The life- changing, eye-opening power of unicorn friendships and why you want more of them.

My dear friend Katie (who I’ve been known to affectionately refer to as Katie-lou-hoo) was one of the first five people to hold my baby girl.

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When my heart was broken seemingly beyond repair, it was her lap that I laid in and cried. She spent years reciting spelling words with my son every Thursday night in preparation for his spelling test the next day. When, as a single Mom, I couldn’t afford his school supplies for the year, she pooled her resources together with my closest friends and purchased them. She’s one of the few people in my life who I can honestly say loves reading as much, if not, more than I do. She’s also one of the most fiercely loyal; deeply loving people I have ever had the privilege of knowing.

After a punch you in the throat and laugh about it sort of week, I was digging through a box looking for an item I never did find when I stumbled upon this letter from Katie, written the year she moved away from our friendship oasis.

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Immediately, I was flooded with memories of coming home after hard days and watching “Facing the Giants” together and then literally going out and facing our giants. Of being reminded by one another that “absolutely nothing” was too hard for God, of a friendship where burdens were shared and joys were jointly celebrated. WHAT A GIFT.

But if there was ever an unlikely pair, it’s the two of us. I am fairly certain that if we went to the voting polls together and stood side by side, our ballots would directly cancel one another out. She is Catholic. I am Protestant. (I go to a church where they sometimes raise their hands, how’s that for not Catholic? 🙂 We disagree on a large number of social issues. We have different taste in music. She’s short. I’m tall. She’s a genius. I’m…well, have you ever been around when I was trying to spell something or do Math? I’m a “the more the merrier” girl. She’s a “you invited how many people?” kind of girl.

And here’s where it gets crazy: we’ve never let that stop us from loving one another. We never bought into the lie that said we had to agree with everything someone said in order to see their value. We love God and we love one another. End of story. Watching the way that Katie loves people, sows her life into them sacrificially grows my walk with Christ. Who she is as a woman of God challenges me. I love hearing about what God is doing in her life. I am moved by the tenderness of her heart. I am stretched by the way she loves her students and family.

You might be asking what any of this has to do with you. Everything. The point is this: It is possible to fiercely love people that you disagree with. Could we pretty please stop doing the thing where we only see people as the category that they belong to? Republican? Eww. Can we stop seeing people as being on the other side and start seeing them as the people that Jesus is passionately in love with and died on the cross for? Hear me: It is OKAY to disagree. It is HEALTHY to disagree, but there are loving, respectful ways to do it. We are missing out on so much, when choose to limit ourselves to only those who will agree with everything we say. What if the answer to our prayers comes in different packaging than we might expect? Will we reject it? Will we miss out on it entirely? We are so busy judging one another, picking one another apart, throwing them away- we are completely missing the beauty of who they are. Furthermore, we are missing the opportunity to live in unity, to be the hands and feet of Christ, to have an impact in one another’s lives.

Don’t quit me yet, please. What if we let love be the bridge to the other side?  What if we let love be bigger than our disagreements? What if we let God’s love for others flow through us? I bet it would be big enough to cover our disagreements.

Can I challenge you to go out of your comfort zone? To make some new friends that you might even disagree with from time to time? You never know, like me, you might stumble upon something really beautiful.

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5 Tips for Caregivers

When I was a teenager, my exhausted parents who had jumped headfirst into caregiving- having learned to administer shots and mix meds- left me in charge of making sure my older brother got to bed safely. His body was ravaged with cancer and they generally stayed up with him to ensure he had all that he needed before they went off to bed. On this particular night, I had volunteered for the job. They asked several times, “Now you’ll make sure that he has everything that he needs before you go to bed, right?” “Yes, Yes.” I had said, wanting them to have a much need break. But as the night wore on and my brother, Matt, watched show after show I begin to grow tired and think about my impending shift at the clothing shop I managed the next day. Eventually, I asked if he had all he needed and went off to bed. I awoke later to the sound of him calling from the hallway. As long as I live I will never be able to erase the image from my mind that I opened my bedroom door to find: Matt on hands on knees, attempting to crawl his way from the living room to his bedroom and calling for help, unable to make it on his own. I died a thousand deaths in that moment. He had suffered this indignity on my watch. My parents’ door opened seconds after mine. Unlike me, frozen in shame in my doorway, they leapt into action. I tried to explain to them that I wasn’t a nurse, wasn’t trained to do this. I had believed him when he said he could get to his room on his own. Maybe he had believed himself. So what made them such superior caregivers? They had taken the time to learn. I’ve lived on both sides of caregiving. Having given care, and having been the receiver of much care over these last several years. There is no formula, but there are some things I have learned from trial and error that I seek to share with you today

     1) Let caretaking become a part of your relationship without consuming it: This is vital to the dignity and identity of the individual that you are caring for. Whether it’s your spouse, your son, your Mother or your Uncle they need to know that you still see them in there beneath all the symptoms and pain. It’s also vital to the health of your relationship, especially in a marriage. Let this be a component of marriage, without taking over the marriage. If caretaking flows naturally out of a loving relationship, you’re much less likely to become bitter over time.

    2) Take time to process and be you: This is vital to your health and identity. Let caretaking be a part of your identity without consuming it. This may feel selfish at times but we both know that you will be a much happier, saner, better you and caretaker because of it. It’s the only way to avoid burnout and resentment. It’s also the only way to bring a true sense of identity to the relationship.

   3) Train up other caregivers: This is going to feel like a pain in the butt that you don’t have time for at first. Struggling just to keep your head above water, you’re wondering what in the world I’m talking about. But caregiving is very specific and when you are pulling your hair out, desperate for a break is not the time to start looking for a backup. I have a friend who spent years as the head nurse in an ER. She’s always reminding me, you can’t make a plan in the middle of a crisis. So plan ahead of time. Start having a family friend or neighbor come over and watch you mix the meds, see how your Mom likes the pillows and find out what shows she likes to watch in the afternoons. That way, when you need a break, everyone feels safe and comfortable with the help that’s already been put in place.

  4) Give it time : Learning and adjusting to one another in this way takes time. I was out of state for care for eight weeks last year. During that time I had a picc line placed and was unable to bathe myself or cook for myself. Caregivers rotated out. Each time, each person, each relationship was different. Each caregiver had their own strengths and ways of showing love and each relationship had it’s own adjustment period to this new dynamic. Even with my closest friends, hair washing was taking it to a new level. Give it time.

  5) Laugh : As freely and as deeply as possible. Laugh together. It doesn’t matter if it’s disproportionate. The tension and sadness of caregiving can quickly weigh a relationship down. Laughing melts all that away like wax. My husband and I often laugh about things that others probably wouldn’t find that funny. And I’m so glad, because it does my heart good like no medicine can.

Caregivers– thank you for the gift of your care. You’re not doing it all wrong. Don’t be so hard on yourself. I know we’re cranky sometimes but you’re pretty awesome.

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Get in the Boat

I heard a “joke” as a child. A flood came, and a man was waiting to be saved by God. When the police came to tell him to leave his home, he said, “God will save me.” Again, when the flood waters were overtaking his house and the rescue boat came to save him, he waved them on and said, “God will save me.”  And finally, as he stood on his roof declining the rescue helicopter, he said, “God will save me.” Upon reaching Heaven, the indignant man asked God, “Why didn’t you save me?” God’s response? “Are you kidding me?! I sent you a police officer, a rescue boat, and a helicopter, and you refused them all.”

 

As the body of Christ, his hands and feet on this earth, we get the joy and honor, the heartbreak and frustration, of being his rescue boat to those who are in rising water. How often do we arrive on the scene just to be told that the individual isn’t ready to leave yet and we should just go on without them? It is gut wrenching.

Not too long ago, it was a homeless woman sleeping outside in the rain. But no matter how often I offered her rescue, she ran from it. I don’t know what chains held her back, but I do know that I laid in bed at night thinking about her sleeping in the rain and silently willing her to just GET IN THE BOAT. How deeply I wished she would just be honest with me. Instead of making up excuse after excuse or standing me up time after time, I wished that she would tell me what she was afraid of. I wished that she would tell me what she was bound by so that I would know what rescue boat to send.

But we’re all so afraid of telling the truth, of really being seen. Even if it costs us our rescue, even if it means drowning, so often we still choose hiding. Can I encourage you today to GET IN THE BOAT? Wherever you have been hiding, resisting rescue in your life for fear of change or judgment because you are bound, can I remind you that God works through his people? When the boat comes this time–GET IN.

God hears your cries. You don’t have to let the waters rise any longer. Take the hand that is outstretched. I know it’s scary. GET IN THE BOAT. You can trust the one who sent it. He won’t let you go. We all need rescue. In God’s kingdom, we’re all the rescued and the rescuer. Take the rescue, so that you can rescue.

Get in the boat. Today.

Santa Jesus

Dear Santa Jesus,

I think you will find that I have been a very good girl this year. Check out my church attendance. Spot on. I have even opened my bible a few times in between services. That has to be good for some extra credit points, right? I haven’t cussed much (mostly just in my head, and we all know that doesn’t count). I don’t drink, and I don’t dress like a street walker like those other girls, bless their hearts. I sometimes even put extra money in the offering. I talk at you and ask you to help the people I like, so I know for a fact that we’re in awesome shape, and I’m pretty much the best Christian of them all.

In return, I’m just asking for a few things- because, you know, that’s the deal. I’d really like a better job that pays more money that I can spend on myself. I mean, I work hard, and I feel like I deserve it. That’s the other thing. I’m tired of working so hard. I’d really like a break. So it would be super cool if this new job could pay more but I could work less. Thanks. Also, the people I work with now are a real bummer. I’m just so tired of hearing about all of their problems that I can’t do anything about. So, if my new job could be full of only awesome Christians like me that would be so much better. I need a new car. This one is almost two years old now, and I’m starting to feel embarrassed driving it, and I know that you died on the cross so that I’d always feel happy.

I’m still waiting on that perfect husband and family you promised me so that I can feel complete. I mean, I have a husband and kids, but these aren’t the perfect ones I was waiting on. So could you fix them? I’m so tired of waiting for them to get their act together.

One more thing, those homeless people who keep camping out at the front of our subdivision and begging for food are bringing down the property values, and I know you understand all about why property values matter so much. Handle it? You’re the best, Santa Jesus!

Love,

The American Christian

I fear this is what it has become. That somewhere along the way we confused Jesus, God who became man and died on a cross to ransom us because he couldn’t stand to let our sin separate us from him a moment longer and who set an example of love giving even unto death, with a fat guy in a red suit who rewards your good behavior by giving you whatever you want.

God’s ways are higher than ours. We don’t always understand them. Romans 8:28 tells us, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” All things. He works all things, even the things that don’t feel good or like what we want, for our good.

When did we stop letting him be God? When did we stop trusting and start commanding? Is he God or isn’t he? Do we believe or don’t we? Are we in is this for what we can get out of it? Or, like the early church, have we fallen so passionately in love with Jesus that we would rather be burned at the stake than forsake his great name? When did stuff become so important? When did we stop seeking him purely for the joy of finding him?

I so often find myself trying to fill in the blanks, to write the ending for God. Oh, he must be doing this or that. Because the waiting, the not knowing the ending, the trusting, I will be the first to admit that at times IT’S STILL HARD.

But he’s not Santa. He’s Jesus. Who died on the cross because he loved me, and I will go where he calls because I love him and I trust him.

What if today we stopped talking at him and simply said, “You are good and I trust you”? What if we stopped expecting to be rewarded for good behavior like a potty training toddler waiting for her prize and we just did what’s right because it’s right and we realized that holiness is its own prize?

What if today we put Santa Jesus on notice? Santa Jesus, you’re fired. We want the real deal. The passionate love affair with a Jesus already so in love with us that he came and died on the cross.

It’s not too late for the real thing, the real Jesus. A real living, breathing walk with him instead of a good behavior-based star chart religion.

It’s not too late…

 

Draw Near

You can learn so much from someone’s countenance. Some seem to radiate a certain light and life while many clearly carry the weight of the world and others the shame of a lifetime of secrets buried. Lines and stress, heartaches and bitterness, sweetness and sincerity – so much of it can readily be seen on the face of friends and strangers alike.

I was once in a leadership role at a church which required me to sit up on a large platform during services. It was uncomfortable for me because, much to your surprise, I have some very strong introverted tendencies. I had to close my eyes and just focus on Jesus as if he and I were the only two people in the room. Otherwise, my heart would become heavy as I scanned the crowd. Being in leadership, we were privy to the struggles of many, and I would look out and think, there’s Jane, I hope her husband has come home. Ah, I am so glad to see that John is here today. Oh, I pray he has let go of the drinking, and so on. But my favorite part, without a doubt, was watching countenances change in God’s presence. Over and over, tears would stream down my face as I watched with joy and wonder as God did what only he could do – lift burdens, heal broken hearts, speak words of love and hope, renew joy and purpose. You could watch it cross the room and see joy hit faces. Sometimes angry faces set in stone that I hadn’t seen budge in years would finally crumble and let light in. And I would be undone.

One service, I was feeling a lot like I was this morning, particularly overwhelmed with all the hurt and loss and need in the world, as well as particularly aware of my own inability to do anything about it. I was scanning all of the hurting people and feeling crushed beneath the weight of it all. And I closed my eyes and begin to worship, to cry out. I got a little lost in my worship, in my crying out. But when I opened my eyes, something had happened. The alters were filled and people were on their faces before God, countenances changed, eyes filled with hope. They were getting exactly what they needed and I could not give them. The Lord spoke to me in that moment and he said, “You don’t have to fix everyone. You just have to get them to me.” Because, you see, there’s nothing he cannot fix. And I forget that sometimes.

I’ve been a little overwhelmed lately by all the situations I can’t do anything about. I was reminded this morning, of the song

“Draw Near”

Draw near to me for I have drawn near to You And pull on the strings of my heart for I long to respond to You

All my love is for You, and all my love is Yours All my love is for You, and all my love is Yours

Draw near to me for I have drawn near to You And pull on the strings of my heart for I long to respond to You

All my love is for You, and all my love is Yours All my love is for You, and all my love is Yours

I have made a place for You here, so come on, come on All things are possible here,

so come on, come on I have made a place for You here, so come on, come on All things are possible here

so come on, come on Draw near to me for I have drawn near to You

God pull on the strings of my heart for I long to respond to You

Would you join me today as I draw near to him, where all things are possible?