Do Your Politics Need “Skin”? Mine Do.

It’s no secret that America’s political climate has become increasingly divisive, confusing, and relationally-straining. Many people are questioning their party affiliation after decades of loyalty. Maybe you’re one of them.

There’s a lot to talk about and while I know we all love the never-ending heated debates that constantly show up on our feeds, I think I’ll settle for telling you a short story and then tell you why I believe we would all be better off if we took more time to listen to people’s stories who are different than us.

Amidst 2016’s fiery and divisive presidential race, Stone and I had dinner with a couple of friends to discuss our political views. We all came to dinner knowing we sat on opposing sides of the political spectrum. Scary, right?

A little. Most worthwhile experiences in life are.

Our conversation was more than civil, but of course required grace and patience at different points. While we had our faith in common, we had very different upbringings. You see, my friend is from Cuba and her family moved here when she was younger. She shared about her family’s experiences, what they lost when they came, and also what they gained. The word “immigration” is personal to her… it invokes faces, names, and stories. I can’t remember hearing a single story like hers over dinner growing up. I’m white and was raised in a middle-class, conservative home. When I hear “immigration,” protecting our country’s borders is one of the first thoughts that comes to mind.

The end result of dinner wasn’t any of us being converted to the other’s party or leaning, but all of us walked away with a deeper understanding. We all gained ground that night… not because we proved ourselves right, but because we listened well.

Looking back, that dinner served as a catalyst for the journey I’ve been on ever since.

I’ve learned and am learning that if I’m threatened by the idea of sitting across the table from someone who votes differently than me, there’s a good chance the foundation my beliefs stand on is faulty. A foundation that can’t stand the test of hard questions is no foundation at all.

I’ve learned and am learning that listening to people’s stories might not change how I vote, but it will likely change how I communicate my stances and what I feel when I do.

I’ve never been more aware of my blind spots and biases, and I’ve never been more aware of my deep need to share meals with people who are different than me. This is what “putting skin” on (humanizing) our politics does. It makes policies deeply personal, and the weight of voting heavy.

At the end of the day, I do not pledge my allegiance to a party or a politician. I pledge my allegiance to Jesus, to learning what it means to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God, and to a life (I hope) of learning what it means to love Him and my neighbor as myself.

I believe loving my neighbor as myself starts with stepping into their story and seeking to understand before I fight to be understood. I hope this spurs you on to do the same.


P.S. If you read this and are inspired, encouraged, or it causes you to think, here are a few practical actions you can take:

  1. Next time someone says something political you disagree with, ask questions instead of writing them off or defending yourself/your stance. Make it your aim to truly understand their position. 
  2. Move Facebook arguments to conversations over coffee or dinner.
  3. Think of someone who you KNOW has a different political stance than you and be intentional about getting to know them and their story.
Cover Image Credit: The Sustainable Leader

The “Chocolate Chip” That Changed Us

Who knew a little babe could change us from the inside of my tummy?

Our baby was around the size of a chocolate chip on the day we miscarried. As I type this, it’s been exactly one month. We didn’t know how much we loved the life inside of me until we had to let him/her go. To be honest, the grief took us by surprise. We have shared a different kind of silence now, where we partook of a new kind of love and loss together. It was hard and holy.

I will never forget the prayer Stone prayed that night:

“Lord, thank you that even though we had to say goodbye to our ‘little chocolate chip,’ there are still three of us in the room tonight. You have been so good to us.”

As we declared He is good in the midst of circumstances that are not, we have never been surer of this promise: where two or three are gathered, He is in our midst.

Up until this point I oversimplified miscarriage. A typical response to pain we don’t understand, I guess. They were pregnant. Now they’re not. They can try again. But what I’ve found is though it’s simple to describe, it’s complicated to experience.

It’s complicated because I have no memories with this person, yet they have begun to saturate ours.  We’ve been on vacation and every so often when we’re doing something really fun or laughing really hard, I get a profound wave of missing our six-and-a-half-week-old and its tiny little heartbeat that I never got to hear.

If you’ve never experienced miscarriage or infertility, this might all sound silly to you, and that’s ok. But if you have, you might have a tear or two running down your face… because you know exactly what I’m talking about.

I’m sharing about our miscarriage partly because… well, it just feels weird to keep posting “life-as-usual” pictures and updates on social media because 2018 has been anything but that.

I’m also sharing because I’m in awe of how Jesus can use the hardness of life to soften our hearts and clear the fog from our eyes.

Over the last few weeks God has used the physical and emotional pain of miscarriage to remind me of the sanctity of life­–the miracle of imago dio. While I’ve always ascribed to the belief that the unborn are whole persons, now my body does, too. The grief of miscarriage speaks to the departure of a life with a soul, not simply a mass of tissue. There is no more, “I was only 6 weeks, but it was painful.” I was 6 weeks. And it was painful.

But life? Life is beautiful, and that’s why we must hold the unborn and born in the highest regard—remembering that what gives us value is not our contribution to the world. The mere fact that we were created in the image of God is what gives us value, and that is why we celebrate at conception and grieve the loss of the unborn as if they are whole persons… because they are.

“For You formed my inward thoughts;
You knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.”

Psalm 139:13-16

I miss my little chocolate chip. I love Jesus. I love my husband. And I am so grateful for our amazing family and close friends who have surrounded us this year!

Thirsty on a Tuesday Night

Tonight was “veg night.” Stone is sick, which never happens, and selfishly I loved sitting on the couch knowing we couldn’t go anywhere— even if we wanted to. Our home is quiet. Peaceful. A stark contrast to my soul where to-do lists have been whirling around.

After a few episodes of “Parks and Rec” (honestly, we tried to get into it and just couldn’t… I’m sorry, world), Stone went to bed and I started “shutting down” the apartment. I reached to turn off the last light and all of the sudden it got really still in our kitchen. Still enough for me to hear my own thoughts racing—and more than that, still enough for me to be aware of the thirst in my soul.

“Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” – C.S. Lewis

On Easter Sunday, our pastor talked about this ache we all have—a thirst that can’t be quenched.

We spend our entire lives trying to quench this infinite thirst with finite drinks. Like saltwater, the things we try to satisfy ourselves with only make us thirstier. We search for meaning, but we cannot find it in approval from others, more likes on social media,  or a promotion at work. We search for purpose, but we cannot find it while we’re caught in the net of vanity this world so eloquently casts. We search and do not find, we drink and still find ourselves empty.

Until we find the drink that is not finite.

“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” John 7:37-38

You see, He is the thirst we cannot quench, the end of all our desires. Our hearts are “restless until they learn to rest in Thee” (St. Augustine), and we cannot know our purpose apart from His truth.

So, maybe you are at a good place in life and scrolled this far out of pure boredom. But maybe you have been searching for a drink that will satisfy your soul. I don’t have all of the answers, but I do know this: nothing and no-one but Jesus will cure you of this insatiable thirst. It is Him you are longing for, and He died a brutal death so that you could come to Him and drink of the well of salvation, be cleansed by His blood, and be eternally satisfied in His love for you.

Bottoms up. 🙂

Giving Thanks for Suffering

Have you ever looked back on a period of your life and thought, “How did I survive that?”

My family went through one of those seasons of life a few years ago. In my mind it was like being in the middle of an ocean caught in a strong storm. You hold on with all of your strength and hope for the best. Survival instincts kick in and you find yourself praying prayers you never thought you’d pray. God, please just let us all make it out of this alive.

And then, over time, the winds die down, your grip loosens, and you start to look around. Are we all still here?

We were in the eye of the storm when Stone and I got married three years ago. My parents split up after almost 25 years of marriage. It was messy, traumatic, and surreal. I love both of them dearly and they as well as other family members read this before I shared.

That storm took all that was familiar and many things we held dear.

It will never be like it was again. We will never be who we were again.

…While everything I just said is true and real and painful, the story doesn’t end there. Tears streamed down my face when I started writing down these thoughts because I was overwhelmed. Not by sorrow, but by God’s faithfulness­.

A few days ago, we celebrated Thanksgiving with my mom, dad, and my dad’s wife, Kristy. Together. In the same room. ***Only recommended for families with a great sense of humor

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Earlier I said It will never be like it was again. We will never be who we were again.

It will never be like it was because God has used suffering to soften the hard ground of our souls. He has allowed hellish winds to remove the scales from our eyes. We will never be who we were because our hearts have experienced the deepest of mercies–flowing from a risen Christ. No, we can’t go back. He has drawn us closer to Himself. And, over time, we’re finding that having Him is better than having answers or understanding, better than having it all together, and better than not having bad days anymore.

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And I know you may not see it now, in the thick of it, but you need to know this: His grip on you is tighter than your grip on the things and people you hold dear. His grip on you is stronger than these winds. His love will sustain you. His grace will empower you. His mercy will keep you. And here is the mystery: what looks like a storm on this side is actually the hands of a merciful Father–shaping you and forming you into the image of His only son, preparing you for eternity.

And by His grace, only by His grace, may you experience one of the greatest gifts as a result: a heart of thanks for the suffering you’ll be tempted to resent. 

“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:6-9

 

I Accidentally Fell in Love with Theology

“The only way to recoup our spiritual losses is to go back to the cause of them and make such corrections as the truth warrants.”

I read those words for the first time a few months ago. Found in the preface of A.W.  Tozer’s Knowledge of the Holy—I was captured from the get-go.

If you would have told me two years ago I would be guzzling down Tozer and a three-inch-thick theology book at midnight on a Wednesday, I would have been really confused and maybe a little annoyed. I used to think theology, the study of God, was for people who traded in relationship with God for knowledge of Him. Puffed up, arrogant, argumentative… nah. I’ll keep it simple with, “Love God and love people.”

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The problem is the longer I live the more I understand that while loving God and loving people is simple, it’s not easy. Maybe because it’s kind of like… marriage.

We can all agree there are two essential ingredients to a lasting marriage: 1) keeping Christ at the center and 2) love. Lots of love. Simple, right?

Simple only if our definition of love and our view of Christ are accurate.

If those two things are off, it’s going to affect, well, everything. The truth is real love involves a willingness to forsake your ideas of what love should be and who you think your spouse is supposed to be, and if I never take the time to get to know Stone, his likes, dislikes, passions, and desires, our relationship will eventually suffer.

In the same way, it’s inevitable that our journey with God will eventually require us to trade our ideas about Him for the truth of who He says He is. And so I would say studying theology is, in part, a sort of laying down of the pieces in exchange for the whole… and this laying down has led me to a greater awe, wonder, and love for this Jesus who so mercifully transformed my life a few years ago. That, my friend, is the best part.

So, how does this relate to you, to me, practically?

I want to propose that while some difficulties we experience are the result of being human and therefore inherently flawed, some difficulties/cycles/unhealthy thought processes are the direct result of our inaccurate beliefs and ideas about God.

“What comes to our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” A.W. Tozer

Our beliefs about God matter. They’re worth the questions, digging, and wrestling because love is worth the questions, digging, and wrestling.

 I want to encourage you to submit your beliefs and yourself to something, Someone greater than yourself. Get in the Word, join a Bible study, or research different introductory books on theology if you feel like this struck home! My prayer is that for some of you, a light turns on, a flame is ignited, a hunger is born… for the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. May you be willing to forsake small ideas for the Truth Himself if He leads you on a similar journey.

Need thy Neighbor

I haven’t been sharing much. Mostly because I haven’t had much to share. My soul has been quiet… some days quietly content with the season we’re in and where God has brought us to, other days quietly in anguish as I scan headlines and wonder what our world, nation, and city will look like in 10 years.

Devastation seems to be occuring at a rapid rate, the media screams fear, and sometimes (most of the time) it’s paralyzing. So many nations, including ours, are in crisis and I’m supposed to sit back and plan for a normal life as I live my normal (normal meaning mildly-moderately dysfunctional yet drenched in God’s grace and mercy) life?

The truth is I’ve always carried a measure of the world’s brokenness in my soul, but how I carry it has changed. I used to think I had to do something radical to help… Move to a developing country, have a large platform, etc.

But oh how God has changed my call-to-action… Or rather, clarified it.

During a season when I felt empty and purposeless, God opened my eyes to a people group I had never seen before: our neighbors.

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark‬ ‭12:30-31‬ ‭

Because at a time when the world is seemingly falling apart, when people are more connected yet more lonely than ever, when we have every reason to be suspicious of every person we come in contact with… what if the best thing we can do is love our neighbors? Yes, our literal neighbors.

If I can wake up everyday and remember that everyone has pain and everyone wants love, I will be more aware of the people I pass in the hall, on the street, and at the grocery store.  And sometimes loving your neighbor is as simple as that: being aware. Seeing. Noticing. Looking someone right in the eyes and smiling instead of pulling out your phone and pretending to read a text.

They need you to see them… And you know what? You need them to see you.

A few hours after I started writing this blog, I was walking in from the parking garage juggling one million things (ladies, why do we do this?!). I passed a neighbor I’d never met and he quickly lent me a hand. My kneejerk reaction was, “Oh no! I’m fine!” but before I could spill out the words out, he was already helping.

You see, I need my neighbors just as much as they need me. I have just as much to learn from them as they do from me. It’s easy to love and be loved when our lives are only big enough for people who think like us, act like us, and look like us, but why live so small? …why love so small?

So, here’s your remedy for the days when you feel like the world is spinning out of control and you’re tempted to join the noise instead of cut through it with love: go take a walk and wave hello to a stranger. Help someone carry their groceries in. Don’t be afraid to walk next door and ask for butter when you run out. Throw a block party. And most of all, when you are tempted to choose fear instead of love, don’t… because only love can warm a world that’s growing cold.

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-7

You’ll Find Him There

There was a time a few years ago when I put my Bible underneath my pillow and slept on it every night. In the midst of chaos, it was plea for His help, my declaration of trust. As childlike as it was, it was all I knew to do. My mind felt broken, and I knew His word and His presence were my only hope for stability.

I went to the lowest of lows, and I found Him there. I didn’t lose Him when and where I thought I would. Or rather, He didn’t lose me when I thought He would.

I’m reminding myself of this today because I’ve watched people I love go down into those low places. I have prayer requests that are too heavy to speak… they sink to the bottom of my heart and I carry them with me, and when I muster up the strength, I lift them up to Him.

What do I want to say to you if you’re in the midst of darkness, or heading into battle?

You’ll find Him there, you will. Some days it’ll seem like He’s gone, but He’s not. He’s in your midst, and someday you will see that more clearly than you do today.

Search His word and ask Him to reveal scriptures and promises to you for your situation. Cling to those scriptures. When it feels like you can’t make it a step further, mutter them out loud.

“Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” Jeremiah 33:3