likes, or for Twitter fans, more followers? I could of listened to them all night.

As they walked out the door, I gave them a love letter from God compiled from promises in scripture that tell us exactly how God sees us. The assignment was to cozy up in their beds before they went to sleep and read it so their minds could be renewed as they slept. They graciously thanked me for coming and for sharing with them. Honestly, I was the one who was blessed. These lovely young women have big dreams for God and they are renewing their minds so that their comparisons don’t distract them from God’s destiny for their future.

I really do have fun on Facebook, it can be a effective way to communicate in our society, but it has it’s drawbacks. I just found it fascinating and it was refreshing to honestly take a topic like comparison and see how something as culturally relevant as Facebook can feed the comparison lies. We as a group determined that knowing the truth is what sets us free (John 8:32). The reality is that God gives us the thumbs up of his unconditional love every single moment of our “posted” lives. He “likes” us each and every day!

The Best Gifts in Life are Simple

I made a quick trip to visit my parents and get some vitamin D sunshine this week. I love where I live in Washington State, but to get some warmth and sunshine in the rainy season is worth the travel.

It’a amazing how comfortable you feel when you step back into your family. The family that raised me, the loving Mom and Dad that nurtured, provided, loved and encouraged and shaped who I am. It was my beginning and the family God gave me, a gift.

It is good to go back to the beginning sometimes and treasure the simple joys in life. I arrived and my mother had over on her dining room table, a birthday cake all ready for me, chocolate cake with rich dark chocolate frosting. It was a family project, my sister made the frosting while my Mom was at bible study. My birthday isn’t until tomorrow and yet she had it waiting for me a few days early, so we could enjoy it through the visit. That’s just like my Mom, it’s her gift. She loves to be hospitable and she does an amazing job through loving people with her culinary delights. Simple gift but oh so yummy! I felt loved.

The next day we went to Coronado beach and walked around. We laughed, we shared memories of pictures and Mother’s Day Brunches at the famous Hotel Del Coronado. Again, simple gift, but oh so memorable. We stopped on the way home and shared a tradition, In-N-Out Burger, messy, gooey, but oh so yummy. As we licked our fingers and wiped up the mess, we smiled, told stories and we laughed. Another simple moment and yet a gift to share friendship with two people who have given so much to me. I smiled inside and in that moment was perfect happiness, to be loved and feel like you belong, accepted wholly and without hesistation, is truly a gift. It reminded me of the phrase in Les Miserable in the lyrics, “To love another person is to see the face of God.” To be loved unconditionally is to experience heaven on earth and a touch of how much God loves me, and oh so much more than I can fathom.

We came home, took a nap and then had cake for dinner! I love that about my parents, they aren’t too rigid to color outside the lines and have cake for dinner. Why not?

Today I woke up and found at the end of my bed a note that said Dad wanted to take me out for breakfast. When I saw the note I smiled and quickly got ready. This was tradition, a date with my Dad and time to listen to his stories and musings over a generation and world I can only imagine. One more memory on this trip but now I am feeling so overwhelmed (in a good way), again more gifts.

So now guess what? My Dad is in the kitchen and it’s time for more cake and more memories. I better get mine before it’s all gone! Simple joys, simple gifts and for me the best birthday!

Seeing in the Dark

I was driving home from Seattle the other night and had one thing missing. My glasses! I had forgotten them at home but didn’t discover it until I was already 50 miles into the journey. I was bummed because now that meant I would have to leave much earlier and forego a coffee date with my oldest son. I don’t see well at night and my glasses are an essential part of my ability to drive in the dark.

I ended up leaving a bit later than I planned but it was still light and the sunset was way off in the distance. Road signs were somewhat fuzzy but manageable. When it started raining it complicated things a little but I kept my eyes straight ahead.

Soon the sky turned to dusk and darkness descended. Okay, now it was more challenging. I was headed through the winding part of the small mountain pass, and it was DARK. I followed the taillights ahead of me and kept my eye on the white line. I never knew stripes could be so helpful, I am beginning to appreciate those bright orange construction workers who are the artists of the highway. I was almost to civilization now with street lamps lining the rest of the interstate. It took most of my concentration and with no time to be distracted by music, I turned the radio off. Nearly two hours later, I pulled in the garage and breathed a thankful prayer that God helped me navigate home without incident. I vowed I would make sure that it didn’t happen again.

When I crawled into bed that night, I thought about the verse I had learned as a child, “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” Psalm 119:105. It was one of my first bible memorizations as an 8 year old Pioneer Girl earning my winning badge attached to my sash. Now years later, it still resided in my memory and surfaced as I thought about the drive home and how I struggled to see in the dark with limited lighting, or should I say blurry lighting.

As I snuggled deeper into the covers, it hit me as that Bible verse of my childhood reminded me of steering my car in pitch black with less than 20/20 vision. It’s in the darkest of nights that I need the light to see how I can take the next step. You don’t need a light in the daytime, in fact I probably wouldn’t see it much because the sun drowns it out. I don’t even think about seeing just right ahead because my eye can see clearly far into the distance. But in the dark is when I really need a light.

In the troubled times when I can’t find my way, God’s word is my lamp, my light, my illumination that spills onto the path. I also noticed that it says it is a lamp for my feet, which means right where I am stepping at that very moment, not three strides ahead, but in the present. The lamp shines around my feet exposing the place to go so I won’t fall or trip. That is the promise of God’s Word, it is everything in the dark and everything to stay on the path. Without it, there is no certainty and no assurance of heading in the right direction.

As I drifted off to sleep I was reassured to know that my anxiety doesn’t have to get so whipped up because I can’t see more than a few steps ahead of me. God’s truth promises to guide me with just enough light to keep walking in the right direction toward home.

Lemon Curd Cheesecake and Fasting

Sunday was the breaking day for my 40 day fast from all sweets and desserts. I had been plotting for weeks just which lucious dessert I would be able to eat on Easter. So I read and leafed through my favorites. And then it arrived in my mailbox, an issue from Southern Living Magazine with this lovely lemon temptation on the cover of the magazine, Lemon Curd Cheesecake. The recipe said it takes about 22 hours from start to finish. I decided it would be so worth it!Lemon Cheesecake

So in the midst of Easter egg hunts, dinners and family I baked  and set it aside for the sacred ceremony on Sunday afternoon. When most of the family left and the guys were upstairs watching a game, my lovely daughter-in-love Brittany, matched my enthusiasm to break the fast. We sat in the corner by the window and indulged, it was so yummy!! But as much as my tastebuds were relishing each bite, it was rather anti-climatic and I was well, kind of sad my fast was over. Sounds kind of twisted doesn’t it?

You see, each time I decide to deprive myself of something in order to lean in and hear God more deeply, I find myself wanting more, more of God that is. In my wimpy way of trying to be a big girl spiritually by feeling good about fasting, I still fall short. I realize for the five hundredth time the same truth over and over again, I NEED GOD AND I NEED HIM DESPERATELY, every second of my life.

I can’t explain why giving into morsels of treats seem to comfort me when I’m stressed or eating a handful of chocolate chips make me feel better when I have a melt-down, but I am learning it is never enough no matter what chocolate delight is drooling down my lips.

I’m really just a rookie, like I said a wimp at fasting. But I’m finally learning that when I’m lost in those vices  believing they calm and soothe me, how easily I can transfer my affections away from God and become distracted. This is not a good thing! I guess what I am trying to say is, I am grateful for these past 40 days. It was, if I am honest, quite difficult at times but re-entry with my sweet tooth has brought a new awareness and  I think God is smiling!

All We Need Is Love

Today is Good Friday and a somber reminder of what the real meaning of “love” is all about. The word love is hard to wrap my brain around sometimes because it means so many different things to all of us. But today love is about Jesus and what it actually means when He gave up His life for me and for you, to walk the road of the cross–for restoration. After all these years I still can’t fathom all that His sacrifice means other than His death on the cross making a way for me to experience the fullness of God and His love for me. The message is simple and is contained in a four letter word LOVE that was put to the test over 2000 years ago.

I guess this hit home for me when I was out on the street of Whalley at NightShift a few weeks ago. I was leading worship with two friends. It was a cold, dark and blustery rainy night. There was nothing sacred about us singing worship songs while a hundred or more people lined up to get a meal, it was just plain miserable outside. I watched people huddle together in the cold grateful for a warm bowl of soup to take the chill off. I heard and saw the pain and brokenness through their haunted eyes, some high on drugs, others a sadness beyond words as they slumped over discouraged and defeated.  And then while we were singing a song about how much God loves us, repeating the chorus over and over, it hit me–this is love. This is why Jesus did what he did for me and for them.

I might not be on the street poor or homeless, but without love I am poor. Now, I know that it isn’t profound, but it was for me in that moment. Sometimes I make love too complicated and it is really quite simple as I looked out over the crowd. My heart grieved and was so sad because I wanted my street friends to know God’s love the same way and how it penetrates my soul giving me life in the midst of a storm or my own brokenness. I did speak those words out after we sang, and told the story of how Jesus was with the disciples in the storm. They weren’t a captive audience, but my hope was that in that night, the hot meal, the songs about love and Jesus, kind words and smiles would be a seed planted that love does and can change everything. All we need is love? Is it really that simple? I think so, because love is God and God is love and Jesus proved it….”This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.” John 3:16,17 (Message Bible)This is LOVE!

Weddings and Answered Prayers

This past weekend I was a part of a grand celebration. A wedding. A wedding that was an answer to prayer witnessing God’s blessing on a family that I’ve known for most of my life. My best friend let go of her last son in marriage to a beautiful girl who was truly a match made in heaven. He was the last of our six boys combined to take the plunge and walk down the aisle. It was joyous and bittersweet. As my oldest son (the first of the six who was married) remarked to me sitting at the reception, “Mom, it is the end of an era.” I had to tell him to stop because I was about to cry. I was remembering Cheryl and I and all the prayers we have prayed for our six boys and their future brides for the past 30 years. We were at the end, we have seen the fulfillment of prayers answered above and beyond what either of us could ever imagine (or picked ourselves!). Between the two of us, God gave us six amazing girls to complete our families.

At the rehearsal dinner I sat around the table with his college friends and work partners. I was blessed. His friends are lovers of Jesus and world changers. As I listened that evening to person after person share about the character of these two people about to enter the sacred union of marriage, I was moved. I was reminded that character is the most important. Character is what drives us and creates our pathway for greatness. Not greatness in the sense of worldly success or fame, but the kind of greatness that leads to making our mark in history. Greatness in the sense of the ability to love deeply and be gracious, kind and generous to others. What I witnessed this past weekend was greatness the way Paul describes in his charge to us, “Love one another with brotherly affection as members of one family, giving precedence and showing honor to one another.” Romans 12:10 (Amplified Bible). I saw that firsthand as the event unfolded from the unspoken words and actions of family and friends, to the toasts blessing the bride and groom.

My friend Cheryl and her husband Dan have done a stellar job of building this kind of greatness of character into their three boys and it shows. Their family is a testament of God’s love, kindness and grace and it was an honor to share in the journey and witness greatness in its fullest splendor. Onnie Piyali Wedding

DIY?? What?

I couldn’t take it any longer. I had to let down my pride. I had to come out of denial and realize that I am not as relevant at my 20 something friend said I was the other day. I finally broke down and stopped pretending that every time I saw the letters DIY that I knew what it meant or at least pretended to. Okay, I didn’t have the foggiest notion, after Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and now visiting a friends website, I had no clue what it meant!! I googled it and found out it just means DO IT YOURSELF!! Okay, now I get it! I understand what all the boards in my Pinterest searches mean when they say DIY.

I have to admit, I am kind of disappointed. I thought it was more inspiring than that. I realized that it is the return to in a sense, making do with what we have on hand to be creative and live within our means. There is a surge of DIY happening because I think this present day world is requiring us to think differently about all the STUFF we think we have to accumulate and I have been oh so guilty of the temptation to be a collector of that stuff. DIY ideas make a way to discover how to be creative and revamping my own ‘stuff’ reminds me of when we were first married and we had no money, nearly everything I did and had was DIY! It was rewarding and gave me a sense of delight that I had created something or fixed it myself.

I am grateful to be reminded by www.picketandoak.com (friend’s website you should check out) because I’ve been thinking about this alot lately. I have come to the conclusion that I don’t really need anything. I have so much and am so blessed on every level and I am not just talking about stuff that I’m tempted to drag home from my favorite places like TJ Maxx or Marshalls. I have a beautiful family, sweet grand babies to hug, friends that challenge me and help me be more like Jesus, a lovely home in an amazing setting, cupboards full of food, closet full of clothes and shoes and a cozy bed to sleep in at night. I have more than I could ever ask for, and yet I still needed to be reminded that the concept of DIY really is just a simple term for learning to be grateful and to seek to work harder at being a good steward of what has been entrusted to me.

BTW, the picture in this blog is from a great DIY site. It is www.curbly.com. Check it out!!

Why Should I Give Up Chocolate for Lent?

Okay, so I was sitting at work on Tuesday February 12th and some of us were talking about not eating sugar for Lent. Mindlessly, I jumped in and said, “I’ll do that too, but let’s wait until after Valentines Day.” We agreed, we made a pact to hold each other accountable and we promised to check in on each other. I didn’t start on February 15th because my sister and niece were coming up for the weekend to celebrate their birthdays, and I couldn’t let them sit there by themselves and eat cake without me! SO my first confession was, I missed the first two days.

I started February 17th and plan to go until April 1st. So here it is the 9th day and I am still asking myself, “Why did I give up chocolate for Lent?” Yesterday was a tough day, and more than any day I wanted to eat the Lindor Dark Chocolate in my cupboard, M & M’s, chocolate covered cranberries from Trader Joe’s (another favorite) and even a bag of plain chocolate chips. It was then that it hit me like a brick, my craving was a signal that I was anxious for God to meet me in that emotional painful place that I was trying to fill with sweets. So……I gave it up because I realize I am desperate to hear God’s voice right now above the noise in my life. I wish I could get away and sit on a beach with my journal and bible for 10 days to listen and hear God, but it’s not a reality right now. Giving up chocolate and sugar is something I can do to lean in and tune my spiritual radar into hearing from God on a few matters in my life that remain unsolved. I am giving it up as a discipline and a reminder that I need God more than I need my daily dose of chocolate. I am a wimp when it comes to fasting, but I know I need to do more because my heart is hungry for God and He is so much more than my latest favorite, Chris’s Outrageous Cheesecake. Meet me April 1st, at the Cheesecake Factory? I’ll be there but my soul will be amazingly satisfied!