The No-Drinking Badge

Sitting in Beef O’ Brady’s this past week enjoying my chicken tacos (while Hayden cheered on the Lions and Avery begged for more quarters to put in the machines filled with plastic toys lining the walls), I thought about the “no drinking badge” I’d so proudly displayed for so many years—how it had evolved over time and how I was now willfully throwing it away.

No. I did not get wasted.

I didn’t even have a drink.

I was born with an innate desire to please. I cannot tell you the source of this burning desire because I do not know. What I do know is that from as long as I can remember, I was carefully listening for those important words: what to do and what not to in order to please. I remember as a child getting in trouble for saying “I’m sorry” too much. Apparently, I was sorry for everything. How desperately I longed to please.

I think this may be part of why I totally missed the point when it came to loving Jesus. I heard whatever you do, “You mustn’t have sex before you get married or lightening will surely come down from heaven. Drinking is one of the worst of the worst sins and is as good as signing up for eternal damnation. Church attendance and bible reading are a must if you aim to please.” And so life, serving Jesus were all about the dos and the don’ts to me, although I was clueless to that at the time. I saw others through my own primitive worldview and looking glass. Drinking and sex = bad. Bible reading and church attendance = good. I was a grown woman with plenty of life shattering mistakes under my belt before it occurred to me that all of this—avoiding sin and loving the things of God—were all meant to flow out of a rich and vibrant, loving and living walk with God.

It turns out, that when I stepped away from behavior modification and control and started focusing on just loving Jesus with everything that was within me, loving the things of God and avoiding sin were much easier. All that rote “obedience” was pretty meaningless. For many years, I’d prided myself on certain things, worn them around like a “good little Christian badge.” One of them was that I’d never had a drink. Now, I’d failed the Lord in countless other ways, probably in a given day. I judged others every time I saw them drink or heard them cuss. But that was okay, because I was a good Christian. Need proof? Just look at my good little Christian vest. Here’s my newest badge: Never Had A Drink, right next to Don’t Watch R-rated Movies (Also drilled into me as a kid. You were clearly not saved if you watched them.).

Now, am I all about getting wasted while watching R-rated movies and singing Jesus tunes these days? No, but I don’t freak out anytime I’m around alcohol anymore. And I recognize that these all come down to personal convictions. You have personal freedom, and then, depending on the issue, there’s common sense and not offending your brother or causing them to stumble and a host of other angles to consider it from. But, one by one I’m peeling each of those badges, those proofs that I am a good little Christian off and I’m throwing them away. And instead, I’m running after Jesus with all that I have within me. And just like you, it’s in that place I find freedom like I’ve never known, a love that nothing in this world could ever compare with.

What badges have you been sporting on your vest?

For the Love of Haitian Moms

On a particularly sick day in early March an application to join Jen Hatmaker’s upcoming book launch team, scrolled across my screen. I hesitated. They would never want me. Plus, what if I slept through all of the super-important deadlines? I scrolled past it, then pushed the home button on my phone and closed my eyes. A few minutes past. Sleep wouldn’t come. Again, I saw the post. This time I decided just to take a little peek at the application, you know, to see how involved it was. Would it require getting up and walking to the office or could this be done on the iPhone? And just like that I applied. And went to sleep.

Here we are, all these months later and my life has been transformed, not only by the words found within “For the Love” but also by the amazing women of the launch team and the beautiful sisterhood that has emerged. You can have that beautiful sisterhood, too- right where you are. Our sisterhood emerged as we took the words of “For the Love” to heart. I believe the same will happen for you. Beautiful friendships will blossom all around you, with the women in your neighborhoods, churches, schools, and families.

One of the chapters that rocked my world and left me never ever the same was “On Calling and Haitian Moms.” Here’s the gist of it: “If it isn’t also true for a poor single Christian mom in Haiti, it isn’t true. Theology is either true everywhere or it isn’t true anywhere.” We all shake our heads to this and uh-huh and amen this like its old news, but we sure as heck don’t live or think like it’s true. I mean sure when it’s finally vacation time and we are all looking and feeling our best we throw our heartwarming family photo up on Facebook with the sunset in the background and a little #blessed for good measure, but if we went to visit poor Christian single mom in Haiti would we throw her picture up on Facebook and call her #blessed? Or would we consider her less #blessed than us because she has less stuff than us? Because isn’t that what being blessed means in America, that you have a lot of stuff? But isn’t poor single Christian mom in Haiti blessed because she is a child of God with air in her lungs, redeemed by the cross? Is this enough for us? When did we stop praising God for this? For the work of the cross?

I’ve been so challenged in my thinking as I consider how the gospel that Jesus brought applies to all of us the same- across gender, culture, race, economic factors, on and on. Does the gospel that I preach do that? If it doesn’t, maybe it’s time I checked my gospel against THE gospel.

And while, yes—I did laugh so hard that I peed my pants a little while reading the chapter on turning forty, that single mom in Haiti has stuck with me. I don’t think she’s going anywhere. She’s widened my horizons and I didn’t even have to do on a short term mission’s trip to find her, just to Amazon. (I pre-ordered extra copies of the book to share. I love it that much) So go, go meet the single mom from Haiti and let your thinking be challenged, pee your pants a little, and watch some beautiful new friendships emerge. Just remember that we are #blessed because of who Jesus is, not because of all that he gave us. (Although I agree the stuff is also awesome) AND also, #dependsarefriends.

But, You Look Great!

We’ve all heard it. That confused, perhaps slightly accusatory proclamation that could mean anything from, “You look great, so you must BE great.” To ”I’ve been misled.” If you look great today, than you must look and feel great every day, right? Surely you’ve been complaining for no reason.

I will now tell you an earth-shattering secret. Looks can be deceiving. At some point we’ve all made the determination not to be defined by our circumstances, whether good or bad. You are not your marriage troubles or your financial difficulties even though you may be experiencing those. And me? I am more than sickness and every day I choose not to be defined by the set of circumstances in which I find myself.

So yes, sometimes that means taking my shaky hand- defying sickness and putting some eyeliner on. It might mean that you don’t need to hear about my full list of ailments every.single.time we get together because I am more than ailments. We can talk about more than symptoms and you don’t always have to know that it’s excruciating to walk. Just like there will be some days that you choose to share the details of the big fight and ask for prayer and days when you take them straight to the cross, days when you confess to me that you lost the battle of judging others yet again and days when you go to a quiet place before the Lord and find grace. You are more than your battle and so am I. So when I see you, hours after the big fight, full of joy and ministering to others I won’t believe for a second that you are pretending, or that you aren’t impacted by these things. I’ll just remember that you are more than your battle and you choose not to let that battle define you. Maybe you could do the same for me?

Can I share with you that the inverse is also true? We are more than our bad days. I’m going to say it again. We are more than our bad days. Should you see me on the worst of days and be convinced that I am at the end of my rope- mere steps from my grave- could I gently remind you that not all of your bad days are lovely to behold? Could we wipe some grace all over them and love each other anyway? Regardless of the circumstance bad days, hours, months, years will happen. You don’t have to hide yours from me for me to love you or for Jesus to love you. I’m not afraid of your bad days and neither is he. Can we agree on grace and understanding for the bad days? I’m not talking about a sloppy excuse for poor behavior kind of grace. I’m talking about a we’re doing the absolute best we can with what we have and Jesus knows it and empowers us and loves where we are kind of grace, imperfections and all.

Could we offer that kind of love and grace to one another? To the world? Could we celebrate the good days with one another without suspicion? And could we meet one another with love and grace in the bad days without judgement? How healing would that be? Guys, we’re all just PEOPLE that Jesus was so massively in love with that he died on the cross for. I’m not any cooler than you. And being not sick doesn’t actually make you any cooler than me. So what if we stopped playing whose cooler and we started playing who can love the most like Jesus? I think it just might change the world.

Dear Church- Please Stop Getting Divorced for Stupid Reasons

Dear Church,

Please stop getting divorced for stupid reasons. I know, who am I, to define stupid- ESPECIALLY since I’m divorced? This is precisely why I write you today. I have lived the heartbreak of divorce and it this pain that I seek to protect you from.

I realize that no one signs their name on the dotted line of divorce papers thinking that their reasons for wanting a divorce are stupid. But can I tell you that on the nights that I sat in my car in the driveway of my house, sobbing, after dropping off my son at his Dad’s for the weekend—too heartbroken to go inside without him—that my list of viable justifications was much shorter than I might have previously thought? In light of that pain, much of it was just plain STUPID.

Now, at the end of the day, I stand by the decision that I made as one that couldn’t be avoided for reasons that can’t be shared here without telling a story that isn’t mine alone to tell and social media isn’t the place for that. But I will say this: When I hear women at church who’ve never so much as left their sweet babies in the church nursery talk about leaving their husbands because they aren’t attracted to them anymore, my heart breaks.

I’ve spent much of my life working in ministry in some form or fashion and the same stupid reasons for divorce have been shared with me over and over again. They are usually some variation of the following:

  1. We aren’t in love anymore. Unless you made some serious modifications to your vows, this has nothing to do with the till death do we part commitment that you made to one another. Feelings come and go. Do the work that created those feelings in the first place. Having feelings of love is great, honoring the commitment you made before God is even better.
  2. I’m not attracted to him anymore. Spend some time doing the things that made you attracted to one another in the beginning. Pick out a super sexy cologne or new outfit for him. Write down, think about and praise God daily for all of his positive attributes.
  3. I’m in love with someone else. This is the stupidest and most selfish of them all. If you can have feelings of love for someone else, you can most certainly have them for your spouse. It will take work and time, sacrifice and commitment. Stop cultivating love with this other person and start cultivating it with your spouse. You may always care about this other person, but don’t buy the lie that you are “meant to be with him.” God’s will is for the marriage you are in to succeed. He does not bless relationships birthed in sin.
  4. We’re just not happy. Use the resources available to you to work on your marriage, knowing that the ultimate goal of marriage is holiness, not happiness. There will be seasons of intense happiness… and other seasons.
  5. It was never God’s will in the first place. That may well be true, but you are married now and we serve a God who redeems.I fully recognize that there are cases of unsafe, abusive and truly toxic marriages. That is not what this letter is addressing. This letter is for the folks who are bored and looking for an excuse to bolt—the wife hoping that her spouse cheats first so that she can leave and still be considered the “good guy.”My husband and I are both divorced and remarried. We both married young and for the wrong reasons. I was searching for identity and to complete myself. He was checking off an item on his timeline to do list. Now remarried, we have a child together, in addition to children from our first marriages. I will never forget the night it hit me that our children would spend half of their lives apart from one another, because of the choices that we had made. Church, I wouldn’t wish that pain on my worst enemy.

Stop getting divorced for stupid reasons-please, I’m begging you.