Night Vision: What Can You See in the Dark?


This field was behind a hotel we stayed in a few weeks ago.

Though it may not look like anything particularly special, this field held a wonderful secret. At nighttime, at least on the nights we were there, this field came alive with fireflies.

I consider myself sort of a firefly connoisseur. I spent a significant portion of my childhood running around at dusk with the kids in my neighborhood, capturing fireflies and stuffing them into milk jugs. It was an official team activity, and we took it pretty seriously. So, yeah, I’ve seen some things when it comes to fireflies…  

But I’ve never seen that many in one place. I mean, really, it was incredible. As the sky grew darker, more and more fireflies seemed to congregate, dazzling the otherwise unremarkable field with a sparkling light show.

In the light of the sun, these fireflies were nowhere to be found. Or at least, they weren’t noticeable. In the dark, though, they glittered and glowed as they danced through the air in droves. It was breathtaking.

Sometimes, in the darkness, we come to understand things about the light that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. We see new, beautiful, awe-inspiring things; things that’ve been there all along, but only become evident when the distraction of the surrounding light fades.

And here’s the thing about light in the darkness: a little goes a long way.

Last week there was a storm in the middle of the night. Both the kids woke up, afraid, during this storm. I had just gotten them settled back down when the power went out. This meant no night-lights and no hallway light – total and utter darkness.

And, consequently, total and utter panic.

They both screamed and clung to me. It was clear they wouldn’t be sleeping in their own beds, so we began making our way down the hallway to Mommy and Daddy’s room. (I probably looked ridiculous, inching through the darkness, fumbling around to find my way, with a kid wrapped around each leg. But that’s besides the point.)

As we got closer to our room, we could see a beam of light coming from inside.

A little voice shouted, “The lights are back!” Then both kids sprinted toward the light, which turned out to be the glow from the (battery powered) baby monitor. The lights weren’t back on, we realized, but that tiny bit of light was noticeably bright under the circumstances.

There are times when light is easier to see in the darkness.

I’m not saying darkness is good. But I am saying we can find purpose there, if only we keep our eyes open, and pursue the light we can see – even if it’s just a glimpse.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:5 (ESV)

More on this topic to come…

What You’ve Probably Forgotten About Riding a Carousel


Guess how many times you can ride a carousel in one day!? Actually, don’t. Just take my word for it… it’s a lot.  
I know, because my kids set out to break the world record recently. We took a family trip to an amusement park, where they were able to enjoy two consecutive days of carousel-riding bliss. And I do mean bliss. These kids loved the carousel. Every time the horses lurched forward at the start of a new ride, their two little faces lit up with delight. The thrill of riding the carousel never faded. If anything, each ride seemed even more exciting than the last.

It’s funny, because I can remember feeling the same way as a kid. I remember it was a thing, riding with my dad whenever I could. And while I remember feeling that way once, at some point I lost the why behind it. I can’t quite remember what made the carousel so appealing. Because at some point, the thrill of riding the carousel does fade, doesn’t it?

Don’t get me wrong. It’s wonderful being on the carousel with my kids, watching them enjoy it so much. I treasure that time. It’s just… after the fifteenth ride I’m tired of being dizzy and would rather sit and watch, if we’re being honest.

At some point during our carousel marathon, I set out to grasp the joy of it again. I studied my kids in an attempt to learn some best practices. 

Hands on the pole… check. (They probably weren’t thinking of the germs festering on those carousel poles, so I tried not to think about them either.) 

Feet kind of dangling, because kid legs are too short for the stirrups… check

Laugh a little, smile a little… check.

Nothing. I mean, still fun watching the kids and all, but something was missing. I had a lot of time on the carousel to figure it out, and eventually I did. Here was the problem:

My eyes weren’t forward.

I realized I’d spent my entire adulthood watching other people enjoy riding the carousel and wondering why my own experience wasn’t quite measuring up. I was watching tiny, adorable other people – but other people nonetheless.

I turned my eyes forward and in an instant I could see it again. I could remember. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but it was actually kind of thrilling. The way all the horses went up and down at various intervals made it look like we were racing in a big pack. I could feel the wind on my face. The ride seemed to speed up and the lights and music made it feel beautifully chaotic and exciting.

Sometime after we took our last ride on the carousel, I found myself wondering if we occasionally do life in this sideways-looking way. In this era of social media, we dedicate time each day to looking and seeing what everyone is doing. It’s not wrong, necessarily, to be alongside one another and root for each other and learn from each other. But it becomes damaging when we altogether forget to look forward.

Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life. – Galatians 6:4-5 (The Message)

We were each created by God for a purpose with specific gifts, life experiences, skills, and passions that are 100% unique. Let us not miss out on the joy of knowing and living this. Let us not forget to look forward once in a while.

Better yet, let’s look up.

The Moments in the Middle


There’s something about summertime that heightens my expectations of what motherhood will look like. I picture myself making every day a new adventure. I picture myself always having a nutritious picnic packed for said adventure. I picture myself never forgetting the sunscreen. And then I picture myself leading my children through some sort of grassy meadow while bursting into spontaneous song, just like Maria von Trapp in The Sound of Music.

One of the bigger problems with this picture, as a sweet friend once pointed out to me, is this: the reason Maria von Trapp had so much time on her hands to burst into song was because she had a house full of servants who handled the drudgery of everyday life. You know – things like laundry, cooking, scrubbing toilets, spending an hour on hold while calling the insurance company about your recent water damage claim – all those “not-so-musical” tasks of motherhood.

The fact is, when you factor in all those menial tasks, it leaves a lot less time for a musical frolic through the meadow. Even more so if you’re balancing work commitments, too. (I’m currently freelancing, which has been fantastic, but I’m just saying, it cuts into the frolicking time.)

I’ve spent much of my summer engaged in inner conflict, constantly asking myself the question, “Am I making this memorable enough?” On days when we spend hours in the pool or drop everything and head off to the beach or the zoo or the farm, it’s a yes. On days when I catch up on laundry and drag the kids on seven errands (my kids eat BJ’s pizza for lunch while riding in the shopping cart way more often than I’d like to admit), it’s a no. And on those days, I feel like I’m failing. Because, seriously – what would Maria von Trapp do?! Probably not call around getting quotes for air conditioning maintenance, that’s what. And if she did, she’d at least be singing.

On a recent “failure day”, the kids and I were heading out the door to get the oil changed in my car when this came to mind:

One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much… (Luke 16:10 ESV)

This Bible verse talks about being faithful with money – and while I realize my role as a mother isn’t really something you can measure in a monetary sense, I know for certain my kids are valuable to God. He has entrusted me with two of His treasures, and the Bible says little things matter a lot. If we’re faithful with the little things, we will be faithful with the big things.

So, instead of chalking this particular day up as a failure day, I decided to obey God and be faithful in sitting in the waiting room of the auto service department with my two small kids. I entered the tiny room (with its familiar smell of motor oil and stale coffee) armed with a board game, a jewelry making kit, and several small toys. And you know what? We had fun. When it was time to leave my kids were groaning and begging me to stay for just a few more minutes.

There was no song. No frolic in the meadow. But it turns out that’s not what makes a memory “good” for my kids. I am learning that it’s not so much about the Big Exciting Moments. It’s about those moments in the middle; those seemingly mundane moments which string together one after another – those are the moments which will leave the most lasting impression on these kids whom I love so much. Perhaps those are the moments which matter most of all, even.

Please don’t hear me saying, “Look at what a great mom I am! Look how fun I made this experience!” That’s not what I’m saying at all. What I am saying is I regularly miss opportunities like this simply because I often believe the lie that these mundane moments don’t matter. The truth is, they matter a lot. They matter to my kids, and most importantly, they matter to God.

So I’ve been working on giving up my expectations of what important moments look like. I’ve been working on being more present in the middle moments: making a game out of watering the plants, getting audiobooks from the library to listen to as we shuttle around to various errands, being more patient as the kids interrupt me for the twelfth time when I’m just trying to unload the dishwasher! Actually, still working on that one.

We keep a couple of games in the car now. I snapped this sweet picture of my big man and my little man playing while we waited for our dinner on vacation a couple weeks ago. (My big man had to escort my little man out of the restaurant shortly after this was taken – because, it’s still real life. And that’s okay.)

On this Monday morning, I can see the week stretched out ahead of me and I want to remind myself to make the most of the moments in the middle. I want to remind myself to be faithful with little. Maybe I won’t burst into song at the dry cleaners. But then again, maybe I will.

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. – Colossians 3:17

The Trouble with Tiny Shopping Carts


Do you ever wonder who first came up with the idea for those tiny shopping carts kids like to push around the grocery store? Probably someone with a sense of humor, if I had to guess. Also perhaps someone who likes to watch others suffer.

Moms know what I’m talking about. You see the tiny shopping carts and you say to yourself, “What an adorably fun way to move through the crowded grocery store with my small child.” And it is fun, for a few seconds, but it can turn to utter chaos faster than a pyramid of glass jelly jars tumbles down avalanche-style as you watch in horror.

My kids love the tiny shopping carts. Love them. So most of my time in the grocery store is spent herding two kids and their mini shopping carts (which by the way, go a lot faster than you’d think).

The other day, we got to the store and my oldest was in a hurry to get to the potty. So both kids grabbed their tiny shopping carts and sprinted toward the restroom. I marveled at how focused they were for once. How determined. These were kids on a mission. They were heading somewhere important. Somewhere urgent.

And then – they veered off toward something else. I can’t even remember what caught their attention, but whatever it was became more important and without hesitation, they changed course. They do this a lot, especially while maneuvering the tiny shopping carts. 

Something about this time was different, though. This time, I stopped chasing them and stood back to watch. This is really not a wise thing to do, because so many things can go wrong when you’re not actively herding the tiny shopping carts.

But I couldn’t help it. Because something was flooding up inside me, telling me to pay attention to this moment. And here’s what it was: 

“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew‬ ‭18:3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Unless you turn…

Like children…

Here’s the truth: I tend to push my own grown-up version of a tiny shopping cart way too deliberately. I fill my tiny cart with all these things that seem so very important. Then I push my cart with intense focus, refusing to turn off course even the slightest bit. Because there’s no time to veer in a different direction when you have a very full tiny shopping cart and very important places to push it.

I imagine God must think I look a little silly, running around way too seriously pushing my ridiculous tiny shopping cart. Because I know that what He calls me to could never fit within the confines of my own expectations and agendas. My tiny shopping cart just isn’t big enough.

You know who never pushed a tiny shopping cart around? Jesus.

I mean, sure, it’s true that Jesus didn’t really have the option to push around a tiny shopping cart, but he wouldn’t have done it anyway.

Because Jesus was interruptible. He was constantly willing to turn in whatever direction the Father required. He wasn’t afraid of what might be waiting in that direction. He wasn’t annoyed when called to veer off course. He was delighted to do so, in loving and obedient service to the Father.

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. ‭‭John‬ ‭5:19-20‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This year I’ve been working on being more intentional about loosening my grip on my tiny shopping cart each week in an effort to make room for a Sabbath day of rest. When I first started, I was convinced that this would be limiting. I thought it would mean I’d accomplish less, and I wasn’t excited about this. I thought it would mean dirty kitchen floors and undone laundry and chaos. (Full disclosure, today it actually does mean these things. But that’s besides the point!) 

In obedience to what God called me to do, I began to rest and worship one day each week. I can’t say it has been perfect, but I can surely say this: what I thought would be limiting has actually been quite freeing. Little by little, the Lord is showing me there’s a lot more margin in my life than I realize. He’s showing me that I can choose to fill my tiny shopping cart and restlessly push it forward, or I can choose to loosen my grip and let Him turn my limitation into His abundant glory. 

I confess there’ve been plenty of times in my life when I’ve flat-out refused to turn in the direction God has called me to. I can only imagine what I missed out on when I refused to turn my tiny shopping cart. 

Of course, there’ve also been times when I have turned, but I can’t say I turned the way my children did that day in the store. When my children turned, they did so with joy and absolute fearlessness. They ran with their little heads flung back, squealing and giggling like crazy. They ran at full speed. They ran with excitement, craving adventure.

The next time God calls me to turn in a new direction, I long to turn the way my children did. Except, perhaps I’ll altogether abandon my tiny shopping cart. I was never really in control of it anyway.

What You Need To Know About Endurance



I realize its benefits, but to be honest, I’ve never been one of those people who likes to run. Those people are really amazing, aren’t they? 

I have a lifelong friend who is one of those happy-when-running people. Throughout my life she has motivated me to run at various times and in various ways. When we were in middle school she’d come to my house and coax me to go on five mile treks with her. At first we had to walk most of the way, because I wasn’t conditioned. But with time it became easier, and eventually I could run alongside her the whole way, albeit at a moderate pace, while chatting and even laughing a bit. 

In high school she convinced me to try the indoor track team. (I was on the team for exactly one day before the delayed onset muscle soreness kicked in and I threw in the towel. Turns out I’m more of a recreational runner than an actual athlete.) When we were official adults, settling into newly-acquired apartments and full-time jobs, she convinced me to run a 5k with her. A couple years after that she convinced me to do a 10-miler. She managed to convince me to do this twice, actually. She’s a pretty convincing person now that I think about it. 

Lately my friend spends most of her days running after little boys, so I’m pretty much off the hook (for now). But I’ve gone back to running a bit on my own. I use the phrase “on my own” loosely to describe me running while pushing a double jogging stroller. Sometimes I push one kid, sometimes two, depending on whether my husband is home and when everyone wakes up. 

I’ve been running with the kid(s) most mornings for about two months now. The other morning, I realized something: running is easier than it used to be. I didn’t notice it getting easier, because it happened so slightly and imperceptibly. But one day, out of the blue, I just realized I wasn’t so tired. I found myself wanting to go a little farther, and even a little faster. I found myself looking forward to my morning run instead of dreading it.

Endurance: it’s a real thing, but we rarely see it unfolding. Little by little, we become stronger each time we stretch out of our comfort zone. Some days are harder than others, either because we’re carrying a heavier load by choice, or because we’re running on terrain that has become steep due to circumstances outside of our control. But we are building something on these particularly hard days; we are building endurance. 

Here’s the thing, though: our own endurance is limited. There are some crazy fast runners in the world, but even they are limited by the physical constraints of the human body. We all are bound in some way by our limits, and there are times when those limits seem so very palpable.

The Bible says that “God’s power is unlimited” (Job 36:22). Because we have an inexhaustible source of endurance to tap into as we navigate through this life, I sometimes find myself foolishly thinking this means things will be easy. Really, it’s quite the opposite. If you choose to run with God, his limitless power will often push you to do something which seems impossible. It will seem like you don’t have the energy, courage, money, wisdom, etc. – it will seem like you simply can’t do whatever it is that God has called you to do. And it will be true, that you can’t do it. But remember, you haven’t chosen to run on your own power. You could quit at any time of course, but if you choose to *keep* running with God, you’ll come to a point at which you simply have to muster up the guts to take a step forward. That’s when this whole endurance thing kicks in. You may not perceive it as it’s happening, but make no mistake about it – it will be happening. The God “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Eph 3:20) will be doing big, crazy, awesome things in you and through you as you run with endurance. 

If we are going to run in this big, limitless, All-Glory-To-God way, there are two things we must remember:

1. One person’s 5k is another person’s marathon. Don’t compare yourself to others and try to determine who’s the better runner. If you do, you’ll find yourself getting off course and heading to nowhere. Run your race, and run it well.   “Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.” – Galatians‬ ‭6:4-5‬ ‭MSG‬‬

2. We weren’t meant to run this way alone. Starting, continuing, and finishing a race like this is best done in community. I never would’ve tried running to begin with if it hadn’t been for my friend, and I certainly wouldn’t have stuck with it years later. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the friend doing the cheering, or the one barely shuffling along just trying not to collapse, because at one point or another you’re bound to be both. God didn’t design us to do life alone, and he especially didn’t design us to fulfill His purpose alone. Community is critical to endurance. There will be times when you won’t be able to sense your endurance growing, but those running alongside you will see it and encourage you. Even more precious are the friends who will see you not taking a first step, and will gently tug you by the wrist to just go ahead and get moving already! “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” – Hebrews‬ ‭10:24-25‬ ‭ESV‬‬

If you look into the distance today and see something scary, perhaps there’s a first step to be taken. And perhaps today is a good day to take it.

There’s lots more I could say about running, but it’s time for me to literally put some sneakers to the pavement this morning. Hopefully I’ve gained more endurance since yesterday, because I’ll be pushing two kids, and I’m planning for a long one.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” – 
Hebrews‬ ‭12:1‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The Inconvenient Benefits of Rain


Saturday, 4 p.m. It was here at last; I finally had a few minutes to do some yard work (transplanting rose bushes, potting begonias – girly stuff), without kids underfoot. After a particularly hectic few weeks, with no breaks from full-time “momming”, I took a deep breath and relished the serenity of being alone with my plants. My quiet, perfectly-behaved plants.


Saturday, 4:01 p.m. The rain started. I may be exaggerating about the timeline a bit. Maybe there were like, three whole minutes of nice weather before the sky opened up. Who’s to say? The point is, it happened quickly. And it wasn’t a gentle shower. It was the kind of rain that falls so hard and fast it bounces off the ground.  

I’d been forming a negative internal dialogue for a while by then. So naturally, this presented a good opportunity to throw some gas on that fire. It’s possible I was muttering to myself, in the pouring rain, things like, “Of course. Of course it starts pouring the minute I have a second to myself.” You know, those sort of things. When the thunder started, I should’ve gone inside. A wise person would’ve. But instead, I continued to do what I’d set out to do. Because… stubbornness. And because every street needs a crazy neighbor.  

At one point, the rain became so heavy that I could’ve used a pair of goggles. I could barely see. Again, I considered going inside. Or at least getting some goggles. But again, I kept going. By now, it wasn’t even stubbornness motivating me. It was the grumbling and complaining. The longer I kept going, the more I had to complain about.  

And then, from seemingly nowhere, came this thought: Look how quickly the Lord has provided the rain these plants need to grow and thrive. Look how the Lord is blessing your work. 

I wanted this thought to go away. It was too encouraging. Too pleasant. And I was in no mood for pleasant thoughts. But the more I tried to push it down, the more it rose to the surface.  

Because it was true, these plants needed the rain just as much as they needed the sun. Without this rain, they’d eventually dry up. They’d stop growing, thriving, and living.  

Rain is important. It’s good. Life-giving, even. Logically, we know and want the benefits of rain… and yet, we’d rather not be inconvenienced by it. We dread and complain about the literal rain, and much more so we do this with the “rainy” seasons of life. Or at least, I do.  

I long to look at rain differently. To see past its temporary hardship and recognize the growth and life it brings.  

My plants are currently soaking up the early morning sun. As far as I can tell, they’re not concerned with when the rain will come next. When it does happen, they won’t grumble and complain. They’ll simply accept it. They’ll let it change, grow, and nourish them. And they’ll thrive as a result.

Perhaps I could stand to be more like these plants. Quieter, for sure. But also more trusting and yielding to the One who makes things grow (1 Corinthians 3:6).

“When the ground soaks up the falling rain and bears a good crop for the farmer, it has God’s blessing.” – Hebrews 6:7 NLT

“The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry. It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.” – Isaiah 55:10-11 NLT

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” – James 1:2-4 NLT

The Bigger Problem of Losing Your Car Keys


You’ve been there. Or if you haven’t, let’s just pretend you have for the sake of making me feel better about my own tendency toward forgetfulness.

I’m referring to the moment when, after frantically searching for something – usually something you use often, like your car keys, or your glasses – you realize you’ve been holding it the whole time you’ve been looking.  

There needs to be a word for this phenomenon. If there’s a word for déjà vu, it seems only fair to have a word for this, too.  

While I don’t know of any official words for it (if you do, please share!), I do know why it happens. At least, I know why it happens to me. It’s one of three reasons, and sometimes a combination of all: 

1. I’m rushing and stressed. There’s no margin. I haven’t allowed enough time, let alone extra time, to do what I’m supposed to. I’m going too fast to be careful.  

2. I’m thinking about too many things at once. Fourteen different thoughts are competing for my attention. The simple thoughts are the first to get pushed to the back of my mind. Thoughts of worry, agitation, etc. take central position. I lack focus. Or, perhaps I have plenty of focus – just not on the right things.

3. I’m allowing my subconscious to run my life. Certain parts of my brain are running on autopilot. I’m not stopping to examine, evaluate, or consider. I’m just plowing forward, without clearly looking to see where I’m going. Sort of like a car, driving in the rain without the windshield wipers on.

It’s pretty harmless when the lost thing is something as tangible as a set of car keys. But, what about when we do this in less tangible ways? What if we’re living in a way that’s too fast, too unfocused, and too unexamined to notice and appreciate what’s right in our hands?

A long, long (looooong) time ago, the Bible told us that it’s important to pause; to set apart some time; to rest. Sometimes it seems like so long ago that it’s no longer relevant. It seems like a mere suggestion from a much different time. It’s not a mere suggestion, though. It’s actually one of the Ten Commandments.

But I don’t want to get too much into that, not right now at least, because this whole idea of margin can be so very beneficial whether or not you accept the Bible as Truth. Our human nature is the same now as it was when those words about rest first went to paper – or stone, rather.

If left unchecked, we all have a tendency to move through life on autopilot, without recognizing the blessings right in our hands. For some of us, this looks like being too productive. For others, it might look like being too wrapped up in unintentional rest (said without judgment – because I’ve had my share of Netflix binges, too).

Engaging in intentional rest – time purposely set apart on a regular basis to reflect, examine, and be thankful – is nourishment for a weary soul. I happen to think it’s extra nourishing when this time is also in worship of God, but more on that some other day.

For now, is there some way you could make room for intentional rest in your life? What would it look like for you? Getting out into nature for a day? Spending an hour or so journaling? Enjoying an entire cup of coffee while it’s still hot?

Don’t be afraid to start small. Your to-do list, in the short term, will probably suffer a little. But it will be so good for you and worth it in the long run. And that’s a promise – written in stone, a long (looooong) time ago.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

This message begins to scratch the surface of what real-life Sabbath looks like in today’s world. More to come in the future, under the category of “Rest/Modern-Day Sabbath”.

An Encounter with the Scissors


I kept it tucked away for years.

It was a gift from my mother; a burlap table runner with ruffled ends. I had pinned a photograph of a similar one on Pinterest a long time ago, and she happened to come across this one while she was out shopping one day. She bought it and gave it to me as a random, no-particular-reason surprise. She was always doing things like that.

One day I saw it peeking out from its hiding place under a stack of placemats, so I pulled it out. It was still as beautiful as I’d remembered. And still not the right size for any of the tables in my house. I tried placing it everywhere I could think to put it, hoping it’d work. But just like the last time I tried, it simply wasn’t the right fit.

My mom had been gone around 18 months by then. Getting rid of the table runner felt like letting a piece of her go. It was too sad. I couldn’t do it. And yet, putting it away to remain unused forever was even sadder still.

I stared at it for a long time. I stared for so long that the table runner began to take on a different shape. Something else was emerging. Something new.

What if…?


I took it down to my sewing room, found my scissors, and began to cut. The metallic sound of the scissors made me cringe. Because once something is cut, it’s cut. There’s no going back, no un-cutting. I was left with three pieces of fabric; two long rectangles from each end – these would turn into pillows (I hoped), and a shorter rectangle of leftover fabric.

I’ll be honest, things didn’t look so hot for the table runner in this moment. What used to be something beautiful and perfectly good was now cut up into pieces. If you didn’t know better, you’d think this table runner had been ruined. You’d think its story was over.

Have you ever felt like that? I know I have.

There have been times when life hasn’t looked like I thought it would. Times when it’s seemed like everything I once considered perfectly good was all cut up into pieces. Times when I couldn’t see how the pieces could ever be put back together again.

Because it’s true, there is no un-cutting. There really is no way to go back in time and restore things to how they used to be.

But here’s the thing:

There is, for sure, a way to turn those cut-up pieces of what was into something new. That’s the business God is in, making something new out of the pieces, no matter how hopeless the project seems.

We often don’t see the newness coming. Perhaps because we’re still clinging so tightly to the way things used to be. We long for the time before the scissors came and cut everything to pieces. Or perhaps we don’t sense newness on the horizon because we don’t believe that God is there, that He’s good, or that He’s able.

There are all kinds of reasons we fail to see newness, but the Creator of the Universe doesn’t depend on us to see what He’s doing. He can make something new whether or not we perceive it as it’s happening.

Know what is needed in order to make the old new? Something to hold the pieces together.

This is true in sewing. You can’t sew without thread. You could try, I guess, but in the end you’d just be left with a bunch of needle holes. Nothing would hold together.
The Bible describes Jesus in this way: “…in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:17 ESV)

How I treasure this verse. Those cut-up pieces of table runner could never have put themselves back together. They were nothing but a bunch of hopeless scraps, forever damaged by their encounter with the scissors.

But then came the thread. Stitch by stitch, the thread transformed those ripped-up pieces into something new. I watched as the pieces became a pair of beautiful pillows. Here’s one of them:

These new pillows have a totally different purpose than the old table runner. They have a totally different look. They are something altogether changed, altogether new, and altogether better.

The table runner wasn’t conquered when the scissors cut through it. Not one little bit. But it was redeemed when the thread ran through it.

The Lord can take the torn up pieces of your life and redeem them into something new. He’ll do it using Jesus as the thread.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:19 ESV)

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16 ESV) 

An Incomplete Picture


Last night I volunteered to help with a kids’ toy and clothing exchange at my church. This meant I left home before my children ate dinner, and returned after they went to bed. My four-year-old daughter was having a hard time seeing me leave, so I told her I’d bring home a surprise for her to wake up to in the morning. I picked up this princess puzzle, and when I got home late I decided I’d try to put it together just to make sure all the pieces were there before I gave it to her. I decide to use this picture on the box (of Ariel and Belle) as a guide. 

I dumped all the pieces out, and a couple of random items fell out of the box, too. One of them was a flash card with the word “quetzal” on it. I was quickly losing faith that all the pieces were actually in the box (it was after all, an item that had been donated), but I pressed on. After I’d pieced together about 10 of the 46 pieces I started to notice that other princesses were popping into the mix. There was a piece with Cinderella’s face on it. There was  another with Tiana’s. These princesses weren’t anywhere on the box’s picture, so by this time I was growing even more doubtful. I assumed that several puzzles got mixed together and then donated, which would be 100% understandable in the busyness of life. I almost gave up, but for some reason (stubbornness, maybe?) I kept going. And then things took a turn. To my great surprise, the puzzle began to come together, extra princesses and all. Eventually I put the last piece in place, and the result was a perfect, complete puzzle. Here’s what the finished product looked like:  

I should stop here and address the fact that it’s kind of embarrassing I couldn’t just glance at the child’s puzzle and see how it would come together, but that’s not the point. The point is this: I was using the picture on the box to set my expectation of what the puzzle should look like, but the picture on the box was incomplete! 

I put my faith in that picture, but I only had half of the picture. 

How often do we relate to God in this way? We see only a small part of the picture, and what we can see is clouded by our limited and sometimes selfish ideas of how the puzzle should turn out. We have so many expectations, and they often lead to discouragement and disappointment. In extreme cases, our unmet expectations leave us angry with God, causing us to turn away. 

But what if we were to do life differently? What if we were to throw away the “picture on the box” and embrace every day as a piece of a beautiful and perfect puzzle being put together by a brilliant, powerful, and loving hand? What would it look like to do that when the puzzle doesn’t make sense? Or when it’s painful? If the pieces aren’t falling like we want them to, what do we have to lose by persevering and trusting that the one who designed the puzzle will be faithful to complete it? 

Perhaps this is obvious, but I should mention that the finished princess puzzle was much better than what my limited perspective had in mind. May we all loosen our grip on our expectations today as we turn our eyes to the one who is able to do infinitely more than we ask or imagine (Eph 3:20). 

“We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!” (1 Corinthians 13:12 MSG) 

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6 ESV) 

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8, 9 ESV) 

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11 ESV)

Faith, Love, and Leftover Popcorn


My daughter and I went to the movies to see Beauty and the Beast on Saturday. She had popcorn, and throughout the movie she kept feeding me individual kernels of popcorn at various intervals. My germaphobe side was a little uncomfortable with this, but my mom side thought it was inredibly sweet. I was so touched that she was considering me in this way.

About ten minutes before the movie ended (after I’d been hand-fed about forty pieces of popcorn), she leaned over and whispered, “Mommy, I love you so much that I’ve been feeding you the popcorns I found tucked in my seat.” Then she gave me this loving look and stroked my face with her buttery little hand. Now, I realize we all may have a different gross tolerance, but I want to emphasize that eating random popcorn from the crevices of a movie theater seat is high on my gross meter. I mean, best case scenario I’d been eating her popcorn that fell into the seat. But worst case scenario… I don’t even want to go there.

Oh, motherhood. It often looks like this, doesn’t it? It’s the perfect mixture of unbelievably sweet and yet also… not quite what you expected. There are hard, hard days. Days when you find yourself with the real-life equivalent of leftover movie seat popcorn, in all its various forms. There are days when your heart is so full but your body is so drained of energy, and you feel like there’s nothing left. But perhaps the tug between divine and difficult is what makes it so precious. I recently heard some commentary on this verse, that changed my perspective in a huge way: “But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.” (1 Timothy 2:15)

I had never given too much thought to this verse, mostly because I didn’t understand it. But the speaker I heard recently shed some new light for me: she suggested that it is the sacrifice we give as mothers, day-in and day-out, which saves us from living for ourselves.

We learn through motherhood to die to ourselves and love with sacrifice and humility. We learn to love like Jesus did. The very process of raising our children is what brings us closer to Christ with every passing tantrum – IF we continue in faith, love and holiness.

In whatever drudgery I may face today, I’m being saved from living for myself. My hope for all my sisters in motherhood is that we awake each morning and find renewed strength to continue in faith, love, and holiness. And on a purely practical note – if your kid hands you food, you might want to just say thank you and set it aside when they’re not looking. You really don’t know where it’s been…