Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday

Last month, Justin's parents generously invited us on a river cruise down the Danube.  We arrived in Budapest and saw Vienna, Bratislava, Durstein, Melk, and Salzburg on the way to Passau.  

The rich history and simple age of the countries we traveled was life changing.  In America, it is easy to be insulated, to believe the US is the way that the world is, when really we are so young.  Sure there are wonderful things about our nation, but there is much to be learned from everywhere else.  In the absence of the separation of church and state, I was struck by the way my brain inadvertently compartmentalizes God and man in separate categories.  In nearly every place we visited, there were amazing statues of saints and angels or the Trinity everywhere.  I remember at one monument thinking how blasphemous it seemed to have angels and men together.  Oddly, I believe in a spiritual world, I believe that God interacts with man, intercedes in battle, hears prayer, etc.  To see this publicly though, is so rare in our country that it was unsettling in a way.

In one way, Christ in Austria, Slavakia, and Germany was awe-inspiring.  I am used to simple church buildings or, on the other end of the Western spectrum, rock-show Sunday services.  The cathedrals with ornate gold-plated details or paintings on every inch were breath-taking and foreign, strikingly unfamiliar. Gold crosses towering above, crowns and scepters and halos everywhere. They inspired reverence and wonder, the calls of massive organs and bell-towers were more insistent that our acoustic guitars.  At the same time, I thought how easy it would be to ignore the still small voice of the Holy Spirit among the dizzying array of angels and martyrs.

I drove down the street today, Good Friday, and saw bible verses on church marquees, true yet ripped from their context.  The kids have pastel cross stickers in their Easter eggs.  I realize that both extremes: the Eastern history and heavenly representations of a powerful God/the Bible-belt believer for whom snippets of the Word are on every corner: neither are whole.

My hope this Easter is that behind every Facebook status about an empty tomb, every azalea placed on a Living Cross, there is a testimony of a real person who met Jesus Christ and their life was never the same.  

There is a long story much richer than John 3:16 (as great as that verse is).  The Most High God of Europe's incense and liturgy, came to earth as a plain man.  He prayed, he was left alone by his friends in his greatest moment of need, he sweat and cried and bled.

Somehow, in the Melk Abby in Austria, this museum balanced it all out.  A thousand year old wooden crucifix against a neon cross.  The juxtaposition of an ancient story that is ever living and modern.  Just read below at what these Benedictines proclaim.  This is the Gospel.

What a good Good Friday.  Happy Easter everybody.

Sunday, March 23, 2014


I have written in many many journals over the past ten years.  Many of those in my college years were things that I promised myself would not change.  Almost like a letter to my future self, but not explicitly so.  I would tape sea grass strands, incense ends, movie tickets, and neon concert entry bracelets, little souvenirs.  I look back now and see that I was unconsciously cataloging a way to be in the future.  "Don't grow up, it's a trap," they say.  So in between all those lines describing talks with people or analyzing decisions or appreciating music or literature, I was manifesting ideals, "I will remember to spend plenty of time reading in the sunshine."  "I will never dress like a mom." "We will keep going to shows." "Sunrises are worth it."

In those days, my future seemed so far away.  Over the past month (that I haven't been blogging), I've been fortunate enough to experience some rare moments where someone's future and past seem to stand back to back, in good ways and bad.  Weddings, a last breath, babies, and a tumor.

You hold the reins on the sun and the moon
Like horses driven by kings
You cover the mountains, the valleys below
With the breadth of your mighty wings

All treasures of wisdom and things to be known
Are hidden inside your hand
And in this fortunate turn of events
You ask me to be your friend
You ask me to be your friend

And you,
You are my first
You are my last
You are my future and my past

In one of those old books, I have a post-it note with two girls' names and phone numbers, friends of friends, visiting from Portland or Seattle or some other exotic West Coast place.  I honestly don't remember talking to them, although surely we did.  I just remember wanting to stay the kind of person who welcomes wanderers.  This week we hosted a touring musician, and I realized that those things of my past that I had hoped for, they aren't something I need to remember to continue, they either are or they aren't.  

I am grateful that God did not confine me to my narrow sighted ideals.  Some of them were great and right and stuck.  We still take road trips.  We are traveling the world.  We still (occasionally) see shows.  The things He had planned for me though, are so much fuller than what I planned. The gorgeous wedding we attended reminded me, for sure.  You stand there in front of everyone and become Mr. & Mrs. You think, this is it, nothing can be better than this.  But then you walk together for seven years, and you realize all the transitions and all the hard things that change your normal routine and your plan for how life was to be, the places where your future and your past hold hands, it is those places that make you closer and stronger and better.  Better than the person that sits in the sun all the time even.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The forecast is calling for snow, and if you are a South Carolinian, you know the feeling that a snow prediction brings.  The air is as clear as it can be right now, and this wait, the few hours before the impending 'winter event' as they call it on the news, it is hope made tangible.  It isn't really going to snow, I think.  Memories of praying for delays and early morning window peeks.  Trust is hard, even when it is just about precipitation.

Just like last year, God continues to be a Provider.

birds of the air

Some days as I climb the stairs to pajama the kids, it will catch my eye, ‘Today is the childhood our kids will remember,’ and I will smile and pray that it is true.  The sprinkles-on-yogurt breakfast, and football throwing with touchdown dances.

the best Christmas gift

Copeland and I had ‘girl time’ last night while Justin and Landon ran an errand.  Copeland munched on her peanut butter cookie that she had helped make earlier, poking her fork into the dough while her brother demonstrated the cross-hatch.  ‘Copey has her cookie, where Landon’s cookie?’
‘Landon took his cookie to the store with Daddy!’
‘Oh. Where’s Mommy’s cookie?’
‘Mommy doesn’t have a cookie.’
‘Oh.  You want some?’ she grins. 

Even though children, two year old younger siblings in particular, can be possessive, I am taken aback by her generosity.  I am floored by the God whose image she was created in.  She is always thinking of others, unwrapping our silverware for us at restaurants, praying for her friends (even well after their colds have gone away), telling us how beautiful or handsome we are.  A two year old being salt; it blows my mind.

Tower building, book reading, pretending, coloring, laughing, and singing.  The older they get the more I realize, all these little things that make up our days are important.  There are other days this print glares at me, usually at a 10am that feels more like dusk, when my tone was too sharp or my patience was too thin.  Those days, I am so grateful for grace.  For a God who is far greater than I am, who will lead my children in ways that are higher than I can fathom, who despite my weakness is Strong.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Mountain weekend

Everyone has their holiday traditions.  In our family, we have a variety of things that mean Christmas is here.  We have 'Shirley's famous fudge' and her cheeseball too (we really expect a lot out of my mom) and British cookies that remind us of special friends.  I know it's Christmas in our home when I get to drink fancy coffee my parents bring. But, it's not really Christmas until we eat chocolate covered cherries, my late Aunt Debbie's favorite.  That, my friends, is why our Christmas really began in January when we visited my extended family in the mountains of Georgia.

All the presents may have already been opened, but we still enjoyed the greatest gifts.  On Christmas day, Landon asked multiple times, "When is it going to snow Mommy?"  I guess with snow playing a predominant presence in Christmas cartoons and books, he thought it was a given.  Luckily our heavenly Father gave my baby his wish in the new year!

My aunt got to show off her amazing town.  Young Harris has so much personality. We visited a vineyard with wine tasting room.  Some of the varieties of red and white are named after their late dogs.  The current dogs come in and out freely, as people sip from their glasses by the fire.  My aunt has moved a lot with her career as a college basketball coach, and she has this ability to make a place her own quickly.  Everywhere we went she knew someone.  I guess with making a place feel like home, somehow she makes others feel at home around her. I definitely admire this about her.

My Uncle Jim who drove all the way from Ohio to see us with my cousin Nico who is a freshman in college this year.  When he was Landon's age, we made him promise that he would still love us and hang out with us when he was grown, and here he is staying true to his word!  Ohio State played Clemson in their bowl game, so I was happy to see other family on the receiving end of my sister's rivalry.


We also cheered the women's basketball team to victory.  We grow up going to 'Coach Paul's' games, so for my kids to be doing the same is surreal.  Now that I have ten years on them, the players are finally starting to seem young, but even when I was in college they seemed intimidating.  Size wise they still are, ha ha.  Basketball skill wise too, lol.  I look forward to the day that Landon and Copeland can hand out the water cups, a task they will take as seriously as my sister and I did I'm sure.  The only task on the court that I'm competent to do, LOL.  Ok, I'll stop ;)

Not a bad way to start the year, huh?  I hope 2014 continues to be full of family and fun.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013


As I looked back on my blog, I realized that I never properly welcomed 2013!  I didn't compose a snapshot of what our life was like last January, I didn't dream up goals or ambitions for what this year would hold.  I guess between preparing for our Disney trip and then a marriage retreat, I just jumped into the new year with both feet, and only now am stopping to look back.

Provision, bravery, growth, vision.  And a ton of fun!

The things that we have been given this year have been exceptionally more than I could have imagined.

Monday, December 30, 2013


“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other."

Thankful for Christ's joy this Christmas.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas every day

He is before all things, and in Him all things are held together.  Colossians 1:17

This morning, the kiddos and I passed out gifts through an local organization that advocates and serves victims of sexual abuse in our city.  Landon and Copeland had an absolute blast standing in the cold, kicking stones, and chatting with the other volunteers.  More importantly, they enjoyed carrying tubes of festive wrapping paper to the cars.  By the end of the morning, my toes were freezing but my heart was warm.  The people who received the shiny bicycles and bags of toys were thankful, not because of the material items they were collecting, but because of the love they saw.

From the cheesiest Hallmark holiday movie to the oldest nativity hymn, we hear about it a lot at Christmas time--love that surrounds family, friends, and sometimes even strangers.

This season, I am so thankful that Jesus is Emmanuel--"God with us".  He is where all of the Christmas love that we celebrate so much was born. For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in him, Colossians continues.  It is because of this--the Maker of the Universe becoming a newborn baby in a dark cave, becoming a man who healed people, loved people, and ultimately died for all of us--that when I see light shining in darkness, when I see friends carrying my burdens with me, when my baby's drawings blow me away, when I hang out with my mom and my sister, or even when I enjoy a really good piece of peppermint bark cheesecake, I see Christmas every day.  I see Jesus every day.

He can turn a gravel lot into an offering, a kitchen table into a sanctuary.  He can turn two rival siblings into best friends.  He can use ordinary people and ordinary families to do great things.

Glory to Jesus, ancient and strong

Giver of love and the theme of my song
Glory to Jesus, ancient and strong
Come to your people, carry us home
Glory to Jesus, ancient and strong
Ancient and strong