Monday, October 29, 2012

in all things

me and pj: 10.19.2012

"There is a way to live the big of giving thanks in all things.
 It is this: to give thanks in this one small thing. The moments will add up.”
Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are

"Mommy, I haven't changed for a long time," Parker says from the back seat as I'm driving. 

"What do you mean?" I asked. 

"Well, I've been liking dinosaurs for a long time now... and snaaaakes... and buuugs..."  he pauses, as if to consider whether his list is satisfactory.  "That's three things I've liked for a really long time", he concludes.  "I need to find more things to like.  I'm into warthogs..." 

I look at him in the rearview mirror, laughing.  He's laughing, too.

This moment is joy. 

It's one of those moments you want to live in.  The giggles.  The freshly-gap-toothed little grin.  Oh, he is changing alright, he just doesn't know it...

This thing that every mommy laments - this growing up before our very eyes.  Their childhoods, fleeing and fleeting, forging ahead and we, often weary and heavy-laden, lagging behind - not wanting to miss a moment.  A memory. 

Oh, how I want to remember it all - right down to every little freckle sprinkled across his nose...

As my children grow - and as I grow along with them - I become more and more convinced that the only path to joy in this life - and in the middle of mommyhood - is found when we pause, lay our burdens down and just. thank. God.   

For this child.  This moment. 

And all the moments in between. 

In all moments and in all things... 

Our children can teach us every day to pause, even just for a moment, and be truly, wholly thankful... for all things.  Things like dinosaurs, snakes and bugs.  Yes, even warthogs... and sunshine... and ant beds...  

"Take my picture with this ant bed..."

"Always be joyful. 
Never stop praying.  
Be thankful in all circumstances,
for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus." 
- 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Friday, October 26, 2012

booyah for mooyah

The Mooyah Burger
it isn't often that i'd blog a restaurant review.  and by often, i mean ever.  but my coworker keely and i have become somewhat of partners in lunchtime connoisseuring (a word that i totally just made up) and today, between mouthfuls of the burger you see above and the crunchy, delicious sweet potato fries (sadly, not pictured) we raved about what we were experiencing.  "The flavor!"... "The crunchiness" ...  "The texture!"...  
"If Johnny Rockets and Mugshots had a baby, this would be it."  ~ Keely
we should totally write that down.  no wait, we should totally write a food blog of our ridiculous lunchtime ravings.  the only problem with that is that we would likely run out of material about three blogs in, since we are creatures of habit and on the occasions where we eat lunch outside of the office, we don't often want to chance our time and money on a new place. 
in fact, it would've probably been a long time before we ventured into Mooyah, if not for their connection with local ministry.  i don't know all of the back story, but i do know that it is family-owned and operated franchise.  this location is the first one in Birmingham.  someone that knows the owners is affiliated with the Lovelady Center, a local ministry that is very close to my heart.  during the planning phases, the owners of this Mooya recruited employees from Lovelady and hired twelve of the lovely ladies.  i was invited by one of them personally and so excited to attend the "grand opening".   
here's the run down:
atmosphere:  located in the former Schaffer Eye Center, the dining area is spacious and open, with high celings, booths and tables, and brightly colored fixtures.  One of the walls is a chalkboard wall for kids to draw on (which my kids will love). 
ordering:  you receive a little order sheet when you get in line - which gives you the run down of the shakes, burgers and fries.  simply check off your options and hand over to the cashier.  love the simplicity of this process.  we opted for the "Mooyah" style which includes the secret Mooyah sauce (kinda like thousand island dressing), lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and grilled onions - we added on some grilled mushrooms with a side of sweet potato fries. 
food:  the picture of the burger really speaks for itself.  it's every bit as tasty as it looks, the flavor and texture of the burger is delicious and the toppings only serve to enhance it.  the sweet potato fries are crunchy and delicious, seasoned and cooked to perfection and the regular fries are much like the famous Boardwalk fries, equally as crunchy and delicious.  not a single soft or soggy fry in the bunch. 
we didn't have the chance to taste test the shake this time around, but as we argued over who was going to get to lick the burger wrapper, it was decided we'd have to come back for that. 
seriously.  LOVE this place.  love the atmosphere.  love the food.  love their heart for local ministry and their willingness to give second chances to the ones who need it the most. 

Now, go get yourself a MOOYAH burger!  :)
3439 Colonnade Pkwy
Suite 1000
Nadia & Keely 

the grass is not greener.

“He lets me rest in green meadows;
He leads me beside peaceful streams.”
Psalm 23:2

Every so often, I get an email or a phone call from someone who is either contemplating or in the midst of divorce, lamenting over their unhappy marriage.  They’ve already began fantasizing about some mythical, post-divorce, over-the-rainbow land where troubles melt like lemon drops and all that.  Where everyone gets to the other side unscathed – the sun is brighter, the sky is bluer and the grass is greener…
Invariably, it’s almost always someone who resides on the exterior of my life.  They see shiny, happy faces in the photographs and piece together a some sort of post-divorced life success story, having no grasp of the years of heartache, turmoil, pain and regret that flowed beneath the surface.  They are peering in through a stained glass that has taken years for the Lord to meld the shattered pieces together.  Yes, He makes beauty from ashes, but no – I don’t wish for anyone to choose to walk through the destructive fire of that sin...

I listen to their stories and feel pangs of empathy... and of dread. Empathy because I vividly remember being there, desperately wanting affirmation, confirmation, encouragement.  I wanted comfort from someone who had been through it, to see that they were okay - to believe that I would be okay, too.  And then the dread - dread because I know the truth I have to speak is in direct opposition to the lies spoken to them by the enemy of our souls...  
to continue reading, please visit published link @ MiddlePlaces 

Friday, October 19, 2012

in the middle of seeking

my little explorer - lookout mt. - spring 2011
"Won't he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness
and go and search for the one that is lost
until he finds it?"
Luke 15:4
It was late one night in early February of 2010. I was in the midst of the second semester of my return to college and my nights were filled with studying at my desk in my bedroom. I'd tucked the kids in earlier and Chloe, almost six at the time, had come and crawled into my bed. She was falling back to sleep as I sat reading. The house was locked up. Lights off. Peaceful. Quiet.
Silence suddenly shattered by the sound of a slamming door...
I jumped up from my chair and looked back at Chloe. Startled, she had sat straight up. "Stay here", I said. I opened my bedroom door into the unknown. Creeping, defenseless, single mother wandering off into the darkness, chasing a "noise" in the night. I could hear my heart beating. I could feel my heart beating... in my throat. I turned the corner and light was pouring through the windows. The motion-sensor flood lights mounted on the back of my home were shining brightly. Someone is outside. No. Wait, the door. Someone has been inside. I glanced at the back door. Unlocked. I ran for Parker's room. Empty. I frantically screamed his name, futilely searching under his bed, in his closet, running from room to room, morphing with each step, with each breath, from concerned mother into madwoman, I ran out the back door shouting his name into the night.
And the night called back with silence. Deafening silence...

to continue reading, please click here for the original post on middle places

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

change the story

Compassion's Change the Story

sometimes, He changes our story to allow us to become a part of changing someone else's story.

there are moments when He aligns the seemingly random to collide with His perfect timing.  Sunday night was one of those moments for me. 
i first sponsored a child through Compassion in 2009 until he moved from Compassion's area of reach.  it was a time when God was in the midst of changing my own story, by changing my own heart, a process that is still very much in progress...
9.22.09:  the images. the statistics. a debilitating combination that paralyzes our hearts with discouragement and helplessness. my heart aches - not only with the ache of compassion - but the agony of Godly sorrow and deep regret for having been paralyzed for far too long; for having lived a life of such greedy materialism; for having given such thought, such care, such inestimable amounts of money to clothe and feed myself so far beyond what was necessary. living year after year of my life lost in lustful worldliness, constantly planning out the next nicers and newers of future seasons: a newer car, a larger home, nicer things, nicer clothes. day after day, wrought with incessant worrying about what i would wear, how i would look, what i would eat. and yet, with each and every single one of those days that passed, thirty thousand children died of starvation or preventable disease.  thirty.  thousand.
and this is the place He keeps bringing me back to.  my own proverbial refining fire.  i still struggle with finding the balance of living life in this world and surrendering my life to Him.  this is the ongoing work in me that He is faithful -  even in spite of me - to "carry on to completion" (Philippians 1:6).  He is continually, sometimes daily, changing my story in order that i have the blessing of changing the story for someone else.

and so, on a whim (or so it seemed), i decided to attend the evening service at Brook Hills with some friends.  at the beginning of the service, they announced that the Compassion exhibit would remain open afterwards for walk-ins. none of my friends could stay, so i was alone.  it was late - and the line was long.  i knew about the ministry, was committed to giving to the ministry, i didn't need the exhibit to convince me to sponsor again, but i was compelled to stay and couldn't figure out why...

the exhibit itself is powerful and beautiful, literally walking in and through the story of one child's life - and rescue from poverty, in Jesus' name.

the last portion gives you the opportunity to look at walls of photographs of children awaiting sponsorship, organized by region.  i'd already planned my own sponsorship story.  the region.  the gender.  the age range.  i'd planned to pray more about it and look at the photographs online with my children.  and yet, that nagging sense of compelling was pervasive - and persistent.   so i paused.  and perused.

and then i saw his face.... 

and i can't really describe that moment. 

i was more than compelled - and captivated. 

those moments, those rare moments of just knowing, are so far and few between in my life these days.  but in that moment, i just knew.  that moment - all the ones throughout that day had led to that moment - this moments were part of my story - to become part of His story. 

so that, in the name of Jesus and by His grace, our stories are forever changed. 

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:  
to look after orphans and widows in their distress 
and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
James 1:27

will you prayerfully consider sponsoring a child through Compassion?

Friday, October 12, 2012

in the middle of consequences - and a calling.

in the middle of consequences - and a calling.

Can I preemptively apologize for my "too-heavy-for-a-friday" posts? If you read my last post, you know I've been in the middle of a move in the weeks prior to the Middle Places blog launch and.. well, whatever is within in me is what comes out. The Word says that out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks… and I write.

Moving. Ugh. I should be a pro at it by now. After all, I've moved more times that I care to count or recount in recent years. Still, it is the one - the only - thing in my life that I repeatedly underestimate in terms of difficulty. Everything else, I conjure up unrealistic paranoia to the point of paralyzing fear when the reality never, ever matches. Except in moving. The physical aspect, while grueling, I can handle. I've built up endurance, perhaps. But the emotional aspect of it all, I'm still coming to grips with - and it blindsides me. Every. Single. Time.

Oh, and it's fall...

to continue reading, please click here for the original post on middle places

Thursday, October 11, 2012

from mess to ministry

::our mission field::

"And all of this is a gift from God... God has given us this task
[this ministry] of reconciling people to Him...
So we are Christ’s ambassadors;
God is making his appeal through us."
2 Corinthians 5:18-20 (NLT)

local mission.  foreign mission.  witnessing.  ministry.  these words - these phrases - they conjure up all sorts of ideologies and images for us.  most of which are loosely based on what, if any, subculture of Christianity we were exposed to in our formative years.

for me, "ministry" was something that people - usually men - were "called to".  and it usually meant "preaching" or "pastoring".  women served in the church and they served their men.  this calling, so it seemed, was certainly not for everyone.  "mission work" was something else altogether, pieced together from a handful of stories of visiting foreign missionaries.  again, for a few.  either elected or selected - those whom had this ambiguous "calling" from the Lord.   
i spent years in overwhelming confusion about purpose.  calling.  ministry.  discipleship.  i was so paralyzed by the seeming complexity of it all that i was unable to grasp simplicity of His word:  

"If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation"... anyone.  not just someone.  not a few.  anyone.  that's me.  and if you know Him, that's you.  "the old has gone, the new has come".... and with it, our purpose - our task - our assignment - our ministry - our calling -  laid out before us:  "this task of reconciling people to Him." we are marked as His ambassadors. His messengers.  Right then. on. the. spot.

at that very moment, we are transformed.  from a mess into His masterpiece: 

"For we are God’s masterpiece.
He has created us anew in Christ Jesus,
so we can do the good works
He planned for us long ago."
Ephesians 2:10 

a masterpiece is a one-of-a-kind. There are six billion humans on this planet and there is only one you. You are, in the greek, "poiĆ©ma" (poy'-ay-mah) - crafted and created by the Creator. 

but we get lost in the middle of the questions - in the "ifs".  if He has purpose for us. if  ministry for us. if He has plans for us.  and yet His word tells us that He creates us anew - all over again - so that we can do the works He already planned for us.  
"Your greatest life message and your most effective ministry 
will come out of your deepest hurts." - Rick Warren 

it is our deepest hurts that drive us to the ends of ourselves and into the arms of our Savior.  and there, He transforms our hearts - and our hurts - for His purpose, exchanging our disgrace for His grace.

and our mission field:  it's right there, below our feet.  the ground where we are standing, or sitting as the case may be.  and those people - the ones across the street - and across the room - they need your ministry.  they don't need our theology. they don't need our church buildings or our programs.  they need our Savior.  they need His arms reaching.  His heart seeking.  and so we go and we seek on His behalf.

a few weeks ago, the roster for Parker's first grade class came home.  on the back, was pictures of each of the kids, holding up signs with what they want to be when they grow up.  and there, at the bottom of the last row was my Parker. 

just last night, i tucked my little missionary into bed and he says, "I really hope I can be a missionary when I grow up." hand cupped around his little cheek, i remind him, "Oh, Parker, you already are. "

you already are...  

"I have learned that I will not change the world.
Jesus will do that.
I can, however, change the world for one person.
So I keep stopping and loving one person at a time.
Because this is my call as a Christian."

Friday, October 5, 2012

the middle of a move - and a mission

the middle of a move - and a mission.

We are all, invariably, in the middle of something. I am in the "in between" in so many places in my life and my heart - I could write in a thousand different directions, literally and figuratively. But for today, I'll simply start with where I am at this very moment and that is in the middle of boxes. Yes, lots and lots of boxes - and wreckage, literally and figuratively.
As someone with a less than idyllic childhood, I grew up dreaming about sidewalks and street lights and white picket fences. Pretty two story homes with shutters and neatly manicured lawns. For years, I based my self-worth on that which I surrounded myself with. I hid behind a thinly veiled facade of middle-class, suburban niceties. I blurred the lines between adoration and idolatry and as a result, I constructed an entire life and marriage on sinking sand. Proverbs tells us that a wise woman builds her home but a foolish woman tears it apart with her own hands. I know what it is like to be the latter. I have lived it - and by His grace alone, lived through it. And so, it has been a journey of faith as the Lord has shattered the facade and chiseled away materialism from my heart. It is an ongoing, refining journey, but the Lord, through His grace, has shifted my life into reverse - refining and redefining the dreams I once held so dear to my heart....

to continue reading, please click here for the original post on middle places

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

fall in the middle

"I meant it all and every part
And every word right from the start
I'll never let this love fall in the middle
Through it all...

~ Mat Kearney lyrics

It is all too often, all too easy in the busyness of this life to let our love for the Lord fall in the middle.  Writing has always been, for me, my place of overflow.  His word tells us that from the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks - some sing - others dance - and I write

It is here, on the pages of a blog and at home, on the pages of my journals that this love moves out from the underneath to the place where there is no middle.  All-consuming.   

I love where we see all throughout scripture our God whispering to those whom He had given His word - His promises - and through His prompting He says to them, "write this down".  From beginning to end and "He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." ~ Revelation 21:5

This writing - this blogging - has always been somewhat inexplicable for me.  I can't predict the how, the why.  Bits and pieces of myself poured out - words strung together over pages - and years - forming a long and tattered love letter.  This love, that sometimes falls in the middle - of life.  This love that I have, at times, forsaken for my own pursuit of a lesser substitute.

"Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love." ~ Revelation 2:4

Somehow, when I write - I'm reminded of my first love.  I'm reminded of who I am and more importantly, of who He is.  And so, I've prayed, for a long while, that He would move me to write more and grant me the opportunity to share more.

A few weeks ago, I was standing in my friend Sasha's kitchen - basking in the aroma of the dinner she was preparing for us - when she tells me about a new blog, a collaboration with a few of her fellow friends/writers.  She tells me the concept - the writing and the sharing about this life and this faith and all the places where they intersect, here in the middle.  These proverbial middle places in life - it's something, perhaps the one thing, I know all too well.   She asks me if I would be interested and she's hardly finished asking before I was already nodding and answering, "Yes, yes, yes"... 

The site launched this week, October 1st, and I am one of five bloggers featured weekly (my posts will be featured on Fridays).  I am in humbled awe of this opportunity - and of the community that is already being formed through it.  (You can connect with us on Facebook, too:

So many middle places - I don't even know where to begin.  But He does.

And so, I sit down to write - and I beg God for the words, for His presence...

And that I'll never let this love fall in the middle.

Even through these middle places - through it all.

"Cause you know you broke the hardest part
You know you broke the hardest heart
I'll never let this love fall in the middle
Through it all..."
~ Mat Kearney