The Grace of A Garden

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Some days the weight of the world presses into spaces that leave me breathless and numb, untethered from what holds us all together. The division, the distress, the wars displacing the most vulnerable, the marginalization of those who have already suffered so much among us, the unbelief of those hearing stories of the abused, the seeming triumph of the oppressor, it all tightens the vise around my very existence. I struggle to stay rooted in what I know in my head but don’t yet know in my heart, that the good and beautiful in this world outshines the darkness creeping along the edges. I struggle to believe in the depths of my being that grace and love really do make a difference, that they bring light and life.

Those are the days I simply need to step away and spend some time in my backyard, freeing my flowers from the jungle of weeds and poison ivy threatening to squeeze the life out of them. Some days the best way to be grounded is to dig in the dirt, allowing the basic common denominator among us all to sift through my fingers and to repair the holes in my soul. It brings me back to my humanity and the humanity of my neighbor, be they near or far. I’m reminded that we all are dust, and the whiff of a breath on a hand can send us floating on the breeze. I’m reminded that I’m as fickle as they come, blown about and trying to figure it out as I go. I am reminded that I often don’t know where I’ll land, much like my neighbor may not know where they will land. I’m reminded that grace and love do go a long way in this world short on both.

At ground level the muted greens and browns sooth my eyes and my heart with their earthiness and the reality of what is. When I glance up, the world explodes in yellow, blue, white, pink. Lilies poised against the sky become stars set in space and I’m reminded of the smallness of me in a universe ever expanding. The pink of sweet peas vining into an evergreen, sending delicate sprays heavenward remind me that beauty leaves its mark on the world no matter where it’s found. Airy Queen Anne’s Lace, appearing uninvited yet waving cheerfully in the breeze reminds me that welcoming the stranger brings joy I didn’t know I was missing.

These days, I find myself in my garden more than usual, maybe in an attempt at bringing some order to my little corner of the world. Honestly, that’s about all I can handle right now, although it doesn’t seem like enough. I know it starts here, in my own tiny space. I just don’t know yet where it will lead. Or where I’ll land. But for now, it is enough. I will free my garden to be what it is meant to be – a space of beauty in a harsh world that is determined to conquer it. Today the grace of a garden will heal my soul a bit more and give me courage to look up once again.

Thoughts Through a Pencil {Guest Post}

Today my vivacious and courageous daughter turns seventeen years old and I wanted to share a poem she wrote toward the end of this school year. She has had a rough couple of years and she delves into some of that here. Would you give her some love?

Thoughts Through a Pencil

She wrote ever since she was a little girl,

With long hair and a gentle curl.

It was her refuge, her getaway

From the general worries of everyday.

She longed to become a writer,

Someone paid to make others’ worries a little lighter.

And through these words, her world grew brighter.

Her main focus was reflection,

And she learned more about herself through inspection.

Her worries surprised her,

Suspecting herself to grow into an old miser.

But through these works, she still could muster

A new worldview, full of luster.

The earth is a glorious place

Full of beauty and full of grace.

And while things didn’t turn out the way she wanted,

She found her growth was still unstunted.

 

She was in wonder of the world;

The sky snowed powdered sugar,

She followed wherever the whispering trees took her

Her childhood paid her constant visits

The memories appearing as wispy spirits

 

Her pencil etched onto the lines

Her thoughts and worries of the times.

Her mind grasped to reach the fading rhymes,

As the wind carries echoing chimes.

But as the wind blew on,

She found she could not fill a page with brawn.

Her pages were scarcely full to the brim,

Yet were never under half a page, much too slim.

 

The scratching of the pencil was music to her ears,

For to the music, her mind still steers

She talked of rhythm and of passion

And so to write it was the fashion.

She wrote of herself as a piano.

“My melody may be one of triumph,

Or it may leave me berated.

Major or minor,

Waltz and crescendo,

Over time, my luster starts to let go.”

 

Her goal was to transform the reader to her memory

Ground into words as if from emory.

She wrote of her home’s terrain,

Of the smell of dust after rain

“A cloud on the ground created a fog just thick enough to blur the lines of the trees and nearby barns.

The sun, now higher on the horizon, cast more gold tones as the pink daybreak faded away.”

These stirred in her mind the chilly mornings of May,

And the timid donkey’s gentle bray.

 

She loved to write in detail

So to show her readers the view through the veil

Of her scattered mind,

Which made her pencil nearly blind.

She left incomplete thoughts and emotions on the paper,

Which left her in ruins, that vicious caper

Never able to make ends meet,

She used all her efforts to fill up the sheet.

But alas, she did not prevail,

For her thoughts on stormy seas do not sail

 

When she was given a prompt, the vision was there.

Now, to make the words appear from thin air.

Most often on her page were words of fiction,

Things that could never happen in the world she lived in.

When asked to replace the falling snow,

Her response went just like so;

“Powdered sugar is lighting softly on the earth, coating everything in sight in a sweet frosting…

The world is a candyland, a kaleidoscope of uniquely-flavored candies and lozenges, and the air is transformed into a wafting array of peppermint, butterscotch, and toffees…

Syrup drops from the tips of pine needles as the warming sun melts away the candyland, and the sugar snow fades away to syrupy rain in the spring.”

She based her writing on stories that already provoked her mind,

“The Nutcracker” and “Inkheart” through her thoughts would wind.

They captured her fantasies of a child’s point of view,

Where everything to see was something new.

On and on she pondered,

And further from the point she wandered,

Til she found herself back at the start

On the innermost thoughts of her heart.

Everything she wrote came from deep within,

Though on the inside, she was wearing thin.

She described her lifestyle.

“Wake up, become exhausted with little effort, and then finally, when my thoughts are made of pillows and clouds and stars and slumber, I become utterly awake.”

Her mind was a mess,

An unfortunate consequence of stress.

Her blank paper fleered at her,

But that never seemed to matter.

She kept writing on, determined to make the jeer shatter.

She wrote in ways often nostalgic.

Her memories of childhood seemed to stick.

She wrote as child seeing the world for the first time,

Often completing the work with a word of rhyme.

In her pieces, she wrote as herself

Many years ago,

As a child who saw a shelf

As an adventure all in itself

 

Perhaps her reason for this

Was for the innocence she so missed.

Before the pain was able to fester,

Before puffy eyes and illness dressed her.

Before the invisible stomach pain

Enslaved her with a chain.

 

She wrote of fears,

And of lost times that brought her tears.

She drafted of the years

Down which her narrow path veers.

She was left in a world of hurt,

With mental illness that clung like dirt.

 

She explored uncertainty,

As reckless as the frothy sea.

Where to go? What to do?

“That,” she told herself, “Is up to you.”

 

Through her writing, and this audit,

Her thoughts are no longer locked in a closet.

She writes of before a time when she was hurting,

But she also writes of hope, bright and burning.

Her thoughts on blank pages

Are more useful than when kept in her mind’s spaces.

They help her stay afloat

When the skies have gone all gray.

And bring her back to shore

When she has gone astray.

What Kind of World Have We Made?

Following you will find an excerpt from Brennan Manning’s singular work, The Ragamuffin Gospel. This is a story I am sitting with today and I invite you join me. What kind of town are we living in? What kind of world are we living in?


A story is told about Fiorello LaGuardia, who, when he was mayor of New York City during the worst days of the Great Depression and all of World War II, was called “the Little Flower” by adoring New Yorkers because he was only five foot four and always wore a carnation in his lapel. He was a colorful character who used to ride the New York City fire trucks, raid speakeasies with the police department, take entire orphanages to baseball games, and whenever the New York newspapers were on strike, he would go on the radio and read the Sunday funnies to the kids.

One bitterly cold night in January of 1935, the mayor turned up at a night court that served the poorest ward of the city. LaGuardia dismissed the judge for the evening and took over the bench himself. Within a few minutes, a tattered old woman was brought before him, charged with stealing a loaf of bread. She told LaGuardia that her daughter’s husband had deserted her, her daughter was sick, and her two grandchildren were starving. But the shopkeeper, from whom the bread was stolen, refused to drop the charges. “It’s a bad neighborhood, Your Honor,” the man told the mayor. “She’s got to be punished to teach other people around here a lesson.”

LaGuardia sighed. He turned to the woman and said, “I’ve got to punish you. The law makes no exceptions–ten dollars or ten days in jail.” But even as he pronounced the sentence, the mayor was already reaching into his pocket. He extracted a bill and tossed it into his famous sombrero, saying, “Here is the ten dollar fine, which I now remit; and furthermore I am going to fine everyone in this courtroom fifty cents for living in a town where a person has to steal bread so that her grandchildren can eat. Mr. Bailiff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant.”

So the following day the New York City newspapers reported that $47.50 was turned over to a bewildered old lady who had stolen a loaf of bread to feed her starving grandchildren, fifty cents of that amount being contributed by the red-faced grocery store owner, while some seventy petty criminals, people with traffic violations, and New York City policemen, each of whom had just paid fifty cents for the privilege of doing so, gave the mayor a standing ovation.


Manning’s source for this story:

James N. McCutcheon, “The Righteous and the Good,” in Best Sermons (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988), 238-39.

Missing Jesus

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It’s been an unsettling couple of weeks. Yes? For you too?

If you hang out on the internet for any length of time at all, you’ve been privy to the rancor and the line-drawing, the judgment and the derision coming at everyone from all sides. I wanted to walk away and I did for a little while. But I knew I had to come back. There is too much at stake to stay away. I will not ignore and pretend I don’t see the suffering and the marginalization of my sisters and brothers, here and around the world.

I am about to get real personal here, and to be honest, I’m real scared. I know many of my readers may not see things the way I do. And that gives me pause. But there is too much at stake. There are many pressing concerns in the time and place in which we find ourselves. There is no way I can address everything in this short piece that might concern any of us, so I’ve had to choose just the one or two that are occupying my mind most.

I have seen an awful lot of rhetoric and posturing from some who claim to be followers of Jesus that looks and acts a whole lot like unbridled fear and a mischaracterization of Jesus, who incidentally was always, always on the side of the marginalized and oppressed. The executive order on immigration and refugees has revealed what in my mind is the dehumanization of image-bearers, which is necessary to justify and defend turning away desperate and traumatized people from what is supposed to be a place of compassion and freedom. This is not a reflection of the Jesus I know. Furthermore, when we turn away refugees and immigrants, we turn away, we refuse, Jesus. Every man, woman and child on the face of the earth bears the image of God in them, and when we refuse them, we refuse Jesus.

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We often think that if we had lived in Jesus’ time we would surely have recognized and embraced him. Surely WE would have seen him for who he was. Surely we would have seen his compassion for the woman at the well, for the blind man, for the “other.”  But would we really have seen him for who he was? Do we even see him for who he is now? In the ways he appears to us today? Because he comes to us now in the broken, the downcast, the oppressed, the immigrant, the refugee, the LGBTQ, the homeless, the differently-abled, the physically, emotionally and mentally ill, the foreigner. He comes to us in ways we could not have imagined and we do not recognize him. Have we been blinded by our prejudice, our privilege and our judgment? We think we know Jesus when we see him, yet we refuse him and turn him away when he does appear to us.

We turn him away because we do not love him – because we have not fallen in love with Jesus. When we’re in love with Jesus, when we allow him to love us and we in turn are able to love him, we no longer have anything or anyone to fear. As long as we fear anything or anyone, we do not have the love of Christ in us. The love of Christ is fearless, because nothing and no one can separate us from that love. The worst thing that can happen is that we die because of our love, and why wouldn’t we be willing to do that when he who loved us first loved us to death? He died for us. Because of his love for us. He gave his life for us, while we were his enemies. Who are we, that we would not die for our enemies, real or perceived? What if dying, literally, is the seed by which others come to know and receive the love that Jesus has for them? I know, this is hard to take in, to embrace, this life of literally being willing to die. But until we are willing to go there, to be willing to give our literal lives, maybe we don’t really truly love the Jesus we claim to follow.

What if we came to the place where we could say with Paul, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain?” What would it take to get to this mindset, where living is for Christ and His kingdom, and to die is for Christ and His kingdom? It makes no difference. It doesn’t matter. To live is to live with Christ and his power in us. To die is to die and be in his presence. So it makes no difference; either way there is nothing to fear. Nothing to fear. Because we’re crazy in love with Jesus.

Until we are willing to love Jesus recklessly, with abandonment, we are going to fear. We are going to self-protect. We are going to hunker down with our prejudice and privilege. We are going to divide people into groups of “other.” We are going to dehumanize the “other” in order to reject and turn away Jesus in the name of Jesus. We are not going to be willing to lay down our lives for our perceived enemies. We are not going to be the force of love this world needs right now. We are going to continue to marginalize and oppress the marginalized and oppressed. We are going to continue to forget that we are human too, and flawed, and imperfect. We are going to try to prove we don’t need the grace and mercy of a loving Savior who loved us and gave his life for us. And we will deny him once again. Unless we love Jesus with all our hearts.

Refugees and immigrants are our brothers and sisters. The differently-abled are our brothers and sisters. The homeless are our brothers and sisters. Those identifying as LGBTQ belong with us. Whether we believe in the same God or not, we are brothers and sisters. Whether or not we are the same color, religion, ethnicity, ____________, you fill in the blank, we are brothers and sisters because we, all of us everywhere, carry in our being the image of God. When we turn the other away it is because we do not see the image of God there, and we do not recognize Him because we do not love Him.

We dare not look away now. We must press into these places of suffering and pain. We must see as Jesus sees, and love as Jesus loves. There is too much at stake. Real people’s lives are at risk and not only those fleeing war and poverty and death. Our own very lives are at stake. We risk losing our lives when we turn away those who are most in need, the most destitute, the most unloved, those who bear the image of God in them. It is a matter of life and death for everyone, not just the those who have been marginalized and oppressed. It is a matter of life and death for those of us who want to be safe and protected in our privilege and judgment, for those of us who have the power to show compassion and love, and to meet the most basic needs of those most desperate and unloved.

God help us all.

Of Desire and Disdain

“Vocation does not come from willfulness. It comes from listening. I must listen to my life and try to understand what it is truly about – quite apart from what I would like it to be about – or my life will never represent anything real in the world, no matter how earnest my intentions.” -Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

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Over the past year or so, my husband Craig and I have been part of a Spiritual Formation Cohort with about 20 other people from many different backgrounds. We met as a group for an extended weekend four times over the course of a year, with additional video conference calls in between, along with opportunities to share what God was doing in our lives by posting reflections and thoughts on a shared message board. The richness of this community has been breathtakingly beautiful and life-giving, an aspect which I may share more about in the future.

My reflection today has to do with something personal that has come out of this year of intentional formation as I have asked God to show me how He would desire to form in me more of the image of Christ. One of the questions posed to the cohort collectively and individually over and over during the course of the year was, “What is God inviting you into?” During one retreat this question was particularly pointed and I struggled to believe what I was sensing the invitation might be. Over the course of a few weeks following that retreat, I was convicted of what I do and what I’m attached to in an effort to avoid doing some of the things God has been putting on my heart over the last few years. As irony would have it, He invited me into something I have been deeply conflicted about for most of my life. A multi-faceted invitation to something I have deeply longed to do, while at the same time feeling selfish for having the desire to do it, and in the process, God seemed to be directly addressing my unhealthy attachments and some of the ways I have sabotaged my own life.

For as long as I can remember, the writing life has called to me. Words on the page drifting into my heart have been my companion and soul mate since the moment I could sound out the most basic ones. I remember once on a road trip sounding out the name of a town on a roadside sign and feeling so accomplished when I successfully figured out what it said, giving me a glimpse into the magical world of words. Along the way, literature and poetry especially captured my interest, with the layered themes, beautiful language and intricate landscape both hidden and revealed within the lines. Words were beauty that fed my soul and stirred the unnamed within. Words brought life and new ways of thinking and new ways of being.

Yes, new ways of being. This life that called to me – this life of words and thoughts and ideas, indeed, this life of being someone I was not yet, was the life I both coveted and disdained. Having grown up in a culture where hard work, productivity, and if nothing else, sheer busyness, are highly valued and praised, I pushed away this frivolous and unreasonable longing to bring my own thoughts to paper, and eventually, to the world. What good could ever come of that and who was I to have something to say? Hadn’t everything ever needing said already been said, and anyway, who would want to know what I thought? Besides, weren’t people more important than writing? Shouldn’t I be taking care of people rather than scratching out what would to some be meaningless drivel? What good could come of it? And what would I ever have to show for my time and effort? Anything? Anything worth anything? Would my words matter to the world? Would I matter to the world? The questions scared me. The answers I came up with scared me even more. I pushed it all away. I exhibited disdain and contempt toward the life it would take to write what was deep down in me and beyond, a life of quietude and solitude, of seeming unproductive and senseless “words, words, words,” as Hamlet put it in Shakespeare’s famous play. A life working away in the dark, beginning something new at midlife, starting over, doing what might look like “not work.” I was caught in one of the most conflicting dilemmas of my existence. I wanted to and I didn’t.

Oh , but isn’t that just the way it so often is? That what we disdain most and our deepest desires may in fact be the same thing? Could it be that what we vilify most vehemently is in truth what we desire most? What might our reaction against that which we disdain be trying to tell us? Are we afraid to believe that our desire could actually be our destiny, and that we are meant to embrace it? That it might be within the navigation of our deepest conflicted places where we discover what is really true in our lives and in the world? That what we think matters is proven to matter much less than we believed? That what matters most is that we are faithful and true to the One Who is Faithful and Truest of the True? That our desires are not always destructive and selfish, but sometimes built into our very DNA for purposes we may never fully understand?

As for me, I’m continuing to have to remind myself that what I perceived about desire as I was growing up was neither true nor helpful. I had come to believe that all desire within me was only me and my selfishness, that it could not have been put there by God, and I tried valiantly to eradicate those desires from every part of my being. In many ways, this subverted my life for more years than I would like to think about, as I avoided bringing my true self to what might bring wholeness and life to my soul. I don’t think I realized I may even have gone so far as to, as Parker Palmer so succinctly puts it, commit “an act of violence” toward myself when I pushed away who I was meant to be and what I was meant to do. I’ve pushed away my true self for so long, fearing most the response of people as well as my own distorted inner dialogue of value, worth and what success looks like. I must, over and over, come back to what is true and real. That my value and worth does not lie in what others believe about me, but in what God says is true – that my value is in Him, in me bearing His image and nothing else. That He sees Himself in me and I can boldly and confidently be who He made me to be and do what He put in me to do, letting go of what others think and tell me I should do and the value they might place on my performance. I must remember that to do what I’ve been made to do, I must first be who I’ve been made to be, even when that looks different from what I would like it to, even when I’m misunderstood and maligned, especially by my own self.

So here’s to allowing my disdain to teach me something about myself, embracing the desires the Divine has placed in me, and courageously living into who He has truly made me to be. For now, that looks like pulling back from things I’ve enjoyed doing, becoming smaller and relatively unseen, and living a more simple and thoughtful life. This is the kindest and truest I can be to myself. It is also one of the scariest things I’ve ever done.

A Little Piece of My Story

I come today to scratch out a post that has my hands shaking and my heart quivering. It doesn’t help that I’ve hardly written much in the last year or two, so I feel especially vulnerable just on account of that, and even more so with what I feel I’m supposed to write today.

The last year and a half have been a particularly stressful time for me for reasons I won’t go into. Suffice it to say that I do not handle stress well, although at one time in my life stress is what I thrived on and what drove me. The rushes of adrenaline were addicting and helped me get done what I needed to get done, usually under deadlines. Unfortunately, that is also what precipitated an episode of burnout that I don’t care to ever repeat, so I try to be very careful not to bite off more than I can chew. Sometimes life comes at us in bigger bites than we care to take and there’s not much to do about it. This is where I run into trouble. It’s hard for me to go with the flow and not get worked up about things beyond my control or try to do it all even though it takes a terrible toll on me.

Last year, 2015, was a very tough year for me. I couldn’t understand what was going on, I just knew I was very confused and disoriented. I knew that some things had happened that were hard, but I didn’t realize the extent to which they were affecting me until someone pointed out the obvious in December.

Basically, I was being triggered all year and my body and my brain were shouting at me that I was in an unsafe situation and I needed to do something about it. That’s all that really registered. Since then I’ve learned that when we’re triggered, something literally happens in our brain and it causes us to not be able to think straight or process information the way we usually do. I spiraled into a vicious cycle of not being able to sort things out, which made me feel more disoriented and lost, which led to more confusion, and on and on. And eventually, the depression I wanted to believe I had kicked finally overtook me once again.

And this is where it’s hard to get vulnerable. I’ve not wanted to talk about my battle with depression, but it has paralyzed my writing and my living for too long. For many years of my battle, I did not know that what I was fighting was depression. See, for me, depression did not look like what I thought it was. I even went to the doctor one time because I was feeling very sick physically and his cursory answer was, “Well, we’ll do these blood tests and if nothing comes back I’ll treat you for depression.” What??? This was the first time anyone had even mentioned depression to me and it was such an offhand remark without so much as trying to help me understand why he was thinking depression that I never went back. It was about a year and a half later that I sat across from a very wise person who asked me, “So, how long have you been depressed?” that I finally acknowledged that this was a thing in my life.”

For the next five years, I said no to a lot of things people wanted me to do, to things I would have loved to do, and tried to learn what it means to know and experience Jesus and to take care of myself. But last year I came face to face with how vulnerable I really am, and how little it takes to upend everything. At this point I did decide that I probably needed something to help me get back on track, so I did see a doctor (a different one who was very kind and caring, thank God!) and he prescribed the medicine that I can say has helped. I can’t say that I can tell a huge difference in how I feel except that nagging, grinding sense of sadness in the center of my heart has eased. At my last checkup I told my doctor that I don’t feel that as much anymore, and he said I had probably built up my serotonin levels sufficiently to ease that feeling, thanks to the tiny pill I take every night.

I am not here to tie a pretty little bow on top of a neat and tidy package with all the answers. The more I learn about depression and anxiety, the more questions I have. This looks different for every single person who battles depression and I only give you part of my experience here. This is not even close to the whole story, but for now this is what I am free to share.

Counseling has helped me some, meds have helped me some, Jesus has helped me a lot, and rest and down-time has been an important part of my emotional well-being, but all this hasn’t made it go away. Just know that although I may fight this battle for the rest of my life, it does not and will not define me. It is not who I am. If depression and anxiety is part of your story, it does not define you. It is not who you are. You are more than the depression. You are an image-bearer of the God of the universe, and He is the One who defines who you are. He says you are fearfully and wonderfully made, and He loves you with an everlasting love. Do not be afraid to seek help. People will tell you Jesus should be enough, so just know that sometimes Jesus sends help in the form of medicine and counselors. And tell someone about your struggle. It loses some of its power when you speak your truth to a trusted friend who will listen and not give you a whole bunch of “shoulds”. Erase the word “should” from your vocabulary. It’s not a helpful word. We do what we can with the help we can get and let the rest go. And sometimes we need someone to help us figure out what is not helpful and how to let it go. Just know that if depression is part of your story, you are not alone, and asking for help is not admitting weakness. It means you’re strong and courageous and willing to do the hard work of facing off against your giants.

All this to say, this is why I haven’t been writing much. My brain has been on overload and I haven’t been able to sort out my thoughts, much less write something to publish here. Hopefully, I’m on a track where I will be able to write more frequently, so thank you for grace as I navigate this space. God is faithful in the midst of everything, always and forever faithful!

All the best!

For the Love! And a Little Fun…

Way back in March, five whole months ago I applied to be on the launch team for Jen Hatmaker’s new book, and somehow I made it into the 10% who actually made it onto the team. I’m sure it was through no charisma or anything that I did or am, just pure happenstance – or could it have been providence? Well, I don’t know, but let me tell you that this experience – being on a team with about 500 other people who are passionate about Jesus and love people to death – has been amazing! This group has lived out in real time the entire message of Jen’s new book, For the Love.

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The subtitle really puts it well: “Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards.” I think we’ve all experienced feeling like we’re not enough and that no matter how hard we try, there is something somewhere that we’ve failed at or not met someone’s expectations, be it other people’s or even our own expectations. Yes really, sometimes we’re the ones putting unreasonable expectations on ourselves. And Jen wants you to know that you can take yourself and others “off the hook.” She goes on to explain that

“maybe we can lay down our fear and criticism, self-directed and otherwise. Maybe if we let ourselves off the hook, we can let others off too… We don’t have to be saviors and critics for each other; we’re probably better as loved people beside each other. We aren’t good gods, but we can be good humans.”

Jen is superb at telling the truth with grace, and that’s exactly what she does in this book. She is so gracious with her words, so encouraging and uplifting, that when she hits you upside the head with something that’s a real thing in your own life, you can take it. Because you know she loves everyone with her whole heart – even the difficult ones, for the Love! – and she’ll give you the truth, but she’ll be gentle in the process. And this is something I want to learn from her. She does this so well, and all I can figure is that Jesus is so big in her life that she has learned from Him how to do this really well, so probably I need more of Jesus. Anyway, this is the insight she has about truth-telling: “When you tell me the truth about yourself, I no longer hide from you. Your vulnerability makes a path for my own.” And this, “We are watching the light win truth by truth, and when enough bright places are created, the dark has nowhere else to hide.”

“Show up. Be seen. Tell the truth. Be free.

She tells her truth in this book and invites us to tell ours. Together, we can be free.

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In the mix are messages to our children, to our marriages, to the church, to women, and to Christians. And her Thank-You Notes, oh goodness, you do not want to miss those. In true Jen Hatmaker fashion, this book will have you rolling with laughter one minute and crying the next. To me, that is one of the marks of a terrific book and she does it every.single.time.

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Jen invites us into something sacred, something holy. She is practically prophetic in her closing words when she calls forth the image-bearer in all of us as she sees what is and can be: “I see you, cheering each other on and calling forth the best in one another, and it slays me. This is the stuff. This is what we were made for. This is how to live well. If we prefer each other as Jesus told us to, there is nothing our community… cannot handle. …we strengthen each other to love our families and neighbors and cities and world. We point each other to God and call out our blessedness. It is so incredibly powerful.” And this, this is exactly what Jen has done with this book. She does this and shows us what is possible.

And this awesome community that is the launch team, has lived out this book in the most beautiful ways ever, giving me hope and a longing that this can be lived out in our real-life communities all around the world, wherever we are, with our people. We all long for this – maybe we need to quit waiting around for it to happen and be the catalyst in creating it right where we are with the people God has put in front of us.

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And now for some fun – who wants a free book? You COULD go to Amazon or Barnes and Noble or anywhere this awesome book is sold and order one, BUT if you’d like a chance at winning one, leave a comment down below, here on the blog, and you’ll be entered to win one of two copies I’d like to give to two of you amazing people who so faithfully read my sporadic and disjointed words.

So leave a comment, and tell us about someone who has encouraged you, cheered you on, and lifted you up on your journey. Honor those people in your life here, and then do it for someone else. Pass it on!!! Together, we can keep this ball rolling until it gets so big it overtakes our communities and our world. I will draw two names tonight, August 18, 2015 at 11 pm EST, because I want to get these out to you tomorrow. I can’t wait for you guys to start reading this book and sharing your highlights with us, so get your name in quick.

All the best!